I waited nearly all year for it to happen, and in the end it didn’t.
The pecking order is always an interesting exercise.
It’s ranking the manner in which the teams performed and to some extent the way in which they were coached. Round 5 was a tough challenge to rank the teams in the pecking order.
1. The Greater Western Sydney Giants set up well defensively and kicked the opening four goals of the game. They clearly went in with a game plan that they endeavoured to stifle the ball movement of Hawthorn. Their endeavour was fantastic in the first half and they executed the game plan implemented by Leon Cameron extremely well. In every aspect of the game they proved that they are a quality team when playing at their optimum level. They were extremely efficient with their goal kicking. They have clearly done a lot of work on their goal kicking. A mark taken by Jeremy Cameron going back with the flight of the ball substantiates why the Greater Western Sydney Giants were ahead of the pack in Round 5.
2. Brisbane were outplayed in a fierce contest in the first quarter yet the scores were almost level and they had a lead by a solitary point. They improved on their opening quarter display in the second quarter in a game that was played at a fierce, final-like tempo. They kicked the opening three goals of the second quarter in quick time. Brisbane’s attack on the footy and the execution of their skills after quarter time were extremely impressive. They had ten goal kickers out of their total of 12 goals. They had 25 shots on goal so they could’ve won by even more.
3. The Western Bulldogs controlled the balance of play for the first quarter. They should have had a bigger lead going into the quarter-time break than six points. Bailey Smith failed a concussion test in the second quarter so it meant that the Western Bulldogs had one less player on the bench to rotate. The synergy between the Western Bulldogs players was good in the first half and they deservedly went into halftime with a 20-point lead, partly thanks to Josh Bruce kicking three goals. The Western Bulldogs transferred their control of the game onto the scoreboard to obliterate North Melbourne.
4. Essendon were unbelievably good after conceding the first three goals of the game. They showed that they are a contender. The game was played at a high tempo. Their pressure was at its optimum level. It almost woke them up, conceding the first three goals of the game. The tempo at which the game was play at was unrelenting. It was as if Essendon were playing in a final. They displayed great endeavour and pressured the Collingwood players when they had possession of the ball. They did it all without two of their midfielders, Dyson Heppell and Zach Merrett, which shows how much depth they have. Andrew Phillips helped Essendon win the game by negating the impact of Brodie Grundy on the game, which was a pivotal match-up.
5. St Kilda believed in the game style that Brett Ratten implemented. They would be disappointed they didn’t make the margin insurmountable in the first half. The system implemented by Brett Ratten is clearly working as the players are genuinely buying into it. When the game was there to be won St Kilda were at their best. St Kilda claimed a deserved win as they came with an effective game plan. They have the capability of playing finals and being a premiership contender thanks to the manner in which they played and that was clear in Round 5.
6. West Coast fought back from conceding the opening two goals of the game. Their intensity lifted in every aspect of their game following those goals. The West Coast displayed plenty of character as their captain Luke Shuey was unavailable after quarter time. The changes that the West Coast made at selection made a statement that their last three performances haven’t been good enough. They played team-first footy and executed the game plan extremely well. Their last three losses appeared to be used as motivation as West Coast played a brilliant game, following a slow start. The ball movement was impressive as was their performance. As impressive as West Coast were, the Sydney Swans appeared to be lackadaisical and West Coast could have won by more than 34 points had they kicked straight, as they finished the game with 11 goals and 11 behinds.
7. Geelong clearly followed the game plan implemented by Chris Scott. They relied heavily on Tom Hawkins, who kicked three goals in the first half. In the second quarter of the game Gold Coast fought their way back into it. The third quarter was an arm wrestle, until Chris Scott moved Patrick Dangerfield forward and Esava Ratugolea moved into the ruck. Geelong executed their skills extremely well in the third quarter of the game, in the premiership quarter. They continued on with that form in the fourth quarter to win the game comprehensively.
8. Hawthorn struggled to move the ball early in the game. They turned the ball over and were inefficient. The players didn’t appear to be implementing the game plan of coach Alastair Clarkson in the first quarter of the game. There was no excuse for their first quarter display. They fought back in the second quarter and clearly altered their game plan at quarter time. In the third quarter they clearly improved particularly in their forward half. They were down on rotations in the second half due to injuries to Jack Scrimshaw, Mitch Lewis and Liam Shiels. Hawthorn somehow came back in the third quarter to reduce the deficit to 21 points thanks to Jack Gunston kicking an inspirational long goal. Hawthorn displayed character and resilience to keep the scoreboard respectable, despite the quality of their opposition. They played well after quarter time. There was a total of 18 shots on goal to 14 in the Greater Western Sydney Giants’ favour, but the Giants won by 34 points.
9. Richmond played a decent first quarter of footy, but it wasn’t good enough as they allowed Melbourne to get within one point at quarter time. Kane Lambert kicked a goal in the second quarter to give Richmond a 26-point lead. Toby Nankervis, Dion Prestia and Trent Cotchin were all injured in the second half. Richmond were brave to claim a win despite being challenged by Melbourne in the last quarter. Richmond showed plenty of character to win the game by 27 points. It was a game they could’ve been forgiven for losing, given they were without three of their key players in the fourth quarter.
10. Collingwood started extremely well, kicking the opening three goals of the game. After that they tried to keep up the momentum, but it appeared as if they weren’t as efficient as Essendon. They didn’t perform well when the pressure was on. Essendon kicked the next eight goals of the game. It was an extremely tough game as it was played of a high standard. Collingwood didn’t kick a goal in the second and third quarter. Credit to Collingwood for showing the character to fight their way back into the game to get within a goal in the last quarter. At the end of the day the game plan implemented wasn’t executed by the players properly as Essendon curtailed Collingwood’s ball movement. Collingwood lost the game by 15 points, despite the fact that had the same number of shots on goal as Essendon: 13.
11. Carlton once again started slowly. Brett Ratten appeared to out-coach David Teague. Once again Carlton showed character working their way back into the game. They would want to replicate their second half as far as the endeavour they showed is concerned. It was 18 scoring shots to 15 in favour of St Kilda, which is an indicator that Carlton were competitive. It wasn’t as if Carlton had to fight back on the scoreboard due to their performance. It was that St Kilda were impressive in the manner in which they played and attacked the contest.
12. Fremantle played what was a bottom-of-the-table match, but it was surprisingly played at a high tempo in the opening quarter. Fremantle used the ball efficiently in the first quarter of the game. That was the difference between them and Adelaide early in the game. Fremantle played an average game. They were just more efficient when it came to field kicking and goal kicking than Adelaide were. Both teams had 14 scoring shots.
13. Port Adelaide had seven shots to the Brisbane Lions’ three yet Port Adelaide trailed by a point at quarter time. Port Adelaide controlled the balance of play in a high tempo game. Port Adelaide’s system wasn’t the best in the second quarter. They were thoroughly outplayed, outsmarted and even appeared to be outworked. In the third quarter there was a period when Port Adelaide regained some momentum, but it didn’t last. The game was more a reflection of how good Brisbane were more than how poor Port Adelaide were.
14. Gold Coast were forced to play the majority of the game without Matthew Rowell, who suffered a shoulder injury. They improved their structure after quarter time. Everyone lifted, having played the game without Matthew Rowell in the second quarter. Ben King’s goal with five minutes left in the second quarter was indicative of the manner in which they implemented the game plan of Stuart Dew. The game was played at a much better intensity in the second quarter after being 20 points behind at quarter time. The execution of the Gold Coast’s skills wasn’t up to standard in the second half. Ultimately losing Matthew Rowell to injury was a fair enough excuse for their deplorable second half. It meant they lost arguably their best player and the injury impacted on their rotations.
15. Melbourne would be pleased that they only trailed Richmond by one point at quarter time as it was reward for the endeavour that they showed in that quarter. Melbourne’s attack on the footy and general play was poor. Melbourne fought their way back into the contest in the fourth quarter. They weren’t efficient and effective in the key moments when the game was there to be won.
16. Adelaide would be disappointed with the manner in which they used the ball in the first quarter, in particular missing a few goals that they could’ve kicked. Adelaide turned the ball over often. Adelaide kicked their first goal at the end of the second quarter from Myles Poholke. A snap around the corner from Billy Frampton was the catalyst for Adelaide fighting their way back into the game, decreasing the deficit to two goals. They only have themselves to blame for losing the game as they kicked four goals and ten behinds.
17. The Sydney Swans had a 14-point lead early in the game. After that they appeared to be disjointed. It didn’t appear as if they were as hungry as the West Coast when the ball was in dispute. There may have even been an element of complacency following their good start to the game. The ball movement from the Sydney Swans wasn’t quick enough. They were stagnant. There was no one there to lead and make a statement when they needed someone to show they are a team that has a reasonable list that’s capable of playing finals.
18. North Melbourne weren’t at the races for most of the first quarter, but they would’ve been content that they only trailed by a goal at quarter time. They didn’t look threatening for the majority of the first half in their forward 50. Robbie Tarrant helped keep North Melbourne in the game with five intercept marks with five minutes left in the first half. Ben Cunnington played the game carrying an injury into it, but Cunnington still played a role in the forward line. North Melbourne have plenty of work to do.