Saturday 23 September 2023

Solar eclipse

During the week we found out that the AFLW season will eventually be extended to 14 rounds if they draw average crowds of 6000 and a TV audience of 100,000. When the very next game was played at 5.05pm Friday, at a ground where you couldn't see anything to the right of screen for three quarters because of sun, it became obvious that nobody involved thinks those conditions will be met, and they just included it to generated feelgood factor.

The more pressing issue at the moment is that half the competition is absolute slop, but with (relatively) hefty pay increases for players that's more likely to be resolved by 2027 than finding a spot on the calendar where these games have any chance of hitting both targets. If they really want to do it then look out for rorts like playing double headers with men's finals and claiming crowds of 90,000, but it's more likely the season tops out at 12 games from 2025 and the negligent parents in charge of the league pretend somebody else is to blame. 

You can argue the merits of season length until the cows come home, and if there's ever a time to play once against everybody before finals this is it, but I'm interested to see whether they'll jam the extra two weeks in at the start or end of the season. You're either going up against the 18 team suffocation of the last two weeks of the men's home and away season, or dragging it out until mid-December.

Whichever path they take, you're never going to get a clear run in the weeks that coincide with the men's finals. Here's an Eddie McGuire style radical plan, don't play Friday night games in the QF/SF/PF weeks. Cramming the games into late afternoon timeslots does nobody any favours, reducing live attendance and burying the games so deep in the public consciousness that this game didn't even achieve the 20,000 required viewers to make the top 20 subscription TV shows of the night. I know the extra viewers on Kayo make it almost certain more people were watching than an old episode of Highway Patrol but I flat out refuse to believe you wouldn't do better primetime Sunday or Monday. It's never going to draw the same as the men but give the competition half a chance. 

That assumes anyone at the AFL really cares, when their commitment to the league's welfare has been on a par with the Red Cross vaulting a six-pack of nuggets into a disaster zone then putting out a press release explaining how great they are. Even this week, you've got all of Sunday free from men's games and have three Victorian teams playing at the exact same time, then a 5pm game from the Gold Coast which will be lucky to draw a crowd of 861.

It's good to play another round of SimCompetition, because I'm running out of ways to describe us tearing lesser sides apart limb-from-limb. Not conceding a last quarter goal for 13 consecutive games will seem like a glory era once we're challenged again, but for now almost (but not quite) feels wrong tormenting the less fortunate every week.

At least Hawthorn has the excuse of only recently joining the competition, and did their best to make life difficult for us. The problem is that it's not soccer, where you can go in outmatched, park the bus all game and hope for a smash 'n grab win. Class will almost always win in the end, and now that the games are longer I don't think playing 16 a side helps. Not sure there's another 36 players a week worthy of getting a game across the competition at the moment but they'd fill some of the space used for the good teams to easily romp through bad like Operation Desert Storm.  

Ironically, for all the whinging about what a terrible timeslot this was being played in, the novelty value helped me get over my self-pitying misery of last week. It couldn't have been any further from either of the men's Preliminary Finals we missed due to a pair of tremendous cock-ups, helping the CTRL + ALT + DELETE style reset on my brain that will allow me to concentrate on AFLW from here instead. That was until it started and we found out that you couldn't tell what was going on at one end due to the sort of glare you'd get standing 10 metres from the face of the sun, and Fox Footy's attempted remedy of doing 300x zooming on the play.

I came into this about a minute before the bounce and was otherwise occupied at every quarter break so not sure if they ever mentioned Shae Sloane coaching. This was a great development opportunity but had a bit of "let's do this before we start playing the good teams" about it. My first thought was whether weird units like me are supposed to credit Sloane with a game coached, and until somebody tells me otherwise I'm inducting her as an MFC senior coach. I'm sure Sloane will get another go, either with us or somewhere else (and how many good seasons do we have to play before an assistant is swiped for a senior job elsewhere?) but otherwise it's got to be unique for somebody to play and coach exactly one game.

All the first quarter goals came at the end which didn't look like ground zero of a direct nuclear strike, but people who enjoy squinting were still looked after by Hawthorn getting a bunch of inside 50s. The problem was they had no dangerous forwards, so Gillard and Birch were picking off everything in the air, and Heath was calmly removing the ball at ground level like a training drill. And even the couple of set shots they got were brutally slaughtered so you could be almost sure who was going to win. We were upset a couple of times in the early years of the comp via kicking bullshit low scores (men's team - "ahh, there's an idea") but with longer games I can't see another time where we'll get 1.9 and still lose by under a kick.

I'm still not used to being nearly guaranteed winners. All these mismatches can't help the casual viewers, so no wonder people were more interesting in watching iced to the eyeballs tradies being pulled over by Highway Patrol. But as much as I wouldn't cross the road to watch Adelaide kick 106 points against GWS, there's no turning your back on an opportunity to watch an MFC side win by shitloads. Hawthorn didn't need umpires to help them lose so could feel a bit aggrevied that Pearce got away with a Jack Fitzpatrick style tunnelball from the opening bounce, and things didn't get much better for them from there. 

They worked hard enough that you could imagine them being top competitors in a second division, but against us they were toast whenever the ball hit the ground, because it would soon be rocketing towards our goal at warp speed. After a bunch of misses in the early minutes, that's exactly how the party began, dashing out of defence, and working through cavernous holes in the midfield and backline, before a triple-banger handball sequence ended with Pearce in the square without a defender in the same postcode. Until watching the All The Goals video I'd forgotten that it took until the last five minutes for this to happen so Hawthorn deserve some credit for holding on as long as they did. 

The second goal was either heartwarming or the biggest stitch-up of a debutant in years. Any suggestion that Aimee Mackin had been given her debut due to quality of opposition alone went out the window when she took to the first quarter like a natural. That's two sisters who have played senior games a month after arriving in the country and not looked remotely out of place, so if there's anybody else male, female, or otherwise in their family who's keen on having a go I suggest booking an entire flight to bring them all here. She was agonising close to a goal on debut after slipping out of a tackle and snapping around the corner, only for it to take a novelty bounce on the goalline... straight into the hands of her sister to convert instead. I doubt the Irish news will drop all regular programming to show this, but they should.

Who knows where Mackin II's career will go from here (hopefully towards a joint life premiership player life membership with Blaithin), recruiting 3/16ths of our team from overseas and teaching them all to play like naturals is a good advertisement for the mass-swiping of Irish talent. And Hawthorn's goal came from their Irish contingent, so they really are kidding themselves if this isn't front page news north and south of the border tomorrow. Just don't get into the other Ireland - Frankston - Hawthorn connection and remember the time Dermott Brereton was accused of sending money to the IRA.

Even if recent history tells us that a two goal lead (or three if you prefer) means sod all, I was pretty sure that we'd be ok, even kicking to the Manhattan Project End. Here's action footage of the second goal on its way through, via the director wildly cutting between cameras as it was passed to Kate Hore because they had NFI where the ball was going once airborne.

It was a bit farcical but didn't stop us from booting more. As Casey Sherriff went down with the AFLW Worse Than It Looked Injury Scare Of The Week, the previous titleholder Bannan found a way to take the sun out of the equation by storming into an open goal with nobody near her. Fans of MackinMania will note that it came from Aimee's perfect pass. Helps that you could have driven Fairstar The Fun Ship through the gaps in Hawthorn's defence, but I've seen worse kicks to more open players by people who have played the game for years.   

The procession mode button was hit after half time, with Tyla Hanks running around the midfield like Gary Ablett Jr. and more free players than we knew what to do with. Luck was no longer required but it kept coming, like McNamara's set shot veering right at the last minute as if remotely controlled, before her surgically repaired back was tested by a bearhug in the celebrations.

We'll never beat keeping West Coast to a point last year, but I was still hopeful of getting to the end of this without conceding a goal. That went out the window in novelty fashion when Bannan accidentally kicked the ball over the line after mysteriously finding herself at the wrong end. It went down as a charitable donation before being wiped out multiple times over in the next few minutes. Zanker went bang x3, and for all the other nonsense being spoken on commentary I'm upset nobody did a "She's on Fire!" NBA Jam reference. Or, if I'm risking cancellation again, "They/Them's On Fire!" Either way, somebody scoring three in a row absolutely demands 'on fire' getting mentioned in some format.

Zanker's third said all you needed to know about our ruthlessness. Pearce was enjoying a night mostly off in the forward line and chased to put on a smother that nobody would have complained about if she let it go, then gathered and dropped it on Zanker in the square. This, and Libby Birch trying to fight half Hawthorn's side singlehandedly, is everything you could ask for in a team.

By the last quarter the sun had finally gone and viewers could easily concentrate on us trying to pile up as big a score as possible. When Hore got her second in the opening minute I had visions of a triple figure romp, but things went into a holding pattern from there. Harris marked one at a range she couldn't miss from, and played on just in case, but that was it. 

All the action was - for the first time all night - at the other end, and the question of whether Hawthorn could kick a second goal. Discovering via last week's post that we hadn't conceded a last quarter goal in any of the 12 wins was the highlight of my September. So even though this game had been over for three quarters I was still heavily over-invested in keeping that streak alive. There was a scare with one set shot from 30 metres out directly in front but it failed to score and they got nil for the quarter. 

This is the eighth time since the start of last season we've kept opposition to 0.0 in the fourth, so it's not all about the extended quarters but they're doing their bit this year. They had a chance in the dying seconds, but time ran out before a player who looked like she was about to die from exhaustion could get rid of it, and by the look on her face it was lucky that ball even contacted boot.

I'm getting greedy and would enjoyed piling on a few more goals, but when it's got to the stage of being semi upset about kicking 10.10 and holding the opposition to a score of 11 you know things are going well.

2023 Daisy Pearce Medal votes
5 - Tyla Hanks
4 - Shelley Heath
3 - Eden Zanker
2 - Tahlia Gillard
1 - Eliza West

Apologies to Hore, Sherriff, Purcell, Harris, and Birch

This week we've got a different H in partnership with Hanks, giving Tyla the all-important break that extends the lead to more than a full BOG. No other alterations to the overall picture, except for breaking the logjam of players on three.

19 - Tyla Hanks
13 - Kate Hore
7 - Shelley Heath
4 - Tayla Harris
3 - Sarah Lampard (LEADER: Defender of the Year), Blathin Mackin, Lauren Pearce (LEADER: Ruck of the Year), Eden Zanker
2 - Tahlia Gillard
1 - Eliza West

Goal of the Week 
The accidental Mackin family goal was good but comedy value can only be counted if it helps win a game in hilarious fashion. Due to almost all our goals coming from set shots I'm going to pick Bannan motoring into goal as the weekly winner, with no impact on the season leaderboard.

1st - Kate Hore (Q1 #2) vs GWS
2nd - Eden Zanker (Q2) vs Collingwood
3rd - Shelley Heath (Q4) vs Collingwood

Next week
There's only one way to follow a first game against 2022 competition entrants, and that's by playing... err... 2019 competition entrants. Yes, all these years later it's Geelong at last, coinciding with them (seemingly) being good and having a shitload of our old players. On paper we should get our strongest challenge since the first half against Collingwood but I'd still think our record stacks up against them comfortably beating 3x dregs and losing to North. And if you thought 5.05pm Friday was a weird time, what about 6.15pm Thursday? It's the only game I'll be getting excited about next weekend, everyone else can GAGF.

Final Thoughts
I'm sure this won't rank amongst the top 100 beatings in Frankston this weekend but it was exactly what we needed it to be at this stage of the season. On to the big ones.

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