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Opinion

AFL Round 3 power rankings

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Roar Pro
7th April, 2021
19

Given the recent dearth of power rankings, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and tell everyone my thoughts on the power rankings of the AFL.

We had bags, we had some more bags, and then for good measure even more bags – this round was defined by blowouts and big bags for a resurgent class of key forwards.

So, without further ado, here are my power rankings for Round 3.

18. North Melbourne
North have been absolutely insipid the last few weeks, they have been bereft of confidence, pride or even the meekest of resistance. It shows that the Roos conceded 167, 98 and 117 points across the first three rounds to be left with one of the lowest percentages in the AFL era.

When the often-maligned Josh Bruce can kick ten goals (and 22 in three games), you know your team is in trouble. Such performances earn North the proverbial wooden spoon for this round.

17. St Kilda
St Kilda was atrocious – it was a performance described as “immature”, “without effort” and “the worst performance” of the round by Nick Riewoldt. To the credit of the Bombers, they brought the enthusiasm of youth but the Saints were markedly down on the effort stats who were not prepared to run and cover their teammates.

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They allowed the Bombers to kick their highest score since 2013 and beat the Saints by their biggest margin in decades. Brett Ratten is left contemplating a dire month where the Saints will face Richmond, West Coast, and Port Adelaide facing the prospect of being 1-6 going into Round 8.

16. Greater Western Sydney
To be a fly on the wall in the GWS change rooms over the last few weeks.

They have been in games but they’ve never genuinely challenged their opposition. Gone is the ‘orange tsunami’ of 2016-17, replacing it is the ‘orange Eddy current’: they have been positively feckless the last few weeks.

Disappointingly, it appears that the Giants will begin attempting to deploy the flood against opposing teams. Their list has the talent to push sides but it has been a positively privileged run for the Giants to this point, they may very well have to take a couple of steps back to push forward.

Leon Cameron

Are GWS in danger? (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

15. Fremantle
It seems Fremantle is unfortunately not the way to go. Justin Longmuir has not been given an easy time of things while in Fremantle, with the Dockers being the exponentially less successful younger sibling of the West Australian teams.

Fremantle went in optimistic of taking a scalp over an injury-hit Carlton but left remaining on one win and were put to the sword by a rampaging Harry McKay and his cohorts.

While Freo has their own injuries to worry about, they have not performed up to scratch for a side that hopes to challenge the eight this year. Their loss to the winless Carlton sees them fall to 15th on my power rankings.

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14. Essendon
My big, beautiful Bombers. The reason I have them this low is that their injury toll is increasing, leaving them increasingly without the cattle to win footy games.

Unfortunately, I believe that this round was the exception and not the rule. While I have documented my opinions on the Bombers more extensively in my Round 3 review, I have put them this low because I still believe they will be bottom-four, and take a very high-value pick into the draft.

I also believe that the primary factor in this was the insipid and meek resistance put forward by the St Kilda side – they looked like witches hats personified.

13. Hawthorn
Alastair Clarkson still has the tricks to lead this side to some surprising wins. The problem is they have not pushed the sides of consequence with Richmond in Round 2, and Geelong in Round 3 to a certain extent never being pushed.

Alastair Clarkson

Alastair Clarkson (Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

The only side the Hawks have done well against is fellow cellar-dwellers Essendon, but even then they had to come back from 40 points down at halftime. That being said, the majority of their players are still too old to perform an effective rebuild – they have prioritised competing in purgatory rather than bringing about the changes necessary to effectively rebuilding.

12. Gold Coast Suns
Unfortunately with the recent news of Jarrod Witts’ injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, the perennial cellar-dwellers will drop even further this year. While Stewie Dew has the board onside and the players are buying into a patient rebuild, to lose your talismanic captain to a year-long injury is less than ideal.

It leaves the Suns without a ruckman and facing the prospect of playing 194-centimetre Chris Burgess as their primary ruck, removing any possibility of advantage in the centre square.

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11. Carlton
Carlton has been much maligned for the “Teague fatigue” problem. They’ve actually shown potential in the first three performances losing in gallant fashion to the Tigers in Round 1, the Pies in Round 2 before blowing Fremantle in Round 3.

The reason I have rated them so high is they have short-term injuries to Jack Martin, Tom De Koenig, Jeremy McGovern, and Charlie Curnow (though the latter is considerably longer-term), so the Blues have had an excuse for their spate of poor performances.

Jack Martin

Jack Martin (Photo by Con Chronis/Getty Images)

The problem is the Blues will need to start beating the teams they’re supposed to beat, however, they have shown a lack of defensive accountability and pressure, which will need to improve if they are to rise up the ladder.

10. Collingwood
Collingwood has been rightfully criticised for their aggressive list management strategy and the signing of Brody Grundy to a seven-year deal. While this is neither here nor there, it informs their recent descent down the ladder from a grand final two years ago.

The Pies have shown they have a tendency to overthink their strategy and have a primary operating procedure of not attempting to lose a game rather than affirmatively winning them.

9. Adelaide
How good is Taylor Walker? Answer: Very good. The Texan has seen a resurgent force in the forward line tackling, chasing, and kicking goals. He is an early favourite for the Brownlow and being the first player to crack 100 goals since Buddy in 2008.

It is not just the new rules that are advantaging the forward, it is his tackles (he kicked four goals from holding the ball free kicks against Sydney), and the rocket for a leg that sees him routinely kick goals from outside-50 to the rapturous applause of the parochial Adelaide crowd.

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Taylor Walker

(AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

8. Melbourne
The last time the Dees were 3-0? 2005. While they face a tougher prospect against the Geelong Cats, they do face the prospect of setting up a solid buffer for their finals campaign if they continue on this trend line, particularly as they’ve already knocked off fellow finals aspirants St Kilda, GWS, and Fremantle.

They do need to begin showing more against sides of consequence, particularly as they’re one of the most notoriously inconsistent sides of the last decade.

7. Geelong
Geelong has several injuries and suspensions but they’ve already used two of their nine lives against the Brisbane Lions and the Hawthorn Hawks. They have done so without Patrick Dangerfield, Gary Rohan, and now without Shaun Higgins.

They have been crying out for an around the ground ruckman and a key forward partner for Tom Hawkins, who they have bet the whole farm on. They have not shown the requisite ability to get the job done in difficult circumstances as they have begun dropping solid leads against the Lions and Hawks.

6. Brisbane
Brisbane has been a solid side over the past three years. They have come back in a big way, but they’ve recently sputtered, indicating that they threw away their best chance to win a flag.

They have been inconsistent; the reason I have them this high is that they have succeeded somewhat in spite of these difficulties (that, and I want to see the salty reaction from Geelong fans because I have them higher than them).

5. Port Adelaide
While you can only beat the side that is in front of you, there is no denying that the Port side had a comparatively cushy fortnight to begin season 2021 and it showed in their Round 3 match-up.

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The Eagles were able to completely shut down their inside game and obliterate their strong marking key forwards with their own strong marking key defenders.

While they can turn it around and will be thereabouts again this year, there are other sides that are higher than them.

Travis Boak of the Power looks on

Travis Boak (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

4. Richmond
While the Tigers have lost their Round 3 clashes in 2019, 2020, and now 2021 while still winning those premierships in two of those years, they have not been beaten so comprehensively on their home deck. The sides they’ve played, however, they have not destroyed in the way the best sides are expected to do so.

The Tigers have shown an inability to cope with the Swans short kicking game, while their defence has appeared somewhat listless without the commanding presence of Bachar Houli or Nick Vlaustin there as a bulwark against the rapid progression of attacks now.

3. West Coast Eagles
The Eagles have played well in each of their games this year, showing the drastic advantage that the vengeful crowd of fans at Optus Stadium gives them.

On Saturday, however, their dominance in the middle enabled them to march forward in a low-pressure environment and give their key forwards advantageous kicks, while entertainment machine Flyin Ryan shows a mercurial ability to get on other players’ shoulders to attack the ball at its highest point.

Oscar Allen bodes well for a future where they will be without their commanding two towers in Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy.

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2. Sydney Swans
The Sydney Cygnets (that’s a baby swan, for the philistines out there) have put together an extremely solid body of work: they’ve beaten Adelaide, Richmond, and Brisbane, all of whom are solid sides for their own reasons.

Their dominance is juxtaposed against their youth, as shown through a record three consecutive Rising Star nominations, and potentially a fourth, depending on how many goals Logan McDonald kicks on Thursday evening at the SCG.

The Swans have developed a new and aggressive brand of footy that has been attributed to the nous of John Longmire, and the new brains trust led by Don Pyke.

Furthermore, their draft haul of the last two years is headlined by the miraculous selection of McDonald at pick No. 4 last year, along with Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden, and Sam Wicks as shrewd academy picks leading the exuberant Swans to three consecutive and convincing victories.

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1. Western Bulldogs
It’s not just because they’ve destroyed their opponents by a club record 128 points. It’s not just because they have played what is the best game of the season. And it’s not even because they have not played their prized pick No. 1, Jamara Ugle Hagan.

It is a combination. The dominance of the Doggies over the horrible Kangaroos is but a single aspect of their newfound dominance. Their shellacking of the Collingwood Magpies in Round 1 built on the dominance in the midfield, and their Round 2 win over West Coast built off of composure and a never-say-die attitude.

The Bulldogs have objectively one of the most fearsome midfield groups, they have an immense amount of depth in the key forward stocks such that they should consider playing Aaron Naughton in the backline.

That’s why I have them on top of the power rankings where they are coincidentally also on top of the AFL ladder.