TEN THINGS I LEARNT AFTER ROUND TWO

 

1 David Teague has become favourite to be the first coach sacked this year

Yes it’s very early, and 0-2 is far from the end of the world. But next week the Blues take on the Dockers in Melbourne. If the drums aren’t beating loudly enough yet, losing to Fremantle at home will make them louder than the drums at a Lebanese wedding.

Carlton fans have been asked to be patient every year with the promise of improvement. 2021 was touted as the year the Blues would be in the running for a Top 8 spot. On what we’ve seen so far, it seems a pipedream. Patrick Cripps seems a little uneasy with what seems to be a faster game on the back of a few rule tweaks, and Collingwood’s mids dominated early to break the game open in the first quarter. The highly-rated Blues defence looked lost as the ball came in with ease. The Teague gameplan doesn’t seem to have a strong defensive side and the result is two weeks with over 100 points kicked against them to start the year.

The Pies seemingly learnt lessons from their Round One loss to the Dogs, whereas the Blues did nothing to suggest they were unhappy with their system. I think we might be staring at another long year for the Navy Blues, and without the prospect of finals, the coach and many others in the football department might find themselves out of a job. And in this humble Blues’ fans opinion, rightly so…

 

2. We’ve seen the worst umpiring decision for the year

With just 23 seconds to go with the Lions trailing by just two points, Zac Bailey tackles Mark Bilicavs just 5 metres out of goal causing him to dispose of the ball incorrectly while trying to evade an instant earlier, constituting prior opportunity. A more clear-cut holding the ball would be hard to find, and the proper result would’ve seen Zac Bailey score a pretty easy goal using up the remaining 23 seconds for a four-point Brisbane victory.

But the call was play on.

The Lions can feel rightly cheated, and even the AFL were quick to say the officiating umpire made a mistake. This is what they mean when they talk of a “howler”. Whichever way one chooses to spin this is irrelevant. Those suggesting the umpire may have been blindsided are incorrect. Those putting forward the notion Blicavs had no prior opportunity are also mistaken. The simple fact is that, for whatever reason, the umpire choked and gave the benefit of the doubt to the defending team because it was close to goal. That happens all too often in our game and needs to stop.

If that occurred on the wing, you can guarantee the umpire would’ve blown the whistle. This genuinely affected the result of the game, and that’s simply not good enough.

 

3. Swans were already big improvers without Buddy

Nobody saw this coming.

The win against Brisbane on the road was amazing. The Crows did finish last in 2020 but seem to be playing a more competitive game now, so the Swans did were no certainties coming into the game despite commanding favouritism. And then along comes Buddy with a quiet game by his standards which still netted him three goals. The future sure is bright for the Swans. The fact they’ve scored over 120 in both games so far suggests they’ll probably win enough games to play finals this year. Who would’ve thought that at the start of the season?

The story out of Adelaide, however, is Taylor Walker. Whilst the side is playing with renewed vigour, it’s clear Tex is back. 11 goals in two matches puts him on pace for a 100-goal season, although keeping up at that level for 22 weeks is a very tall order. But wouldn’t that be something? And perhaps their inaccuracy in front of goal may have made the result more lop-sided than it really was?

 

4. Port Adelaide’s depth is the envy of all clubs

Todd Marshall was super impressive in Round One, so when he was a late withdrawal, the club would’ve been disappointed. Along comes the replacement, teenager Mitch Georgiadis, finishing with four goals and eight marks for the game in a dominant display.

Now the question will be “if” Todd Marshall gets back in!

It’s no wonder the Power sits atop the AFL ladder for the 19th consecutive week during the home and away fixtures. Zak Butters now finds himself in the midfield and is fast becoming an elite player at just 20, and Ollie Wines, who was on the radar of many clubs in the previous two off-seasons, finds himself in career-best form.

The story for the Bombers is a troubled one. Their lack of firepower up forward is telling, and they don’t look likely to have filled the hole left by the departure of Daniher. Now they’re dealing with a growing injury list which will create serious challenges for them to avoid finishing in the bottom four. Dylan Shiel looks set to miss 5-6 weeks with what appeared to be a medial ligament strain and Sam Draper’s injury will deplete their ruck stocks. This is far from an ideal start for new coach Ben Rutten.

 

5. The Saints had me fooled after Round One

I literally had the Saints challenging for a top four place after their impressive win on the road against the Giants in Round 1. But what I saw from them on Saturday night left me scratching my head almost as much as I noticed Brett Ratten doing up in the coach’s box. They seemed to be cruising along nicely at 6.3 to 3.5 midway through the second term. Then the Dees clicked into gear and booted the final three goals of the term to go into the long break with a four-point lead.

I expected the Saints to come out breathing fire after half time, but what happened was anything but that. For the first twenty minutes of the term, it was all Melbourne who extended their lead to 30 points before the Saints finally managed to put a score or two on the board late in the quarter. At that stage, however, the only thing keeping St Kilda in the game was Melbourne’s inaccuracy in front of goal.

The end result had the Demons with 31 scoring shots to just 18. The 18 point margin flattered the Saints, who just seemed to lose their run from that midpoint in the second term and were beaten to the ball by a more desperate Melbourne team. They’re going to have a tough week on the track I suspect.

For the Dees, Petracca did his Brownlow prospects no harm with his game, but a player for the Dees who seems to fly under the radar and doesn’t get the plaudits he richly deserves is Christian Salem. Now in his eighth season and having played over 100 games, his ball use is exquisite and his skill is at a very high level. Do yourself a favour when next watching a Melbourne game and keep an eye on him. Super player!

 

6. North Melbourne games are hard to watch

It was a staggering stat to read that the Kangaroos had a 70.1% disposal efficiency. Watching them missing targets from short range would’ve suggested otherwise, although their efficiency inside 50 was actually just 26.9% which seems a lot more plausible.

We all know that clubs go through peaks and troughs, and sadly North seem to be all but at rock bottom right now. Last year it was Matthew Nicks’ turn to take the helm of a struggling side as a debut senior coach. This year it’s David Noble. Here’s hoping both of these guys don’t have their careers cut short due to inheriting a poor list they had no say in building.

The Suns are a little harder to gauge at this stage. They put up a good effort against the Eagles before going down in Round One, and they comprehensibly beat a struggling North Melbourne as you’d expect better sides to do. But are they in the hunt for a finals push? The ingredients are there. A decent defence, a promising forward line with midfielders like Noah Anderson showing the way.

Their next two games are both winnable against Adelaide and Carlton. If they were to win those, they’d be 3-1, but that seems to be the case with the Gold Coast Suns early on in many seasons…

 

7. As great as Richmond are, they don’t put sides away

Let’s be honest here. Richmond are a far better team than the two sides they’ve played so far. And whilst they had the game under control against the Hawks, the 29-point margin was hardly an annihilation. Even in their premiership year in 2020, their biggest winning margin was 54 points.

So what do we make of this? I think Richmond are so good that they have gears that go up and down according to the sides they play. It’s obvious through the first two round they were not in top gear. Yet, in both cases, they ended up comfortable winners. I also believe this is part of the reason they tend to peak at the right time of the year. Sure, they will go out and have a few off games and suffer losses, but finishing in the top four is all they really seem to care about, and then when it comes to the business end of the year, they’ve got fuel in reserve.

It’s all looking pretty ominous already, but I’m sure there’s a couple of other teams who’ll have other ideas. Dusty again will poll votes, as will Tom Mitchell I feel, but I’d say Dusty’s 28 possession game hurt the Hawks more than Mitchell’s 37 hurt the Tigers.

Next week the Tigers take on the Swans. That game looks so much more interesting than it did three weeks ago. I wonder if Richmond will need to go up a gear?

 

8. Bontempelli got the Dogs over the line

Firstly, this was by far the game of the round. Both sides can hold their heads high. And both sides could’ve easily been worthy victors, save for the actions of one man.

It’s no secret how good he is, but watching the game, it was clear that every time the Bont got the ball in his hands, something good would happen for his team and so it was fitting that he kicked the sealer in the last minute of the game. It’s clear that the Bulldogs are enjoying the way the game has been affected by the new rules which have no doubt sped up play and increased the scoring. They’re playing a finals style of football so I’m confident that a top eight spot is theirs for the taking.

The Eagles also look fine. This loss will sting, but their effort was far from terrible, and I can see them featuring in September action as well. One thing that does seem obvious is that tagging seems dead now. If Jackson Macrae can get 41 possessions without really having an opponent all day, it looks as though coaches have seemingly dispensed with the idea. I’m not sure it’s a good or bad thing. I think it’s odd when you consider that certain players can really influence the game’s outcome (Dustin Martin comes to mind) and one would think quelling their influence would go a long way to securing a win. But with all that in mind, Macrae probably was great, but not as damaging as Marcus Bontempelli.

 

9. GWS are clearly not a powerhouse any more

Before I comment on the woes of the Giants, let’s take a moment to admire the great bunch of young players running around in the purple. Players like Brayshaw, Serong, Schulz, Switkowski and others look set for fine careers. There’s also a 35 year old kid running around picking up 30+ possessions each week called Mundy that goes all right as well.

They’re coming along nicely and will trouble a few sides in front of their home crowd for sure. It’ll be interesting to see if they can take that form on the road. A winnable game against the hapless Blues next week will show if there is a huge discrepancy in their home and away form.

Meanwhile, things seem to be going in reverse for GWS. From the outside looking in, it seems a club without a soul, and at various stages in Sunday night’s game, it seemed the players were playing with no purpose. The first three quarters were lamentable. They looked slow and less interested than their youthful and plucky opponents. Were it not for a four-goal final term, the result would’ve been more humiliating than it already was. I’m sure that keeping the GWS list together is very challenging and is part of the reason for their indifferent form. However, this is why I feel the newest of the AFL franchises lacks the soul required in order to make players want to be a part of something. The last thing the AFL need is a mediocre Giants team. And although I still believe David Teague is the favourite to possibly lose his job first this year, the odds on Leon Cameron will close in if they don’t start finding wins very soon.

 

10. Thursday night footy needs to be a permanent fixture

I think I speak for most footy fans when I say Thursday night football is something I look forward to. Sure, it’s a school night, and having kids might make it difficult to go to the game or even allow them to stay up late to watch it, but I still think it has a place. Considering we have nine weekly games, they need to be spread out in order to be able to watch as many as possible.

I was home Saturday night while there were two games clashing, and flicking back and forth was tiresome. I guess I’m a footy addict, but I don’t see why they can’t keep Thursdays going.

And for Thursday’s fixture, why can’t they start the game at 7:10 instead of 7:25? That extra 15 minutes causes much consternation in Casa Di Rossi as I have a young son who is obsessed with wanting to know the final scores before he goes to sleep and a wife who insists he be in bed no later than 9:30. An earlier start will keep the peace in my world, and I’m sure in many other family homes as well.

 

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