One of the pitfalls of being employed in sports media is that sometimes it’s easy to get too wrapped up in the work of providing coverage of sporting events and forget to enjoy the sport itself.
Another is that if your work involves forecasting results, it can almost be frustrating when things don’t go the way you expect – not because you’re at all wedded to your predictions, but simply because you take pride in your work.
These are both traps I’ve fallen into at times in 2018, but neither of them got me last night. Collingwood’s shock 39-point win to put themselves into a grand final and eliminate the flag favourites from finals was the kind of tour de force that simply demands your enraptured attention and deals away with all else.
It’s funny the way football works that history will be re-written pretty quick and pundits will be quick to point out all the red flags which should have tipped us off that a result like this was coming. And to be fair, in retrospect, they were there.
In my Sunday column at the end of Round 23 I pointed out that while Richmond were coming into finals on a six-game winning streak, three of their last four had been won by eight points or less.
The theory that it’s good for a premiership contender to have a loss somewhere in those last few games took another scalp on Friday night. The three teams left in the race – Collingwood, Melbourne and West Coast – all lost at least one of their last four home-and-away games.
In the same column I ranked Richmond’s fellow finals sides in order of how likely they were to topple the Tigers, and put Collingwood in first. My reasoning: “the Magpies have both the power and the confidence to upset the Tigers on the big stage.”
And in this week’s tips I said “If anything the finals series so far would suggest that September has favoured more those teams with potential than experience”, something I believe was true for both Collingwood and Melbourne this week.
Look at me trying to make myself sound smart. Don’t buy into it! I still tipped the Tigers. And these few moments where I thought a result like this could happen are needles carefully picked from a haystack of predictions that back-to-back flags for the Tigers was a fait accompli.
That however is the most beautiful thing about footy: its ability to deliver the unexpected. To paraphrase what Gandalf said about hobbits, you can learn everything there is to know about the game in a month, and after a hundred years it can still surprise you.
Last night’s game was the kind to make me fall in love with footy all over again, for perhaps the hundredth time if not the thousandth. It’s only a day on, but it was a match you know you’ll remember and speak about in hushed tones for decades to come, and even the most ardent Collingwood hater surely got swept up in it.
(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
De Goey and Cox deliver
Let’s fast forward back to Round 1 for a moment.
Mason Cox played a stinker of a game against Hawthorn and around the media, everyone was asking the question of whether it was time for Collingwood to end the American experiment.
Meanwhile, Jordan De Goey was sitting in the stands, unable to play due to injury but would likely have missed even if fit as punishment for a drink driving incident in the pre-season.
Who could have predicted that in six months’ time they’d kick a combined seven goals to deliver a grand final berth to a team that had finished a lowly 13th the year before?
Simply the stuff of legend.
Lynch watches nervously on
Gold Coast free agent Tom J Lynch is a Collingwood supporter born and raised but like most AFL players, put his allegiances firmly aside when he entered the league.
So much so that this year when given a choice between his childhood club and the reigning premiers, he made what many would think was the smart, rational decision and picked the Tigers (expect confirmation of this any day now).
How must he have felt last night then, watching the team he loved in his youth, a team he could be playing for next year if he wanted to, so thoroughly defeat the side he’s selected?
We’re probably over dramatising it a bit. But he’d only be human if he was having some second thoughts.
And speaking of players choosing between the Pies and the Tigers – after copping 12 months of flak, Adam Treloar is into a grand final.
Treloar of course famously said in a pre-season camp in November 2015 that he’d chosen Collingwood over Richmond because the Magpies had a better playing list.
It’s the kind of media-managed comment that means literally nothing but of course in the otherwise mostly barren media month of November it blew up, and when Tigers fans won the 2017 flag they certainly had neither forgiven nor forgotten.
It must have felt extra sweet then for Adam Treloar in the final quarter of last night’s match to deliver the killing blow – kicking a goal to end an early run in that term from the Tigers and put to bed any hopes of an unlikely comeback.
(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Here comes a great grand final
The best part about last night’s result is that now no matter which way Saturday’s prelim between West Coast and Melbourne goes, we’re guaranteed an exciting grand final.
Taking the Tigers out of the race means there are three teams left who are all arguably on level footing or at least very close to.
The Magpies will either play West Coast who would come in with confidence remembering that they gave Collingwood a flogging at the MCG earlier this year, or meet Melbourne in a fairytale lover’s perfect match between the Flagpies and the Dreamons.
Either way after so long thinking of this year’s race for the premiership as being between Richmond and the rest of the world, it’s refreshing and exciting to see this sudden and unexpected turn of events. I can’t wait.
Seven talking points from Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla Sharks NRL preliminary final
Friday September 21, 2018
The Melbourne Storm are the first team into the NRL grand final after cruising past the Cronulla Sharks in the first preliminary final at home. Here are my talking points from the match. Should Billy Slater be suspended? This is a really, really tough one. If you look at other examples of shoulder charges and […]