Round 10 won’t be remembered for too many matches, but it was the kind of footy that makes you go “hmm”. Plenty to talk about, time for hot takes.
Dominant Dees underline the frenzied race for finals…
We’re almost halfway into the season and the race for spots not just in finals but also the top four is still very much up in the air.
West Coast and Richmond are our top two at the moment and while there’s plenty of footy left to come between now and the end of the year, I don’t think any of us would be surprised if that’s still true after Round 23.
After that though we’re not too far off being able to throw a blanket over the teams from third to tenth. Any of them is within striking range of finish in the top four – but certainly at least two of them will miss the eight!
Melbourne are third and have five wins in a row, this week recording a thorough domination of Adelaide in Alice Springs.
They actually end the round with the best percentage in the competition, after winning their last three games by a combined 269 points.
On one hand you could ask whether or not they’ve taken a genuinely big scalp so far this season – on the other hand, would any side other than the Tigers or the Eagles qualify as that right now?
The Crows arguably do (they’re obviously a quality team) and arguably don’t (given all their outs). They had only 14 of their 2017 grand final 22 on Sunday.
They are 6-4 but must surely be worried that their ever-growing injury list will make this a wasted year. Paul Seedsman the latest casualty, a late withdrawal before the game even began.
…but North sum it up better than most
Fremantle aren’t exactly rated as a top team this year so it’d be easy to look at North’s Sunday win against them and not be too impressed.
Not going to say that’s unfair, but it does tick a few boxes – the Roos become only the second interstate team to win at Optus Stadium, and get a rain in the wet under their belts, something we don’t see often for the Etihad tenants.
I won’t be buying the name-a-game but it was a solid, mature, respectable performance – the kind that finals appearances are built on.
Maybe it’s a bit too easy for me to see the race for finals through the prism of my own club’s perspective, but I reckon North are as emblematic of it as most.
Why? Because with a 6-4 record and a percentage of about 120, I reckon this side is every chance of miraculously sneaking into the top four, and just as good a chance of missing finals entirely.
We know they’ve got a fixture with plenty of winnable games left to come in 2018 (courtesy of finishing so lowly last year), and we know they put in a consistent effort each week.
Safe to say I’m full of excitement and positive things to say about the Roos. If you’re lucky you might see me write down some of them during the week.
Gary’s watch-me game fails to captivate
Gary Ablett played a pretty dismal game in Geelong’s Round 9 loss to Essendon, and said to his coach Chris Scott afterwards: “watch me next week.”
Ablett probably didn’t plan for that one to make it out into the media because the end result when it does is that we were all watching him this week, and expecting plenty.
What we saw was by no means a poor performance: 25 disposals, eight marks and a goal. For most footballers we’d call that a reasonable day at the office, of course, Gary Ablett is not most footballers.
Last week I expressed my disappointment so far with the Dangerwoodblett combination – I did so not for the joy of criticising an opposition club, but because I’m genuinely a bit bummed that the trio is yet to fire.
I recognise that plenty were sceptical this combination could reach the heights some such as myself were thinking as possible, but I reckon you’d have to be quite the hardened cynic not to have been at least a little excited about the prospect of watching them play.
Chris Scott said in his post-game presser that the 28-point win over Carlton was “a horrible game”, and it’s not the first time someone has complained about the quality of games this year.
Superstars like Ablett and company are what makes the game great, and that’s why it’s disappointing – even for neutral fans – when they’re not at their best.
I don’t mean to be overly critical of the great man and it’s arguably a bit unreasonable to have such high expectations on him at the age of 34 – of course, it’s a mark of just how much he has achieved in footy that we still do.
What in particular has been exposed in recent weeks is Ablett’s lack of defensive work. He laid only a single tackle against Essendon, and following his ‘watch me’ comment this was the stat I had my eye on.
Four tackles against the Blues was an improvement, certainly, but it wasn’t the blow-you-away effort that I was hoping we’d see.
Do we just have to accept that Gary ain’t what he used to be (and by extension, Dangerwoodblett won’t be what we thought it could)? Maybe. I hope not.
The time for Leon Cameron to innovate is long overdue
After a Round 2 clash with Collingwood saw both teams cop injuries to important players, I wrote that it was time for both Leon Cameron and Nathan Buckley to innovate.
In that match Collingwood and Buckley lost Darcy Moore (and had lost Ben Reid before the bounce), leaving them bereft of tall options, and things haven’t gotten a lot better in the weeks since as Moore in particular has struggled to stay on the park.
That along with enduring injury problems for Alex Fasolo and Jamie Elliott forced Collingwood particularly in their forward line to innovate and the effort to find other ways of kicking goals has been very successful, leading them to a 6-4 record.
As for the Giants, they lost Tom Scully that day and in addition to Zac Williams’ ACL injury it meant two of their best runners have been absent for a long time, worsening the problem caused by Nathan Wilson’s defection to Fremantle at the end of last year.
Running power has been a key part of how the Giants win games when they’ve been at their best over the last few years but in the two months since that trio has gone down, Cameron has failed to find a new way for his team to fire.
The Giants could reasonably excuse their form on weight of injuries – they’ve only recently gotten the likes of Josh Kelly and Jeremy Cameron back, and Toby Greene is still on the sidelines. And that’d be fair enough, certainly.
I reckon though that the last two years have shown us that perhaps the most valuable trait in an AFL coach is the ability to innovate in times of crisis. For a micro-example just consider Nick Vlastuin’s three-goal haul in the second half this week when Jack Riewoldt went down.
Excuses can be made for the Giants but there is no award given at the end of the year for the team who could’ve won the premiership if fate had been a bit kinder. You know the old expression – winners are grinners, and losers can please themselves.
Higgins gets Jack from the goal review
Some coaches have cups of coffee with Gillon McLachlan to talk about problems with the game, and some make their thoughts clear in post-game pressers.
Well, maybe not all coaches have Gillon’s personal mobile number. Who knows. Whether Damien Hardwick does or not, he picked the latter of two options this week.
An “embarrassment” is a strong way to describe the AFL’s goal review system but it’s hard to disagree with Dimma after we saw a clear goal from Jack Higgins disallowed this week.
The only thing of course that could be more embarrassing would be for the AFL to come out the next day and give an obviously flawed decision the thumbs up – so of course that is what they did.
What has been said since is that the AFL’s policy is to use the vision from further away rather than closer due to concerns that close-up footage could be potentially distorted.
I’ll admit to not exactly being an expert on camerawork and the possibility of distortion, but it’s worth asking the question as to whether or not a system so remarkably counterintuitive is one that’s worth having.
As a good rule of thumb I’d say that if literally anyone with two eyes would make one decision and the single person with their finger on their button makes the other, it’s probably not working great.
I remember learning the simple acronym KISS in seventh-grade music class: Keep it simple, stupid.
It’s a good one.
Don’t miss Dreamtime at the ‘G
The AFL’s indigenous round is upon us next week and the round’s signature game, Dreamtime at the ‘G, looks like an increasingly tasty match-up.
On one hand you’ve got Richmond. They were ripe for the picking this week – a little off their game and missing two players through injury.
St Kilda, unfortunately, couldn’t take the opportunity that was there in front of them – bringing the effort level that was required, but (aside from Jade Gresham) not the class.
Where the Saints’ forward line is a misfiring headache at the moment, the same is not true for Essendon. They’ve got a variety of options and even with Joe Daniher on the sidelines they know how to score.
The Bombers will come into this match with so much positive momentum – they’ve scored two upset wins in as many weeks, and both against opponents that were considered top-four chances this year.
It has come on the back of a massive lift in their effort level particularly regarding defensive pressure. That’s creating opportunities for the Dons and, as said, they’re a team who knows how to take them.
Richmond’s last three weeks have been below what we’d expect from the high standards the club set in the end of the 2017 season and the start of this one.
There’d be no doubt around the club that this one is a danger game, meanwhile at Essendon they’d be full of confidence that this style of footy can beat anyone.
Match of the week without a doubt. Don’t miss it.
Quick and nasty
– Interesting to see Luke Dahlhaus linked to Geelong during the week. I like him, but does he make any sense as a recruit for the Cats? Personally I’m sceptical.
– Willie Rioli must be thinking this whole AFL caper is pretty easy really. Nine AFL games played for nine wins.
– Chris Mayne has had his name dragged through the media a lot over the last year and a half, through no fault of his own. Great to see that he’s found a role in this Collingwood team.
– Seriously hot battle for the All Australian ruck spot this year. Max Gawn? Brodie Grundy? Nic Naitanui? I’m working on a half-way team at the moment and nowhere near a final decision.
– Tom Boyd and Josh Schache played their first game together on Friday night – they didn’t dominate, but there’s a lot to work with there. Like it.
– Jayden Short is probably going to single-handedly put an end to any chance we had of seeing Richmond’s premiership 22 play together again (no premiership 22 ever has).
– Quick thanks to Hawthorn for keeping Jack Darling goalless and giving Benny Brown the chance to put a bit of distance between them in the Coleman Medal race.