Round 6 is done and dusted, with the Anzac weekend providing plenty of action and some surprises. Here are the talking points, hot off the press.
If there’s one thing this round will be remembered for – except a few upsets here and there – it’s the injuries.
The Bulldogs began the weekend’s wounded toll with Lin Jong, Tim English and Josh Dunkley all exiting the game with injuries. Jong’s hamstring injury absolutely sucks and cut short only his fourth game since 2018, though English and Dunkley’s concerns would be bigger worries ahead of a big clash with Richmond. Speaking of the Tigers, they won’t have Dustin Martin after he was ruled out due to the AFL’s strict concussion protocols, while Kane Lambert is also in some doubt.
The Eagles’ Jeremy McGovern and Fremantle’s Brennan Cox both look unlikely for next weekend’s derby in a blow for both teams. The Giants’ Nick Haynes, Sydney’s George Hewitt, Hawthorn’s Shaun Burgoyne, Adelaide’s Will Hamill, Brisbane’s Darcy Gardiner and Essendon’s Aaron Francis headline the list of other casualties from a dirty weekend of football.
Expect club medical teams to be working overtime this week, even moreso than usual.
There’s been a flirtation around the Demons in this column for a couple of weeks now. A fortnight ago, I wondered when you could start to believe in them. Last week, I did just that yet cautioned they had been benefiting from an easy fixture and we’d know about them when they face real competitors, ala Richmond.
I now say “screw it”, because it’s time they get full-throated, genuine affirmation from me. They were excellent on Saturday night, successfully nullifying Richmond in all but the first quarter – where even when they weren’t dominating, they weathered a strong Tigers opening. The Demons were well on top up forward, in the midfield and, especially so, in defence, where they kept the Tigers to their lowest (losing) score since 2019.
Christian Petracca probably epitomised how fantastic the Dees were. Petracca’s 38 touches, ten clearances and a goal were superb, though he shared the load with midfield compatriots Clayton Oliver, Max Gawn and Christian Salem. It’s the combination of an even spread of great performances and their form that make the Demons a must-watch at the moment, and I for one am unequivocally pumped for them.
Melbourne’s next game is a gimme: North Melbourne in Tassie (although that might change due to North’s trip to Perth on the weekend and Tassie’s strict COVID restrictions). Meanwhile, the Tigers have now lost three of their past four clashes and face the competition’s other unbeaten team in the Western Bulldogs next weekend. What a glorious clash that should be.
In Thursday morning’s AFL expert tipping column, I all but called Saturday afternoon’s Gold Coast versus Sydney match a forgone conclusion. It’s fair to suggest I didn’t expect this win. And what a win it was: Sydney looked dead and buried for much of the game, as the Suns’ impressive blend of speed, intensity and offensive prowess meant the lacklustre victors were scarcely a chance of working their way back into the clash.
The Suns’ best-on-ground players is a who’s who of young talent. Ben King’s game is impossible not to compliment – his five goal haul his career-best – while Noah Anderson, Izak Rankine and Ben Ainsworth were prolific.
Equally prolific in a losing effort were Sydney’s Josh Kennedy and Callum Mills – the former’s 42 touches a league-wide high this round – but, really, the Swans looked nothing like the slick side that won their way to a 4-0 record before dropping their past two games. They’d be wanting to change that sooner than later if they were to remain finals smokies.
The thing is, the Suns would want to do this consistently, something they’ve perennially struggled with. A look ahead of their fixture for the next six weeks delivers them a decidedly mixed bag: games against the Pies, Saints and Hawthorn give them plenty of opportunities for a few more wins. It’s clashes against Geelong, Brisbane and Port than they’d be wanting to avoid big, demoralising losses in, though.
That subtitle might be slightly misleading – I’m not sure there’s ever a reason to remember a trip to Geelong – but the Eagles had a particularly crappy visit with their 97-point thrashing. Yes, West Coast traditionally have a bad record in Geelong. Yes, the squad had significant injury concerns. No, neither mean their wholly uncompetitive performance is excusable.
The Eagles looked awful for much of the game, with a second-quarter demolition (conceding ten majors, scoring zilch) meaning the game was over at half time. The Eagles were simply obliterated after the first break: they did not win a single statistic except hit-outs and tackles inside 50, with that last one probably expected due to the pure abundance of Cats entries.
The Eagles’ performance is the biggest talking point but, just briefly, I cannot ignore the fact that this game has steadied the Cats, who’d been winning while looking decisively flat before Saturday.
Next up for the Eagles (and I type that with fingers and toes crossed, pending the state’s COVID situation) is the Western Derby. The team would generally be optimistic headed into Derbies – they’ve won ten in a row – but with their form, and the form of next week’s opposition, they’d be rightfully a little apprehensive.
It was an undeniable disappointment when Mark McGowan confirmed a three-day lockdown for Western Australia on Friday afternoon, barely 24 hours before Fremantle’s traditionally brilliant Len Hall Tribute match against North Melbourne. While a lot of the focus on Anzac weekend habitually centres upon Collingwood and Essendon’s marquee clash, Freo do a great job in Western Australia with their clash, and to lose what would’ve been a massive crowd was a hit to both the club’s finances and morale.
Results-wise, the Dockers earned their third straight win for the first time under Justin Longmuir’s tutelage and, while North were more than competitive at times, Freo weren’t troubled during the four quarters – though it wasn’t the proper thrashing that most Dockers fans desired.
The two big stories from the game that have been covered extensively are David Mundy’s excellence and Nat Fyfe’s goalkicking yips. Mundy genuinely was superb on Saturday, leading a midfield that dominated the Kangaroos’ group – in skills but not effort, to the Roos credit – and accumulating 30 disposals. I’ve seen some commentators talk about an unlikely potential (and I stress: unlikely) Brownlow come season’s end. I’m vehemently against betting, but if there’s ever a sneaky bet: that would probably be a half decent one.
Fyfe’s yips are a depressing blight on his game, and I’d love to look into a crystal ball to find a solution.
Today’s official crowd is 78,113.
— AFL (@AFL) April 25, 2021
In a bit of a juxtaposition from the crowd-less Freo-North clash, yesterday’s Collingwood and Essendon Anzac day clash reportedly had the highest crowd – 78,113 fans – at any global sporting event since the pandemic started. That’s firmly testament to Australia’s handling of COVID. I absolutely love to see it.
Probably a once in a season occurrence, but the Crows’ 14.0 score at half time was amazing to see. Their final score of 16.3 tells two stories: they collapsed in the second half, while still remaining impressively accurate.
Strong win. Having Eric Hipwood and Charlie Cameron booting three goals apiece was a bonus, but ankle surgery for Lachie Neale is a huge blow.
Positive: Harry McKay’s six-goal game. Negative: a fourth loss from six games, with games against Essendon, the Dogs and Melbourne to come in the next three weeks. Sound the alarms.
One and five. I’ve veered wildly between the Leon Cameron and Nathan Buckley in the under-pressure coach stakes. This week, that spotlight is firmly back onto Buckley.
Great win, and Darcy Freakin’ Paris. Oh my gosh: 42 touches, two goals, nine clearances, nine score involvements. Phenomenal.
Gotta give a quick shoutout to Caleb Serong: just a lazy 35 disposals, six clearances, 677 metres gained and six inside 50s. Not bad, not bad.
No Patrick Dangerfield, but they had a handy addition by the name of Jeremy Cameron. He was slow to warm into the contest but finishing with three goals is nothing to sneeze at. Pretty much the perfect debut at his new club.
Gold Coast Suns
Take everything you know about their win and their youth performances. Add Matt Rowell. Yeah, how awesome will it be when they’re at their best and Rowell’s playing consistent footy?
Football manager Jason McCartney is expected to face a please explain from the AFL’s bosses after doing what many a fan has aspired to do: barge into the umpires’ rooms to have a few, uh, choice words. Not a good look for the club.
A bit of a rollercoaster for the Hawks yesterday: leading by eight at quarter time, trailing by 25 at the halftime, closing the gap to 13 and winning by three come the game’s end. I may or may not have tipped against them, but their Launceston record remains ominous.
Spoken enough about them already, but the Demons rightfully celebrated Nathan Jones’ 300th game with a superb win. Maybe, just maybe, this year will reward him with the ultimate prize.
Jack Ziebell is very scarcely recognised nowadays by many, but his performance on Sunday was impressive: he accumulated 37 touches and was classy when so much of his team wasn’t.
Not a lot to say, but I was ecstatic to see Martin Frederick debut for Port. His brother – Michael – doing great things for Freo, and I’m super keen to see Martin do great things for the Power.
Martin’s injury a frustrating loss, but it’s not like he was effective in Saturday night’s clash before he was substituted off: he’d had just eight touches.
Writing this sentence at this half time, and I’m going to assume that the Saints’ terrible (lack of) forward conversion continued doing them no favours. Circling the finals drain, and just about fallen down.
I didn’t mind this sardonic tweet to a the Swans’ Twitter account: “I’m sorry that this game of football interrupted the Swans holiday to the Gold Coast.” Just about sums up the clash.
West Coast Eagles
Freo were getting a significant amount of criticism for their away record this year. Somehow, bizarrely, the Eagles weren’t. That’s a problem, because the Eagles have now lost three from three away from home.
I was disappointed that Friday’s clash was a reasonably chill one. Where’s the niggle? Where’s the fraught rivalry? Not that Dogs fans would be complaining: their team is 6-0 and looking great.