What an amazing round of footy.
In a season that has been almost impossible to pick, the footy gods turned it on once more with a couple of classic games featuring the best teams, and others exposed as pretenders.
We saw bags of goals, thumpings, game-winning highlights and some of the best footy of the year at points.
There’s so much on my mind that I had to get some of it down before I forgot. Also, I don’t have a podcast yet, so this is the only avenue I have without, you know… talking to someone, and for the most part I hate people.
THE RICHMOND V WEST COAST FIRST HALF
I don’t mind wet weather footy, but when a game is hot, and the option is there to play slick, fast footy, I’m not sure there is anything better.
The first half of the Richmond v West Coast game was blistering. Not just in terms of pace, but in terms of skill. Let’s look at these teams in boxing parlance. West Coast are the boxers. Their quick on their feet, their hands are like lightning and if you drop your guard, they’ll pepper you with five or six quick shots to the head.
The Tigers are sluggers. They rumble on in and are happy to take two shots in order to deliver one of their own. Their shots just hurt a helluva lot more.
So what we had was the boxer v the fighter and as the West Coast Eagles jabbed and moved early on, the Tigers took it on the chin, only to bounce back once the rain came down and slowed the Eagles down.
It’d be fitting to see these two teams slug it out on Grand Final day this year. Despite the fact that first v second was played elsewhere, these are the two teams that decided to take the game on ad play genuine footy. The Lions v Cats, whilst a great close finish, was played down the line (and often over the line) as neither team took risks.
Richmond v West Coast had risks galore. It was footy as it ought to be, and I loved it.
BIG BAD BEN BROWN BAGS TEN!
So, Jeremy Cameron picked a bad time to sit out, huh?
This is almost poetic justice for Brown, who led the Coleman almost all year in 2018 until Jack Reiwoldt had a day out against Gold Coast and swooped in to take the lead. Brown has done the same here, and I’m happy for him.
His ten goals is the first time since Riewoldt that a player has really got hold of an opposition, and with a forward set up featuring him, Nick Larkey and Cam Zurhaar, it looks as though the Roos has a roadmap in terms of where they’re headed offensively.
Brown didn’t just beat up on Gold Coast, like Riewoldt did last season, and Jarryd Roughead did this arvo. He kicked goals against a defence boasting the likes of Tom Jonas and Tom Clurey. At points this year and last, both these guys have been mentioned as possible All-Australian defenders.
Speaking of All-Australian selections, I’ve always thought that if you’re leading the Coleman, you’re the AA full forward by default. Ben Brown may have just kicked himself into an AA blazer.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN ADELAIDE?
Okay, this is a story in two parts. It was like Adelaide put in a shocker, and Port felt slighted by it. they looked at their cross town rivals, with whom they compete for everything and said “What… you think you’re better than us at stinking up the place? Do ya? Well, you watch this!”
And then they went out and completely botched their finals chances with an insipid display.
First – Adelaide.
They’re done this season. Done. They don’t deserve to play finals, and a clean out is needed.
This loss will be the catalyst for the departure of Don Pyke, with the playing group looking listless. Depending on how many of the players are competing in spite of their coach, we could see a mass exodus from Adelaide in the personnel department as well.
Alex Keath and Hugh Greenwood are out of contract. Sam Jacobs is a restricted free agent and Cam Ellis-Yolmen is unrestricted somehow. I’m willing to bet that all will comfortably find new homes elsewhere. Josh Jenkins won’t be at Adelaide either, and I reckon he has been very harshly treated this season, particularly when you compare what he has delivered with that of one of his co-captains.
Eddie Betts looks shot, and has only beaten up on the Gold Coast Suns this season.
In short, the Crows are a shadow of the team I thought they’d be. I thought they’d be bouncing back hard this season – me and Kane Cornes, apparently. Well, whilst he is probably thrilled to be wrong, I am more disappointed. I can only imagine how disenfranchised Crows supporters must feel.
And secondly – Port Adelaide.
So, nine of the top ten disposal gatherers in the game against North wore royal blue and white. The one Port player was Dan Houston.
If there is one thing that infuriates fans more than losing, it’s when a team simply does not have a go, and against North, Port were putrid. Until this morning, I’d just read about their effort, and after watching the Crows, I thought they surely couldn’t have been worse.
But they were. They were disgusting.
My bet is there will be damning footage of Port’s inability to chase and work hard for their teammates come out over the next day, and when the Monday night footy shows hit the screen, we’ll all be sitting there nodding, as they tell us what we already knew – Port gave up.
Tell me this – what usually happens to coaches when teams start giving up? Ken Hinkley is about to lead Port to a finish outside the eight for the fourth year out of five as coach.
Adelaide may be the city of churches, but after this performance, the bell is tolling for just one man at Alberton. If Port cannot get back into the eight by close of business next weekend, I do not expect Hinkley to coach them in 2020.
ARE BLUES FANS A LITTLE PREMATURE ON JUMPING ON THE TEAGUE-TRAIN?
I don’t think so – the poor buggers have been standing on the platform waiting for some sort of vehicle to happen by that doesn’t look like it’s going to fall to bits, and they’ve finally found one. A few jumped on the Bolton Express, but that went careening off the rails, and now, as the green shoots start to bloom, a new ride has pulled into the station.
Do I think Carlton will play finals next season? Look, I reckon that is very optimistic at this stage. They are riding high on a honeymoon period with Teague, and whilst they’ve looked really good in patches they still have a fair way to go. In the short term, I’m sure they’d love to make finals next season, but long term, a sustained build is what’s needed.
What’s that, you’ve already built, and you’ve waited long enough?
I hear ya – we’ve known you’re coming since about 2008. What’s another year before you arrive? McKay is a jet, Walsh should only get better, Charlie Curnow started to show plenty again, Docherty will be back (fingers crossed for him in pre-season) and Cripps… well, he is a man amongst boys at times.
The pieces are there, but the depth at the Blues isn’t quite there yet. A bloke named Stephen Coniglio would help that out in the guts, and form a nice trio with Walsh and Cripps, but the Blues need to improve that bottom six to avoid let down. And that takes time. 2021 for the Blues, but I’ll be enjoying the build through 2020.
Are the Giants in trouble?
In the past two weeks, they’ve had four goalless quarters. They’re being outworked, outmuscled, and out-hustled . Not only that, they’re garnering the reputation of a team who doesn’t like it when the heat gets turned up…
… which contradicts the way they played against the Hawks, where they really looked as though they wanted someone to turn the heater up a bit.
They were without Jeremy Cameron this week but I’m not sure it really would have mattered as they went inside 50 just 39 times to the Dogs’ 63.
So, where do they improve? Toby Greene is doing all he can, but for a team that looks like a million bucks on paper, they’re playing like a $1.50
Their injury list is long, with plenty of their best 22 on the pine – Cameron, Coniglio, Hopper, Finlayson, Langdon, Taylor… add those blokes in and you have a much better side, but at this time of the year, everyone is nursing players with injuries, and part of GWS’ strength over the journey has been their ability to cover losses with additional quality. Maybe that ability is now being tested to a level it hasn’t before?
Luckily, they run into a Gold Coast team who were ready to pull the pin on 2019 about eight weeks ago, so they’ll get a cheap win to get back on track. The wee off should see several of those mentioned above back for their first final, and if they can get one win, Coniglio would have to be knocking on the door as well. Things could change – after all, anything can happen in September.
IS JACK MACRAE IN ANYONE’S ALL-AUSTRALIAN TEAM? HOW ABOUT JOSH DUNKLEY?
Well, chances are he should be. How about Josh Dunkley?
You could make a case for both these guys receiving their first All-Australian blazers this year, but in an incredibly tight race for midfield spots, part of me think they’re going to miss out. And they’ll miss out because they have this bloke named Marcus Bontempelli playing alongside them.
Bont doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of footy as Macrae and Dunkley, but when he does get it, he always does something with it. 25 touches from Bont is worth 30+ from most other mids.
But where does that leave his highly-skilled supporting cast?
Both Macrae and Dunkley should make the squad, but that’ll be as far as they go. Had Dunkley played the whole year as a mid, things might be different, but his first five games were up forward for the Dogs in an experiment that failed, and it was after moving back to the midfield that he started making a real impact.
Macrae will be stiff to miss the team. Many Dogs fans will ask – why not both he and Bont in the team? Good question, but in a side that has six… maybe seven mids to squeeze in, and with names like Cripps, Dangerfield, Tim Kelly, Neale, Fyfe, Yeo, Shuey, Treloar, Cunnington, Boak, Martin and Prestia all vying for places, can you possibly have two players from the eighth place team taking up two places?
Macrae looks like one of those players destined to always be the bridesmaid. Hope he catches the bouquet from Bont this year.
THE BEST MOMENT OF THE ROUND
I don’t know about you, but for me, the best moment of Round 22 came after the final siren of the Brisbane v Geelong game. Yeah, the Lincoln McCarthy mark and goal were wonderful, and the last five minutes were pulsating, but the unbridled joy from Harris Andrews and Chris Fagan as the coach made his way onto the park and hugged his star defender… man, I was all smiles!
This was a home and away win, but to those in Brisbane, it was so much more. I watched this game closely, and there were points the Lions looked out of it – not so much on the scoreboard, but in the way the game was unfolding. And then they flipped the switch, cut that defensive down the line crap out of their game, and look what happened.
It obviously meant a heap to the Lions and their coaching staff. This was more than just four points. This is was a sign that they were for real, and with a home final now looking likely, we could see the Lions go straight through to a Preliminary Final at the Gabba.
No one saw this coming – and no moment was better than Fagan was hugging Andrews as the Lions hit the top of the ladder!
I DON’T THINK BUDDY SHOULD PLAY HIS 300TH THIS WEEK
I love watching Franklin play, but this seems as though it would be playing the game for the purpose of clocking up his 300th and little more.
Buddy has been on the pine for 12 of Sydney’s 21 games this season. he has clearly not been right for most of the year and this season has looked heavier than ever before. He may not be, but he has LOOKED heavier.
As much as it would be a final round highlight to see Franklin strut his stuff and get the accolades he deserves in front of an adoring home crowd, I would much prefer he takes the time, gets any work done he needs to early this off-season – not after he comes back from holidays and “sees how it goes” for a while, and is ready and raring to go for Round One next season.
This season was a real wake up call for Buddy. His body has been nowhere near right and he needs to look after himself. If he plays this week, I reckon it’s tantamount to self-sabotage. Take the time, get right and hit 2020 with a renewed enthusiasm, because with a fit and firing Buddy, the Swans are a 4-5 win better side.
And 4-5 wins this season would’ve had them knocking on the door of finals.
AND THE SECOND BEST MOMENT OF THE WEEKEND
Take a bow Jarryd Roughead.
The second half of the game against the Suns was basically a celebration of Roughead and all he’s done for Hawthorn, and the big fella returned the love with the his biggest haul in front of goal since Round Three, 2015, when he kicked seven against the Dogs.
Rough clunked marks, laid tackles, looked agile and snapped around his body en route to the sort of day he can talk to his grandkids about one day and utter the line “well, I obviously went out at the top of my game.”
A plethora of Hawthorn royalty were on hand to farewell the hawthorn champ – Buddy, Hodge, Lewis… they all made their way back into the fold to say goodbye to one of the most popular teammates they had.
And to think… there were people questioning whether he should get a farewell game. This was less like a farewell game, and more like a welcome back game.
And before anyone accuses me of forgetting about Daisy Thomas’ game, his sidestep to the rapturous ovation of the Carlton faithful was the third best moment.
So, did you know the rule isn’t just “studs up”? It’s actually something along the lines of using the studs in a manner that may cause injury.
So, was Jack Riewoldt’s marking efforts likely to cause injury? Maybe a scratch on the backside, but that’s about it.
This rule was brought in to combat the Toby Greene tactic of kicking out in marking contests, or in the case of when Luke Dahlhaus copped the boot in the face, a handball receive. I don’t think it was the intent of those championing the rule to see it interpreted the way it was in the Richmond v West Coast game.
In a game so close, and played with such a high level of passion, Riewoldt’s reactions embodied the exact way Richmond fans, and possibly even some neutral Mongrels felt about the decision.
On Twitter, Grant Thomas said it was the PC culture to blame, stating the AFL was “paranoid and risk averse” when it came to rules such as this, and that emphasis should be on players to protect themselves.
I have to agree. Players now lead with their heads to draw free kicks. They stage more than they ever have (hello Michael Walters) and it is all because they are well aware that the umpires have to protect them. Therefore they really don’t have to protect themselves. In a marking contest, using your leg, foot or knee to create space, with your eyes on the ball at the time, should be a completely legal move.
We saw Jeremy Howe penalised earlier in the season. It was incorrect then. It is incorrect now.
The AFL have got this one wrong.
Yet again. Now fix it.
AND FINALLY… EXIT, STAGE RIGHT
Good to see the AFL whack Michael Walters with a fine for his antics in the Dockers’ loss to Essendon.
Look, I think Walters is a footballing maestro. he is clever, quick, skillful and brilliant at times, but his staging for free kicks in this game was out of control. there were three occasions where he went down like he’d been shot, and it is an aspect of his game that is really dragging down his reputation.
I’ve watched a fair few Freo games this season, and the way Walters has continually thrown his head back in contests to attempt to draw a free kick is embarrassing. No one wants to be known as a diver – look at the crap Alex Rance copped for his exaggeration last season – this was worse x 3.
Michael Walters should be in the All Australian Team on the Half Forward Flank, but if it were a close race for that position (it’s not), I reckon the diving would be a big deterrent for selectors. You don’t reward divers.
An that’ll do me. Got any comments, or random thoughts of your own after the weekend’s games? Give me a yell on our socials – The Mongrels are always up for a footy chat.