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AFL Power Rankings: Round 3

GWS and Richmond: more alike than you might think. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)
Expert
10th April, 2016
48
2955 Reads

Who’s up for some high-scoring footy? The entire league, apparently.

It’s been spoken about a fair bit early this season about how attack is in and defence is out. References are made to the interchange cap and a changing of the guard and even comments made at head office in attempts to explain it, but most seem to agree it’s happening.

The evidence was laid bare in Round 3, when the lowest winning score was 92 points.

Yep, if you scored 91 points or less, you were a loser this week.

Spare a thought for Melbourne supporters – in other words, assume your regular Monday morning frame of mind – because their side’s 20.11 131 would’ve been enough to win any other game this round, high-scoring though it was, except for the game they actually played in.

North’s 21.10.136 got the job done in that contest, which harked back to the days of the shootout and provided some top entertainment.

That match was followed by another thriller between two genuine contenders in Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs, which went down to the wire and also provided top entertainment.

It wasn’t all pretty watching, of course, but in the main the watchability so far this season has been strong.

Is it a coincidence that sides with more of a defensive tone to their recent history are struggling in this new environment? Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t.

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Maybe the power rankings can help answer that one.


 

1.Hawthorn

No change; Ladder: 9th (2W, 1L)

They’ve faced three near-certain finalists in the space of three weeks and overall, earned a high mark despite some early detractors. They’re not at full strength, but when guys like James Sicily step in and perform it reminds us that the Hawks bat a bit deeper than 22 players.

2.Sydney Swans

No change; Ladder: 1st (3W, 0L)

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Probably the Swans’ best win so far this season, given their previous two opponents aren’t looking finals-bound. There’s always a lot of interest in the Sydney forward set-up, but things seem to be ticking over quite nicely on that front. Lance Franklin’s season to date: 4.1, 4.3, 4.1.

3.Adelaide

+1; Ladder: 6th (2W, 1L)

Some viewed the Richmond-Adelaide clash as a toss-up, but the Crows had been a level above the Tigers and ended up playing like it on the day. They’ve snuck up these rankings, the Crows, but all that gets put to the test this week: a home game against the Sydney Swans on Saturday night. Bring. It. On.

4.Western Bulldogs

-1; Ladder: 4th (2W, 1L)

You won’t hear of a side more desperate to rewind the last 90 seconds of a match than the Western Bulldogs this week. Losing not only the game but Bob Murphy to what’s expected to come up as an ACL. A sour way to end a match that was otherwise full of positives.

5.West Coast

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No change; Ladder: 7th (2W, 1L)

The Eagles kicked 12.20 against Fremantle. Here’s a fun fact: they’ve actually kicked more behinds than goals in four of their last five matches. That includes both the Round 2 and grand final losses to Hawthorn, not to mention a 10.20 preliminary final showing. Some kicking practice might be in order out west this week.

6.Geelong

+2; Ladder: 5th (2W, 1L)

The much talked about Joel Selwood-Patrick Dangerfield one-two punch was in full swing in what was a comprehensive win over the Brisbane Lions. Selwood had 34 disposals, Dangerfield had 26 and three goals.

7.Port Adelaide

+2; Ladder: 8th (2W, 1L)

Did what they were supposed to do against Essendon, despite Chad Wingard being among the outs. The pressure is off for now, but we’ll find out a bit more this week against the Giants in Canberra, an assignment the similarly-ranked Geelong struggled with.

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8.North Melbourne

-2; Ladder: 3rd (3W, 0L)

The Roos and Demons brought back the high-scoring shootout, if only for a solitary Hobart afternoon. It’s not the first time Brent Harvey has earned a mention in this column and it won’t be the last, but how good is six-goal Boomer travelling right now? And what about five-goal, 38-hitout, all-round-star Todd Goldstein?

9.Richmond

-2; Ladder: 12th (1W, 2L)

The Tigers were left to rue turnovers again. They had more of the ball against the Crows (25 more kicks, 17 more handballs) but were let down by what they did with it. West Coast, Domain Stadium and Friday night footy looms in the week ahead. The pressure could be turned up a notch again.

10.Gold Coast

No change; Ladder: 2nd (3W, 0L)

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The Suns would be more than happy with their start to the season. Second on the ladder, the Coleman Medal leader (Tom Lynch) and a general sense of optimism after last year’s disappointment. They’re a win away from equalling last year’s win total for the entire season. Why the low ranking then? Two of the three wins so far have been against the presumptive 2016 bottom two (Essendon and Carlton). The other was against Fremantle, who aren’t exactly the darlings of these rankings either. We await what the Suns do up against the big boys.

11.GWS Giants

No change; Ladder: 11th (1W, 2L)

The little brother tag will have to be worn a little longer after another loss to the Swans. Shane Mumford continued to underscore his importance to the Giants by laying 10 tackles to go with his 30 hitouts and a goal. The man can do it all.

12.Fremantle

+1; Ladder: 16th (0W, 3L)

Did Ross Lyon reverse course at the weekend? Was that a return to the lockdown, defensive game plan of recent years? Is the brief experiment with greater dosages of attack over? We might have to keep a closer eye on the Dockers in coming weeks, but whatever the approach was against West Coast, the end result was another loss. A big, massive, humungous turnaround would be needed to get this team from where it’s at now to being in finals contention. And sadly yes, that’s before taking into account the loss of Aaron Sandilands.

13.St Kilda

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+2; Ladder: 13th (1W, 2L)

What better way to commemorate the 1966 flag than with a win over Collingwood? Last week I said there would be little shame in losing to the Western Bulldogs this season. The Saints showed why by bouncing back with such a solid performance.

14.Collingwood

-2; Ladder: 14th (1W, 2L)

Nathan Buckley said they lacked forward pressure, they couldn’t force turnovers in their own half. That the tackle count was in St Kilda’s favour despite Collingwood trailing the possession count by almost 100 says it all. The Pies had a week out of the spotlight due to some luck against Richmond. There will be no avoiding it this week.

15.Melbourne

+1; Ladder: 10th (1W, 2L)

If we take the first three rounds overall, the Demons are going to be the most up-and-down team this season bar none. If we take the loss to North Melbourne yesterday by itself — Max Gawn’s 63 hitouts and all — then the Demons are going to start racking up the wins. Which Melbourne is the real Melbourne? We’ll have to tune in next week to see. I’m not ready to tip a winner between the Pies and Dees.

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16.Brisbane Lions

-2; Ladder: 18th (0W, 3L)

Losing two experienced heads in Tom Rockliff and Daniel Rich would’ve hurt, but the Lions were beaten in all facets against Geelong. One to forget.

17.Essendon

+1; Ladder: 15th (1W, 2L)

Yes, you’re eyes don’t deceive you. The Bombers went up a spot after a 61-point loss. Send me all of your negative comments. All of them. For those interested, I’ll let you know how this happens. Both sides went into the round neck and neck. In fact, Essendon very nearly overtook Carlton with their win last week but fell just short.

This week, Essendon lost by 61 points to a side ranked higher than the side Carlton lost to by 54 points. The quality of opposition does come into it and, in this case, it tipped things in Essendon’s favour. The takeaway? Who you play matters. And sometimes there’s a big gap between sides one position apart, while other times there’s not much in it at all. Welcome to the crazy world of power rankings.

18.Carlton

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-1; Ladder: 17th (0W, 3L)

A goalless last quarter — and five goals overall — were among the concerning parts of Carlton’s loss to Gold Coast. It’s easy to pin those numbers on goal kicking, given the Blues went 5.11. But opportunities are another aspect of it — the Blues had five marks inside 50 from 49 inside 50s. That’s about one mark for every 10 inside 50s. On the same night in the same conditions, the Suns were going at better than one in three up the other end.