Nine quick takes from AFL Round 13

Josh Elliott Editor

By , Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    The footy has finished up for the week, which means it’s time for some quick takes! Here are my first thoughts coming out of Round 13.

    Johanissen next in the gun for Bevo’s big calls
    Luke Beveridge hasn’t hesitated this year when it comes to dropping underperforming stars, and if he stays true to form a Norm Smith medalist may be next.

    Johanissen is definitely known for pulling off some magic but his disappearing act last well was not as well received as previous performances, and he wasn’t much better battling Melbourne.

    His problem is symptomatic of the Dogs in general – they are being hunted and targetted by every team and that is very hard to work through, especially for what is still a relatively young team.

    I’m all for Beveridge making big calls at the table, more teams should have that courage, but it must be worrying that it is not getting results.

    They now finish this round outside the top eight, on a 6-6 record with so-so percentage – and given some of the close wins they have had, they are lucky to be there.

    An improved second half of the year will be essential to earning a finals finish, but it is hard to say what the path to that is.

    As for Johannisen himself, that $800,000 payday he’s asking for might be hard to come by if he doesn’t lift his game – or worse, gets stuck in the VFL.

    In 2017, momentum is massive
    The more this season goes on, the more I am expecting that the premiership will not be decided by who is a better team across the year, but who can build better momentum heading into September.

    We saw a great example of the ebbs and flows of momentum on Saturday night when West Coast broke a three-game losing streak to end Geelong’s three-game winning streak.

    I had tipped the Cats for the game but there was a voice in the back of my head saying the Eagles at home, after spending their bye week firing themselves up, could push the Cats – I wish I had listened to it!

    It doesn’t seem like any team in the league is capable of playing their best footy in a sustained patch. Most sides’ best performances have come immediately after poor losses.

    For that reason, it shouldn’t have surprised to see the Cats grow complacent after three home wins and a bye.

    Generally speaking for a top four club to win the flag, they must beat all three other top four teams across a qualifying final, preliminary final and the grand final.

    Obviously, it doesn’t always go that way, but that’s generally what the test is, and it doesn’t look like something I’d be confident any club in the league could do right now.

    Especially when you consider that Richmond and Melbourne are the only clubs with any kind of top four shot at the moment that would have a chance at playing every game at their home ground.

    Last year the premiership was ultimately won by the one team who really turned it on in September, played genuine finals footy in all four games, and showed that they wanted it more than any other club.

    Something similar has to happen this year and that means it could come from anywhere, and week-to-week analysis of who is leading the race is going to be largely guesswork.

    I guess what I’m saying is, don’t take anything I say about who should or shouldn’t win the flag at this stage to be too definitive. It’s wide open and anyone with a club in the finals mix should dare to dream.

    West Coast Eagles AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    Bryce Gibbs’ big game
    On Saturday night Bryce Gibbs became the sole member of the club of players to have ever recorded 40 disposals, ten tackles and two goals in the same game – a remarkable all-around performance.

    It came at just the right time, too, with his best work done in a huge final term effort that saw Carlton hold off a bright charge from the Suns.

    I have talked a few weeks ago about how impressive Gibbs’ form has been this season, especially given how easy it would’ve been for him to phone it in after the disappointment of not getting the trade he requested last year.

    This was a whole other level though – it was the kind of game that will catch the eye of All-Australian selectors for one. I’m putting out my mid-season team on Tuesday, and while Gibbs isn’t in it, an eye-catching match like Saturday’s brings him much closer.

    It will also have caught the eye of the Adelaide Crows, and though I don’t want to harp on about it overmuch, it once again makes it fascinating to consider what might happen at the end of the year here.

    Bryce Gibbs Carlton Blues AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Surely the bye rounds could be better
    I’m not someone who likes to spend a lot of time being a fixture-fiddler and engaging in that kind of talk, but every year when the bye rounds come along I have to wonder why they need to be stretched out over three weeks of footy.

    This year it was even stranger due to Port Adelaide and Gold Coast’s China journey, seeing four rounds of the year affected by the byes.

    I get that the vast majority of why things happen the way they do is so that the AFL can have a TV product consistently available and doesn’t give up too much time for other codes to grab people’s attention in.

    However, we have a whole week off before finals that does just that, and the end effect of it is that it all feels really unbalanced.

    The ideal way to do it, I think, is to either go back to a genuine split round across two weeks, or just have one where no team plays at all, and everyone gets a little break.

    It would also make more sense to me to have two byes during the season rather than just one during the season and one before finals – maybe place them to be after the eighth and sixteenth games, so that teams are still relatively fresh coming into September.

    Having already talked about momentum, I think it’s going to be fascinating this year to see if the teams that win qualifying finals – and thereby must have two byes in the space of three weeks leading into a prelim – are affected. Both lost last year.

    At the very least, surely the fixture should be co-ordinated so that teams coming off the bye-play other teams coming off the bye, and vice-versa.

    Perhaps it is a bit of over-tinkering to think along these lines, and I doubt we’ll ever see much change so long as it remains more profitable to stick to the status quo. At any rate, at least we’re done with them for another year.

    AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    Eye-catching Shai a highlight for Tigers fans
    The Richmond faithful wouldn’t have come out of Saturday’s game against Sydney in too positive a mindset, and fair enough given what a lacklustre second half it was for them, ultimately ending in a nine-point loss.

    However, if you’re looking for a pick-me-up as a Tigers fan, the form of Shai Bolton, particularly in the first quarter where he kicked a pair of goals, was something to get really excited about.

    He was a bit of a difficult player to place in last year’s draft – the classic example of someone who had plenty in his bag of tricks, but was yet to develop any real consistency and therefore was difficult to be confident picking.

    However, while the goals he kicked were great, it is the work rate and defensive pressure he has shown in his first few games that have arguably been more impressive than anything else.

    Tigers fans should be very excited about the combination that he and Daniel Rioli will make over the next decade.

    Brisbane finally getting the new-coach bounce
    It’s a pretty common phenomenon in the AFL that the arrival of a new senior coach results in a temporary bounce in form – the real challenge for a club usually winds up being how long they can maintain it for, and whether or not the coach can find new ways to improve the club when the value of his initial arrival wears off.

    Before this past fortnight, I had worries that for Brisbane the new-coach bounce was only going to have lasted a single week, but instead, it seems to be a bit of a delayed reaction.

    Granted, a 40-point loss to Port Adelaide on Saturday night is not a result to brag about too much, but the Brisbane of four or five weeks ago would surely have lost by twice as much, if not more.

    What has to be really heartening for Lions fans too is that their best performers were some of the lesser lights of the side, and established guns like Tom Rockliff and Dayne Beams had fairly quiet ones.

    The fact that they stayed within striking distance of Port for such a large portion of the game, that being the case, is definitely something smile about.

    With Scache re-signing, a win last week, and then a competitive performance this one, it does seem that the changes made last off-season are starting to deliver some results. The Fagan future looks promising.

    chris-fagan-brisbane-lions-afl-2016

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Lance vs Rance provides plenty of fireworks
    It was billed some distance out as a one-on-one battle not to be missed, and the match-up between this decade’s best key forward and best key defender had it all.

    Rance came out the clear winner in this one in the end – he got Buddy angry, and angry Buddy didn’t have the same kind of impact that cool-headed Buddy might have.

    I’m all for players throwing their weight around a bit, within in the rules, but for Franklin to shove Rance over after a marking contest only to miss a regulation set shot just looked a bit dumb.

    The other big physical altercation between the two saw Rance take a pretty average looking dive, not the kind of thing I’d give a thumbs-up to but it showed how well Rance was getting under Franlin’s skin.

    At the end of the day Buddy only kicked a single goal and Rance was probably Richmond’s best – but, it was a Swans victory regardless.

    Optimism is great, but honesty is better
    I’m not sure Brad Scott could have found a much faster way to have everyone look at him as a laughing stock than to come out of an uninspiring match of footy that left North Melbourne as a 4-8 side and still be talking about finals.

    You don’t get to be an AFL coach for a decent period of time without slowly developing a portion of the fanbase that gets a bit sick of you, and while I’m not part of that group of North fans, I can understand their grievances when this kind of talk happens.

    The bar for the Roos to make finals at the moment would require winning at least eight of our remaining ten games and that would be nothing short of a minor miracle right now, something that Brad is smart enough to know, and so are most of our fans – so selling us that message just makes you look like you’ve got your head in the sand.

    I think it is time not just for a change of message but for action to reflect that message, and that means giving some of the younger players a run in the side.

    I’m all for making the kids earn their games if the team is doing well, but if it isn’t, then it makes little sense to be playing underperforming senior types when we could be giving younger players some valuable top-level experience.

    Fingers crossed it doesn’t take much longer for Scott to make that switch because if it does, questions about whether or not he’s the right coach to rebuild the Roos will grow more and more reasonable.

    North Melbourne coach Brad Scott

    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    Sam Reid shows the Tigers what they need
    How do you explain a loss like the Tigers had on Saturday? Many will say it is classic Richmond – and maybe it is – but I can’t help but feel like they’ve been a more confident team at times this year and given their position at halftime was quite surprised to see them lose.

    Even in the second half they weren’t too well beaten in the midfield, but they just seemed to miss opportunity after opportunity, and coming out of the game I was surprised that their final scoreline of 10.11.71 wasn’t more lopsided in favour of the behinds column.

    It was really a day that Toby Nankervis would like to have over again – coming up against his old side was the perfect stage to give them a bit of stick for not giving him much opportunity, but he had two bad misses on what should have been very gettable goals.

    He wasn’t the only one who missed gettable goals on the day though and if the Tigers had done a better job of turning their midfield work into points on the board they would still have won comfortably – Sydney’s tenacity was impressive but ultimately they were a little lucky, and wouldn’t want to let a first-quarter like that slide by without serious examination.

    The answer overall is that the Tigers’ forward line needs a bit of a shake-up. The speed and pressure they have is good, but players like Dan Butler and Sam Lloyd didn’t contribute enough, and the likes of Daniel Rioli and Jason Castagna only scraped by.

    What is most essential though has got to be a second dangerous key forward who can work with Jack Riewoldt. At the opposite end of the ground, we saw Sam Reid play a valuable back-up role to Lance Franklin, kicking two crucial goals.

    The Tigers do need another tall contributor up forward and it may be Reid himself in the end, though of course whether or not they look to sign a free agent this year will depend entirely on what Dustin Martin decides to do with his future.

    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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