Don't jump the gun after Round 1
DRAWING conclusions after one round of football is fraught with danger.
Unlike many, it's something I avoid doing.
If the pundits are to be believed, Essendon can win the premiership, the Bulldogs are finished and Collingwood might as well unfurl the 2011 premiership flag this weekend. If only it were that simple.
It's clear Essendon and Collingwood have entered the season with the best preparations of the 17 clubs.
I think Essendon will win quite a few games early on, but with such a young side will they be able to run out a full season? I'm not convinced at this stage.
And of course the Magpies will be incredibly difficult to beat this season, but not impossible.
After about three weeks the fitness edge these sides have over the competition will be nullified as the others catch up. It's about this time we'll begin to see patterns emerge in terms of game styles and form.
But I digress.
On one issue I am willing to draw a conclusion, and it relates to the concussion rule.
I applaud the AFL for introducing this rule – whereby a player deemed to be concussed can take no further part in a game – but they are a way off getting it right.
First of all, concussed players should be made to miss the following week.
We had research back in my playing days – that's about 40 years ago – to suggest this was best practice. Surely nothing has changed.
Back then if you were deemed to have suffered a concussion, you automatically had to sit out the following week. No debate.
It was a rule that distinguished us from rugby league, and it made perfect medical sense. It still does.
I remember trying to convince one of my coaches at South Melbourne, the great Norm Smith, I was right to play a week after being knocked out. He refused. He said I might have been right that week, but it would eventually catch up with me. I am glad he won that exchange.
Surely Geelong will not allow Joel Selwood to play this weekend – in Perth no less – after his brutal collision with Farren Ray last week. Surely.
News yesterday former Melbourne Demon Daniel Bell is seeking compensation from his former club after he was diagnosed with brain damage linked to the multiple concussions he sustained during his 66-game career should be cause for concern inside AFL House. The AFL, and each club for that matter, has a duty of care to the players. Had a rule similar to the one I have suggested been in place during Bell's career, he would have been less likely to come forward seeking compensation. The club would rightly have been able to argue it did all it could to look after Bell's well-being.
And then there's the issue of who determines whether a player is in fact concussed.
On Saturday night we had the farcical situation of Brisbane ruckman Mitch Clark copping an elbow to the head late in a close game, staggering off the ground, then being cleared to run back out, head bandaged, three minutes later. Of course he was concussed.
The AFL has no choice here, in the interest of fairness, to appoint an impartial game-day doctor at each match to conduct concussion tests.
I heard North Melbourne coach Brad Scott say earlier this week a coach would never try to influence a club doctor in determining if a player was fit to play on.
Rubbish! I have seen coaches lean on doctors to get a player back on the park.
It happened in my day, and it happens now.
It's great we have the concussion rule. The AFL just needs to massage it before someone really gets hurt.
LIKE most I will watch the Gold Coast Suns' debut with interest on Saturday night.
Their showdown with Carlton promises to be a very interesting match.
Now I'm not suggesting the Suns will win up at the Gabba, but they won't be a pushover, and the Blues had better come ready to play. Chris Judd's 200th game at least gives them an added incentive to switch on against the new kids on the block.
I use the terms kids quite deliberately. At least half of this Gold Coast side will be first-gamers, and there's some exciting talent there. One of those debutants will be code-jumper Karmichael Hunt.
AFL great Wayne Carey took a huge swipe at Hunt this week, saying his inclusion in the Gold Coast's 22 for Saturday night is nothing but a PR stunt.
I don't agree with that – I reckon Hunt has earnt his spot.
However, for Suns coach Guy McKenna to suggest Hunt is the side's third best defender was a tad disingenuous.
I can think of at least four Suns defenders off the top of my head who are better footballers at this stage of Hunt's development – Nathan Bock, Campbell Brown, Jarrod Harbrow and Nathan Krakouer. I predict rival sides will try to manipulate the match-ups so Hunt ends up on fast, small forwards. I just don't think he'll have the smarts or the pace to stop them. Early on his career at least. But gee, it's going to be great to watch.
ROUND ONE REVIEW
Baby Bombers Mark II: Couldn't help but be impressed by Essendon's improvement. Time will tell if Sunday's mauling of the Bulldogs was an aberration or if they are the real deal.
Jack Riewoldt: Wow, this kid can play. Could be every bit as good as his cousin Nick. Now just needs his teammates to lift their game.
Close finishes: Three games decided by a total of seven points, a draw, and only two blowouts. Couldn't have asked for a better opening round.
Friday night footy: A bouquet for Prime TV (Channel 7) for its decision to broadcast Friday night footy on 7mate at 8.30pm. Highlights how multi-channel platforms should be used.
Quality of kids: The number of first gamers to have an impact on the weekend was quite remarkable. And we haven't even seen the Gold Coast in action yet.
Ugly footy : Friday's night's match might have been on 7mate at a reasonable hour, but it was not the sport's finest couple of hours. Conservative, boring footy would not have won anyone over. Only saved by a thrilling one-point finish.
Western Bulldogs: Atrocious start to the season. Were they even trying? Looked flat and were simply out-enthused by the Bombers.
Brisbane Lions: They were courageous in defeat. In fact they should have won, but injuries look to have derailed their season after just one round. They will struggle to win games without Jonathan Brown in the line-up for 10 weeks.