Six quick takes from AFL Round 16

Josh Elliott Editor

By , Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    2017 has been a sea of surprising results, so isn’t it almost comforting to be able to rely on something like North losing a close game, or Richmond giving their fans the football equivalent of a punch in the face? Here’s my quick takes from Round 16.

    Nine sides in the finals race, so who misses out?
    In 2016 we had a straightforward top eight from very early on in the season – in 2017, it has taken much much longer to get even a slightly clear idea of who is in the mix.

    After this weekend’s action though, I would say it likely boils down to the current top nine teams on the ladder. In order, that’s:

    Every team in that mix has had their high moments and their low moments, some of them this weekend.

    St Kilda had what might a season-defining game, against a Richmond side who clearly took offence to me calling them consistent during the week.

    Port Adelaide went a long way to shedding the ‘pretenders’ tag with a win over West Coast.

    Sydney slamming the Suns wasn’t a season-defining win by any means, but it was one shows how consistent they’ve become, and puts them in the top eight for the first time all year after an 0-6 start.

    They’ve all won more than they’ve lost however and they’ve all displayed a quality of football good enough to convince us they can keep doing that for the remaining seven rounds of the season.

    Essendon could still be rated an outside chance too but they’ve got at least one win to make up and a few more to really cement their place.

    Their win over Collingwood was good but it’s just one win – they need to play their best more often.

    So if we narrow it down to that top nine, who is going to be squeezed out?

    Things change so much from week to week this year that it’s hard to say.

    Right now I’d say any of the six sides from fourth to ninth could miss – and anyone of them could still make the top four!

    It’s going to be a mad dash to the finish line.

    Jasper Pittard Port Adelaide Power AFL 2015

    (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

    Welcome to Nyhuis
    Ryan Nyhuis might play a couple hundred games in his AFL career and never have a more memorable performance than he did on debut, kicking four goals including two crucial ones in the last term to deliver a four-point win for Fremantle.

    Taken at pick 34 in last year’s rookie draft, he wasn’t even meant to be playing on Sunday – only coming into the side as a replacement for a late withdrawal in David Mundy.

    As a Roos fan I looked at that news before the game and thought oh good, that probably makes the job a little easier – and clearly, I was cursed for my hubris.

    Seriously, without trying to play the martyred North fan card too heavily, it’s always nice to be the backdrop against which previously unheralded players do great works.

    To make things even more incredible, consider this – he has actually played the vast majority of his footy as a defender and has never kicked a goal in 25 senior appearances in the WAFL.

    Okay, enough of that – really, it was an incredible debut, the best of the year without a doubt, and probably the best we have seen or will see for many years.

    Best of luck to the young man and here’s hoping we see plenty more games of this kind from him in the future. Even if not, he’s already got a heck of a story to tell the grandkids.

    Ryan Nyhuis Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    The Dogs’ premiership defence is dead
    It was pretty easy to get carried away with the Dogs’ potential in 2017 after the magic month that was September last year, but when we look back on it now it was a bit naive.

    The Bulldogs just had so many players who played the best month of footy in their lives in September last year, and the odds of seeing that form from them ever again were incredibly low.

    Liam Picken and Clay Smith kicked eight goals apiece, or two goals per game in that finals series. This year they’ve kicked 18 from 23 games combined.

    There’s no shame in what’s happening to the Dogs though. They are Hawthorn of 2008 – an immensely talented young team who pinched one well before their time.

    There’s a lot left to played out between now and then but the longterm fate of that Hawthorn team bodes well for Dogs fans in five years time or so, if they make the right decisions along the way. I’ll write some more about that during the week – stay tuned.

    Even if they don’t, they won’t feel too aggrieved – they’ve got easily one of the top five best stories in the history of our game to remember seeing with their own eyes.

    bob-robert-murphy-easton-wood-western-bulldogs-afl-grand-final-2016

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Fyfe finds his best form
    Nat Fyfe has had a pretty solid year all things considered, it just hasn’t had the game-breaking superstar performances we’re used to seeing from him – till today, at least.

    33 disposals was an equal season-high from the Fremantle captain, and he added a goal as well, but probably the best feature was his three goal assists – he’s only had five for the year in thirteen games previously.

    It’ll be great to see what he can make of the remaining seven games for the year – if he can put in another four or five more games like this one, Fremantle still has something to say about how the ladder figures out.

    Come home with a wet sail and it might even be enough to make a late play for All-Australian selection.

    On top of that though, it might re-start the conversation about his future. As things stand, he has said he expects a new deal to be done at Fremantle soon, and that seems the likely result present.

    But could some late-year superstar performances also tempt a team to throw their hat in the ring at the rumoured $1.5 million asking price? Time will tell.

    Nat Fyfe Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Travis Anderson)

    Who is really to blame at Collingwood?
    It’s the question that’s going to keep Eddie McGuire up at night for the next seven weeks – who is really to blame for Collingwood’s increasingly ugly situation, and what needs to be done to fix it?

    It’s easy to make calls from outside the four walls at Collingwood but the simple truth is that without being a fly on the wall, we don’t know in detail who decided on what.

    The senior coach is always the figurehead of a club but they don’t get to run it like a dictator. Nathan Buckley could be blamed for the recruitment of Chris Mayne, so far an abject failure, but the fact Buckley refuses to play him does little to suggest he wanted him at the club in the first place.

    The difference between where Collingwood are at and where the kind of communication that goes around them says they should be has been stark.

    I said at the start of the year that expectations on them to make finals given where their list is at were unrealistic, and I stick by that.

    I mean, this is a team without any kind of mature forward line spearhead, a backline built around the rejects of other clubs, and a midfield which bar Scott Pendlebury is as blue-collar as they come.

    It’s a work-in-progress team, and one that has had so many fingerprints on it due to a revolving door of football bosses over the last few years that it’s hard to tell who has done the most damage.

    Perhaps the trick to fixing a team damaged by so many rash changes over the past five years is not to make more rash changes but instead find a way to introduce some stability into the group and allow real growth to happen.

    A garden doesn’t grow overnight and certainly not if you take an axe to the fresh sprouts every couple of weeks – work out how to make a united football department where everyone is on the same page, and then show the patience required to let it bloom.

    Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley

    (AAP Image/David Crosling)

    Dayne Zorko is an All-Australian lock
    No one is beating out Michael Walters’ 32 disposals and six goals last week for the best individual performance of the year, but Dayne Zorko damn sure gave it a shake on Saturday night.

    36 touches, four goals and twelve tackles was arguably the best we’ve seen yet from one of the most well-rounded and underrated midfielders in the game.

    I had him in my half-way All-Australian team this year and a performance like this has him absolutely locked up for the final thing so long as he keeps up solid form over the last seven weeks.

    A second Brisbane Lions best-and-fairest is on the way too and hopefully plenty of votes on Brownlow night.

    He could even win one someday if the Lions start winning more than they lose while he’s still at his peak.

    Dayne Zorko of the Brisbane Lions AFL

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    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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