If five straight days of footy isn’t the right way to spend your long weekend, I don’t know what is. To wrap it up, here’s my quick takes from the round.
Where have Hawthorn’s heros gone?
I mean sure, we know where Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis are, but there are a lot of Hawthorn players who despite getting named every week have been hardly heard from.
If a smashing from Gold Coast last week merited no better response than another uncompetitive performance against Geelong on Easter Monday it has to be asked who is offering leadership at the Hawks.
Jarryd Roughead’s fairytale captaincy has turned into an absolute nightmare and too many blokes who we thought were elite seem to have fit more in the “looks good in a good team” category.
The Hawks are riding the bumps at the moment but there’s no grinning involved, and it’s becoming hard to guess where something to lift this team could possibly come from.
Good Friday footy is here to stay
How did it take the AFL 25 years to be convinced that a day everyone in the country has off (or ostensibly should) might be a good day to put a footy match one?
The atmosphere at Etihad Stadium for the first of what will hopefully be many clashes between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs was as good or better than any game I have attended there.
There’s no doubt that Good Friday footy is an absolute must going forward, the only question being how it should continue to be formatted.
I don’t mind the idea of changing it up a bit, but only if we also agree to change up ANZAC Day, Easter Monday, the season opener, et cetera et cetera. And we all know that won’t happen.
If the AFL allows big clubs to keep annual marquee matches but forces North and the Dogs to shuffle on after one year it’ll be just another sign that there are different rules at league HQ for clubs depending on how much money they make.
I wouldn’t be a fan of adding another game to the day either, the blockbuster concept will only work if it remains standalone. But make it a night game, not a twilight fixture, going forward.
Also, a massive hand has to be given to both clubs for the effort they made to get behind the fundraising aspect of the fixture and remind us all of how important it is for footy to give back to the community.
Did clubs miss the boat on Tom Rockliff?
Tom Rockliff had a look at his options last off-season and there never really seemed to be anyone too keen – seemingly for lack of any better option to take, he decided to stick with Brisbane.
33 disposals, 21 contested possessions, 15 clearances and 11 tackles, at 80+ per cent disposal efficiency – those were Rocky’s numbers on the weekend, and gee there’s a few clubs who could use that.
Instead now though you’d think with Rockliff being named the vice-captain at the Lions and seeming to have found his best form again he will probably reject free agency and re-sign with the club he has always played with passion for.
17 other AFL clubs should be red-faced over this one. They’ve missed a big fish.
The Pies need a lot Moore from Darcy
There was a fair bit of chatter on Friday when final teams for Sunday were revealed and it was shown that No.1 pick Patrick McCartin didn’t make the cut for St Kilda.
However that’s more a sign of the good forward options the Saints have outside McCartin than it is any kind of damning indicment of his career to this stage.
There’s no need to play him when he’s out of form or try to force his development, and instead they can do the best thing for him which is to send him to the lower level and let him build confidence.
Not so Collingwood, who have tied the future of their forward line to Darcy Moore and only Darcy Moore, who so far has had no impact to speak of on the 2017 season.
In four matches he has kicked a single goal and laid just four tackles. In a side that had anything remotely resembling forward-line depth, he would be playing VFL.
That’s not meant to be a criticism of Darcy, though, he’s a third-year player who is being asked to be the big guy in a forward line that wants to play finals, which is ludicrous.
It’s a hugely unrealistic amount of pressure to put on a player who has shown flashes of talent but only that so far in his career, and the longterm effects on his development may be catastrophic.
Fremantle have flicked the switch
Writing off Fremantle briefly became the national pastime after their horror Round 2 loss to Port Adelaide and I can’t pretend I thought any differently to the majority of pundits.
However, the Dockers deserve a boatload of credit for the way they have responded over the past two weeks, with a thriller win over Melbourne on Saturday telling us that last week was not a one-game wonder.
Lachie Neale played arguably the best game of an already excellent career, and David Mundy has fired back into his best form over the last fortnight. Cam McCarthy needs to work on his accuracy but kicked the winning goal, so no complaints.
How long will it last? Only time will tell, but Dockers fans have good reason to be smiling.
The only downer for them on the weekend was the unfortunate news regarding Harley Bennell. Fingers crossed he gets the help he clearly needs, because he could be the difference for this team and it would be a shame to see his immense talent go to waste.
Bye-bye Brad? Tell ’em they’re dreaming
The bizarre third-man-up free kick paid to the Bulldogs on Good Friday wasn’t the strangest thing I saw all day, no, it was North Melbourne fans musing about sacking Brad Scott on Twitter after the match.
You must be kidding me right? The team fell just a few points short of beating the reigning premiers. If they had kicked one more goal fans would have been praising his name.
Any North fan who didn’t expect an 0-4 start to the year given it started with matches against the Eagles, Cats, Giants and Dogs was kidding themselves. Plenty of teams will lose to all four of those sides this year.
Yes, Brad is probably a bit too conservative with his choices at the selection table, and yes, North’s poor record in close matches under him will leave us all with Vietnam-style flashbacks for years to come.
But personally I am looking at this first four weeks as being well above expectations, even if it is disappointing not to have gotten any reward for the effort put in. Let the Roos play some teams closer to their level and the results will come.
Jack Darling needs a new role
It’s bizarre how Jack Darling, a player who kicked an outstanding 53 goals in just the second year of his career, is now bordering on superfluous at the West Coast Eagles.
To be fair, he did that in a year when Josh J Kennedy was absent due to an ACL injury, and hasn’t had the luxury of being the No.1 forward target since.
However, it’d be fair to say that ever since his iconic (for all the wrong reasons) dropped mark in the 2015 AFL Grand Final, Darling just hasn’t been the same.
With him missing as a late withdrawal on Thursday night and Jeremy McGovern sent forward, the Eagles seemed to function a lot better, and probably played their best game of the year to date.
What’s clear from that is that it is time they put more effort into trialling Darling in other parts of the ground – he played midfield as an underager and that’s the logical place to start.
The Eagles have enough forward talent, and the handy versatility of McGovern, that they can afford to experiment with Darling, and hopefully revitalise his career.
Fiorini should be the Rising Star fave
31 touches, six clearances and two goal assists – damn good numbers for a mature midfielder at the peak of his powers, ridiculous stuff from a kid playing his fourth AFL game.
Brayden Fiorini may not be a household name just yet, having been hidden away up on the Gold Coast, but you can expect him to be soon.
It’d be staggering if anyone else gets the nod as the Rising Star nominee this week and despite the Ken Sakata-led Sam Powell-Pepper fan club, he deserves to be the early favourite to take out the whole thing.
Quick shout out to Anthony Wingard, who loves Fiorni more than Fiorini’s parents do, and will tell me off on Twitter if I don’t mention him here.
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Jon Patton will be 2017’s most-improved
Jon Patton’s excellent form late in the 2016 season got him some regular mentions in my talking points and he gets another here after kicking a bag against Port Adelaide.
In what was a tight match until the last term, having a player like Patton who could present a difficult match-up for the Port Adelaide defence proved a winner.
It’s kind of a shame that the AFL doesn’t have an annual “most improved player” award because if it did I would be pretty confident that Patton can take it home this year.
That said, if Brandon Matera keeps up like he has over the last two weeks then he would be a very strong challenger as well.