The football we have witnessed since the resumption is different to that of last year or even round one. The assumptions we make about teams after three or four rounds in other seasons cannot be made this year, because there is so much disparity of experience.
The three-month lay-off has had varied consequences for players and teams. Some players are not as fit or lack touch, while some teams are struggling to find rhythm and connection in their games.
Oddly, the reigning premier is chief among such sides. The Tigers have suffered without the continuity of connection in training and play.
The impact of crowd-free venues – or tiny crowds – cannot be lightly dismissed. Geelong, for instance, would probably have got over the line against Carlton with a crowd behind them (though admittedly with a crowd the game probably wouldn’t have been in Geelong).
The fact that broadcasts are running crowd noise under games quickly deceives the viewer into believing a level of normality about what is happening at the ground.
The shorter quarters are having a profound impact on games. They were a novelty at first, but they have settled into an uncomfortable cadence.
The Bulldogs on Friday and then Collingwood on Saturday continued the trend of teams who take an early break then appear to gear down and defensively play out for the siren.
This is the season of unfairness, which is only fair in a year of misery.
It is unfair to Essendon that they will potentially have to play without nine of their players who are sent to quarantine.
It is unfair on eight of them that they must be quarantined because one of them contracted COVID-19.
It is unfair on Melbourne that they did not play yesterday because one of the opposition players tested positive.
It would be unfair on Carlton if their next match was cancelled because it had been deemed unfair that Essendon should play without (potentially) a chunk of players.
It is desperately unfair that the Eagles, Dockers, Crows and Power must cross the country for a month to play games while Victorian players barely cross a suburb.
It is unfair to fans to pay memberships to attend games they are not allowed to attend.
It is unfair – and plainly stupid – to tell players they can wrap an opponent up in a tackle but cannot high-five each other.
It is unfair that a broadcaster pays hundreds of millions of dollars for games it cannot show.
It is unfair that this abbreviated, crowdless and soulless season is all we have. It is unfair that I still like it.
It is unfair that the people who are trying to piece together a season are condemned for not getting it right.
It is just all so unfair.
But not nearly as unfair as getting a virus because we all behaved like the virus was something that happened only in other countries
Conor McKenna has admitted he went to a house inspection last week as the lease on his house was coming up and he and his brother needed a new place to live.
Attending an inspection was OK under AFL rules if you were selling a house but nothing was said about renting. One reading of the rules would say if only one reason for attending an inspection was specified then other reasons for attending inspections were not acceptable. Another reading would say that logically if you can go to an inspection to sell you should also have been OK to go to buy or rent.
Ordinarily the red-light principle would see McKenna suffer a heavier penalty than other players who have been suspended already this year: run a red light and get caught by a speed camera and you get a fine, run a red light and hit a pedestrian you go to jail.
But did McKenna run a red light?
CRUEL FOR CATS
Geelong’s inability to win consecutive games is not a freaky COVID-based phenomenon. Geelong looked like premiers last week, then like … Geelong this week.
Chris Scott accepted with refreshing candour that this has been an issue plaguing the Cats for some time.
Mitch Duncan is instructive in this. There was not a better player on the ground in the last quarter, but he was drifting for the three quarters before that.
Part of Geelong’s improvement in the final term was with Ratugolea in the ruck. Stanley was great last week but inconsistency has plagued his career. Scott might consider Ratugolea as his ruck answer.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.