THIS is soooo Collingwood.
The Magpies sit outside the eight beyond the halfway point of the season – Sunday night's loss to Fremantle leaving them 10th with four wins and a draw after nine matches – and yet they could still win the premiership.
They are courageously playing good football without Scott Pendlebury, Jeremy Howe and Jordan De Goey.
And, as always, they are playing matches after off-field actions of key personnel have created screaming, negative headlines.
A social hit of tennis by coach Nathan Buckley on Friday ultimately had nothing to do with Collingwood's loss to the Dockers. But it was the AFL's highest profile COVID-19 protocols breach, the fifth by an AFL club in the past week, and followed a transgression by Magpies vice-captain Steele Sidebottom five weeks ago. Sidebottom returned against Fremantle after a sanction attached to that situation, and was outstanding.
Collingwood as a club and Collingwood players as individuals seemingly always respond when under adverse scrutiny, a situation which presents itself regularly given the ability of club president Eddie McGuire to either shoot from the hip at generic AFL issues, or shoot even more pointedly when one of his own is under attack.
Twice this year McGuire has made aggressive public statements about ramifications for AFL industry people who breach the AFL's COVID-19 regulations. On both occasions, the comments have been exposed as nothing more than hypocrisy, with Sidebottom five weeks ago and Buckley on Friday presenting themselves as individuals who, in McGuire's eyes, should respectively be stood down for the year or sent home from a hub.
McGuire has must-listen views on all AFL matters, but he would prefer no one had heard them when they need to be applied to people wearing black and white, like Sidebottom and Buckley.
I said on Sunday morning I felt Buckley should consider standing down, or the AFL consider standing him down, from coaching Collingwood on Sunday night. I stand by that.
The 2020 AFL season, unable to be played in Victoria, where 10 of the 18 clubs are based, is hanging on by the threads of outside-the-norm exemptions to live and play granted by many other state governments.
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AFL fines, all of which have been unnecessarily softened by "suspended" amounts, are clearly not getting the message through to the clubs.
Buckley handled himself beautifully post-match, in explaining what happened in his protocol breach of playing tennis with his assistant coach Brenton Sanderson, and Alicia Molik and her coach.
They'll be back in the eight after round 10, the Pies, after their match against the Swans.
THE LADDER Where is your team sitting?
Not Melbourne-like? Of course it was
No idea what Glen Bartlett wanted to achieve in his public strafing of the Melbourne Football Club over which he presides.
His words in the Herald Sun late last week were the type you'd overhear from a shattered duffle coat-wearing supporter heading home on a packed train after a demoralising loss, or the sort offered by a perennially grumpy club diehard in an online rant.
"Disgraceful" and "insipid" were two random words he plucked. There was also this: "When you pull on a Melbourne jumper, we don't give them out in Weeties packets." What does that even mean in 2020?
And then there was this: "It (Thursday night's loss to Port Adelaide) wasn't Melbourne-like and it won't be tolerated going forward."
Glen, it actually was Melbourne-like. Take the preliminary final finish to the 2018 season out of the conversation, the club has on just one occasion – in 2017 – recorded a single figure ladder finish since 2006, and even that was barely single-figure (ninth).
After eight matches of 2020, Melbourne is 3-5. It is impossible to get an accurate read on its credentials, as the Demons' good – a big win against Hawthorn in round seven and OK losses to Brisbane, round eight, and Geelong (four) – is too often off-set by their bad, with the dreadful loss to Port their season-low moment.
Crucially, Bartlett now needs to coherently follow up these comments with a detailed statement on the ramifications for the actions that "won't be tolerated", and what will happen to those who, in his eyes, continue to transgress.
As president of Melbourne, Bartlett obviously has every right to say whatever he wants. But there are ramifications for those words, quite possibly for him.
Interesting game looming for the Demons on Wednesday, against the dreadful Crows at Adelaide Oval. The couldn't possibly lose, could they?
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Eagle champs prove size still matters
There's still a place, and hope, for the old-fashioned big guy.
The 11-goal tally from those matches was vintage Kennedy and old-school West Coast.
Against Geelong on Saturday night, another Eagles big guy in Nic Naitanui continued his stunning 2020 form. He's so in control of his game at the moment that he's performing party tricks at centre bounce contests, and also in one extraordinary second-half piece of forward line planning with Kennedy, which resulted in one of the spearhead's four goals for the game.
Geelong lost little in defeat. It did enough to win, in arguably its best performance of the season given the unavailability of Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett and Rhys Stanley.
The Cats' main problem of 2020 is the same one that has stifled their full progress in recent years – the ruck. Stanley's absence doesn't help, and Esava Ratugolea is a long way off being able to match it for a full game with someone possessing the smarts of Naitanui.
Ex-Crow Josh Jenkins is close to playing his first game for the Cats. He will bring versatility, goal power, and a ruck option. Could yet prove to be a key to Geelong's chances in 2020.