The big Victorians throw their weight around, confirming we know little about this AFL season

Ryan Buckland Columnist

By Ryan Buckland, Ryan Buckland is a Roar Expert

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    As if emboldened by the news the AFL grand final was to stay at the MCG indefinitely, this weekend saw the big Victorian teams lay the smack down across the competition.

    Setting Carlton to one side, the big dogs of football’s home state had impressive wins across the board in Round 4.

    Collingwood, Richmond, Essendon, Hawthorn and Geelong won their five games by a combined 341 points, for an average margin of 68.2 points.

    Let’s deal with them in turn, from least to most surprising, starting in the most obvious place.

    Richmond’s obliteration of Brisbane was one of the most thorough beatdowns handed out in the complete history of organised top-level Australian rules football. I am not exaggerating.

    Through just shy of three quarters, the Lions were on track to score the fewest points in a game at the MCG in the ground’s storied 121-year, 2803-game history. They ended up scoring 17 points, just the equal eighth lowest score and the lowest score since 1962.

    If we take ‘modern’ times as the mark, it was easily a new low, the previous fewest of the AFL era the 30 points scored by St Kilda against Hawthorn in 2014, and North Melbourne against Collingwood in 2011.

    That sums up the game succinctly. It was the worst general play defence against the team best at improvising on the fly – that turned out to be the play.

    Dustin Martin booted six goals too, and he’s now equal fifth on the goal kicking chart, with a dozen majors (Lance Franklin is on top, with 17). Richmond roll on, with a significant percentage boost that’ll come in handy come September time.

    Dustin Martin of the Richmond Tigers

    Dustin Martin of the Tigers (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Geelong was always going to handle the hapless St Kilda. The Cats’ first hit out at Kardinia Park went almost entirely to script: 18 inside 50s and seven extra scoring shots, few uncontested marks to the Saints, and plenty of pressure around the ball from Geelong. St Kilda now sits 1-3, and on my Simple Rating System calculations are only a hair better than both Brisbane and Carlton in the four rounds to date – their season only alive on account of a fairly tight tussle in the midtable.

    The Bombers were the subject of Cam Rose’s Tuesday torch last week, and it was a pattern repeated across much of the media. Essendon had a similarly languid performance in the early part of last season, were chewed out, and responded with a stirring victory over Geelong at the MCG. History seemingly repeated itself yesterday.

    The Dons’ activity across the ground, both with and without the ball, was more in keeping with their best football of 2017. The overlap run was too much for Port Adelaide’s press to take, and once the ball hit Essendon’s half forward line it was often a case of when, not if, points would follow. Michael Hurley was extraordinary, Port’s forward half rotation policy allowing him some extra space to go to work. He had 29 disposals and 15 marks in all, four of them intercepts, and launched three scores (heaps for a key position defender).

    They remain confounding – the anti-Power of last season in some ways. The Bombers’ two wins have come against premiership fancies in Adelaide and Port Adelaide; their two losses came against Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs. We will get a solid indication on Anzac Day.

    We will get to Collingwood in a moment. As for Hawthorn, well, I did tell you they were looking a likely finalist for this season last week, and they delivered on that against Melbourne. I also told you last week we’d spend some time on the Hawks in this week’s Thursday column, and I will, like Hawthorn, deliver.

    I will say now, because it is a topic of conversation, that talk of premiership contention is premature. Hawthorn has looked mighty impressive, recapturing the football identity Alastair Clarkson seemed so intent on changing last year (another thing I told you to look out for), but challenges remain.

    The Alastair Clarkson endgame

    Melbourne, meanwhile, will be smarting after this one. It was an 88-point turnaround from halfway through the first quarter to the end of the game, the Dees fumbling and puzzling their way to an inept display in their forward half. It was not in keeping with the Melbourne we thought we knew; a tough assignment against Richmond looms, albeit with an extra couple of days to recuperate and rehabilitate the gameplan.

    And then there was Collingwood, whose away win against Adelaide has been lost in the noise of the rest of the weekend. Nathan Buckley must sometimes wonder if the media has it in for him with the way wins have been covered against losses in his tenure.

    This was as quality a win for this group of Pies as I can remember. Adelaide has been lights out on their home deck in recent times, winning 19 of 24 with a point differential of 39.6 against interstate opponents since 2016. With a third of its first choice team unavailable, Collingwood rolled out a team with 500 games less experience than Adelaide. Half of the outfit was 23 or younger, compared to six at the Crows.

    One of that cohort was Brodie Grundy, who put up a glorious ruckman’s stat line: 40 hit outs, 12 to advantage, and a 48 per cent hit out win percentage (compared to 42 per cent for Sam Jacobs). He also put up a glorious midfielder’s stat line: 29 disposals, 23 contested possessions, 12 clearances and six inside 50s. Grundy was two men in one, making good on a Dragon Ball Z GIF he tweeted earlier this month.

    He was important, but not the critical factor. Collingwood swarmed across the Oval, cutting off Adelaide’s transition game and blunting their influence at the contest. The Pies beat the Crows in the ground game 174-133, a shellacking the home side hadn’t experienced since (sorry…) grand final day.

    Adelaide went into the game with a countercultural line up that was very tall up front, and it showed. Reports emerged during and after the game that Tom Lynch and Taylor Walker were playing with injuries hampering their mobility – the duo are so important to that transition game that it was an uphill battle all night.

    That’s to take nothing away from Collingwood. It was, in many ways, the final form of Buckley’s Magpies, the game plan he has been working towards since taking the helm in 2012. Collingwood’s ferocity without the ball was only matched by its intent with it. A 23-clearance differential comes back in part to Grundy, but can only be delivered with a total team performance.

    They looked like a natural small-ball team, Mason Cox pushed to the fringes of the line up with four or five smalls surrounding Ben Reid. Now switch out Cox for Jamie Elliott, and one of the youngsters (if you must) for Alex Fasolo. Suddenly, Collingwood look like finals contenders – the fate we have all intuitively projected at one point or another in the past four seasons, but have been scared to revisit.

    Suddenly Anzac Day looks like a belter, while the five-day turnaround to face Richmond will be a tricky assignment indeed. Brisbane in Brisbane follows (Collingwood haven’t lost there since 2010), before a date with Geelong at the MCG to round out the first third of the season.

    Perched 2-2 with a decent percentage, the Collingwood that killed the Crows on Friday night will win at least two, if not three, of those next four. From there who knows.

    We could say that about 80 per cent of the league, such is the competition through four rounds. There are a couple of standouts at either end, but otherwise that gooey centre looks as delicious as ever.

    With a bit of space to breath between games this round, it looms as an important opportunity to sort through some football matters as we try to get our collective head around this topsy-turvy season.

    Ryan Buckland
    Ryan Buckland

    As an economist, Ryan seeks to fix the world's economic troubles one graph at a time. As a sports fan, he's always looking one or two layers beneath the surface to search for meaning, on and off the field. You can follow Ryan here.

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    The Crowd Says (98)

    • April 16th 2018 @ 7:41am
      reuster75 said | April 16th 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Saints are 1-3 not 0-4, they beat Brisbane in round one.

      • April 16th 2018 @ 10:05am
        Guttsy said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        But beating Brisbane at the moment isn’t really saying anything about where St Kilda is at.

        You will have to wait until the Carlton game…

    • April 16th 2018 @ 7:44am
      Alan said | April 16th 2018 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      “The smallest win was Geelong’s 47-point triumph over St Kilda.“

      Apart from Essendons win…

      • April 16th 2018 @ 8:11am
        mattyb said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        I think this article might have been ghost written by David Lord,it contains a number of errors.

        • Columnist

          April 16th 2018 @ 11:41am
          Ryan Buckland said | April 16th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          Those errors have now been fixed. Sincere apologies. Pobody’s nerfect.

          • April 16th 2018 @ 11:54am
            Peter the Scribe said | April 16th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

            Ryan, I personally would rather see lots more articles written, even including errors than like last week when we seemed devoid of good articles.

      • April 16th 2018 @ 8:26am
        Kangajets said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Apart from that Victorian club North Melbourne s win by 85 points

        • Columnist

          April 16th 2018 @ 11:40am
          Ryan Buckland said | April 16th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

          “The big Victorians throw their weight around”

          “this weekend saw the big Victorian teams lay the smack down across the competition”

          “Setting Carlton to one side, the big dogs of football’s home state had impressive wins across the board in Round 4″

    • April 16th 2018 @ 7:59am
      Peter the Scribe said | April 16th 2018 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      We simply have to knock off the Bombers now on Anzac Day, with 4 days before we play the premiers we will take 3-3 heading up to Brisbane. The Bombers look great at Etihad, let’s see how they go at the G.

      • April 16th 2018 @ 10:04am
        Rissole said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        5-2 at the G last year (5-4 at Etihad).

        Should be a cracker of the game but I feel the Pies will get up.

        • April 16th 2018 @ 10:11am
          Peter the Scribe said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          Rissole, it’s the first time for a while where both sides are coming off strong wins against quality opposition. Apart from our Hawthorn game, we have been fairly consistent whereas the Bombers have been up and down. Still, four rounds in and the Bombers have knocked off both Adelaide teams, both in many predictions for top 4. Clearly your best is very good, makes the start so important. I am hoping we keep kicking straight and don;t go back to last years shooting for goal. Snag a few early and the confidence kicks in. I’m wary of the Bombers as on their day they will beat anyone, could be a classic.

          • April 16th 2018 @ 3:32pm
            Slane said | April 16th 2018 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

            Now the Bombers can beat anybody on their day? Just last week you were saying the Bombers would have ‘to play above themselves’ to be in with a chance against the Pies.

            • April 16th 2018 @ 3:39pm
              truetigerfan said | April 16th 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

              It’s Peter providing the Pies with a get out clause! 2 ordinary sides . . . who cares?

            • April 16th 2018 @ 4:10pm
              Peter the Scribe said | April 16th 2018 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

              Slane, my point in relation to the Bombers was they were getting slammed by the media after their insipid performance against the Dogs and if they had another howler against Port the wolves would be baying for blood, inspiring the Bombers. Did I think we were a better side than the Bombers at the start of 2018? Yes. DO I think we will beat them? Yes, but they are so hot and cold so far which side will turn up is the question.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 16th 2018 @ 10:29am
        Sachit Dassanayake said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        Very much looking forward to this years Anzac Day game. It’s been a while since both teams have had good wins coming up to Anzac Day.
        I think the main questions will be whether Essendon’s midfield can at least break even with Collingwood’s midfield and how the Bombers will try to combat the small forward line the Pies possess.
        May the better team on the day win! Go Dons!

        • April 17th 2018 @ 9:34am
          Harsh Truth Harry said | April 17th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          Get off the fence Sachit and support our great Bombers bloke!

          • Roar Rookie

            April 17th 2018 @ 2:14pm
            Sachit Dassanayake said | April 17th 2018 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

            Mate I am. Did you even read my post? I said at the end “Go Dons!” How is that on the fence and not supporting?

      • April 16th 2018 @ 12:58pm
        Adam said | April 16th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

        ANZAC day doesn’t care what the form line of either side looks like. This could be a blowout either way!

        • April 16th 2018 @ 1:38pm
          BigAl said | April 16th 2018 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          Exactly ! Tells us something is wrong with the game. Stats tell us it will be a Blowout – but not which way ???

          Blowouts are a scourge on the game – notice only one non blowout in the last round !

          Whatever happened to the old “…100 minutes of football…”. These days it’s more like …30-50. ? Maybe the game is now too frantic and long ?…

          • Roar Guru

            April 16th 2018 @ 10:40pm
            Dalgety Carrington said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:40pm | ! Report

            What’s a blowout by your definition? Five goals? Surely it’d be eight goals or more? But you’re right the number of shellackings was rampant in round four.

    • April 16th 2018 @ 8:18am
      Gerard said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      I am a hardcore TIGER, but when I went seemingly unconscious for very many months, I was seen by our Mother The Blessed Virgin Mary, and was shown the world to end even sooner than just under our last Pope Francis, but even sooner under Donald Trump.

    • April 16th 2018 @ 8:22am
      Shambool said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      You might want to reconsider your statement Ryan *Richmond’s obliteration of Brisbane was one of the most thorough beatdowns handed out in the complete history of organised top-level Australian rules football. I am not exaggerating.*. I think the biggest smack down was Sydney Swan’s obliteration of eventual fellow top 4 Geelong by 110 points in 2014. We’re talking about a team in top 4 (Geelong 3rd on the ladder that year) getting romped by Sydney not some team like Brisbane that were touted to finish wooden spooners at the start of the season. Now that’s a feat to achieve and to be repeated.

      • April 16th 2018 @ 10:11am
        Guttsy said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Or the 113 point decimation of Richmond by the Sydney Swans in late 2016.

        Its enough to give the mosr despondant amongst us some hope for the future.

      • April 16th 2018 @ 10:19am
        Birdman said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Shambool

        Maybe that thrashing of Geelong by the Swans led to them drinking too much of their own bathwater going into the 2014 grand final?

        🙂

        • April 16th 2018 @ 2:49pm
          I ate pies said | April 16th 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

          Or when Geelong beat Port Adelaide in the Grand Final by 119 points.

      • Columnist

        April 16th 2018 @ 11:44am
        Ryan Buckland said | April 16th 2018 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        Richmond almost stopped Brisbane from scoring any points. Until Zorko kicked a goal at the end of Q3 it looked like Brisbane was going to register the fewest points in a game since the motor car was a new invention.

        In a league where everyone can score, with Brisbane themselves one of the better offensive teams in the game. This was one of the most thorough beat downs we have ever seen.

      • April 16th 2018 @ 3:55pm
        Slane said | April 16th 2018 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

        Surely keeping a team from scoring a single goal until the very last minute of time on in the 3rd quarter has to rank up there as one of the most thorough beat-downs of all time.

    • April 16th 2018 @ 8:28am
      Stevo said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Obviously North’s thumping win is not worthy of a mention? Oh it must be that they are not BIG enough……or worthy to be considered a Victorian team? I know it was only Carlton that they beat, but it was a more impressive win than Geelong’s win over the Saints! North also have a better % and sit higher on the ladder than Geelong, Essendon, and Collingwood! Where’s the love Ryan?

      • April 16th 2018 @ 8:38am
        Birdman said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        probably figures that Cam has been showing them plenty already – apparently Billy Hartung is recruit of the year : /

        • April 16th 2018 @ 8:46am
          Kangajets said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          This Hartung stuff is getting old

      • April 16th 2018 @ 9:12am
        Tom M said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:12am | ! Report

        He did state at the very start of the article that this was about the Big Victorian clubs making a statement.

      • Roar Guru

        April 16th 2018 @ 9:23am
        JamesH said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Take nothing away from North’s efforts to date but they are not a ‘big’ Vic club by any measure. Not in terms membership, finances or flag contention. It’s not an insult; it’s just a fact.

        If you’re writing an article specifically about big Victorian clubs then it’s perfectly fair to not talk about North. This isn’t a wrap-up of the round.

        • April 16th 2018 @ 9:32am
          Mattyb said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:32am | ! Report

          As a dogs supporter I’d cringe then laugh if someone called us a big club,same with North and StKilda.
          There’s some benifits supporting a small club,but the simple facts are our clubs aren’t big.

          • April 16th 2018 @ 9:37am
            Tom M said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

            Not sure how Carlton got a mention. he club is falling away very quickly. 20 years of being Poor is taking its toll.

            • April 16th 2018 @ 10:23am
              Birdman said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

              copy that – Blues are no longer a big Vic club for mine

      • Columnist

        April 16th 2018 @ 9:51am
        Ryan Buckland said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        If I wrote about every team every Monday i wouldn’t get to sleep! North I suspect have been helped by a kind fixture to this point in the year, but we’ll wait and see. They look a level above the worst teams but still around the bottom six for mine.

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