I am not a Melbourne supporter, but I have seen a lot more of their games than would most impartial footy followers. I like to watch games involving players that make me happy. Blokes like Gary Ablett, Steve Johnson, Jonathon Brown and Jimmy Bartel, for reasons entirely different in each case, make me want to turn on my TV and watch them do their thing.
In the case of Melbourne, I’ve been tuning in on a ridiculously consistent basis, often when the game being played at the same time on the other channel was of a much higher quality, in order to watch Jeremy Howe. Like most people, I love the specky, and no one has been doing it more regularly, spectacularly and with the same nonchalant ease as the new Jezza.
As a by-product of my desire to chase the art of the specky, I have seen a heap of horrible, terrible, miserable footy. The Dees, it must be said, haven’t been good. I’m a Richmond supporter, so I know bad footy when I see it, and the Dees have been coughing it up like they’ve been smoking 40 a day for 30 years.
Unfortunately, the very rigid terms by which Roos orchestrates his teams often restricts flair, and Howe has not soared to the heavens in 2014 like he previously has. Roos’ gamestyle is dour and combative, and not particularly exhilarating. That, combined with Howe’s diminishing aerial exploits, should see me switching off and finding something else to watch, but I think I’ll tune in to see another kid play next week.
Jack Viney, son of the hulking, bullocking Todd, may not be built like his father, but he is certainly made of the same stuff. I first noticed him a couple of years ago playing for Vic Metro in the Under 18 National Carnival. He was just a terrier who wanted the ball more than everyone else. Watching him last year and this year, a relatively small figure (178cm, 82kgs) in the land of the giants that is the AFL, it has struck me that he has continued to play in exactly the same manner.
In footy these days, you are constantly being asked to think. Often, it all reminds me of a great big game of chess, and the whole exercise is being played by two puppet masters up in the coaches boxes. The players, with all their talent and skill, are asked to be “role players” in order to stick to “the structures” and “the processes”.
When you listen to media folk speak, the message is often garbled footy jargon that is mostly incomprehensible and, when it is comprehensible, is pretty much a load of old rubbish. I hate feeling like I’m getting lessons in a classroom at school when I’m watching the footy, as footy was what I wanted to “play” when I was at school and hating it. I thank God, or Todd in this instance, for players like Jack Viney.
Viney wants the ball more than anyone else on the oval. I’m not sure whether it is a talent he has to be in the right place, or if he is just a determined little bugger that just happens to be in that right place by virtue of repeated effort and desire. Whatever it is, he is often there when the ball is there to be won and he is ferocious in his determination to win it.
I love players like Jack Viney because they make me feel first, and think second. I watched him on the weekend as his underdog side battled the Crows and won, and I barracked for him all the way. I wanted the Dees to win for some of my long suffering mates, for the Dees supporters in general, for the AFL, for my state, for Jimmy Stynes, and for that bloody lunatic of a bloke who attacks the ball like it’s the only thing that matters … Jack Viney.
In a lot of ways he reminds me of Michael Voss. He doesn’t have the physical presence of the great Lions champion, but he has that same level of passion and desire, the same love of the contest and desire to be physical with a bang when the ball is in close, and when the game needs to be won.
I can only imagine what it is like to play footy with someone like that. All I can say is, if it made me, an impartial spectator, want him to win, then it would be inspirational being out on the field with him. I wish he played for my team, and I’m sure that the Dees fans are loving what the great Father-Son rule has enabled them to have on their list.
For me, in this era of negative footy and saturation of concepts best left in the think tank, I am happy to tune in to see the young Viney fill his role with passion, desire and heart. He is a ball player, a fair player. I hope the absurd penalty handed down to him from the AFL Tribunal for the fair and reasonable action he committed on the field of play does not stop him from playing the game in the manner that comes naturally to him, and is so compelling to those that watch.
Like the death of the bump, the hampering of fair, hard, instinctive footballers from playing hard, fair and instinctively would be a great loss to us all.
Follow Greg Gibson on Twitter: @GregGibbo28