The Roar
The Roar


Six Points: Pies' crazy bravery trumps critically cautious Crows, and Simpson's pathetic Eagles can't go on like this

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30th April, 2023
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Have you recovered yet from THAT finish at the Adelaide Oval?

If you’re a neutral supporter, probably not. If you’re a Collingwood supporter, definitely not. If you’re an Adelaide supporter, you’ll probably never recover.

The Magpies’ insane one-point win over the Crows was a badly-needed dose of epic after what was, let’s face it, a rubbish weekend of footy.

From the two gruesome Saturday night blowouts, to whatever in God’s name that Gold Coast-Richmond match was, the few diamonds shone out the brighter: Toby Greene completing a sensational Giants victory in the Battle of the Bridge (that, sadly, must now be content with being Round 7’s second-best comeback), Port Adelaide and Jason Horne-Francis storming Fortress Marvel to put a spanner in St Kilda’s works, and of course, the nonsense that took place in South Australia.

In between, we saw individual highlights aplenty, none better – though Michael Walters did his best – than this magnificent goal from Will Ashcroft. It says something about the crop of young talent on the scene that he’ll probably face more competition for the Rising Star award than the Goal of the Year one.

We had key forwards kicking monster bags, champions getting tagged in their milestone games (Sam Mitchell, how could you?) and more Fremantle fumbles than you could possibly count.


Let’s dive in.

1. Crazy brave Pies reap all the rewards

Nothing could possibly sum up the miracle ride Craig McRae’s Magpies have been on in the past 18 months like the last few minutes of a classic at the Adelaide Oval.

In particular, this move stood out: with the Pies a point behind, captain Darcy Moore was swung forward to try and play matchwinner. Then, when they scrambled through a rushed behind to level the scores, he stayed back even as the Crows mounted one last foray forward.

Not many coaches, not many teams, would keep their best defender ahead of the ball in that situation. A lot of teams would play it safe. But safe just isn’t the Collingwood way.

It’s why they’re the game’s masters of the close finish. It’s why they deserved every bit of their latest, magnificent win on the road, one that entrenches them atop the ladder and will see them give this premiership race a hell of a shake. They play without fear of failure – and never, EVER, go into their shells.


That’s precisely what Adelaide did in the final quarter. With the Magpies on the ropes and a 22-point lead early in the last quarter, the Crows did what young, inexperienced sides unaccustomed to wins of this magnitude do, and tried to batten down the hatches.

Jordan Dawson, their most impactful midfielder, retreated behind the ball; the Crows looked to chip the ball around and take minutes off the clock rather than play with the dash, dare and chutzpah that had got them into such a strong position.

The result was a Magpie dominance in every facet. The Pies won the clearances 16-4 in the final term, with the Crows trying with all their might to tackle and lock the ball up rather than actually winning it themselves. The result was a whopping 10 extra inside 50s for the Magpies in the term, even after the Crows got the first two.

With the game in their keeping, the Crows tried to play it safe. But that’s the most unsafe way to play a Magpies outfit that never stops trying, never stops coming, never stops daring. Never stops believing.

Adelaide losing the unlosable will be the story for many, but it shouldn’t be. The Magpies deserve the top billing out of this crazy game. No team in the game’s history has been better in the close finish. No team in recent memory has closed as venomously at the last as the Pies in the last two weeks.

They led for 20 seconds on Sunday night. It was the right 20 seconds. Fly’s Pies are extraordinary.

Jordan De Goey of the Magpies celebrates with John Noble and Collingwood teammates.

Jordan De Goey of the Magpies celebrates with John Noble and Collingwood teammates. (Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

2. Adam Simpson – and the Eagles – can’t go on like this

On 29 April, 2022, West Coast hit rock bottom, trounced by 109 points on their home deck by Richmond.

Exactly 12 months on, they’re still there – and if anything, their 108-point capitulation to Carlton was even more abysmal.

Yes, there are excuses – the Eagles’ casualty list is longer than the Nile, and they’re at step one of what is going to be a long and painful rebuild. But there are losses and there are losses, and the almost weekly embarrassment this once-proud club is copping has surely reached a point of no return.

You can see it in Adam Simpson’s eyes and hear it in his voice every time he speaks – whether it’s flatly admitting his side is barely able to put two full teams out in the AFL and WAFL, to his staunch defence of his younger players being asked to do too much, to his strong but checked criticism of his charges’ unacceptable performance on Saturday night. This is a man with no answers, and fast losing the desire to fight for them.

He’s been like this for a year now. Little wonder his side is so insipid.


I wrote following their second home 100-point loss to the Western Bulldogs last year that it was time for Simpson to go, and since then matters have only got worse. From the first bounce of that disastrous Tigers loss to now, the Eagles have played 23 games and lost 21 of them, with an average losing margin of nearly 50 points. Three of those defeats have been by triple figures, all of them at home, none of them to a side you’d consider an unstoppable juggernaut.

The Eagles don’t really do coaching changes: since Mick Malthouse took over at the start of 1990, 33 years ago, they’ve had just four of them. Only one, Ken Judge, was sacked in the conventional sense: Malthouse left when Eddie McGuire made him an offer he couldn’t refuse at Collingwood, while John Worsfold departed by mutual agreement, thoroughly worn out, after more than a decade in charge at the end of 2013.

It’s Worsfold’s end that most strikingly resembles what Simpson is going through at the moment. Nine and a half years ago, an ageing Eagles team lost six of their last eight games to crash to 13th (remember when that was considered a dark year for West Coast?), and following an 84-point loss at home in Round 23 to an equally mediocre Adelaide, their third ten-goal loss in a row, all and sundry could tell something needed to give.

Simpson is a good coach – the mere fact of the premiership he won in 2018 is enough to get him another top job somewhere else, or a plum role in the media if that’s the path he goes down.

He’s not wholly to blame for the Eagles’ current predicament, either – they went all in on a second flag with moves like the Tim Kelly trade, half their senior players picked up chronic injuries, and it sent their list spiraling into catastrophe. Footy’s a risky business, and just because it failed doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying. Equally, not even Jock McHale himself could make young Rhett Bazzo more capable of standing a rampaging Charlie Curnow.

But that doesn’t mean something doesn’t have to give, and urgently. A new coach for 2024 would at least bring something fresh to the table, and maybe give players like Andrew Gaff, going through the motions at the moment, something to prove. It might only mean losses by 10 goals rather than 17, but it would at least be something.


Simpson is contracted until the end of 2024. It’s impossible right now to see him get extended beyond that, and given how utterly lifeless everything about the Eagles is at the moment, it would be borderline irresponsible of the club’s powerbrokers to let him run out the clock for the next 18 months unless something radical – and I mean RADICAL – changes.

It’s okay to be bad – but it’s unacceptable to be as bad as the Eagles are right now, no matter the excuse. One way or the other, something has got to give.

West Coast Eagles coach Adam Simpson

Eagles coach Adam Simpson. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

3. Pathetic patronising of Tasmania must be called out

James Sicily may have got the bulk of the criticism from ardent Tasmanians for his, to put it mildly, unintelligent comments on SEN during the week – but the reaction from some sections of the media should have been even more insulting.

“I don’t know if there’s any kids at the moment lying awake hoping they’re going to play in Tasmania on a refurbished oval,” Eddie McGuire said on Footy Classified, defending Sicily’s claim that ‘there’s not much happening down there’.

Naturally, McGuire then followed up with ‘That’s not having a go at Tasmanian football’.


It’s this sort of sentiment that has dominated discussion around Tasmania’s bid for a football license, and is far more problematic than an off-the-cuff comment from a footballer who a) plays his footy in Launceston, not Hobart, and b) has had a footy career epitomised by acting before thinking.

From the AFL demanding a multi-million dollar stadium – which, incidentally, they weren’t going to put a cent towards – to green-light a footy heartland state getting its own team, to the seemingly consistent attempts from talking heads in the media to come up with reasons why it wouldn’t work, all the way back to that embarrassing AFL report that a Tassie team would only work for the competition if it was a relocated Victorian team – the ultimate insult to the island state – McGuire’s comments are the latest in a long recent history of pathetic Tasmanian patronising.

It’s a tangent, but I think it’s noticeable that Eddie was more than happy to push the line of Tasmania needing a new team last year – but only when it involved foisting a Victorian rival in North Melbourne on them.

Of course a new team is going to face challenges – you’re going to have that with a new team wherever you put them. But those challenges are, at worst, going to be equal to those faced in putting teams on the Gold Coast and in western Sydney, which the AFL has been more than happy to bankroll for a decade.

Look at the Dolphins in the NRL – a new team in a heartland rugby league state, they could hardly convince a single rival star to join them for their inaugural season. That hasn’t stopped them being ultra-competitive, filling out Kayo Stadium week on week, or turning a local derby with the Broncos into one of the year’s most spine-tingling Australian sporting events.

Now that the new stadium deal is locked in, with a team announcement surely to follow in coming days, maybe we can at last stop the condescending attitude towards Tasmanian footy, and accept them as, deservingly, an integral part of the AFL world. At last.

University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston.

University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

4. Aaron Hall is holding North Melbourne back

Let’s get this out of the way first – no single player, nor Alastair Clarkson himself, was individually responsible for North Melbourne’s dire 90-point loss to Carlton. Yes, it is unfair for me to single out one player in the manner I’m about to with Aaron Hall.

With that out of the way, here goes: I didn’t think it was possible for a player to have 26 kicks and take 12 marks and help his team as little as Hall did on Saturday night.

Just like he did during 2021 when he was every Supercoach player’s best friend, Hall’s disposals are so junk I’m surprised he hasn’t been diagnosed with diabetes yet. Whenever North Melbourne have the ball, Hall runs sideways, or backwards, into space, pleading for the cheap kick and uncontested mark.

That would be fine if he, like Nick Daicos, was using the ball well and dangerously: but Hall’s ball use against the Demons was basically either painfully safe and risk-free or a damaging turnover. 444 metres gained for the evening sounds fine, but that averages out to under 18 metres gained per kick. When you’re getting the amount of free ball that Hall was, that’s far too little.

Defensively, too, Hall was comfortably below AFL standard, allowing the Demons’ army of half-forwards to have a picnic all night long. It’s not what he’s in the side for, but an inexperienced and undermanned defence getting bombarded with inside 50s needs all hands on deck, which they most assuredly were not.


The Roos already have a seven-gamer in Harry Sheezel doing a superb job in that role. One loose ball-winner can be covered down back, but not two.

Hall’s biggest problem, though, is surely this: he’s 32 years old, and playing in a side at ground zero of a rebuild. All he’s doing right now is taking a game away from a young player who could be developed, and who might just be more willing to take risks by foot.

North Melbourne’s average age on Saturday night was older than the Demons, a premiership contender at the peak of their powers. Clarkson is right to not want to throw a team chock full of kids to the wolves, but there’s a balance to be found between developing youth and giving them wise heads to learn from, and it’s been thrown out of whack in recent weeks.

Incidentally, Liam Shiels is well and truly living up to his end of the bargain: his tireless running from a wing, supreme courage, leadership and contested work is invaluable for the likes of Will Phillips and Tom Powell to learn from, and well worth Phillips needing to earn his spot. Ditto Ben Cunnington, Todd Goldstein and Jack Ziebell.

Clarkson boldly dropped Goldstein in their Round 1 win over West Coast to give Tristan Xerri a full run at the number one ruck role, a show of faith in the future and a sign of Clarkson’s plans for the team long term.

But every week since the team has got a little older and a little slower, and it’s no surprise their last two weeks have seen their worst two performances by a distance.


Hall isn’t the only dogged journeyman currently driving North fans crazy with his selection: Kayne Turner has replaced Shaun Atley as whipping boy in chief in the last two years, Aidan Corr has never lived up to his considerable price tag since moving from GWS, and Daniel Howe is the sort of determined but limited player that you mysteriously never find in good teams.

None of this is Aaron Hall’s fault at all, but as long as he’s roaming half back with no opponent racking up cheap kicks by the bucketload, North Melbourne’s rebuild stops in its tracks.

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5. Travis Boak is the Power GOAT

We don’t talk enough about how well Travis Boak is still going at the tender age of 34.

Most great midfielders are retired and in the media by this point in their careers: Boak is still out there, tirelessly throwing his body unto the breach time and again to help Port Adelaide.


A pre-season injury, and being named the sub on his return in Round 2, would have suggested for most veterans that the end was nigh: but despite ceding control of the Power engine room to Connor Rozee and Zak Butters, Boak has reinvented himself as a hard-running wingman, with impressive results in Port’s four-game winning streak.

His best performance yet came against St Kilda on Friday night; when on the wing, his powerful body and experience kept the dangerous Mason Wood in check, while he attended his first centre bounces since the Round 3 Showdown, racking up the footy almost at will.

Boak ended with 30 disposals, 13 of them contested, plus a crucial goal in the first term when the Power’s backs were against the wall. Jason Horne-Francis stole the limelight for his Herculean performance, but it was Boak who truly turned the game with his attack on the ball and the man in the second and third quarters.

With respect to Robbie Gray and Warren Tredrea, it’s probably now time to acknowledge Boak as the Power’s greatest AFL player. That celebrated pair had five years each in which they were at the very pinnacle of the game; but as good as they were, Boak has been incredible for more than a decade now, and time isn’t slowing him down yet.

With Patrick Dangerfield and Tom Hawkins also flipping Father Time the bird with dominant performances on Sunday for Geelong, it was another great weekend for the old timers!

6. Toby Greene wasn’t the Giants’ only Derby hero


Naturally, Toby Greene won all the plaudits after GWS’ magnificent come-from-behind win over Sydney in the Battle of the Bridge. Rightly so, too – few players in the competition would be able to execute such a perfect snap under intense pressure, both scoreboard and actual, for the game-winner.

But there were stars everywhere for the Giants, in the surest sign yet that the future is bright. And few shone brighter than Finn Callaghan, who picked the perfect time for a breakout game.

With 15 first-half disposals, the 20-year old was everywhere as the Giants took the fight right up to the more fancied Swans. Playing the wing role to perfection on the smaller confines of the SCG, his work rate was immense especially for one so inexperienced, frequently serving as the link man between defence and attack in the manner of the ‘orange tsunami’ of old.

An elite wingman as a junior, there is so much about Callaghan, even his neat left foot, that brings to mind Josh Kelly four or five years ago. With the Giants well stocked for on-ballers, they’ve needed a silky outside user since Lachie Whitfield decided he no longer wanted to be elite, and they’ve found the answer.

Even more impressive was his desperation and composure in the final minute with the Giants hanging on: Callaghan first launched himself to smother a Callum Mills kick and prevent a deep entry, then followed up to win the ball again and, under heavy duress, fire out a handball to a free Nick Haynes. It was a double play worth its weight in gold.

A Rising Star nomination for Callaghan surely awaits this week, and while the competition for the top gong this year is stiff, a few more games as eye-catching as his derby will give him every chance.


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Random thoughts

– Michael Walters might have kicked the best second-best goal of a game ever!

– Found it very funny how the harder the Blues tried to get the ball to Charlie Curnow for his 10th goal, the more impossible it was.

– I said it in Round 1 with Jeremy Howe and I’ll say it again – kudos to Seven for not showing any replays of Charlie Comben’s injury. No one needs to see that.


– I’ve never liked him and never will – but Toby Greene is an absolutely unbelievable footballer.

– GWS’ social media team are the best in the comp and it’s not even close.

– Haven’t seen Jake Stringer play a better game than on Sunday afternoon. If only the Bombers had rocked up in the first 15 minutes…

– 16 years since his debut, Tom Hawkins is still absolutely terrifying.

– Suffice to say when you boo a bloke all night who goes on to be best on ground AND your team loses a match it expected to win, you surely go home feeling a right pelican.