Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!



Volume #I, 2003.
GAME REVIEW: AFL2004.
by Sly.
August 29th, 2003.

Every now and again, myself, rantists' The Chief and Doska, and a mutual friend Ilie, get together with a slab of beer, too many cigarettes, and a game for the PS2. Usually the game of choice is a something in the sports genre - i.e., Soccer, Wrestling, and Football.

This is a tried and true practice which has been going on for over a decade, and while some of the participants have changed, while the games and technology involved has changed, what has always remained is this: a smoky room, acrid with the stench of beer, and four guys bordering on drunkenness to passing out. (Once, Doska passed out while goalkeeping in FIFA, rolled the ball out to the opposition in his stupor, and cost us our World Cup challenge).

The latest game to undergo this treatment is AFL2004. But first, let me provide some history.

Ten years ago, Aussie Rules Footy came out on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It's a sad indictment on today's programmers, and their interpretation of our great game, that this has probably prevailed as the best Australian Rules Football game for over a decade.

Five years ago, AFL98 for the PC emerged, and the gameplay was actually half-decent. Sadly, the game was filled with bugs. For instance, changes you made to your team didn't stick. They'd keep resetting to the default side selected for you, and that side was extremely peculiarly positioned. You had joint full-forwards, the half-forward and center-line were natural, and then a sweeper in front of the half-back line.

Additionally, marking contests were absurd. The actual marking itself was fine - push the button, time it, and up you go. But often, you'd have some 5'5" midget outmarking a 6'9" ruckman. Bloody ludicrous. And lastly, the game itself got far too easy far too quickly.

Last year we had AFL2003. Cosmetically beautiful, gameplay shocking. Marking was generally automatic, and you know why? Because the programmers wanted to show you how clever they were. Kick it long, switch to a behind-the-goals angle, and you had one guy leaping over the other, (regardless of size differentials). You could always tell who'd come away with the mark, and there was nothing you could do about it.

The one benefit I'll give AFL2003 is that the format to select your team was superb, and once selected, that's how it remained. You didn't have to keep changing it before each game throughout a season. (Some of the ratings of players were a bit mystifying, though).

However, since AFL2003 was on the label which annually produces games like FIFA, there was hope that the next version would produce a vastly improved product. After all, how often can you stuff up? Surely you should learn from the gross errors of the past, (although if I was the programmers, I'd just take Aussie Rules Footy and use that as a template).

Well, they have learned - to an extent.

Marking's improved exponentially - now you touch the button and up you go. You hit it early, you're out of the contest. Hit it late and the ball goes passed you. Same applies to spoiling it. So that's one benefit…although some times, and I have no idea why, your player loses his feet and sprawls across the ground. (I think the graphic interfacing is a bit screwy, and these falls occur because you were meant to have been bumped off it).

Everything else is similar, but touched-up.

For example, you can now kick torpedoes by holding onto the R1 button as you kick. Of course, some of these torps travel no further than 30-40 meters, and I'm yet to see one which has traveled with any degree of accuracy. I know it's a lot of work, but they should've actually included a "torpedo stat." You could have guys like David Wirrupunda and Dustin Fletcher rated highly and hitting their torps more often than not, while guys not known as exponents of kicks would screw it up more often than they kicked it.

A "snap" kick has also been included, which is undeniably the best innovation about the game. You hit the button, and your guy will try and center it toward goal, wherever he is, or have a shot at goal if he's in range. This is extremely handy, whereas in AFL2003 you'd often get tackled by the time you straightened yourself out and tried to get a kick in.

The rucking also has a new interface, with a meter appearing at the bottom of the screen. Each player has an icon on the meter at opposite ends. When it's time to ruck, the icons will move toward the center. Whoever can tap their button and stop their icon closest to center will generally win the ruck. Then as the ruckmen run in, you point where you want to tap it.

Additionally, you have a grander view of contests. In AFL2003, you had a close-up, and then immediately after the contest, the perspective pulled-back. The problem there was you often lost track of who had the ball, and often you'd either get tackled before you'd even found out you had the ball, or your opponent would run off before you discovered he had it.

Still, I found a gross "bug" with the new format. Well, it's not really a bug but a trick, a glitch. If you ruck well, and tap it forward, one of your main midfielders will rove it more often than not. Hit snap, and he'll kick it directly to your full-forward, who'll be on the lead and well clear of his opponent.

No problem?

Okay, in real life you might get away with this once or twice before your opposition get smart to it, but in one half of football, I continued to do this and ended with 22 goals. In one half! And Chris Tarrant had kicked 14 of those. Again, in one half! It's a stupid glitch the programmers should've found. (I actually wonder how well the programmers know the game).

Other stupidities:

    * in AFL2003 the X button does most of your stuff - i.e. kicking, marking, tackling, etc. Now, it's the square button. Why change that? The strength of something like the FIFA series is that it builds on previous versions, so you can expect buttons to do the same thing. This confused the hell out of us for an hour, as we continued instinctively using the buttons as if they did the same thing in AFL2003.
    * they did this in AFL2003 and failed to remedy it in 2004, but kick and tackle are perpetrated by the same button. No problem? you might think. Well, if you're expecting to tackle when in a pack, or when chasing an opponent running to the ball, and end up getting the ball first and kicking it, you invariably kick in the wrong direction or out on the full. Kick and tackle should not - I repeat, should not - be the same button, so you can avoid this. (If anything, at least make the tackle and snap button the same one, so if you're looking to tackle but get the ball and kick it, you can snap it over your shoulder).
    * the kicking for goal is far too accurate, and despite the instructions claiming there's a "Kicking HUD" for goal, I'm yet to see it.
    * the commentary provided by Dennis Commetti and Gerard Healy, (with Christi Malthouse providing the boundary-riding), is extremely inane. Well, obviously, that's true to life for Healy, but often a player will be lauded as "best on ground" in the first minute of a game, or they'll wax lyrical about the amount of possessions a player has had for the game in the opening quarter. Surely these comments could've been applied judiciously. How hard is it to program that these comments will not be applied until the second half, where they'd be more fitting?
    * still on the commentary, but some comments are repeated ad nauseam. For example, Commetti will often refer to a team developing a "buffer" (on the scoreboard),.
    * still on the commentary, but many of Healy's comments are inexplicable - such as references that Tom Hafey would be disgusted with the style of game. Hafey hasn't coached since the late 80's. I doubt that most kids who own a PS2 would know who Hafey is.
    * still on the commentary but Christi Malthouse provides votes at the end of a game. The problem is, the majority of them go to full-backs. Obviously it's determining votes by possessions, and as full-backs provide the rebound in the game, they're getting more than your midfielders and forwards. But it's not unusual for the two full-backs to figure prominently in the votes, and obviously that's unrealistic.
    * in Season mode, I cannot for the life of me change my squad. Yes, I can make selections, but when it comes to the actual match, it resets back to your default team. This means you're limited to your Starting-22. For some reason, though, you can change your squad in single games. Am I missing something?
    * the "Missions" - allegedly classic games from AFL history - are stupid. The Collingwood Mission is to beat Collingwood's 1979 win against the Saints, where we kicked 31.21.(207), to them 3.11.(29) - a margin of 178 points. But it challenges you to do it with today's team. What's the point of that? When it said "mission", I thought it might offer the chance to reverse the result of any of our numerous Grand Final losses, (i.e. 1980, when we were slaughtered by Richmond).
    * when you first boot up, and before you change the default options, the game begins with a pan angle, which means it keeps rotating around, depending on whoever has the ball. The problem with this is you might be pushing "up" to run forward, the angle will switch 180, and suddenly you're running backwards. Stupid, really. At least you can change this to a side-view, which makes it much easier to play.
    * some times, returning from half-time, the game provides a panoramic view as the ruck contest is underway. That means you get a view of the game from, well, somewhere up the top of the Southern Stand, and you're expected to play from this angle until the game changes back to the angle you've chosen!
    * in the space of an hour, I was killing the game on its "medium" level, so it doesn't seem like it'll take much to master the game.
    * the instructions are terrible - as far as being helpful goes, they're like those bad instructions you find which are translated from a foreign language by somebody who has no understanding of English. That's not to say they're not well written, - the language is fine. They're just difficult to understand. Also, when it lists the buttons, some buttons are just blank, (in that they don't have the square or circle imprinted on them).

The Verdict: the release of the game was delayed by a fortnight, and it's easy to see why - there's a lot of unexplored potential there, things which need fixing but obviously weren't because the programmers had a deadline to meet. Simply not good enough.

At any rate, a vast improvement over the superficial AFL2003, but as a challenge, it doesn't seem like it's going to provide much. Ultimately, a great game to play against friends, but that's about it, I think.


AFL Sterility.
by Sly.
August 17th, 2003.

You'll never guess what I did today.

I attended the Victorian Premier League Preliminary Final between the Preston Lions and Frankston Pines, (God, what a stupid name).

I think the last time I went to a soccer match was in about…geez, 1974 or 75 - I can't remember exactly when, but it was that long ago. Anyway, the point of this rant isn't the game itself, but the actual atmosphere.

Firstly, entrance. $12.00 for Adults, $7.00 for any sort of concession. What's it cost at the football? Well, who knows, you're encouraged to be a member, pay your $400.00 a year, and then get screwed out of seating anyway. As an AFL Member, I can say firsthand we're treated appallingly. Yeah, an AFL Membership is a bit of an aristocrasy, but that's why I pay so bloody much for it, for the privilege. That's pretty much been eroded throughout the years.

Next, let me get the dirty stuff out of way - like, for instance...smoking. Yeah, it's a filthy and expensive habit, but sue me, I'm a child of an older era. The simple fact is I could light up a cigarette and puff away, which you can't do anymore at any AFL Stadium. Why? Because we live in an exaggeratedly litigious society.

I understand that passive smoking - that is, second-hand smoke - can (allegedly) cause cancer. But doesn't one have to be continually subjected to it? Doesn't one have to be in that smoky environment, day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out, for years and years?

People have really become overly precious. Okay, I understand if you mightn't like the smell of smoke. But surely an AFL Football Stadium can allocate smoking areas, just as a number of bars and pubs do nowadays. I mean, if my second-hand smoke causes cancer in somebody who inhales it once over a period of 120 minutes - one solitary game, that is - then, sorry, the Grim Reaper's looking for you.

Really, at the football - bar at Colonial about fifty per cent of the time - we're sitting in an open stadium. Smoke travels up. If smokers had their own section then, sure, they'd choke themselves, but still their collective smoke is going skyward. It's not going to affect people on the other side of the ground.

Then there was the beer today. Cans. Of course, they don't serve those anymore at the football because once, somebody threw a can onto the field. What sort of crazy logic is that? The masses are penalized for the stupidity of one person? Here's when you need severe penalties - you do something like that, fine the person $10,000, suspend them from the football for the year, and you'll never have a repeat offense.

Of course, there's the argument that beer intoxicates. That's why there isn't full-strength beer. That's crap when you consider that for an extra dollar, you can buy the spirit-mix of your choice. That's what I drink at the football - not because I'm an aficionado of scotch, but because beer's not meant to be drank out of a plastic cup. At least half of a scotch & coke belongs in plastic.

Finally on the alcohol, the price and the quantity. Today at the soccer, I bought four cans of VB and one can of Bourbon & coke for $17.00. How cool's that? Okay, besides the AFL being penny-pinchers and all that, I can imagine that there's also a case that alcohol is expensive to dissuade people from binge drinking. But if the latter's the case, then give us our dues. Let us drink from a can.

If nothing else, let us buy more than whatever the limit is presently. And I use the word whatever specifically, because these people serving us don't know themselves. On more than one occasion, I've been able to buy four drinks (that is two beers and two scotches) from one bar, but not from another 25 meters away. Somebody's got to clarify what's allowed because the rules keeping changing. Sorry, not the rules themselves, but the respective cashiers understanding of them. Moreover, it's these limits which crowd bars because people have to bring friends as their carriers to surpass whatever the limits are.

And to address the argument that cheap alcohol might be the reason for riots at the soccer, it isn't. Soccer's an emotional game. How do you vent emotion? Obviously by exploding with ecstasy whenever a goal's scored. In football, it's a frequent experience. In soccer, it isn't. Some times, emotion's bound to overflow. I'm not defending rioting and crowd violence, I'm just saying don't blame the alcohol. You have 80 minutes of tension building, and then a goal's scored - well, the emotional overflow can be like the eruption of a volcano.

Next is the food. They were serving freshly grilled hamburgers for $4.00. And this was a big, big hamburger - bigger than anything you'd get from the McD's. As big as something from your local Fish'n'Chip shop. And just as freshly cooked, too. There were also hotdogs and other treats. None of these meat pies or buckets of chips which have been sitting around for days collecting bacteria. And yet again, how are the prices?

Lastly, you simply had the crowd. We arrived right on the dot, ended up standing, and had sociable, chatty supporters around us. People might consider that a strange assertion in comparison with the AFL, but it simply doesn't happen anymore. Older supporters will know what I'm talking about.

When I was younger, when there was still suburban grounds, you'd attend a match, stand, and everybody around you would be friendly. I recall games at Victoria Park where, eventually, I'd be greeted by people who I only knew through the football. You could talk, you could joke, you could have a laugh. That's gone from the AFL - don't ask me why.

Consequently, what I'm trying to say is very simple - the AFL has become so sterile. Games are hyped to be blockbusters, even when they're aren't. Seriously, how many games run simultaneously in Victoria? Because of the isolationist nature of AFL scheduling, every game is pigeon-holed to mean more than it might really be.

We know that's not the case. A season sorts out the contenders from the pretenders from the stragglers. Invariably, you're going to get shocking games. But what's the choice? They stand alone. Years ago, when every game was played on a Saturday, I'd watch with interest the progress scores on the scoreboard from other matches. Some times, they became The Event for the day, especially when you were relying on a result to better your own team's position.

This has little to do with the soccer, but harks to the atmosphere. I don't know what happened to the AFL. Somewhere along the line, it just became very dead. Last year, I attended the Collingwood-Brisbane Grand Final, and the atmosphere was totally shocking. Shitelse, really. The week before against Adelaide in the Preliminary Final was something different, something special, but for a Grand Final - the penultimate game in an AFL Season - to feel like that, then you know somewhere along the line, the AFL have screwed-up.

Of course, maybe this is what they've wanted all along. A game lacking character, as well as a game lacking characters. You're encouraged to pre-book, are herded in, then watch nothing. There's no reserves anymore, nothing to entertain the crowd. Then you watch and you can't barrack. Last year on TAFLR, Buzz wrote an excellent rant where he was reproached by security simply for barracking - nothing offensive, just for shouting and cheering his team on.

This is ridiculous. Football's gotten ridiculous. The Commission's tried to make it something it isn't. Seriously. Remember, the Competition begun with suburban teams playing on their own little paddocks. That's the basis for today's League, but the AFL have tried to appreciate it into something else, and maybe that stature holds true for a handful of games - your ANZAC Day clashes, your Carlton-Richmond games when the two aren't crap, your interstate derbies, etc. - but all in all, they're generally the exceptions, not the rule.

I'll still attend AFL games, I probably always will - I'm a glutton for punishment. But attend any suburban sort of competition, whether it's the Victorian Premier League, or even the VFL, and you'll be inclined to remember what it used to be like. Field of Dreams, baby. What it used to be. But it's gone now.

Well done, AFL.

Congratulations.


Time to Clarify The Rules.
by Sly.
July 8th, 2003.

There's nothing more frustrating during a game than poor umpiring. And I'm not even talking from the standpoint of a Collingwood supporter where we're "always crucified." I can actually see when it's happening to the opposition - and that irritates me just as much. Basically, you want a fair and equitable game. You don't want either side having excuses for losing.

Regardless of what anybody says, umpiring can contribute to the outcome of a game. Decisions - particularly bad ones - can influence momentum. I'd cite a couple of examples, but I'm sure I'd be accused of being a poor Collingwood loser. So I won't. Instead, I'm going to list a variety of decisions and ask that they be clarified, if not for the sake of the game, then at least for the sake of consistency.

Free: push in the back.
Example: the ball-carrier's momentum is taking him forward, the tackler invariably riding him into the ground.

This occurred on Saturday night with Nathan Buckley and Anthony Stevens. I cite this example not out of complaint, but because it's one readily available to me. But I think everybody knows the instances I'm talking about.

Stevens was racing to recover the ball, his own momentum carrying him forward in something of a dive. Buckley tackled and tried to turn Stevens, so he didn't ride him in the back. Buckley did a good job, but the umpire arbitrated that it was in the back, saying Buckley should've turned him. Buckley protested he did. The umpire said he didn't - or not enough - and awarded the free to Stevens.

Firstly, doesn't the tackler have enough to do without being asked to turn the ball-carrier so he lands on his side? Buckley tried, and I thought he managed it (but that'll be beside the point in a moment anyway), but what would happen if the tackler's somebody like Dane Swan, and the ball-carrier's somebody like Glenn Jakovich? Can we really expect somebody who weighs as much as Jakovich's arm to turn Jakovich in the process of a tackle?

Surely an umpire can look at an incident like this and decide that the momentum of the ball-carrier was carrying him forward anyway, and that any tackle will be result in the tackler piggybacking the ball-carrier. With this in mind, shouldn't the result either be "holding the ball", "play-on", or a "ball-up"?

Free: taking the ball out of the ruck.
Example: the ruckman takes the ball out of the ruck, is tackled, doesn't dispose of it correctly, and is penalized.

There's actually two incidents of this.

On Saturday night, Anthony Rocca took the ball out of the ruck, turned and moved to snap the ball. Some Kangaroo attempted a smother, bumped Rocca, and Rocca fresh-aired the kick. Rocca was thus penalized for incorrect disposal after taking the ball out of the ruck. The problem here is that the Kangaroos' player never actually tackled him.

How the hell does that make sense?

Additionally, this rule's a travesty because there's so many umpires who can't bounce the damn ball. Okay, I can understand if there's a perfectly straight bounce and a ruckman tries to take the ball out of the contest. But how about when there's an appallingly crooked bounce which virtually lands in a ruckman's arms?

Is he still expected to tap the ball? Surely, he should be able to take advantage of the bad bounce and be allowed to attempt to carry the ball away. Certainly, in a case like this that'd be the percentage-thing to do.

Free: advantage.
Example: a free's paid, but then the umpire's decided that the team can carry away the advantage. Unfortunately, his whistle has stopped play, resulting in the majority of players - particularly the opposition - standing around waiting for the ball to come back.

I've said this for so long, but in a situation where the ball might spill loose following a free, can't the umpire wait three seconds before blowing his whistle? Can't he see which way the ball's going to fall and whether it'll advantage the team he's going to award the free to? At least this way, his whistle hasn't stopped everybody in their tracks. Then, if there is no real, discernible advantage, he can blow his whistle to his heart's content, call the ball back and say he's awarding a free. Doesn't this make sense?

Some people have argued that our game is too quick for this sort of attitude to prevail. Personally, I think that's a load of crap. When there's an obvious free, don't many players around the incident pause waiting for the umpire's arbitration? Don't they actually even turn to the umpire and call for the free? If they have all this time, then certainly the umpire can wait a few seconds before blowing his damn whistle.

Free: deliberate.
Example: somebody deliberately kicks/punches the ball out of the line.

First, I have a high horse to get on.

Collingwood-Kangaroos, Glenn Archer attempted to rush a behind by punching the ball. The ball, however, had other ideas and rolled out of bounds. Now if it's accepted Archer's intent was to hit the line - albeit the goal-line - then how does that intent change now that the ball's run out of bounds instead? Even the commentators made mention of this, and last year I recall Tarkyn Lockyer was penalized for a similar incident against Carlton in Round #3.

Then there's the kick. Last week, Collingwood-Bulldogs, a Bulldogs' player kicked a 40 meter grubber out of bounds. It was deemed deliberate, and the commentators were up in arms about the stupidity of the penalty. However, this was almost an identical copy of an incident with Jason Cloke against Brisbane in Round 4. On that occasion, Jason Cloke was penalized.

The point? It's bloody obvious when a player's playing for the boundary-line and nothing else. So penalize them all, not just the blatantly obvious ones. If this were the case, either players would become far more industrious with the way they managed to get the ball over the line, or they'd simply stop seeking its refuge.

Now how difficult is it to arbitrate all the above correctly? I maintain that umpires are too close to the action, and by virtue of that they're not seeing everything. I think they should remain some distance from the play so that they can get an overview of everything. It's akin to when another umpire overrules his cohort in the thick of the action. Why? Because the guy further away gets to see everything.

However, on top of those rules, there's also a couple of clichés I'd like to address, clichés which irritate the hell out of me.

Cliché: "It'd take a brave umpire to pay that…"
I hate this one, I really, really hate it. Usually it's uttered in proximity of a team's goals, as if to say that the free would be fine to be paid on the wing, but not this close to goals.

Why?

Surely if a free's there - regardless of where it occurs on the field - then it ought to be paid. And maybe if this became the case you wouldn't have so many coaches taking their leading forward to clarify rules with the director of umpires, Jeff Gieschen. Because that's why that's happening - frees which are being paid everywhere else aren't being awarded to forwards, and particularly key-forwards.

If they're there, they should be paid.

Cliché: "Frees even up…"
I actually believe that on most occasions, this is true. Toward the end of a game, umpires pay stupid frees to close the gap between frees to each team. But my point is why should frees be even?

Many said that Collingwood had the far better of the umpiring in the 2002 Grand Final, that the Brisbane Lions were, in fact, crucified. The basis of this argument was the free -kick count, which was 16-24 in Collingwood's favor. (Still would've been good if we got a free in front of goal, too).

But many of these assclowns don't take a look at the tackle-count, which was 73-44 in Collingwood's favor. That's 29 more tackles. Now since the majority of free-kicks are a direct result of tackling - or to be more apt, correct tackling - how is there any disparity in the free-kick count here? Collingwood received far more free-kicks because they laid far more effective tackles.

Now maybe that's a loaded example, but it leads to my point and ties in with the first cliché - if the frees are there, then award them. There's no real rhyme of reason why they should be even, particularly if you accept one side may be getting first to the ball more often, may be tackling more, or that the other side might simply be incompent.

Ultimately, I'm pretty sick of bad umpiring, especially as I don't think it's that hard a job. Perhaps the problem is as Eddie McGuire said on Saturday night - it's not the fault of the actual umpires, but of the multiple-personality interpretations coming down from the AFL.

The sad thing is nobody's actually doing anything about it. For instance, has anybody yet clarified charging? I don't think so. That can of worms was opened in the 2000 Grand Final with Michael Long's alleged charge on Troy Simmonds. Now, three years later, people still don't know what constitutes a charge.

Worse, the AFL and the Rules Committee see fit to add more rules, instead of delineating existing offenses. That's pretty bad, especially when you consider most umpires don't seem to have an idea what's going on now. How are they going to go with further murky frees to interpret?

Well, I think the answer's pretty clear.

As clear as mud, really.

Later.


Follow-up Review.
by Sly.
July 6th, 2003.

This great game's actually gotten better.

And for those who live under a rock or haven't seen the recommendations, I'm talking about Total Aussie Rules 2003. In it, you manage/coach the football club of your choice. The demo version's available free for download from Stratagem Sports, but is restricted to limited features. You can only coach one season, don't get to participate in the finals, and can't trade & draft.

The full version allows you to compete in 30 consecutive seasons - so you can build a dynasty, as well as all the other aforementioned features. After being taken by the demo, I snapped off a money order quick smart for $39.90, and two days later I had access to the full version, (which you also download, but then have to register to activate).

One of the complaints about this game was that it was too easy. I could agree with that. In my third season at the helm of Collingwood, I coached them to an undefeated year. We took all before us, getting a nomination in the Rising Star Award (Bo Nixon), five players in the All-Australian Team, and (the equivalent of) the Brownlow Medallist in Chris Tarrant.

Toward the end of this season, I emailed Stratagem Sports with a plethora of suggestions, and noted that when you played a certain style of game you won more often than not. They informed me that a decimal point was placed incorrectly in one of the formulas, that the error had now been corrected, and that an amended version was now available for download. (For those with the full version, that also means you have to re-register it).

Okay, so what did that mean for me? In my three seasons of coaching Collingwood, we'd come first every year. Sadly, in the second season we were knocked out in the Preliminary Final by North Melbourne. But in the other two seasons we'd won the Flag - relatively comfortably, too.

And then there was my trading and recruiting. During my tenure, I'd managed to net Chris Judd, Steven Salopek, Matthew Pavlich, and Brendon Goddard. I'd had to sacrifice quite a bit in regards to our second-tier players, as well as draft-choices, but hell, I was correcting the mistakes of Collingwood's past.

Just think of the heady 80's when our extravagant recruiting almost bankrupted the Club. The problem then was who we were taking. Generally, they weren't players we needed. In fact, in that period of 80's we recruited because we could, as opposed to because we needed a certain player.

And Matthew Pavlich was a must. Taking him was vindication for the injustices at the trade-table in 1999. Look, I love Steve McKee, but our swap to get him should've been a straight one - he for Clinton King. That's it. I'm not sure how Mick Malthouse allowed himself to be finagled into also trading our Pick 3 for Richmond's Pick 7.

But that's old news. Here I was with my super-team, ready to take on the corrected version of Total Aussie Rules 2003. I'd lost Nathan Buckley to retirement (damn), but Tarrant was red-hot, and a number of younger guys - such as Bo Nixon, Cameron Cloke, and Richard Cole - had really stepped up. Here we go: I thought I'd just nail this corrected version like I had the old one.

Not to be.

My original game-plan didn't work. Well, too be more accurate, it worked occasionally. But I couldn't get away with playing it all the time. I had to adapt. Additionally, players who weren't getting (too) tired before were being exhausted throughout a quarter. Hey! My coaching wasn't prepared for this.

I started my fourth season with a win over Footscray, but then lost the next three. However, in typical Collingwood fashion, I won four of the next 6 to sit at 5-5. Then I slumped again. Actually, every time I threatened to break into the 8, and especially when I had a match against somebody whose spot I could take, I lost. It's an unfortunate thing to say, but that was real typical Collingwood fashion from years gone by.

I ended the season in 14th position. You know what that means, don't you? Yep, that's right. In even more typical Collingwood fashion I was left with our old friend, the seeming bane of Collingwood's draft existence, Pick Number 3. I used it to pick up a hot young prospect by the name of Johnny Stocks. With a name like that, how can you go wrong?

I don't like losing as much as the next guy. In fact, I totally hate it probably more than the next guy. But the game became irresistibly challenging. When things weren't working for me, I had to chop and change and try to find some rhythm. Moreover, I had to adjust tactics depending on opposition - regardless of where they were placed - and weather conditions.

At the end of the fourth season, I was murdered at the contract table. Anthony Rocca and James Clement retired, and that opened up considerable room in the salary-cap - but nowhere near enough. There's a price for going after young guns, you know. They all wanted substantial pay-hikes. Matthew bloody Pavlich wanted five hundred grand! Judd wanted 250 grand! In fact four players took up one and a half million in the cap.

Invariably, I have a gun-22, but extremely limited depth due to some pretty ordinary juggling of finances on my behalf. Atop of the big names, I also picked up a young gun ruckman to assist Josh Fraser - as Cameron Cloke now had to hold down CHF with the retirement of Anthony Rocca - and a tall back. I dread my next experience at the contact table - I have some pretty good youngsters, but the bastards are going to want more-more-more money!

I think I'm better off than Doska, though, who plays the game at my place when I'm working (or trying to work during his rantings and ravings about "structure"). Doska has a soft spot for - to put it delicately not at all - spazzes. Football, cricket, soccer, whatever the sport, he'll adopt some hopeless cause as one of his favorite players. So how befitting is it that he decided to try something different and coach Richmond?

In his first two seasons - on the bugged version of the game - he won consecutive flags. Amongst his recruits were Rupe Betheras and Heath Scotland. He traded them on the basis that he wanted to give them a fair go. He stiffed Collingwood, though, unloading Andrew Krakouer, Adam Houlihan, and Duncan Kellaway upon them.

But to give Doska his dues, he actually recruited well to build a competitive outfit, addressing the deficiencies in the Richmond outfit. As he had a litany of ruckman, he took Hulme and Fevola from Carlton, swapping Brad Ottens for them. He also addressed the weakness in his defense. And two seasons later, he had two flag and, incredibly, Wayne Campbell had back-to-back Brownlow Medals, (although the second one was shared with Matthew Richardson).

His third season took place on the fixed version of the game. Hehe.

He lost his first match to Footscray by 127 points. What's followed has been a typically disappointing Richmond season, a number of players - particularly Wayne Campbell - falling out of favor. Funnily - from my perspective anyway), he lost Darren Gasper, Ben Holland, and Brendon Fevola to relatively long-term injuries. That precipitated him to bemoan his lack of structure.

At the end of the season he finished last. He was tied with Essendon for wins (six I think it wsas), but well down on percentage, his in the low 60's.. Some of Doska's mannerisms and behavior are truly Frawley-like as Richmond crashed time and time again, although I keep calling him "Doskhouse" (after Malthouse) for his lack of coaching-changes when things go wrong. He's now promised widespread changes at the club!

Really, I can't recommend this game heartily enough. As far as coaching/managerial games for Aussie Rules go, it's only (as far as I know) the second of its type, the other being the God-awful, buggy-as-hell, Kevin Sheedy's Coach.

Total Aussie Rules has a nice user-friendly interface, is easy to get the hang of, but is incredibly challenging. Best of all, the guys at Stratagem Sports are receptive to suggestions, which bodes well for future versions of the game. I emailed them four pages of things I came up with; most companies might simply not look at them at all, might even ditch them, but I actually got some good feedback.

As there's been a real dearth of games based on Aussie Rules - arcade or strategic - this one's a must. The old Nintendo Aussie Rules Footy was nice, simple and enjoyable, and a pretty good attempt for it's time, while AFL98 and, more specifically, AFL2003, were terrible. Despite the power of my computers, I could never get Kevin Sheedy's Coach to run. As I wrote last time, I had a friend who actually had a system as new as Coach, and the game wouldn't recognize his sound-card and still ran like trash.

The upcoming release of AFL2004 might provide some respite for the arcade player - might, although if you look at list of new features, it seems they might've gone for "style" (as in cosmetics) over substance - but if you want something deeper, definitely take a look at this, especially as the demo version is available free for downloaded @ Stratagem Sports.

Later.


Reviews.
by Sly.
June 24th, 2003.

You know, I've always lamented the lack of an Australian Rules Football game for the PC. There's seemingly everything else - Soccer, American Football, Baseball, etc. - but when you get to Aussie Rules, what is there for the hardcore fan?

There's been a few arcade attempts at the game - in 1991, Aussie Rules Footy was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game itself was pretty simple, but not a bad first effort. I remember whiling away a few nights playing that with friends over a slab of beers - it's amazing what can become pretty damn enjoyable when you're loaded.

Next came AFL98 - an actual AFL-sanctioned game. This one had their teams in their proper colors and with their real squads. Don't ask me who programmed it, though. It had the strangest structural formation for the positions. But despite that, despite the strange player placements (i.e. for Collingwood, Stephen Patterson was at what amounted to be CHF, and Matthew Francis was in the ruck ahead of Damien Monkhorst) it actually had a few good concepts - like an accuracy-meter and kicking-power. But that's about all it had.

Finally, and most recently, there was AFL2003, and by this time I thought they had to get it right. Nope. It's very cosmetically pretty, but as far gameplay goes, it's a total shocker. It's actually no better than its predecessors and, in many ways, worse. The best thing about it is it has the team-lists (from 2002), and once you select the side it'll stay that way without having to reselect it. But that's about it.

If these yahoos had just taken that very first Aussie Rules Footy and improved on that, they could've had a winner. That was a simple concept which only needed a touch of flair, (and) no more. But each new incarnation has its fair share of stuff-ups, idiosyncrasies and reasons for limited shelf-life. It's as if programmers didn't even look at what was right and wrong with previous attempts. Even if the same companies aren't making these games, surely you'd use predecessors as a base of reference, wouldn't you?

Oh well, they'll get it right one day. Hopefully.

Okay, so Australian Rules Football is pretty complex - well, it is in the respect of encapsulating it and interpreting it into a computer game. However, since it's so difficult to make work in the arcade format, I've always thought somebody should take a shot at designing a coaching-managerial style of game. There's a plethora of these for other sports.

Recently, we had Kevin Sheedy's Coach. I have two computers - a cannibalized and pretty powerful desktop, and an even more powerful laptop on which I do all my work. But Kevin Sheedy's wouldn't work on either. My friend had just bought a new system prior to the release of the game, and it refused to accept his sound card. He did get to play it, though, and called it terrible, buggy as hell, and way too much effort.

It's another game which has paid too much attention to cosmetics and too little to actual substance. Worse, those cosmetics are requiring state-of-the-art computers just to operate, and even then are no guarantees because all those bells and whistles are problems which result in computers hanging. Having being forced to use Microsoft, all I can say is my computer doesn't need more reasons to crash.

Well, fortunately, there's relief in sight.

Over a week ago, I was fiddling around the Net when - totally by accident - I found a game entitled Total Aussie Rules 2003, courtesy of Stratagem Sports at www.stratagemsports.com.au. A limited demo is available for download, which I took greedily.

Just to get ahead of myself briefly, below you'll find the features of the game, re-posted in bold, and beneath (some of them) my comments in italics.

    * Play up to 30 continuous seasons.
    * Complete realism. Scores, stats, and all other aspects of the game are just what you'd expect from the real thing.
    - Yep. After a game, the stats provided are like you'd find in any newspaper.
    * Implement coaching strategies for your teams matches, including flooding, long or short possession tactics, loose players in defence, tagging.
    - Better yet, you actually have to adjust depending on conditions and your opponent. BTW, can you believe Sydney flooded me?
    * Negotiate player contracts (while trying to stay under the salary cap).
    * Play or view all matches possession by possession, or have the computer simulate the games in the blink of an eye.
    - Best thing yet. That was one of the problems with Kevin Sheedy's, I believe, that a game took as long as a real game. Who's got time for that? Who's got the tolerance for that? Here, even when you view a game possession-by-possession, you can adjust the speed. End result? A single match takes under ten minutes.
    * Sign the next Aussie Rules superstar in the National and Pre Season drafts.
    * Trade players and/or draft picks with the other computer coached teams.
    * Play all 22 rounds of football, plus finals.
    * Players are rated in 15 different attributes which contribute to their on-field performance.
    - And they're also the 2003 Lists! One of the attributes also is a player's capacity to improve, so youngsters can come up while older players may dwindle.
    * Full player and team match statistics for every match of the season.
    * Comprehensive awards ceremony at the conclusion of the home and away season.
    - I was actually impressed by this. They have their version of the Brownlow (which James Hird won by 2 votes in front of Scott Burns), Rising Star, Goalkicking Award, and an All-Australian Team, (Scotty Burns won selection in the back-pocket, Chris Tarrant in the forward-pocket, Bucks on the bench).
    * Huge amount of individual and team records in a variety of categories.
    * Coaching performance review at the conclusion of each season.

Okay, I said the demo was "limited", and that means you can only coach the Home & Away season, then the game ends. That's why I haven't commented on every feature, as they were unavailable in the demo version. But the full version is available for only $39.90, (my order already on the way).

The only drawback, albeit a very small one, is that Stratagem Sports aren't licensed by the AFL. That means the Kangaroos and Western Bulldogs are in there as North Melbourne and Footscray, respectively. Ah well, who's for a bit of nostalgia? All the Club and player names are there, though, and that's the important thing.

The game itself has a very simple presentation, extremely user-friendly. As for match-day itself, it's represented by an oval with the players in position, the ball pinging to and fro between them. That might sound unattractive to some, but there's actually quite a bit to watch between the ball, keeping track of opposition moves, and checking on the statistic and fatigue of your players. It's actually the simplicity which makes it addictive.

As an example of a match, I had an awesome game against Carlton. For three quarters, nothing went right. Ben Johnson and Shane O'Bree got injured, Carlton kept rotating Anthony Koutoufides onto the half-forward line where I didn't have a tall defender to match up onto him, and going into the final term I was down 6.4 to 12.6 - a margin of 36 points.

I went for broke in the last quarter, playing a short-chipping game and going all out in attack. I ended up winning 15.8 to 14.8, second-gamer Dane Swan - who'd done nothing all day, and done little the week before - kicking the winning goal. Tarrant kicked 6 (and he's bloody too realistic - one week he'll kick 5 or 6, the next week 1 or 2 followed by a mass of points), Fraser 3, Didak and Rupe 2, McGough and the aforementioned Swan 1. And in his best game for me, Bucks amassed 43 possessions, (gathering 21 kicks and 22 handballs!), Scotty Burns 27 possessions, Paul Licuria 25 possessions, and Heath Scotland 20 possessions.

That was bloody satisfying, (especially following a week of no football).

The guys who make the game are also very helpful. The demo originally wouldn't run on my system due to one of my graphic settings (I'm very good in creating anomalous computer aberrations), but these guys went out of their way to find out what was wrong, even creating a modified demo version for me. They went to a lot of trouble to get it working for me when they could've easily given me the brush-off. I've had brush-offs before. Some helplines don't realize you may actually know what they're telling you is just bluff and bluster so they don't have to work out what's wrong. But that most definitely wasn't the case here.

Lastly (on this topic), let me unequivocally state that I have nothing to do with the guys who've made the game, I'm not getting a commission for references, or anything like that. Quite simply, I found a killer of a game and thought I'd share it with all those hardcore fans who'd fancy themselves as coaches. I'm sure I can't be the only one. Additionally, Stratagem Sports also have an Aussie Rules Trivia Quiz free for download.

Now, while I have you hooked and since I'm at my spieling best, I also wanted to recommend two other Sites. They are FootyRatings.com @ http://www.footyratings.com/ and Rave AFL @ http://www.raveafl.tk.

FootyRatings.com is a great form guide for those who like to bet on the footy and is actually the place a lot of the media guys go for their stats, while Rave AFL is a lot like us - a couple of guys having their say on all-things football. So take a look, you won't be disappointed.

Later.


The Rule of 25.
by Sly.
June 1st, 2003.

I just want to clarify some details from my rant, The Inequalities of the Draft.

Firstly and foremost, if any Clubs hangs around the bottom-end of the Ladder long enough, then they're going to emerge with a side packed with potential superstars.

The reason I used St. Kilda and Fremantle as examples is because, despite top picks, they've remained mired on the bottom rungs of the Ladder. People say Collingwood have had almost as many picks, but the main difference is that Collingwood's progressed up the Ladder. Under Malthouse, they've gone from 15th to 9th to 4th. That also includes sizeable turnovers in a List which was - a handful of good players aside - just bloody woeful.

Admittedly, they did benefit from a Wooden Spoon finish in 1999 under Tony Shaw, a draft which saw them pick up Josh Fraser. They also swapped their 3rd Pick and Clinton King for Steve McKee and the 7th Pick. They used the latter on Danny Roach, who retired due to chronic Osteitis Pubis.

The overall point, though, is that Collingwood spent two seasons at the bottom, then jumped up the Ladder. You can't say the same about the Saints and Fremantle. Here's how these two teams have finished over the last 5 years:


Year: Fremantle: St. Kilda:
2002: 13th 15th
2001: 16th 15th
2000: 12th 16th
1999: 15th 10th
1998: 15th 6th


Now where's the forward momentum there? All I see are two teams, who through administrative incompetence, have had the opportunity to rape the draft and take all the early picks in the country.

The counter argument here might be what about Collingwood? What about Collingwood during that period from 1995 to 1999? Through those years Collingwood finished 10th, 11th, 10th, 14th, and 16th. That's pretty bad - not as God-awful as what the likes of Fremantle and St. Kilda have accomplished, but pretty bad nonetheless. So what about Collingwood?

Well, I'm glad you asked! What this period of Collingwood's history clearly illustrates is that poor coaching and bad administration will finish you off. That's how simple it is. In Malthouse's first year we finished 15th. In his second, 9th. During this period, he slashed half the list. But here we see the benefits of foresight, planning, and good coaching - both on and off the field.

And here's the real crux of the situation. Fremantle and St. Kilda have loitered at the bottom end of the Ladder for so long that their sides are now stuffed with fledgling superstars. People have even speculated that in a few years, St. Kilda's midfield will be better than Brisbane's. Considering the qualifier of time on that statement, I assume that's a midfield minus Nathan Burke and dual-Brownlow Medallist Robert Harvey. That makes this statement all the more amazing.

Of course, the problem here with these Clubs is administration and coaching. St. Kilda went from Stan Alves - who brought to them a Grand Final - to Tim Watson, who was untried, to Malcolm Blight, who was sacked midway through his first season, to Grant Thomas. Fremantle's gone for untried coach after untried coach. Chris Connolly looks the best of them, but he hasn't proven anything yet.

Consequently, while these guys are screwing up, their respective teams end up bottom of the ladder and are spoon-fed potential superstars from the draft. What we have are two ticking time-bombs of talent. Get the right coach to act as the trigger, and they're not only going to shoot up the Ladder, they're going to terrorize the competition, going to bully it, similarly the way Brisbane's doing.

How's that equality? That's why the salary-cap and draft were introduced, weren't they? To keep sides equal? But we're not getting that. These sides - like Brisbane before them - go from woe to go with precious little middle-ground in between. It's not equality to create super-sides. That's more equivocal with developing an aristocracy, (which is actually what the AFL seems to want with the interstaters anyway).

This brings me back to my original point: there has to be a cut-off.

Not just so teams aren't rewarded for stunning mediocrity year after year, but so that when they finally get their act together they don't harness the potential to become super-teams. St. Kilda and Fremantle are current examples. But if this was a cooking show and I had to offer an example I made earlier, it would be Brisbane. What you want to create, ideally, is a Top-4 contender, not a Number One tearaway - and let's face it, that's what Brisbane's become.

Here's my solution: mathematics. I'm no maths-whiz, but supposedly, you can use maths to explain just about anything which happens. And thus here is the formula I've devised to keep teams equal, regardless of current ladder standings.

Take the numeric value of a Club's top-4 draft picks (prior to trading) over a period of two years, and if their accumulative value equals or is less than a total of 25, then NO Top 10 draft-picks the following year.

Confused? Let me delineate with a couple of practical examples.

St. Kilda had Picks' 1 and 2 in 2000 and Picks' 2 and 5 in 2001. That provides the formula of 1+2+2+5, which equals 10. 10 is a total less than 25. The end result: St. Kilda doesn't get first round picks in 2002 regardless of where they finish on the Ladder, thus they don't have the opportunity to draft Brendan Goddard.

In 1999, Fremantle had Picks' 2, 4, and 5. In 2000, they originally had Pick 6, which they later traded to regain Peter Bell. Remember, though, my formula applies before trading. So that's 2+4+5+6, which equals 17, and is less than 25. The result: Fremantle doesn't get first round picks in 2001 and thus don't end up with Graham Polak.

These are rough examples. I've used the respective aforementioned cycle of years - 2000 and 2001 for St. Kilda, 1999 and 2000 for Fremantle - not because I wanted to manipulate the results for the benefit of my formula (in case that's what you were thinking), but because in following years, each Club continued to benefit from first round picks.

Now, you may wonder how I came up with the figure of 25. Well, unless the draft is deep, the first handful of draftees are potential superstars, players who could, in the future, rival the likes of Buckley, Voss, Hird, etc. Generally, from pick 6 onward, you get the diamonds in the rough - guys who are thereabouts between being good and great.

Essentially, over a two year period, you could escape The Rule of 25 by having two Number 6 and two Number 7 picks, (which would total to a value of 26). This could still make a team potentially great, but there's a vast difference between kids selected in the top-three and those selected from 6-onwards. Certainly, you wouldn't get what the likes of Freo and the Saints have received now.

That leaves us with the question of what's to be done with these first round picks kept from Clubs who are deemed ineligible from the first round of the draft due to The Rule of 25. Simply, pass the picks on. That's how easy it is. The talent-pool is thus diluted and some semblance of equality is maintained.

And that's what this is all really about. It's fine for the draft to help Clubs rebuild, but what needs to be identified is whether these Clubs are bad because of playing-stocks, or whether their form and standing has been appreciated due to mismanagement.

No offense to St. Kilda and Fremantle, but they've been down due to misadministration, and while I don't begrudge them draft assistance - and under The Rule of 25 they're still getting 4 first round picks - I do take offense at them sustaining themselves off the draft like vultures feeding on carrion.

Later.


The Inequalities of the Draft.
by Sly.
May 27th, 2003.

I've had a rant in mind for the last several weeks about the inequalities of the draft and salary-cap, but unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I guess - I was pre-empted by Mick Malthouse. That'll teach me to be slow and studious as opposed to going with my usual scatter-gun, rapid-fire approach.

Anyway, to get right down to it, allegedly, both the draft and the salary-cap were created to keep teams on a level playing field. I'm not sure how there's any equality when some Clubs (i.e. Sydney, Brisbane) have bigger salary-caps than others, while others - such as the poor old Western Bulldogs - are forced to curb spending to 92% of the cap.

Really - to take the salary-cap first - it smacks of a system which looks good in theory, but lacks in actual practice. Invariably, the AFL may as well admit what the salary-cap really is - a keep Victorian sides contained cap.

It's Hawthorn's fault. Their dominance throughout the 80's and very early 90's was virtually unparalleled. You'd have to go back to Melbourne of the 50's and early 60's to see anything similar. Of course, back then, clubs sorted themselves out, meaning there were the usual ebbs and flows of peaks and troughs over the generations.

But now the AFL were faced with a rampaging Hawthorn taking all before them during a period they were trying to assert nationalization upon the country. Thus the salary-cap and draft did very little to bring the teams up to Hawthorn's level; instead, the Hawks were brought down to the pack and then, seemingly for the hell of it, brought down some more.

That's what I find really amusing about the salary-cap and draft, in a dark sort of way. When was the last time a Club was really brought down to the pack? Take Essendon, for example. From 1999-to-2000-to-most of 2001, they were easily the best team in the League. In fact, they were the bullies of the competition.

But what's happened to them? Due to the salary-cap, in the space of a single year they lost the likes of Heffernan, Blumfield, Caracella, and Bewick, and only really gained Damien Cupido in return. Have they been brought down to the pack? Well, that's arguable, because - like Hawthorn - not only have they been brought down to the pack, they've been buried in it.

How's that equalization?

Presumably, the AFL would like teams which have been leveled to come down and join the elite of the Competition, as opposed to squashing them down amongst the bottom-feeders. Instead, you have Clubs razed from Premiership contenders to Final-8 wannabes. As far as equalization goes, that's just ludicrous.

A (good) coach spends three-to-five years making a team, has a couple of years to reap the benefits if he's lucky, and then is shoved unceremoniously back to square one, if not off the board altogether. This isn't equalization. After all, at their peak, these Clubs are - such as Essendon were, such as Brisbane Lions are now - way ahead of the pack. When they're brought down, they're brought way down to experience the other side of the Ladder.

It's bloody stupid. Which goes to my next point - the draft.

Under Malthouse, Collingwood had two years at the bottom - the first courtesy of Tony Shaw in 1999. From that Wooden Spoon finish, Collingwood drafted Josh Fraser. The next year (in 2000), they finished 15th and Collingwood drafted Alan Didak with their 3rd pick. The following season, Collingwood shot to ninth, and the year after that to 4th following the conclusion of the Home & Away Season.

I'm sure that pretty much epitomizes the intention of the draft - end bottom, get a few draft picks, and back on the way up you go.

West Coast is a similar example. Over a two year period, they drafted Andrew McDougall (Pick 5 in 2000) and Chris Judd and Ashley Sampi (Picks 3 and 6, respectively, in 2001). The finishes of West Coast during this time were under former coach Ken Judge. When they axed him and signed John Worsfold for 2002, through good coaching and the help of these players, they shot up into the 8. This year, they're sitting 2nd after 9 Rounds. Are they that good? Maybe, maybe not, but they are definite finalist-material.

Again, that's the way the Draft is meant to work. That's its fundamental goal - to give Clubs pick of the best handful of players in the country and use them as a springboard onto bigger and better things.

Which is why I find the likes of St. Kilda and Fremantle so galling.

In 2000, St. Kilda drafted Nick Riewoldt and Justin Koschitzke with Picks' 1 and 2, respectively. In 2001, they drafted Luke Ball and Xavier Clark with Picks' 2 and 5, respectively. In 2002 they took Brendon Goddard with the Number 1 pick. Granted, the latter came courtesy of Carlton's picks being stripped due to salary-cap offenses, but if not Goddard, the Saints would've still gotten their hands on a gun-player or two.

In 1999, Fremantle took Paul Hasleby with Pick 2, Matthew Pavlich with Pick 4, and Leigh Brown with Pick 5. In 2000, they traded Pick 6 to the Kangaroos to regain Peter Bell, an established champion midfielder. In 2001, they drafted Graham Polak with Pick 4.

That's three years utilizing the best picks in the country. If both St. Kilda and Fremantle are able to keep all these players together, inevitably, they'll grow into super-teams similar to the Brisbane Lions. Surely this wasn't the intention of the draft?

There's nothing equal about any of this. The draft is meant to be a supplement to the rebuilding of the team, not an intravenous drip, as St. Kilda and Fremantle have used it. At some point, regardless of ladder-standing (or the lack thereof), the AFL has to step in and say, Nope, no more picks for you. You've had your chances.

That's the fair thing to do, (although obviously the AFL's not about being entirely fair). That's the equal thing to do. Instead of allowing Clubs to gorge themselves on draft-picks, the AFL should be forcing them to look at their coaching and administration, because if they're still crap after 2 years there's obviously bigger problems at hand, and players aren't going to solve that. Not immediately, anyway.

Ultimately, you get into the process of a vicious cycle. For years, these Clubs figuratively rape the draft. Finally, somewhere along the line - usually following the signing of a competent coach, as occurred with Brisbane - it clicks, and they're then able to bully the League for several years. Subsequently - unlike at Brisbane - the salary-cap levels them and kicks them back to the bottom end of the Ladder.

There's no equalization there. There's no equality. All the draft and salary-cap have done are replace the clubs at the top and bottom ends of the Ladders.


Playment Payments:
You know, I look at Brisbane, and I hear them bitching and whining about keeping their list together due to the salary-cap. I guess the same thing will happen at Collingwood eventually, will happen at all the growing Clubs inevitably, and I find it the biggest load of crap going about.

How much money do players need?

Seriously, to hear about players holding out for more really irritates me. What are these guys doing that they need so much money? Are they running small dictatorships? Are they funding heroin pipelines? If I was getting 350 grand a year, I'd be bloody happy with that. Why the hell would I need more?

Cost of living, inflation, life after football, all those excuses, they're just cop-outs. These guys are getting paid to play a GAME. Okay, so they have to train, have to watch their diet, can get injured and all that, but it's still a bloody GAME - 100-odd minutes of football on the weekend, three or four hourly training sessions weekly.

This is a lifestyle choice to play a sport and so often, too often, you have players running around with their hands out asking for more, more, more. It kills me when somebody exemplifies a situation, such as Brisbane's list taking pay-cuts to stay together, as an example of player-selflessness. Ooh, a reduction from $400,000 to $370,000, that must hurt.

If players really want to discover the value of a dollar, why not shove them into factory-work, or cleaning, or any number of jobs people barely tolerate throughout a week just to get by? That'd show them - or should show them.

I don't mean to specifically pinpoint footballers with this charge, because I think the majority of sportsmen are bloody overpaid. Not exempting the men here, but female tennis players are equally as galling. Oh, we should get paid as much as men because half a million just isn't enough. Really? And then you have actors commanding 20 million for 12 weeks of work making a movie - oh yeah, it's tough, it's 16 hours a day, or whatever. Again, these are lifestyle choices, and if they're not happy with it, then get the hell out.

The priorities of this world - and the people in it - are all screwed.

Later.


Pre-Season Premiership Points?
by Sly.
May 14th, 2003.

While posting on AFL Ranting earlier today, I proposed a radical idea for the Pre-Season Competition.

Make the Pre-Season games worth points, albeit 2 instead of 4.

This serves a dual purpose.

First and foremost, it makes the Clubs take the Competition seriously. After all, look at it - the Premier would come out with 8 points, the Runner-up with 6, the Semi Finalists with 4 points apiece, and the Quarter-Finalists with 2 points each. Sure, it may put a handicap on the Home & Away Season before a ball's bounced crookedly in earnest, but it does give the Competition weight, and that's something it's lacked for many years.

Secondly, it incorporates the Competition into the Season itself. Several coaches over the years - Grant Thomas most recently - have suggested doing away with it all together, that the Pre-Season Competition only serves to remove the surprise factor when teams debut for the Home & Away Season. After all, everybody's already seen them in action. Well here, the Pre-Season Competition becomes a subsidiary of the Home & Away Season.

The biggest argument (against) would be that the Pre-Season fixture is inequitable. Presently, as it's an elimination system, some sides are going to suffer if they're drawn immediately to play the heavyweights while others might be buoyed by playing weaker sides. To that I say, Tough. How's that any different from the inequity of the Home & Away Season? At any rate, you could use the Pre-Season Competition to try and even out the draw.

For instance, Collingwood played Carlton in the opening round of the Wizard Cup this year. Well, we play them twice during the Season, so that's a match you wouldn't schedule for the Wizard Cup. Instead, Collingwood could play somebody like St. Kilda or Melbourne or Port Adelaide, all sides we only face once during the Home & Away Season.

The other match in this bracket would be something like Port Adelaide versus Fremantle. Those sides not only just play each other once this season, but also only face Collingwood and St. Kilda once in 2003, respectively.

And so it goes, and so on, and so on.

Okay, so it may be impossible to schedule it like this all the way through, but at least it's an attempt to even out the draw over the year. Additionally, I'm sure if the AFL took this into account when they fixtured the Season, providing equity throughout the Pre-Season Competition would be a lot more feasible. (And I'm beginning to think they should do this now, regardless).

If 2 Premiership Points were awarded for each win throughout the Pre-Season Competition, the AFL Ladder would look like the model displayed below right, the current ladder adjacent on the left:


Current Ladder: Adjusted Ladder: 

Team:

% Pts.

Team:

% Pts.

Brisbane

115.3 22

Adelaide

124.2 (+8) 24

West Coast

127.4 20

Brisbane

115.4 (+2) 24

Richmond

119.4 20

West Coast

127.4 (+2) 22

Adelaide

124.2 16

Collingwood

99.4 (+6) 22

Port Power

106.9 16

Richmond

119.4 20

Sydney

106.7 16

Kangaroos

95.9 (+4) 18

Fremantle

106.6 16

Port Power

106.9 16

Collingwood

99.4 16

Sydney

106.7 16

St. Kilda

94.0 16

Fremantle

106.6 16

Kangaroos

95.9 14

St. Kilda

94.0 14

Essendon

99.3 12

Hawthorn

91.8 (+2) 14

Hawthorn

91.8 12

Melbourne

89.5 (+2) 14

Melbourne

89.5 12

Essendon

99.3 12

Carlton

83.8 8

Carlton

83.8 8

W.Bulldogs

80.6 4

Geelong

80.5 (+4) 8

Geelong

80.5 4

W.Bulldogs

80.6 4


The percentage remains unchanged. With percentage unaffected by the Pre-Season Competition, it accommodates teams who plays less games and, more importantly, allows coaches the leeway to experiment and rest players should they have a game under control.

Ultimately, while this idea sounds extraordinary, it does at least begin to address the inequities of the draw throughout the Home & Away season. Some might say that it creates new inequities, but at least it does so in the name of legitimate competition.

Later.


Tribunal Blitherings.
by Sly.
April 24th, 2003.

I cannot believe that Melbourne's Adem Yze was cleared of KO'ing Geelong's Will Slade. I mean, personally, I don't really care about the circumstances surrounding it. I haven't read anything about it. I haven't listened to anything about it. And I have nothing against Adem Yze.

What I know, unequivocally, is that had it been somebody like Anthony Rocca, somebody like Peter Everit, or somebody like Barry Hall, who'd gone up under those circumstances, they would've had 2 weeks as a penalty before they even stepped through the door. Then the case would've been heard and adjudicated.

The Tribunal's got me stumped. They don't like witnesses citing amnesia, but when Shane Wakelin told the truth (against Tony Lockett) last year, they balked at it. (Of course, the truth hurt the marketing of the AFL's pet, the Sydney Swans, but that's another story entirely). They encourage players to plead guilty, but when they do they get the same penalty as somebody who pleads not guilty. And they're - allegedly - trying to stamp out behind-the-scenes stuff, and yet have let this go.

What exactly is the judicial process of the Tribunal? Really, I'd like to know. In recent times, and particularly with the shift of the broadcasting rights, they've floated the idea of covering tribunal hearings. However, the idea's been nixed. And here's why. They simply don't want us to see that they have no idea. I mean, it's one thing to suspect it, but if we were to actually see it, well, that's another matter entirely.

As far as I'm concerned, the Tribunal should get a big wheel. Paint the sentences on it, interspersed with the verdict Cleared. And then, regardless of the charge, spin the damn thing. Don't even listen to the case. It doesn't seem that (listening to) it matters anyway. Just line up the players, have them spin the wheel, and away we go! Think of all the time that can be saved.

You know what else? Put an "Executed" slot on the wheel, also. That's right, it's time capital punishment was brought to the football. It might seem a bit harsh that a player might be executed for wrestling or spitting or verbally abusing an umpire, but what better deterrent? We can have players hung pre-game. What a way to bring the crowds in early! Especially considering there's no other pre-game entertainment.

At any rate, I've been thinking what if our beloved AFL Tribunal arbitrated over actual legal cases in our history. What would be their view? (Although, to be honest, the views of our judicial systems have some times been pretty bizarre in themselves). But imagine it, we could have headlines like:

OSWALD CLEARED!
Tribunal clears Lee Harvey of assassinating JFK

The AFL Tribunal today returned an innocent verdict for alleged presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. "While we offered a stern warning, we couldn't convict him due to the lack of video evidence," a Tribunal Spokesman told reporters after the hearing.
   Oswald was happy with the verdict. "I'm just glad the Tribunal saw sense. There was no evidence to convict me," he said before catching a taxi to the movies.
MEIN FUHRER OUTED!
Hitler gets 2 weeks despite claiming he was provoked

Adolf Hitler has been outed from War World II for two weeks following a charge made by an Emergency Official that he willingly perpetrated war-time atrocities.
   "I was provoked," Hitler told reporters following the hearing. "Anybody in my position would've done the same." The Tribunal, however, refuted the excuse, citing that Hitler's record for similar incidents was poor.
12 WEEKS FOR ICEBERG!
Iceberg: "I've been made a scapegoat!"

The Iceberg which is alleged to have sunk the Titanic last night received a massive 12 week suspension, the biggest penalty handed out yet this year. However, following the hearing the Iceberg vehemently protested its innocence, saying that it was actually struck by the Titanic with a glancing blow while it held its ground.
   "I'm a floater by nature," the Iceberg told reporters afterwards. "I'd never do something like this, but I've been made an example of due to the repercussions of the incident."
   A spokesman for the Iceberg said they would consider an appeal.
CHANNEL 7 GIVEN LIFE
Network proclaims they haven't done anything wrong

In the biggest recorded penalty since John Bourke received 10 years, Channel 7 was last night excommunicated for life. "Look, there's really no excuse for bringing us stuff like the Chat Room," a Tribunal spokesman told reporters afterward. "They'd been warned previously following Marshall Law, but to do this again, well, it's simply unforgivable."
   Channel 7 based their defense on the premise that they were trying to deliver quality programming, but the Tribunal refused to buy it. "As far as we're concerned, we don't have quality programming here in an Australia," the Tribunal Spokesman said. "And for 7 to claim they're trying to produce it, that's just entirely spurious and totally unbelievable."


Yes, I know, I have way too much time on my hands.

Later.


Finding a new AFL CEO.
by Sly.
April 16th, 2003.

So Wayne Jackson has decided to retire as CEO of the AFL.

You know, I don't even know what Wayne Jackson does. Other than drone on endlessly. And respond stoically to the Clubs. It occurs to me that Wayne Jackson wasn't chosen due to his business acumen, but because he has the personality of a cardboard cutout. What better figure for the Clubs to be unable to negotiate with?

Has that been the criteria for all CEOs?

Look, I know the theory behind the foundation of the Commission. Allegedly, it was meant to stop the Clubs from killing one another, and themselves. Well, that's the theory. Of course, it didn't help poor old Fitzroy. In fact, the Commission seemed to railroad Fitzroy out of existence as a means of serving their nationalization agenda.

Otherwise, all you hear are complaints from Clubs and their Presidents. Currently the topic is equalization of the salary-cap. But that's besides the point. Every year the Clubs has one complaint or another, and every year the CEO, on behalf of the Commission, stodgily denies there's any problem. Additionally, they claim whatever course they've chosen is in the best interests of the Competition.

Now I'm not spending this rant on arguing the merits of their choices. Who cares? Really? Like any governing body, they'll do what they want to do. That's the process of government. And as far as the CEO and Commission goes, they're a dictatorship, although if you really look at it, there's precious little difference between a dictatorship and a democracy, other than for the elections. But when they're in power? They're all the same.

As far as Wayne Jackson goes, he's no Fidel Castro in the personality and leadership stakes. But I'd gotten comfortable with him. Like an old sock. No, not just any old sock, but the old sock you tie in a ball and give to the dog to play with. That's the sort of sock Wayne Jackson is. It's that sort of familiarity which lends you comfort and security.

Now we have to break in somebody new. Somebody like Andrew Demetriou. Or Peter Jackson. Well, they're the frontrunners for the position, The Old Sock himself putting his stamp of approval on Demetriou. As a sidenote, a friend of my brother's told me that this furore about James Hird, Matthew Lloyd, internet rights and possible salary-cap indiscretions on behalf of Essendon is a ruse by Demetriou to discredit Jackson as the latter's chief exec at the Bombers.

See? Just like real politics, the smear campaigns have begun.

My philosophy behind politics has always been that since the vast majority of these people do nothing, if you're going to put somebody in the job, make sure they're charismatic. After all, these people are the chief ambassadors for the country. It galls me to think that countries see John Howard as our ultimate representative. They must think Australia's made up of muppets.

Subsequently, I apply the same philosophy to the CEO position at the AFL. Whoever gets the job is essentially going to do nothing. After all, it's not like they're going to come in and revamp the League. They'll do as much as they're allowed, which is infinitesimally little. Meanwhile, the Clubs will bitch and moan about whatever proposals they do put on the table. Invariably, it's a self-fulfilling process.

So I say screw Andrew Demetriou, screw Peter Jackson, screw even other candidates like Geelong CEO Brian Cook. It's easy to disqualify them. Geelong's something like 82 billion dollars in debt, aren't they? That's hardly a stunning endorsement for Brian Cook. Demetriou's too familiar with the current structure of the AFL, so you can consider him stale and redundant. And Peter Jackson? Well, he has the name of a cigarette brand. You can't be endorsing that sort of thing in the head position at the AFL, can you?

No, what the AFL needs is somebody charismatic, somebody not afraid to make the hard choices, somebody who embodies persistence and typifies innovation. Let's get somebody in there who might actually have a vision, who'll defy the status quo and actually try to usher in a new era. If I hadn't already disqualified the incumbent candidates, then that criteria would.

So, in closing, let me put forth my candidate for the position of CEO of the AFL {left}.

What a choice, what verve, what imagination, what... what... what... grandeur! Truly, the AFL would be lucky to be headed by a choice like mine, and they should do everything in their power to make it a reality.

Later.


The Carlton Rhapsody.
by Sly.
February 9th, 2003.

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
We're just a poor club, need lots of sympathy
Because we're easy come, easy go
A little high, a lot more low
Anyway the wind blows doesn't really matter to me
To me

Bummer, just lost again
All Stars were too good for us hacks
We went down without a whack
Bummer, the season's not begun
Yet now we've gone and thrown hope all away
Bummer, ooo
Didn't mean to shatter your lives
But if we're not back again in a fortnight
Carry on, carry on, because we don't really matter

Too late, our time has come
Sends excuses to make us whine
List's been crap since ninety-nine
Goodbye everybody - we've got to go
Gotta leave AFL behind and face the truth
Bummer, ooo - (any way our team blows)
We're trying to pay our fines
But sometimes wish we'd never cheated an hundred times at all

I see a little stiletto of a plan
Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you play the banjo
Thundering crap and lightning - very very frightening me
Galileo, Galileo
Galileo, Galileo
Galileo, Figaro - insignifico

We're just a poor club but nobody loves shit
We're just a poor club no longer scamming
Spare us our careers from this inferiority
Easy come easy go - will you let us go
Souvlaki! No - we will not let you go - let us go
Souvlaki! We will not let you go - let us go
Souvlaki! We will not let you go - let us go
Will not let you go - let us go
Never let you go - let us go (never)
Never let you go - let us go
Never let you go - let us go
No, no, no, no, no, no, no -
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let us go
Beelezebub has a devil put aside for we
for we
for weeeeee

So you think you can sit back and smile while watching us slide
So you think you can cackle with laughter while watching us writhe
Oh baby - do this 'gain to us baby
Just gotta get soused - just gotta get soused right outta here

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters - nothing really matters
Cos Carlton's shit

Any way the team blows


You know, I don't want to be writing this stuff. Really I don't. But in this regard I'm driven. Like a crazy person driven by voices. I'm forced to write this stuff. Compelled. By my demons - or just the one demon in this case, a demon I shall call Carlton's Shitfulness.

See, it's not my fault. This isn't a celebration of (their) decline. I don't care about them - and won't until we have to play them. But once that's done, the focus of my hate will be concentrated upon whoever we play next. However, some times, stuff demands to be written. It has to be. That's just the way it is. It needs to find voice.

I mean, did people see Carlton's efforts against the All Stars? And even if you didn't, even if you only caught the results in the paper, really, what the hell was that? What sort of effort was that? And that's where all my derision comes from - it's not a case of especially hating Carlton, but when you're that bad, it just needs to be said.

So this goes to all that Carlton scum out there who've given up (which actually means they've accepted the truth - finally): Pre-season 2002, the recruit of Corey McKernan was meant to bring Carlton within striking distance of a Premiership. So what's changed? From Pre-Season 2002 to 2003, what's changed?

To delineate (because it's a word I really wanted to use this year) I've drawn up this little table of what Carlton have lost from Pre-Season 2002, and gained in Pre-Season 2003. For any kiddies out there who might be reading this, please, don't try this at home. I am an expert table-maker.

Out from Pre-Season of 2002:

In for Pre-Season 2003:

John Elliott: it's gotta help that he's not running his mouth every which way possible.

Ian Collins: lends stability.

Wayne Brittain: even excluding the 02 Wooden Spoon finish, I never believed Brittain would be a long-term coach. He seems to have that full-on demeanor which quickly wears thin with players.

Dennis Pagan: recognized as one of the better coaches in the business.

Craig Bradley: Carlton's biggest loss.

Barnaby French: frees up Corey McKernaskirt to play-up forward.

 

Anthony Koutoufides: sure, he's overrated, just like Anna Kournikova (and note the identical "An.Kou" initials - I think there's a message for all of us in that), but he's available now, and at least he fills a slot.


Okay, there's a few more comings and goings, but those are the important ones, and to a neutral supporter like myself who wants Carlton dead, the Pre-Season 2003 line-up actually looks significantly better than the Pre-Season 2002 one. Carlton's worst loss, really, was the retirement of Craig Bradley. But the signing of Dennis Pagan is a notable boon.

So my question is where the hell are these premiership aspirations now? These bastards win one Wooden Spoon (albeit they won it very, very convincingly) and they're all doom and gloom now. Me, I expected Collingwood to win the Flag in 2000. Damn, until it became a mathematical impossibility, I expected us to win it in 1999.

Stupidity? Hopeless optimism? No. Well, maybe a little. But like George Michael sings, you've gotta have faith. And that's what my expectations were really based in. But the Carlton Moronic? They're anticipating a Bottom-4 finish. That's the best they can come up with despite the fact that Pre-Season 2003, they actually look better than they did Pre-Season 2002, where they were celebrating their premiership aspirations.

So where is their faith? Where are their hopes? Where have all their dreams gone?

Evaporated by the corrosive pervasion of reality? Obliterated by the alien frontier of rebuilding, as opposed to renovation?

Like Joey Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) said in the much-underrated 1991 action-flick The Last Boy Scout: "The truth is a beautiful thing."

My demon has been satiated.

For now.

Later.