Round 4 of the AFL season has just concluded. Here is what we learned.
1. Bont shows his leadership
The Bulldogs have had an inconsistent start to the season with two wins and two losses. Despite being considered premiership contenders before the start of the season, they have been up and down with their style.
Thursday night was no exception, despite losing two players to injury in the game, the Bulldogs were able to grind out the win against a poor Sydney outfit. While their win won’t allay the concerns that the pundit class have of the Bulldogs, you can only beat the opposition in front of you, and the Bulldogs did so in extremely trying circumstances.
In large part they won due to the ability of their talented captain Marcus Bontempelli, his two goals, seven clearances, 19 possessions, two contested marks and 14 contested possessions were a talismanic and morale lifting performance by the captain.
2. Howe do the Pies respond?
Pun very much intended, the punishing and ugly injury suffered by Jeremy Howe in the last quarter of Friday night’s game will have major repercussions for the Magpies’ season.
It makes for an awful 30th birthday present. The news Saturday was that it was a Posterior Cruciate Ligament and he will be out for several months if not the entirety of the season which will be extremely damaging to the Pies defensive structures that relies on the leaping of an enigmatic Howe.
These concerns are compounded by the uncertain surrounding Jordan Roughead’s availability as they head into a hub for a month, Roughead’s wife is pregnant and has undergone a medical scare, and in the pandemic uncertainty Roughead is placing his family above football (as he should do).
3. West Coast have major problems that won’t be solved by returning West
It is common knowledge by this point that the West Coast are absolutely filthy with the Hub life in Queensland and that was clear on Saturday as they faced a red hot Port Adelaide outfit. While the Eagles did show they had something in the tank, it was all undone by the impulsive Will Schofield.
They’re clearly not responding well to the move to Queensland, but their issues are clearly more than the locale, and the three successive losses to this point will have utterly annihilated whatever vestiges they had of their morale.
4. Saints are marching in
St Kilda have been the butt of many jokes about wooden spoons and cups and what not, but on Saturday afternoon the Saints showed run and dare against a heavily fancied Richmond side.
The win was built off of the work rate of their outside players and the strength of their key forwards to bring the ball in from the high kicks they received.
The loss raises several questions for Damian Hardwick and co.
In particular, the list manager that let Dan Butler go for peanuts to the Saints last year only to have him kick three goals against his former side needs to be called into question. The Saints have to be taken seriously by any side aiming to make finals at the end of this year.
5. The Blues use their heads
Where Will Schofield showed a little too much romance with his ‘Glasgow Kiss’ on Saturday Afternoon, Liam Jones’ fortuitous falcon will have Blues supporters checking their blood pressure after getting over a rusty bombers outfit by the skin of their teeth.
This isn’t to take anything away from a Blues outfit that carefully thought their way through the match and always kept in touch with the Bombers, their dominance in the inside fifty count (+15), possessions (+65), and clearances (+15) should have yielded a larger win and is a credit to the Bombers defenders who grimly defended all night long to give a dysfunctional Essendon forward line a chance to make the most of it.
I believe that next week against the a resurgent St Kilda will be integral to the Blues season and will show whether this is a false dawn or not.
6. Nat Fyfe’s down
Nat Fyfe going down with a hamstring injury is potentially ruinous to the Fremantle Dockers’ season, as it would be for any side.
His strength at the contest and leadership when the chips are down are extremely important to the success starved Dockers. The Suns showed character in their win against the Freo Dockers to win the tightly matched contest with strong contributions from Matt Rowell, Jarrod Witts and Ben King.
Whilst the Dockers have continued to struggle falling to their fourth consecutive defeat, made all the worse by the injury to Nat Fyfe. This author hopes that this is the beginning of a new rivalry for the Suns and Dockers who have both been maligned through their short histories.
7. Lions are getting greedy
With ten goals 23 behinds the lions were woefully inaccurate and gave the Crows a small sniff on Sunday afternoon.
The biggest offenders were Lachie Neale (who kicked six behinds) and Hugh McCluggage (1 goal five behinds). Against stronger oppositions, particularly sides that play back half games they will be punished for such poor usage. That being said I believe this was easily the Crows’ best game for the year as their young players began to show something.
8. Clarko’s temper rears its ugly head
In keeping with the head motif throughout this article it would seem Clarko lost his a bit. In light of a closer than expected finish to the north Hawthorn game on Sunday, Clarkson was quick to level blame at the umpire’s feet who called no holding the ball calls in his favour despite the 69 tackles his side has.
Clarkson was extremely critical of the game and his famous temper showed itself in the press conference after the match. However, in this author’s opinion the Hawks began a campaign not to lose the game rather than win as the fast finishing North almost stole victory from the jaws of defeat.
9. The AFL has a scoring problem
Naturally given the shortened quarters and the stop-start nature of the Covid shut down, it would be expected that players would come back rusty. But the average scores of the games reflects the conservative defence-first paradigms that are pervasive throughout the game.
Just on Sunday for example several teams failed to score above 60 points, and half of those teams failed to score above 50. Whether it reflects the shortened game span, rusty players or different tactics it makes for dour and depressing football.
The AFL should consider options to open the game up in an effective way without endangering players.
Stat of the week: the Fremantle versus Gold Coast Suns game was the first in VFL/AFL history not to have a single solitary behind scored in the first half.