TEN THINGS I LEARNT AFTER ROUND FIVE
1 Rowan Marshall will be the premier ruckman of the competition
I watched the St Kilda v Blues game with interest on Thursday, and one thing was abundantly clear from the start. Rowan Marshall is a bull. He leapt higher than Pittonet at bounces, appeared stronger in the body on body contests and also covered the ground magnificently with clean hands in marking contests and was even good at ground level.
Marc Pittonet is far from terrible, but he seemed no match for Marshall on this occasion. He tried valiantly, but in what was only his 33rd AFL game (Pittonet has only played ten), the star ruckman looked as good as any of his fellow contemporaries including the likes of Gawn and Grundy. I was personally blown away by his talent, and I couldn’t help but think there may be a certain fella by the name of P. Ryder wondering where he could fit in to this current St Kilda outfit.
With regards to the match, many were singing the praises of Ratten’s tactics of stopping Cripps and Docherty with hard tags, particularly early in the game. Whilst it was smart, it is kind of obvious really, such is the lack of depth at the Blues. It appears you only need to stop a couple of players who do the bulk of the damage and the game is yours. Hopefully someone else in the navy blue can step up in the future, but until then, a lot of sides will get the better of them using Ratten’s ploy as a template.
2 For around three quarters of the game, the Pies were goalless
Collingwood burst out of the blocks with three early goals in the first quarter. For the next two and a half quarters, they managed just five behinds as the Bombers took control of the game. At the final break, the Bombers held a commanding 27 point lead, and it seemed a foregone conclusion at that stage.
With the fear of consecutive losses on the cards, Collingwood then had a burst of four unanswered goals during the first half of the last quarter, drawing to within three points with several minutes remaining. Essendon, who were definitely the better side for most of the match, steadied the ship with two late goals to close out the match in what will prove to be a season-defining win and one that may well provide the impetus for a finals berth. Collingwood, who many have touted as one of the premier teams for 2020, now find themselves outside the top 8 and, with all of their off-field woes now, some fragility has certainly crept in. For far too much of that game they failed to trouble the scorers. Any side with finals aspirations needs to score freely.
3 Nic Naitanui was the only ruckman on the field in the Eagles v Swans game
The Swans two main ruckmen in Naismith and Sinclair are both sidelined with injury. The job to take on Nic Nat was foisted upon rookie Hayden McLean in just his 7th AFL game aged just 21. The backup duties went to Aliir Aliir. Needless to say, Naitanui dominated with 39 hitouts to just ten between McLean and Aliir, giving that strong Eagles midfield first use of the ball in what was an inevitable win after promising signs for the Swans early on.
The Eagles have one more week in the Queensland hub which hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for them. A win next week over the hapless Adelaide will see them go to a 3-3 record followed by a trip back home to Perth to play in front of fans. One can only imagine being back home will see them climbing the ladder back into contention. For the Swans, with a few deficiencies already on their list, having their two main ruckmen unavailable was a bridge too far and it appears the unlucky Naismith is done for the season. They face the Tigers next week, so it’s not getting any easier.
4 I can’t help but get the feeling the Suns will struggle for the remainder of 2020
The Suns gave a good account of themselves at GMHBA on Saturday. At three quarter time they were still in the game. Geelong then turned on the jets and blew them away in what was a comfortable win in the end to celebrate Gazza’s 350th and Selwood’s 300th. As a neutral observer, my mind goes back to recent seasons where the Suns seem to have good early season form, and then seemingly lose all semblance of any winning football from that point onwards. They were 3-1 after Round 4 last year as well. They do seem better this year and seem to have a bit more evenness over the ground than previous seasons, but I felt the last quarter on the weekend in which they failed to score and looked completely spent might have a psychological impact and the ghosts of seasons past might return.
I hope I’m wrong, but their final quarter was loaded with mistakes and a lack of competitiveness. I’m hopeful they can turn it around and we all wonder how big a loss that kid Rowell will prove to be. We all want him to be back out there as soon as possible. Meanwhile, by some strange turn of events, the Cats now find themselves in the Top 4 without really setting the world on fire. Next week’s game against the Lions will reveal plenty…
5 Third time lucky for Josh Bruce?
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who raised his eyebrows when the Dogs brought in Josh Bruce from St Kilda. Whilst he played some good football with the Saints, with the likes of Schache, Naughton, Lloyd and even Bailey Dale up forward, it seemed a little odd to choose a 27 year old who’d already had a crack at two other clubs. Well, it appears to have been a masterstroke. In what was a best on ground performance against a side most clubs consider dangerous in the Kangaroos, Bruce was unstoppable booting six goals without a blemish. He took marks, kicked accurately and used his big frame to crash packs as he has done well during his entire career. And with the fleet-footed Doggies who do thrive on quick ball movement, perhaps the Dogs will provide him the best opportunities in the later years of his football journey with the delivery every forward craves. It’s a good story, and one that I’ll be watching closely as the season unfolds.
6 Thankfully, Port supporters can stop bragging about their percentage
Yes, up until this week, Port had been impressive blowing their opponents away with impunity coming into this round with a percentage of 236 and no losses against their name. Their percentage is still impressive at 170, but after that loss I think they can surrender any bragging rights. Many had question marks coming into this season over whether or not the Lions could back up their great season from last year, or perhaps they’d emulate the fall from grace we’ve seen from Melbourne after their stellar 2018 season.
I’m sure under a coach like Fagan, there’s every chance they’d do all in their power to prevent a slide in form, and if this game was any indication, he’s got it right and the Lions look set to feature in the finals again. Port were just overwhelmed with the waves of running led by Lachie Neale, who has probably already amassed 10 or more Brownlow votes. Brisbane is a very good team with contributors all over the ground. Next time you watch one of their games, have a look at the way they sing their song after the match. There’s a real touch of arrogance about it, usually led by the smiling assassin in Mitch Robinson. When watching them sing that song after a victory, they look like they’re having fun and still have energy to burn. The Lions look very dangerous this year.
7 The woes continue for Adelaide
I’m really at a loss to find any positives for the Crows. They’re trying hard I believe. They won many of the stats like clearances and contested possessions, but poor disposal and poor decision-making resulted in them being unable to finish off the good work from the likes of the Crouch brothers who had 55 touches between them. I believe a trait of most bottom teams is poor skill execution. It doesn’t seem as though the Crows boys have trouble getting their hands on the ball, but finding targets is a different story.
It’s definitely time to make some changes and see what the list is made of. There are definitely players who don’t warrant selection that should make way. As for the Dockers, they’ll still be without Fyfe for another week or two, so they’ll need to be at their best against the Saints next week. Walters is still a delight to watch, and young Brayshaw seems to be maturing nicely into the player that may prove better than his Demon brother.
8 Dees look set to repeat last year’s disappointment
The Tigers were always going to come out firing this week. The Dees tried to challenge, but there was too much at stake. The worrying sign for me watching Melbourne games is their lack of a genuine target up forward. Bailey Fritsch seems to be the go-to man, and while he’s a decent footballer, I can’t imagine this would’ve been the plan going into this season. Melbourne have played one really decent quarter of football this year against an average side in Carlton who didn’t show up for that game till midway through the second quarter. The rest of the time they’ve been averaging a little over 10 points a quarter. Wins will be hard to come by with that sort of return.
I don’t see them threatening the top 8 at all. The Tigers should win against Sydney next week, and will arguably have their season back on track. And while today was a very good step in the right direction, they’re still a fair way off their 2019 form – for now.
9 Giants make a mockery of the Inside 50 stat
I must admit I am one of those people who does get seduced by the Inside 50 count and often see that as an indicator of which side is dominating. However, this game torches that theory. We’ve all come to know the Giants as a direct and attacking team with pace and quick end to end football. In this game, they kicked short all day, played tempo footy which resulted in them having a ridiculous number of uncontested possessions, and it worked a treat against Clarko’s men.
It was clearly a tactic that I’m guessing Leon Cameron brought out specifically for this game. I would go so far as to say he beat Clarkson at his own game. The Hawks are notorious for chipping it around. So the end result was GWS only entered their forward 50 zone on just 26 occasions against 38 by the Hawks. Without knowing the scoreline, 99% of people would’ve assumed it was a Hawthorn victory, but they were nowhere near it. They managed just seven goals from 38 entries and were soundly beaten. I don’t know if I will ever look at the Inside 50 statistic the same way ever again.
10 The Grand Final may be at a new venue this year.
Well, I think it’s fairly safe to say that all the fear mongering will mean that there’ll be no AFL football played in Melbourne for this year. Apparently us “dirty” Victorians have made a mess of our state with our insistence on defying social distancing rules and having massive family parties – or is it because our government decided to use amateurish security contractors to guard return travellers during a global pandemic?
Anyway, what does this mean for the Grand Final 2020? And how will the state that gets the event feel if it’s two Victorian teams? They’ll ban the fans from trekking over there to see the game. Will the local population want to go and watch a final that doesn’t feature their teams? Probably I suppose, but who’s to say that other states won’t be facing a second wave of their own? It would be some kind of anti-climax if we call the season off just as we head into finals. Either that or we could set up a hub in Antarctica. I think we’re all losing our collective minds