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Nine hot takes from AFL Round 6

The Eagles are one of the AFL's big-money clubs. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Expert
29th April, 2018
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4567 Reads

It’s Sunday night – you know what that means. Time for hot takes. Enjoy.

Best in the West – Eagles win a derby to make WA proud
At the start of the year it was a pretty common sight on AFL ladder predictions to see both West Australian sides missing out on finals, if not finishing in the bottom six.

Why? When it comes to Fremantle, well, they’ve been in that region the past two years running and most figured they weren’t likely to get out of it just yet.

West Coast, a team who have made finals for a few years in a row now, were instead the most hard done by, as the AFL world almost unanimously predicted them to be the slider.

It wasn’t entirely unfair – they cut a lot of experience at the end of 2017. But we underrated the talent that was left, we underrated the ability of some players to bounce back, and perhaps most importantly we underrated the coach.

Losing Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell has knocked West Coast’s ability to win the ball down a peg. Right now they’re roughly breaking even in both clearances and contested possessions, which is maybe less than you’d expect from a 5-1 side.

However the introduction of some younger, speedier blood has reviatlised West Coast’s ability to move the ball and score.

That Naitanui bloke goes alright, too.

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They have about the same or even less possession than their opponents on average through the season so far, but are second only to the reigning premiers for points per time in possession.

There’s no doubt West Coast’s ability not to just to tread water but instead seemingly rise against the tide is one of the big stories of the year so far.

But Fremantle deserve a hand for probably proving a few critics wrong in the opening weeks too. Their rebuild looks well and truly on track even if not all the pieces of the puzzle are quite together yet.

Their fans would be disappointed with a loss in the derby because of course you would be in a match like this, but it was by no means a poor performance.

Do you still feel like there won’t be a WA team in finals? There might well be two.

Jack Darling West Coast Eagles AFL 2017

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Pies beaten, but should be proud
If you just glanced at the final score you might feel like Collingwood’s Pie in the sky fell back down to Earth on Sunday at the MCG. Not so.

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To be honest, I’m equally as convinced by the Pies now in the wake of that loss than I probably was after any of their three wins in a row leading into this match.

Why? They played against the best team in the league, and they gave them a red-hot shake – as late 20 minutes into the third quarter, they were in front.

That, to me, is more impressive than running over uncompetitive Carlton and Essendon sides, although their win over Adelaide certainly still takes the cake.

The side ran out of legs in the final quarter which is not that much of a shock given they had a short break (don’t complain about it though, because any other side will gladly take Anzac Day off your hands).

Probably most costly was that they felt the need to rest Ben Crocker and Travis Varcoe, replaced by Chris Mayne and Jarryd Blair. Crocker and Varcoe have been valuable parts of Collingwood’s forward group this year, and the disruption didn’t help.

The Tigers had a short break too but are a more mature and fitter team with a greater depth of goal kicking options, so it didn’t prove a problem for them and they piled on the last four goals to turn a solid win into a big one.

Collingwood actually broke even with Richmond in terms of time in possession and laid twenty more tackles than the opposition, an impressive effort.

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They played the way they wanted to play, unfortunately for them it’s a way of playing the game that Richmond are also expert at.

While Collingwood’s ability to convert is only just now getting to the point where their midfield gets passable reward for effort, the Tigers are a spunky little murder machine when it comes to making opposition teams pay for their mistakes.

Chin up though, Collingwood. If you keep it together – and hopefully that doesn’t prove to be a particularly big if – you’ll get another chance at a big scalp at the MCG in two weeks.

Nathan Buckley Collingwood Magpies AFL 2017

(Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

If this is Carlton’s first rebuild, I have no idea what they were doing ten years ago
Let’s be honest: having a crack at Carlton for being bad at football is a bit passe now. You get it, right? I don’t really have to point it out anymore.

The Blues slumped to an 0-6 start on Friday night which is the club’s worst start to a season ever in more than a century of football.

It’d be a damning condemnation of where they’re at as a football club if we weren’t already entirely aware of where they’re at and thinking it was kind of likely.

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They gambled pretty hard when they traded Bryce Gibbs that their shrinking stock of mature on-field leaders would remain fit in 2018, and the dice were not kind.

They are fielding the second-least-experienced team in the league every week as a result, so is it really any surprise they’re not particularly good at the game right now?

That said, the only team less experienced than them is the same one that beat them on Friday night, so maybe we can’t make too many excuses.

Excuses is exactly what we got from Brendon Bolton in his post-game presser.

“We know that this hasn’t happened in the club’s history, but I suppose it’s the first time in the club’s history it’s genuinely done a rebuild, that it’s focused on a full-blown rebuild,” said Bolton.

“It hurts. Players hurt. Coaches hurt. I’m sure our supporters hurt when you haven’t got a win on the board yet. We’re going to work incredibly hard but it is the first time in history too that we have had a genuine rebuild.”

Come on now. Do you think we’re goldfish? This is far from Carlton’s first rebuild – they’ve been rebuilding off and on since the turn of the millennium.

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A decade ago they definitely didn’t tank (wink wink nudge nudge) their way to three consecutive No.1 draft picks and also traded in the best player in the AFL.

Despite bringing an almost unprecedented amount of topline talent in the club that rebuild netted them only two finals wins from six attempts, never progressing past week two.

Surely by now fans must be wondering what they’ll get out of this one.

Brendon Bolton

(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Swans go all the way with JPK
Few players have embodied the virtue of consistency so well across their careers as Josh P Kennedy has, which made it all the more surprising to see him play two bad games in a row leading into this week’s match against Geelong.

John Longmire assured us that physically he was doing just fine, and the poor form was just that – poor form.

I will admit that I was weak and allowed doubts to creep into my mind, whispering that maybe 29-year-old Kennedy was starting to wind down after a long and admirable career.

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Yeah, nah.

With Sydney staring down a 20-point deficit in the final change and seemingly headed for a loss no one would’ve judged them to harshly for, given the absence of Lance Franklin and Dan Hannebery, the Sydney skipper rose – less like a Swan, more like a Phoenix.

He had 13 disposals, eight contested possessions, three centre clearances and four score involvements in the final term as Sydney banged through seven goals to one and romped home for a 17-point win.

Across the whole game it was 33 disposals, 13 clearances and nine inside 50s.

Hopefully that shuts my brain up the next time it decides to try to write off a champion.

Josh P Kennedy

(Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Tom Lynch vs Tom Lynch proves to be a no-contest
When I first started writing about footy during university and mostly talked about draft fantasy for Footy Prophet, there was a long-running debate among the team of writers there over which Tom Lynch was the better.

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I was always in the corner of Tom J Lynch, aka the Tom Lynch of the Gold Coast Suns. Still am. There were times when Tom T Lynch, of the Adelaide Crows, was in better form, but I always maintained that Tom J would be proven the superior player.

Well… if you took a poll on the street I reckon most people would agree with me these days. However that might almost be a little unfair, because Tom J is one of the most talked about players in the game right now, and Tom T is – as he always was – very underrated.

The two players went head to head on Saturday night and it was a decisive victory in favour of Tom T, who had 25 disposals, seven marks and three goals against a Gold Coast Suns side that was disappointingly uncompetitive.

Constant travel does seem to be taking its toll on them. They’re still five rounds away from their first genuine homegame for the year.

Tom J at the opposite end of the field was worn like a glove by Daniel Talia and finished the night with ten disposals and no scoreboard impact. Only a single tackle, too.

What’s interesting is that while all the talk is about Tom J being a free agent this year, Tom T is out of contract too, and reportedly at loggerheads with the Crows over the length of the contract he is being offered.

He wants three years, the Crows are offering two – and I wonder if given Adelaide’s redwood forest of a forward line whether or not they might be more willing to let a tall slip by than another club would be. Probably not, but watch this space.

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Tom Lynch

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

What’s eating Joe Daniher?
There’s not many players in the AFL if any that I have more fondness for than Joe Daniher.

Why? Well… I spent a solid ten minutes looking for a photo of him appearing sad to include in this article and just had no luck. We had to settle for a more generic picture of him running instead.

He just plays his footy with such an infectious good attitude. You get the sense that he is loving every minute of being an AFL player, as ideally anyone so lucky to have that opportunity should be. The smile, the mo, I can’t help but love it.

That’s what makes it decidely un-fun to see him having such a slow start to 2018. At the moment he’s averaging 1.2 goals per game, which is his lowest count since his debut season five years ago.

There was a passage of play in Essendon’s six-goal loss to Melbourne where the Dons were right in the match and Jake Stringer was running forwards and looking certain to put through a goal.

Instead he surprisingly pulled a backwards set up kick to find Daniher directly in front of goal and within range.

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I’d love to tell you that Daniher iced the opportunity to strengthen Essendon’s position in the game… but he has kicked 7.9 so far this year, and that was one of the nine.

Hard to say exactly what it is that’s keeping him from playing the kind of excellent footy we saw from him on a consistent basis next year.

Maybe it’s just part of the general malaise we’ve seen Essendon wallow in for all bar two games this year.

Fingers crossed that whatever it is, Daniher is back to giving us goals and goofy grins sooner rather than later. Footy isn’t the same without them.

Joe Daniher

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Does Adelaide have a soft tissue issue?
All things considered the Adelaide Crows have had a reasonably solid start to the 2018 AFL season, with a few blemishes along the way.

Falling short against Essendon in Round 1 is looking harder and harder to forgive as each week goes by, but at the same time their Round 4 loss to Collingwood seems less of a debacle now than it did two weeks ago.

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The one thing hanging over their heads though is that the club simply cannot seem to stop losing key players to soft tissue injuries, particularly hamstrings.

Matt Crouch returned from one in Round 6 that has kept him out of the side for a few weeks, meanwhile Eddie Betts, Kyle Hartigan, Sam Gibson and Kyle Cheney are all also sidelined by the same malady.

Taylor Walker became the latest casualty this week in the game against the Suns and will probably miss a few too, while Brad Crouch is still at least a month away with a groin injury.

Look, it’s probably just bad luck. Adelaide have been one of the least injury prone teams in the league in the two seasons before this one and were bad to have a rough patch like this sooner or later.

That said, if only for the sake of South Australian pride, you’d want to hope the skies clear up soon.

The Crows are set for a Showdown with Port Adelaide in just two weeks time and will want as many stars back in the side as they can get.

Taylor Walker

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

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The Lid is off for Giant Brett
There have been some seriously unlucky blokes in football over the years but few more unlucky than Brett Deledio was in 2017.

Imagine it – you’re the best kid in the country, and you get drafted with the No.1 pick to one of the competition’s biggest clubs. Exciting right?

You then go on to play year after year producing classy yet hard-working football… and the club rots away in the middle of the table.

Even when you finally crack through into finals three years in a row you are knocked out without a win in the first week every time.

When the team has a terrible year and slips back out of finals, you are successfully wooed by that hot young thing up north and agree to be traded.

You’re injured almost all season long but make it back for finals, where your new club is eliminated by your old club, and then you watch them go on to win a flag.

Ouch. Just, on a cosmic level, ouch.

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Thank goodness things finally seeming to be coming up Deledio. In the past three weeks he has picked up no less than 28 disposals in each game and kicked three goals across that time too.

It’s so good to see because at 31 years of age and with plenty of injury troubles in recent years I think there were plenty of us who wondered if he was ever going to make it back to this kind of form.

There’s life in the old Tiger yet.

Brett Deledio

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

Disappointment, but let’s recognise that the Cats are playing their kittens
Speaking as someone who tipped them to win the premiership in 2018, Geelong’s so-so 3-3 start to the season has been a bit underwhelming.

Last week against Port Adelaide they put in a really strong performance on the road and looked to be finding their feet.

The first three quarters against Sydney on Saturday then reinforced that point of view even further.

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Well… a positive perception in the game takes weeks to build but only minutes to destroy, and all the good momentum that the Cats seemed to be building went in the bin in the last term.

It’s a disappointing state of affairs but while it’s tempting to start asking whether or not that Cats are all that, their injury list must be acknowledged.

You could point out that the Cats should have contingency plans for the absence of players like Gary Ablett and Scott Selwood given their history, but to also be missing the like of Lachie Henderson, Harry Taylor and Cam Guthrie is a cruel blow.

All up those five players represent just barely short of 1000 games of AFL experience (981 to be exact), or more than three quarters of the AFL experience of an average Western Bulldogs 22 this year.

As it is, Geelong have been forced into playing the league’s sixth-most inexperienced 22 on average so far in 2018, better only than St Kilda, Carlton, Brisbane, Gold Coast and of course the Dogs.

Compare how they’re going to those sides and you’ll agree that a 3-3 record is not the worst they could be doing.

Get at least some of those key players back in the side on a regular basis and in an exceptionally even season, there’ll still be time to make a play for top four.

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Joel Selwood

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

Quick and nasty
– It seemed like a bit of a novelty when he got picked up and raised eyebrows when he joined the leadership group but Matt de Boer is a really valuable part of this GWS team. Currently averaging 23 touches and 0.8 goals per game, career-highs for both.

– It was a pretty average night for Gold Coast on Saturday but the one shining light was David Swallow playing arguably the best game of his career to date. 32 touches and three goals was a Herculean effort and his loyalty to the club that drafted him despite the difficulties he’s gone through is admirable.

– Two debuts caught my eye this week. James Worpel did okay, and I hope he makes it for all the Jabberwock related puns his name could inspire. Charlie Spargo I’ve been a fan of for a while now and great to see him have a huge impact early.

– Possibly an unpopular opinion but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that Jack Higgins dropped out of school to pursue footy. I didn’t complete traditional schooling either and look at me, I own a vacuum cleaner and a slow cooker and everything.

– Footy has a lot of names to remember so I respectfully request that either Harry Marsh or Harry Morrison change theirs just to make my life a speck easier. Don’t even get me started on Michael Hurley and Michael Hartley, both at Essendon.

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