1. There is karma in football

I promise I won’t go on and on about that shocking decision in the Geelong v Brisbane game which ultimately cost the Lions a win in Round Two, but I’m sure most footy fans with the exception of Collingwood supporters, would’ve seen the end result of Thursday night’s close game fitting as young Lion Zac Bailey marked the ball with ten seconds to spare and go on to kick the winning goal after the siren which secured victory by the same single point margin suffered in that cruel loss a week earlier.

I couldn’t help but feel that the balance in the universe was once again restored. And of course, let’s not forget it was indeed Zac Bailey who laid that wonderful tackle on Mark Blicavs last week that went unrewarded. Talk about a big fortnight for the 21 year old. And what a great kick for goal from 45m out.

He began his celebration as soon as the ball left his boot. Even the siren sounding during his approach to goal didn’t put him off. The kid had made up his mind. This was his moment and he took it. Awesome stuff! Karma served!


2. I think we’ve found our wooden spooner

Poor old North Melbourne. David Noble has barely taken his seat in the coach’s box and already the task seems an insurmountable one. It’s hard to see where a win will come from, although the same was said for Adelaide in 2020, and they eventually broke the drought. However, one gets the feeling that the problems with North run deeper due to their struggling list and injuries to key position players.

The ball use by the Roos is very poor, particularly inside 50. Hard to see any positives after a 128 point thumping at the hands of the much stronger Bulldog outfit. Josh Bruce’s 10-goal haul brings his tally against North in their last 3 encounters to 22 in total. That’s an extraordinary return by any measure.

The Dogs sit atop the ladder, a feat they’ve only achieved just 6 times this century. A quick look at their next three games and it seems a reasonable prospect that they may win their first 6 games of 2021. It’ll be a big challenge next week against a good Brisbane team, although if Ballarat does what it normally does and produces the chilly 14-degree day predicted for next Saturday, the Lions boys may be in for a shock as 14 degrees in Ballarat feels like 10 anywhere else.


3. If Tex is firing, Adelaide are always a chance

I’m sure that whatever Taylor Walker has done over the Summer period will become the blueprint for any out of form players searching to regain their mojo. I watched several games last year where Tex worked hard but could only manage single-digit possessions and a goal or two at best. He showed glimpses, but it looked as though his best was behind him.

However, after three rounds, he leads the Coalman medal on 17 goals (one haul of 5 goals and two of 6) showing supreme consistency and a renewed potency up forward. It’s no coincidence to me that last year’s poor season for Walker reflected the Crows’ misfortune.

The Suns are an interesting subject. We all know they’ve improved immensely in their time under Stewart Dew, who I do believe is a great coach. And it seems they can match it with most teams – well, for at least three quarters anyway. There’s the issue. Do they know how to win?

They’re playing an attractive brand of football, have numerous young stars on their list, as well as having an injection of experience, yet they look destined to not really trouble the Top 8 again. They need to beat the Blues next week to gain some belief. It’s a make or break game for them. A win and with it comes belief. A loss and it’s a case of “here we go again”.


4. The Swans should play finals

It’s an early call, but they’re not just winning games, they’re also averaging over 120 points a game as well as using the ball as well as any side going around at the moment. I was never game enough to tip them against the Tigers on the G on Saturday, but as the game broke open in the second quarter, after watching them in the first two rounds, I wasn’t in shock either.

I won’t consign the Sydney team to be a Top 4 prospect just yet, however. They seemingly have found themselves in this renewed position of competitiveness through an injection of youth. It’s only Round Three and the rigours of a long AFL season may catch up with a few of their younger guys as the season wears on, but I’m still confident they will feature in September.

As for the Tigers, you could argue it was a dirty day, but I won’t. They were just outgunned. Most coaches should also take notes on how they were able to keep Dusty’s influence at a manageable level. A 20-possession game usually means trouble for most teams, but the Swans somehow managed to keep him away from goal which kept the damage to a minimum.

The Tigers head to Adelaide to take on Port next week. Both sides are coming off a loss and will be desperate for the win. The Tigers won’t want to lose, although I do recall them being on just one win and a draw after Round Four last year…


5. Alarm bells are ringing for the Saints

I’ll take your minds back to Round Two when midway through the second quarter against the Dees – the Saints were seemingly getting on top and were 15 points ahead. Since that point in time, in six and a half quarters of football, they have scored 14.18 (102) whilst their opposition has banged on a total of 31.24 (210).

From the outside looking in, it seemed as Melbourne fought back, the Saints run came to a grinding halt and their foot skills disintegrated. The alarming thing was that it carried on into Round Three against a side with many of their starting 22 unavailable.

It seems the light at St Kilda has been switched off after what seemed a promising year last season. I’m fairly certain Brett Ratten will be greatly concerned with their meagre tally of 33 tackles for the game as well.

As for the Bombers, it was a welcome return for Jake Stringer, booting 4fourgoals. And Cale Hooker is enjoying playing forward, booting five. Essendon are a better side with a fit Jake Stringer. His energy on the field is infectious and provided a much-needed spark. If he can have an injury-free run and find some consistency, I’m confident it will be the catalyst for the Bombers to trouble many teams.


6. Nic Naitanui’s tap work is second to none

I watched in awe as Nic Nat continued to provide his midfield silver service at centre bounces in particular, but equally around the ground. It must be a joy to be Dom Sheed, Andrew Gaff, Tim Kelly or Luke Shuey and co knowing you have a telepathic ruckman who knows where you’re going to be even before you do.

The damage was done time and again with 19 centre clearances to 10 and the Power simply had no answer. The game was done by half time. It seems Naitanui might be on a mission this year to make up for missing the 2018 premiership through injury.

A few pundits fancied the Power over the Eagles, but it’s a tough assignment beating them in Perth. Aside from the midfield dominance in the first half, the tall defensive unit with McGovern and Barrass kept the forwards quiet. Charlie Dixon failed to trouble the scorers and a bunch of late goals helped add some respectability to the score line, but the simple fact was the Eagles were too ferocious and clean. Coming up against Richmond this week, Port Power’s season is on the line.


7. OK Carlton supporters, you can get excited about Harry now

Blues fans have been getting teased for four seasons by the 200cm Harry McKay. Many times he’s threatened to take games by the scruff of the neck, but until Sunday his biggest individual haul was four goals. And then there’s been his kicking woes. So it’d be fair to say that Harry McKay will be feeling a little better about himself after finally kicking a genuine bag of seven goals in a dominant performance. Mind you, it was actually 7.5, so the kicking woes are not completely gone, however, hopefully, this will give the kid enough belief to reach the elite level.

Freo were up against it before the bounce when Nat Fyfe was ruled out of the game due to a concussion. After an impressive win against the Giants in Perth last week, they seemed slow and unsure of themselves. The Dockers midfield was eclipsed by Sam Walsh and new recruit, Lachie Fogarty, but the Blues fans would’ve enjoyed watching Cripps return to form.

The Dockers have been relatively poor in their two away trips this year. Whilst injuries are definitely a factor, it just can’t be acceptable to put up a solid showing at home only to be poor on the road. The Dockers can only be a force when they can win away.


8. Leon Cameron can’t take a trick

Most sides will struggle to win when their captain, former captain and best defender, as well as their premium run-with tagger, all end up confined to the bench during a game leaving them with just two rotations against a fit Melbourne outfit.

It was just 18 months ago when the Giants played off in a Grand Final. Now they find themselves winless after three games with an increasingly growing list of injuries. And let’s not even talk about the players who have left the club. Many say Leon Cameron might not see out this season if the Giants don’t find some wins very soon, but I’d say he’s been dealt a pretty rough hand despite all the draft concessions the club was granted early on. That said, it will take a monumental effort to keep this team above the bottom 6 on the ladder, but as long as you have Toby Greene running around, there’s always hope.

The Demons suddenly find themselves undefeated after three rounds with wins against Fremantle, St Kilda and GWS. It’s the dream start, and they’re certainly looking good, especially with Kysaiah Pickett setting the forward line alight. For now, I’d keep a lid on it. Judging by the form of the sides they’ve played so far, it’s a little hard to say just how good Melbourne are at this stage.

The Dees face Geelong, Hawthorn and Richmond over the next three weeks. If they win two or more of those, they may well convince me they’re the real deal. It will be an interesting three weeks.


9. I’m not sure the Cats top-ups will pay dividends

In 2020, the Cats played off in the Grand Final, and with an aging list, it seemed reasonable to bring end more mature and ready-made players for the big tilt at ultimate success in 2021. However, three weeks in and they’ve been anything but dominant. The shock loss to Adelaide in Round One still seems to be reverberating around the place, and for two weeks in a row they’ve surrendered strong leads and fell across the line by less than a kick.

Perhaps the wearying legs of their older brigade are the reason behind this? Whatever the case, I’m far from convinced that the Cats have made any progress this year.

The Hawks were gallant in defeat, and I’m sure that Clarkson will be happy with their application. I think they’ve found a beauty in Changkuoth Jiath who looks very much at home, but if it’s all the same with him, I think we should stick to C.J. for now. The next few weeks for the Cats see them take on Melbourne and West Coast. I’ll reserve my judgement on them till those games play out, but for now, I think they look a bit shaky.


10. Those who criticised the standing the mark rule are strangely silent now

It was a strange idea. I certainly thought it was an odd thing to bring in. And I still cringe when the slightest infraction results in a 50m penalty. But, it’s actually working!

I don’t know exactly which genius thought that implementing this rule would result in a more free-flowing game, but a genius is what they may well be. The AFL has tinkered with the rules in order to make the game more of a spectacle for years. And up until now, it has been in vain. It’s undeniable that 2021 football is more attractive than what we’ve seen in recent seasons. Perhaps lowering interchange rotations has made a contribution to that also, but I believe this rule has made all the difference.

My only hope moving forward is that we now see an end to further rule changes. I won’t hold my breath. The amusing thing for me is that each time footy starts to look more attractive is because we’re playing it the way it was originally supposed to be played. One on one contests are back. Power forwards are kicking bags. We’re almost back in the 80’s and a few players have adopted the mullet to back that up. Ah well – not all things about footy in the 80’s was great I guess…


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