Just six clubs remain in the race for the 2022 AFL premiership.
It has been a season felt from above after the most unsettling two years, when nothing seemed certain and the game sat somewhat idle, waiting for a return to its spiritual home and an emergence from the ashes.
Each of the teams left has a chance and a claim for premiership glory, but two will fall this weekend. Yet five clubs have at least one man well deserving of victory on the 24th of September: a victory that could bring a few folk to tears.
Deserving things in sport is something of a fallacy. Success is won and not merely granted based on longevity or effort.
However, if any player deserved a little luck after treading the most problematic and challenging football path, it is Sydney’s Paddy McCartin.
Once as good as they came and selected as a number one draft pick back in 2014, the living yell of head trauma plagued the now 26-year-old for much of his early career.
Blessed with a positional move down back and an opportunistic chance with Sydney, few could resist a smile should the former Saint earn a premiership medal, after all he has been through.
Now 32 and in his seventh season with the Cats, there are few more broadly respected players in the AFL than Patrick Dangerfield.
While Joel Selwood remains the warrior and beating heart of the most consistent modern team in Geelong, Dangerfield lives each day without the greatest prize in the game: a premiership medal of his own.
It is hard to think of anything more fitting than seeing the 300-gamer win on the biggest stage before calling time on his stunning career, with a flag something he has already publicly admitted he will not feel fulfilled without achieving.
Anyone not moved by David Mundy departing the AFL in a Fremantle ship-winning team is nothing but a cold-hearted and emotionally premier bereft human being.
Another player universally appreciated and respected, Mundy’s 19 seasons, 375 games and numerous accolades make him, at 37, something of a throwback to the generation just past. It might be a little tough to see the Dockers winning it all right now – yet scenes of Mundy in the throes of premiership celebrations are encouraging ones of which to dream, even if you don’t bleed purple.
Twelve years into an AFL career that saw him switch from the Demons to the Pies in search of success, Jeremy Howe remains one of the purest and most dynamic marks in the competition.
The 32-year-old continues to amaze with fearless feats of athleticism that defy the 217 games he has compiled across his long career.
After two interrupted seasons at Collingwood, Howe has returned to somewhere near his best form in 2022. I for one will stand and applaud should he finally get his hands on the thing he has coveted most since debuting with the Demons in 2011.
Whilst we can all dream of playing football like Lance Franklin, Christian Petracca or Patrick Cripps, the reality is that, if given the chance, we probably would have played more like Brisbane Lions veteran Mitch Robinson.
Not blessed with the dexterity, skill or raw talent of many the players against whom he lines up against each week, Robinson relies on the most fundamental of tools in order to succeed well into his thirties: heart and soul.
Robinson appears to just try that little bit harder than most around him. There always seems to be an extra effort, a more desperate attempt and at times, that has seen him get things horribly wrong.
He has been judged accordingly for those moments, yet the Tasmanian-born Robinson plays the game with an honesty and application that automatically places him on the edge. That he is now on the fringes of the team to which he has poured so much of himself into, dropped for Friday’s semi final, would only make the story more remarkable should he be part of a flag-winning team – even as the medical sub .
With the Demons on the hunt for repeat premierships, it is hard to see any equally moving or emotional storylines that would play out if they manage it. However, the other five clubs in the running have men that few would begrudge their day in the sun.
Without a horse of my own in the race to support, I’ll be hoping one of the men mentioned above get their moment. All five deserve it.
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