1. Victorian teams on the road had a rough week for freekicks

I know already our interstate readers will start seething just at the title of point ONE, But hopefully, the numbers I’m about to reveal will allay any fears that this is based purely on bias. To be honest, I was actually a little staggered myself going through some of the figures, but as I’ve always said, figures don’t lie. I suppose it’s highly possible that the frees paid were all legit, but lopsided numbers like these ones are worth pointing out. You be the judge.

Sydney v Essendon – 29 to 16

Port Adelaide v Richmond – 22 to 12

Gold Coast v Carlton – 24 to 17

Fremantle v Hawthorn – 19 to 16 (early on it was 16 to 7 in favour of the Dockers)

Conversely, Brisbane took on the Bulldogs in Ballarat and were only paid 16 free kicks against 30 for the Dogs. So I know it goes both ways, but I feel this week was a particularly tough week for the Melbourne teams who ventured interstate.


2. The Bombers give up another handy lead to lose narrowly again

In Round One the Bombers squandered a 40 point lead to eventually lose by one point to the Hawks. On this occasion, they surged to a four-goal lead during the second term only to see the Swans pile on five unanswered goals to take a five point lead into half time.

I’m sure the Bombers will be working overtime to avoid a continuation of such lapses in future games. And just imagine what we’d be saying if those leads weren’t surrendered and the Bombers were sitting pretty with three wins and one loss. So the message to Bomber fans is you’re frustratingly close to being a very good team. An absolute crunch game looms large against the Lions at the Gabba next week for both teams.

For Sydney, they’ll see this win as a lucky escape. It was also fitting that Buddy was on hand to ice the game with a trademark long goal. The loss of Isaac Heaney with a broken hand will hurt, and we can only wonder how long before first season fatigue sets into their Rising Star nominees. That said, the next fortnight sees them take on the Giants and the Suns. They could be 6-0 if they play their best, but the Giants might be finally awake in season 2021.


3. Robbie Gray does it again

I’ll cast your mind back to Round Seven last year. The siren had gone and Robbie Gray from a tight angle sunk a dagger into the hearts of every Blues fan kicking the goal that gave the Power a three-point win. Whilst there was still time on the clock when he did it this week, the manner in which he slotted that goal which ultimately got his team over the line showed once again that he has ice running through his veins.

It wasn’t his most influential game but, once again, he did it when it counted.

The Tigers wouldn’t be in panic mode. They’ll probably be there at the business end again. Dusty almost dragged them over the line in typical fashion. A few controversial moments late in the game made for an interesting chat, in particular the rushed behind rule. Does anybody really understand that rule fully?

The Tigers take on the Saints next week. I expect them to bounce back and burst the Saints’ bubble after their impressive victory over the Eagles. I don’t think the Tigers will want to lose three in a row.


4. Tim English is more than just a ruckman

They do say big men take time to develop. It’s pretty clear now that Tim has arrived, and has also added goalkicking and strong marking to his repertoire, making him a very useful player. It’s also apparent that recruiting a 34-year-old in Stefan Martin may prove a stroke of genius which has allowed English to become a more versatile player than we may have thought.

He was very impressive on Saturday marking everything that came his way in blustery conditions. He’s now fast becoming a player opposition teams need to put some work into.

As for the Lions, they’d be most disappointed to be sitting 1-3 at this stage. They would’ve come into the season with very high hopes of a Top-Four finish. It’s not impossible, but it does seem a tall order at this early stage. The game next week where they face Essendon who is also languishing on just one win with some close losses is make or break for both teams.

I fancy the Lions at home with Daniher taking on his former team for the first time, but it seems almost impossible to predict anything from the Bombers these days.


5. The Saints are the Jekyll & Hyde of 2021

You won’t see a much more comprehensive reversal of form during a game. With under seven minutes remaining in the third term, the Eagles held a strong 33 point lead and looked set to cruise to victory. What happened from that point on was nothing short of breathtaking. You’ll do well to see a team provide more pressure and run than what the Saints did from that point on, which begs the question, “where has that been for the last two weeks?”

I’m sure Brett Ratten will be asking himself the same question today and he’ll be watching footage of that last 25-30 minutes to use as a blueprint for the remainder of the season. So far the Saints are the Jekyll and Hyde of 2021, with the Bombers a close second.

Adam Simpson will be wondering if anybody got the number of the tram that hit his team at Docklands on Saturday. They were simply blown away and had no answers. And it is of interest to me that the Perth teams have lost both times on the road and continue to win at home. The Eagles were great in the loss to the Bulldogs, but they were indifferent late in the game against the Saints whilst the Dockers seem to really go down a few gears when travelling. This may prove a problem for both teams for their finals aspirations. Nobody is in denial of how difficult it must be as the Perth players spend the most by a long way of any clubs on an aeroplane. The Eagles have overcome this obstacle before. It’ll be interesting to see if they can do it again.


6. Night football played in the tropics is hard to watch

The Gold Coast Suns v Carlton game was hardly a spectacle. The evening humidity made handling the ball cleanly almost impossible. Would it not be less slippery if these games were played in daylight? Just a thought, but I imagine it would be less slippery due to the absence of dew – and I don’t mean the Stuart Dew variety.

Speaking of the Suns coach, he must be wondering what he needs to do to get his players to win. They’ve been in winnable positions in all of their losses and fell short each time with last quarters where they seem to run out of legs as was very much the case against the Blues.

As for the Blues, it’s still very hard to gauge them at this early stage, They seemed good against the Tigers, poor against the Pies, great against the Dockers and workmanlike against the Suns. The real test comes this Saturday. If they can somehow pinch an unlikely victory against Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium, it may just be an indication of the first genuine sign of progress beyond the endless rebuild. But a loss will mean they’re treading water.


7. Why is Toby Greene never mentioned when we talk about the best small forwards?

There have been some amazing small forwards in the modern era. Steven Milne and Eddie Betts now in the twilight of his stellar career. The current crop includes the likes of Charlie Cameron and the future stars could be Izak Rankine and Kysaiah Pickett. And whilst we all recognise his great talent, it seems a rarity to mention Toby Greene as one of the all-time great small forwards.

You won’t find any more small forwards able to win a game off his own boot like Greene, which is precisely what he did on Saturday night. The end result was a Giants victory that nobody saw coming, and who knows how that may swing their fortunes from here on. His five goals were sublime and his presence lifted those around him.

The Pies now find themselves with just one win from their first 4 games. Nathan Buckley must be feeling the pressure. And a trip to Perth to face the Eagles after their shock loss is the last thing they need. I’m sure Nathan will talk to the boys about a “backs-to-the-wall” kind of win against West Coast, but at home and breathing fire, I’m sure Adam Simpson’s men will not let that game slip. Collingwood will need plenty to go right if they are to feature again in September. And I’m sure that failure to do so will see a lot of changes at the club in 2022.


8. Adelaide could go 6-1

I know I’m going the early crow (pun intended), but their draw is favourable. Adelaide have three winnable games against Fremantle (home), Hawthorn (Tas) and GWS (home). Granted, they could fall in a hole and lose a couple of those games if they fail to perform, but imagine how buoyed the club would be if they were to take the honours in all three and come up against the Power in Round Eight! I think the people of Adelaide will collectively wet themselves with excitement on the back of this possible scenario.

The Roos showed promise. They led at the final break and their supporters must’ve been daring to dream of a win at that stage, but it wasn’t to be. Adelaide came out on piled on eight goals to one as tired legs took over and heads dropped. I’m confident there will come a time when the Roos will put it together for four quarters and grab the four points. Those suggesting they may go winless keep forgetting just how incredibly rare that is. I hope I’m right. They were very gallant today. It was a good comeback from being down early, so they’ll be disappointed to fall away again in the manner they did, but a couple of early injuries made that more likely than not.


9. The Dees fans may seriously have to reconsider their skiing come September

It’s an old cliché, so before you start calling me a hack comedian, I’m fully aware of the lameness of the comment. So far, the Dees have done what good sides are expected to do. They’re now sitting pretty, undefeated, having beaten one of last year’s Grand Finalists, although I am beginning to question the credentials of the Cats. I’m sure they can’t wait to get Patrick Dangerfield back, and Tom Hawkins could do with a chop out from Jeremy Cameron I’m sure.

Petracca’s 36 disposal game would no doubt have caught the eyes of the umpires. He’s been my main guy for the Brownlow in 2021, and I’m still seeing it that way for now.

The Cats have games coming up against West Coast (home) and Sydney (away) in Rounds 6 & 7. They’ll need to find something to overcome those opponents. Their two wins have been far from convincing. If they were to find themselves out of finals contention, does Chris Scott go on?

Melbourne have the Tigers in Round 6 but I expect them to beat Hawthorn (Round 5) and North Melbourne (Round 7). If they topple the Tigers, and there’s certainly reason for them to believe they could, they could be undefeated after 7 games!

With all that in mind, there’ll be a nervous wait to see how serious the head-knock to Steven May might be. Their solid defence is a big part of why they’ve improved. The May/Lever combination is proving a big handful to most sides.


10. The difference between the Dockers at home and away is too much

Against the Dees in Round One, the Dockers started slowly and were never in the game. They didn’t get blown away, but it wasn’t their best performance. Against Carlton they were brushed aside with ease, and while Carlton are a team on the rise, they may have fancied their chances coming up against them following their two opening losses. Sure, injuries did play a part, but they didn’t give a yelp.

However, at home, they made pretty light work of both GWS and weren’t really threatened by the Hawks. They actually look faster at home and sure of themselves by hand and foot. In order to be a better team, they have to take that form interstate. They go to Adelaide next week to take on the Crows. I’ll be watching closely to see if they can put up their best form. I just don’t expect they will.

The Hawks have shown a bit this year without taking the points. They actually had the ball more than the Dockers with a very high 423 possessions against 339. That’s a significant difference, yet they still managed only 45 inside 50’s to Freo’s 62. That tells me that they over-possessed the ball and weren’t direct enough. And watching the game, I could see Fremantle had time to get back and defend and often slingshot the ball back down the other end. With the speed of play such that it is in most games, Hawthorn will need to move it in quicker than they have been. I’m also a little inclined to think Geelong may move it a bit too slowly as well.


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