All aboard the AFL hype train

A strong haul this off season has Port Adelaide the key hype team of 2018.

Pre-season means predictions in the AFL and like every year, not all clubs will be equal. As the build up to the new season grows, so too will the hype around certain teams.

Hype around a team doesn’t mean they’re instantly considered a premiership threat, or even a lock to play finals, just that they will be a team to watch and improve in some capacity this season.

This isn’t even a prediction on whether pundits will be right about these teams, just a list of the five clubs who will be receiving the most buzz come the start of the season.


First up, a pretty easy example to show not all hype means they’re a premiership threat. Last year’s wooden spooners haven’t finished above 12th since 2009, which was also the last year they played finals. They’ve also finished 17th or lower in the past three seasons. The short of it, the only way has to be up for the Lions. Brisbane will be the buzzy pick of last year’s bottom four or five to become more competitive and potentially tip-toe around the top eight for parts of the season. The list is stacked with first-round picks and the hype will build that Chris Fagan has them going in the right direction.


It would be fair to consider Hawthorn exempt from this list, as there is always media hype around the Hawks. The very idea of Hawthorn doing anything makes the media salivate and with their shock drop to 12th in 2017 means a quick rebound is surely on the cards, especially considering how strongly they ended last year. It’s already begun after James Sicily announced his rise to superstardom with a dominant AFLX performance and with a horde of injured champions ready to return, the hype will be intense come Round 1.


This love will be partly, they came so close and their list looks even stronger so they must improve and partly, please Melbourne for the love of god will you play finals this year?! St. Kilda aside, the Demons are one of the few hard luck stories left in the league and their premiership drought is made even worse by their 11-year finals drought on top of that. Having their hearts ripped out in the final quarter of the home-and-away season will make Melbourne the feel-good story of the year for journalists and add the addition of Jake Lever, the Dees hype will be relentless.

Port Adelaide

The Power shot to the very top of this list as soon as the final bell rang to make the end of last year’s free agency and trade period. Port Adelaide loaded up with Tom Rockliff, Jack Watts and Steven Motlop and post that, Ken Hinkley’s side also added Jack Trengove, Trent McKenzie and Lindsay Thomas. They’ve clearly set themselves for a premiership push and signing big names in free agency earns you instant credibility, for some reason. Port made the jump to 5th last year before their heartbreaking finals exit to West Coast and if pre-season predications will be anything to go by, they’ll be able to go a few steps further this season.


The shock horror of Sydney’s 0-6 was followed by the scene we’ve come accustomed to, the Swans tearing through the league and anyone who stood in their way. Still, despite their second half bounce back, their season ended unceremoniously at the hands of the Cats in the semi-final. Considering they were virtually flag favourites from sixth at the beginning of the final series, it won’t be a surprise to see Sydney leading the nominations for premiership favourites this year. Their list is largely the same, but a hardened resolve will more than likely see them avoid their horror start for a second year in a row and the media will be loving it.

AFLX Musings: Take it to grassroots and away from bright lights

Adelaide defeated Geelong by eight-points in Thursday’s “Grand Final”

First off, I get it, AFLX wasn’t created, designed or implemented for passionate, long standing footy fans. As has been the league’s mission throughout the 21st century, the league has two key target groups for this new format, kids and the northern states.

Masters of resting on their laurels and taking their core fanbase for granted, AFLX ignores this group and is built for kids who can’t sit still for longer than five minutes and New South Welshman and Queenslanders who can’t even find an oval ground nearby, let alone would ever visit one for a football game.

Alas though, it was unveiled in Adelaide, at the top level and marked the beginning of the pre-season. So, what were some takeaways from the AFL’s latest wacky creation?

It’s just basketball

End-to-end, players largely congregating around each team’s goalsquares and providing an incentive for taking shots from long range. AFLX was footy merging with basketball, like never before. The real stuff has continually added elements from basketball, but AFLX was essentially basketball with a football and with goal posts instead of baskets.

Lack of any defensive strategy or intensity was zzzzzz

Reminiscent of non-contact drills, the lack of any semblance of a defensive plan from all 18 teams was pretty remarkable. Although slightly understandable considering clubs would have had one, maybe two run throughs at most and they weren’t taking it seriously, most players didn’t even bother to pay attention when their side were without the ball. Tackles were few and far between and while it almost entirely eliminated stoppages, seeing teams just waltz to 40 and bomb long became boring and stale, quickly.

The key gimmick isn’t exciting

Like the six in Big Bash and three’s in basketball, the awkwardly named “Zooper” goal (of course with an attached sponsorship) was a key way to liven things up. 10-points for a goal kicked outside the two 40 mete arcs is reminiscent of the glorious “Supergoal” which lit up the Wizard Cup all those years back. Smoke and fireworks following the booming goal from distance. The main problem? No one at AFL level is unable to kick a goal from 40 metres out, so they happen all the time. On Thursday, Fremantle and Geelong went back and forth kicking zooper goals and they quickly lost their lustre. It has to be a proper achievement to nail a zooper goal and at the rate they were occurring, it isn’t at all.

It served little purpose for the clubs

The teams were almost exclusively filled with first year players & rookies and few teams bothered to send the maximum number of players on their respective flights over. As the format is so unique, it was fairly fruitless gauging how the new draftees handled their first taste of something resembling AFL action. There weren’t any strategical breakthroughs coaches can bring to the real stuff and the games were so short, the level of running will most likely be matched in training across the next week. Nothing really to take away or build on for anyone involved at club level.

I’m not sure if the AFL achieved its objectives, crowds were solid, despite the lack of interest from clubs. AFLX could most definitely work at grassroots level, which would be the aim for the league. But to use the beginning of pre-season to present it to the masses? Let’s just start the JLT Community Series.

Oscars 2018: Metcalf’s rollecoaster of emotions matches Janney’s cold performance

Laurie Metcalf and Allison Janney are the two top picks for Best Supporting Actress.

A quick look at the Oscars’ betting markets and you won’t find much value or doubt on who will be walking away with the main awards.

Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) is an unbackable favourite for Best Actor, Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) is a certainty for Best Actress and Sam Rockwell (Billbaords) looks set to take out Best Supporting Actor.

Best Picture is a little murkier with The Shape of Water and Billboards looming as the two main chances to fight it out.

It’s not surprising with so much information on hand to know how the Academy is thinking, plus those are undoubtedly standout performances in what turned out to be a strong movie year.

One other category with a clear favourite which doesn’t seem quite so warranted is Allison Janney (I, Tonya) for Best Supporting Actress.

Janney’s performance as LaVona Golden, the abusive mother of Tonya Harding, is memorable and at most times unsettling, however is it really that much more impressive than another supporting actress who plays a mother? Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird).

Leading actress Saoirse Ronan, who also earned an Oscar nom as the titular character, is the star of the coming-of-age comedy/drama, but don’t sleep on how influential Metcalf is as her mother, Marion.

Marion McPherson isn’t a typical motherly character in a movie like Lady Bird. She races from being caring, to blunt, to loving, to furious and back to caring, sometimes all within the same scene. Lady Bird is a feel-good character everyone gets behind, but Metcalf needs to be grounded, the key character to portray the family’s situation of battling to make ends meet on “the wrong side of the tracks’ in Sacramento.

From her opening scene where she tells her daughter to attend community college so she can experience jail and then go back to city college, to her final moments of refusing to even say good bye as Lady Bird jets off to New York, Metcalf always teeters on being unlikeable but you always sympathise with the struggling parent, working double shifts at the psychiatric hospital. Every decision she makes is for her children.

Through the lens of Lady Bird, Metcalf often comes across as the key villain in the movie. With her upbeat personality and a father who rarely even raises his voice, her mother acts as the voice of reason, often blanketing the whimsical nature coming from the perky high school graduate.

Yet Metcalf always allows the audience to understand her motivation and why she is often so tough on her only daughter. From begging her to say something to Lady Bird after discovering she was on a college waiting list on the other side of the country, your heart also breaks when she finds Lady Bird and her friends cooking up a storm in her kitchen on Thanksgiving night, so disappointed the family didn’t spend the day together.

And while you chide the way she often dismisses Lady Bird’s hopes and dreams for the future, particularly when it comes to colleges, the sight of her painstakingly trying to write a good bye before her daughter leaves for NYC is a reminder for all parents, they never want their child to leave.

Janney by contrast has one emotion, and one emotion only, rage. In fairness she is playing a real person and judging by the interview footage we get of Ms. Golden in the closing credits, Janney really only had that one emotion to work with.

She does have some memorable scenes, Tonya’s wedding and her attempt to record her own daughter immediately springing to mind. While there also is the key moment a knife ends up sticking out of Tonya’s arm. But she does feel removed down the stretch, with her younger years and the earlier scenes in the move feeling distant to how it all unravels by the end.

She shouldn’t be demoted for that, and she won’t be, having already swept the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, suggesting her first Oscar triumph isn’t too far away, but Metcalf just leaves a bigger impression than Janney in their two respective performances.

There’s something about being so unlikeable that speaks to Oscar voters, J.K. Simmons in Whiplash one recent example. However, Metcalf’s ability to at times feel like that while always being as sweet as her daughter should lead to a closer final race.

Remembering Geelong’s quiet superstar

Corey played 276-games, winning three premierships with the Cats.

I once asked Western Bulldogs Club Doctor Gary Zimmerman, as part of a magazine interview, who was his favourite sports star. Dr Zimmerman took a while to come up with a response, and fair enough too, it’s a loaded question with so many options.

Before answering, he asked me the same question, who was my favourite sports star? I said Joel Corey.

It was easy to forget, in the bevy of superstars which made up the glorious era of 2007-2011, the tall and athletic midfielder from East Perth, in the number 11. For a start, Corey shared midfield time with Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood, Cameron Ling, Paul Chapman, Steve Johnson, etc. etc. It’s unfair to leave any names out, but you get the idea.

On-field he didn’t really wow you with the utter brilliance of Ablett, the big moment timing of Bartel, the unrelenting courage of Selwood or the mercurialness of Johnson. He was just always there, a clearance machine, running all day, the ability to hit any target no mater what side of the body he used. He may not have appeared on every highlight reel, but via the stat sheet and more importantly, the eye test, you’d notice his impact, even if the wider football community may not have.

Aside from his on-field exploits, the true reason Corey got lost in the shuffle of Geelong’s supreme midfield was his off-field demeanour. Corey may have been the most unassuming three-time premiership and two-time best and fairest winning footballer to have ever played the game.

He wouldn’t appear on any pre-game radio broadcast, you wouldn’t see him on Open Mike and he certainly wouldn’t be found as a panellist on the Footy Show. In fact, the only piece of media I can remember Corey ever doing was the wonderfully produced 2007 Grand Final reflection.

Long after the crowd had gone home and thousands of delirious Cats fans were back celebrating across all corners of Australia, Corey led the team back onto the MCG for a quiet moment or two left to ponder what they had just accomplished.

Not only does the video focus on Corey, he also narrates it, which for many fans of the league and maybe even some Cats fans, may have been the first time you had ever heard his voice. It is fitting that the one-time Corey chose to take a small step into the limelight, it was in front of an empty stadium, with only his teammates by his side.

Thankfully, his brilliance was never lost on Geelong. He is one of only 24-players to have won multiple Carji Greeves Medals. The first coming in 2005 and the second coming in 2008. Frustratingly and by coincidence, both of Corey’s best and fairest winning years ended in utter despair for the Cats.

And maybe by fate, Corey’s career would end on a brutal night for the Geelong Football Club as well. A preliminary final loss to arch rivals Hawthorn proved to be his final game and of course, with little fanfare, he announced his retirement a few weeks later.

If there was one way to describe the impact of Corey on Geelong and the AFL, aside from his three premiership medallions, two All Australians and prominent facial hair, Corey was one of the first truly athletic, oversized midfielders. It has become the blueprint for a prototypical midfielder in 2017. Corey was that player drafted 17-years earlier. It’s little wonder Marcus Bontempelli has turned into a star of the competition, he has the original as his midfield coach.

It’s still a little distressing seeing him in Bulldogs colours on gameday, one would have thought with such little fame off the field, Corey would have retired and wandered off from the game. Alas he continues at Whitten Oval where he was no doubt an unheralded piece of their premiership win.

I hope and I’m sure many other Geelong fans also wish to see Corey back in Geelong colours in some capacity. He did make one trip down the highway as a guest of the club, in a motorcade as they honoured the 2007 premiership team prior to the Round 10 clash against Port Adelaide.

Although with so many club legends there that night, you may have missed Joel Corey and that was no doubt fine with him.

We have reached peak Robbo

Few, if anyone, could have predicted the remarkable transformation of the Richmond Football Club in 2017 under coach Damien Hardwick.

There is good reason for that, seeing as the last time we saw the Tigers in 2016, they were suffering an embarrassing 113-point loss against Sydney at the SCG. They seemed as far away from a Grand Final as any team in the league, only clairvoyants and the most optimistic Tigers supporters could have sensed this turnaround.

Hardwick loomed as the key scapegoat if Richmond didn’t improve on their eight-win total. Herald Sun Chief Football Writer Mark Robinson made this prediction at the beginning of the year;

It wasn’t an awful prediction, Hardwick had barely survived an extensive club review at the end of the 2016 season and even with the additions of Dion Prestia and Josh Caddy, the coach entered his eighth year on thin ice and a slow start could definitely have seen him fired by mid-season.

It’s easy to pick on Robbo, his prediction just happened to appear across Twitter today, you can guess there’s other predictions on Richmond along those lines from so-called experts either on record or not. So, who saw the revival coming, anyone?

There was one man who foresaw the return of the Tigers to September and the Grand Final, one journalist brave enough to stand by Hardwick and back him in to turn his coaching career and Richmond’s fortune around. That journalist was the same man who had Hardwick sacked by mid-year, Mark Robinson.

Back in April last year, a full 17-months ago when all of the AFL world had given up on Richmond and Hardwick, Robinson put all his chips into the middle of the table and backed Hardwick in. The Tigers had started 1-5, the coach and the club were done, yet Robbo still believed.

Now you may be asking why an old article from April, 2016 is relevant now. So much has changed since then, particularly Mark Robinson’s opinion of the Grand Final coach, Damien Hardwick. Well, in the middle of Grand Final week, as the yellow and black army ready themselves to descend on the MCG this Saturday for this first time since 1982, someone wanted to remind the football public of his prediction, why it was Robbo himself of course.

That’s why an article written an eternity ago appeared on the front page of the Superfooty website and was splashed across Twitter timelines.

Mark Robinson has had many golden moments of self-aggrandising. He’s had beers with almost every premiership player in AFL history, has AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on speed dial, was apparently thanked by Jordan Lewis’ mother for helping him win three of his four premierships and was the moral conscious after Leigh Montagna was suspended during the season.

This latest stunt has to take the cake, not only to even remember he had even written the article, not only to feel it necessary to remind everyone, not only to ignore how he swung the other way a year later, no, it’s none of that, it’s the finer details.

Putting his own name in the headline proclaiming his support of Hardwick, the fact that at first glance it seems as if he has written a fresh article discussing his own past article and the coup de gras, this delicious intro;

“RICHMOND was in a world of pain in April last season, but when Mark Robinson assessed the Tigers he came to a surprising conclusion. Read the column here.”

The analysis of a football savant, right there.

If Robbo wasn’t so devoid of irony and the least self-aware person on the planet, you could have assumed he was doing it for a laugh, or thinking cynically, just doing it as clickbait to get fans riled up, and sure enough there were plenty reminding him of his backflip.

Yet nothing Robbo does has any deeper meaning, it’s all right there on the surface, he believes everything he says without a hint of modesty or sarcasm.

So, when Richmond enter the coliseum of the MCG this Saturday, remember, one man saw it coming the whole time.

2017 NFL Free Agency Day One Musings

Cleveland came to Houston’s rescue and traded for Brock Osweiler, “buying” a second-round pick.

Surely somewhere deep inside their Park Avenue headquarters, the NFL thanks their lucky stars they have the Cleveland Browns and curse the day they let the first incarnation of this treasured franchise to leave for Baltimore. The Browns were the worst team in 2016, yet are one of the best at creating headlines

The opening day of the 2017 NFL Free Agency period and the start of the New Year in the league already steals the sporting headlines, however the Browns added the biggest storyline which sent Twitter and the NFL world into meltdown.

Brock Osweiler, the $72 million mistake in Houston, was traded to Cleveland on the eve of the new NFL year and league Twitter initially destroyed the Browns, understandably, and then suddenly began praising Paul DePodesta and the front office for the innovative deal which sent Osweiler and a second-round pick from the Texans to the Browns for a 4th and a 6th round pick in the upcoming draft.

The deal has now been labelled as “creative” and considered a win-win for both franchises as Cleveland essentially paid $18 million for a second-round pick. The deal does make sense for both teams, but it’s hardly a game-changer.

Rich Smith looks like a magician, having now washed his hands clean of the disaster that was signing Osweiler to the monster deal last off-season, however the team is still without a capable starting quarterback and sound out of the race for Tony Romo who looks destined to end up in Denver.

The Browns get another second rounder this year to make it 22 picks across the next two drafts. It means another dart to throw at the dartboard and knowing Cleveland’s history, there’s no guarantee they nail the pick, or any pick for that matter.

The caveat is if they can pull off a trade, which has to be the strategy, however their main target doesn’t seem available for any price. Jimmy Garoppolo is unlikely to be traded, no matter what Cleveland offers.

The main question and where Cleveland could have improved the deal would have been whether they could have squeezed more out of Houston to help free up the cap space Osweiler was stealing next season. But, nevertheless the deal is done and the Browns livened up free agency once again.

The trade kicked off the new NFL year; however the action began well before 8am AEST time and now on to other matters, from a typically jam-packed opening day of free agency.

Jags gonna jag

Jacksonville goes all out to spend as much money as possible on beefing up their defence. Nope, it’s not 2016, or 2015, or 2014. The Jaguars have broken the bank once again, splashing the cash on a number of high profile defensive free agents. They began by handing Calais Campbell a massive $14 million per year deal to beef up an already loaded, money-wise, defensive line and then grabbed free agency darling A.J. Bouye from their division rivals for $67.5 million over five-years and Barry Church from Dallas to add starters in their secondary. At some point all this spending will generate some wins for the struggling AFC South outfit.

Washington are imploding, which is not like them

The off-season drama at Redskins Park is just as crazy as usual with an exodus of team members, both on and off the field.

Having already lost one wide receiver in Pierre Garcon to San Francisco, DeSean Jackson will line up across from Mike Evans in Tampa Bay, as he accepted a $35-million deal over three-years. Defensive tackle Chris Baker joined the speedy wide receiver in moving south to Tampa and their quarterback drama continued to roll on as Kirk Cousins continued rumblings of his desire to move to San Fran.

Lastly, the saga of Scot McCloughan finally came to an end in Landover as he was officially fired having already been driven out of the building by a toxic front office which even went and tarnished his reputation on the way out.

Oh, at least they did re-sign Jay Gruden for two more years.

NFC West contrasts

There were a lot of comings and goings in a division which struggled overall in 2016, with Arizona and San Francisco leading the news.

The Cardinals lost a host of defensive starters with Campbell being joined by safety pair Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger who left for Baltimore and Washington respectively. They are also poised to lose linebacker Kevin Minter, although did acquire safety Antoine Bethea from the Niners and had already re-signed pass rusher Chandler Jones for five more seasons.

San Francisco was the opposite and has thrown money around to simply add capable starters. Including their own re-signings, the 49ers have added 12 players, with some costing a fortune. They can pair newly added Garcon with Aldrick Robinson to provide some weapons for whichever former Chicago quarterbacks starts, with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley both moving to Santa Clara.

The Niners have also added linebacker Malcolm Smith, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, tight end Logan Paulsen and full back Kyle Juszczyk, who becomes the ninth highest paid rusher in the league, receiving $21-million over four-years.

Mike Glennon gets paid and Chicago fans hold their breath

No news on Romo or Garoppolo on day one, however the next big name on the quarterback off-season list found a new home. The Buccaneers back-up has found his starting job with the Bears and got a massive payday to go with his promotion, a three-year deal at an average of $14.5 million. It’s no doubt a massive gamble to throw starting QB money to a guy who hasn’t started a game since 2014, but Glennon has at least shown some signs.

The big issue facing the Bears and Glennon is their lack of receivers and the loss of Alshon Jeffery, who signed a one-year deal worth $14 million in Philadelphia, won’t help that. They did add former Pittsburgh wideout Markus Wheaton and tight end Dion Sims from Miami, but it’s not exactly an imposing receiver group and Glennon isn’t going to play at a decent level without the talent around him.

Other titbits

– Safety Micah Hyde left Green Bay for Buffalo and looms a decent signing for a team which also lost cornerback Stephon Gilmore to New England.

– Speaking of New England, your candidate for departing Patriot who re-joins the team before the end of the deal he just signed is Logan Ryan. The depth cornerback signed a massive $30 million deal over three-years with Tennessee and will be back under Bill Belichick by 2019, for half the cost.

– Typically quiet running back market with Seattle providing the main news as they sniff around both Eddie Lacy and Jamaal Charles. All quiet on the Adrian Peterson front, the same for Latavius Murray and LeGarrette Blount.

Jay Cutler was released by Chicago, finally.

Taking a ride on the QB carousel

Both Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor could have new homes in 2017.

Anyone familiar with Face Off, the 1997 insane action thriller starring a bonkers Nicholas Cage and even more bonkers John Travolta would know the dangers of carousels.

Slight spoilers if you haven’t seen it by now. In the opening scene of the movie, Travolta is enjoying a carousel ride with his young son, when Cage arrives with his sniper rifle and guns down the small boy with the bullet passing through Travolta on the way.

Now a scenario like this is unlikely, however carousels are still dangerous, especially in the NFL where quarterback carousels can spin around and around, for some teams across multiple decades.

It isn’t hard to glean from the 2016 season alone that there is a sever dearth of QB talent in the league. From the 32 teams, there’s maybe 10 absolute franchise quarterbacks and maybe eight or so more who can reach that level or are at least adequate.

There’s also a large chunk of teams stuck in an endless circle, either without a competent quarterback or without a QB at all (San Francisco).

Two teams which sit somewhere in the middle are Washington and Buffalo. Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor are around the same level of quarterback. For the Redskins, Cousins has already led the team to the playoffs and demonstrated a clear ability to be a solid starter, capable of playing at, or near a Pro Bowl level.

In Buffalo, Taylor may not be as accomplished a passer as Cousins, however has the athletic traits to compliment a decent arm and solid playmaking ability.

Neither of these guys loom as potential top-10 passers, however with enough around them, they could lead their respective franchises on playoff runs and, if the cards fell the right way, even to a Championship Game or a Super Bowl. The main point being, there are worse options available.

And yet both teams are refusing to lock up their starting quarterbacks and one seems increasingly likely to leave the team this off season.

For the second straight year, Washington has chosen to snap the franchise tag on Cousins. This is the first-time multiple franchise tags have been used on a quarterback in successive years and strongly indicates the Skins’ reluctance to lock up Cousins for the long-term.

Cousins threw for a career-best 4.917-yards in 2016, adding 25-touchdowns and 12-interceptions. These numbers took his past two-season total to over 9,000-yards and 54-touchdowns. Those are quality figures and although the team struggled down the stretch and missed the playoffs, Cousins played at a consistent level.

Jay Gruden has publicly sung the praises of his 27-year old passer and Cousins fared favourably on Football Outsiders rankings, finishing fifth in DVOA. Yet no long-term deal, for the second season in a row.

Now the major barrier you would assume keeping Dan Snyder from handing out a big deal to Cousins is the required pay packet it will take. Under the franchise tag, he’ll earn around $24 million and any long-term deal would average out to over $20 million at a minimum. That’s par for the course for quarterbacks in the 2017 market.

For a second, ignore all the reasons why Washington should not pay up for Cousins and consider this, what superior options do they have?

The reason there is a lack of QB talent in the NFL is because there aren’t many good quarterbacks. Just a look at the free agency market shows pickings are slim and the only even competent signal caller who will join the market shortly is Tony Romo, who is 37 in April and is one injury away from having his bones disintegrate.

Going with Kirk Cousins is Washington’s only logical solution for next season and the seasons beyond that, it’s the logical solution for any length of time that would be covered in a long-term deal. There aren’t any better options out there.

Which brings it back to the Bills. They’ve gone even further than Washington and with a new coach in charge could move on from Taylor this very off-season.

Buffalo’s quarterback of the past two seasons was surprisingly benched for EJ Manuel of all people in Week 17 and Sean McDermott hasn’t exactly been enamoured with the dual threat playmaker since he arrived at Orchard Park from Carolina.

Taylor is a clear level or two below Cousins, however has been a consistently solid starter since 2015. He’s thrown only a combined 12-interceptions in two season, compared to 37-touchdowns and also added 10-touchdowns on the ground and over 1,000 rushing yards. He’s done all this with fairly mediocre receiver talent and an offensive group often wrecked by injuries.

He must have surely exceeded Bills expectations since arriving from Baltimore where he was a career back-up. Yet the stats barely bought him any loyalty under Rex Ryan and those feelings have translated to a new coaching staff.

It’s hard to imagine what both Buffalo and Washington envision as they plan their quarterback rotation for 2017. Where is this next incarnation of Aaron Rodgers waiting in the draft or in free agency?

This year’s draft class sounds particularly mediocre and despite the annual Combine buzz driving the likes of Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Deshaun Kizer up the draft board, all will be huge gambles and nothing suggests they can be 2017’s Dak Prescott.

Make no mistake, both players have flaws and ceilings, but even if their peaks aren’t at a truly dominant and transcendent level, teams can compete with decent quarterback play and Denver won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning’s noodle arm leading their offence.

Teams never seem to be content with what they have and obviously win-losses force decisions and neither Buffalo or Washington made the playoffs in 2016. However, both teams have bigger issues than at quarterback and if they’re not careful they’ll be like 15 other franchises, going around in circles.

A moustachioed Nicholas Cage won’t be eying them off through the scope of his sniper rifle, but both the Redskins and the Bills need to tread carefully and avoid the spinning horses.

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.