ANOTHER Hawthorn match, another loss, another Alastair Clarkson sook.
If he's not crying poor about an opposition player, umpires or the national draft, he's having a crack at an old mate.
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten, who worked under Clarkson for seven seasons, had one task yesterday – beat the Hawks to maintain momentum on a finals campaign. It didn't matter how that win came, and Clarkson would know that better than anyone.
"They were playing an interesting game, where it's a game of keepings-off," Clarkson said after Hawthorn lost to the Saints, its fifth consecutive defeat, and 10th loss from its past 11 games.
"Especially in the second quarter, I think they took 42 marks and kicked one goal. They might be able to get away with that against us, but I don't think the method itself is going to lend itself to kicking a lot of goals."
If Clarkson could bring himself to be gracious in this unusually uncompetitive Hawthorn season, then he would've acknowledged Ratten had out-coached him with his tactics after a free-flowing first quarter, and that Ratten is more than capable of hitting "go" for his players, given only two clubs have scored more heavily than the Saints in 2020.
"That's his comment," said Ratten, who has impressively taken the Saints to a 9-6 season, when told of Clarkson's assessment.
"We'll focus on what we can do and maybe they could too."
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It's an interesting game Clarkson is playing this year. He clearly feels he is being hard done by. I have no idea why. We've all got the violins out, Clarko. Just tell us when you want us to play them this week.
Danger-fuelled Cats will take some beating
If this was a normal season, there would be 75,000 spectators at the MCG on Friday night for what is looming as a Grand Final preview.
Geelong versus Richmond in the second-last round.
The perennial finalist with the 2020 season's strongest surge of powerful form – six wins in a row, eight wins from the past nine, 11 wins in the past 13 – against the winner of two of the past three premierships, which has somehow this year become embroiled in a series of off-field incidents that cumulatively are threatening to expose as words only a once-lauded and widely celebrated culture.
Geelong embarrassed Essendon on Sunday in round 16. Richmond had a bye, yet the club was as frantic as at any stage of 2020 as it dealt with the incomprehensible actions of Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones, which followed other questionable decisions by individuals connected with the club.
The Cats' momentum in the past two months may just become unstoppable. Joel Selwood will likely return against Richmond, Gary Ablett will make his comeback in the final game a week later.
Patrick Dangerfield has finished top 10 in the Brownlow Medal in each of the past eight seasons, averaging 25 votes per those counts. He has won or been runner-up in three of the past four seasons.
Don't assume he can’t win it again in 2020. Last time I checked, umpires vote on the award, not the supposed experts in the media. And even if he doesn't, he's already put together a season the equal to any of his previous ones when it comes to impact for his team.
He might actually be at the peak of his extraordinary powers. Can't wait to see what he does against Dusty and co on Friday night.
From delight to potential disaster in 48 hours
The Brisbane Lions on Wednesday received the best news possible when it was confirmed the 2020 AFL Grand Final would be played at the Gabba.
On Friday night, the club was hit with some very bad news – a hamstring injury that will be potentially season-ending to arguably its most important player.
Harris Andrews may be the competition's best big defender. All-Australian last year, tracking beautifully to back up that honour in 2020. Simply, he is not replaceable.
Jack Payne will attempt to do so. He's 20 and has played one match.
Brisbane has remaining matches against Gold Coast, Sydney and Carlton. It is hoping Andrews misses just one final beyond that. Winning that first final, likely to be a double-chance qualifying final, will be extremely difficult without him.
A tale of two failed campaigns
Toss the coin on which team has had the most lamentable 2020 season. Heads Essendon, tails North Melbourne.
The Bombers, humiliated by Geelong at the Gabba on Sunday, have won just one of their past eight matches – against a team sitting third-last (Hawthorn).
Of their six wins, five have come against the bottom five teams, and their draw in round 11 came against the team sitting sixth from last, Gold Coast.
The John Worsfold-Ben Rutten coaching combination simply has not worked. Worsfold should have been released six matches ago to allow Rutten to properly imprint this team with his style.
Essendon is now like North Melbourne – their fully damaged 2020 seasons have created scenarios which have already made 2021 the most difficult of "sells" to their supporters.
Neither team actually knows where it is at. Both, particularly, North, which was even talking deep finals action, were talking a big game as recently as mid-June. Both won their first two matches of the season.
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North has won one game since – against the only team below it on the ladder, Adelaide. There have been some low moments for this club in its VFL/AFL journey, which began in 1925. The 2020 period is, without doubt, in any conversation focusing on its worst years.
Unlike the only team below it on the ladder, North Melbourne – because it was delusional about its standing upon entry to 2020 – hasn't even started the monumental task of rebuilding. And the people who were convinced 2020 was going to be rosy are the same ones who are now going to enact massive change.
The question marks hover over Rhyce Shaw, as they do Rutten. And there are no easy nor obvious answers.