The Roar
The Roar


Thoughts on a great round of AFL football

Jack Higgins of the Tigers. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Roar Guru
8th August, 2018

The horror of Sunday’s games over the ineptitude of Carlton and Gold Coast, and in particular the maelstrom with Optus as its Oculus, has overshadowed the phenomenal first six games of Round 20.

Five of the six games ended with the two combatants within a goal, and the outcome in doubt up until the last few seconds. (Saints, you let us down!)

It was an amazing string of games, almost identical in form. Leader is up several goals in the fourth quarter, then the trailing team comes from behind when we thought they were just about out of it, closes the gap to within a goal, then falls just short of victory.

Seriously, look at the fourth quarters of each of these games.

1. Richmond is up 23 points at the sixteen-minute mark of Q4
Geelong scores three goals and is within four when Gary Ablett Jr misses right with his last-minute shot at goal.

To be fair, it’s hard to criticise Gazza for the miss, even as he takes the blame on television. It’s a tough shot, taken under some duress, and was probably a 50-50 shot even for a great shot like the dual Brownlow medalist. Richmond holds on to win by three.

2. Hawthorn is up 21 points at the 17-minute mark of Q4
Essendon scores three goals over the next thirteen minutes, closing within four. James Worpel scores the ‘clinching’ goal under two minutes to go, and although Travis Colyer snapped another closing goal, that wasn’t enough to catch the Hawks. Hawthorn holds on to win by four.

3. North Melbourne is up 24 points at the nine-minute mark of Q4
Brisbane scores the next three goals (getting the picture?) to close the lead to just four with several minutes still to go – yet could not get another goal across the line, with Cam Rayner’s missed set shot in the last minute the headline. North holds on to win by three.

4. Port Adelaide was up 13 at the five-minute mark
Port lost the lead to the Crows with a Matt Crouch goal before two more Port goals put the Power up ten points at the twenty-minute mark of Q4.


Adelaide scores two goals and takes the lead with the now-infamous Josh Jenkins ‘goal’ which – well, let’s just say that his grandma was right. Had the score review agreed with his assessment, this game would’ve gone exactly as the first three. As it turned out, this is the one game that went the way of the trailing team. Adelaide wins by three.

Josh Jenkins

Josh Jenkins of the Crows (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

5. Sydney is up 18 points after Buddy Franklin kicks his sixth goal a few moments into Q4
They did not score again for 24 more minutes, while the Magpies puts the next three goals (there’s that phrase again!) plus a few minors on the board to take a five-point lead.

This is the only one of the five games in which the leading team lost the lead and then gained it back; the Swans took the four points with a toe-poke by young Tom McCartin at the death. Sydney wins by two.

6. The Western Bulldogs are up by 45 at the end of three quarters
The Saints do mount a little bit of a comeback. They lost by just 35. Oh well.

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Does the Brownlow inordinately favour players who simply never miss a game? Or are players who are out for three or four weeks with a relatively minor injury still realistic candidates?

The nature of the award’s voting – a game-by-game selection of the three best players on the field during each game – is almost designed to give more of a chance to those star players who make the call every weekend.


If you have 66 potential points available to you, and your closest competitor only has, say, 54 available because he missed four games, are you significantly more likely to tally more votes than that competitor?

Or, does the argument that since you’re most likely only going to poll votes in a handful of those outstanding games, the total number of games played is less important than the total number of impact games you’ve played?

Tom Mitchell certainly makes a case for the first argument – he seems to be likely to poll at least a vote or two in every single game. Alternatively, someone like Max Gawn or Lance Franklin, who can utterly dominate games but miss out on the voting entirely on other occasions, make an argument for the second.

Last year, Dustin Martin made the case for the hybrid argument: if you’re the outstanding player in all twenty-two games your team plays, you’re going to wipe out any and all competition regardless.

But there’s no Dusty in this year’s Brownlow race – not even Dusty himself. I’m betting on Mitchell, who has a handsome lead in the Meta-Player of the Year tabulations we track here at Following Football, although my personal vote would be for Gawn.

Tom Mitchell

Tom Mitchell of the Hawks. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

He’s affected the outcome of more games than anyone else in the league this season.

As an aside, here are the current standings for the top 12 players in our Following Football Meta-Player of the Year for 2018.


1. Tom Mitchell, HAW (458 points)
2. Max Gawn, MEL (398 points)
3. Patrick Cripps, CAR (386 points)
4. Clayton Oliver, MEL (385 points)
5. Brodie Grundy, COL (364 points)
6. Nat Fyfe, FRE (348 points)
7. Dustin Martin, RIC (342 points)
8. Lance Franklin, SYD (335 points)
9. Andrew Gaff, West Coast Eagles (286 points)
10. Jack Macrae, WBD (285 points)
11. Patrick Dangerfield, GEE (283 points)
12. Shaun Higgins, NMK (282 points)

I’ve written about the Carlton debacle a couple of times recently, and Gold Coast’s mess once as well. But you just knew going into Sunday’s games that despite the unprecedented slough of close games, those two would be ten-goal routs. Well, we were wrong. They were 16 and 17-goal routs instead.

About the Punch in Perth, the Devastation in the Derby, the Op-tus-sle… enough has been said about it as well, but at the risk of mixing the boxing analogies, I’d like to throw my two cents into the ring.

The irony that the Andrews – Gaff and Brayshaw – are buds makes the incident all the more curious. Reports are that they were on the golf course together earlier in the week, before a big game against each other’s teams – and don’t tell me about the 7-12 Dockers not being a “big game” for the Eagles. It’s the Derby. It’s always a big game!

That may very well have been the first of a series of little mistakes leading up to a flash of temper by a Brownlow favourite who could very well have ruined his team’s shot at a premiership this season with one bloody blow to his bro.

Most athletes will tell you that when you’re going to be playing your sibling’s or best friend’s team coming up soon, you curtail communications until after the game has passed, at which point the winner takes the loser out for a stiff drink together (or vice versa, depending on taste).

I have no interest in prying as to the cause of the outburst, and I haven’t seen it in the media reports, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if something emerging from that get-together in the days leading up to a Western Derby game where they occasionally ran up against one another wasn’t the original spark that got too much oxygen in Optus. (Okay, I’ll stop with the alliteration.)

Andrew Gaff

Andrew Gaff of the Eagles (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Media/Getty Images)


What about the now-forgotten test game in Cofield on Saturday? They tried using an airport landing strip for a kick-out box that produced eighty-metre torpedoes after a minor score, which will negate the innate offensive advantage of scoring a minor. This will mean a reduction in long-range goal attempts or fancy around-the-body attempts or any other lower-percentage shots that make for great entertainment whether or not they score a goal or a behind.

I can easily see the domino effect leading to a more conservative offence, defeating the entire purpose of the rule change.

As for the 6-6-6, I’ve heard nothing but extremely faint praise for the set-up. While I don’t know that it’s worth giving the refs anything more to keep track of, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to do much harm when the suits shove it down the clubs’ throats, as they undoubtedly will, in order to say they’re doing something to improve the state of the game.

Which, after the 27 hours from 7:30 pm Friday to 10:30 pm Saturday, I’m convinced doesn’t particularly need improving.

Okay, but if you really want to do something, AFL, fix the implementation of a couple of the other recent ‘fixes’ like the deliberate out-of-bounds, the deliberate rushed behind, and the score review system which, frankly, every sport using it has fouled up to some degree.

See, the real problem is not the officiating. It’s the fact that we as a viewing public are torn between wanting to expose the imperfections of our players by imposing perfection on our equally-human officials.

And the officials, frankly, have in every case in every sport spent far less time trying to achieve perfection at their craft than the players have at theirs – there’s no financial incentive or personal glory to make them do so.

So we think that by adding technology to their bag of tricks, we’ll achieve that perfection. Perversely, we actually don’t mind the imperfection of the officials, as long as it isn’t one-sided imperfection, any more than we mind it in our players. So when we introduce the technology to see the flaws of our officials, we force our thinking to believe that “justice demands” perfection, when in reality we forget that justice is usually portrayed as being blind.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

Let’s just let the officials do the best job they can, give them the same tools we give the viewing public so they’re not caught with their figurative pants down on a call that was obvious to us sitting at home, and accept any mistakes that come from that as the cost of not spending five hours parsing every nuance of every game in some misguided attempt at justice.

Even in the five games within one goal in R20, only two of them faced judgments that might have changed the result of the game, and to my knowledge nobody has accused any officials of favouritism in making the relevant calls. It’s simply the price of doing business at the speed of sport.

Now, pick your ruckman and let’s ball up!

Round 21 is about to start, and here are our ELO-Following Football picks for the coming weekend’s games: Essendon by 29 over the Saints, Hawthorn by 2 over Geelong; Richmond by 68 over Gold Coast, Port by 10 over West Coast (not accounting for Gaff being missing – it’s going to be higher than 10), Collingwood and the Giants by 22 each over Brisbane and Adelaide, respectively Saturday night, North by 25 on the Bulldogs, Melbourne by 26 against the Swans, and Fremantle by 29 over Carlton to finish the round.

Jack Higgins of the Tigers

Jack Higgins of the Tigers (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Our current ELO-FF forecast over the final three rounds looks like this: Richmond runs away with the minor premiership at 18-4.

The three other double chances will most likely go to Collingwood and West Coast, playing each other in one qualifying final (where will be determined by how they each do in R22), while the Giants go to the MCG for a repeat of the most lopsided fan-base game in footy history.


The elimination final games will be hosted by Melbourne and Hawthorn, probably both at the MCG on a Friday/Saturday basis while Richmond gets the Thursday night gig, which will put a possible Magpie home final Friday or Saturday at Etihad, to their dismay.

Their opponents should be Port Adelaide (we’re saying against the sixth-seeded Hawks at this point), while the Demons play either Geelong or North Melbourne, depending on which one takes care of its business better than Sydney does. It’s very conceivable that the Cats, Swans, and Kangaroos all finish with thirteen wins, maybe even fourteen, and yet two of the three won’t get into the post-season.

Forecasting beyond that into September is fruitless, in my opinion, because I don’t see anyone beating the Tigers right now at the ‘G when they know it matters. The Eagles, Magpies, Giants – they’re all fighting a slough of player outs, while Richmond hasn’t had a star out more than one game all year.

Barring a major player getting knocked out by injury, God forbid, the cup stays in Tiger Land (bum-bum-bum-bum) for one more year.