Only dust now the dust has settled?

So what remains of things now Essendon has been slapped with a velveteen mitten?

A Twitter feed filled with US Open results (#doitHewitt) and Liberal Party advertweets that  bemoan ALP evil of every kind but fail to offer the simple courtesy of a link to where it is on Ebay I might buy one of those wretched Indonesian fishing boats. 

Other than that I’ve got nuthin’.

And it’s kinda boring.

The Age’s investigative team of Baker and McKenzie are seemingly taking a break and the dogged Caro Wilson has turned her attention to finals. Patrick Smith still searches for outrage but now perhaps it’s the NRL’s turn to wear his wrath. For the Bombers, pugnacious gold-tooth Chairman Paul Little probably can’t believe his luck at being allowed to dodge a bullet. Down at the Herald Sun Mark Robinson can probably ease off on the heart medication for a bit (a good thing) now his Bombers have been dealt their hand. I do carry with me an indelible image of self-appointed Essendon spokesperson Mark McVeigh scratching his head as he reads Vitamin bottle labels while Matthew Lloyd sucks his thumb in a corner. Only really Brendon Goddard, the newest Bomber – to many still a Saint (and even moreso if one was to consider the term literally against the shady backdrop of the club he moved to) – has offered any real post-fact insight. That was anger and disappointment. In other words little has changed for BJ. His career hallmarks remain intact.

Yep. That ol’ scandal’s gone and disappeared awfully quiet and awfully quick.

Questions do remain of course.

ASADA still probes for evidence of banned substance use that has long been hidden or lost if it ever existed at all. Danks still floats about like a ghostly black cloud. L. Ron Hubbard James Hird sits tight until the Church of Scientology Essendon Football Club starts paying off his Toorak manor once more. Bomber Thompson pulls strange faces at weird moments. Meanwhile Doc Reid dips into his super to avoid doctorly deregistration by battling on in the Supreme Court.

But despite all this we are still left with a kind of void now the AFL guillotine has finally fallen.

I must confess to a certain voyeuristic rapture throughout the whole tawdry episode. I wasn’t alone.

At first it arose out of disdain.

Essendon’s willingness to wriggle either side of the accusatory finger during the entire brouhaha compounded the ill-feeling. The fanboys/girls in the mainstream media who chose a jumper over plausible counter-argument grated. There were personal historical reasons, too. A vile hostility in their section of the outer in particular. One doesn’t readily forget one’s wife being spat on for no reason other than a willingness to quietly applaud a Tony Lockett goal at the SCG way back when. One also doesn’t forget the sanctimonious leer of the Essendonian employers one had the misfortune of working for over the journey (Toorakians, Prahranians, Malvernians and Elwoodians if truth be known – the coterie kind of Bomber we’ve been hearing about). But mine are quiet, irrelevant biases. Especially now.

The Bombers will always have those flags and a rich and proud history, but fact is 2013 mud will stick forever. Essendon will always be THAT club, the one with an asterisk aside it’s name.

How the mighty fall.

So what’s left in the wake of all that muck?

A final eight of two distinct halves is what.

At the important end the Hawks, Geelong, Fremantle and the Swannies are a cut above.

Below them the Blues sneak in at the expense of the Dons, Richmond fans finally have their chance to roar (oh the irony of them making the finals in a year when ninth would have been good enough after all!), Kenny Hinkley’s revitalised Port Adelaide add an element of feelgood and Collingwood consider one more campaign before – perhaps inevitably – they go the way of St Kilda, West Coast and the Crows.

Hang on. Hold the presses.

How on earth DIDN’T the skilful, slick and exciting North Melbourne win themselves a finals berth?

Five losses by less than a kick, that’s how.

It’s almost as if you have to check the ladder to convince yourself they WON’T be there this September. One of the more intriguing battles of season 2014 will be the one between the Roos’ ears.

But developing the energy required for next season after the horrors of one wasted won’t be left entirely for the Kangas.

Hell, I can barely even feign outrage at the Cats being handed a final at Kardinia and if I was any semblance of the football man I once was I’d be howling blue murder.

Nup. Essendon has pretty much entirely sapped me of chutzpah this time around.

So as the dust settles on one of the most awful footballing years ever, all I’m seeing is, well, dust.

I’m guessing I’m not alone in hoping for a little September football magic.

Still, in the total oddness that was season 2013 I have managed to nonchanlantly list a few memorable moments. Even when it’s horrible our game’s full of highlights. That’s why broadcasters pay what they do.

1. Ash McGrath splits ’em after the bell v Geelong at the Gabba. The passage of play that led to McGrath’s last ditch shot was as good as football can be – desperate, precise, constant motion. That he nailed the kick from outside fifty after the siren with a tired right leg was impressive enough. That his drop punt offered the last six of a 52 point turnaround was freakin’ amazing. Moreover, that McGrath iced the cake in his 200th game was something truly wonderful.

2. The rise of Richmond. They play a terrific game the Tigers. They’re fast and they’re exciting and they have a spearhead called TYRONE for whom the crowd rises as he throws upwards at the ball and that counts for plenty I reckon. It helps that Tigers fans roar like no other, too. Gutteral. Primal. Intoxicating. I couldn’t be more delighted to see the yellow and black brigade get their chance this year. It’s been a long wait. I’ll be yelling for ’em.

3. Rd 19 Port v Crows. Chad Wingard put the Power in front with a minute to play, but the game will be remembered for one extraordinary Angus Monfries bounce that led to a goal. Outside fifty, his team down but surging, he went right, then left, got around his man and kicked long. The ball pitched near the left behind post but jagged right and somehow dribbled through. Included because football should be both unpredictable, romantic and because, for added drama, it all occurred in a Showdown. And because – at least in a sense – it proved my Saints were bloody unlucky in 2010.

4. Ken Hinkley. A perennial Assistant, he’d been courted by any number of clubs over his career but never quite got the nod for a senior role. He could have just about tossed in the towel when Scott Watters pipped him for the Saints’ job, but instead he jumped on what many thought was basket case in Port Adelaide. He took the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and ran with it. Hats off for Kenneth. Fine job done. One for the good guys. Coach of the Year for mine. 

5. Rd 23 St Kilda v Fremantle. Farewell Kozi, Blakey and Milney. How a retirement game should be. A kind of Harlem Globetrotters event to ice a long year. Sure it had the benefit of being totally meaningless in terms of the final ladder, but this was a joyous celebration of three blokes who have given their all for their sport. Even the finals bound Freo players were smiling as the Saints won a training drill handsomely. Pity the goal review umpire didn’t share the same sense of theatre by allowing Kozi’s last quarter shot the all clear despite it shaving the post. Ah well. At least the other two retirees snagged majors.

6. Geelong. The bubble will burst eventually, but for now lets just celebrate how freakishly good the Sleepy Hollow Footy Factory has become. Still a joy to watch.

7. Gary Ablett. Save us the boredom of count night. Give him the bloody Brownlow now. The best player in the competition by some margin. Will he win a flag with the Suns? Two years? Maybe three more? I hope so. He’s been incredible.

8. Rd 22 Essendon v Carlton. Because Essendon were buried under the weight of self-inflicted doom, could have thrown in the towel, but didn’t. Also because Carlton needed to win, should have won, but couldn’t. But mostly because Bomber David Zaharakis, apparently afraid of needles, was the only Essendon player NOT pincushioned during the club’s supplements program, and he managed to kick the winning six-pointer. THAT, my friends, is totally awesome.

9. Jaeger O’Meara is Gary Koutoufides. Or Anthony Ablett. Take your pick. The bloke is a  football machine. Look out 2014.

10. Jack Steven. Sure I’m biased, but this is my blogpost. Fact is when you watch your own rebuilding team struggle each week it is encouraging to see a young bloke bust his gut in a quest to improve. Steven is like an electric shock on-field. May not snag a B and F this year, but it’ll be hard to deny him in years to come. He’s from Lorne, you know.

About mattwebberwrites

I write about sport and other things. I'm a dad and a husband. I regularly do the broadcast thing on 91.7 ABC Gold Coast. I like weird guitars and wacky fuzz pedals. My tweet to follower ratio is poor, but improving. The St Kilda Football Club is my seductress. She kills me daily. Surfing helps.
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