TEN THINGS I LEARNT AFTER ROUND EIGHT

 

  1. The Doggies have sneakily won five out of their last six

 

Early in the season following two insipid losses against St Kilda and Collingwood in which they scored a combined total of just 83 points, one would’ve been forgiven for thinking this was going to be a lost year for the Western Bulldogs. After a tight win against what has to be said is a pretty solid Gold Coast unit, they now sit fifth and, if their form is anything to go by, look set to play finals.

No doubt this would come as a relief for coach Luke Beveridge as missing the finals would have definitely put him under the pump. And one cannot underestimate the value of pint-sized Caleb Daniel to this team. At just 168cms, he was overlooked by many teams and could have made his way to Carlton who opted for Liam Jones instead. One could argue that deal worked out OK for both, but Daniel’s exquisite skills and cleanness in the wet on Thursday night was probably the difference in the end. He thwarted many an attack throughout the night and always seemed to make the right choice and hit targets. The next round they face the Tigers who will need to be at their best against the Dogs. Is it time that maybe opposition coaches put a bit of work into Daniel?

 

  1. Toby Greene was actually paid a free-kick!

 

There was a moment in the game, when going for a mark inside 50, the Giants superstar nearly had his head ripped clean off his shoulders. I still expected the umpire to call play on as it would seem it’s a directive to not award this much-maligned character a free kick. But no, finally some sanity prevailed and he took the kick which resulted in Greene kicking one of his five goals for the night.

So much of the fortunes of the Giants rest on this man. They still only managed 32 inside 50’s, but with Toby on fire, it was enough to get them across the line by 12 points. Richmond had their chances, but with Tom Lynch going goalless and Riewoldt managing just one, scoring was difficult despite getting the ball inside 50 on 14 more occasions than GWS.

Nick Haynes was superb once again taking ten marks and upholding his reputation as one of the AFL’s premier defenders. The Tigers are in a precarious position facing a rampant Dogs outfit this week, while GWS have a genuine challenge against the Gold Coast Suns. Stewart Dew will be having nightmares wondering how to tackle Greene. Leon Cameron must keep winning to keep his job one would think. And the Tigers still look like they’re shaking off the cobwebs from an indifferent start to the 2020 season.

Neither the Giants nor Tigers are guaranteed finals action this year.

 

  1. The Blues have learnt how to win ugly, while taggers get away with murder.

 

It wasn’t a pretty game. At quarter time Carlton looked firmly in control with a 23 point lead, but from that point on it was a case of relentless pressure from a struggling Roos outfit desperate to break their 5 game losing streak. One could argue Jed Anderson played a great shutdown role on midfield star Patrick Cripps, but after many have reviewed the game and scrutinised the tactics used, Carlton Football Club have issued a please explain to the AFL as to why so many situations involving Cripps didn’t result in obvious free kicks. The Blues superstar was blocked and scragged well off the ball to the point of ridiculousness, and it’s becoming a weekly occurrence, not just for Patrick, but also some of the other game’s stars.

Too often the officiating umpire is focused on the ball, but there is a reason why there are three umpires in use. We need to see our stars allowed an opportunity to strut their stuff, and if the treatment is outside the rules, a free kick will certainly go a long way to prevent it from recurring.

Thankfully, for Carlton, they are no longer a one man team. Finally we’re beginning to see the value of Setterfield, and Matthew Kennedy had one of his best games in the navy blue. It’s a sign of maturity that enabled them to win a game that hung in the balance after half time. The Kangaroos came close to snatching it, but the Blues had just that little too much polish in the end, demonstrated by a last quarter gather and goal from 50 in driving rain to emerging star David Cuningham. Could the Blues make finals in 2020? They’re certainly capable, but plenty has to go right for that to happen. If the umpires start paying free kicks against overzealous taggers and Cripps is given the opportunity to play to his abilities, that would be one major factor.

 

  1. The Hawks will be glad to see the back of NSW

 

Hawthorn head to Perth to take on the Blues this Friday after a winless four weeks in the Sydney hub. Coming into Saturday’s game against the Swans they would’ve believed a win was within reach, and for most of the first half it looked as though things were on track. That is, of course, until Tom Papley singlehandedly revived the Swans to reduce the margin to just two points at half time on the back of some poor discipline from James Frawley.

After half time, the game didn’t reach any great heights, but the Swans’ more mature midfield gained the upper hand and they were able to control the game and keep the Hawks effectiveness from the middle down. Hawthorn’s kicking efficiency is a real concern. For the match, the Hawks managed a disposal efficiency rate of just 54.3%.

Clarkson has landed himself in hot water once again in terms of questioning the umpiring. He’s definitely frustrated. I don’t remember him having as many gripes with the officiating of the game back in 2013-15. Nor can I think of a clearer example of a coach having the same influence over an interpretation of the holding the ball rule as Clarkson. When he speaks they seem to listen, but I’m wondering if his credits may soon run out as it’s becoming a weekly episode.

As for Sydney, I’m not sure how true the stories out of last year were about Papley seeking a return to Melbourne. Carlton fans are still salivating over the possibility, but if I were involved in the decisions at the Sydney Football Club, I’d be doing everything in my power to ensure he stays.

 

  1. Kicking accurately for goal, especially this year, is massive

 

In their last ten visits to Adelaide, the Saints have come up empty. The monkey is finally off their back as they cruised to a crushing win over league leaders Port Adelaide with a scintillating final term where they scored five-straight goals to just two behinds. In fact, for the match, St Kilda posted 12.1 (73) which is one of the most accurate scorelines for the last few decades. It’s such a crucial statistic when you consider the low level of scoring we’re seeing in season 2020. And their one behind hit the post!

Another quandary for the St Kilda selectors was whether or not Marshall and Ryder can function well together playing side by side. Saturday night seemingly put an end to that issue as Marshall was at his usual best with two goals and 15 touches while Paddy had 29 hit outs in a dominant ruck display while also kicking two goals himself. He obviously relished his return to his former home, as did Dougal Howard who kept the mercurial Charlie Dixon down to just one goal and quelled his influence on the game.

The Saints seem very settled now under coach Brett Ratten. He clearly is a great coach. Once again, on the weekend, he got his match-ups right and the rest is history, but when you’re as accurate as the Saints were, that also makes it hard to lose. In the last quarter, Membrey’s fluke goal after Jonas punched the ball into his foot which then went through the big sticks was the icing on the cake of a memorable night where plenty went right for the Saints who are now sit 4th on the ladder.

 

The Winners And Losers Of Round Eight

 

  1. Adelaide will win a game eventually.

 

Adelaide’s winless season to date took another blow with a heartbreaking three-point loss against the Bombers. The major difference between this game and previous Crows games is they fought this one out till the very end. So many times this year we’ve seen the Crows basically curl up their toes and die with more than a quarter of football remaining and limp to the line.

Maybe it was the fact they were in front of a home crowd that lifted them up and urged them on, but one thing’s for sure to me, and that is, any predictions of a winless season is not going to happen. We’ve finally seen a better performance from Taylor Walker that he can surely build on. Paul Seedsman, I feel, is a highly underrated player and having him out there playing well definitely adds more to their chances. Let’s just hope losing Brad Crouch and Tom Doedee doesn’t set them back too much.

As for the Bombers, they’ve had an interesting fortnight with a heavy loss to the Bulldogs followed by a narrow win over the Crows. Zach Merrett was superb once again and the Essendon midfield is doing plenty right. A quick look over their last five weeks shows them averaging just 59 points a game. To put that in perspective, the sides in the Top 4 are averaging around 70+. Even in a low-scoring season like this, that can be concerning. It does seem they do struggle somewhat to put a big score on the board, and they’ll need to do that against the better sides, as the Magpies found out on the weekend.

 

  1. Josh Kennedy gets one more year.

 

Many had written off the Eagles star forward. Following on from a solid performance in the WA derby last week booting four goals, he was simply brilliant and turned back the clock with an incredible game finishing with seven goals – the only man to have achieved that feat this season. All of a sudden, the Eagles are looking as ominous as ever and have rocketed to premiership favouritism on the back of a 66-point smashing of the highly fancied Magpies team. Although, if they do make the Grand Final, and it’s played in Queensland, that could turn pear-shaped…

My knock on Collingwood has been their inability to kick big scores and, particularly so after half-time. Post-COVID, the Pies are averaging just 56 points per game. The only sides averaging less than that are the bottom 3 teams on the ladder. Yes, their defence has held strong for much of the year masking that deficiency, but I could feel the dam wall about to burst, and boy did that happen on the weekend with the Eagles booting the highest score of the year to date (111), aided by superb kicking for goal (18.3) to dwarf their miniscule total of just 45, which is made worse considering they scored 26 of that by quarter time and held a 14 point lead. From that point on they were outscored by 80 points.

The loss of Pendlebury pre-game certainly didn’t help. I’d like to think the Pies will bounce back against an undermanned Freo next week, but if they were to somehow lose that encounter, the possibility of missing finals looms large.

 

  1. Do not write off the Demons

 

Melbourne may have lost this game, and there was the controversy surrounding the goal umpire review which perhaps cost them an opportunity to surge forward with just over two minutes remaining, but I think enough has been said about that, and I’m not always keen to talk about what-ifs. I mean, for all we know, they could’ve turned it over with a missed kick and the Lions could have slammed on two late goals and won comfortably.. but I digress.

There’s a little bit to like about the Demons. Clayton Oliver is a ball magnet, Viney is as tough as nails, and Petracca is now an elite player. They still have Gawn, a solid defence, and maybe if Weideman can reach his potential and gain some consistency that might sort out their forward issues. They have an interesting month ahead which includes games against Port Adelaide, Adelaide, North Melbourne and Collingwood. They’ll need to win three of those, and they can. They’ll just need to find that extra gear but I feel it’s possible.

I’m taking nothing away from Brisbane. They were the better team on the night. And has the engraver already put Lachie Neale’s name on the medal yet? I would already have him on around 15 votes by my calculations? I could be wrong, but he is only paying $2.50 at the moment, so barring injury or a drop in form, he’s ahead of the field for mine.

 

  1. Fremantle v Geelong was men playing boys

 

The Dockers are a heavily undermanned unit at the moment. Geelong also went into this game with quite a few big names missing, but the players they brought in all had bigger bodies and mostly had played at the level. The Dockers on the other hand had as many as ten players with under 50 games experience (the Cats had 7), but it was in the midfield where the real difference was apparent. Youngsters like Serong in just his third outing and Andrew Brayshaw who is still finding his feet in the AFL faced up to seasoned stars like Dangerfield and Duncan with literally hundreds of more games between them.

It was always going to be a tough assignment, made no less difficult by the driving rain making scoring difficult and the more mature Cats were able to move the ball forward by sheer force. At one stage it looked as though the Dockers were going to go through an entire game without kicking a goal. Late in the third quarter Taberner managed to squeeze one through triggering another one of the many pointless goal reviews of this round of games. And with a minute remaining on the clock in the final term, young Caleb Serong goaled on the run to save the Dockers from the embarrassment of having kicked their lowest ever score. That record sits intact at 1.7 (13).

The Dockers sure have their work cut out for them for the remainder of the season. Their injury list is exposing a lack of depth, but the list is young and there is a future.

 

  1. Something needs to be done about the goal review system once and for all.

 

Have you ever noticed how the more people try to make things better, the actual results often go the other way? I’ve already touched on the Melbourne incident. Back in the day (pre-DRS) it would’ve been play-on. The goal umpire not being sure whether the ball had crossed the line would’ve given the benefit of the doubt to the player with the ball and the game goes on. Now, if they’re not sure, the game stops! That’s just wrong on so many levels.

The system works well when a goal is scored and if the umpires don’t review it but the DRS picks up that it was in fact a behind, by the time the ball gets back to the centre, the decision can be overturned without too much disruption to the game. I like that. When there’s a really dubious call as to whether a ball was touched, made contact with the post or they’re not sure if it had crossed the line (you get the picture) then we can look at it and the game would’ve stopped after a score anyway. Sure, there’s a bit of a delay, but it’s bearable. I also think they can dispense with the scoreboard display signalling their decision. There’s another 4-5 seconds wasted on that. There were good calls on the weekend, so I don’t want to see the DRS taken away completely.

That Tim Membrey freak goal was a perfect example of why we need it. But, just like cricket, it’s created a bunch of umpires afraid to commit to a decision. Goodness, in one incident, even after a player was honest enough to say he didn’t touch it, they STILL went to a review. That’s bordering on insane! It’s time to review the “review” system I feel.

MEMBERS – Wingman Rankings Round Eight