What a round of football. Close, brilliant games, a few upsets and little to no clarity on what is actually going to eventuate this season. I love it, and here’s some talking points.
The last time Richmond played at this ground, they won their third premiership in four seasons. On Friday night, it was Brisbane producing the latest victory in their campaign to claim the flag.
It’s fair to say the Lions are the form team in the competition – they have the longest current winning streak with six in a row. Their win over Richmond – bar a strong first quarter from the Tigers’ that saw them build a momentarily ominous lead – was near perfection. Chris Fagan’s men were able to blanket the premiers in the midfield, smashing them in clearances and in the trenches, before peppering the goals at a rate that not even Richmond’s usually vaunted defence could cope with.
There were highlights from players that approach (or are at) cult status in Brisbane: Rhys Mathieson was at his pest-like, Hayden Ballantyne-esque best; Mitch Robinson was superb in the middle; young gun Zac Bailey sent through four majors and Eric Hipwood did so too.
Yes, Richmond were not full strength. The Tigers are not at their 2020 best, a clash later in the year where the Lions need to travel to the MCG will tell us more about Brisbane’s chances. But the win was an emphatic one the home side would have liked.
Regardless of the hole the Saints have dug themselves into (a very, very deep one), a 111-point win in 2021 footy is still insane – and rare. It’s significantly less rare, however, for the Bulldogs, who now have won the past three games where the margin blew out over 100 points – Saturday, Round 3’s win over North Melbourne and that 2019 game against the Bombers where they booted 21 majors in succession.
It’s no surprise the Doggies are the most dominant offensive side in the competition, shading their nearest competitors in that statistic (Brisbane and Melbourne) by 100 points. A win where the opposing defence is virtually non-existent is a difficult sample size to extrapolate, but the Dogs’ offensive prowess was in full flight. Aaron Naughton, Marcus Bontempelli and Josh Bruce booted 12 goals between them – over half their majors – while another seven players shared the other 11.
Next Friday’s clash against the Demons is exciting. Neither side – as was looking likely a couple of weeks back – will be headed in with flawless win-loss records, unfortunately. But their offensive prowess, stringent defences and strong midfields mean this is going to be one hell of a game.
Find a television on Friday night, because you cannot miss this one.
Confession time: I committed a cardinal sin on Saturday, as I knew how close the Crows and Demons match was … and switched to watching Netflix instead of watching the end of it. Oops. I’ve watched the final two minutes a half-dozen times since then, and it seems like Adelaide Oval was the loudest it’s ever been.
I don’t blame Crows fans, as their win over the previously unbeaten Demons outfit was a stunner. It was not a miraculous comeback upset, as the Crows looked determined from the beginning to garner the upset virtually nobody was predicting. And, naturally, who else but Darcy Fogarty and Tex Walker to boot the final few goals of the game to secure the win. Quick note: the Demons were not awful themselves – far from it – and truthfully were robbed of a chance to win in the dying moments with that deliberate non-call.
A day later, it was Port – the more comfortably favoured team of the duo – suddenly finding themselves needing to pull a rabbit out of a hat. The Power were awful early on, looking a shadow of themselves and entirely unable to cope with a (limited) Collingwood burst. In truth, the Power were probably lucky that Collingwood’s run shutdown after dominating early, because despite escaping with a win, they looked rubbish for much of the day.
The South Aussie duo both have interesting matches next week: the Crows face a wounded Richmond, while Port face an unpredictable Fremantle.
It is a tale of two Geelongs.
Two of the Cats’ seven wins this season – the victory against Richmond a fortnight ago, and Round 6’s over the Eagles – can be classed as Geelong at their best; a ferociously talented side that can complete for the premiership. One was that win over the Lions that doesn’t need to be relitigated. It’s the other four, especially including Saturday’s over the Gold Coast, can be grouped as Cats’ doing enough but nothing special in the slightest – and it’s becoming a trend.
I’m not trying to take anything away from the Cats’ wins, because it isn’t like they are not doing a lot of good work in their games, and they’re still overwhelmingly likely to feature in September action. But when they’re engaging cruise control for long periods of games against teams they really shouldn’t be having trouble defeating, it begs the question of whether the Cats really have the strength to really go deep into finals.
The Suns win was a microcosm of such average victories – the Cats were strong enough when it mattered but faded out badly for a while as the Suns produced a spirited performance that outweighed their ladder position. North managed the same a few weeks back. The Saints were closer than their horrendous inaccuracy ever should have allowed them to be.
Geelong are too good a team to be muddled in a trend of just doing enough.
There’s been a significant amount of conjecture about Carlton scarcely featuring in this column, but I’ll deservedly write about the Blues in this piece. Even if I’m falling into a trap of sounding condescending, they secured a win they simply needed to.
It’s been well-documented that the Hawks are experiencing their lowest of lows in Alastair Clarkson’s reign, but their good record against the Blues meant it was supposed to be a danger game for Carlton. Danger game, it was not. It was scrappy, it was close at times and it was not as emphatic as Blues fans would have liked, but the four points were vital in the season which was (or is?) becoming a little nervy for Blues fans.
This win does send the club to 4-6. I’m still concerned for the Blues, given their exceedingly tough next few weeks: Sydney, West Coast and the Giants come before games against a maybe-good-maybe-bad Crows and Freo duo. The only one of those I’d say they have a genuinely great chance in is the Freo game, but I’m keen to be surprised.
Been a while since a team got two players reported in one match, but the Crows would be peeved if they lose both Darcy Fogarty and Taylor Walker to suspension for a strike and sling tackle, respectively.
I think Zac Bailey might slowly be becoming one of my favourite Brisbane players. Epitomises both heart and talent.
Honourable loss, no more! But damn, the Hawks were uncomfortably close at times, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was having to write something more scathing of the Blues.
Magpies game plan: accumulate a big lead early, and … I’m not particularly sure what else. A great chance at an upset gone begging.
Significantly easier than last weekend’s win over Freo, and no injuries to report. As good a Sunday as they would have wanted.
If you’d told me that Nat Fyfe would kick the winning goal in the dying minutes of the game, I would’ve considered you insane. But here we are, and Freo was the victor in the weekend’s second best game, which is also a rarity.
Typed enough about them already, but games against Collingwood, Port Adelaide and the Bulldogs next week should provide an exciting (if very dangerous) suite of matches.
Gold Coast Suns
The Suns are seemingly taking Carlton’s “honourable loss” mantle with pride … which isn’t entirely a positive thing.
No Toby Greene? No Gia- oh wait, that doesn’t seem to be true. Fantastic, gritty win for the club – in a weekend full of them.
Competitive, yet outclassed. I can see them troubling a few teams enough – namely the Suns, Essendon and Giants in the next few weeks – that they might be a genuine danger team for the remainder of the season.
I haven’t seen a lot of Kysaiah Pickett in his career, but his running major in the third quarter was superb, and if he’s producing goals like that on a regular basis, I evidently need to start paying more attention to him.
And back to Earth. Appeared to rally for a little while in the third term, but Essendon’s onslaught too imposing to surmount. Onwards and upwards.
Robbie Gray sparked their run with their first two (much-needed) goals, and duly assisted with the game on the line in the final term. So damn good.
I’ve seen so, so, so many jokes about the Tigers falling to ninth spot. That is the observation.
Where does St Kilda go from here? We’re too deep in the season now to write off their horrible performances as early season wobbles. The scintillating Saints of 2020 aren’t coming back any time soon.
Lance Franklin producing a vintage performance. Loved seeing him strut his stuff, and would love to see more of that form – even if it did mean my team almost lost the game.
West Coast Eagles
Their travelling record remains awful – their only win away from Perth was over a struggling Hawthorn. Games against Carlton, Sydney, Adelaide, Collingwood and Brisbane await the Eagles away. Intriguing bunch.
It’s footy, so there was bound to be a negative emerging from a 111-point win. That blow is Adam Treloar’s injury; he’s not expected to be back until after the bye.