Finally the football public have assigned the appropriate amount of credence and respect to the pre-season AFL matches, this year in the form of the JLT Cup.
Just a little above zero.
For years footy fans have been seduced by their team’s early performances after a long hiatus from the game over the summer. Carlton fans could be forgiven to think their Blues would have a successful year in 2005 after taking out the tournament, only to finish with the wooden spoon come the end of the season proper. Basically, the prospect and excitement of the incoming season lures spectators and impairs their judgement. This is because of one simple fact.
A pre-season game is nothing like an AFL game. Contested and mental pressure combine to hamper skills, players are rushed and decision making hastened. There is never the time or space as in a JLT cup game. The reason is that even though the teams are still attacking the ball in the pre-season… but they aren’t throwing their body recklessly and viciously hunting the ball, as they would come the real season.
Coaches are tinkering with plans in the pre-season but it would be daft to reveal their plans before Round 1. So spectators are gifted with free-flowing, often dry weather, bruise free footy, but it is an unrealistic expectation of what the players will be subjected to in the season proper.
Of course, it’s an excellent opportunity for coaches to play the kids and give them a taste of the top level. This is what fans should be excited about and drawn towards. The talent coming through and who might be given the opportunity given form or injuries later in the year.
Otherwise, I’d be saying despite being useful to teams the pre-season offers nothing to commentators or spectators in way of predictions for the year. Even the early rounds of the season can be volatile, and ‘upsets’ regular as the dust settles and teams build momentum. Often players coming back from post-season surgery the previous year will take a few rounds to hit their straps and it will take a month after round one to really see which players have taken the leap up to the next level, or which have lost the edge or toe that have made them elite.
Basically, don’t get too excited or brazen to early. I’d be leaving grand final predications until a couple months into the season, and even then I’d be doing it cautiously.
Wayne Carey spoke about the prospects of the 2019 AFL season and the impending rule changes on the Sean for Breakfast show.
In saying that it is still fun to have a little conjecture though and launch passionately into the conversation!