Thirteen quick takes from AFL Round 10

Josh Elliott Editor

By , Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    It’s been another massive week of footy with upsets and highlights galore. I’ve got thirteen – or as Anthony Hudson would put it, thirteeeeeeeeen! – quick takes from Round 10.

    Indigenous players make our game great
    There are a number of different things that make AFL my most loved of all sports, but there is a common theme – it’s exciting, it’s fast-paced, it’s mercurial, it’s unpredictable, it’s electric, and it is spectacular.

    Those are traits that you can find all through the league to be sure, but I do think it’s fair to say that they are so often seen at their best in the many elite indigenous players who take to the field each week.

    Nobody in this game offers entertainment in the way that the likes of Lance Franklin or Eddie Betts do, and it was great to see them at their best this week – along with players like Shaun Burgoyne, Charlie Cameron, Wayne Milera, Daniel Wells, Jeff Garlett, Dustin Martin, Lews Jetta and Zac Williams, and that’s by no means an exhaustive list.

    Our game has gotten it wrong more than a few times in the past with the way it has treated indigenous players, but I’m proud to say that for the most part they are loved and respected all around the league, and I don’t think there’s any aspect of society that has done more towards reconciliation in this country than sport, and the people who play it, run it and watch it.

    Indigenous Round is just about the best week on the calendar and to see a record crowd flock to the Dreamtime at the ‘G match on Saturday night was incredibly heartening. Here’s hoping that for a long time to come the AFL can be a leader in Australia’s ongoing journey towards a harmonious society.

    Bingo! The Giants have beaten everyone
    After 123 games in the AFL, the GWS Giants have done it. Thanks to a thrilling win over the West Coast Eagles on Sunday afternoon, they’ve finally notched at least one win over every other team in the AFL.

    The Giants have been fielding a side that is severely hit by injuries over the past few weeks, a topic I’ve hit on more than once, but enormours credit to them – they keep getting the win.

    This week they lost Steve Johnson and Rory Lobb when the teams were named, and then Tom Scully too as a late change before the final bounce.

    And yet somehow they turned up at a ground where their average losing margin is 83 points, against a side they’ve never beaten before, and got the job done, as they have despite adversity for three weeks in a row now.

    With so many sides playing inconsistent footy this year, it’s a real weapon for the Giants that they so haven’t dropped a match during this injury-stricken time, and makes them very likely to finish top four, even top two.

    If they can get a good turn of luck before the year is out, there’s still time for anything to happen.

    Jeremy Cameron GWS Giants AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Fremantle flop when put to the test
    My decision not to make mention of Fremantle’s winning form in last week’s quick takes drew more than a few comments, but I said it then and after their result on Saturday night I’ll happily say it again: they’re not as good as six out of seven suggested.

    I mean, I could make the point that North Melbourne are four from their last five at the moment (you knew I was going to wedge it in here somewhere), but no one is silly enough to suggest the Roos have been dominant, or convincing, or pushed themselves into premiership talk.

    100 points was a margin probably somewhat overinflated by the weather conditions, though given that Adelaide have regularly won by big numbers at home this year, it wasn’t that far from being an accurate depiction of how far apart the teams are.

    That’s not to say Fremantle are a bad team, they’re just somewhere in the middle – and it’s a big middle in the AFL at the moment, so that’s hardly a bad place to be.

    With a relatively easy fixture in what’s left of the year and a decent number of wins already on the board, they’re a strong chance to play finals this season, though that’s something that could be said of at least ten or eleven clubs.

    It was a pretty poor way to celebrate Ross Lyon’s 250th game as an AFL coach though, and a reminder to look at more than the win-loss before pumping up a team.

    Ross Lyon looks a bit sad

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    Keeping Hardwick was the right call by Richmond
    Whether or not to retain Damien Hardwick as Richmond’s senior coach was a hot talking point last year and I won’t lie, I was definitely in favour of giving him the chop.

    However he happened to be contracted until the end of 2018 and that fact alone probably stayed Richmond’s hand, along with the focus on stability that has been a key part of their management in recent years.

    Plenty of other changes were made though including the recruitment of Neil Balme and a thorough re-shuffling of the coaching staff that supported Hardwick.

    And really, that has done the trick – yes, the Tigers lost three in a row by less than a goal, and that’s bad, but what impressed me is that they kept fronting up week after week ready to put themselves in a winning position, even if it didn’t pay off until Saturday night.

    The Richmond of past years would have been snapped mentally by now but it’s clear that, while the Tigers still have a ways to go before being in the top tier of clubs, they are in a better headspace than they’ve been possibly in this entire millenium.

    It’s clear to me therefore that Hardwick is worth backing in for at least until the end of his current contract, and possibly a while beyond that.

    Looking at coaches in the league more widely, having also said last week that Collingwood should keep Nathan Buckley on, and given Port Adelaide’s impressive improvement, it looks like changes at the top might be few and far between this year.

    That’s not to say Bucks might not still get the chop, and Rodney Eade at the Suns would have to be the other real chance, either moved on or as an honest retirement – but I can’t see any other side looking to move their coach on this year. Can you?

    Damien Hardwick Richmond Tigers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    West Coast lose the battle, and maybe the war
    For the Eagles to lose a game they were widely favoured to win on Sunday was disappointing, especially given it was their first loss at home for the year.

    But to lose Josh J Kennedy mid-game to a leg injury, the nature and potential seriousness of which we don’t know yet, was absolutely devastating.

    Nic Naitanui and Kennedy are arguably the two most players on the Eagles’ list, and if they’re both now in for a long layoff then it’s fair to say West Coast should be worried.

    I won’t start flying the white flag on my pre-season tip that they’d win the flag until we know more about just what has gone wrong for Kennedy, but fair to say this game went about as badly as it possibly could have.

    Sydney versus Hawthorn, the AFL’s best rivalry?
    Yeah, I know – the Cats and the Hawks are the best modern rivalry in the game, and – with all due respect to the Derby in the west – nothing gets blood pumping like a South Australian Showdown.

    Still, I can’t help but think that if you want good value for watchable footy, Sydney versus Hawthorn is the place to be right now.

    Obviously you’ve got the fact that these are two of the best teams of the modern era, in fact, they have been seven out of the ten participants in the last five grand finals, and won four of the last five premierships.

    They met twice on the big day in that time and on both occassions it was emotionally devastating for the losers, even more so than is usual on grand final day, and the 2012 decider remains underrated as one of the best football matches ever played.

    And now the last five matches in a row between the two sides have all gone to the team on the road, and the last two of them being wins by less than a goal.

    This week’s was made all the more special by it being Jarryd Roughead with the winner, about a year after he was diagnosed with cancer. What a story.

    Has any other pairing of teams in the league has offered such watchability over the past few years?

    Shaun Burgoyne Hawthorn Hawks AFL Indigenous Round 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    My doubts were wrong, Gibbs is getting it done
    I said a bit in the pre-season that Bryce Gibbs would be an interesting player to follow this year, with the risk that denying him the trade he requested at the end of 2016 would leave him disillusioned and out of form.

    But, it has been a credit to Brendon Bolton and Gibbs himself this year that he is if anything in career best form, with 38 touches and three goals nearly leading the Blues to a big comeback win over North Melbourne on Sunday.

    It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens at the end of the year because surely Adelaide will try again to bring him across, but so long as this form keeps up Carlton won’t budge on requesting a high return for his release.

    On top of that, maybe there’s just the slight chance that being a part of a young Carlton team which despite often falling short is clearly a good place to be a the moment might make him decided to stick around and see out his contract.

    My utmost respect goes to him for how well he has played this year, even if it made me bang my fist on the coffee table in anger a few times during the North game. As a footy opinion-haver, there’s nothing I enjoy more than being proven wrong.

    Bryce Gibbs Carlton Blues AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Sydney can’t afford to slip again
    Is there a more confusing team than Sydney this year? To be fair, there’s probably a few in the mix for that title, but they’ve left me scratching my head lately.

    In the form they’ve been in over the last few weeks, and the growing list of injuries, outs and form worries for Hawthorn, the Swans had no business losing to them this week – but they did, and now they’re 3-7.

    That’s a pretty disappointing for a side that I said was back in the finals race last week. I wasn’t alone thinking that, and it’s a proposition we’re all being forced to re-evaluate now.

    If the bar to make finals is twelve wins this year, as it often has been in the past, that means Sydney can afford only three more losses for the year if they want to sneak in.

    Keeping that in mind, here is their fixtures to close out the season: Bye, Bulldogs, Richmond, Essendon, Melbourne, Gold Coast, GWS, St Kilda, Hawthorn again, Geelong, Fremantle, Adelaide, Carlton.

    I reckon there’s more than three losses in that line-up. The September Swan is an endagered species, to be sure.

    Lance Franklin Sydney Swans AFL Indigenous Round 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    Dustin Martin’s payday just keeps getting bigger
    He was in the news a bit this week with news about both North Melbourne and Essendon chasing his signature, but regardless of what colours he is wearing next year, Dusty’s next deal is sure to be a big one.

    He had another best-on-ground display on Saturday night – 30 disposals, nine score involvements and a goal of his own, playing a key role in Richmond snapping a four-game losing streak in front of an 85,000 crowd.

    North’s offer to him is apparently as much as a million a year for six years – no such figures have been said about Essendon, and to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if their stated interest during the week was more mind games than anything else.

    However as much as I’d love to see him in blue and white next year, you’d imagine that if this form continues, Richmond will budge and give him the big-dollar, long-term offer he clearly deserves once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is confirmed.

    Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL Indigenous Round 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Would Gold Coast go to China again?
    The young Suns have been a good team in patches this year, and one of those patches was their first half against Melbourne where they did well to put themselves into a winning position.

    Maybe it was just a young team getting tired, or maybe they were feeling the effects of how a trip to China a fortnight ago has interrupted their season when they faded out in the second half to be badly overrun.

    Selling a home game to an opposition team is a pretty bizarre thing to do in the AFL, and not likely something any team with a deeply entrenched supporter base would be willing to do.

    With no formal agreement yet made for another Shanghai game in 2018, the Suns should be weighing up whether or not it was the right call for them. Sure, there’s a decent amount of dollars in it for them, but Gill has leant them his credit card so they don’t want for that.

    You could rightly point out that having Gary Ablett unavailable for the match didn’t help, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of that can be put down to the lasting effects of international travel.

    While they still might not have won either game even if they had turned Port down, it’s fair to say they’d have had a better chance of being competitive without the interruption.

    Gold Coast Suns AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Stringer surge is just what the Dogs need
    Five goals from Jake Stringer on Saturday was just the second time he has done so since his All-Australian season of 2015.

    Now to be fair, a few of them were from pretty close range that probably could have gone to any player who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    Still though, if this is the beginning of a return to form from him, it will be a big help to the Bulldogs, who have struggled up forward this year.

    When St Kilda dominated the first half, but couldn’t get goals on the board, it was Stringer’s goals that kept the Bulldogs in the fight and ultimately in the right position to take the game away.

    A smaller forward line with no Travis Cloke or Jack Redpath clearly had its advantages – can’t wait to see what Beveridge does next. Watch this space.

    Jake Stringer Western Bulldogs AFL 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Dangerfield dominance has Cats back on top
    Look, I go back and forth a lot on this whole do the Cats rely on Patrick Dangerfield too much thing – and probably talk about it more than anyone wants to hear – but when the bloke kicks the match winner it’s a topic that has to be revisited.

    In the past fortnight the Cats have beaten two top eight teams to get their season back on track, and in the same time Dangerfield has gone 36 touches and four goals, and 24 touches and three goals. By way of comparison, he kicked only three total across the three matches the Cats lost beforehand.

    Is playing Danger forward and getting him on the scoreboard the key to Geelong wins? Or is he needed more in the midfield? And, things being so even, is this the kind of year where having a superstar like him is enough to drag a team to the flag?

    Hard to know at the moment, but one thing that we can say with certainty is Geelong are bloody lucky that the bloke was born in Moggs Creek instead of, say, Glenelg. 81 per cent of voters in my Twitter poll over the weekend said that the Cats wouldn’t be a finals team without him.

    Shaun Atley the next tough decision for North
    Although he ultimately redeemed himself with a last-quarter goal that helped the Kangaroos avoid coughing up another big lead against Carlton, Shaun Atley will certainly find himself on the chopping block.

    More than a few of Carlton’s goals across their audacious comeback attempted that began in the second term but ultimately fell short in the last could be attributed directly to poor decisions and skill failures from Atley, and it’s not the first week of the year where his form has been poor.

    The Roos are in a tough position though because Atley has the speed that the side lacks, and there isn’t really a ready replacement for him waiting in the twos, at least not until Sam Wright is fit again.

    Maybe Ben Jacobs could come in or even draftee Josh Williams as a bit of a bolter, or maybe Atley just needs to never enter the back 50 again so that his turnovers, which may never become a thing of the past, aren’t so immediately devastating.

    He has missed only two games since the start of 2012 but with Brad Scott showing a new willingness to drop serial unperformers, his good streak of time in the team is sure to come to and end if he doesn’t find a way to fix his form and play to his strengths.

    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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