Six hot takes from AFL Round 8

Josh Elliott Editor

By Josh Elliott, Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    Footy always gives us plenty to talk about and Round 8 was no different. Here are my hot takes from the week.

    No win for North, but Dusty can be tagged
    There’s plenty of North Melbourne fans feeling proud of the side’s effort after pushing Richmond all the way until the final minutes on Sunday.

    I’m sure I’ll be able to look back positively on the result in a few days, but for the time being I’m just disappointed that the club couldn’t convert the opportunity to take their biggest scalp of the season yet.

    All things considered it’s probably a good sign of where the club is at – disappointment is something you only feel when you genuinely believe you could win, and I might not have believed that about this team at the start of the year.

    North did ultimately fall short of becoming the first team to beat Richmond in Victoria this year but other clubs will learn plenty from this match and the biggest lesson is that Dustin Martin can be tagged.

    Ben Jacobs kept Martin to just 16 disposals on Sunday and no scoreboard impact though, champion that he is, Martin was able to provide his teammates with a game-high three goal assists.

    There isn’t another tagger in the league right now who can hurt his opponents the way Ben Jacobs does, but surely other clubs will have watched the tactics used here with interest.

    Will we see Martin cop more hard tags in 2018 as a result? And is that they key to beating Richmond in Victoria? Time will tell.

    Dustin Martin

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

    Showdown serves up another classic
    Is there a better rivalry in football than the South Australian Showdown? One could make a case for Hawthorn and Geelong, but surely none has stood the test of time better than this.

    The Power and the Crows produced yet another absolute classic match on Saturday complete with twists and turns and a result that was only decided in the final minutes.

    I’ve been sceptical of the value of Port Adelaide’s new recruits at times this year and I still am, but one can’t argue with Steven Motlop or Tom Rockliff this week.

    Motlop only kicked the one goal for the day but it was the last goal of the game and the match decider. Perhaps another player would’ve kicked it in his place if he wasn’t there… perhaps not.

    Tom Rockliff’s impact was more prolific. Port finally unleashed him as a genuine midfielder and it paid off. 31 touches, six clearances, nine tackles.

    Fingers crossed that’s the end of this latest experiment to force the square peg that is Tom Rockliff into a round hole. He is what he is, and he’s very good at being what he is.

    Of course in the end the real star was not Motlop or Rockliff but Robbie Gray whose bag of six goals was perhaps the most influential individual peformance we’ve seen so far this year.

    Can this win get Port’s season back on track? They’re 5-3, finish the round in the eight, and have a 2-2 record against follow top eight sides so far this year.

    No doubt it will give them some confidence and momentum, and deservedly so.

    Robbie Gray Port Adelaide Power AFL 2015

    (AAP Image/Ben Macmahon)

    Tom Lynch’s days as a Sun are surely numbered
    Maybe in a few months time people will be screenshotting this and making me look silly on social media, but I doubt it. Surely, surely, Tom Lynch has at least one foot out the door of the Gold Coast Suns.

    The consistent message about the Suns co-captain has been that he’s looking for the team to show signs it can improve and to be entirely fair to Gold Coast, they’ve done that at times this year.

    They’ve got three wins for the season so far which is probably not putting them in finals calculations just yet but has been impressive given how the Commonwealth Games has thrown out their fixture.

    But those wins have all come against sides who were in the bottom four last year and can mostly be traced back to the ‘new coach bounce’.

    Stuart Dew has brought the Suns a level of system that they’ve never had before and yes, it’s made them a more competitive side.

    There’s no gifting games to talented players just because of talent: you fit into the system, or you don’t fit into the team.

    It is an approach that has its benefits and hopefully can be the beginning of a new era of strong culture at the club which can eventually lead to genuine success.

    However a game like we saw from them on Saturday against Melbourne makes it clear than even if the Suns are on the right track, they’re still a very long way from the finish line.

    Despite lots of speculation it seems like the AFL will not give Lynch the godfather ambassador payment we thought they might, meaning salary offers from Victoria will be pretty competitive with what he could make by staying.

    Is there really any chance in that case that we don’t see him line up with a big finals-playing Victorian club at the MCG in 2019? For better or worse, I’d have to say no.

    Tom J Lynch

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Woosh! Has the game gone over Worsfold’s head?
    The Essendon Bombers said goodbye to four-time premiership coach Kevin Sheedy at the end of 2007 and they haven’t won a finals match since.

    The Dons have gone through a variety of coaches in the decade that has followed, running the gammut from the new and untried (James Hird, Matthew Knights) to the experienced and accomplished (Mark Thompson, John Worsfold).

    Before they appointed Worsfold I thought to myself that the Bombers hadn’t really managed to nail the right selection for their next coach (and had gotten it catastrophically wrong once) since Sheedy’s departure.

    That would mean they hadn’t really nailed a senior coaching selection since 1981 – a long time between drinks and one that leaves a club open to questions over whether or not they know what they’re doing in this regard.

    When they signed John Worsfold at the end of the 2015 season I thought they had gotten it right – and his first two years in the job seemed to support this.

    Worsfold faced the massive challenge of guiding Essendon through the worst year in their history in 2016 and then turned it around to make finals last season. Expectations were exceeded in both years.

    A few weeks of bad form will quickly tear through any credits a coach has in the bank though and fair to say the Dons are falling well short of fan expectations right now.

    With all due respect to Carlton, one could probably find a more mature and experienced playing list at a country bus station. A side that believes it’s a finals contender has no business losing to them.

    The Dons’ decline has opened Worsfold up to questions over whether or not he’s got what it takes to make the Bombers better in the modern era.

    Certainly he was a great choice to come in and steady the ship for a few years during a difficult period, but Essendon fans may be thinking it would’ve been wiser to have his role be a short-term Paul-Roos-at-Melbourne affair.

    Maybe, maybe not. Bit too late for that now as the Dons re-signed him until the end of 2020 just a few short weeks before this downslide began.

    The question is clear for both Worsfold and Essendon. Are you good enough to survive and thrive in the modern era? A blockbuster MCG clash with Geelong next week is the perfect chance to give us an answer.

    John Worsfold

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    No Naitashuey no problem, Eagles are just Darling
    The West Coast Eagles seem to become a better team with every game they play and that hasn’t been more true all year than it was this week.

    They’ve been ultra-impressive at home this year but we’ve only had a limited sample size of their form on the road, so a trip west to play the Giants looked sure to be a challenge.

    In the Eagles’ favour was the fact that GWS are missing several key players right now through injury, but Jeremy Cameron returned for this one, and the Eagles had absences of their own.

    A suspension for Nic Naitanui that you’ve probably heard about at some point during the week and a hamstring injury to Luke Shuey robbed them of two of their most important players (and one of the league’s best portmanteaus.)

    In the end West Coast should probably be thankful that Naitanui’s suspension came in a week where they were scheduled against a team without a dominant ruckman of their own – Rory Lobb and Scott Lycett fought the battle to a draw.

    All things considered a week for Nic Nat to rest, avoiding one of the longer roadtrips in footy, was probably not the worst thing that could happen to this club given they got the four points regardless.

    The Shuey-less midfield did finish the day -5 in the clearances but it didn’t matter. West Coast’s ball movement has been their strength this year and it was again.

    Meanwhile up forward Jack Darling continues a breakout season that at this stage would have him in the All Australian team and firmly in the mix for the Coleman medal.

    In the past fortnight the Eagles have battled both of the sides they played in last year’s finals series and there’s no better illustration of just how much they’ve improved in 2018 than the gulf between those performances and these ones.

    You couldn’t ask for better momentum going into surely the most anticipated match of the year so far next week at home against Richmond.

    Jack Darling

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

    Blue breakthrough leaves Brisbane on bottom
    One of the frustrating things about being a team in the bottom regions of the ladder can be that when you do get a win, it’s often spun more as a negative story about the team you beat than a positive one about you.

    Pundits have been tearing chunks off the Bombers all weekend and you can expect that to become even more vicious during the week, and not unfairly.

    I’m sorry to say Carlton fans that this isn’t the opening to me praising your club in detail, but a tip of the cap to say well done. I see what you did there.

    One result doesn’t answer all the questions we have about the club, but who cares – celebrate the win, that’s what it’s all about.

    One question it does answer though is that of which AFL side would be the last one in the league left without a win in 2018. Turns out it’s the Brisbane Lions.

    Funnily enough I would say with some confidence that they certainly haven’t been the worst team in the league this year, but evidently the ladder feels differently.

    A 14-point loss to the Western Bulldogs was another opportunity for a breakthrough gone begging in a season that has had several of them.

    Luke Hodge is a player I’m really curious about at the moment. We assumed that we would see him have a big impact on this club in 2018, but eight rounds in, the jury’s out.

    His stats have dropped away dramatically this season. Maybe that’s just part of playing a different role in this side… but I think it leaves him open to questions of whether he’s committed to making Brisbane better, or just keen to top up his super.

    I noticed with interest on Sunday that that he was a part of the Collingwood vs Geelong broadcast.

    I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill here but if I were a Brisbane fan I’d be expecting a senior leader at the club to be fully invested in the season at hand, rather than potentially staying an extra day interstate for the purposes of building a media profile.

    Fingers crossed that Brisbane get a win soon and leave us without the need for more lingering questions like this.

    Luke Hodge

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Quick and nasty
    – Ben Ronke’s big bag deserves more praise than just a short paragraph, but I was rather ill on Friday night and tucked myself into bed early – sorry Sydney fans, this’ll have to do. Love the fact that he also laid ten tackles.

    – Can’t say I’ve heard a peep lately about Rory Sloane re-signing with Adelaide and we’re getting a look now during his Lisfranc injury at what the Crows are like without him. They’re still a dangerous side even without him, but would they be a flag contender in 2019 if he leaves?

    – Both got a mention last week but both deserve a mention again – Nat Fyfe and Jackson Macrae are in incredible form right now. Arguably the two most certain All Australian midfield selections at this stage.

    – All-time AFL record 32 contested possessions from Ben Cunnington against the Tigers on Sunday, a Herculean effort. Despite the brilliance that is Ben Brown, he’s probably leading the Syd Barker Medal count right now.

    – It wasn’t ideal to play intriguing fixtures like North vs Richmond and Collingwood vs Geelong on Mother’s Day when the attention of footy fans is (rightly) elsewhere. Surely the AFL fixturing department doesn’t need a psychic to tell them that Gold Coast vs Melbourne at the Gabba could probably be played on Sunday instead?

    – That said, Collingwood’s performance in particular on Sunday didn’t live up to the hype of what looked like a promising game. Hideously inaccurate and for all the good momentum, they’ve got one win from their last three, that coming by the skin of their teeth against the side last on the ladder. Mounting injures – both before the game and during – are of course a factor.

    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 (248)

    • May 13th 2018 @ 6:02pm
      Swannys said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

      I’m really impressed with North Melbourne . Cunnington is finding that outstanding form once again . Gws can’t make the finals this season imo

      • Roar Guru

        May 13th 2018 @ 6:19pm
        AdelaideDocker said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

        Ooof, that’s a harsh call on GWS. Why do you think that?

        • Roar Guru

          May 13th 2018 @ 6:33pm
          hairy fat man said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

          It crossed my mind that GWS should tank for the rest of 2018.

          • May 13th 2018 @ 6:53pm
            Doctor Rotcod said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

            I think you mean conscious deceleration.Manage their injured players,get time into their seconds. Aiden Bonar, who I would have liked to see at the Eagles,Buntine and Mohr are players to look for.
            They have North, Essendon,Adelaide and the Suns before the bye.Must have two of those to be any chance into the second half of the season which starts Lions,then Hawks,Eagles and Tigers.

        • May 13th 2018 @ 8:06pm
          Deladi said | May 13th 2018 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

          Not the guy above but look at their injury list for one thing. It is quite frankly horrific. They also haven’t played much good footy so far this year, with of course part of that being due to the injuries. So either way they aren’t looking like a top eight team so far.

      • May 14th 2018 @ 3:36am
        dylillama said | May 14th 2018 @ 3:36am | ! Report

        Scuttlebutt is that GWS is the next story to ‘come out’. Toxic culture, unhappy staff, etc etc. I heard this, from a pretty reliable source, a few months back. The form slump is making me wonder if it’s true…

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 8:17pm
          hairy fat man said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

          Good to see you back here after 8 months, in order to drop this bombshell. Most footballers are meatheads, so toxic cultures would be the norm at most clubs.

    • May 13th 2018 @ 6:13pm
      Neil from Warrandyte said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

      Dusty hasn’t been the same since the Anzac Eve game against Melbourne. Was always consistently hitting targets and opening up the play. Looks at times he is carrying an injury.

      • May 13th 2018 @ 6:40pm
        I ate pies said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

        I put him in my SuperCoach team, that’s what happened to him. Sorry Dusty

    • Roar Guru

      May 13th 2018 @ 6:17pm
      AdelaideDocker said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:17pm | ! Report

      Oh, man. So much to cover.

      Ronke’s game on Friday night was as complete as I’ve seen from a third gamer – or a player under five games -, ever. None of his goals were particularly ‘easy goals’, which perhaps made it more remarkable. He’s got to be a lock for a Rising Star.

      I’m well aware some Brisbane fans hate when neutral fans lather their results in “they’re improving”, “this is a team in the making” and “they’ll be something special”, so I won’t do that. I like the team, but they’ve got to be frustrated with losing eight on the trot. From all accounts, they weren’t even particularly good on Saturday night. Hawthorn at the Gabba next week isn’t very easy, either.

      West Coast seem to be a team to beat at the moment. Premiership contenders? Why the hell not, really. WC and Richmond next weekend is going to be awesome.

      Also, Essendon are a crap football team. I can see them getting smashed by Geelong and Richmond in the next few weeks, whilst I reckon a disillusioned GWS team might also hand them a loss.

      And, just quietly, I have an unashamed love for Fyfey. A second Brownlow is very possible.

      • May 14th 2018 @ 7:10am
        Lroy said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:10am | ! Report

        Hate to admit it but two of my favorite players of all time are Pavlich and now Fyfe..

        The guy is the size of an old school key forward yet he runs like an Olympic middle distance runner, can jump, mark, kick (most of the time) tackle, handballs like Polly Farmer.

        Struggling to remember last time I saw a more complete player. James Hird is one name that comes up. He could play centre, centre half forward, or centre half back and win best on ground wherever you played him.

        Fyfe is so good he should be playing for the Eagles.

        • May 14th 2018 @ 4:29pm
          13th Man said | May 14th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

          Pity we didn’t get Pav and now possibly Fyfe the success they deserve. Two superstars who would go down as all time greats if they played for a Vic side. I still hold out hope we can win a flag with Fyfe at Freo but I it won’t be whilst Ross Lyon is still at the helm.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 3:52pm
            Lroy said | May 15th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

            😉

    • May 13th 2018 @ 6:18pm
      Swannies said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

      Richmond are still the benchmark of the competition and will be hard to beat at the G. Swans and Hawks will be ready for the challenge. Great to see Carlton notch their first win and should grab a couple more upsets before the end of the season.
      Top 8 now taking shape with Melbourne the only team with a question mark against them. North made a promising start but will soon be found out against quality opposition and fade away in July. Can’t see any of the teams below 9th as serious challengers and GWS should displace the Demons.

      • May 13th 2018 @ 7:00pm
        Swannys said | May 13th 2018 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

        I agree with you , that north are very promising.

    • May 13th 2018 @ 6:20pm
      Doctor Rotcod said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

      Next week sees North take on GWS, but seeing that 3rd through 8th take on sides outside the eight,there might be a wait before either side can get back in.
      Cunnington with 31 contested possessions,amazing.The last three scores,behinds to the Roos. I think the Tigers may have scraped that one

    • Roar Guru

      May 13th 2018 @ 6:25pm
      Paul D said | May 13th 2018 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

      Hodge is playing like a man whose mind is elsewhere. That’s the only explanation I have for all the uncharacteristic fumbles is that he’s made, either that or he really is going to seed.

      He has made a number of mistakes that led to turnovers and is too slow to stay with his man anymore. He’s already done his job – Rayner mcluggage and all the other kids all extended their contracts. Hopefully he’s not still best 22 end of the year.

      It’s like my piece says josh – doesn’t matter how much better the lions are getting other sides just keep getting better quicker. Thanks for saying we are one of the better 0-8 sides around but we are still 0-8. Same old, same old

      • May 14th 2018 @ 3:33am
        dylillama said | May 14th 2018 @ 3:33am | ! Report

        I only just read your article on the state of QLD footy. Really great read mate – I hope you’ll write more actual articles

        • Roar Guru

          May 14th 2018 @ 4:28pm
          Paul D said | May 14th 2018 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

          Atm I’m averaging one a year but am looking to be a bit more frequent than that

      • May 14th 2018 @ 10:02am
        Mr X said | May 14th 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        Lions are too most frustrating team to watch. They’re always so close then they dissapoint you.
        Everybody thinks the eagles are so bad in Melbourne not as bad as the lions in Melbourne.
        They have a much more talented list than the Bulldogs.
        To his credit Rayner keeps improving every week.
        Bulldogs aren’t even that good they haven’t really played anybody that good since the swans.

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