Nine quick takes from AFL Round 21

Josh Elliott Editor

By Josh Elliott, Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    Two weeks left in the home-and-away season, and the final eight is starting to take shape. Here’s my quick takes from Round 21.

    Time for the Saints to do some head-scratching
    A painful and frustrating season came to an end for St Kilda on Sunday when they went down by four goals against the Melbourne Demons.

    Theoretically, mathematically, they could still make the eight, but that chance relies on a series of increasingly unlikely results. It isn’t going to happen.

    It’d be a bit early to start declaring it a crisis at St Kilda off the back of a mildly disappointing season, but they do have some big decisions to make, and soon.

    Alan Richardson is out of contract at the end of next year. The word is that they’ll likely re-sign him until the end of 2020 before the 2018 season begins.

    A few might turn their eyebrows up at that, but I’m all for it – St Kilda do have a few headaches, but the coach doesn’t appear to be one of them.

    They began a rebuilding effort around four years ago and the simple reality is that it’ll take a bit longer before that delivers results.

    They’ve drafted the likes of Jack Billings, Luke Dunstan, Blake Acres, Patrick McCartin, Hugh Goddard, Daniel McKenzie, Jack Lonie, Jack Sinclair, Jade Gresham, Ben Long and Josh Battle in that time, and picked up some handy players at the trade table too.

    None of them has really come fully into their own yet, but in time all or most of them will, and the Saints will rise when they do – they’ve got two top ten picks this year as well to either draft more talent with or spend on trades.

    It isn’t that far off, either. Just a margin of inches. Jack Billings could’ve easily kicked five and been the match-winner today. He may well have, if he’d had the use of his left eye.

    We could debate and speculate whether there’s enough class in that young core to take St Kilda as far as their second premiership – but speculation is all it would be.

    The simple fact is it takes more than a few years to put together an elite-quality AFL list, especially when starting from as far back as the Saints were in 2013.

    The easiest way to screw it up is to expect results too soon, make rash decisions, and start bulldozing all you’ve built before you even know what the finished product is going to look like.

    If there’s a Josh Kelly or a Dustin Martin who wants to come to the club that maybe changes things, but otherwise I say be patient and play the long game. Stick by Richo and add two of the top ten best kids in the country in November. The results will come.

    Jarryn Geary St Kilda Saints AFL 2017

    (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Richmond aren’t guaranteed a finals win
    For most of this season I have looked at the Richmond Tigers and thought that I saw a team reborn, one ready to take steps forward and break their long-standing finals drought.

    The kind of team that, if they get the chance to play a Geelong side with no Joel Selwood, no Tom Hawkins and no Mitch Duncan, should easily take the opportunity to break the drought against a team that has beaten them twelve times in a row.

    Not so. Richmond put in one of their most disappointing efforts of the year and went down by 14 points. Now we’re left to question how much progress they have really made.

    Despite the loss, they’re still almost certain to finish in the top four this year. While that means a finals double chance, it doesn’t at all guarantee a breakthrough finals win.

    Imagine this nightmare scenario: Adelaide finish top. Richmond finish fourth. Sydney finish fifth.

    The Tigers are embarrassed at Adelaide Oval in the first week of finals (not a scenario they are unfamiliar with), then host a semi-final next week against the Swans at the MCG.

    Sydney, en route to the most memorable premiership we’ve seen in… well, about twelve months, blast the Tigers early with seven goals to none in the first quarter and Richmond are never really in the game, knocked out in straight sets.

    Straight sets finals exits were once a rarity but we’ve seen four teams – Geelong, Fremantle, Sydney and Hawthorn – suffer them in the past three years.

    The Tigers need to improve if they don’t want to be next – and whingeing about the umpires in the post-game presser isn’t the path forward.

    Trent Cotchin Richmond Tigers AFL 2017

    (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    What will the AFL make of Toby Greene?
    I’d love to tell you that I have a hard, unyielding opinion on what – if anything – should be done with Toby Greene after his bizarre incident with Luke Dahlhaus on Friday night, but I honestly don’t.

    It’s a strange and unusual thing to see on a football field and there are a lot of different conflicting philosophies on how it should be judged.

    I reckon anyone who thinks that Greene had no intention of his foot winding up in Dahlhaus’ face is being a bit naive.

    But, maybe those who argue Greene has a right to protect his space when receiving the ball have a point – maybe.

    The truth is that AFL, like most contact sports, is a game where if a player can do something that is legal in a way that will cause the opponent a bit more damage, they usually will.

    When you do things that way it makes it that little bit harder for the opponent to pull up and maybe it makes them think twice next time you’re in a contest with them.

    Just look at the ‘clumsy’ spoils a defender will deliver when they know they’re going to be too late to the contest, or the rough time the man on the mark will give someone who has lost their feet.

    I’d say that we probably don’t want to be followers of a sport where blokes get studs in their face and there aren’t consequences, and I’d also say that Greene could pretty easily have defended his space in a way that didn’t have that result if he wanted to.

    Going to be damned hard to enforce though and I’d wager if he does get a ban, the Giants would be every chance of getting it overturned at the Tribunal.

    The truest thing I can say here is this: I’m glad I’m not the man with his finger on the button on this one. What’s your take?

    Toby Greene GWS Giants AFL 2017 tall

    (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Adelaide are on their way to the grand final
    Two weeks left and Adelaide are guaranteed a top-two finish.

    That’s damned good news for the Crows because it means that, if they take their opportunities, they have a direct path to the grand final without having to leave home.

    There’s all kind of things that could go wrong along the way between here and there, of course. There’s every chance they have to meet Sydney somewhere along the way, who are dangerous anywhere and knocked them out of finals last year.

    My gut feel though is that they’ve got one hand on a grand final berth now, and that should excite them a lot, because they’re the only team in the league who has never lost one (of those to actually play in one).

    On top of that, I’m tipping our first all-interstate grand final since 2006 – my early call is Adelaide vs Sydney, but the Giants could get there just as easily.

    Mitch McGovern Adelaide Crows AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    Ladder position flatters flunking Fremantle
    Fremantle are going to avoid a bottom-four finish this year, but you could make an argument that they’re only a few lucky turns away from being the worst team in the league.

    The Dockers may have eight wins to their name this year, but fully half of them have come by less than a goal.

    Whether or not that means something is one of the great endless footy debates, but I’ve said a few times this year that I don’t place much stock in close wins or losses, and I stand by it.

    Every team above them has had at least five wins with margins bigger than a goal, and of the four teams below them…

    Gold Coast – Five wins by more than a goal.
    North Melbourne – Four wins by more than a goal.
    Carlton – Four wins by more than a goal.
    Brisbane – Four wins by more than a goal.

    So there isn’t a team in the league with less wins by more than a goal, and of the three they’re even with, two of them have a better percentage, and the other – Brisbane – defeated them by 57 points in their only meeting this year.

    Here’s another stat to consider – in 180 AFL games so far this season, only three have ended in margins of 100 points or greater. Fremantle have been the losing side in two of those (Gold Coast the only other).

    What does it all mean? The short version is that Fremantle aren’t very good, but really, you already knew that. They’re maybe even less good than you think they are.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of things to like about their list going forward.

    End of the day though, it’d be a mistake to look at their eight wins this year and assume they’ve made significant progress on a four-win season in 2016.

    Nat Fyfe Fremantle Dockers AFL 2017

    (Photo by Matt King/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Who’s getting the spoon?
    Having sent somes jibes at the Tigers and the Dockers, it’d be unfair of me to pretend that North Melbourne, Carlton and Brisbane – the three teams battling it out for the spoon – aren’t all poor in their own way.

    They’re all quite young sides. They’re all generally lacking star power outside of one or two elite players at the top. Only one of them is going to finish the year on the bottom of the ladder.

    Which ever of them does will have, at a minimum, five wins for the year, and that will be the most by any team to win the spoon since 1998, and of course the most ever in an 18-team league.

    Here’s how the fixture unfolds for all three in what’s left of the year:

    North Melbourne – St Kilda, Brisbane.
    Carlton – Hawthorn, Sydney.
    Brisbane – Melbourne, North Melbourne.

    If Carlton don’t manage another win this year – which is probably the most likely result, even though they’ve pushed good teams in the past fortnight and shouldn’t feel ashamed – then it likely comes down to Brisbane and North in the final round, with a Brisbane win giving Carlton the spoon, or Brisbane taking the spoon if they lose.

    If the Blues manage to knock off either the Hawks or the Swans, then the Brisbane vs North battle likely becomes a spoon decider between those two teams.

    Of course in the end who actually wins the spoon makes little difference – though as a North fan having not taken one home since 1972 I’d like to see the club avoid it as a point of pride.

    Where it likely has a real impact is the draft – right now pick 1 probably nets you Dustin Martin-type Cam Rayner, pick 2 is probably Luke Davies-Uniacke, and pick 3 is pretty wide open.

    My gut feel? The spoon, and Rayner, will land at Carlton. But anything could happen.

    Marc Murphy Carlton Blues AFL 2017

    (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Taylor time up forward pays dividends
    Having had a go at the Harry-Taylor-as-a-forward-experiment way back in Round 1, it’s only fair for me to admit that persisting with it has paid off big time for Chris Scott this week.

    Losing Tom Hawkins, Geelong’s only genuinely dangerous tall forward, ahead of a match with Richmond was a nightmare scenario – certain to allow Alex Rance, the league’s premier key defender, to run free and do some damage.

    Instead, Taylor proved too much for Rance to handle. Rance played easily his worst game of the year, one of those occasional shockers he has that has always made me think the “best defender of all time” talk is a bit premature.

    Taylor had kicked only 16 goals for the year before this match – less than one a game – but you wouldn’t know it the way he was playing.

    He proved to be a match-winner and if the Cats had played him in defence it’s hard to imagine who would’ve kicked those crucial goals instead.

    Harry Taylor Geelong Cats AFL 2017

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Josh J Kennedy more than deserves a third Coleman
    Foolish me thought not that long ago that Josh J Kennedy’s six-week leg injury would cost him the Coleman Medal and open it up to the likes of Lance Franklin, Joe Daniher and Ben Brown – but I was quite wrong.

    With another bag of six on the weekend against Carlton (which you’d imagine is not very fun for them), Kennedy has 60 goals from only 14 games played this year – more than four goals a game.

    For a point of comparison, no one else in the league is kicking even three goals per game this year. He’s more than a goal a game ahead of the pack.

    If he keeps up this pace then the Coleman medal is his for a third year in a row. It also leaves me asking this question: how bad would West Coast be without him?

    Honestly, if I was a team near the premiership but without two established top-quality key forwards, I’d be making a sneaky call to his management.

    He’s 29 and the Eagles don’t look capable of delivering a flag in what’s left of his career (and they’re aware of that), but imagine the boost he’d give to say Richmond, Geelong or Port Adelaide if they could find a way to get a deal done.

    I’m well aware that’s just fanciful thinking, but fortune favours the bold, and there’d be no harm done by any of those clubs picking up the phone.

    Josh J Kennedy West Coast Eagles AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    One Gold Coast experiment worth doing
    Just a small one to lead us out, but with only two weeks left and no senior coach in charge, Gold Coast should feel they have a license to throw the magnets around and see what happens.

    One move I’d really like to see is Trent McKenzie given license to play an attacking role off half-back or the wing and make the most of his natural talents.

    It’s really easy to forget that under Guy McKenna he was a very promising young half-back, with one of the most penetrating kicks in the league and some natural play-making instincts.

    Rodney Eade largely tried to turn him into a more defensive player and it did not work. He’s had some injury trouble but he also just hasn’t been given opportunities, playing only nine games in the last two years.

    Maybe it’s too late or maybe he’s just not good enough, but he’s out of contract and they have nothing to play for so why not give him a crack at playing his natural role and see if he still has what it takes?

    If the Suns don’t give him a chance, I’d love to see him picked up by another club at the end of the year. He’d have plenty of opportunity and fit in well with the likes of Brisbane or North Melbourne.

    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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    The Crowd Says (163)

    • Roar Guru

      August 13th 2017 @ 7:23pm
      hairy fat man said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

      I think Greene’s chances revolve around whether he lowers his gaze. If he keeps his eyes on the ball, then maybe it’s accidental contact. It’s an odd case.

      • Editor

        August 14th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Josh Elliott said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        I don’t think there’s any chance it was genuinely accidental, but it depends a lot on the ability to prove otherwise. Could still get pinged with a week for reckless high contact.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 9:46am
        Matto said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Unless he has an eye problem that causes him to have no peripheral vision i dont understand how he could get off.

        Everyone uses it every day. Its not relevant when someone kicks someone in the head?

    • August 13th 2017 @ 7:34pm
      Birdman said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

      Greene’s intention was unreasonable in the context of taking the ball from a handpass – was hardly vulnerable given the worst Daulhaus could have done was wrap him up in the tackle which doesn’t justify a studs up defence.

      One week IMHO which is generous.

      • August 13th 2017 @ 8:09pm
        Macca said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

        Dahlhaus doesn’t turn around and everyone is singing Greene’s praises for taki for want of a better word.

        • Roar Guru

          August 13th 2017 @ 8:40pm
          Cat said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

          Taki?

          • August 13th 2017 @ 8:57pm
            Macca said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:57pm | ! Report

            It was supposed to be “taking a hanger”

            • August 13th 2017 @ 9:13pm
              kevin said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

              From a hand ball?

              • August 13th 2017 @ 9:13pm
                Macca said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

                I said for want of a better word.

              • August 13th 2017 @ 11:26pm
                rusty said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

                Greene has a duty of care to not kick Dalhaus in the face. My immediate reaction was that it was dirty.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 9:00am
                Pumping Dougie said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

                I think the rules need to be changed to explicitly prohibit thrusting your foot out at an opponent’s head. Just common sense really. In last year’s PF, two GWS players did exactly the same thing (no media outcry though). They are dirty actions that definitely needs to be outlawed. I don’t see much difference between that and punching a bloke in the head with one arm while receiving the ball with your other arm. For the sake of the game, I’d give him 3 weeks (with bad record) and make the serial sniper miss a final.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 12:29pm
                Birdman said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

                with the possible exception of a marking contest, studs up contact has never been nor should ever be part of the game IMHO

      • Editor

        August 14th 2017 @ 9:07am
        Josh Elliott said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Yes, that’s fair. You can understand looking at in insolation why so many have thought it was a mark as he makes the kind of movement. Don’t generally see a player move like that for a handball receive.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 9:27am
          I ate pies said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

          I can’t understand how anyone can dismiss it. Watch the vision – he jumped and kick another player, it’s as simple as that. It’s a filthy act.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 9:55am
            Macca said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

            When Carlton played Geelong a couple of weeks back Just before Dangerwood tackled Kreuzer Kade Simpson gathered the ball and was holding it to his chest roughly 1m off the ground when Seldwood attempted to kick it – no free kick was paid – I would rate that incident much worse than Greene’s.

            • August 14th 2017 @ 11:38am
              I ate pies said | August 14th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

              Trying to kick the ball was worse than kicking someone in the face? Riighhtt

              • August 14th 2017 @ 1:07pm
                Macca said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

                When you deliberately try to kick the ball someone is holding to their chest 1m off the ground it is much worse than accidentally putting your foot in someone face.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 1:23pm
                Macca said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

                I would also add that if Selwood had hit Simpsons face with his foot Simpson would have got much worse than a split lip.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 2:33pm
                I ate pies said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

                It wasn’t an accident. People don’t accidentally jump like that.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 3:32pm
                Macca said | August 14th 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

                I don’t think that Greene is so talented that he can jump and catch a ball while deliberately kicking someone in the face.

                Did he extend his leg to ensure that Dalhaus couldn’t wrap him up in a tackle when he landed? Yes, just like numerous other players have done while taking a mark or even competing in the ruck.

                Did he intentionally strike the face? No.

              • August 15th 2017 @ 9:21am
                I ate pies said | August 15th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

                Macca, are you implying that it’s ok to kick someone to the body?

              • August 15th 2017 @ 10:24am
                Macca said | August 15th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

                I ate pies – given I have specifically stated that Selwood kicking Simpson in the body was a worse action than what Greene did how could you possibly think I am implying that?

      • August 14th 2017 @ 9:23am
        Winston said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Whether it’s handball or mark shouldn’t make a difference. The ball is in the air to be won, and it’s in mid air, so the situations are the same. The only difference is after he takes the ball the opposition can tackle him. If you can sink your knee into someone’s spine to take a mark, why not the same or handball? In the same situation, if the opponent is coming back with the flight Jonathan Brown style, then you’re completely entitled to knee him in the head (as they did to Jonathan Brown many times). So the only issue here is whether you’re allowed to go stud up into someone’s head.

        I remember a NAB Cup game many years ago where Brendan Fevola kicked a bag of goals, he did something similar. He was a sitting duck waiting for a high ball to come in, while the defender was coming from his right sprinting up a head of steam. Fev tilted his body and stuck his boot to the right and kicked the defender’s head while taking the mark. I don’t think there was any talk whatsoever about the legality of the move. That’s the closest precedent I can think of, so I think Greene should have no repercussions.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 9:49am
          Matto said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          If he had of kneed him in the face we wouldnt be talking about it.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 12:12pm
          Pumping Dougie said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

          Can you raise your elbow at someone’s head when collecting the ball? No. It’s simple really.

          I don’t understand the logic of people on this site in regards to this incident, suggesting it’s ok to “clear space” by whatever means, if your eyes aren’t directly locked on to the victim.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 2:33pm
            Winston said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

            I don’t see why eyes matter. What if I’m blind?

            I’m pretty sure you an raise your elbows when trying to take a mark, and if it happens that the elbow collects someone else’s temple, so be it. If you can do it to take a mark, you can do the same getting a handball where the ball is in the same position.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 8:08pm
      Egbirt said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:08pm | ! Report

      Crows have to finish top two. Don’t know how people don’t see. Even if they lose v Swans and Eagles, Cats v Giants in round 23 means that neither can win the rest of their games, and Crows (62 points) are 1.5 games clear of Giants (56) and 2 clear of Cats (54); if Giants win both they go top on 64, Crows second on 62 and theoretically any of Cats/Tigers/Swans/Port third, and if Cats win both then they’ll be most likely second (percentage) with whoever third…
      🙂

      • Editor

        August 14th 2017 @ 9:08am
        Josh Elliott said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        As said above, it’s guaranteed. I’m not legitimately suggesting they might lose their remaining matches by a combined 400 points.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 9:20am
          Jolza said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          No, what Egbirt is saying is the score doesn’t matter. It is literally impossible for Crows to fall to third as Cats play Giants still. Only 12 points available for teams currently 2nd and 3rd

    • August 13th 2017 @ 8:08pm
      Peter said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:08pm | ! Report

      Really hope Greene gets off. Players always use their feet, this was just bad luck. We can’t eradicate bad luck from football

      • August 13th 2017 @ 9:22pm
        Birdman said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

        hmmm…the only bad luck was visited on Luke Dahlhaus – couldn’t have reasonably expected that.

        • August 13th 2017 @ 9:40pm
          Shane said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

          So, a knee to the head in a marking contest should be suspension worthy too, then.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 7:38am
            Nev said | August 14th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

            His foot is in an unnatural position.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 8:20am
            Birdman said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

            you can (reasonably) expect contact in a marking contest.

            • August 14th 2017 @ 12:09pm
              Slane said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

              You can reasonably expect contact in any contest.

      • Editor

        August 14th 2017 @ 9:09am
        Josh Elliott said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        I have significant doubts that it was purely bad luck.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 1:51pm
          Aransan said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

          Perhaps it is just a black cloud that follows him around.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 8:10pm
      Greg said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

      The Crows can’t drop out of the top 2 now. GWS and Geelong are playing each other in the last round which means if Geelong jumped ahead of the Crows somehow, then GWS would still end up behind Adelaide.

      • Roar Guru

        August 13th 2017 @ 8:31pm
        Cat said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:31pm | ! Report

        Geelong can’t over take the Crows. Even if Cats won both and Crows lost both the huge margins needed to make up about 28% is virtually impossible in two games.

        • August 13th 2017 @ 10:38pm
          Danny said | August 13th 2017 @ 10:38pm | ! Report

          Cats and GWS may end up playing each other twice in a row

    • August 13th 2017 @ 8:26pm
      Mediawatch said | August 13th 2017 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

      How is it that the Australian, the Age, the Advertiser, Foxfooty, The Roar and the AFL’s own website all have articles about how Adelaide have all but guaranteed a top 2 finish. Has the entirety of the football press managed to miss the fact that Geelong and GWS are playing one another in the final round? There is no mathematical scenario under which the Crows can’t finish top 2.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 10:50am
        Joe B said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Nice to see a non-vic team get some press ?

      • August 14th 2017 @ 1:25pm
        Egbirt said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        Yeah not sure??!

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