Port Adelaide have scrapped their co-captaincy model after just one AFL season following a backlash from supporters.
As expected, the Tigers and Giants are back, while Rowan Marshall proved just how good he is.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs succumbed to the coaching curse, but we can expect them to bounce back this week.
In the AFL stock market there are three categories: buy, hold and sell. If you’re a keen follower of the game and are looking to invest your time wisely, look no further than the below and keep notes on what happens on a weekly basis.
Buy: Zac Williams
I suggested last week that it wasn’t worth jumping off the Giants just yet and that they would knock off the Magpies in their toughest match in the run home. What I didn’t see coming was the excellent tactical move of playing Zac Williams as a midfielder, which worked perfectly for the Giants.
Spending plenty of time in the centre, Williams’s toughness in the contest came out to play. He laid ten tackles, while his speed was simply too much for a defensively one-paced Collingwood midfield. It wasn’t the 24-year-old’s cleanest game disposal wise – 61 per cent disposal efficiency is his worst of the season – but Williams proved to be the X factor that GWS has been severely lacking with a constant rotation of stars missing from the team.
Having the trio of Williams, Lachie Whitfield and Harry Perryman all playing in the same team, rarely seen to date, gives the Giants brilliant flexibility without losing any quality across the halfback and midfield lines. All three can play in the midfield, on the wing and cleanly out of defence, which allows for a constant rotation between the three while GWS’s full-time midfielders focus on their role.
The current game needs midfielders who can work well with ball-in-hand and defensively, and something as simple as playing Williams in the midfield has immediately improved GWS’s midfield group and overall chances going forward.
Sell: Dayne Zorko
For a player that is instrumental to his team, Dayne Zorko has a habit of doing some silly things on the football field. As captain of a Brisbane team that has captured the hearts of the football world, Zorko should be front and centre, promoting the positivity emanating from the entire club and preaching the power of teamwork and camaraderie.
Zorko is a damaging player forward of centre, with his willingness to get the ball forward and hunt the opposition with great aggression key reasons for him being one of the Lions’ better players. Averaging 22 disposals, seven tackles, six inside 50s and nearly a goal a game, the 30-year-old is the type who can sneakily win games for his team while receiving little attention.
All too regularly, however, it’s Zorko’s actions without the ball that cause issues. Against North Melbourne two key moments have spread on social media that eagle-eyed viewers would have seen during the match. Zorko received a free kick when Jy Simpkin pushed him away with his foot in what looked like an overreaction to an incident. Video replays, however, seem to show Zorko pinching and prodding at Simpkin’s scar on his leg – suffered in his junior career when he nastily broke his leg.
The footage is somewhat sickening if you were to believe there was malice involved, and even if there is some sort of misunderstanding, it reflects shockingly on Zorko. The Brisbane captain also avoided suspension for spitting in the general direction of Jasper Pittard, which, again, looks bad on replay.
Whether the general consensus of staging for free kicks is true or not, Zorko has built an unavoidable reputation for his unfootballing-like antics more than his actual performance. While the Lions are flying towards some sort of September glory, their captain has some respect to earn back. Let’s see if he is worth investing in with his head screwed on straight.
Buy: Andrew Brayshaw
It’s always refreshing to see young players stand out and really announce themselves in games. Brayshaw’s second half against Sydney in particular was instrumental to Fremantle’s outstanding one-point victory on Saturday night, and it gave us a taste of what is to come from the second-year midfielder.
Finishing the match with 20 disposals, 12 contested possessions and eight tackles, Brayshaw went in hard against the tough Sydney midfield and really held his own. His tackles stuck, he extracted the ball with the efficiency of an eight-season veteran and was intelligent with his ability to get the ball moving forward.
With veterans like David Mundy, Michael Walters and Reece Conca performing typically well in tight and contested situations, for Brayshaw to be the standout midfielder in key moments was a testament to the professionalism and ability the 19-year-old possesses. He won’t be relied upon heavily over the coming 12 to 18 months, but the future looks good for the highly rated youngster.
Sell: Port Adelaide’s forward line
When Cam Sutcliffe is the second-most targeted player inside forward 50, you know you’re in trouble. Port Adelaide is still in the finals race and has a relatively friendly final five games that could help the club reach September if all things go right. If nothing changes from the last fortnight, however, Port Adelaide will slide down the ladder and we’ll be wondering why it was ever in contention.
The Power have scored more than 67 points just once in the past five matches and look toothless going forward. When playing well, Port Adelaide runs in waves and the attractive brand of football stands out due to the high work rate pushing forward and a solid rotation among its small and medium players. This isn’t sustainable football, though, and it definitely won’t be providing any serious challenges in September.
Connor Rozee is in his first season and is leading Port Adelaide’s goalkicking with just 20 goals, while Sam Gray (18), Robbie Gray (14), Brad Ebert (13) and Paddy Ryder (12) round out the top five. Only Rozee is featuring in the club’s forward line at the moment, with Sam Gray playing as a high half-forward, Robbie Gray playing as a midfielder and Ebert and Ryder are not in the senior team.
Charlie Dixon looks to have been rushed back and is genuinely struggling, while Dougal Howard is a stop-gap option more than anything else. Again, Cameron Sutcliffe being in the senior team as a permanent forward against Richmond is seriously concerning and almost a sign of Ken Hinkley giving up.
Port Adelaide has five games to turn its fortunes around and prove itself as a potential finalist. Robbie Gray needs to play as a full-time forward, Dougal Howard needs to head to defence and I’m wanting to see one of the ruck trio of Ryder, Ladhams or Sam Hayes as the second key forward, given all spend plenty of time there in the reserves anyway. Some serious changes need to occur in attack for Port Adelaide and now’s the time to go for it.
Buy: Hawthorn to win
While the biggest match of the round is on Friday night, do not sleep on the Hawks-Lions match-up on Saturday afternoon. Brisbane’s form is incredible and sitting second on the ladder, while Hawthorn has re-emerged as a finals contender. On paper Brisbane should win. The current form paired with recent results against Hawthorn – don’t forget they easily beat the Hawks in Tasmania last season – means Chris Fagan should have plenty of confidence in his team.
The Hawks knocked off Geelong in spectacular fashion last week in another coaching masterclass by Alastair Clarkson. Tactically savvy, Clarkson was able to use James Sicily as an undersized key defensive option, giving Daniel Howe the intercepting freedom that made him a high-potential player early in his career.
Isaac Smith is playing deeper than he has played before, while Chad Wingard, Oliver Hanrahan and Luke Breust played higher up the ground. Clarkson has identified Mitch Lewis as a true threat aerially and athletically and is happy to clear space inside 50 to allow the young forward to do what he wants. It’s very different to a typical Hawthorn set-up.
Brisbane’s recent success against Hawthorn has come from understanding the opposition’s style of play and making the necessary moves to secure victory. The Hawks are playing differently at the moment and it is making them a dangerous team to play against. Jarman Impey’s loss cannot be understated having been one of the club’s best players this season, but the Hawks have the cattle and tactics to cover it. Expect another important Hawthorn win in Round 19.