The AFL season is upon us. There is a lot to look forward to, such as:
The resurrection – finally – of the Essendon Football Club.
Thank every deity you can name, folks, we made it. We bloody made it.
Half a decade after the whole debacle actually took place, the Bombers are once again playing for Premiership points with a full side and without a cloud hanging over their heads.
Despite the very best efforts of the Herald Sun to keep this saga alive, most sane AFL fans will just be happy to either cheer or jeer the Bombers for what’s happening on the MCG instead of the courtroom.
Sure, they’ll be booed and sledged and teased and mocked by some fans and some opponents, and there are serious ongoing issues concerning James Hird, but in practical sporting terms the Club and the League can close the whole damn chapter.
Getting used to the phrase ‘the defending premier Western Bulldogs.’
Every fan’s ‘Favourite Grand Final Not Involving My Team Ever’ now translates into a season where the Bulldogs are hunted and expectations are high. They will not be allowed a Premiership Hangover, because the media scrutiny will be relentless. The ‘Do It Again For Bob Murphy’ weight has been hung around their neck, as though Back-to-Back Premierships are easily accomplished.
But will it matter if they underwhelm? It’s possible their long-suffering fan-base will simply coast through 2017 smiling nonstop, so the vibe around the club will be very different.
And nope, sorry, that phrase still just sounds… wrong.
Defending Premier Western Bulldogs? It’s like hearing ‘Academy Award Winner Adam Sandler’ or ‘President Donald Trump.’
Just all kinds of weird.
Also getting used to the phrase ‘GWS are Premiers'”
That phrase sounds just as weird, but we might as well start getting ready. The Giants were excruciatingly close to a Grand Final berth last season. The AFL’s new boys will enter this season as premiership favourites in just their 6th season of existence, given they have the key ingredients for success in the AFL: exceptional talent, loaded with depth, a decent winning anthem (which is crucial when it’s played ad frikkin nauseum on Grand Final Day) and a ferocious, hostile home environment guaranteed to hand you 7-8 wins automatically.
On the other hand, maybe they need to work on a few areas and premiership favouritism is somewhat overrated in March, so let’s just see how this one plays out.
The Jarryd Roughead “Eff You Cancer” tour.
Every fan, impartial or not, will be happy to see Roughead crash his first pack and snap his first goal. Hawthorn are generally despised, largely due to their success but also partially due to their ‘League Golden Child’ status, but it’ll be difficult to not cheer for Roughead this year.
A football player coming back from a knee reconstruction or a broken arm is one thing. Coming back from an insidious SOB Melanoma is another thing altogether, psychologically.
Oh, and remember folks: There is nothing healthy about a tan. Wear sunscreen. Don’t sunbathe. Just don’t.
(“Ball! You’re blind, Umpire!”)
On 14 May the Gold Coast Suns will ‘host’ the Port Adelaide Power at the Jiangwan Sports Centre in Shanghai, China. The AFL is dipping its toe into international waters to test the temperature. It’s a long-term vision that has AFL being more globally recognised, supported, and (ultimately) played.
I admit I am a sceptic of AFL expansion. In particular I think a large number of the sport’s rules are too arbitrary to allow the uninitiated to pick up the game easily. It is a game made for those who’ve grown up with it, but the curious onlooker will struggle to see the rhyme and reason behind the play. But I am still very interested to see how Gold Coast (in particular, due to the Coast’s Asian ties) manage this game. Getting ex-pats to the ground will be easy. Getting uninitiated locals to the game will be the challenge.