Round 3 Review
The only certainty is the uncertainty - while we've been bullish on the chances of Collingwood (our pick for the flag in the pre-season) and Port Adelaide (the usual bolter from outside the eight), we've been pretty wrong on the week-to-week match predictions so far.
So we throw out the traditional rulebook about how teams are likely to perform and go back to the drawing board.
Which ties in nicely with the Burning Question from the preview...
What are they keys to success in this shortened, crowd-less game?
Mental application seems to be just as critical as talent at the moment. We must get used to wild fluctuations in form or performance with teams struggling to find the motivation and competitiveness from week to week and quarter to quarter.
Mick McGuane summed it up perfectly:
Some teams will have bad quarters, bad halves, bad games and bad seasons. This might be the year when people get used to everyone having a chance each week and to expect the unexpected. Last year's form is irrelevant.
Take Richmond - they were soundly beaten even though it's not panic stations by any stretch. Those who are writing them off this early have short memories. They may be the same bunch as last year who declared the Tigers couldn't win the flag when they were crippled by injuries early on, and we know how that season panned out.
But can a team who has spent years going into battle with the "Tiger Army" behind them still complete their mission when the rest of the army aren't there? They've got the ingredients and will adapt no doubt, but it's a great example of how your confidence can be built by 60,000 feral fans cheering you on.
From a numbers point of view, midfielders with 30 touches or key forwards kicking six goals won't be the norm this season, so it will definitely be about quality more than quantity. It wouldn't surprise if the top four sides in Inside 50 efficiency are the ones left standing at the end of the year...
Speaking of quality over quantity, you can only laugh at this exchange on the weekend between Mark Ricciuto and Hugh Greenwood (for the record I love the theatre, something which is common in US sports but not so much in Australia).
Possibly the most shocking aspect of that exchange was a 54-game footballer schooling a 312-game Club Director on the difference between "then" and "than"
It might not be the same product we know and love, but at least we get to watch the likes of Matt Rowell and Hugh McCluggage emerge. The latter might be under the radar a little at the moment but I'm tipping him to have an outstanding year for the Lions.
Talk of Rowell leading the Brownlow is a little premature: Fyfe, Neale and Taylor Adams would be up there right now, but anything could happen.
Looks like the theory of teams flying on the day of the game and struggling is starting to look like a myth - the Swans caused a huge upset against the Kangaroos, so after a few more games we might have a big enough sample size to make an educated guess that it shouldn't have a negative impact on the travelling side at all.
Everyone playing West Coast should turn the sprinklers on pre-game. Which I'm pretty sure is against the rules, but the wetter the better against such a slick marking team like the Eagles. Look out for them building some momentum on the run home when they finally get back to Optus Stadium, but until then...
The Crows aren't going well, but didn't most people have them bottom six at the start of the year? Garry Lyon put it best on On The Couch last night - someone has to finish last...
Who Won The Round?
Love this question! Fun to pick a winner of the round each week...
Special mention to Hawthorn, Sydney and the Bulldogs, but it has to be Carlton, doesn't it? Clearly everyone saw Geelong get close to pinching it late in the game, but the Blues showed up and put the score on the board early - exactly what they failed to do a week earlier against the Demons.
There was something special about seeing Eddie back in the Carlton jumper and enjoying his footy, kicking goals and laying that tackle on Henry to ice the game.
Who Lost The Round?
It's too easy to say the Crows, or the Cats, or even the Demons for the lateral thinkers.
But we will go with North Melbourne - blew a golden opportunity to go 3-0 in a shortened season against one of the (theoretically) weaker opponents they will face on their home deck. They weren't awful but should've got the job done. How critical will those four points be at the end of the year?
Round 4 preview on Thursday, where we will try and make some accurate predictions after picking all the wrong upsets last week. How's your tipping going?