What a weekend of footy. Upsets, controversial finishes, COVID scares and goals aplenty. Let’s get into the talking points.
What a calamity. Actually, that might be an understatement.
Nathan Buckley was emphatic on Saturday afternoon that he and his side were still aiming for finals. On current evidence, that’s an utterly pointless aim. The Magpies are now entering Round 8 with a 1-6 record, with their only win being a 21-point victory over Carlton, which in hindsight was not that impressive. Saturday’s loss, against the Suns – who tend to have a pretty terrible record in Melbourne – was a dagger in the heart of Pies fans.
Buckley’s position, as I discussed last week, has seemingly been up in the air for a while now, and while it is increasingly clear it is a partnership that probably is not viable beyond this season, the Suns have given everyone even more thought (rational or not) that the Pies need drastic changes – ones they won’t regret.
While they’ve been far from the competition’s worst team this season, Buckley’s tenure is reminding me of Freo under Ross Lyon: good for the club for a while but becoming stale. I don’t know if a reactive sacking is the answer, but I’d also not at all be surprised if Buckley is the first coaching casualty of the season.
And it could get worse for the embattled coach: Collingwood’s next game is against North Melbourne. If they somehow – and, unbelievably, there is a semblance of possibility – lose that clash, their season from hell would get significantly worse.
One team headed in 6-0, with ridiculous form behind them and the advantage of facing a Richmond side without Dustin Martin – which, as my esteemed colleague Stirling Coates pointed out last week, is an extremely infrequent occurrence.
The other was that aforementioned Tigers outfit who were stranded at 3-3, with disappointing losses to Sydney, Port Adelaide and Melbourne only punctuated by a blowout win over the Saints. And yet, it was the latter who claimed victory in an emphatic manner, shaking off a slow start to take control of the contest and condemn the Dogs to their first loss of the season.
Richmond’s win was built on their domination of the third term. With Tom Lynch’s goalkicking switching from missing to scoring, and the midfield managing to comprehensively get on top of the Dogs, the Tigers arrested a 19-point half time deficit and headed into the final term with a 4-point lead. The final quarter was a bit tougher, yet Damien Hardwick’s men managed to ease their way to their fourth win of the season.
The Dogs will be bruised but not beaten by the loss and were certainly not disgraced. They should bounce back, with very winnable clashes against Carlton, Port Adelaide and St Kilda coming up. Richmond yet again proved it’s idiotic to even contemplate the possibility that they’re slipping from contention.
Never change, Tigers, never change.
There are two talking points to come out of Brisbane’s smashing of a lacklustre Port Adelaide. One, as the subtitle suggests, is that the Lions took the absence of Brownlow medalist Lachie Neale in their stride. The second is Port’s inability to seriously contest the clash.
Brisbane, who never trailed the visitors, looked superb in what was easily their best performance of the season. The club scarcely missed Neale, with a rejuvenated midfield comfortably besting Port’s insipid effort. Just as crucially, a week after he was monstered by Harry McKay, Harris Andrews admirably shepherded an incredible defensive effort that restricted the usually high scoring Port to just five majors – one fewer goal than Charlie Cameron and Joe Daniher combined.
The Lions had been struggling throughout the beginning of the season – in the Round 4 edition of this column, I described them as “floundering” – but they haven’t lost since then and have seemingly re-found their mojo. I’m expecting good things from this team.
My gut feel for the Power today is that they’ll be feeling like the Bulldogs: bruised but not beaten. They will be frustrated with how uncompetitive they were in Queensland, but have very winnable clashes against the Crows and Collingwood bookending a clash with the Dogs themselves.
Adelaide fans would be forgiven for thinking their team had come to play when, in the opening seconds of Saturday’s clash with GWS, Taylor Walker slammed through their opening goal. It would be the first of just four majors for the match.
The Crows joined the Swans in the early stages of this season as a team that was punching above its weight, producing exciting yet unexpected play to boost them into the region of “they couldn’t, could they?” when it came to predicting surprised finalists. And yet, the shine has come off the South Australians – particularly in the three weeks just gone.
Those three weeks featured three different types of losses. The loss to Fremantle was inexplicable, given the Dockers’ horrid record in Adelaide. Defeat at the hands of Hawthorn was the definition of a missed opportunity. The loss to the Giants was horrid in all regards.
They were thrashed in the midfield, conceded their highest score of the year and kicked their lowest goal tally all season. And it could have been worse if not for the Giants’ inaccuracy: 1.8 at quarter time, 6.12 at the half and 15.16 by the final siren.
It appeared Sydney were losing steam heading into Round 7, with two upset losses dampening their previously perfect start.
The Swans went into this weekend’s clash against the Cats as underdogs – unsurprisingly, given the Cats’ destruction of the Eagles last weekend. They trailed for much of the clash and looked – to borrow a footy cliché – dead and buried.
Enter Tom Papley, who kicked a great goal to sneak the Swans in front and steal a win that keeps them not only in unexpected finals contention, but nestled in the top four as they approach games against the undefeated Melbourne, spiralling Pies and the up-and-down Freo.
As is tradition, there were umpiring howlers: the Jeremy Cameron “not 15 metres” chief among them. The league, as they’ve had to do with a disturbing frequency of late, later confirmed that it should have been paid.
Up until the main break, yesterday’s Western Derby was a sensational clash: high-scoring, thrilling, full of exciting goals. After half time, it turned into a West Coast training drill. Buoyed by a week of lukewarm favouritism, unexpectedly favourable outs for their opponents and a last-minute decision to bar what would’ve been a raucous Eagles home crowd, Freo let it all go to waste in a horror show of a second half.
There were warning signs in the first half, as the Dockers weakened defence was evidently struggling to handle the combination of Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy, but a strong midfield and impressively cohesive forward line meant they were regularly leading throughout the half.
The third quarter is when the Eagles’ superior class shone through, easily able to slam through five goals to turn the game on its head, and the final term was merely a formality as they secured an 11th consecutive Derby win.
It’s as disappointing a loss as the Dockers have experienced in recent times: an insight into the worst the team can play at the worst possible time. Worryingly, it drops them outside of the top eight (replaced by, ironically, the Eagles) as they head into a tricky clash with the Lions at home next week.
In a crappy day for the club, rejuvenated stalwart Taylor Walker still booted two goals – the most of any Adelaide player, and half of the Crows total goal count. He remains on top of the Coleman Medal charts … just.
Charlie Cameron’s superbly honest admission that a ‘goal’ had been touched off the boot while nobody else had realised makes me love him even more. Such a nice player.
Absolutely brilliant win, and just what they needed. Adam Saad’s first game against his old club was fantastic.
Not a lot more I can say about the Pies, to be honest. A rough Saturday.
Not the worst loss, and their youthful squad tried admirably for much of the match, but ultimately it was their fifth defeat from seventh rounds. GWS next week are a daunting proposition.
Losing two defenders to injury during a hefty Derby loss is so quintessentially Freo. Ethan Hughes and Heath Chapman both went down with shoulder ailments – the latter’s courage to play on a testament to his courage.
Now, I’m not saying some combination of karma and the footy gods exist, but there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude that exists in seeing the Cats get – as per the AFL itself – robbed by some controversial late decisions.
Gold Coast Suns
They won’t be getting the credit they deserve, but such is life when you are up against the embattled Collingwood. They can very realistically make it three wins on the trot against the Saints next week.
Jesse Hogan started well on his debut for his third club, booting four goals in a slick performance. I for one am happy to see him back in action, and wish him well after a turbulent stint at Freo.
Perhaps the most anonymous loser of the weekend, which they’d be grateful for. Were scoreless at quarter time. I really want to know the stats on that: how often does that happen?
They almost ‘Melbourne’d’ it! They ultimately got the job done and are now the only undefeated team in the competition after seven rounds. What a strange thing to say.
I couldn’t fault their effort last week, but now I can’t fault their skills either. Took it right up to the Demons but fell away late. Plenty to be proud of.
Their record away from home this season: two wins (North, Carlton), two losses (West Coast, Brisbane). Concerning.
Their record over the last five seasons in games without Dusty has improved to 3-2. Positive ledgers, baby!
I’m fairly convinced the Saints are the most wildly inconsistent team in the competition. Ultimately, you can never quite be sure which version of the Saints is going to turn up.
This was just Hayden McLean’s seventh game of AFL footy and yet he booted the same number of goals as Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron … combined.
West Coast Eagles
Looked superb, and their ferocious second-half demolition was the perfect tonic they needed after last weekend’s loss. Games against Hawthorn and the Crows in the next fortnight could get ugly for their opponents.
The Bulldogs’ loss means we’re officially not going to get the massive Dogs-Demons clash in Round 11 where both teams could have gone into the clash undefeated. Still should be a great game, though.