Welcome to the Round 5 power rankings, and they’re electric if I do say so myself.
There are now only two undefeated teams, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, and there have been disappointing upsets and upsetting disappointments and everything in between.
18. North Melbourne Kangaroos
Being the only side without a win to their name is how they find themselves on the bottom of the power rankings here today. They showed some promise against an exceptionally inaccurate Geelong outfit down at GMHBA, but I suppose that’s all you can expect of North this year. Hopefully the games they are getting into the kids will bear fruit in 2022 and beyond.
17. St Kilda Saints
All the good their Round 4 performance did for them has been all but obliterated. They are a side playing bereft of confidence, and that makes me feel sympathy for their workman captain Jack Steele. Bradley Hill has failed to justify his healthy pay packet with another listless performance, gathering ten disposals. The recruit of 2020, Dan Butler, has failed to find any traction in the forward line. The one beacon of hope for the Saints has been captain Jack Steele, who has delivered week after week.
16. Hawthorn Hawks
I tell you what, Alastair Clarkson is going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat for his side. The Hawks are in that dreaded zone where they lack the genuine A-grade talent and leadership necessary to encourage assertive performances out of their younger players. They conceded 50 points in the last quarter alone on Sunday as the red-hot Demons romped to their fifth-straight victory.
15. Essendon Bombers
I have made my thoughts regarding my team clear in a much longer format earlier this week. The Bombers were always going to struggle in the torrential rain in Brisbane, but they allowed the Lions the time and space to use the ball cleanly. Brisbane ended up playing their best match of the year. Adding insult to injury, their superstar halfback and reigning best and fairest went down with a concussion to leave a solid third of their best 22 out on the sidelines as they head into an extremely important Anzac Day clash against fierce rivals Collingwood.
14. Gold Coast Suns
The only reason they’re up one place this week is they played the least-worst of the sides mentioned here. The Suns came up against the bullocking Bulldogs, and short of a miracle, they were never going to win. What the Suns showed was that they have a growing depth of ball users out of the back half that belies the insipid ball movement of the past month. While this is the worst start to a year for the Suns in five years, they also have a more difficult fixture than in the past. However, it is important for the Suns to begin showing some forward momentum without their ruckman and dynamic midfield dynamo.
13. Carlton Blues
The Blues needed to show something against a side of consequence this year and they failed. The Blues appear uninterested in doing the hard things necessary to win a premiership, and after years of promising, they’ve still failed to show any progress out of the wilderness. Unfortunately David Teague rightly or wrongly may very well be coaching for his future. The Blues had ample opportunity to win, getting inside 50 nine times more than their opposition, but they failed to translate it into a winning score, with each side having 27 scoring shots.
12. Collingwood Magpies
The Magpies find themselves substantially higher on the ladder this week as they showed assertiveness against a dangerous West Coast outfit on their home deck. With two injuries to two best 22 players in the first half, the Magpies did well not to lose the match by more to the three towers of the West Coast forward line who had their way with them.
However, Nathan Buckley still showed his trademark rigidity when Jeremy Howe went down with a severe hamstring injury by refusing to move Darcy Moore back when the game was up for grabs. Their performance leaves a lot to be desired but shows the value of patience and persisting in your philosophy. That said, 25 April shapes as a curious game for both Essendon and Collingwood as they’re each very evenly matched.
11. Greater Western Sydney Giants
The Giants have begun to show a bit more spine the last two weeks, first beating a meek Collingwood side and then beating a tiring Swans outfit. While there are numerous questions about the Giants, they have begun to show there might be a life for them after Jeremy Cameron. Their experience of the footballing wilderness may be short-lived.
The only disappointing feature of Saturday’s game was the inaccuracy of the Giants forwards. Toby Greene kicked one goal and seven behinds in an enigmatic display. The Giants are truly walking taller, with their ruckman throwing his weight around aggressively even at 35 years of age. The Giants have shown real heart these last two weeks, and I for one hope it continues.
10. Adelaide Crows
The Crows have been the dark horse of this year, launching into the hearts of all neutral supporters with a high-effort, high-energy game style that has shown they can compete with large and small clubs. Taylor Walker continues his resurgence, with two goals and three behinds, but it’s the likes of Lachlan Sholl (23 disposals and a goal), James Rowe (two goals from 12 disposals) and Jordon Butts (17 disposals and seven intercept possessions) who are the shining lights driving the Crows up the ladder far quicker than expected. They are a hopeful club for the much-maligned North supporters, who might now hope to mimic this ascent up the ladder next year.
9. Fremantle Dockers
The Dockers have won their first away game this year, which is a weight lifted off of their shoulders. If the Dockers can manage to pull a couple more victories away and win their remaining home games, they may very well be the surprise finals aspirant this year. That said, the injury to Adam Cerra and Rory Lobb’s inaccuracy in front of goal may very well have cost them in the end. The Dockers were able to steady and win the match handily against a very good Adelaide outfit.
8. Geelong Cats
Harsh? Yes. Overly harsh? Most certainly not. The Cats have prided themselves on contending for a decade, but they have traded out their future for pursuing the now. Yet five rounds in they are 3-2, their prized recruit has not played a game and they almost managed to play an insipid North Melbourne side back into form. They still won, but they should have won by more, particularly when you factor in the inaccuracy of the Geelong side. The next round is an early-season acid test for the Cats as they face an in-form West Coast side.
7. Brisbane Lions
Brisbane returned to the Gabba with numerous questions over their form. Heading into the match 1-3, there were questions being asked of their ball movement and overall strategy on the field. The performances of players like Lincoln McCarthy (19 possessions, two goals), Joe Daniher (25 possessions and two goals) and Lachie Neale (38 possessions and two goals) indicate a massive swing in favour of the Lions improving their form.
While the Bombers were insipid, you can only beat the side that is in front of you, and the Lions were able to comprehensively hammer the Bombers through a high press and poor disposal from Essendon. Special mention goes to Dan McStay, who freed up Daniher to play further afield, where he could use his athleticism and talented field kicking to devastate the Bombers faithful.
6. West Coast Eagles
The Eagles started slowly on Friday night as the Pies surprised to take a 15-point lead at quarter-time. The lesser lights of the Eagles, such as Dom Sheed (three goals and 28 disposals), Oscar Allen (five goals and six marks) and Josh Rotham (15 marks and 23 disposals), all rose above expectations to get the Eagles an extremely solid win against an understrength but plucky Collingwood outfit. The Eagles were able to suffocate the Pies with a remarkable 136 marks while still earning the ball at the coalface with 39 clearances, dominating the Pies who have frequently prided themselves on having a great midfield.
5. Sydney Swans
A bit harsh, but such is the form of the teams above the Sydney Swans here that they find themselves falling down the power rankings. Of particular concern are the injuries to Tom Hickey and Lance Franklin this week on top of the injuries of Dane Rampe and Isaac Heeney last week. While the Swans can take solace in how well they’ve done thus far the mounting injuries and the relative youth of their key players, particularly with the dry spell for players like Logan McDonald (second consecutive week without a goal), Sam Wicks (six Disposals) and Braeden Campbell (14 disposals). Each of these stats indicates the growing difficulty the younger players are having the longer into the season it goes.
4. Port Adelaide Power
Congratulations to Mitch Georgiades on earning his second Rising Star nomination. The Power are with West Coast and the Western Bulldogs with a fantastic and brutal three-pronged attack. The aforementioned key forwards have combined for 24 goals in five games across Charlie Dixon, Georgiades and Todd Marshall. The point of difference arises when you consider the smooth-moving skills of players like Orazio Fantasia (ten goals), Robbie Gray (seven goals) and Steven Motlop (five goals). While there are concerns for players like Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma after their injuries last week, the Power’s upward trajectory has them with a 4-1 record heading into the second quarter of the year.
Special mention goes to the athletic ability of Aliir Aliir, who is rated as above average for metres gained, disposals, one-on-one contests, intercepts and intercept marks. On Saturday he was at his intercepting best, blanketing Harry McKay while gathering the footy 17 times and intercepting the ball ten times. All in all the Power have had a good start to the year and will be hoping to go deep into September.
3. Richmond Tigers
It’s pretty hard not to move the Tigers up after their hammering of St Kilda in their Thursday night game. Despite the nonsensical moves of players like Marlion Pickett into the ruck, the Tigers were able to burn the Saints on the burst and smash them in the midfield. They forced the Saints to panic and surged the ball forward as they returned to the manic pressure that has defined the Tigers for the past four years. Any side praying for a Richmond collapse will be sorely disappointed. The Tigers have shown no signs of slowing down.
2. Melbourne Demons
The Demons are now 5-0 for first time in 30 years. They are fast approaching their best start to the year ever. The Demons earn their spot on this list because they have shown the most consistency of any side bar the first-ranked side on this list. In particular the goal to Max Gawn early in the fourth quarter spoke volumes of the new and selfless leadership of the Melbourne footy club. Sam Weiderman and Ben Brown coming back into the side bodes well for the overall talent of the forward line. Youngsters Kysaiah Pickett, Trent Rivers and Luke Jackson have shown very solid development for the Demons during this year.
1. Western Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are playing head and shoulders above their closest opposition with a percentage of 178.6 per cent. They smashed the Suns over the weekend with a unique playing style and a whole bunch of midfielders giving different looks to the young Suns. In particular Adam Treloar’s breakaway speed has enabled the rapid transition from inside to outside contests. Furthermore, three goals to Marcus Bontempelli, two goals apiece to Josh Dunkley and Adam Treloar and goals to Tom Liberatore and Lachie Hunter combined for nine of 17 goals.
That said, there were still healthy contributions from Josh Bruce (two goals), Aaron Naughton (two goals and three behinds) and Tim English (one goal and two behinds). It’s good to see the healthy contributions from the midfield, but the forward line is still doing its job. The brutality with which the Bulldogs have dispatched teams sees them earn their third successive top ranking.