Round 10 has come to a close – let’s dive into this week’s AFL talking points.
Walters poster upsets Neale’s homecoming
Round 10 proved to be a week in which two of last year’s most high profile trade movers, Lachie Neale and Chad Wingard, came up against their old clubs for the first time.
Wingard had the benefit of enjoying a home crowd when he did – or, close enough, being in Launceston. And while the newly minted Hawk didn’t manage a goal, he did play one his better games for the club so far.
20 disposals was Wingard’s highest count so far at Hawthorn, and his two goal assists wouldn’t have gone unnoticed even if wasn’t on the end of any himself.
Ryan Burton wasn’t available to do battle with his former teammates, but Xavier Duursma, the player taken with the pick transferred from the Hawks to Port Adelaide in the infamous deal, had 22 touches and kicked a goal.
Lachie Neale’s return to Optus Stadium proved to be a far more dramatic affair. The man himself was Brisbane’s top ballwinner, tied with Hugh McCluggage, but would probably be the first to admit he didn’t play to his usual standards.
The Dockers were the better team by most measures and came home strong in the final quarter but it still came down to a kick after the siren from Michael Walters.
Walters sent it straight into the post – but luckily for him with scores level, that was enough to get the win, Walters becoming just the fifth player in VFL/AFL history to a win a match with behind after the siren.
A fitting moment for one of the game’s best talents in Indigenous Round, with his teammates Brad Hill and Nathan Wilson also standouts.
It’s the right time for Brad Scott to bow out
It’s a pretty surreal feeling to work in footy media and of course also be a footy fan, and find yourself covering a topic which is big news on both levels.
Brad Scott has been the coach of the North Melbourne Football Club for just shy of a decade, but also for most of the time that I’ve followed the game closely, and to not only see him move on but be in the business of commenting on it is, well, just a bid odd.
Those who’ve read this column on a regular basis this year will probably assume – correctly – that I’m not too devastated by the news. After all, it’s just last week I was questioning whether Scott’s selection decisions were really in the club’s best interest, or just his.
However for as much as Scott has disappointed or frustrated North Melbourne fans at times during his tenure, particularly lately, he has always amused and delighted just a tiny bit more – a truth well summed up by the fact that Saturday’s victory saw Scott finish his tenure with 106 wins, 105 losses as coach of the club.
I’ve more thoughts that time will allow right now about everything that has happened here, and not just what has happened, but the manner in which it has happened. Expect to see more on that soon enough.
But my first thought when the news was elevated from rumour to reality was a pretty simple one: this is the right time. Things have clearly gotten a bit stale at the club for Brad Scott, and vice-versa. A change will do both parties good.
All the best, Brad. And thank you.
All’s well that ends Wells, but it doesn’t
If you had told me at the start of the season that Daniel Wells had already played his last game of AFL football that would not have come as any great shock.
Wells’ lengthy career at the top level has, unfortunately, always been at least somewhat affected by injury, particularly in the last six years.
Aside from managing 19 matches for North Melbourne in 2016, Wells hasn’t been able to put together more than ten matches in any given season since 2013.
His decision before the year began to take a massive pay cut and play for essentially the base wage in 2019 seemed to be an admission and acceptance that his career was probably finished and a return to the top level was a longshot.
That’s why it brought a smile to the face no matter what club you follow to see him named to play this week, and start the match on fire.
Wells had three goals in the first half and it looked like it could have been the perfect story to celebrate Indigenous Round – but sadly, it was not to be.
He finished the match on the bench having copped fresh injury, and again, we’re back to square one, asking whether he’ll be seen on the field again. I hope so.
Dropping Bryce Gibbs backfires – again
I don’t like to repeat myself too often from week-to-week – unless it’s about the Carlton-Adelaide pick swap, eh? – but after questioning whether or not Don Pyke made the right call dropping Bryce Gibbs earlier this year, well, here we are again.
The Crows would have been disappointed to lose to the Brisbane Lions last week – storming home from a significant deficit to only fall short by one point. That’s a crummy way to lose a game of football, not that there are any good ones, so you can understand how the coach would feel.
But Gibbs had 22 disposals and kicked two goals in the game. Was he the Crows’ best? Probably not. Was he their worst? Definitely not.
Pyke said after dropping Gibbs from the side that played the West Coast Eagles this week that he wants to see a great consistency from Gibbs and that there are things he want to see from him in games – presumably defensive efforts – that aren’t happening as often as he’d like.
I can’t say if having Pyke against North Melbourne all those weeks ago would’ve changed the result, or if having him this week would’ve stopped the Crows from giving up what was nearly a six-goal lead just after half time to the reigning premiers.
I do, though, think Gibbs probably would have offered more this week – and with all respect to these developing you players – than the likes of Chayce Jones and Jordan Gallucci.
The first swing of the axe didn’t seem to solve Pyke’s probem, will a second one be any better? He’d better hope so.
Injuries mount, are the Dons done?
As if losing Devon Smtih and Joe Daniher to season-ending injuries during the week was not bad enough, the Bombers copped two more injuries to key players on Saturday night – and also their sixth loss of the season.
Jake Stringer, probably the Bombers most consistent forward option so far this year, and star recruit Dylan Shiel both finished the game watching from the bench thanks to hamstring injuries.
Too soon to say for sure how long they will be kept on the sidelines, but even if both are able to get back sooner rather than later one has to wonder how long Essendon can hold onto their finals hopes.
After a flow start we thought the Bombers had found form when they took down Melbourne, Brisbane and North in three consecutive weeks, but a stall in momentum after falling short to Collingwood and the Cats has cost them plenty.
In the weeks since they’ve posted a controversial loss to Sydney, an uninspiring seven-point win against Freo, and now a clear loss to a wounded Richmond side that, at the start of the year, the ‘Dons would’ve licked their lips at the chance to face.
4-6 is hardly too poor of a position to come back from but one has to wonder where improvement is coming from. If there were easy answers, surely the Bombers would have found them already.
And if they don’t make finals, that means they’ve paid two top ten picks to bring Shiel to the club (yes, with some spare change coming back the other way).
Everybody gets a turn
Adelaide Crows (5-5) – 30 touches, 32 pressure acts, ten tackles and a goal for Cam Ellis-Yolmen would have drawn the attention of a few clubs this week. A free agent this year.
Brisbane Lions (6-4) – Won by a point last week, lost by a point this week. C’est la vie.
Carlton Blues (1-9) – If you want a guaranteed win against Carlton all you have to do is put a hard tag on Patrick Cripps. Pick 1 in tomorrow’s mid-season draft won’t solve that problem.
Collingwood Magpies (8-2) – With Sam Jacobs on the way out, and potentially pick 1 to spend, there could be a very interesting scenario to play out later this year with ‘pre-agent’ Brodie Grundy, highlight by another dominant performance.
Essendon Bombers (4-6) – This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking though, but this week’s result would’ve looked a lot more respectable if they’d kicked something better than 2.10 in the first three quarters.
Fremantle Dockers (5-5) – Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw kicked three of Fremantle’s ten goals this week – great contribution from the second-year pair.
Geelong Cats (9-1) – Mitch Duncan with nine goals in his last four games. The Cats could make up a good chunk of this year’s All Australian midfield.
Gold Coast Suns (3-7) – Massive vote of confidence for the direction this club is heading in to see Jack Bowes sign up for another five years this week. Will Peter Wright and Jack Martin follow suit?
GWS Giants (7-3) – Harry Himmelberg’s five goals this week makes him the third Giant to kick a bag of five this year, with no other team in the league seeing that from more than two players so far in 2019.
Hawthorn Hawks (5-5) – If Ricky Henderson isn’t Hawthorn’s best player, he’s certainly their most consistent.
Melbourne Demons (3-7) – Seven goals in the last quarter, and bigger news stories going on elsewhere in the league, will probably save the Dees from a little scrutiny this week.
North Melbourne Kangaroos (3-7) – The tall forward trio of Ben Brown, Nick Larkey and Mason Wood booted a combined nine goals this week – three each. Sure, it’s not against the comp’s best backline, but it’s exciting.
Richmond Tigers (7-3) – Into the top four after this week’s win and, injuries be damned, I don’t see why they shouldn’t still be there come the end of the season.
Port Adelaide Power (5-5) – A lot of fans are frustrated by this team’s inconsistency, but really it’s a very young side. Will be looking forward to the bye to freshen up.
St Kilda Saints (5-5) – It wasn’t pretty but, given how much attention has been on Carlton this week, this was a real danger game. Weathered the storm, held on, probably should’ve won by more.
Sydney Swans (3-7) – Does Dane Rampe need a sit-down and talking-to? Arguably cost the Swans the game this week, probably should have two weeks ago.
West Coast Eagles (7-3) – Pretty solid comeback win on the road. Obviously haven’t been in peak form this year, but are still firmly in the top four hunt with room to improve.
Western Bulldogs (4-6) – As much as we like to criticise Luke Beveridge’s determination to fiddle with the magnets, you can add ‘Caleb Daniel as a defender’ to his list of smart moves.