Oliver! That musical set in Dickensian London. I am sure you remember it. The young orphan Oliver is put up for sale for wanting more. Never before has a boy wanted more! Oliver ends up in the charge of Fagan and his gang of pickpockets. In the AFL, like most sports, some players want more. Coaches are somewhat like Fagan.
More than willing to pick a pocket or two of another club. For this reason players are traded in search of a win, or, just wanting to go back home.
As a supporter of one of the clubs that did not make the finals, Fremantle; I have made an interesting discovery. There are four former Fremantle players who are in the finals this season. Chris Mayne (Collingwood), Matthew De Boer (GWS), Hayden Crozier (Western Bulldogs) and Lachie Neale (Brisbane).
Chris Mayne will play in his second finals series in two years with Collingwood. If they make it to the Grand Final it will be Mayne's third Grand Final appearance. Not bad for a player who at the end of his time at Fremantle was derided due to poor kicking. At Collingwood they play him as a defensive forward and this plays to his strengths. It has been a joy to watch him bloom in this role.
In the past the ideal was the 1990's Team of the decade North Melbourne. You get the kids young and mould them into a core that you can build around. As they get older they win the under18's, the seconds and finally the Grand Final. That was the VFL before what has occurred. Now we have the VSFL for the under 18 players, and, the VFL where stand alone teams still compete with AFL second teams and finally the AFL.
Matthew De Boer was one of those players you could name but never point out on the field. One of those Yeomen that you realise has played 181 games and are a bit surprised you never noticed him. He is a very good player, classic half forward. Kicks goals, plays in the mid-field, got all the skills needed. Has taken his chances and done well at the Giants, deserves a Grand Final.
The AFL is a compromise. Due to distance the AFL cannot adopt relegation and promotion as in European Futbol. AFL teams are not owned like in European and American Sport. As AFL club members have some part of the decision making at their club. Other compromises are seen in the draw where it is impossible to play everyone twice. A well managed club requires the ability to develop players via the draft AND be good at finding talent elsewhere.
Hayden Crozier is plying his trade at the Western Bulldogs and is definitely required this coming finals series. Can take a role forwards or in defence, can kick a goal when switched forward. Its the flexibility a coach needs, as all clubs need that guy who can play at both ends.
Mid season draft
This year the AFL had a mid-season draft from the 'lower' leagues. In times gone by the SANFL or the WAFL would never consider giving into such a proposition. But it happened. Clubs with gun players having great seasons had to relinquish these players to AFL clubs mid-season. These players may never play an AFL game. They may come back in a years time injured never to play again for their former club. It is a ruthless sport sometimes.
I was a bit sad when Lachie Neale was set to leave Fremantle. Though after this season I cannot deny the decision was wrong. A Fremantle fanatic would say he should have stayed and maybe won a flag at Fremantle. At the Lions, Neale is the number one midfielder and a Brownlow medal contender. Against Richmond he had 40 plus possessions. That is a severe case of leather poisoning. There was no way this was possible as Nat Fyfe's understudy.
A team needs to be looking out for new talent in many places. For those who follow Fremantle will know of Michael Barlow an amazing mature age recruit. For those who do not know he is still playing in the VFL back at Werribee where he was 'discovered'. Not all people mature or grow the same. A player with great potential can fade away, meanwhile, a player who has taken the time to develop and grow can be what an AFL club requires.
Charlie Cameron was traded to Brisbane from Adelaide in 2017. He, along with Neale has made a great impact at Brisbane. Cameron's former club, Adelaide has had a great fall since appearing in the 2017 Grand Final. In the final round of 2019 17 out of the 22 that played for Adelaide had also played in their 2017 loss against Richmond. In contrast, only seven Bulldogs from their 2016 Premiership played in the same round. The difference in turnover is clear and perhaps a reason for Adelaides woes.
Brisbane look good enough to make the Grand Final. If they win the first round against Richmond they get another home game, if they do not they are good enough to beat anyone in the top eight. It makes you wonder about Chris Fagan. Picking the pockets of both Adelaide, Fremantle and possibly Hawthorn too has led to Brisbane's place in the finals this year. While Chris Fagan's surname is merely a consequence; does this make Lachie Neale Oliver, the boy who wanted more?
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.