Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rating the AFL Grand Finals from 2005 to 2012

When I first started watching VFL/AFL Grand Finals in the '80s and '90s, and even the early '00s, they were typically one-sided affairs that were decided well before the final siren ('89 and '02 being exceptions). Since 2005 though we have been blessed with a golden era of great games, with only the 2007, the 2010 replay, 2008, and 2011 GFs having sizable winning margins, and even the latter two were quite tense for most of the day. Which has been the best though? This is how I would rate them:

1. 2009: Geelong d St. Kilda - On Twitter a few weeks back I rated 2005 as the best GF since 1989, but after thinking a bit more about it I reckon this one was actually better. The main reason is that these two teams were phenomenally good - the Geelong team won 18 games during the season and their GF side had 16 players that were All-Australians at one point, while St. Kilda won 20 games during the season and had 11 All-Australians. The match itself was in doubt until the final minute, with only an after-the-siren goal extending the final margin out to two goals. (Plus, since I wasn't at the pub, I also remember this match.)

2. 2012: Sydney d Hawthorn - Maybe it's still the glow from the excitement of yesterday, but this match was possibly even better than Sydney's 2005 triumph. It may have had more memorable moments that any other match on this list: Malceski's snap for the Swans first goal, Franklin's two goals outside 50 metres, the Hawks five goals in ten minutes, Goodes' game-breaking goal, and Malceski's sealer. It also had 25 goals scored, the most of any of the top five on this list.

3. 2005: Sydney d West Coast - The importance of this game can hardly be overstated, it broke the Swans' 72-year premiership drought, and was a breath of fresh air after so many GF blowouts over the past 15 years. It also had one of the most famous moments in AFL history - Leo Barry's game ending pack mark deep in the Eagles backline. But it was also a bit dour - only 15 goals were scored, and I reckon both the sides would have got blown off the park by the 2009 combatants, and maybe even the 2012 ones.

4. 2006: West Coast d Sydney - There really isn't that much to separate this and the 2005 GF, except for Barry's famous mark and the fact that the Swans hadn't won for so long the year before. They were both low-scoring matches, and both had one team storm back in the second half only to fall just short in the end. Again though, I think the quality of play was better in some of the other recent GFs.

5. 2010: Collingwood drew with St. Kilda - As exciting as it was, and as great as Hayes and Goddard were in that second half, I have to rate this GF below the others on the list because of the anti-climatic and rather hollow ending; no team came away with the cup (until the next week). Maybe that's as good an argument as any to go to extra time.

As for the others, I'd go: 6. Geelong d Collingwood, 7. Hawthorn d Geelong, 8. Geelong d Port Adelaide (if only to see how much the Cats could win by), and 9. Collingwood d St. Kilda (anti-climatic for all but Magpies supporters).

Saturday, September 29, 2012

AFL Power Rankings: Post Finals 2012

The Hawks end the year as the top-ranked team, but the Swans end up with the premiership cup.

1 Hawthorn 38.2
2 Sydney 31.9
3 West Coast 24.0
4 Adelaide 22.7
5 Fremantle 19.7
6 St. Kilda 17.6
7 Geelong 17.6
8 Collingwood 16.5
9 Richmond 9.5
10 Carlton 3.2
11 North Melbourne -0.3
12 Essendon -8.7
13 Brisbane -9.8
14 Port Adelaide -22.8
15 Melbourne -32.4
16 Western Bulldogs -36.8
17 Gold Coast -40.7
18 Greater Western Sydney -66.0

Monday, September 24, 2012

Album Review: Grizzly Bear - 'Shields'

It has been a notable couple of months for albums from Brooklyn – Yeasayer’s ‘Fragrant Hours’ and Dirty Projector’s ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ among them – but the shining jewel among them has got to be Grizzly Bear’s ‘Shields’. It doesn’t have the standout songs of its predecessor ‘Veckitamest’ (e.g. ‘Two Weeks’, ‘While You Wait For The Others’). However, it’s possibly a more solid album, both in consistency and tone; personally I was less enamoured with the more insubstantial tracks on their last album such as ‘Dory’. ‘A Simple Answer’ and ‘Gun-Shy’ might be the closest the album has to ‘hits’; the former, with its assertive piano chords, has probably the band’s most infectious chorus to date (yes, even more so than ‘Two Weeks’), while the latter drifts along dreamily with its overlapping vocals. By contrast, opener ‘Sleeping Ute’ and ‘Yet Again’ are driven along by a strong, expansive guitar sound that even if it doesn’t quite rock, it at least sharply lets you know it’s around. Penultimate track ‘Half Gate’ starts off by setting up its cabin and axe next to the Fleet Foxes, before erupting in a pounding, cavernous chorus that’s the closest the band has come to sounding like its namesake yet. Finally, Grizzly Bear try their hand at the epic closing track on ‘Sun In Your Eyes’, which is stretched out further than an Arctic sunrise. With ‘Shields’, Grizzly Bear have shown they can produce more than a very pleasant background suite, and this substantial follow-up should put them into the indie big leagues.    

Sunday, September 23, 2012

10 Chapters That Make You Want To Shove 'Moby Dick' Down Melville's Blowhole

1. The Counterpane ('Thinks I, Queequeg, under the circumstances, this a very civilised overture; but the truth is, these savages have an innate sense of delicacy, say what you will; it is marvellous how essentially polite they are.')

2. Chowder ('It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.')

3. Cetology ('Thus ends BOOK I. (Folio), and now begins BOOK II. (Octavo)')

4. The Mast-Head ('Concerning all this, it is much to be deplored that the mast-heads of a southern whale-ship are unprovided with those enviable little tents, or pulpits, called crow's nests, in which the look-outs of a Greenland whaler are protected from the inclement weather of the frozen seas'.)

5. Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes ('All Beale's drawings of this whale are good, excepting the middle figure in the picture of three whales in various attitides, capping his second chapter.')

6. Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountain; in Stars ('An ancient Hawaiian war-club or spear-paddle, in its full multipilicity and elaboration of carving, is as great a trophy of human perserverance as a Latin lexicon'.)

7. Stubb and Flask Kill a Right Whale; and Then Have a Talk Over Him ('Nor all the coopers in creation couldn't show hoops enough to make oughts enough.')

8. The Sperm Whale's Head - Contrasted View ('Let us now note what is least dissimilar in these heads - namely, the two most important organs, the eye and the ear.')

9. Pitchpoling ('To make them run easily and swiftly, the axles of carriages are anointed; and for much the same purpose, some whalers perform an analogous operation upon their boat; they grease the bottom'.)

10. The Try-Works ('Removing this hatch we expose the great try-pots, two in number, and each of several barrels' capacity.)

But it's all worth it for this line:

'Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.'

Relaunch Hyperoverload: The Amazing, Incredible, Uncanny Fatigue Of Marvel NOW!

On this blog last year, I was critical of DC for relaunching its entire line of comics. While the gambit has worked better than I expected, throwing up some excellent titles in ‘Action Comics’, ‘Animal Man’, ‘Batman’ – and yes, ‘Batwoman’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ – I still have a strong sense that I have been here all before with this widespread revamping, rebooting, relaunching, or whatever you want to call it. And at no point have I felt this more strongly than with the announcement of Marvel’s latest ‘re’-initiative, Marvel NOW! Over the next few months Marvel will cancel a large segment of their titles, and replace them with, surprise, surprise, a whole batch of ‘collectible’ #1 issues. Hey, a new ‘Avengers #1’ – that’s gotta be exciting, right? Except I already bought a new Avengers #1 in 1996. And 1998. And 2005. And  2010. Of course, that doesn’t quite top the six freaking new Captain America #1’s there will have been in the past sixteen years. This time the series could barely get into double figures before being relaunched (oh, relaunched … how I hate that word). And although the X-Men haven’t been relau … well, you know .. quite as often, we’ve still had a ‘Revolution’ (when Chris Claremont rejoined), a ‘Reload’, and a ‘Regenesis’.
Frankly, I’ve had it, and I bet a lot of other readers have too. When the new Marvel NOW! books come out, I may do something I thought I wouldn’t do for a good long time yet – stop reading the Avengers. In reality, I’ll probably pick up the first couple of issues just to have a look, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to cut out all other Marvel books, except for Mark Waid’s ‘Daredevil’ (which is not being relaunched, though it was less than two years ago). Maybe it’s time to finally grow up and move on, and only get my sequential art fix from the indie comics scene, where at least the work is not full of empty promises and insignificant sound and fury. I get that barely anyone reads comics anymore, and Marvel and DC are desperate, but this doesn’t seem like the right way to build a readership again. Who knows? – maybe some of the new books will work fantastically, but for the first time in nearly twenty-five years, I couldn’t really care if they do or not.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

If I Was In Charge Of Marvel's Avengers ...

Marvel's 'The Avengers' is to be relaunched (again) this year, and editor Tom Brevoort has said that the team will have an active roster of "about 18" members. But really, why stop there? Given that there are three Avengers titles at the moment, why not just throw in every cool Avenger out there?

If I were in charge of the Avengers, I'd pick, first, all the Avengers that appeared in the movie. Then I'd add in all the East Coast and West Coast Avengers that were around when I first started reading about the team back in the late '80s-early '90s (like pop musicians, comic writers tend to try and recapture the era they grew up with). I'm not adding in any characters that are supposedly currently dead though, so sorry Janet Van Dyne. Then I'd add in the "Bendis Crew" (Cage, Iron Fist, Spider Woman, Ms Marvel, Spider-Man), since they seem to up the cool quotient of the team. I'd then add in the other big guns that have been Avengers (Hulk, Namor, Doctor Strange), except Wolverine, who should be an X-Man only, and Daredevil, who I don't think works in the group. Indeed, I'm not having any X-Men on my team - they have their own set of titles. Finally I'd add a few other characters I like, with the only new member being Sabra, who I've always thought would work well in the Avengers. This gives a line-up that looks like this:

Seriously, I reckon you could sell shelfloads of graphic novels with that team. Pretty much anyone who is anyone (and not an X-Man) in the Marvel Universe is there; you could get about 15-20 spinoff titles from this. Alas, now I'm nearing 33 my chance of being the Avengers' writer, like my chance of being a rock god, seeems to have passed me by. But at least now my greatest Avengers line-up ever doesn't just exist in my head. :) (Well, actually it still does.)

P.S. It won't come as any great surprise to know that I re-watched the movie today.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summary of AFL Power Rankings 2012

 With the AFL Power Rankings over for another home-and-away season I thought I'd once again provide a graph summarising each team's progression in 2012 (click to enlarge obviously):

And here’s a team-by-team summary:

Adelaide: The big improvers of the season. The Crows started in 13th spot, and though they improved in ranking points they were still there in Round 6. After that though they steadily climbed up the rankings, and were 3rd by Round 17, which is where they ended up finishing. Final (actual) ladder position after AFL home & away season: 2

Brisbane: Started in 11th, but spent the majority of the season in 13th or 14th spot, and settled in 13th from Round 17 onwards. Final H&A position: 13

Carlton: The Blues regressed by a large margin this season. They started in 4th, then held the #2 rank from Rounds 2-5, but then they crashed to 9th by Round 10, and barely got in the top half of the rankings again. Final H&A position: 10

Collingwood: Though they started in 2nd spot, the rankings soon made clear that the Pies had lost a bit from the past couple of years, and they spent most of time in the region of 4th to 6th. Final H&A position: 4

Essendon: In the mainstream media the Bombers were considered among the premiership favourites at one stage but they never were here, despite some good performances in April and May. They touched 6th for one round, but otherwise were in the 8-12 region. At least they inspired this anonymous comment for posterity. Final H&A position: 11

Fremantle: The Dockers started in 14th, and were still in 13th spot by Round 16. Then suddenly the Dockers hit the biggest purple patch they’ve ever had, and they ended up in the top half of the rankings (and the finals). Final H&A position: 8

Geelong: The reigning premier and #1 ranked team fell back to the pack and was #9 in Round 16. As soon as they hit their nadir though they hit form again, and finished ranked #4. Final H&A position: 6

Gold Coast: Spent the season in 17th spot, except for Rounds 1, 7, 10-12 and 14 when they were stone motherless last. Final H&A position: 17

Greater Western  Sydney: Spent the season in stone motherless last, except for the rounds where Gold Coast were there. Final H&A position: 18

Hawthorn: The minor premiers and premiership favourites spent most of the season in the top spot, where they took roost from Round 10 onwards (after a brief stint there in Rounds 7-8). Started in 3rd and was never lower than 4th, despite their ladder position early on. Final H&A position: 1

Melbourne: Mostly in 16th position, with some rounds in 15th spot. Final H&A position: 16

North Melbourne: Along with the Bombers and the Tigers, the Kangaroos were a model of averageness. They started in 8th, spent an extended period in 11th during the middle of the season, climbed back up to 7th when they hit good form in the latter half of the season, and finished in 10th. Final H&A position: 8.

Port Adelaide: Alternated between 15th and 16th, until Round 14, where the Dogs kicked them out of the bottom four and they took 14th spot, which is where they stayed. Final H&A position: 14

Richmond: Finished 9th. Thank God they didn’t finish there on the actual ladder. Final H&A position: 12

St. Kilda: The Saints’ ranking belied their ladder position for a lot of the season. They were always in the top half, and were as high as 3rd for three rounds. Blame the narrow losses for their absence from the finals. Final H&A position: 9

Sydney: Initially, the rankings suggested that the Swans would spend another year in the lower half of the eight, when lo and behold, they jumped to 2nd spot in Round 12, and that was pretty much where they stayed. Final H&A position: 3

West Coast: Starting in 5th spot, the Eagles sat atop the rankings for one solitary week in Round 9. They then fell back to 9th by Round 20 as injuries took their toll, but a few good performances at the end saw them finish where they started. Final H&A position: 5

Western Bulldogs: Another big regressor; the Dogs started in 9th, but by Round 14 had fallen to 15th, and finally finished in 16th spot. Final H&A position: 15

AFL Power Rankings: Round 23 2012

And the final rankings for the 2012 AFL home and away season are:

1 (1) Hawthorn 42.9 (43.2)
2 (2) Sydney 29.1 (32.0)
3 (3) Adelaide 24.3 (21.8)
4 (5) Geelong 21.1 (17.1)
5 (7) West Coast 19.4 (16.9)
6 (6) Collingwood 19.4 (16.9)
7 (4) St. Kilda 18.3 (17.3)
8 (8) Fremantle 17.1 (15.5)
9 (9) Richmond 9.9 (12.8)
10 (10) North Melbourne 6.5 (8.8)
11 (11) Carlton 4.0 (3.7)
12 (12) Essendon -7.8 (-7.1)
13 (13) Brisbane -8.8 (-12.4)
14 (14) Port Adelaide -22.0 (-26.9)
15 (15) Melbourne -31.9 (-33.1)
16 (16) Western Bulldogs -36.1 (-33.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -39.7 (-39.4)
18 (18) Greater Western Sydney -65.2 (-69.2)

So the Hawks finish at #1, where they have been since Round 10. I'll post the post-finals rankings in four weeks.

The Wooden Finger AFL All-Australian Team 2012

Maybe I'm a bit hopeful that there will be three Tigers, but I think Deledio's consistency over the past three years will be rewarded with his first selection (even if it's kinda out of position), and I'm not going to be the one to say that the Coleman Medallist Jack Riewoldt shouldn't get a spot. Others I wouldn't be surprised to see make the actual team: Brent Reilly, Heath Shaw, Stephen Milne, Lance Franklin, Drew Petrie, Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson.

B: Beau Waters, Darren Glass, Ted Richards
HB: Grant Birchall, Luke McPharlin, Brett Deledio

C: Dane Swan, Jobe Watson, Trent Cotchin

HF: Dayne Beams, Matthew Pavlich, Lewis Jetta

F: Tom Hawkins, Jack Riewoldt, Cyril Rioli

R: Dean Cox, Scott Thompson, Gary Ablett

I: Sam Mitchell, Patrick Dangerfield, Josh Kennedy, Sam Jacobs