SOMETHING has got to give, soon.
Surprised it hasn't already. With each mounting loss – Saturday's to Sydney being the fourth in a row – the inevitable blow-up between Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson and president Jeff Kennett nears.
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Both men refuse to accept mediocrity, both are control freaks. Currently and unusually, they are unable to control the direction of their precariously placed football club, and they have never been able to control each other.
The Hawks sit in the bottom four after eight rounds. Their last win was a narrow one against North Melbourne, which has lost six in a row and sits second last.
Kennett in 2010 suggested internally that Clarkson should consider coaching in the VFL for a week. He was dead serious. In early 2013, two seasons after he'd vacated the club's presidency, he publicly said Clarkson should exit, only to have that call come back and embarrass him when Hawthorn won the next three premierships.
Out of nowhere 10 days ago, Kennett decided to place a timeline on Clarkson's exit from Hawthorn when on 3AW, referring to the contract in place until the end of 2022.
As of Saturday, Clarkson is out of public deflection tools, too. He used his last one on Swan Tom Papley, the most influential player in that match, saying he was highly skilled at milking free kicks. It was typical Clarkson, but everyone sees through such tactics now.
Clarkson's commitment to moving iconic Hawthorn figures out of the club when they pass a use-by date he places on them means there are now more awkward conversations to come, maybe very soon, with Shaun Burgoyne and captain Ben Stratton.
The next four rounds of football look like this for Hawthorn as it heads to a Perth hub: Carlton, bye, Fremantle and West Coast. Predicting that the two bulls, Clarkson and Kennett, will be furiously butting heads by then.
ROUNDS 8-12 Check out the full fixture
Sam Mitchell is near certain to be the next Hawks coach. While he'll be focused on helping Clarkson win those matches, he'll be equally interested in big-picture decisions made on the playing list, as well as who's left standing this time around after Clarkson and Kennett go at it yet again.
There's something brewing in the west
They're baaaack. Officially.
The manner of West Coast's mauling of Collingwood in Perth on Sunday was scary for so many reasons for the rest of the competition.
And now that Tim Kelly, the Eagle, has become the Tim Kelly we saw in two extraordinary seasons as a Cat, the club may be unstoppable in the 2020 premiership race.
The Eagles couldn't have adopted a more woe-is-us outlook than they did in the early stages of being based in a Gold Coast hub seven weeks ago, and against the Pies – their fourth in a row – they couldn't have been more upbeat.
To their credit, they acknowledged they sooked it up a tad in Queensland, snapped out of it with wins there against Sydney and Adelaide, then returned home for a win in a Derby in round seven before Sunday's 11-goal smashing of the Pies.
All the usual suspects were prominent on Sunday, Josh Kennedy with seven goals, Nic Naitanui with some of the best centre square work we'll see this year, Kelly with 30 disposals of pure class. Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey were great, too. And Oscar Allen is developing beautifully.
No one knows what is happening with matches after round 12, but the Eagles are guaranteed to be playing a lot more matches in Perth.
And their home ground remains the AFL's shiniest toy. It may become a compelling case that the 2020 Grand Final, with the Eagles in it, is played there, no matter how many quarantine hurdles need to be jumped.
Will the Saints rue their slip-ups?
Say it slowly. St Kilda should be top of the ladder.
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At 5-3 it sits third on the back of Brett Ratten's ability to produce a cohesive game plan which his players have fully embraced.
Jack Steele has twice finished third in Saints' best-and-fairest counts in the three seasons he's been a Saint, but his start to 2020 might just have him finishing somewhere near that very place in a Brownlow Medal. He again was crucial for St Kilda in their dominant win against Port Adelaide on Saturday night.
Dan Butler's performances have transformed the Saints, with every match Rowan Marshall moves toward the list of the game's best big men, and the silly debate over the use of pick No.7 for Hunter Clark in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft can forever be ended.
In round one, St Kilda led North Melbourne (now second-last on the ladder) by five-plus goals. In round six, it led Fremantle (third-last) by six-plus goals. It lost those matches in what may prove to be two of the great mysteries of 2020.
It's a tough task, but ...
Be it deliberate out of bounds, holding the ball, arms being chopped in marking contests, off-the-ball punches, goal reviews or seemingly any other issue requiring determination by umpires, from one match to the next in 2020, there is rarely consistency.
There is no use anyone denying it, and it is a major worry.
And yet it is fully understandable that this is the case. Umpires, and those in charge of them, have been as affected as any AFL group by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Their skill set is one what requires constant honing, and is always impacted on by the nuances of game style. This year, umpires have been forced to prepare for matches remotely and unable to prepare adequately.
Umpires do deserve some slack being cut, and a starting point might be for players in possession to stop their C-grade acting in attempting to give the impression they are trying to dispose of the ball when tackled.
But the umps do need to improve, too.