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Hysteria, AFL style: Round 2 wrap

Matt Pavlich could finish his storied career with the wooden spoon. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Roar Guru
4th April, 2016
18
1052 Reads

If you want measured, calculated opinion on the AFL weekend past then you have come to the wrong place. There is nothing better on a Monday than to visit both ends of the hyperbole spectrum!

Here are the things we learnt from Round 2.

West Coast cannot beat Hawthorn at the MCG
Hawthorn are three-time defending premiers for a reason, and covered the absence of Luke Hodge easily as they disposed of the Eagles in the 2015 grand final rematch.

This was less about Hawthorn and more about West Coast; this performance was every bit as bad as the grand final shellacking and perhaps more concerning was that the Eagles didn’t look up for the fight.

165 more disposals, including 149 more uncontested disposals. A disposal efficiency differential of 11 per cent. Clearance domination, 68-34 in inside 50s. The Eagles were chasing all day and even lost the tackle count.

What they do in the next one, two or ten weeks doesn’t matter so much as their continual struggles at the home of football.

Unless the Eagles can avoid the Hawks in September, they enter any such contest with very little confidence and any decent team would fancy their chances against the West Coast at the ‘G’

Fremantle’s premiership window has closed
It’s only two weeks into the season but the game style of the early season pacesetters is based around leg speed, fast ball movement and subsequently high scoring.

Fremantle’s game style is based around anything but those three things, and despite having a majority of their list fit and firing they already seem far enough off the pace for the AFL world to put a line through them.

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Reigning Brownlow medalist Nat Fyfe has been fantastic but cannot do any more. Michael Walters remains an elite small forward, but the positives for the Dockers have been few and far between.

Matthew Pavlich looks like a player who has gone on a season too long, Michael Johnson too. Hayden Ballantine kicked goals when the game was long gone against the Gold Coast and looks a one-dimensional player who may never recapture his best form.

History tells us Ross Lyon will find a way to dig out of this hole, but the playing group is making murmurs relating to the game style which is not a good sign.

It may be too difficult to turn things around with the current list profile. This is the second most ineffective disposal team in the league and simply doesn’t go inside 50 often enough to be a threat to the best teams in the AFL.

Aaron Hall is becoming an elite midfielder
Much has been written about the Suns’ injury problems in 2015 and they entered this season without David Swallow and Jaeger O’Meara, and with Dion Prestia and Gary Ablett underdone.

That is a fair chunk of midfield talent, but Hall has continued on his improved form from 2015 and if his first fortnight is any indication he may be set to be even better in 2016.

He is averaging 34 disposals, including 26 uncontested through the first two weeks and has totalled 20 score involvements and 12 inside 50s.

Those numbers are not sustainable, but he looks set to become a top-tier player in 2016 and play a key role in a Suns side that is playing fantastic attacking football and threatening to push for a maiden finals appearance.

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Melbourne are stuck in neutral
The hyperbole was flowing after Round 1 when the Demons snuck home and stole a win against the Greater Western Sydney Giants.

A look at most statistics showed this was more an opportunity lost for the Giants than anything impressive by Melbourne, but a Round 2 clash against Essendon looked certain to provide the Demons a chance to start with back-to-back wins and something to build on.

As baffling as it seems, the Demons seemed to enter the game against the Bombers assuming they would win. This is a dangerous mindset for a good team to take, so it’s not surprise that a mediocre side like Melbourne found itself on the receiving end of a humbling defeat.

Not only were the Demons dominated in overall disposals, uncontested disposals, marks and inside 50s but they were also smashed in the tackle count. Games against North Melbourne, St. Kilda, Collingwood and Richmond in the next month should provide us a better view of where the Demons are at but they will need to be much improved to avoid the risk of another wasted season.

Port Adelaide are fool’s gold
The Power were the darlings of 2014 as they came within a kick of making the grand final. Last season saw them drop down the ladder as injuries and inefficiencies, combined with a stale game plan, found them lacking.

It took them three quarters to shake St. Kilda in Round 1 and they allowed the Saints to dictate the tempo of the game by dominating uncontested possessions. Heading into the Showdown in Round 2 most expected them to be better prepared for battle. After all, uncontested possessions and tempo control were the staples on which their 2014 success was built.

20 minutes into the game against Adelaide and this one was all over; not only did the Crows dominate possession, but they translated this onto the scoreboard.

The Power have conceded the second most marks and total disposals to opponents, the most contested possessions and fifth most uncontested possessions. Their midfielders are not working hard enough and unless they get their defensive issues sorted they are set for another middle of the table finish at best.

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Nothing has changed at Richmond
The Tigers are trying to find their identity as a football club and are badly missing Brett Deledio, Shane Edwards and Ivan Maric as members of the leadership group. While these are key players, there are enough senior players on the park to avoid facing the issue that is seemingly the main problem at Punt Road – on-field leadership.

On Friday night the Tigers played a desperate Collingwood team and while the game was close throughout, Richmond broke out to a 16-point lead entering time-on in the fourth quarter. They were unable to hang on and lost a heart-breaker as Trent Cotchin, Dustin Martin, Alex Rance and crew lost control of the tempo and enabled the Pies to continue to attack.

As was the case in the three finals they have played under Damian Hardwick, when the heat was turned up the Tigers simply didn’t have enough players willing to stand up and take accountability for yet another game slipping away. While it’s easy to point to raw statistics to support the efforts of Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance and Dustin Martin; as leaders they simply must do more.

Hardwick has recently re-signed with the Tigers so the club must be confident that their continual underachievement in finals footy is well in hand. That being the case they need to find on-field leaders to take control of games and give them a chance of being the premiership contender some think they should be

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