Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan.

You could imagine the meeting at AFL headquarters last
Tuesday morning. “OK, finally those soccer wimps have fallen over. Let’s
reclaim this nation for the glorious game of AFL!”

And so they did. League CEO Andrew Demetriou held
a press conference on the Wednesday, delivering a mid-season report that showed
attendances, profits, ratings, scoring, everything! was up, the Magpies were
flying and drawing crowds and the second half of the season was set to blossom
like no season before.

So all was flying, right up until the teams
began Round 13. The Kangaroos started things by staggering home against an
abysmal Essendon on Friday night with even the winning coach, Dean Laidley,
admitting that the match was no oil painting.

The next day, Hawthorn failed to turn up
against the Saints, flattered by a 70 point defeat. Hawks coach Alastair
Clarkson called the loss “soul destroying” and the Herald Sun said: “Make no
mistake, the Hawthorn performance was as bad as it can possibly get.”

Probably best to move on to the Gabba then,
where Carlton saw their brightest light, gun recruit Marc Murphy, suffer a
nasty shoulder injury, while the Lions managed to kick eight goals and 23 behinds.
Meanwhile, the Swans won a ho-hum affair against the yet-again-disappointing
Dockers.

Let’s try Adelaide, where the top of the
ladder Crows were to host Geelong on Sunday in a rematch of the pre-season cup
final. This should be a beauty.

No. At the final siren, the margin was 92
points to the Crows, with Cats coach Mark Thompson shrugging that Adelaide is
way ahead of everybody else and “I think we will try to forget about this
fairly quickly and move on.”

As will we, to the MCG on a wet Sunday to
marvel in the scoring power of the Magpies, the League’s most successful attack
over the first half of the year.

By half time, Collingwood had scored one
goal, compared to Richmond’s 9.9. Final margin 47 points.

So were there any decent games to welcome
fans back to Australia’s only indigenous code? Yep, Melbourne’s win over Port
on Saturday was entertaining and underlined the Demons’ class, while the
Bulldogs’ win in Perth – the first away win by a Victorian team against the
Eagles for four years – was brilliant, even if West Coast was below par.

As for the rest, maybe the AFL players were catching
up on post-World Cup sleep like the rest of us? Next weekend should be good.

Peter Fray

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