Ten Things I Learnt After Round Three



1 Essendon supporters don’t like it when you make a joke about another Essendon player returning a positive test.

Yeah, maybe it’s a cheap shot, and we wouldn’t joke about it if Conor McKenna was in a bad way. He was asymptomatic so it’s a very mild case and we all wish him well. But what does this do for the rest of the season? I thought one player testing positive was enough to shut the whole thing down, but apparently I was wrong. Does this take the heat off Simon Goodwin for one more week? Anyway, lighten up Bomber fans. It was a bloody funny joke I reckon. Hopefully Conor will recover fully and be back training soon.

2 Do Richmond really rely on Dustin Martin more than we think?

There are alarm bells ringing at Tigerland. For the second consecutive week, they’ve failed to score 40 points or more. Going into the game many pundits jumped on the Hawks due to the fact Martin was not available for selection. I wasn’t one of those people as I thought Richmond would want to atone for what was a fairly lacklustre effort against Collingwood the previous week and I also took note of Hawthorn’s capitulation against the Cats in Round 2. But, as soon as the ball was bounced, you could see one side was far more committed and the Tigers didn’t give a yelp.

How much of a different story it would’ve been with Dusty on the field we don’t really know, but one gets the feeling that with him up forward, there’s every chance the ball wouldn’t have come out as easy as it did. And, of course, when you have Clarkson as coach, he always seems to find answers after a bad loss, but even he would’ve been salivating at the idea of a Dusty-free Tiger outfit.

3 You can add Leon Cameron to the list of coaches under pressure

The Giants don’t really look like a side that was touted as a Top-4 contender pre-Covid. Since the break, they appear flat and, despite a list that boasts talent most sides would envy, they seem an ordinary outfit whose ball movement has seemingly gone backwards. The stat that stands out the most to me is the mere 29 Inside-50’s from Friday night’s game on the back of just 38 the week before. With that midfield??

Something’s amiss here. If the Giants continue on this form line, not only will finals be out of the question, but also the coach will be certain to be moved on at season’s end.

4 Sydney may have the wood on the Kangaroos

Here’s a sneaky one for you. I bet many of you weren’t aware that Sydney have won six of their last seven encounters against North Melbourne. It pays to know this sort of stuff when submitting your tips. On form, the Swans hadn’t done anything special to warrant favouritism against an unbeaten Roos outfit, but they seemingly match up well enough to have a great record against them in recent times.

Isaac Heaney seems to be relishing his role as the go-to man in the absence of Franklin. Tom Papley worked his magic and proved a handful yet again. The Swans weren’t expected to play finals this year, but they’ll prove a headache for most teams. As for North, they’ve been good this year, but Rhyce Shaw wouldn’t want to pump his boys up too much lest they get a bit cocky and stop their usually excellent work-rate. I still have a lot of trouble reading both of these teams.

5 Before you talk up Collingwood too much, just understand they’ve scored a combined 2.8 (20) after half time the last two weeks

Yes, the Pies were brilliant up to half time on Saturday and blew the Saints away with impunity before the long break. And most commentators have the Pies as genuine threats for the flag in 2020 based on that display. I didn’t watch most of the second half. As was the case with the Bulldogs v Giants game, I got bored after half time watching two sides basically playing circlework football. It was almost four quarters of it on Friday, and the Saints v Pies definitely stagnated after half time. I left the room and did other things.

I guess maybe the Pies thought the job was done and they certainly didn’t allow the Saints back in, but as a football observer, three goals kicked for the match after half time actually tells me half the players barely want to be out there anymore, let alone the viewers. And I know that Pies fans reading this might start to feel their blood boiling, so I’ll talk some positives. Great to see Stephenson back. He’ll be better for the run and his two goals meant he did his job. Sidebottom is looking an early danger for the Brownlow. Pendlebury is still a gun. Grundy is a beast. They are going to play finals, but the better sides won’t allow them to shut up shop after half time, and I’m sure Bucks knows this.

6 I’m pretty sure that Adam Simpson will be on his knees to the WA premier to open their borders.

I’m fairly certain the Eagles are not liking playing under lights in the tropics of Queensland. I’m personally convinced it’s a factor, especially playing against the two local teams in conditions they’re no doubt far more accustomed to. The losses have been heavy, and their ability to score has seen two consecutive weeks with just six goals to show for their efforts.

They seem likely to fall to Port Adelaide next week which will see them with a 1-3 record, although who knows how that game will go judging by some of the results we’ve seen. As for Brisbane, losing Zorko pre-game didn’t seem to deter them. With Lachie Neale continuing his unstoppable form, he’s also in the early running for the top honours on Brownlow night. His effort on the weekend looks certain to gain him three more votes. And another star has arrived in McCluggage. We just need to see Brisbane winning on the road, and then the sky is the limit. I don’t think they’re going to do a Melbourne of 2019 as some have suggested. They’re better than that.

7 At least Carlton played for three quarters this week

As the last quarter began, with the Blues holding a commanding 35 point lead, there wouldn’t have been a person in AFL world who thought that Carlton were home. Carlton fans know they will generally play at least one quarter where they get dominated by their opposition.

And so it was, after three quarters of football that would be the equal of the best efforts of the modern era for the Bluebaggers, Geelong almost pinched it among some skill errors and second-guessing by the nervous and tiring Carlton players.

Early in the game, the hearts of Blues fans would’ve been warmed by the return to form of their favourite prodigal son in Eddie Betts. He was instrumental in giving Carlton the handy lead it enjoyed with a couple goals of his own and several assists, but in almost fairytale style with just 40 seconds to go, in the centre of the ground Jack Henry took possession and looked set to launch the ball inside Geelong’s 50m arc to possibly snatch an unlikely victory, it was Eddie Betts who ran him down and dispossessed him for a vital free kick which put the game beyond doubt. There was much relief for Blues fans when the siren went, but many are still wondering if this group know how to win games. As for Geelong, they were disappointing for three quarters and allowed the Blues too many easy forward entries. This loss will come back to haunt them later in the year I believe.

8 Adelaide are the worst team in the competition.

It’s hard to believe this is the same club that played off in a Grand Final in 2017. So much has gone wrong since and they find themselves in as big a hole right now as I have seen them. Taking nothing away from the Suns – I mean, how good is that Rowell kid?? Another possible three votes again? If this was a 22 round season, barring injury, this kid would definitely take the record for most votes in a debut year. I’ve never seen a more ready-made teenager in AFL football EVER!

Back to the Crows: 56 Inside 50s to 28!! Wow! I have so many questions to ask. Where is Rory Sloane at? Just 15 possessions. Taylor Walker just six possessions! These are the leaders at the club? Their last two weeks have seen them score a combined total of just 64 points. They currently languish in 18th position and it will take a mountain of improvement to get them off the bottom of the ladder.

It’ll be interesting to see what they do at selection this week. Matthew Nicks should be sharpening his axe and some big names may need to make way. As for the Suns, I do remember them winning three of their first four last year as well as three of their first five in 2018. Outside of those weeks in 2018/19, they managed just one more win. They’ll need to sustain their form well past Round Five in order to confirm any true improvement, although the signs look good.

9 Port Adelaide look better with Charlie Dixon up front.

Many might think I’m off my head here, because Charlie was solid without starring with his two goals and six marks in wet conditions, but what I see is a team with direction heading forward with Charlie as an imposing figure to kick to with Rozee at his feet and Westhoff always lurking. This type of combination is the stuff of nightmares for any defence and the opposition coaching box.

Whilst Port haven’t necessarily played anyone so far in 2020 that might be considered a bona fide contender, they’ve won easily on all three occasions and look to have a system that can stand up for four quarters with a combination of high quality youth and experience. And I feel that Dixon might just be the cherry on the top.

They face the out of form Eagles next week. Simpson’s men will be desperate not to go 1-3, so they’ll throw everything at the Power, but it seems the South Australians have adapted far better to the Queensland climate than the boys from the West, so I’m backing in Port to go 4-0, but who knows with the way this season is panning out as far as the number of shock results we see each week.

10 For the first time in ten years, I refuse to do footy tipping in 2020

On top of the pandemic throwing the season into chaos, followed by a resumption of the season wondering which clubs were able to prepare best after lockdown in order to hit the ground running, the idea of being able to predict winners and losers was always going to be a challenge.

My own team, Carlton were rank outsiders this week and somehow did the unthinkable and beat Geelong at their home stadium. We do see Gold Coast often start seasons well only to fade, but something does seem a little different with them, so their games won’t be as straightforward as previous years. Essendon looked like they were flying, and now we have a player out with COVID-19 and there’s talk of them fielding a side with their 6 best defenders stuck in quarantine. Richmond seem off the boil. The Hawks are hot and cold. The Eagles and Giants have, for the moment at least, become also-rans. Sydney looked like going into a rebuild year but find themselves 2-1.

The Saints got some prize recruits yet haven’t really made an impact. The Dogs bounced back after two horror opening games. The Pies look the goods, but I’m not liking these goalless quarters. North were turning heads early then dropped a game they were expected to win. The Dees look more and more like 2018 was an aberration, but who really knows? Fremantle will win games, but I’m not sure when. Well, I guess Adelaide seems the only predictable one for now – but that will change, right?

I give up! I’m not in a tipping comp, and I already feel a weight lifted off me