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Seven hot takes from AFL Round 7

Collingwood is up and about in 2018, with the likes of Jordan de Goey proving critical to the Pies' structure. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)
Expert
6th May, 2018
211
3780 Reads

A dramatic week of AFL has come to a close. You know what that means – time for hot takes.

De Goey denies Brisbane breakthrough
It’s a little poetic that after a week where the football world talked extensively about the quality of the game that we would get a reminder of just what an engaging thrillride it can be from perhaps a surprising place.

A Brisbane vs Collingwood fixture on a Sunday afternoon is not one many people were circling as a must-see before the season began and neither side has been renowned for playing beautifully watchable football in recent years.

However this week both teams did themselves proud and played the equal-highest-scoring game of the season so far – 37 goals scored in an engaging contest that was on the line up until the final moments.

Unfortunately for Brisbane it was a story of coming so very close once again to what would’ve been a massive breakthrough win, but falling short.

It’s the third time in seven games that the Lions have been in it up until the very last minutes, but each time their hopes of finally notching their first win have been quashed.

Zorko the Magnificent nearly pulled off his greatest trick of all: after being well curtailed in recent weeks, he played one of his greatest games ever with 34 disposals, seven marks, ten tackles, ten inside 50s and four goals.

Certainly he has revived his own season, but sadly he couldn’t help the Lions Houdini their way out of an 0-7 start.

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Instead it was a story of redemption for Jordan de Goey who after teasing and testing Pies fans over the past two years banged home five goals including a vital one in the final minutes that prevented the Lions taking a late lead.

De Goey had 20 disposals and three goal assists to go with his own impact on the scoreboard, and perhaps most important has surely proven to Pies fans that he is ready to give them his very best.

A funny little thing that former Collingwood premiership player Dayne Beams is captaining the Brisbane Lions these days and kicked a goal to level the scores late in the game.

Funnier still that De Goey is the player the Pies acquired with the No.5 pick they got for trading Beams there.

Jordan De Goey

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Excellent Eagles set to trouble Tigers
It seems like every week now the West Coast Eagles improve their game a little bit more, take down another challenger, and again remind us that they’re much better than probably even the most optimistic of pundits expected.

This week they hosted Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium, and lost their best midfielder Luke Shuey to injury in the first minutes of the game. It looked like a recipe for disaster… it wasn’t.

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The Eagles didn’t just rise to the occasion, they rose above the occasion. They smashed an uncompetitive Port Adelaide side by seven goals, and did it without seeming to break a sweat.

West Coast have now won six games in a row and it’s the best active winning streak in the competition.

So many players have lifted their form this year but the one in particular I’d like to single out is Jack Darling.

Josh J Kennedy’s injury to start the year looked like potentially a real problem for this side, but instead it might actually be one of the best things that could’ve happened to them.

18 touches, ten marks and three goals was just another of a string of elite performances that Darling has produced this year after being forced to step up with Kennedy out of the side early on.

The best part is that even with Kennedy back now, Darling is continuing to play elite footy.

Certainly at this stage of the season we’d have to say that unsurprisingly Richmond and very surprisingly West Coast are the two form sides of the competition.

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They will go head to head in Round 9 at Optus Stadium in what looks set to be an absolute belter of a football game.

Jack Darling West Coast Eagles AFL 2017

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Fyfe deserves Brownlow favouritism
The Dockers looked like a bog average football team on Sunday at the MCG (a common theme for their performances away from home this year). But let’s talk about Nat Fyfe.

As if 33 disposals, 26 contested possessions and 12 clearances was not enough this week, he took the piss by pinch-hitting in the ruck for seven hit-outs.

Overall in 2018 Fyfe’s clearance numbers are the best we’ve seen from him since he won the Brownlow in 2015, and he’s averaging more inside 50s per game than he ever has before.

He’s averaging more than 30 disposals for the first time ever – and yes, this week’s performance was a career high for hit-outs!

Fyfe is not just back to his best but arguably exceeding it, and I would predict with a small amount of confidence that seven rounds in, he’ll be leading the Brownlow count.

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Dustin Martin and Tom Mitchell are the other two big threats (with Patrick Dangerfield not in top gear just yet), and potentially have an advantage in that their sides will probably win more games than Fremantle will.

It’ll be easy to look at a match where Richmond or Hawthorn win comfortably and decide that Martin or Mitchell was worthy of the three votes, and Fyfe may find he needs to work harder to gain the same recognition.

That said, we’re talking about a player who has the second highest average number of Brownlow votes per match in the history of the game – the umpires know he’s good, and that makes him a red hot chance if not already the favourite.

Nat Fyfe

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Busy trade periods don’t equal improvement
I’m a trade period tragic – I love seeing big moves made in the offseason, I love speculating about them all year round.

So it pains me a bit to admit that, in all honesty, I reckon teams these days are putting entirely too much of a focus on trying to recruit from other clubs.

If you look at who the big players were (and weren’t) last offseason and the fortunes of those clubs so far in 2018 then you’ll get some idea of what I’m talking about.

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Port Adelaide landed big names in Tom Rockliff, Steven Motlop and Jack Watts. Has any of them won Port Adelaide a game this year? No.

Port’s Round 2 win over Sydney made it seem like just maybe they had taken the next step… but aside from last week’s win over North they haven’t looked anywhere near that good since.

They still seem like a team that just doesn’t have it in them to beat the very best sides, at least not often.

The gulf between them and West Coast (a team who made relatively little waves in last year’s trade period, but have improved out of sight) was telling.

Port may be treading water but at least they don’t seem to have gone backwards like Essendon. Devon Smith has been good, Adam Saad okay. Jake Stringer has played one good game out of seven.

None of Port or Essendon’s recruits have necesarilly been egregiously bad (though Rockliff and Stringer in particular still have plenty to prove), but regardless of what good or at least passable footy they have played at times, it hasn’t led to the overall improvement that both sides were looking for.

Meanwhile sides like North Melbourne and Collingwood did close to nothing during the offseason (and West Coast too as already noted) but have been among this year’s biggest improvers.

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Maybe the issue is that when a club focuses too much on bringing in outside talent, it doesn’t focus enough on what more the players they already have on the list can offer and how they can improve as a team.

Expect to see a longer piece from me at some point this year talking about my philosophies on list management and how clubs are getting it wrong, but for now, here’s a quick thought.

Primarily, recruits should come in two varieties: big-ticket superstars who can transform your team (Patrick Dangerfield), and bargain-bin players who cost nothing but might surprise you (Billy Hartung).

If instead like Port Adelaide and Essendon you recruit players who are medicore or above-average-but-not-elite, surprise surprise, they will make your team mediocre or above-average-but-not-elite.

Devon Smith

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Review helps Roos to a rousing result
As a North fan in the crowd at the SCG on Saturday night, my first thought when I saw the replay of Billy Hartung’s goal-which-probably-wasn’t-a-goal was “Gee, what if we win this by less than a kick?”

Well, the footy gods seem to love giving us a bit of controversy, because the Roos won by two points and have left plenty of people asking if a mishap in the goal review process cost Sydney the game.

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Gillon McLachlan was breathing a sigh of relief on Sunday morning I’m sure that at the same time, a VAR malfunction seemingly decided the result of the A-League grand final.

The AFL has since come out and given it the thumbs up: “There was not enough definitive evidence to overrule and change the decision in time before the restart of play, so the original decision stood.” Make of that what you will.

Even as a totally one-eyed North fan I’ll happily admit that Hartung should probably not have been awarded the goal, and Swans fans are right to feel aggrieved by the result.

That said I am still celebrating the win like it’s 1996 and have a number of positive things lined up to say about North so if you are reading this expecting a lot of commiseration for Sydney you can probably just scroll past the rest.

To start with let me say that if you had told me North would have no Jarrad Waite and Ben Brown would only kick a single goal I would’ve presumed the overall result was at least a six-goal loss.

Brown had an uncharacteristically poor night shooting for goal and given how many opportunities the Roos seemed determine to waste, particularly in the third quarter, it looked like it could cost them the game.

That said, Brown still managed to be one of our most vital peformers – he floated back to clunk vital marks in defence on at least three occasions that I had a front-row seat to, including one in the dying minutes when Sydney were pushing hard.

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Meanwhile, Mason Wood played his first game for the year and seriously stepped up. He bagged a game-high four goals and kicked the match winner which was a simply scintillating bit of individual brilliances.

One criticism of him that was common among North fans last year was that he seemed to have lost his competitive streak – Brad Scott’s decision to keep him in the VFL for the first six was controversial, but seems to have reawakened the hunger.

In the end what was most heartening about the win as a supporter was that North found a way to get back in front and then refused to let Sydney steal back the lead.

In a close game, which matters more – one bad decision by the officials, or the tenacity of one team over another to hold on for the win?

I’ll leave you to agree or disagree, but I know which one I’ll be celebrating.

Mason Wood

(AAP Image/Daniel Munoz)

Leon Cameron’s Giant headache
The GWS Giants went to Geelong on Friday night missing plenty of key players, and the result was a team that played like the version of them we saw in the early years of this decade, undermanned and bordering on inept.

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To what degree do the injuries excuse the performance? Josh Kelly, Toby Greene and Jeremy Cameron are arguably the three most important players on GWS’ list and so to be playing without a single one of them is a genuine nightmare scenario.

That being said, we’re well aware at the moment that Geelong also have been hit pretty hard by the injury stick. Perhaps not quite as badly in terms of their top-end talent, but certainly they have lost several of their key structural players.

To lose to the Cats was a scenario we could’ve forgiven GWS for given the circumstances, but to lose by ten goals was nothing short of a debacle.

32 points was the club’s second-lowest score in its history, and you have to go back to their debut year of 2012 to find a lower one (31 points against Hawthorn in Round 15).

It’s the kind of performance that lends weight to those who ask whether or not Leon Cameron is a good enough coach to take full advantage of the talent he has on his list.

Even with a significant list of outs the Giants still fielded enough midfield talent that they have no excuse for being so vastly uncompetitive.

One decision I found particularly baffling was the insistence on playing Jonathon Patton as a part-time ruckman when his side was bereft of a forward-line target.

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Patton is a former No.1 draft pick who had kicked 83 goals in two years before this season began – I recognise that his form to start the year hasn’t been great, but surely this was a missed opportunity to let him be the main target and hopefully will himself back into form.

Jonathon Patton

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

McGoverns making headlines
The brothers McGovern have both made the news this week, and in different ways.

For Mitch McGovern it was all about his stellar performance on Saturday night, showing off the massive mits that are his best feature as a footballer.

Five goals was one of his better performances ever at AFL level and came at a good time with Taylor Walker out.

Meanwhile, Jeremy has been talked about plenty due to news coming through that he will put off his contract talks until the end of the season.

It’s hardly a good sign when a player does this, and I’ve even seen a few suggestions floating around social media that Adelaide could have a crack at reuniting the pair.

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The idea does have some merits – the Crows would likely have the best key defender pair in the league, and it would likely reduce the risks Mitch could be lured home in the future.

However, overall I’d say it probably isn’t wise – the midfield is still where Adelaide needs help, especially if Rory Sloane departs the club, and money spent elsewhere is money that should be spent there.

Besides, I’m quietly confident that McGovern will still be in blue and gold next year. Given how well the team is going right now, I can’t see him deciding to leave.

The Eagles have a difficult task this year trying to re-sign three important free agents, but their hopes of getting the job done should be high. Their form will make players want to stay.

Let’s not forget that Mitch held out until late in the season last year before re-signing with the Crows. I suspect Jeremy will do the same. Mama McGovern didn’t raise no turncoats.

Jeremy McGovern

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Quick and nasty
– Some heart in mouth stuff seeing Paddy McCartin have another concussion scare, but luckily he was able to retain to the field. Whew.

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– I had a bit of a chuckle when I saw James Sicily’s antics with Joe Daniher on Saturday, and I reckon you might be taking life a bit too seriously if you didn’t also.

– It’s been a long road for Stewart Crameri to reach 100 AFL games, good for him. Chimed in with two goals and just might have a real impact for the Cats.

– Jackson Macrae has really taken his game to a new level this year – disposal, clearance and goal numbers have all shot way up. Certainly in the conversation for All Australian.

– Angus Brayshaw has had to work his way into the season from a fair way back, but had 31 disposals and a goal on Sunday – great to see him hitting form.

– Hey, look at that, I managed to make it through (nearly) a whole hot takes article without mentioning the fact that Carlton aren’t good at football.

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