Now that the NFL off-season is here, it’s time to move on to worthier pursuits. I speak, of course, of AFL, AFLW, and AFLX.
Yes, AFLX. This is a brand new game the AFL is trying out to see if it can capture the imagination of countries that don’t play cricket and don’t have gigantic oval-shaped fields in which to play. Try soccer or American football-sized fields. More on that later, though.
The big news this week is that AFLW returns!! I’ll have a season preview for each team and we will have a tipping competition exclusively devoted to the Women’s competition!
All of this and more on
Welcome to Balls of Steel’s AFL Beat!
We start with the most time-sensitive information which is that AFLW returns on Thursday Night/Friday Morning in North America! This is, of course, Australian Friday and has been perfectly timed to draw sports fans’ attention after the conclusion of the Australian Open a few days ago.
We have the same eight teams as last year as the AFL decided to delay expansion until next year to ensure the footy is competitive and compelling. Can you imagine that happening in the US?
It’s true! Isn’t it nice to find a league NOT run by greedy assholes? More on how awesome and ahead of the curve the AFL is later…
There have been quite a few changes in personnel so last year’s performances are not as good a guide as to what to expect as what you would think. Let’s go through the teams from worst to first:
Last year’s Wooden Spooners got a new coach and a lot of new older and experienced players. This reaction to last year’s disappointing season has already proven to be smart as the Giants have played well, won pre-season games, and are way ahead in terms of scoring, which was a problem last year. Amanda Farrugia returns as Captain and former Collingwood star Alicia Eva has been elected deputy captain.
I look for them to rebound and be in the mix in the middle of the pack.
The Dockers were expected to do well last year given that Western Australia is a territory rich in women players. However, this did not translate to the field as injuries prevented the Dockers from fielding a consistent group and losses followed. Returning coach Michelle Cowan says the team learned a lot of lessons from last year and is confident of putting together winning performances. Unfortunately, the Dockers have AGAIN been hit by the injury bug and several players will miss significant time. It looks like the Dockers will field an All-Western Australian team, so hopefully the depth has grown. Due to the injuries, I expect the Dockers to once again be near the bottom of the standings. On the bright side, they host the very first footy game at Perth’s new stadium and the crowd is expected to break the record for an AFLW match.
The Bulldogs were supposed to be among the contenders last year, but an injury to captain Katie Brennan
and a breakdown in core skills led the Bulldogs down the ladder. They are back with, as they say it, a new approach and an emphasis on improving skills and moving the ball by kicking instead of hand-balling. The season starts with a tough assignment against Fremantle at home. The outcome of that game may have a big influence on how the rest of the season goes. If they can get some confidence in that their new approach is working, it bodes well. If not, well, the bottom of the ladder beckons. Realistically, I see them in the middle of the pack.
The Pies lost Alicia Eva to the Giants but retain star Moana Hope and last year’s captain Stephanie Chiocci
Things were looking good in pre-season games, but forward Darcy Guttridge broke her collarbone in a win over Melbourne and will be out most of the year. The big question will be whether the rest of the group can generate some offense, which was a problem last year. The Magpies finished strongly last year, so maybe they can keep the momentum going. I look for them to be in the top half of the league.
The Blues made a big splash in the offseason by getting Brisbane star Tayla Harris
to join star Darcy Vescio
in probably the best list of the competition. No doubt about it, Carlton are the odds-on favorites for 2018.
Daisy Pearce is the most recognizable name in AFLW and returns to lead the Demons alongside the twin tall threats of Alyssa Mifsud, who came on strong last year, and new recruit Tegan Cunningham. The problem that the Demons had last year, though, remains. They had a good list and good players and yet couldn’t get it done. The pre-season has not shown that anything has changed. Call it mid-pack.
The Lions lost the Grand Final last year and also lost Tayla Harris to the Blues. They’ve lost a lot more than that as they have not looked good at all in the preseason. I look for them to take a BIG step down from last year. They could possibly join the men’s team in contending for the Wooden Spoon. Yeah, it’s that bad. Too bad, because they have some really good players.
The Crows return most of the playing group that won last year’s Premiership and look to be the main competition to Carlton for the top of the ladder. They are the reigning champs, so until someone knocks them off, it’s their championship to lose.
Lady Footy Tipping Challenge!
This year we will have a separate tipping pool for the Women’s competition!! Our good friend Joliet Jake Delhomme was nice enough to set it up. The link is here:
We’ve already got several of the returning tippers from last year’s AFL pool, so join in the fun! I pledge that I will provide a prize to the winner if we get 10 tippers or more. So join already!
Here’s the schedule for this week’s games. Remember that all times are Pacific:
Friday, February 2, 2018
12:40 AM (Late Thursday Night) – Carlton v Collingwood at Ikon Park
10:50 PM – Melbourne Demons v GWS Giants at Casey Fields
Saturday, February 3, 2018
12:15 AM (Late Friday Night) – Adelaide Crows v Brisbane Lions at Norwood Oval
9:35 PM – Western Bulldogs v Fremantle Dockers at Whitten Oval
Yes, I mentioned this before. What exactly is it? Take a quick gander at this infographic:
You can also see this handy dandy video:
The AFL is introducing this game via 3 “tournaments” to be played in mid-February with all 18 AFL teams participating. The games will be short and action-packed. If the concept catches on, you’ll probably see this version of the game exported throughout the world…
Yes, you will be able to see the games on the Watch AFL app. Games will be played on the 15th, 16th, and 17th of February in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, respectively.
Funny how new efforts to improve the game have to come from wrestling in America instead of from within, huh? Reason #4,683… you know the drill.
Speaking of, one last thing before I go. You may have seen an article on ESPN.com talking about how the NBA is leading the charge to legalize gambling nationwide in the US. Hidden in that article is Reason#29,032 the AFL is run better than the NFL:
Pro leagues in Australia and France receive a small percentage of bets made on their sports. The NBA has studied Australia’s laws closely in forming a position on the matter.
So, it seems the NBA has taken a page from the AFL’s book to finally bring some sanity to North American sports.
Now do you understand why I love AFL so much?
See you next week.
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