Walking into the 2018 grand final, a surreal optimism filled me.
The AFL may be shortchanging fans with a 33 per cent reduction in games at the weekend, but here is 100 per cent of the usual untold stories from the weekend that was in AFL football.
1. West Coast and Fremantle are 7-1 on six-day breaks
A lot has been made over the past couple of seasons about six-day breaks and the impact they have in a team’s preparation and ability to win an AFL game.
With the toughest travel component in the AFL fixture, the two West Australian clubs have been at the height of calls to reduce six-day breaks. Despite the external talk, the performance on field has been outstanding with Fremantle’s loss to Richmond the only blemish on the six-day break for West Coast and Fremantle combined.
Likely there has been a lot of analysis that has gone into preparing for a six-day break by both clubs and it must be rewarding for results to be seen on field. The schedule gets friendlier for both clubs in the second half of the year with Fremantle only left with one six-day break and West Coast two.
It has been a big part of the early success of both clubs that they have found a process that works on short turnaround.
2. Collingwood’s list management and development team deserve a lot of credit
Nathan Buckley and the Magpies support staff deserve credit for Collingwood’s impressive start to the year. A large part of the Collingwood success must go to the list management team at Collingwood, who have continued to quickly adapt to a changing AFL landscape.
In Collingwood’s win over GWS at the weekend, a number of the key contributors were players that have been brought into the club as raw prospects and turned into AFL level contributors. Taylor Adams had 36 possessions, Jack Crisp had 25 and two goals, Travis Varcoe had 22 and a goal and even Jesse White had a good day with three goals.
Collingwood have clearly made some smart choices and have benefitted at the draft table by getting their picks right. But again the development of these young draftees was evident with the youth in many cases out performing the outstanding young talent at the Giants.
3. There was no morale win for Gold Coast
In the aftermath of Fremantle’s narrow win over Gold Coast, talk was of how Gold Coast had shown improved signs and had turned the corner. But lets give this game some perspective.
Fremantle won every measurable statistic by a wide margin: disposals 378 to 316, efficiency 70 per cent to 64 per cent, contested possession 148 to 137, hit outs 84 to 28, inside 50s 53 to 27 and scoring shots 23 to 11.
This was by all purposes a complete domination by Fremantle, albeit their poor effiency forward of centre made this a seven-point game. Gold Coast can try and spin this into a positive, but they were completely smashed by a pretty average Fremantle.
4. A great rising star race
The Brownlow medal is pretty much in the hands of the match review panel citing Nat Fyfe, but the AFL’s pinnacle for first-year players appears to be a tight race halfway through the season.
Jesse Hogan is proving to be as good as advertised and is having one of the most impressive breakout seasons of a young forward. Patrick Cripps has had a number of big games and is a shining light in a disappointing Carlton season.
Angus Brayshaw is justifying his number two draft selection, Adam Saad has been a consistent battler for Gold Coast, Billy Hartung is rapidly impressing with reigning premiers Hawthorn. Isaac Heeney before injury showed what they hype was about and even players like Liam Duggan, Dom Sheed, Cam McCarthy and Jake Lever are playing important roles in current top eight sides. But for one who continues to be flying under the radar and whose season is being underrated is Cory Gregson.
This is a player that is helping to keep Geelong as a genuine finals chance with his performances at the big moments the best of this current group of rising star players. All in all, throw a blanket over eight or nine, very much a race to watch.
5. Port have been found out by the best
Port Adelaide have had and will continue have success against the weak squads in the AFL, but as the weekend again highlighted, the best teams know how to stop them.
Geelong are the latest in a list of finals contenders that include Richmond, West Coast, Hawthorn, Sydney and Fremantle that have had Port Adelaide’s measure in the second half when the game has been there to be won.
Port Adelaide still may have enough firepower to be a finals team, but on 2015 form Ken Hinkley is going to have to devise a variation of his game plan for Port Adelaide to again be trying to get a berth for the first Saturday in October.
6. Epic last quarters
It is hard to remember a weekend where so many of the games were decided in epic final quarters. It might have had something to do with the six games as opposed to nine, but four of the weekend’s matches involved tense final quarter stands.
Melbourne and St Kilda finished the round with 24 minutes of goalless final quarter football before the last 45 seconds of game time produced a memorable finish. Fremantle and Gold Coast likewise went 24 minutes without a goal as the Dockers clung to a narrow lead.
North Melbourne’s late charge at Sydney was thwarted by 10 minutes of resolute goalless football while Friday night saw a scoreless final 15 minutes as Geelong held Port Adelaide at bay. The lack of scoring around the league should continue to be a concern for the AFL, but at least this weekend, that lack of scoring was counter balanced by some tense moments.
7. Husbands, I hope you built those brownie points
It makes sense in theory, using the bye rounds to again trial Thursday night football to see if it has potential.
Therein lies the problem for men who have not built up their brownie points. This week Adelaide versus Hawthorn and Richmond versus West Coast have top eight and top four ramifications.
Likewise a week later when Collingwood travels to Fremantle and Sydney hosts Richmond. Top it off with Sydney versus Port Adelaide and Collingwood versus Hawthorn.
Either way, you are going to want to either be at a good pub or have the television on for the next month of Thursday and Friday nights. Hope you took advantage of the glut of Carlton Friday night games and did something nice for the wife.
She ain’t getting no attention coming up.