Pre-occupied

Thank god the pre-season competition is nearly over and the disorientating effect that it has on teams prospects for the year ahead can stop. No disrespect to Brisbane or Carlton, who vie for the NAB Cup this Friday night, but in ten weeks time the importance of the NAB Cup will be nada. Former Swans Premiership Coach Paul Roos famously told Jarrod McVeigh in a pre-season game to “go forward but don’t kick a goal.”
The pre-season competition holds a purpose that varies for every team. The top teams from last year will put games into their kids, looking to add to their depth. The middle tier clubs will aim to take that next step by taking the competition too seriously, Brisbane fall into this category. The clubs at the bottom of the ladder will have something to prove, they will invariably field a strong line up while also getting time into their younger players. Port Adelaide’s last gasp victory over Premiership fancy West Coast can be attributed to the latter purpose, yet it does little to explain GWS and its capitulation against Essendon on Friday night at Manuka Oval.
This author and his entourage of Hawthorn, Essendon and Sydney supporters, plus a few who were dragged along, were genuinely excited for a good night of footy. Instead, we witnessed a bloodless massacre. The pumped up Bombers, no pun intended, only need to play half an hour of scintillating football to cut GWS to pieces. Excusing the fact that two of the Giants best forwards were watching from the sideline, it was a pathetic display. Coach Kevin Sheedy may be one of the best spokespeople in Australia, yet perhaps he should concentrate a little bit more on his players, rather then the media. While the footy was dull entertainment, the food situation at the stadium threw up endless possibilities. Such was the variety that this author spent half the game either in a queue for food or eating his purchase, a night to remember.
After this weekend’s carnivale finishes, the real deal is here. Hawthorn are yet to win a pre-season game, yet are odds on favourites to go one better than last year. Sydney are still waiting until round one to wheel out their full ensemble, while Geelong, West Coast and Collingwood are all looking deceptively good. In what promises to be one of the closest AFL seasons in recent history, the form of the Premiership aspirants in this years NAB Cup should literally do nothing for the avid supporter, like being at a Guy Sebastian concert.