Garry Lyon Who can be lucky losers?

I have no idea whether Essendon will compete in this year’s finals series. Which is a staggering thing to say, given there are just three games remaining in the 2013 season.
Nanjing Night Net

But while there is a possibility that the sanctions handed down to the Bombers, in the wake of the charges laid this week, will include the loss of premiership points, there is the reality that, for the first time, nine may indeed go into eight.

And yes, those clubs that are sitting outside the top eight at the moment would only be participating in September by default, but, so what? These are unprecedented circumstances that we are dealing with, and if you think that the coaches and players of Carlton, West Coast, North Melbourne and Adelaide are going to feel bad about replacing Essendon, if that’s how the cards fall, then you are sadly mistaken.

Or, you should be, if your club has the ruthless, “never give a sucker an even break” mentality that premiership clubs are defined by. There is the possibility, in the next fortnight, that one of these clubs is going to be handed the golden ticket that has a coveted second chance at finals success attached to it.

And there is only one way that fortunate club can approach this situation. And that is to greedily embrace the twist of fate that delivers it to football’s promised land.

There is no time to dwell on the regretful circumstances that have dominated this season from start to finish.

The fact is, while none of the Blues, Eagles, Kangaroos or Crows have played consistently enough, or been able to convert match-winning leads into victories to qualify for this year’s finals series, they may very well arrive there by default.

And if they do, it is clearly the Kangaroos and the Eagles that the team that occupies fifth position on the ladder, would least like to confront.

Brad Scott has already publicly embraced the possibility of good fortune shining down on his team and would relish the opportunity to salvage something from a what-could-have-been season for his side.

Just maybe it can, in the space of a couple of weeks of finals football, turn that year into something truly memorable.

No side would relish the prospect of taking on a Kangaroos side that has been freshly handed a reprieve.

What they would encounter is a side that has a nothing-to-lose mentality, and one that should be encouraged to play with a freedom and an attacking mentality that, when executed properly, is as difficult to defy as most football played this season.

Just ask Richmond, which suffered its biggest loss for the season at the hands of the Roos just six weeks ago. It was virtually powerless to stop North’s blistering counter-attack football and succumbed to the tune of 62 points in round 15 at Etihad Stadium.

That was the Roos at their best. Big forwards Robbie Tarrant and Aaron Black hit the scoreboard; their defence kept Jack Riewoldt and Tyrone Vickery under control and their midfield group took the honours over the highly rated Tiger group.

And then, two weeks ago, they inflicted Geelong’s fourth loss of the year at the same venue, with the class acts of Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells leading the way.

On this occasion, they were challenged by a side that, admirably and rightfully arrogantly, thinks it is its right to win any sort of a dogfight, on any occasion, against any opposition.

But not this time, with the Roos unloading a monkey off their back, hanging on to a lead that they had worked hard to maintain all night.

North Melbourne would be a terribly dangerous wildcard in the event a replacement was needed for the Bombers.

The consensus among its opposition is that it is a very dangerous attacking outfit, one of the very best in the league, but there are question marks over its ability to work both ways and to add that defensive steel that most successful finals outfits possess.

I’m not sure they would be too comfortable putting that theory to the test in the first week of September.

The other side that would put shivers down the other seven sides in the eight would be the Eagles. Not, it has to be pointed out, on their output this season. They boast only a single victory over a top eight side, against the Bombers last weekend.

Their other eight wins have come against bottom 10 sides. But it is that dreaded word, “potential”, that would have sides looking over their shoulders.

A couple of weeks ago I was of the opinion that the Eagles’ season was over.

They went down to the Dockers in the derby and then the Swans the following week.

Nic Naitanui was finally rested against the Western Bulldogs, Darren Glass didn’t play, due to “soreness”, players like Cale Morton and Scott Lycett were given a chance, and when they went down by 22 points it appeared that the Eagles were done and dusted.

Add to that the speculation that John Worsfold might not have had the drive to carry on and the hot pre-season premiership favourites looked likely to limp to the line and, unbelievably, miss out on the finals.

A couple of weeks can be a long time in football. Woosha looks set to re-sign for another couple of years, Glass, Mark LeCras, Matty Priddis and Chris Masten have all come back into the side, Dean Cox has turned the clock back with a couple of vintage performances and now the whispers are that big Nic Nat may not be done for the year after all.

And, pointedly, Cox publicly declared that the Eagles would have no qualms about stepping in for the Bombers should the need arise, and that they would jump at the chance to do some damage in September.

As is increasingly the case, it’s the sides that are playing their best football at the right time of the year who prove the most formidable. It would be stretching the point to suggest that the Eagles, on the back of successive wins over the Suns and the Bombers, are back to their imposing best, but the prospect remains.

With Cox, Jack Darling, Priddis, Masten, LeCras, Josh Kennedy, Andrew Gaff, Sharrod Wellingham and Scott Selwood playing some of their best football of the year, they loom as one of the most dangerous eighth-qualified team of recent years.

Of course, this could all be speculation, if this Essendon saga finds its way into the courts.

But I think it’s one of the most fascinating, potential fallouts of this whole mess if, say, the Eagles or the Roos were able to win their way through until preliminary final week, on the back of a team losing all of their premiership points for the first time in history.

With the sort of year we’ve had, you wouldn’t bet against it.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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