Round 23 becomes a climax in so many ways and almost a contradiction. After all, what do clubs who have no hope of making finals want to play for?
Pride is an interesting concept, nobody wants to go out onto a footy ground and be shown up, but collectively what do those clubs have to gain? Tell that to Luke Hodge who was still barking orders with 5 minutes to go in his last game or Nick Riewoldt. Clubs are sending their champions off better and better every year. Essendon had to scrap and scrape for every goal against Fremantle who were never going to have another 100 point thrashing.
On the eve of the 2017 finals series, we know the teams and the venues all we need to know now are the umpires.
The pale blue uniforms worn by the umpires over the weekend has set the tongues of some commentators wagging. “I can’t tell the difference between umpires and Bulldogs players,” said one radio personality. What did we ever do in the days of black and white TV when the pies played North Melbourne in the sticky wet conditions of Arden street?
Injury beset Dan Field-Read on Thursday night with a hamstring making him pull out of the Sydney v Carlton game handing first year boundary umpire Michael Baker his 20th game in his first season.
Dean Margetts got through his second game in a week while still hampered by his tight hamstring. The last official AFL match was played at Subiaco. When the 2018 season returns I am sure that there will be plenty of jockeying for umpire spots for the first game at the still unnamed new sports stadium in Perth.
It was good to see boundary umpire Ryan Kukura back in the WA line up. He has had a wretched run with injuries this season and was only umpiring his 9th game of the season. Ryan like a number of our umpires hasn’t had a good run at things this year. Brent Wallace, 5 games, Ian Burrows, 4 games, Adam Coote, 11 games. Sean Burton did 14 games but missed the last 6 weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. Doctors have indicated he is ready to resume walking this week. Luke Farmer unfortunately did not umpire a game in 2017.
At the other end of the scale first year field umpire Nathan Williamson umpired 22 of the 23 rounds and first year Melbourne boundary Ben MacDonald also featured in 22 of the 23 rounds, while NSW boundary umpire Michael Baker umpired in 20 of the 23 rounds.
One hundred and thirteen umpires started the season. By Tuesday evening there will only be the top 40 still in contention. All the best to everyone in finals selections.