Wake us when the AFL finals begin. But will the teams be ready to go from the bounce this week?
Somewhere amid the frivolity of the EJ Whitten Legends game, the fan consensus became largely evident – footy going dark for a week before the decisive part of the season has not been well-received. And with the finals now upon us, we’ll soon find out if the teams feel the same way.
There’s a built-in excuse for any finals teams this week that suffers an unusually slow first quarter. What was once attributed to a case of postseason jitters can now be blamed on a fortnight of inaction. The bye-week rust made us (not) do it.
The effects of the week off came to mind after reading the recollections of Mark Harvey in the recent edition of Inside Sport. Harvey, the former Fremantle coach and Essendon triple premiership player, was looking back at the 1990 season, when the Bombers had finished the home-and-away as minor premiers.
Back in the day, the privilege of finishing top in the five-team finals was to earn a bye week. But the events of the ’90s finals threw a real curveball – Collingwood and West Coast played a draw, which led to replay a week later.
Crucially, it kept Essendon on the shelf for another week. Kevin Sheedy’s team lost its first final, against the Magpies, and while it bounced back to make it to the grand, they again lost to Collingwood.
Harvey said the time off had undoubtedly hurt his team. “It’s not too dissimilar to having a bye during the season,” he said. “Your touch can be off, you start to make mistake you don’t normally make, and then the opposition pounces.”
If it’s any consolation, at least every team starts from the same back-to-work state. And for those who would complain, it won’t help much – the bye is set to be retained for 2017.