Respect to the retirees, but the silly season starts way too soon

The final round of the 2016 home-and-away season has just started, and yet player movement is taking over footy discussion.

With the Kangaroo cull, retirements galore, and a sneaky Jaeger O’Meara trade request, attention is far from the final exciting and influential round of footy.

The North Melbourne situation definitely threw a spanner in the works. It was bizarre to say the least, and most are probably more inclined to judge it as unfair. And rightly so.

But if there’s one thing for certain in football, it’s to expect the unexpected. The AFL’s games record holder being forced out of the club he’s dedicated his career to? Even while still playing reasonable footy? It was so out of the blue that we almost should have seen it coming.

But excluding North’s attention-grabbing actions, the other retirements are understandable.

This week marks the last game of the season for half the competition, and announcing retirements before the year finishes allows fans – and the clubs themselves – to honour the players who have meant so much to them.

That has to be the best part of the final round. While it is sad, and sometimes unexpected, being able to send off some of the greats, and not-so-greats, of the game is what footy’s about.

But in saying that, while the sentimental side of the AFL is great, there are still games to be played. We definitely need to put a greater focus on the matches themselves.

After all, this year could be one of the most compelling finals series we’ve seen in a long time. Most of the top eight could win the premiership if they play at their best – a club could even come from outside the top four to win the final game.

But undoubtedly, top four is still a priority for those in contention. Just because history could be broken doesn’t mean you want to tempt fate.

And with the top four still open to change, the snakes and ladders of the 2016 season is bound to continue for the last week. Unexpected losses could have a drastic effect on what finals are played where, and who plays against who.

So yes, we should all be excited for the off season. It can be fantastic, and often disheartening, to see what plans your club has in store for the next season.

But the silly season is still a few weeks off. So let’s put the trade discussion to the side, and instead shift focus to the pointy end of the season.

(First published on The Roar on August 27th 2016)

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