i>Steve Butler, thewest.com.au's man in Melbourne, provides the AFL scuttlebutt being kicked around the national competition.
Catch Butler's Bouncedown on Today Tonight, 6.30pm tonight.
In just over a week’s time, Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich and Hawthorn inspiration Luke Hodge may well be leading their teams into battle against each other for a place in the grand final.
But if there was any angst between them at this point in time, you wouldn’t have known when Hodge leapt to the star Docker’s defence in a little exchange this week with Nova 100’s Hughesy & Kate.
Hughesy, better known as comedian Dave Hughes, claimed that former West Coast heartthrob Ben Cousins had often been annoyed by Pavlich. Hughes claimed it was because of the latter’s "big ego".
But Hodge would not have a bar of it.
"That’s (just) the old West Coast-Freo I think," Hodge retorted.
"Every time I’ve spoken to Pav, he’s been nice. He seems like a pretty easy-going bloke."
But Hodge did admit that Pavlich’s cerebral ascendancy meant he did not always click with his footballing peers.
"I reckon he’s a very educated man and when he speaks, a lot of footballers don’t understand what he says," he said.
Hodge went on to suggest the Hawks would be wary of a preliminary clash with the in-form Fremantle under coach Ross Lyon.
"Freo were outstanding and they’ve been building as the season has gone on," he said.
"With the new coach coming in they were a bit inconsistent early on, but I think they’ve won 11 of their last 12 games so they’ve been in some great nick going into the finals.
"They’re a good, young side and they’ve got a good defence with Ross Lyon going over there."
Collingwood defender Chris Tarrant seemed like he was a man prepared now to see every game as if it was his last as he played his role last Friday night in the battle of the big bulls against Hawthorn’s Lance Franklin.
And it could well be his last game this Saturday night against West Coast at the MCG after recently announcing he would retire at the end of the season.
Tarrant, who was remodelled as a defender under Mark Harvey in a four-year stint at Fremantle, was relaxed and confident when speaking to WTBH after a Melbourne training session on Wednesday.
His teammate Scott Pendlebury had earlier denied 'Taz' had been entertaining any thoughts of the semifinal against the Eagles being his last match.
"Not at all, he’s really focused," Pendlebury said.
"As soon as you start thinking it’s your last game, it probably is. So he’s really focused, he’ll prepare well and it will be good to see him back out there in action."
Pendlebury was also comfortable that hiss old mentor Mick Malthouse would soon be devising strategies at Carlton to stop his midfield influence.
"I’m happy for him," he said when asked by a member of assembled media how his former mentor looked in blue.
"His return to coaching, he definitely looks ready to go and it's good to see him revving up you guys a bit as well."
Malthouse had made a characteristic fiery public return to the game on Tuesday, snapping at journalists who dared question his integrity over when he signed with the Blues.
Soon after being officially named Carlton coach, Malthouse told WTBH that moving to his sixth VFL/AFL club had caused some family issues.
While he had their full support, they had often been torn on who to support.
"I’ve scarred a lot of our family members during my football life," he said.
"When I played for Richmond, (wife) Nanette’s nephew barracked for the Tigers. When I first coached Footscray, (late brother-in-law) Raymond’s kids barracked for the Bulldogs.
"When I went to West Coast, a couple of them took to the Eagles. Then when I started at Collingwood, a son of Nanette’s niece went for the Pies.
"My grandson started this year roaring for the Tigers, but his favourite colour is blue and it’s fair to assume where his allegiance is going to go now."
The first player Malthouse met after his sign-on press conference at Carlton’s Visy Park headquarters was Dylan Buckley, the teenage son of club great Jim.
It was rumoured that Buckley Sr had once broken Malthouse’s jaw when playing against him. It was one Malthouse quickly denied.
Buckley Jr looked keen to make a good impression on his new boss, coming straight from the gymnasium with guns pumped.
Nat Fyfe is known in some circles as 'Avatar' because of his long-limbed likeness to the movie-screen characters of recent times.
But his parents’ household is currently functioning with the presence of a more real bush presence - a five-month-old baby kangaroo.
After the Dockers’ stirring win over Geelong at the MCG last Friday night, Fyfe’s father David - a Lake Grace truckie - revealed he had often been woken during recent nights with little thumps through the house.
There are few more apt nicknames in the AFL than 'Dogga' for Adelaide veteran Michael Doughty.
The 177cm Crow brings true meaning to the age-old football belief that it is not about the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. But how did the name come about?
The story as follows is from the man himself.
"It came through my last name initially," Doughty told WTBH this week ahead of tonight’s clash with Fremantle could be his last before retirement if Adelaide lose.
"One of my old coaches at Reynella called me ‘Dockers’ (ironically) and the next coach didn’t like it so he changed it to ‘Dogga’. He thought it was harder."
However, and now in his 13th and last season, Doughty admitted several teammates had recently taken to calling him ‘Fossil’.
MODRA’S FREO FANFARE
Former Fremantle high-flyer Tony Modra took a special interest in the performance of livewire Docker Michael Walters in the club’s groundbreaking win over Geelong last weekend.
"I played with his dad, Mick, at Loxton in country South Australia," Modra told The West Australian’s sports editor Craig Nitschke.
"His dad was a dynamic player who ended up playing league footy for Central District in the SANFL. Michael looks a lot like him and has his flair."
Modra was in the change rooms of his original club Adelaide last weekend prior to their loss to Sydney, and will be in there again tonight ahead of their clash with Fremantle.
He believes the Crows will have to lift after what he saw of the Dockers last Saturday, when they created history by claiming their first finals win at the MCG.
"Adelaide will have to sharpen up their game. The way that Fremantle played against Geelong they can beat any side,” said the man who soared to great heights, winning mark of the year three times, including one as a Docker.
“They deserve success. They have still got a pretty young list and blokes like Pav and Aaron Sandilands are in the twilight of their careers and would be very hungry for a flag. It wouldn't surprise me if they won one in the next two years."
Mods was also full of praise for coach Ross Lyon and his sidekick Peter Sumich.
“Their defensive pressure was unbelievable against Geelong. You can see what Ross Lyon has brought to the club. Pressure around the ball is what wins finals,” Modra said.
"But the way their forward line worked impressed me, too. I've always been a fan of Peter Sumich as a coach and I think it's great that he's at the Dockers now.
"He played for South Fremantle and coached South Fremantle, I'm big on having people like that at your club. And he has all that experience from such successful times at the Eagles as a player and a coach."