Nine quick takes from AFL Round 8

Josh Elliott Editor

By Josh Elliott, Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    Round 8 proved to be another ripping week of footy – history was made, magic happened, and the season at large if anything just continued to build intrigue. Here’s nine quick takes from the round that was.

    We’re in a golden age of footy
    Steve Johnson sneaking home a goal in the last minute? David Mundy kicking the winner after the siren? Clayton Oliver pulling goals out of his arse? The teams in bottom four pushing and sometimes even knocking off those at the top of the ladder? Just an average Saturday afternoon in 2017 AFL.

    Honestly, it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago we lived in a perpetual brown and gold mire where all football felt kind of futile because you knew Hawthorn were just going to bruise their way to another premiership no matter what happened in the first 198 games of the year.

    Maybe even a few Hawthorn fans would admit that the decline of the Hawks and the Swans this year has certainly made footy more exciting. Of the eight teams at the top of the ladder right now, only four have won a flag this millenium, and only one of them has saluted more than once.

    On top of that though there’s as genuine a belief as there has ever been that just about any team in the comp could beat any other team in the comp on any given day.

    Just take a look at the eight games fixtured next week – bar maybe Brisbane and Adelaide, they all look like potential thrillers, and even that one is at least mildly interesting.

    All in all, it’s a great time to be an AFL fan.

    David Mundy Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017
    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    If there’s a premiership favourite, I don’t know who they are
    Following on from that last point, a dramatic season full of upsets and intrigue has made it hard to tell who is leading the race to take home the cup.

    Two weeks ago I said the flag race was down to six teams: Adelaide, GWS, Richmond, Geelong, West Coast and the Bulldogs. In the fortnight since those six teams have won a combined four games. Three of them have lost both.

    When teams like St Kilda, Fremantle, Port Adelaide and Melbourne keep putting good wins on the board here and there – and none of the ‘top’ teams are consistent enough to build a gap on them – it’s fair to say there’s room for anyone to become the frontrunner.

    Those are ten teams none of whom I would be shocked to see finish in the top four at the end of the year. But at least two of them will miss finals!

    I asked Twitter who was the flag favourite on Saturday night and got at least half a dozen different answers, and only some of them tongue in cheek. We may already be a third of the way through the season, but it’s still wide open.

    Taylor Walker Adelaide Crows AFL 2016
    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    China gets a taste of boring footy
    The first match played for premiership points in China turned out to be fairly dull affair in the end with the highlights of the day being one ripper goal from Justin Westhoff and the music person briefly forgetting the difference between the Port Adelaide club song and Australia’s national anthem.

    Four goals fourteen behinds was horrendous work from Gold Coast in front of goal but even if they had run at perfect accuracy with their scoring shots they still would have lost by two points. Any new Chinese fans watching the match probably left confused about which posts do actually equate to a goal.

    I’m sure it was a nice all expenses paid international trip for the AFL executives on the junket tour but with a crowd that was made up largely of expats and travelling Australian fans the match felt largely like the AFL giving itself a large pat on the back while daily life in China continued unimpeded.

    It will be interesting to see if it goes ahead again next year given the bad blood that cropped up between the Suns and Power in the lead-up. Is any other club in the league going to be willing to sell a home game to Port for a 2018 game?

    We’ll find out later this year but if someone does, let’s hope the sides that go across put on a more entertaining affair than was had in Shanghai on Sunday.

    Gold Coast Suns AFL 2017
    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Cartlon are no easybeats
    Having already given a nod in general to those lower-ranked teams who are making things interesting, Carlton in particular deserve a significant thumbs up for not just having three wins to this point in the year but for keeping other teams honest.

    Bar a blowout loss on Friday night to Port Adelaide a few weeks ago where they played a team so young that most were probably too worried about their VCE results to concentrate, the matches they’ve lost they’ve still competed well and given their opponents a few worries.

    It’s clear that even if the talent is raw or just not there, the team is well coached to the point where they’re able to work well together and make a great defensive effort that keeps them in games longer than most opponents will expect.

    There’s a decent handful of teams in the top half of the ladder who could learn a few things from the defensive ethic that is becoming synonymous with Carlton at the moment. Fair to say if they keep this up they’ll do a lot better than my pre-season prediction of them winning the spoon.

    How will it all translate when the talent matures and the tide starts turning towards offensive footy? Only time will tell on that one, but for now Blues fans can hold their heads high going into games, knowing that more often than not their team will do them proud.

    Charlie Curnow Carlton Blues AFL 2017
    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Collingwood need at least one more Ben Reid
    Getting Collingwood’s forward line humming has been Nathan Buckley’s top priority for a few weeks now and his decision on Saturday to thrown Ben Reid forward had significant ramifications for the game.

    Reid only kicked the one game himself but still had a nice impact – Darcy Moore played with more freedom, and there were more even contest from the Pies’ medium and smaller types to work around.

    Even if Collingwood didn’t get the win, the decision paid dividends. Collingwood kicked 15.9, their first instance of kicking more goals than behinds in a game this year, and came within a goal of beating a flag contender on the road.

    However, at the opposite end of the ground Reid’s absence was telling. Try as they might, a Famous Arthur’s Daley Clearance House backline of Lynden Dunn and Henry Schade couldn’t stop Jeremy Cameron from kicking a match-winning bag of six goals.

    If there’s any club in the league that could afford to experiment around with human cloning it would be McGuire’s Magpies, but in the absence of that it’s clear that they need at least one more elite key position player in the side at one end or the other.

    Could that be Sam Reid – Ben’s brother – the Sydney free agent who they’re rumoured to be into for as much as $800,000 next year? Not sure he’s the answer – though he was in good form on Sunday, to be sure – but it’s definitely a “watch this space”.

    Ben Reid Collingwood Magpies AFL 2015 tall
    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Just call him Coleman Cameron
    Speaking of Jez Cameron’s big bag, you’d have to think that he is well in the mix for the Coleman Medal this year, if not the favourite.

    He came awfully close to winning it in just his second year in the comp but hasn’t been quite as close since – but the sleeping Giant has awakened, and he’s averaging a career high 3.5 goals per game this year so far.

    That’s not to say the medal couldn’t still belong to Josh J Kennedy or Lance Franklin – or Tom Hawkins, Jack Riewoldt or even Eddie Betts.

    Still, with Cameron taking a narrow lead at the end of this round, you’d have to like his chances of becoming the first Giant ever to win one of the AFL’s major individual awards.

    Brad, you’ve got to back in the kids
    As North Melbourne got smashed in the contested footy against Sydney on Sunday you could just feel Brad Scott’s trigger finger getting itchy to put former captain Andrew Swallow back in the team ahead of Round 9.

    The Roos had a bad day, and their effort was poor – definitely their worst of the year and disappointing in the extreme. To be fair, coming off an enormous game last week, it’s not that much of a surprise that they would have a downer.

    However the club cannot afford to have a knee jerk reaction to one bad week. The team has played its best footy when the coach backs in the kids, and pulling them out to play the old stagers because of one bad week would just rob them of all confidence.

    They’ve earnt over the two weeks before this one the right to be given a bit of time and space to turn it around. Brad, do what Brendon Bolton has done this year and back your young charges in – the future of this club belongs to them.

    North Melbourne coach Brad Scott
    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    Geelong are hovering on the edge of a wasted year
    Geelong have lost three games in a row in a season for the first time since 2006 if you can believe it, and it’s fair to say that not all is well at the Cattery at the moment.

    Geelong had -53 disposals on Saturday night against Essendon and if your opponent is getting that much more of the ball you should be winning the tackle count comfortably. Instead, Geelong were -41 there.

    They cop a fair bit of criticism for not winning when Selwood and Dangerfield aren’t getting it done – plenty of it coming from me – but while you can’t ask the other players to be more talented, you must demand they put in more effort.

    Really though it is hard to tell what the Cats want to be and their list management over recent years has been confusing to say the least.

    They’ve pushed out older players in order to make room for youngsters, but having traded away all their draft picks they don’t seem to really have many youngsters coming through to lift the team.

    While seeing Irish rookie Mark O’Connor make his debut for the Cats after only a short time in the game was a nice footy story, it does call to attention the Cats’ lack of depth inside their own best 22.

    At the same time watching a club champ James Kelly put in a good game on the opposite side of the field, and Steve Johnson kick a winner up in Western Sydney, you’d have to ask if a club that is looking to push for top four and a premiership made the right call letting them go.

    Is there the personnel on the list to turn this season around? Or are they just treading water and waiting for the potential return of Gary Ablett at the end of the year? If it’s the former, Friday night against the Dogs next week is the perfect time to show it.

    Joel Selwood Geelong Cats AFL 2017
    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Why not a country game… in the country?
    Just a short one here and this is a bit of an odd idea I know, but if the AFL is going to have an annual game celebrating the country, wouldn’t it make sense to play it somewhere other than right in the middle of Melbourne?

    I’m not necesarilly saying you have to build a 50,000 seat stadium in halfway across the Nullabor and play it there, but surely Kardinia Park at the very least would make a lot more sense given the Cats are regulars in the fixture.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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    The Crowd Says (156)

    • May 14th 2017 @ 7:50pm
      Darren said | May 14th 2017 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

      Northern Blues posting big wins with players performing consistently and unable to get into the senior team is also a good sign that Carlton has turned the corner.
      I went to the Port game and happy to see it was the exception to the norm.
      On a separate note I’m guessing the Boomtown Rats best of will get a solid workout in Richmond tonight.

      • May 14th 2017 @ 10:10pm
        Macca said | May 14th 2017 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

        Darren – you are dead right on the good signs coming out of the Northern blues, it is a great sign of increased depth which is a good precursor to better senior performances

    • May 14th 2017 @ 8:05pm
      Swannies said | May 14th 2017 @ 8:05pm | ! Report

      I think everyone in Sydney is getting excited about the Swans return to form. The most consistent team in the afl was never going to remain down the bottom for long and their class has risen to the surface again. Swans cruised to a comfortable victory against the Waite-less North without any real influence by Franklin…they are just going to get better and better as the season progresses. Hawks too have their season back on track and look finals bound again. Never write off the mighty bloods and Hawks!

      • May 14th 2017 @ 8:26pm
        Powerboy said | May 14th 2017 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

        ……..ya dreamin’, fella. You beat North Melbourne. Have a Bex and another lie down.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 7:00am
          Christo the Daddyo said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:00am | ! Report

          And the Roos had just thumped the Crows in Adelaide.

          I’m not saying the Swans will win the Flag, but they’ve definitely turned a corner. Saints will be their first proper test next week….

          • May 15th 2017 @ 9:25am
            Birdman said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

            Hobart is where the Roos beat Adelaide

          • May 15th 2017 @ 9:27am
            Perry Bridge said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

            North were ‘off’ from the start – which effectively allowed the Swans to take control – and the Swans took control and didn’t let North get back in it.

            Certainly the Swans controlled play – dictated the game and were the better team on the day.

            North had a bit of a downer – their first for the season really – 8 rounds in. I’d actually expected it sooner – if not last week – so not surprised that it came the week after a BIG win.

            Hard to read the Swans as being ‘Back in town’ but they’re on the Hume somewhere.

            North need to regather to take on the Dees this week and will be interesting to see how Melbourne re-gather after their best win so far.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 11:59am
        Brendon the 1st said | May 15th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        Yeah those wins over heavy weights Brisbane Lions and this week’s top of the table North Melbourne mean that the Swans will surely win the premiership this year.

        Josh, can you please stop referring to Richmond as a top team, it’s been clear to anyone not living in Melbourne that they are in fact…….Richmond.

        I dream of the day when you write something nice about Port after a win, guess negative journalism is easier, especially when your teams just been spanked by the second to last team on the ladder, it must be hard to stay positive.

    • May 14th 2017 @ 9:34pm
      mattyb said | May 14th 2017 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

      Big talking points from doggie fans is needing a couple of our players to return from injury and also not having a game review article this week.
      A few players returned against Port Melbourne this week while a couple more continue their comebacks from varying injuries. Here’s a first hand look at our afl listed players we played VFL this week.

      Mitch Wallis, Wallis started the game like he has played the last two and was in everything through the centre and up forward. Seemed to die out of the game quite a bit in the second half. Still an OK performance and I’d think he will return sooner rather than later. Could be right to go this week.
      Roughead…first game back,played forward and ruck. Just a regulation Roughy game. Played ok but didn’t star,probably could do with another run but we also need a ruckman in the senior side.
      Campbell…much better than last weeks performance. Rucked well and took a few nice marks round the ground,Roughead was probably better on the day. For those who love an old fashioned torpedo punt,Campbell had a shot for goal after the 3/4 time siren from the wing and let go with an enormous barrel that went 80-90m and was marked in the goal square,amazing stuff
      English…he’s a skinny dude but he’s impressing me more each week. Got involved in some nice link up play through the centre which was very encouraging. Not AFL ready yet but I’m liking what I’ve seen,does a lot more than just ruck.
      Honeychurch…first game back from injury and played pretty well. Was ok as a mid but was very damaging and tenacious when forward and kicked 3 goals. Doubt he’d play seniors this week but hopefully he can work into some form.
      Biggs…got plenty of the ball but for an AFL player seemed rushed at times. Made a few errors that were costly. Did some really good things and some awfully terrible. Might come back into the senior side but I’d expect a bit more from a senior player at reserve level to be honest.
      Crameri… he was again terrible. Worse than my critical comments last week. Certainly a player we need back in the seniors but he seems miles off. The year out has certainly effected him. Could even get dropped from the VFL side he’s form has been that poor.
      Collins…best game for the club which is great. I’ve had my concerns but he was good on the weekend. Took a few nice marks and seemed to read the game ok. Was certainly more consistent over the four quarters. Plays a bit like your poor mans Harris,which is fine as he’s young and Harris was also a slow starter.
      Young..he was excellent and looks a very likely type. Played across half back and took an endless amount of marks. If he keeps playing like that,you never know,could earn a senior game later on in the season. Early signs he could be another Dalrymple master stroke.
      Prudden…looked to do a hamstring. Not good. Seems injury prone and wasn’t playing well before his injury.
      Dikson didn’t play,no idea why. Club said he is being managed,whatever that means considering he’s been injured for most of the season. Was good last week.

      Doggie fans check out the YouTube channel VitalDread midweek and catch the individual highlight packages of the players I’ve just given you a rundown on.
      Fingers crossed on Wallis and Roughead who seem the most likely to return.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 8:01am
        I ate pies said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

        Thanks for the update matty. I’m really hoping for Dickson and Roughead to come back this week; our forward line desperately needs them.
        I expect Geelong to be fired up this week so injecting Wallis could be the spark our midfield group needs; Libba certainly needs something.
        Any news on Morris?

        • May 15th 2017 @ 9:52am
          mattyb said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          There’s a strong chance Morris could return this week. I’d like to think he’d be one who could just step straight back into the senior side with no need for VFL.
          With Dikson,I’m hoping the reason he didn’t play was to keep him fresh for the Geelong game. A few of the VFL people seem confident enough he will return to the AFL this week which should help us a lot.I still can’t see why he didn’t at least play a half in the VFL though.

          I’m also expecting a fired up Geelong but I also expect their performance to come down to how Dangerfield and Selwood go. Hopefully we tag one of them,I know it’s not usually in Bevs tactics but when a sides fortunes rest so heavily on two players I think we tag one. Libba tagging Selwood would be my suggestion as it might also bring Libba into some form.

          • May 15th 2017 @ 12:47pm
            I ate pies said | May 15th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

            I agree (again) – give Libba a tagging job so he’s at least contributing to the team. Good news on Morris. On that basis I expect several big ins this week: Morris, Dickson, Murphy, Roughead and Wallis to come in. Outs, who knows yet. I’d be very tempted to drop M Boyd; unfortunately I think he’s played a year too long, and he’s looking too slow for the game type that the dogs want to play. Bob’s accuracy off the backline is becoming very important, with Johanissen and Boyd regularly butchering the ball.

            • May 15th 2017 @ 9:41pm
              Pumping Dougie said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

              Based on footage I saw tonight of a poor chase by Selwood, coupled by his lack-luster performances the past two weeks, I’m guessing he’s carrying an injury. Libber might be too.

              Would not surprise if Selwood is a late “out” this week.

              But I agree we should tag him if he plays. He’s their catalyst

              • Roar Guru

                May 15th 2017 @ 10:33pm
                Cat said | May 15th 2017 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

                Selwood was on crutches after the Suns game but was fit to play against Essendon. He isn’t going to miss this week either.

                As for a poor chase, if that was reason to rest a player the Geelong has 22 that need a week off because no one gave more than a pea hearted effort last week. Anyway They should all be well rested because they took last round off.

      • May 15th 2017 @ 8:48am
        Pumping Dougie said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Thanks mattyb

    • Roar Rookie

      May 14th 2017 @ 9:46pm
      hairy fat man said | May 14th 2017 @ 9:46pm | ! Report

      Geelong lost four consecutive matches from the QF of 2014 to Round 2 of 2015.

      Cosmic-level tr*lling from Malthouse to wind up Stevie J before taking on Buckley’s mob. A masterpiece.

      • Editor

        May 14th 2017 @ 9:56pm
        Josh Elliott said | May 14th 2017 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

        Forgot the handy old “in a season”, fixed now. Cheers.

    • May 14th 2017 @ 10:06pm
      Macca said | May 14th 2017 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

      Gee Josh, only took you 29 games under Bolton to realise what most people were saying 12 months ago, the blues are hard to play against, glad you are finally on board.

      As for how it will go once the abundance of young talent goes – with Bolton at the helm I am comfortable that we will manage it well.

      • May 14th 2017 @ 10:44pm
        Keggas said | May 14th 2017 @ 10:44pm | ! Report

        Carlton only won 7 games last year with a percentage of less than 80 and the second lowest pints for.

        Those 29 games have produced only 10 wins and an average score of around 70 points a game.

        They weren’t hard to play against then and they are only just going ok now. Having lots of kids is fine and they may well be very good in a couple of years but let’s not get carried away with how good they are now or with alleged SuperCoach Bolton

        • May 14th 2017 @ 10:53pm
          Macca said | May 14th 2017 @ 10:53pm | ! Report

          Keggas – there are plenty of quotes from people who actually played against the blues hat contradict your opinion.

          And points for is the opposite of what we are talking about.

      • Editor

        May 14th 2017 @ 11:10pm
        Josh Elliott said | May 14th 2017 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

        Glad to see you’re a gracious winner Macca ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think most would agree that the Blues have been more consistent in their efforts this year – at this point last year they’d already had three sizeable losses rather than just one – although their average for and against is pretty similar to what it was last year, overall.

        Without having looked at the numbers I’d wager they’re doing it with a much younger team now than they were then, too.

        It’ll be interesting to see if they fall away in the second half of this year like they did last time around.

        But, I do agree that there have been signs of them playing this way since the start of Bolton’s tenure – back then it felt more like the kneejerk new coach bounce, now it seems more like a genuine change for the better.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 8:12am
          Brinnx said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

          Once the blues lost Murphy to injury the blues competitiveness took a real hit last year. Hope we don’t fade as bad this year.

          I think they will equal the 7 wins from last year, if only by one or two, but just as important are to ensure there are no more blowouts this year.

          That’s what I see as a real indicator of how a rebuilding team is really going, hard to put a positive spin on things if your getting spanked by 10 goals every month or so.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 9:33am
          Macca said | May 15th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

          Josh – if the blues can keep Murphy, Gibbs, Cripps and Kreuzer on the park all year I don’t think you will see the drop off you did last year, although from round 11 on last year we had just 3 results above 10 goals and 6 4 goals or less (4 2 goals or less) plus a win so the drop off wasn’t as bad as some think.

          You are gith we had had more big losses by this time last year and this year we do have a younger team but the big difference is another 12 months under Bolton – he doesn’t have to teach everything from scratch and the more experienced players now understand the concept better and can drive the system more.

    • May 14th 2017 @ 10:18pm
      Dan, Concord, Sydney said | May 14th 2017 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

      Josh,
      I reckon your call of inevitably about the Hawks always winning is off the mark and perhaps a short memory. 2013 Hawks Freo GF was fairly even in terms of who people thought would win. Maybe slightly in Freos favour. 2014 Swans were clear favourites after finishing the season on top of the ladder. We only just beat Port in our peeliminary finaland Swans crushed theirpreliminary opponent (sorry that was your team). 2015 WCE were clear favourites heading into GF with the younger team and weather they should have been more accustomed to. Hawks had a ridiculously hard finals and had lost their 1st finals game in that series to the WCE. The Hawks fought and wanted it more than any of the other teams.

      That being said I am loving the upsets and the unpredictable nature of this season. I recall this being the similar to last season.

      • Editor

        May 14th 2017 @ 11:04pm
        Josh Elliott said | May 14th 2017 @ 11:04pm | ! Report

        I’m maybe being a tad dramatic, though I think the favouritism directed towards Freo and the Eagles especially was mostly optimism rather than smart thinking – I would say in 2013-15 I always felt more hopeful, rather than genuinely confident, that the Hawks might get knocked off.

        After two or three years of it the era certainly left a lot of us with the impression that Hawthorn were just going to keep doing it and that wasn’t really broken until the semi last year I think.

        Obviously that was not a logical way to think because all teams do rise and fall, but that was the kind of aura that a team as good as the Hawks of those years builds.

        I would tell Emily to tell you that you were right about me being mad to tip the Lions, but easy enough to tell you here! Don’t think I’ll be tipping them again for a while.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 7:16am
          Dan, Concord, Sydney said | May 15th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

          Haha! Yeah I think the Lions have dropped the ball! Small world!

        • May 15th 2017 @ 8:00am
          andyl12 said | May 15th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

          This time last year it was anyone’s flag too- Dunstall had written the Hawks off and there was no other stand-out team. I was thinking Geelong had a slight edge over the others.

          And in 2015 we started the year 4-4 and they basically said we’d have to make no further mistakes to get there. And barring the “Cooper Ratten game” against Port in the third-last round, that was basically how the rest of our H&A season panned out (which is perhaps why people still feared us throughout 2016).

          2014 IMO was the peak of our era- started the season with massive hunger and massive confidence, won 5 straight games while our coach was gravely ill, coped with all sorts of injury pressures and in the GF smashed a Swans side who everyone said was not only unsmashable but was guaranteed to beat us by at least 6 goals that day. All after people said Buddy’s departure would consign us to hell for years.

          • May 15th 2017 @ 10:10pm
            Mark said | May 15th 2017 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

            We were favourites but no one said we’d smash you.
            It grows all the time. In a few years Sydney will have been $1.01 and Hodge and Mitchell played with broken legs.

            • May 16th 2017 @ 8:18am
              andyl12 said | May 16th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

              Not true Mark. Nobody expected a contest that day, they said we’d be lucky to be within reach at half time. What actually occurred was about as far from the predicted outcome as you could get.

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