I’m reading “The Enchanted Wood” to my kids at the moment. In the middle of the Faraway Tree, Moon-Face has a slippery-dip that goes all the way down the inside the tree, which Joe, Beth, and Frannie ride down on cushions. Just like Hawthorn! Wheee!
But as you can tell from the flood of Richmond supporters entering this thread, the big story this week wasn’t that Hawthorn are heading for the soft moss outside the trapdoor at the bottom of the tree, nor that Geelong might actually win the flag this year, and not even that Nathan Buckley is nearing completion of his master plan to dismember one of the greatest teams in modern football. No! IT’S THAT THE TIGERS ARE 4-0.
Like every Richmond fan, I’ve spent the past 48 hours scouring the internet for anyone prepared to say we’re a premiership threat and mashing the LIKE button. I was hoping Squiggle would deliver for me here, but no, it’s still pretty tepid on the Tigers. It is tipping them to make finals for the first time, but only just, and it thinks the next month promises a return to reality, with a series of tough games.
So obviously Squiggle has SERIOUS FLAWS.
Actually, it’s for two reasons. Firstly, Squiggle doesn’t think teams get a lot better or worse in a hurry. It’s pretty conservative in this regard, because historically, teams really don’t get a lot better or worse in a hurry very often. As shocking as it is to see Hawthorn suddenly coughing up consecutive 86-point defeats, this is a team that started exhibiting symptoms of the same disease that claimed Fremantle the year before: pinching a bunch of close games and tailing off into the finals. In 2015 I wrote that Fremantle were the luckiest minor premier ever; in 2016 I wrote that in a fair universe, Hawthorn would have finished 6th, not 3rd. Most of the time, just like when Joe visits the Land of Toys and is turned into a clockwork clown, teams start hinting at what they’re becoming before they actually become it.
And the Tigers were pretty bad last year, finishing 13th with 8 wins, a percentage of 79.5, and no excuses like terrible injuries or a run of close losses. They were just bad. Admittedly, they made finals three years in a row before that, but in the worst possible way you can make finals three years in a row: the way where you don’t win any. This isn’t a premiership contender bouncing back from one dud season.
Secondly, while the Tigers have outperformed Squiggle expectations in all four matches, they’ve only done so by a few goals each time. You can move rapidly on Squiggle if you deliver (or receive) an unexpected thrashing, but the Tigers haven’t done that. They’ve just been a bit better.
So Richmond is rated a middle-ish team with four wins in the bank. Like North Melbourne last year, that looks like a club that will make finals, but not do much more. So, you know, Richmond 2013-15.
And that means that, like last year, there’s a gap between the best seven (Adelaide, GWS, Geelong, Bulldogs, West Coast, Port Adelaide, Sydney) and the rest. Just as the Tigers haven’t risen far because they’ve haven’t delivered a thrashing, Sydney haven’t fallen far because they haven’t received one. So while the Swans’ 0-4 start has virtually destroyed their hopes of a Top 4 finish, they’re probably still a very good team.
Geelong is this week’s big winner, by opening up their Top 2 chances. This is a lot more graphic in Tower of Power form:
Especially if you imagine a little regurge sound. Or produce one involuntarily. Of course, it’s possible that Hawthorn is going full Fremantle 2016 and the Cats aren’t that great; the Hawks are just that bad. After all, even Gold Coast can beat the Hawks by 86 points. But 134-48 is still impressive, particularly the 48 part, where they restrict an opposition to six goals.
It was a bad week for Brisbane, who look increasingly lonely as most of last year’s bottom 6 show improvement (Richmond, Fremantle, Gold Coast, Essendon). I mean, not Hawthorn-bad. Relative to Hawthorn, Brisbane’s week was like visiting the Land of Birthdays, where you get a wish granted with every slice of cake you eat. But still not great.