ANOTHER controversial week, another series of negative headlines, another galvanising Richmond win.
So proficient have the Tigers become at not merely dealing with controversy, but steeling themselves from it, that they now go out of their way to create it.
After players Daniel Rioli and Shai Bolton boxed on with a patron in a nightclub two Saturday nights ago, coach Damien Hardwick laced up the gloves for a verbal stoush with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan. Twice, once before and once after McLachlan said it was advisable for players to walk away from violence, Hardwick said that "we don't condone violence, but …"
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Then, Tigers CEO Brendon Gale took some more jabs at headquarters when he, out of nowhere, complained about having to play GWS in round nine in a home match at Marvel Stadium, not the MCG. And Hardwick followed that up with "I hate coming here" after steering his team, after its big week, out of a 28-point deficit against the Giants into a four-point win.
Since 2017 when the Tigers began their extraordinary roll toward three premierships, only a big American playing for Collingwood in a preliminary final in 2018 has stopped them from a dominance rarely seen in the VFL/AFL.
But the early stages of 2021 have posed many challenges, particularly with serious injuries to key players including Dion Prestia, Shane Edwards, Trent Cotchin and Kane Lambert, and even after the brilliant round nine win, they sit eighth with a 5-4 scoreline.
Clearly, a source of motivation for Hardwick, like so many great coaches before him, is to create an enemy for his players to focus on. There is a very real one, though, looming, this Friday night at the Gabba. In the red corner, the challenger – a rampaging Brisbane. In the blue corner, the banged-up title holder. Should be one of the games of the year.
Teague's 'worst press conference' comes back to bite him
Carlton coach David Teague has enough problems without creating unnecessary ones.
At 3-6, another Blues season – after the annual promises and pledges of improvement – is heading nowhere. Sunday's loss was against the unbeaten Melbourne, so it was expected. But it was certainly in keeping with an outfit that rarely, if ever, properly challenges good teams.
Last Thursday, after Michael Gleeson in The Age reported Carlton captain Patrick Cripps had early in the season fractured his back and subsequently required painkillers to play, Teague was dismissive and indignant at a media conference. It was a silly media performance. Teague, for reasons known only to him, danced around the facts. He came across as a smart alec.
Even more peculiarly, the Carlton media department on Sunday morning contacted the Sunday Footy Show and volunteered the fact that Cripps had, indeed, suffered a "subtle fracture" of his back. Teague is now in his third season as Blues coach, the first coming as a caretaker, the second in the COVID-19-destroyed 2020 and now this year where he was meant to take his club back to the finals.
After the loss to Melbourne on Sunday, Teague himself moved to provide clarity on Cripps' condition. "That (the Thursday press conference) was pretty average by me. I thought it was probably one of my worst press conferences. I knew the full extent … the frustration probably came up because it was in the past."
Teague doesn't deserve credit for admitting that error. He chose, arrogantly, to be economical with the truth. That's OK, a lot of coaches act that way. But when you're exposed – and Teague was, by his own club – that makes for interesting times.
Still not convinced, Port
Wrote after round seven that there was a "bit of West Coast flat-track bully" about Port Adelaide. After round nine, beginning to feel there is a lot.
The Power easily handle the teams outside the top eight. North Melbourne, Essendon, Carlton, St Kilda, Adelaide were opponents in five of their six wins for the year.
The three losses have come against West Coast (37 points), Brisbane (49) – both away fixtures – and on Saturday night, the Western Bulldogs on home turf. There is a brittleness to this team when a match doesn't unfold to its plans.
Port's best win of the season came in round four, when it beat Richmond by two points at Adelaide Oval. Its best is top-four best, but its best is sometimes only a conditional offering.
Black-and-white winds of change keep building
As weird as it may sound, the mounting losses have little bearing on Nathan Buckley's chances to continue as coach of Collingwood.
In Buckley's 10th year, there are now seven losses, the most recent coming on Saturday against Sydney. It's one more loss than the number of players the Magpies have provided a debut AFL match in 2021.
It's a nothing season from the perspective of judging Buckley's coaching ability, and it was always going to be the moment the disastrous Trade Period of last season began, which finished with Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips being moved out in a salary cap fire sale.
But his future cannot be determined while the large and mysterious personality of Jeff Browne hangs over the Collingwood Football Club.
With each passing day, Browne moves closer to giving the all-clear to those baying for change at club presidency level to formally enact his push to become Magpies president. Current president Mark Korda knows this, aware that an extraordinary general election will be requested unless he gives in to the Browne push.
The decision on Buckley's future, clearly, is on hold until this plays out. But high noon is nearing.