A few weeks ago, after Round 4, I shone the spotlight on three clubs that had underperformed for the first month of the season: Sydney, Carlton and Richmond. A month and a bit later, and the torch is back on these clubs, albeit for different reasons; the Swans now have everyone shaking in their Asics, the best the Blues have done is maintain their mediocrity, and the Tigers seem to be completely cooked.
It’s fascinating to view the short-term attitude the media – and the footballing public in general – takes in their assessment of clubs, whether it be a positive or negative angle. One big win and a club can win the flag. Follow that by a heavy loss and the doubts surface immediately.
Having written the Swans off after their 1-3 start to the season, inclusive of a loss to Greater Western Sydney, the race is now on to welcome them back to the premiership fold.
Admittedly, the Swans have looked resurgent in the past couple of weeks, particularly with their full complement of talls playing together, and are really starting to gel. It was always going to be a big question how opposition clubs were going to deal with Lance Franklin, Kurt Tippet, Adam Goodes and Sam Reid. But it’s the Swans’ midfield that has clicked as well to get the team firing again. And they’ve still got the talented Gary Rohan to return and Tom Mitchell getting 112 touches in the seconds.
At the start of the season, I felt the Swans’ depth could be exposed – now I’m not as sure. In typical Swans’ style, their so-called lesser-lights have really stepped up, particularly in the backline. Dane Rampe, Jeremy Laidler and Nick Smith are either much improved or highly rejuvenated, and are as big a reason as the Swans’ big forward signings as to their recent success.
I’m not yet admitting I was guilty of making a premature call on the Swans, but I’m close. Their performance against Geelong after a bye will go a long way to cementing perceptions of their chances in 2014.
Similarly, Carlton have a massive next game at home against Adelaide. In fact, the term ‘on a knife’s edge’ was surely invented to describe Carlton’s season coming into Round 10 of the AFL Premiership Season. Lose, and they’ll slip to 3-6. Media pundits could and should be calling their season over. Win, and a 4-5 record is salvageable in terms of the finals race.
Even if Carlton do manage to somehow get their season on track and scrape into the finals, they’re just not good enough to do anything more than make up the numbers.
And that brings us to Richmond, who rather being on the edge, have fallen over the brink. Thirteenth place on the ladder with just two wins, and the media don’t need to be geniuses to know that the Tigers are down and not coming back up. Coach Damien Hardwick would need to become Damien Lazarus to get them anywhere near finals.
The unfortunate thing for Tigers fans is that even Hardwick admits he’s got no answers as to how they’ve found themselves in such a dire predicament. Having signed a contract extension to the end of the 2016 season, the club that has historically been sack-happy when it comes to its head coaches must now stick by him in the hope that this year is an aberration.
The only thing the Tigers can do to return the perception that they’re on the right path is absolutely trounce the Giants this week. A 10-plus goal victory is needed by the Tigers to send the message to the football world that, as it has done many times in the past, it has been too quick to judge.
Follow Commentary Box Sports on Social Media!