Geelong cannot rush the re-signing of Chris Scott

Chris Scott’s current contract comes to an end after 2017.

Most Geelong fans would have felt sense of dread on preliminary night in 2016 when the sole inclusion to the team Lachie Henderson, who was coming off a three-week layoff with injury, started forward.

Sure enough, Sydney embarrassed the Cats with a 10-minute onslaught of physical pressure and precision disposal which Geelong couldn’t match and by quarter time the game was over.

Maybe the extent of the mismatch was surprising, but Geelong fans have come to expect finals failures under Chris Scott, particularly early in finals where the Cats never seem to be prepared for the intensity and the pressure of a massive contest.

For all of Geelong’s home and away success under Scott, their finals record is poor, after 2011 very poor. The Cats have played finals four times since 2011 for two-wins and six-losses. This record creates a quandary for Brian Cook and the Geelong board with the end of Scott’s current contract approaching.

With a year to go on his contract, Scott signed a two-year extension in 2014 and that deal expires at the end of this season. There have already been rumblings that an extension is in the works and may even come before the 2017 season begins. Geelong doesn’t have to look too far back in AFL history to see what a mistake that could be.

Richmond, Fremantle and Brisbane all jumped the gun prior to the 2016 season, extending Damien Hardwick, Ross Lyon and Justin Leppitsch for multiple years beyond 2017. All three decisions proved to be disastrous as both the Dockers and the Tigers tumbled out of the finals and the Lions finished last, sacking Leppitsch in the process.

And if you think Geelong are different to those situations, there are a lot of similarities between Fremantle of 2016 and the Geelong of this year. Falling out of the top four is a real possibility and it wouldn’t be shocking if they missed the top eight entirely.

Aside from not being prepared for the contest or Sydney’s pressure and some questionable coaching decisions, the Cats major downfall on preliminary final night was a complete lack of midfield depth which was shown up against the league’s best midfields.

To combat the likes of Luke Parker, Daniel Hannebery, Josh Kennedy, Tom Mitchell and Kieren Jack, Geelong had Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield and very little else, an issue which plagued them at various times throughout last season. It was fitting that the pair both collected 39-dispoals, with the next best Cats players in terms of disposals being Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright who both collected 26-disposals and who also both retired.

Alarmingly they haven’t addressed the gaping divide between Dangerwood and the rest of the midfield and if anything, the gap has become bigger. Aside from a few standouts performances from Cam Guthrie, Josh Caddy was the side’s third best midfielder yet was valued below Scott Selwood and Sam Menegola and was shipped off for peanuts to the Tigers.

Steven Motlop bore the brunt of the criticism for the rest of Geelong’s midfield, however for someone who arrived out of shape in preseason; his numbers were strong and like Guthrie produced some best-on-ground displays. There were others who produced less than Motlop

Ultimately this lack of midfield depth comes back to development and to a certain degree drafting which just hasn’t been a priority for Geelong as free agency and trading has become the club’s primary source of list building.

Development falls on the coach and a look back at Geelong’s draft strikerate under Scott isn’t very impressive. The Cats have participated in six National Drafts since Scott took over from Mark Thompson and development of in-house players has been a problem.

They’ve only had three first round picks under Scott, which is a problem in itself, but none of the three players are club standouts. Jackson Thurlow has shown the most of the trio and is primed for a big bounce back season after missing 2016 with a torn ACL in the NAB Challenge. Nakia Cockatoo and Darcy Lang are the other two first-rounders and both remain on the fringes of Geelong’s best team and neither played in the preliminary final debacle against Sydney.

Joel Hamling was their first pick in the 2011 draft and never played a game, Jarrad Jansen was a second-round pick who also never played a game and few others are even still on the list.

Mix that with the stagnation of Mitch Duncan, George Horlin-Smith, Jordan Murdoch who are still with the team and Shane Kersten and Billie Smedts who have moved on and it creates a big gulf of talent which hasn’t been replaced from the premiership years.

To counter, Geelong has turned to the trade table, which is always a gamble. From the side who took on Hawthorn last Friday in Launceston, six were traded from others clubs and that doesn’t include Scott Selwood and all of these were recruited in their prime and haven’t been developed by Scott or Geelong.

Taking all those reasons and shoving them aside for the moment, there’s one bigger reason to wait on an extension, it’s simply okay to wait.

Richmond jumping the gun on Hardwick’s extension highlighted a club’s fearfulness of losing a coach driven by media hysteria. There was no need to re-sign Hardwick prior to the season and there’s no need to re-sign Scott now.

Another finals collapse or even worse, a drop out of finals, would be an embarrassment if they had already extended Scott. Hold your cards, play the season out and make an informed decision at the end of the year, because Geelong may have already peaked under their current coach.

Arsenal’s vicious cycle born from a culture of mediocrity

Arsenal suffered another humiliating away leg defeat against Bayern Munch.

You know when one of the free-to-air channels play a movie on their main channel one week and the next week you see it again on one of their sister channels?

“Wait a minute, didn’t I just watch this?”

Arsenal is the sporting representation of that movie, or hell anything you think you’ve seen over and over again. The same season playing out, year after year after year.

This morning in Munich, the Gunners let an encouraging 1-1 first half be completely overshadowed by a dismal second half collapse, conceding four-goals for an eventual 5-1 loss. The drubbing almost guarantees elimination from the Champions League at Bayern Munich’s hands once again.

Arjen Robben’s stunning opener after 11 minutes was cancelled out by Alexis Sanchez, who followed up his missed penalty with a clever tap past Manuel Neuer. The visitors had a few more chances to add a second goal before the half and despite surrendering nearly 80% of possession to the German giants, were creating chances and looking dangerous on the counter attack.

The second half was a typical Arsenal-like shambles as Laurent Koscielny was subbed off just after the break with a hamstring injury and in a 10-minute blitz, they lost the match and most likely the tie.

Goals in the 53th minute by Robert Lewandowski, the 56th minute by Thiago and in the 63th minute, again by Thiago, sealed Arsenal’s fate and just for good measure Thomas Muller came on as a substitute and added a fifth goal just before the final whistle.

Once again, their European vacation will come to an end in the Round of 16 at the Emirates, where insultingly they will probably defeat Bayern and fall on goal difference, just to rub it a little more.

It’s staggering and surely a statistical anomaly that Arsenal can play out the same seasons every single year. From the opening of the off-season transfer period to the final day of the Premier League, the Gunners’ follow the same storyline.


– Despite rumours claiming they have a war chest to spend on players, Arsenal wait forever to sign even a single player, leading to a late flurry as they scramble to add anyone available.

– Start the season slowly, drop a home game against a mediocre opponent, but recover after about six-weeks and loom in the periphery of the title chase. 

– Hit top gear and look irresistible. Blow away teams at the Emirates with perfect attacking creativity, maybe even claim a few top scalps. Hit December at or near the summit of the Premier League table.


– Lose a game against a battler in humiliating fashion setting off a mid-season collapse as the side goes into a tale spin, continuing to drop point as their biggest rivals pull away. Usually includes a big loss or two against some of those title rivals.

– Get embarrassed in the knockout stage in Europe, highlighting the gulf between the club and the very best on the continent.

– Unrest from the media and supporters grow, suggesting finally Arsene Wenger is well and truly on the hot seat and on his way out.


– After being all but mathematically eliminated from the title race, return to top form and surge home to secure a top four spot, letting the owners know everything is right with the world.

– Supporters assure themselves they’re only a few players away and are promised a spending spree in the next transfer window.

– Repeat the cycle.

That right there is the modern Arsenal in a nutshell and it’s not hard to explain why this keeps happening.

The prime candidate is Wenger, a manager who has earned enough credits with fans and the board to survive an incredibly long trophy drought and despite claiming two FA Cups over the past three years, still cannot build a side capable of sustaining a title run for 38-games. However, as the seasons progress and a battle for the top four becomes the norm, there are even deeper issues with Arsenal beyond the manager.

Make no mistake, Wenger is not without blame, however he is the public face of a football administration which has no ambition and doesn’t care about success, on the field. To them, Arsenal is not a football club, it’s a business and is run as such. Led by an ownership group which value profits and revenue over trophies and on-field reputation.

Anyone who follows the NFL will know more about Stan Kroenke’s work than just at Arsenal as owner of the Los Angeles Rams. He’s a businessman who see his sporting clubs as being no different to any other business investment he has ever made. They are designed to make money and in Arsenal’s current state, it’s perfect.

Wenger is a manager who either doesn’t have the capabilities or the permission to properly spend on a title winning squad, yet he somehow manages every year to guarantee a UCL spot and the added windfall that goes with it. The board earn the spoils from Europe, yet are never forced to overspend on players.

The Gunners do just enough every year to maintain a restful fan base, which pay higher prices than any other supporter group in England. Sure, they occasionally get angry and maybe they even start some fake, useless protests, but they will keep coming back, maintaining that bottom line.

The one minor difference this year is the genuine discontent bubbling away aimed at Wenger and rumours are a lot stronger that his time in London may be coming to an end, but not only is that hard to believe from history, it won’t even fix what’s wrong with Arsenal.

It’s a team built on mediocrity that has no desire to actually challenge for titles. This mentality has seeped down from the owners, to the coaches and the players, even Sanchez has realised that, and for his own sake should leave as soon as his contract is up.

We all know how the movie starts and ends, but until major changes are made, the Arsenal story will be the same as last year, and the year before, and the year before that…

Super Bowl Redo: Why universe, why?

The strip sack which turned the game in the Patriots favour.

The night before the Super Bowl, I was flicking through my Foxtel IQ looking for the 2014 New England-Seattle Super Bowl to have a quick re-watch before Monday. Before I got there, I found the 2014 NFC Championship game between Green Bay and Seattle.

Compelled to re-watch the final quarter and overtime, it’s easy to forget what a remarkable game that was. How many ridiculous things went Seattle’s way and the excruciatingly brutal loss suffered by the Packers. Who would have thought the next day we’d see a collapse that tops Green Bay’s capitulation? And then some.

Atlanta’s 25-point blown lead and eventual loss in overtime is without compare in terms of NFL chokejobs and it’s hard to come up with a collapse from another sport more brutal without thorough research. My yardstick in the AFL, not by margin or magnitude, but in shock value, is North Melbourne’s collapse against Adelaide in Round 9, 2013. The Kangaroos led by 30-points with less than ten minutes to go on the Channel Seven countdown clock and were pipped on the line by a point after Jared Petrenko kicked the winning goal with 20-seconds to play. That was mid-season in a largely meaningless Sunday afternoon game at Etihad Stadium; this was the freaking Super Bowl.

For every Atlanta fan, and any sane NFL fans who despise everything about the Patriots, the final 20 minutes on Monday felt like death by 1,000 cuts. A long, slow and painful piece of torture while the 28-3 advantage was slowly whittled away as Tom Brady stood with consummate ease in the pocket and carved through the Falcon’s secondary like a knife cutting through butter. What made it so painful is that everyone could see it coming and yet you just sat there helpless. Every supporter of good around the world and even Atlanta’s own coaching staff and players were powerless to stop the onslaught.

There were four key plays which I will remember from the rollercoaster of emotions everyone experienced in the four engrossing hours. From a growing sense of joy to utter despair.

Robert Alford pick-six (Starting to believe)

Despite Atlanta establishing a quick 14-0 second quarter lead, behind a dynamic and efficient offence which had the Patriots defence scrambling, there was a feeling at any point that Belichick would kick the offence into gear and respond. When Brady dropped back on 3rd and 6 with pressure in his face and missed the roaming Alford who picked off his wobbly pass and walked into the endzone, there was a genuine feeling that the Falcons were going to pull it off.

Julian Edelman’s pass attempt which lofted incomplete (Good has prevailed over evil)

Not only does Belichick and Brady have an extensive trick bag, their tricks always seem to work. Edelman hitting a deep touchdown in the divisional round against Baltimore in 2014 has always stood out as an example of the slices of luck which always seem to go New England’s way. When Belichick turned to his wide receiver’s arm once again, it went over the head of the outstretched Dion Lewis. It should have been the sign that luck wasn’t going to be on the Patriots’ side, even if they converted a fourth-down pass on the next play.

Donta Hightower’s strip sack fumble on Matt Ryan (The game’s turning)

New England had drawn within 16-points and theoretically, with multiple two-conversions, made it a two-score game, however it wasn’t quite panic stations yet. When Hightower had a free rush on Ryan thanks to Devonta Freeman blowing a blocking assignment, alarm bells began to ring. The Pats recovering the fumble sparked a turning point, Atlanta was going to have to fight desperately to hold on.

Trey Flowers’ sack on Matt Ryan, knocking Atlanta out of field goal range (No! Whyyyyyy?!)

Julio Jones had his David Tyree moment, a spectacular catch in a clutch moment to sink New England in a Super Bowl. Before getting to the tragic aftermath, the more you watch the initial Ryan scramble & perfectly placed throw and the incredible piece of athletic brilliance from Julio Jones, the better the catch looks. On Ryan’s part, there were few spots he could have thrown that ball without it being intercepted by Eric Rowe and that he lofted it high enough to clear Rowe was an achievement in itself. But Julio defied gravity and all logic in coming down with that ball. Of course, despite having the Super Bowl won with a field goal, Ryan was sacked by Flowers with the drive somehow ending in a punt. As soon as Matt Bosher was called upon, the game was going to come down to a two-point conversion because Atlanta weren’t stopping New England on the next drive.

Four moments painting a picture of a journey from ecstasy to tragedy. To be clear, I don’t like the Falcons, sure they aren’t as hated as Carolina or New Orleans, but they are still a division rival. However, even I’m heartbroken by what happened. How do you come back from that? How do Falcons fans get through the next month? How do they trudge through the off season? How do they return next year?

It is surely a loss that will rock the core of the franchise and serious questions can be asked on the toll the loss will take on Atlanta next season. They were already due to take a massive hit with the loss of Kyle Shanahan, who inexplicably has become somewhat of a villain. While many would have been screaming at the TV when Ryan went down after Jones’ catch, infuriated that Atlanta simply weren’t running the ball to guarantee a makeable field goal and drain the clock, Shanahan was still one of the key architects to the Falcons impressive season and if anything, the criticism against him has become a little overblown.

Without Shanahan, Ryan must prove his ability to play at an MVP level with newly appointed offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, although keep in mind that all the pieces will remain. With all of Brady’s dominance due to a tired and impotent Atlanta pass rush, it can’t be forgotten that the Falcons offence only managed 21-points for the game and crucially failed to sustain drives throughout the second half, with four of their drives resulting in three-and-outs. More staggeringly, after building the 28-3 advantage, the team only ran 12-more plays for the game. This obviously due to New England’s dominance in time of possession, but Atlanta had their moments and with their consistency on offence all year, their inability to score at least another field goal or even drain the clock was extremely deflating.

The defence played almost the perfect first half. Alone they outscored the Patriots 7-3, but did so much more. They forced constant pressure on Brady, leading to inaccurate throws and the vital pick six. Their young and speedy linebackers swarmed the field and they stifled a running game which loomed as a decisive advantage for New England pre-game. The one downside, which proved instrumental, was that they may have played too well, they forced turnovers and scored too quickly, Atlanta simply never had the ball.

It was a horror show in the last quarter and overtime, they were cooked, the pass rush disappeared and Brady got into an unstoppable groove. Even worse, when they had the few opportunities to force turnovers or make a stop, they could never quite complete the job. Vic Beasley nearly sacked Brady in his own endzone, they allowed a fourth down conversion previously mentioned and what seemed to be the final nail, Edelman signature catch was kept off the ground by Alford’s ankle.

Once the coin toss fell as heads gifting possession to the Pats in overtime, the Super Bowl was over, Atlanta must have smelt defeat and on cue New England strolled down the field and James White of all people capped off his signature day with his third touchdown, there’s just no such thing as karma.

In the immediate aftermath and in the ensuing days, a similarity between that NFC Championship in Seattle and this past Super Bowl has emerged, like for Green Bay, Atlanta needed just one more stop for the rest of the game, just one more score, just one thing to go there way and it never did. While the moments weren’t as crystal clear as Seattle’s successful onside kick or their incredible two-point conversion, the Falcons needed just one more moment to go their way and they would have been Super Bowl champions.

Facing a 25-point deficit midway through the third quarter of the Super Bowl, a team needs everything to go right, there is zero room for error; they need to make every important play. New England did all that, everything went right.

At our Super Bowl event, we were waiting for that one final moment which would end the Patriots charge and we could all celebrate an Atlanta victory. Unfortunately for us, the city of Atlanta and Falcons fans all over the world, it never happened.

Roughead fairy tale born out of necessity

Jarryd Roughead’s return to footy was capped off by being named Hawthorn captain.

It was the feel good AFL story of the summer when Hawthorn announced that Jarryd Roughead, fresh off beating skin cancer, would take over from Luke Hodge as the club’s 36th captain.

From his public announcement that his dreaded cancer had returned and spread in the middle of last year, it was longshot that key forward would ever play again. However, since he joyfully returned to full health, his chances of returning to the Hawks side have become shorter and last week’s announcement certainly confirmed that.

Although it’s great news that Roughead will now captain Hawthorn, the news was somewhat surprising, considering he is still yet to return to the field for a senior game and hasn’t played a single game since the 2015 Grand Final.

Roughead is clearly well loved around the league and Is seemingly on the road to full strength and a return to the field, but it would have made sense for an alternative to be found, at least until the big man had played a decent year of footy in 2017.

The problem the Hawks have and where Roughead’s appointment makes sense is the genuine lack of alternative options.

There is a clear changing of the guard going on at Waverley Park as the premiership era draws towards a close. Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis were both traded in shock deals during the Trade Period, Hodge probably only has a year left, Shaun Burgoyne and Josh Gibson weren’t realistic choices again because of age and Cyril Rioli hasn’t shown any sort of leadership potential throughout his career.

So, the old guard have either moved on or are close to retirement, meaning the Hawks had to look at the mid-tier players, aged in the 24-28 range. Isaac Smith and Liam Shiels were to only two notable candidates around that mark and both must have been in the race as they were awarded vice-captaincy positions beneath Roughead.

The issue with Smith and Shiels is they certainly don’t scream leadership and haven’t had to take on any major roles since being drafted because of that older and more seasoned group leading the way throughout their careers.

This lack of quality leadership options in the “prime” of their careers has been born out of an even bigger issue at Hawthorn, their lack of any quality players in around that age bracket, hence why their Trade Period saga with Gold Coast for Jaeger O’Meara was so drawn out and protracted.

The fairly obvious reason for this dearth of talent is Hawthorn run of recent success which means they either haven’t had draft picks or haven’t prioritised the draft in their list build. Any club would love to not have to worry about the draft, however this is the reality for the Hawks now.

It’s why for the first time since around 2010, Hawthorn aren’t at the top of the list of premiership contenders and an argument can even be made that they are in danger of missing finals for the first time since 2010.

Roughead’s return was going to provide an emotional lift regardless of his standing in the team, but now as captain, the fan favourite will lead a Hawks side, battling father time in an attempt to extend their premiership run.