AF(ina)L Countdown

At the time of writing, the end of the AFL season is nigh and the tension is palpable. No less than twelve teams can make the finals in a competition that is becoming increasingly more competitive, something that will no doubt delight Andrew Demetriou and his lackeys.

The pressure-cooker environment of the AFL, with a media spotlight far more intensive than its NRL and Super 15 counterparts, has resulted in some distinct winners and losers. Dan Connors, of Richmond, recently left the club in disgrace after yet another mishap. Carlton’s Heath Scotland is still under an assault charge and worryingly, Melbourne’s Liam Jurrah is yet to face charges of manslaughter.

It has become abundantly clear that man’s ability to play football overshadows his off-field liabilities. The handling of Ben Cousins, who continues to struggle with his drug addiction, is a blemish on the brand of AFL and in sport in general.

With the even nature of the competition so far, a handful of factors have made some teams stand out. Sadly, one of these factors is the top teams’ ability to demolish the two new faces of GWS and the Gold Coast. Hawthorn recently liquidated GWS to the tune of 162 points. Comparatively, Geelong struggled to quell a spirited Gold Coast by 14 points. With percentage surely going to play a part in deciding positions, wiping the expansion teams off the park is a good start.

With the Swans sitting on top of the ladder at this time of writing, something must be said about their seemingly meteoric rise up the ladder, unbiased of course. Coach John Longmire has cunningly rejuvenated an old playing group with a burst of speed and a miserly defence. Previously unknown and unheralded players such as lightning quick Lewis Jetta and Ted Richards are cornerstones of a team, which, can and will challenge for a premiership (I bleed Red and White). While the Swans are dominating teams, reigning premiers Geelong have fallen from grace. They, along with Melbourne, are the disappointments of 2012.

Melbourne not only lost a club great in Jim Stynes, but to rub salt into the wound they have lurched on the field from bad to worse. Their short-term future is filled with dark clouds and crying children. Geelong is reminiscent of a champion heavy-weight boxer who is lying exhausted on the canvas. The question is will they stand up to endure further punishment? Or will they succumb to throwing in the towel?

The season is the most wide open in years and the game is better for it. God Bless Andrew Demetriou; God Bless the Sydney Swans and God Bless America.

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