Last week, we caught up on where the AFL stands after the long North American winter / Australian summer. I’m happy to announce that we’ve picked up some new AFL team supporters! The updated list:
Team – Commentist
Carlton Blues – King Hippo
Collingwood Magpies – Moose
Geelong Cats – Balls of Steel, theeWeeBabySeamus
North Melbourne Kangaroos – SunriseSunrise
Port Adelaide – WhyEaglesWhy, entropy
St. Kilda Saints – Doktor Zymm
Sydney Swans – Sill Bimmons, Spanky Datass
As promised, this week we have a new feature, the beginning of the 2016 season previews, and some notes on rule changes in effect for this season.
Welcome to Balls of Steel’s AFL Beat!
2016 Rule Changes
We start small (we are growers, after all, not showers) with the rule changes for 2016. The tl:dr version is that there are going to be three areas of emphasis:
1) Umpires will be cracking down on dangerous tackles this season. This is being done to eliminate lifting, slinging, or rotating during tackles that may cause significant injuries.
2) They will also be looking more closely at players swapping when guarding the mark (this happened when a short player contested the mark, but a taller player stood at the mark to try to distract/block the kick). In addition, the protected area around the mark has been widened.
3) Lastly, umpires will take a more strict approach to the deliberate out-of-bounds rule. While the player still has the benefit of the doubt, intention will be more carefully evaluated and there will be incentive to award more free kicks.
The good thing is that things should pretty much remain the same as last year on the field. An important procedural change that has the potential to impact games is the reduction in the number of interchanges (think shift changes in hockey, but one player at a time) allowed during a game. This will place a greater emphasis on physical conditioning and endurance. It will be interesting to see how that plays out over the course of the season. For a full listing of the 2016 Laws of the Game, click here.
Better Know an Australian Footballer!
is Dyson Heppell. He won the 2011 AFL Rising Star award in his first year in the AFL with the Essendon Bombers. Based on his performance in the 2014 season, he was named All-Australian and he won the Bombers’ “best and fairest” award, the W.S. Crichton Medal. One look at his Instagram account shows that he is a goofy-looking dude that loves his dogs, his family, and having a good time. Not quite a Gronk-type as he is happily, by all accounts, in a relationship, but he still seems like he would be fun at parties. Unfortunately for Dyson, he:
- Shares a first name with a vacuum cleaner which, well, sucks
2. Is one of the Essendon 34 and will thus miss the 2016 season. This has not stopped him, however, from declaring his love for Kia Sportages.
From the Bombers’ website, here are a few choice Questions and Answers with Dyson:
Sportsperson (other than AFL) you love to watch the most: Chris Paul
Describe your perfect day off: Chilling at Inverloch back beach with mates on a sunny day. (So Gronk)
Who inspires you? Dad (TOTALLY Gronk!)
Best advice received: Winners never quit, quitters never win.
What scares you the most? Failure
If you weren’t a footballer what would you be? NBA Player
First job held: Mowing lawns
Person you would most like to meet: Michael Jordan
Three things you would like to do after your football career: Travel overseas, become a coach, and run a marathon.
How would your best friend describe you? Legend, honest and competitive.
One thing you can’t eat: Tomatoes
What domestic chore do you refuse to do? Clean the sprouting around the house (I have no idea what sprouting is. Is that like gardening?)
Which event would you prefer to attend, Olympics or World Cup? Olympics
iPhone, Blackberry, or Android: Samsung
Best book read: Michael Jordan Biography
Favourite TV show: Two and a Half Men
Favourite band/ musical artist: Draft (I have no idea who they are)
Favourite movie: Wayne’s World
Of all that, the biggest question mark is 2 1/2 Men. I mean, seriously? Plus, I bet he would need a change of pants if he ever met Jordan. While North Melbourne’s Ben Brown has earned the “Sideshow Bob” nickname, Dyson’s magical mane is not far behind. I hope he grows it out super long this year. God knows he’s got time on his hands…
Season Preview #1 – The last three
I’m going to do the season previews starting at the bottom of the ladder and working my way to the top. First up, the Wooden Spoon winner, King Hippo’s Carlton Blues!
Club Name: Carlton Blues
Mascot: Captain Carlton and his fabulous hovercraft
History: The club was established in 1864. It was one of eight founding members of the Victorian Football League (VFL), which was the predecessor to the AFL. It is tied with Essendon for the highest number of championships won in the history of the VFL/AFL with 16.
Home Stadium: Most games are played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) with some played at the Etihad Stadium (aka Docklands)
Famous Supporters: Olivia Newton-John, Danii Minogue, Pink (?), ABBA, Jerry Lewis, King Hippo
Club Song: The Navy Blues
Last Premiership: 1995
2015 Finish: 18th
Outlook for 2016: The Blues are starting over with a brand new coach and are benefiting from Essendon’s ban troubles, so it looks like they will be out of contention for the Wooden Spoon this year. The Blues routinely attract the most members and are among the most popular clubs in the league, so resources should not be an issue. Look for this to be a rebuilding year with a possible finish in the low teens.
Why Should I Pick Them as My Team? You like King Hippo and/or you like to buy low and sell high. The Blues have hit rock bottom and have nowhere to go but up.
* * *
Club Name: Brisbane Lions
Mascot: Bernie “Gabba” Vegas
History: The Brisbane Lions emerged from the rushed back-alley coupling of the expansion Brisbane Bears (created in 1987 by a private owner in order to help out Victorian clubs financially) and the Fitzroy Lions, a historic club formed in 1883 which was another, along with Carlton, of the founding members of the VFL. The Fitzroy Lions were based in Melbourne and were experiencing severe financial difficulties in the 1990s. The map below shows where FItzroy used to be:
The solution that was applied to alleviate Fitzroy’s financial troubles was to merge the club with the Bears and move it to Brisbane in 1996. The move paid off as the club saw immediate success in the shape of three consecutive premierships in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Since then, the Lions have only seen finals footy once in 2009.
Home Stadium: The Gabba. The full name is the Brisbane Cricket Ground, but it is located in the Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba, hence the nickname.
Famous supporters: Greg Norman, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles (two out of those three seem like jokes, but I swear they are not!)
Club song: The Pride of Brisbane Town (sung to the tune of the French National Anthem, “La Marsellaise”)
Last Premiership: 2003
2015 Finish: 17th
2016 Outlook: The Lions have had a rough go of it. They seem to be stuck in a perpetual cycle of bringing up exciting new talent only for that talent to go to other clubs and then starting all over. Brisbane is by all accounts a beautiful beachside city, so I’m not sure why it’s not a more attractive destination for players. Membership is not high and it is located in Queensland, where other sports are more popular. It may be a situation like Los Angeles with the NFL. When you’re winning championships, everything is great, but when you’re not… Unfortunately, they seem like strong contenders for the Wooden Spoon again this year.
Why Should I Pick Them as My Team? You are bald or like aging bald men? You love Bernie “Gabba” Vegas? A more likely reason is that you are a history buff and love the history of this club and want to see it succeed. Also, if you are ever planning on going to see a game live, Australia’s East Coast is beautiful.
* * *
Club Name: Gold Coast Suns
Mascot: Sunny Ray
History: The Gold Coast Suns were created as part of the 2008 decision to expand the AFL from 16 clubs to 18. The Suns first played in the lower-level leagues before joining the AFL in 2011. While they had a rough Tampa Bay Buccaneers-esque beginning, they have never finished with the Wooden Spoon and got as high as 12th in 2014. The club is located in the Queensland “Gold Coast” city of Carrara (hence the name).
Home Stadium: Carrara Stadium
Famous supporters: Mick Fanning
Club song: Suns of the Gold Coast Sky
Last Premiership: Never
2015 Finish: 16th
2016 Outlook: Much was expected from the Suns in 2015 after a 12th place finish in 2014. There was even talk of a finals appearance. That all went down the drain as captain Gary Ablett Jr. went down with injury and the young Suns, while never giving up and always providing excellent effort, could not muster up many wins. Gary is back this year, but he was old last year and this year may be his last. This should be a building year for the Suns as they prepare for the youngsters to take over the team leadership in the years to come. The best case scenario sees Gary healthy and the Suns forging a strong team that threatens to make it to finals. In the worst case scenario, Gary is out again and the team disintegrates again.
Why Should I Pick Them as My Team? You like getting in on the ground floor of something exciting and new. You root for the underdog and you like teams that give maximum effort even if it doesn’t result in wins. Also, the possible road trip to see them play would be awesome as the Australian Gold Coast is a world-class tourist destination.
Next week: Previews for Essendon, St. Kilda, and Melbourne, a new Better Know an Australian Footballer, and a review of the first few preseason NAB Challenge games. BTW, the reason I include the songs is that they are played over the loudspeakers at the stadiums for the winning team. Yes, the winning team’s song is played, and sung by the winning team’s players, in the losing team’s stadium. Reason #812 why the AFL is run better than the NFL.
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