The AFL ladder this season is nothing short of confusing. With no team standing out or able to perform consistently, nobody really knows what the finals will bring, or who for that matter. We lost our first six and Hawthorn have been inconsistent performers all season as well. That takes out the two teams that have so consistently dominated the top of the ladder over the last few years and shakes up the entire competition.
Tonight was a big test for us. Coming off a few close games we had to get the job done against Melbourne, who have been performing better than they have in years. To top it off we had to do it in a Friday night game at the MCG. No pressure. It was an interesting game from the outset, but not for the reason Melbourne would have been hoping for.
A blow was struck early on that left Mills sidelined for most of the match, and dominated post match discussion. Part of me can’t help but question a system that allows someone to intentionally land a blow that sidelines their opponent, then continue playing for the rest of the match. I know he will undoubtedly miss several weeks once it has been reviewed but to watch him continue to run around, knowing we were down a man due to his actions, really stung.
It didn’t hurt us too much. Really, Melbourne were never in it. The scoreboard however, took a while to get the memo. The amount of behinds we kicked was beyond belief. We were dominating every aspect of the play, all over the ground, except for the bit that counts. 14 behinds and one goal. It was ridiculous. For some reason we were rushing, acting as though we needed a fast finish at the beginning of the first quarter.
Thankfully, it didn’t last. I really enjoyed watching the game tonight. I loved watching McVeigh slot back into the side, bringing his cool head and accuracy at just the right moments. I enjoyed seeing our defenders stand up and deny Melbourne again and again. I loved watching guys like Rohan and Reid taking strong marks with confidence. It was also a relief to see our midfield humming again. Parker and Kennedy were everywhere and absolutely killing it. It was good to see Buddy kicking goals again too.
Honestly, I challenge anyone to watch how we played tonight and say we don’t look like a team that belong in the finals. I know the odds are against us, but I really think that if we don’t play finals, it is not just us that will be missing out. We bring a special brand of footy to the competition and without us pushing our opponents to be tougher and want it more, finals footy just won’t be the same.
In our current situation, we are forced to play every game as though it is an elimination final. It truly is finals footy in June, and I have to say I love it. If this is as close as we get to finals footy this season, then so be it. I will be here cheering until our season’s end.