We’ve banged on about Thursday night football before, but games both last week and this week coming, add weight to arguments that the AFL needs to permanently open at least one other time slot on a permanent basis.
The early Sunday game on Mother’s Day has to go. It didn’t help that the Hawthorn-West Coast clash was a stinker, but a struggling team against a non-Victorian team, up against not just taking mum out for lunch but junior sport and the myriad of other Sunday activities, led to just 15,000 diehards at the game. And the atmosphere at the MCG was funereal for the most part.
By necessity the AFL has to play games on Mother’s Day, but it is clubs like West Coast and Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide, whose stadiums are largely sold out already who should play on those days. They will attract larger crowds, the atmosphere will be much better and if well-supported Victorian clubs such as Richmond, Carlton and Collingwood were the opponents, then they become big games and they’ll rate enormously well on.
The whole concept needs a rethink.
Thursday night footy would also have been handy this weekend. Instead of being able to focus solely on either the massive Richmond-GWS and Port Adelaide-Western Bulldogs games, they’ll be played simultaneously on Saturday night which will mean remote controls getting a furious work-out or some sort of second-screen experience in order to follow them.
Both are important games. The Tigers are teetering at 4-4 and the last thing they needed was for one of their few remaining stayers, Shai Bolton, to get himself into trouble at a nightclub and break his wrist. He is becoming a magical player and he’ll be sorely missed.
The Tigers aren’t a club that jumps out of the gate every season. Often it is not until July that they start to flex their considerable muscle while their opponents start to flounder. But they are showing every sign of a club that might not have the wherewithal – mentally and physically – to climb the mountain once again.
The Giants have won four of their last five games, but apart from a comeback win over Sydney, their scalps have been among the bottom-feeders of the AFL so far in 2021, Collingwood, Adelaide and Essendon. Richmond at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night represents a significant increase in class, as injury-hit as the Tigers are. A win here would be the club’s best for the season and perhaps put them ahead of the chasing pack if any of the teams in the eight take a tumble.
The Bulldogs also face a stern test. They failed against the Tigers a fortnight ago, and the Power at Adelaide Oval might be even tougher. Port has issues on the road against the good teams, but at home when they dim the lights and sing ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ it becomes a cauldron and the Power become nigh on impossible to beat.
It’s an important game for the Dogs because if they win, they’ll be two games clear of Port and it will then be unlikely they’ll need to return there to play the Power later in the year. Lose, and a return game is on the cards in September.
It’s just a shame that this game might not have our undivided attention come Saturday night.
It’s also a big week for:
Sam Weideman: The Melbourne key forward has had to bide his time waiting to play senior football for this year, and having to watch as the team bulldozed its way to an 8-0 start must have been frustrating for a player who has been at the club losing enough to remember some of the bad old days. It would have been interesting to read his mind when Ben Brown came to the club at the end of last season. But he’ll play this weekend – finally – because of the injury to Luke Jackson and he now has a window of a few weeks to cement his place in the side and make himself indispensable as the Dees eye off their first flag in 57 years.
Geelong: The second half against Richmond was at a level higher than any team has played this year. But the Cats can be flighty so we wait to see what they bring against the Saints on Friday night. Another powerful performance, even against a middleweight side, might elevate them to flag favouritism.
Patrick Cripps: Too good a player to be as ineffectual as it is. The reports suggest a back injury, Carlton denies it. Some clarity would be good, not that we’re likely to get it.
Jason Horne: The uber-talented South Australian youngster is the odds-on favourite to be the first ‘live’ selection at the national draft later this year, with Collingwood set to jump to the head of the queue for father-son pick Nick Daicos. Come 5pm Saturday, at the conclusion of the Hawthorn-North Melbourne game, Horne might have a good read on where he might be playing next season. The 17th-placed Hawks sit two games clear of the winless Kangaroos and with 50 wins from 65 games at UTAS Stadium, they start as slight favourites to get the win on Saturday. It could be North’s last chance to mount a bid to climb off the bottom, but if the Kangas lose once again, Horne might want to start looking for a place to live next year somewhere close to the inner northwest of Melbourne.
Nat Fyfe: 0.6 against Hawthorn, 0-4 against North and 1.3 last week against Brisbane. The dual Brownlow medalist is hurting opponents everywhere but on the scoreboard this season and his conversion near goal will be a key on Sunday. If the Dockers are to put a disappointing few weeks behind them, he needs to covert better.