Is it just me or is any press coverage on all AFL clubs during the pre-season either exceedingly positive or overwhelmingly negative?

This week, in Melbourne alone, we have seen the sports pages of the local newspapers filled with stories of the latest intra-club match, hamstring injury or new recruit who is amazing everyone with his speed/skill/fitness/all of the above.

It appears that if a story is not actually ‘news’ it may as well have been constructed by the PR departments of the clubs featured in the stories. On the other hand, if a star player is injured in the lead-up to the season, it is always a ‘major blow’ or a ‘serious dent’ to his team’s pre-season build-up.

To illustrate, in the positive camp, we have read about:

  • Matthew Lloyd’s return to fitness after his own hamstring ‘scare’;
  • Buddy Franklin’s impressive training feats at Hawthorn;
  • Brock McLean’s brilliant new yoga and pilates regime;
  • Nathan Brown’s return to peak fitness;
  • The form of the Kangaroos’ exciting new batch of youngsters in an intra-club match;
  • Port Adelaide’s brutal pre-season that has the club set for a big 2007; and,
  • Adam Ramanauskas’ inspiring return to training following successful treatment of his cancer.

Thankfully, the negative talk has been relatively muted, but we have still seen:

  • A detailed analysis of the back ‘scare’ suffered by Richmond’s Matthew Richardson;
  • Nick Riewoldt’s major hamstring blow; and,
  • The board ructions that threaten to tear Carlton and the Kangaroos apart even before the season kicks off. (I’ve included this here but does anyone other than the press really care about any of this?).

It should be noted that these stories appeared in the Herald Sun alone, and Matthew Lloyd’s hamstring copped a mention across three straight days (that’s one interesting muscle!).

So while Kangaroos fans can be excited by the fact that youngsters Ben Ross and veteran forward Nathan Thompson impressed in their intra-club (begging the question – who were the poor sods whose pre-seasons have been wrecked after being given a touch-up by their own teammates?), the St Kilda faithful would have been crying into their cereal this morning knowing that the club has suffered a “major blow” to its pre-season campaign following Nick Riewoldt’s hamstring injury.

But before you are tempted to put your house on your team making an unexpected charge to the eight, or you are thinking about tearing up your membership application form in anticipation if a rotten season, it might be worth remembering a few things.

That Geelong won last year’s NAB Cup (they finished the season proper in 10th place) and that Adam Goodes was unable to play in the Swans’ only NAB Cup game last year and he won last year’s Brownlow Medal and almost single-handedly lifted his team to a second straight flag during the last quarter of last year’s grand final.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey