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Six talking points from AFL Round 16

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Roar Guru
4th July, 2021
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Here’s a half dozen some talking points for a crazy – but brilliant – round of footy.

The best win in the Suns history? Yeah, probably – if people care enough to talk about it

There’s two approaches one can take out of Thursday night’s clash at Marvel Stadium – the first is, without a doubt, the fact that Richmond have gone from bad (last weekend’s loss to St Kilda) to much, much worse (Thursday’s pathetic effort against the Suns).

There’s obviously going to be plenty of words written about the Tigers this week – not many of them positive, most written with glee – but perhaps an underrated story are the Suns.

It goes without saying that the Suns have had a tumultuous history. Besides a decent 2014 season, they have seemingly struggled to remain relevant beyond the lame criticism of their very existence.

And, owing to that rough recent history, there isn’t many wins one can pinpoint as particularly memorable.

Certainly, the last win I recall out of the Suns camp that is truly special was their 2018 win against the Swans in Sydney: having never won in the city, holding an 11-game losing streak and at 3-13, were at opposite ends of the ladder to the then 11-5 Swans, they stunned the Swans.

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Other wins in recent year would earn brief acclaim – a win last year against the Eagles, surprise wins over the Dockers and the Hawks along the way – but the overwhelming response to these wins were criticism of the other team.

It’s a frustrating trend; the Suns get the win and receive a shrug. A team loses to the Suns and it gets treated as a disaster – which in and of itself says a lot of what the AFL community believes about the Suns.

I’m not saying that Richmond shouldn’t be criticised for that loss, because they deservedly should be. I’m suggesting that the Suns mustn’t be forced to become the back page story on a night they dominated the reigning premiers.

The result is likely going to have more ramifications for the losers than the winners, but it’s plainly ignorant to forget just how impressive a win it was.

Dustin Martin

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The Dockers absolutely, positively blow a chance at the eight
Legitimately everything had been going right for the Dockers. They’d won two games in a row. Richmond had capitulated on Thursday night. Essendon – one of two teams closely matched with the Dockers – had lost on Friday night.

Nat Fyfe was returning to the team. GWS – like the Bombers, a competitor for a finals space – had won the night before, but the Dockers simply had to win to leapfrog the Giants and finish the round in the eight. They not only failed to do so, but they also fell back into some frustratingly common patterns.

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The Dockers’ inaccuracy – a poor 6.14 – came a week after they looked more cohesive up forward against the Pies and ruined an attempt to come further into the game.

You can somewhat forgive inexperienced forwards like Liam Henry for screwing up shots – and, generously, you can give a smidgen of leniency to missing difficult kicks on the run – but it becomes inexcusable when experienced heads like Michael Walters are contributing to the scoreboard crisis.

There’s also Freo’s tendency to start horribly. It’s far from the first time this season the Dockers have been stunned in the beginning of clashes – the Port clash being the most memorable example – and a rubbish 0.4 on the scoreboard by the first break.

The Dockers had such an unadulterated chance at jumping into the eight but falling back into some old trends meant their narrow path back into finals just got significantly harder. Next week’s game against the Hawks and Round 23’s against the Saints have become must-wins.

Perhaps the only good news for Freo this weekend was the fact that there may be a second potential spot in the eight up for grabs, because their closest rivals fluffed it to a greater extent.

The Blues and Saints – tenuously – add their name to the “wildcard” finalists list
So, so much of the attention this week focused upon Freo, Essendon and the Giants, who have been labelled as the three top-eight “heir-apparents”, prey awaiting the collapse of the Tigers. Not regularly in that discussion are the Blues or the Saints.

For the former, a disappointing beginning to the season dissipated any optimism that the side would finally prove themselves worthy to make finals. For the latter, it goes without saying why they’ve long been ruled out. The two sides have had a simultaneous response: don’t forget about us.

The Blues managed to jump into the crowded pack of teams duelling it out to make finals, closing the gap on the team they just beat, and the team is being hunted. They also equalled Essendon – a youthful side who’d garnered acclaim recently.

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The Blues advantageously have a remaining fixture that sees them avoid any top eight sides – baring Geelong and Port – and with the team finally showcasing the type of footy everybody’s expected them to produce for a while now. Internal review be damned, you simply have to include them as wildcard in every sense of the word.

The Saints, meanwhile, emphasised the point of why you shouldn’t editorialise a subheading title before a game finishes. Win they did, but their final quarter was awful, and they’re lucky the Pies were worse for three times as long as they were. Still though – they’re in the mix.

The Eagles are allergic to Geelong
Rinse and repeat. It wasn’t too long ago that the Eagles travelled to Geelong and got pummelled by 97 points. It was at that April afternoon’s subsequent presser where Adam Simpson labelled his side’s performance as “embarrassing”. Yesterday, the Eagles returned to GMBHA Stadium, and promptly got pummelled by 92 points.

Embarrassing might be an understatement now.

The Eagles’ travel woes have now become a blaring five-alarm fire. Their only two wins away from home – a win over Hawks at the MCG, which may have been memorable in 2014 but not now, and a win over the Blues in New South Wales – matter for naught.

Luke Shuey of West Coast Eagles looks dejected

(Photo by Matt Roberts/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Sunday’s loss leaves them three games adrift from fifth place Geelong –essentially destroying their chances at top four – and just one win above the riskily placed Richmond. I’m not suggesting the Eagles are going to fall into the eight – I’d probably bet against it – but you’re kidding yourself if you suggest they are reputable premiership contenders.

Melbourne lose top spot, but they’ll be fine
I’ve mentioned, ad nauseum, the classic – but probably irritating – line that the Demons would fall back to their typical nature: dropping the games they really shouldn’t. They did that in Round 10, against the Crows. And they replicated that in Round 13, honourably providing Nathan Buckley a final win.

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And now they’ve done it a third time, with the Giants successfully managing to sneak a win over the Demons. Saturday’s defeat was a more consequential loss than their prior two, as the Bulldogs’ win a day later meant the Dees have slipped down into second place and have lost their ascendency over the competition.

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That’s frustrating, but I’m not sure it is cause for any concern – at least not the type of concern at least one footy media outlet has prophesied, suggesting the Dees could drop out of the top four. The Demons did plenty right during their loss, but credit simply must go to Leon Cameron’s side, who saw an opportunity to jump into the eight and grasped it. Superb win … that’s likely to concurrently inspire the Demons.

And just quickly: three premiership contenders simply do what they needed to do
Given my horrendously busy weekend, I could only watch smidgens of the games this week. And one of those games was Sunday twilight’s clash between the Doggies and North.

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It went much like two other games this week: Brisbane taking on Adelaide, Port defeating the Hawks. The three victors in that trio of clashes are all premiership contenders with varying vulnerabilities, and all three losers had moments of looking better than the results indicated.

Still – wins are wins, and none of the three victors would complain about them being a bit less polished then they wanted.

Everybody gets a turn
Adelaide Crows – Tex remains second in the Coleman, so losing him to a neck injury will be a massive blow for the 5-10 Crows.

Brisbane Lions – Top two realistically within grasp, and if it’s possible for me to choose a team to bandwagon this far out from finals, it’ll be the Lions.

Carlton Blues – Harry McKay with three majors in the Blues’ win on Saturday night, and he continues to lead the Coleman. That surprises me for some reason.

Collingwood – Neither are in good form, but I’d bet money on the AFL putting the Pies’ clash with the Tigers on Friday night. Just seems like it’ll happen.

Essendon Bombers – Great opportunity for the Bombers to gain some ground in the finals race coming up: winnable games against the Crows and North, before a consequential battle with the Giants.

Fremantle Dockers – The Dockers have done brilliantly in re-signing many of their most important players (Sean Darcy, Josh Treacy two of the most momentous) in the past few weeks, but Adam Cerra remaining signature-less looms large.

Geelong Cats – Jeremy Cameron going from agony to ecstasy – booting three goals before headed off with a hamstring injury.

(Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Gold Coast Suns – An enthralling battle on the ladder I’m watching for some odd reason: can the Suns finish above the Pies on the ladder for the first ever time when all is said and done by the end of the season?

GWS Giants – Leon Cameron gets way more criticism than praise, but if he pulls of a finals berth this year, he might just get a stay of execution.

Hawthorn Hawks – Shaun Burgoyne. That’s it. That’s the comment.

Melbourne – Next week’s game becomes the hugely important for both Port and Melbourne. Regardless of result, it should be a freaking beauty.

North Melbourne – Remaining better than their form shows, and will be determined to upset the Eagles next weekend.

Port Adelaide – Melbourne next week, in Adelaide. A super promising game at the best of the countries’ footy stadiums.

Richmond – Loss aside, news that Bachar Houli will be facing ankle surgery and his season (or career) may be in jeopardy unequivocally sucks.

St Kilda – Jack Steele remains a criminally underrated footballer.

Sydney Swans – If there was ever a time for a 97-point win, this was it. The Swans recovered strongly from a pair of frustratingly poor losses – and probably secured finals with it.

West Coast Eagles – The Eagles are in a deep, deep whole. Should bounce back against North next weekend. Should.

Western Bulldogs – Aaron Naughton’s concussion a crappy dampener on the win that shot the Doggies to the top of the ladder.

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