Ten Things I Learnt After Round Six

1. The Dogs could make Richmond 3-4 next week.

Both Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs remain undefeated after Round Six. Nobody would’ve predicted this, and with Richmond being brushed aside fairly easily by the Demons on Saturday night, it looks almost certain they will suffer the same fate next week, particularly with Dustin Martin out with concussion.

All of a sudden the Tigers have gone back to the middle tier while the Dogs have shown themselves to be a genuine contender in 2021. A big part of the improvement has been their dominance in the midfield. Picking up Treloar has made their on-ball brigade complete, and one can only continue to wonder what the Collingwood Football Club were thinking. And speaking of the midfield, Jackson Macrae pulled another 40 possessions on Friday night along with Treloar (35), Dunkley (29) and Bontimpelli (26). These numbers are not only formidable, but they are a weekly occurrence. Opposition teams wouldn’t know who to tag first.

The Giants stayed in touch for three quarters, but as has been the case for most of the year, they faded in the last quarter. The best GWS can hope for from this year is to sneak into the Top 8, while the Bulldogs look as though they’ll secure a Top Four spot. I may change my mind if they were to lose to an undermanned Tigers in Round Seven, but I don’t see that happening.


2. Did the Eagles quarantine in Geelong?

OK! I’ll put my hand up. I tipped West Coast this week. Up until now, the Cats had failed to fully impress me, and the Eagles almost knocked over the Dogs a few weeks ago. But boy, was I wrong. And it looks as though the Cats might be able to manage without Dangerfield after all.

In what turned out to be West Coast’s biggest loss under coach Adam Simpson, it now seems very much like life on the road does not work well for them. They’ve lost all three games in Victoria, and now their woes continue further with the loss of arguably their most important player in Jeremy McGovern.

The Cats were irrepressible, kicking 20 of the last 22 goals for the match after a sluggish start. Jeremy Cameron made his long-awaited debut with three goals and played his role in swinging the game Geelong’s way in the second term. With all the goings on in Perth in relation to their 3-day lockdown after yet another hotel quarantine failure, after a game like that, it may be a good idea to have the Eagles players tested. They certainly seemed to be exhibiting symptoms of some sort that would explain such a poor result, or perhaps the flight over for both the Eagles and the Dockers is just too much…


3. The Sydney bubble has all but burst

They say when something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. What we saw from the Swans in the first four rounds was nothing short of miraculous in terms of where they’d come from in 2020. Add to that the abundance of younger players who appeared out of nowhere and immediately made an impact, and the football world was in awe at their accelerated turnaround.

So while heading up to Metricon to take on the Suns can prove challenging, the performance they put up was in stark contrast to Rounds 1-4. They missed targets, were indecisive and their forward line wasn’t functioning without Franklin. It’ll be a huge challenge next week as they take on the Cats.

The Suns were always in control of the game. Ben King had his best game booting five goals and Izak Rankine showed glimpses of brilliance. It’s very easy to dismiss the Suns. I pretty much did after their horror start against the Dogs last week. But they do have a few unsung heroes on their list. Touk Miller is in great form and has always been a solid contributor, but the one who may now warrant attention from opposition teams will be Noah Anderson. He’s been in a prolific ball-winner all year and another 34 possessions provided a lot of drive going forward for Gold Coast. They play Collingwood on the road next week. They might have a little spring in their step after this unexpected win.


4. Will somebody teach Harry McKay how to kick a drop punt?

It’s pretty hard to knock a guy who finishes with six goals, but each of his goals was not a drop punt despite being virtually in front on a couple of occasions. No, Harry opted for the around the body snap for the majority of his set shots. Whilst it proved effective, it’s worth noting that on the three occasions he used a drop punt for a set shot, he ended up with two behinds and one out on the full. Surely the drop punt is more effective than a snap from a less than 45 degree angle?

Maybe I’m old-fashioned. One gets the feeling that eventually, he’ll need to work on this skill as his snaps are sure to start posing a problem for him eventually.

The Lions were very good, particularly in the second quarter where they simply blew Carlton away with impunity keeping the Blues at arm’s length for the remainder of the game. When you also consider that they had a reduced bench for the most part, it adds even more credibility to the victory, albeit against a team that seems to have forgotten how to win. It’s beginning to look like Joe Daniher has settled in nicely, relishing his role as a backup ruckman. They take on Port Power at home next week in what will be a great game. If Brisbane were to prevail, their shaky start to the season will be in the rear view mirror.


5. Now we can definitely take Melbourne seriously

Admit it! Most of you are waiting for the Melbourne of old to bob up with some indifferent footy, but so far it isn’t happening. After settling into the game during the second term, they did what quality teams do and blew the game open in the third term. Even without a truly recognised key forward, they manage to score relatively easily, which begs the question as to what to do with Ben Brown and Sam Weideman who both played in the VFL on the weekend. Will it improve them or upset the current winning formula?

Meanwhile, my boy Petracca again looked best afield. The last time Melbourne won their first six games was 1965. It’ll be seven in a row after next week as they take on the struggling Kangaroos.

It would be a brave man to write the Tigers off as far as premiership aspirations go, but it’s fair to say that the club wouldn’t be all too pleased with their 3-3 start as reigning premiers. A loss to the Bulldogs will raise the concern levels, and it’s unlikely they can stop them without their best player. The Demons defence kept Tom Lynch goalless. The May and Lever combination continues to prove too strong for many while Christian Salem is fast becoming the premier rebounder off half-back in the competition. The guy rarely misses a target. The Dees will take some beating in 2021, and Goodwin can rest easy – for now…


6. It might be time to lockout all North Melbourne games

I know it’s cruel, but they’re just so hard to watch. One could’ve easily been forgiven for thinking that the empty stadium was due to lack of interest. It’s actually very rare for a team to have a percentage below 50% after six games even when winless. They simply have not been competitive in any of their games, losing by an average of 72 points and managing to score just an average of 51 points per game. The spirit is there. They’re definitely trying, but the younger list and their poor skills simply means, at this point in time, they’re simply not up to it.

The gap between them and second-last placed Collingwood is immense. So far there’s still no sign they can win a game. That said, we thought the same of the Crows last year.

The Dockers find themselves with a 4-2 record and in 6th place. One might almost have to fancy their chances in the derby next week as the more fancied West Coast seem to have lost its way somewhat, although they may be an entirely different proposition come match day. Fyfe is somewhere near his best while David Mundy is showing no signs of aging in his 17th season of AFL football.

The Docker I’ve noticed this year in terms of his improvement is ruckman Sean Darcy. Next week will reveal more of where they’re at, but, just like the Eagles, they need to learn to win in Melbourne if they want to be taken seriously.


7. Is 15 goals straight before scoring a behind a record?

I was actually at a game back in the 80’s at Princes Park when Carlton managed to kick 14 goals straight before scoring a behind. I believe that may have been a record at the time, but I can’t say it with any certainty, nor have I been able to glean from the internet what the record actually is. But whatever the case, if that was a record, well Adelaide just knocked it off with 15 straight before scoring a behind in what was a rather odd game by the Crows.

They were 14 straight at half time and managed just an additional 2.3 (15) for the entire second half, including just two points in the final term when the game was on the line. It’s a credit to the Hawks defence who stood up, but it was a definite reversal of form after a scintillating second quarter where they piled on ten goals to go into the break 25 points up.

After half time, the Hawks grinded their way back into the contest, eventually falling across the line in a low-scoring final quarter by just three points after trailing by as much as 32 points. Jaeger O’Meara was best afield while Jacob Koschitzke booted 5 goals in just his fifth game for the Hawks and is proving to be a find.

But the story of the day was the Crows’ debutante Riley Thilthorpe who also booted a handful. Both players looked very strong and seem undaunted by the rigours of AFL.

The Hawks take on the Saints next week in what will pretty much be a last gasp for both teams if they have any sort of September dreams.


8. Parish the thought on Anzac Day

In what would have to be the best game in his career so far, Darcy Parish was the standout player on the field finishing with 42 high quality disposals and two brilliant goals. It was as complete a game as you’ll see, and the decision to play him in the midfield has paid dividends.

I imagine there’ll be sleepless nights ahead for David Teague wondering how to contain his influence next Sunday. He’ll also have to come up with a plan to keep McDonald-Tipungwuti under control after his five-goal haul. Essendon’s best is very good. Whilst they were definitely challenged on Sunday, the game looked very much in their control for most of the afternoon. But they’ve put in a couple of sub-standard performances this year, so they’re still hard to gauge. A win against the Blues next week will keep the flicker of finals hopes alive.

The Pies are not terrible, yet they sit in 17th place after just one win in six rounds. This would be great cause for concern for anyone pushing for Buckley to stay on beyond 2021. The move to push Darcy Moore forward reeks more of desperation than a clever tactic as his work in defence for year to date had him pushing for All-Australian honours. We’re all well aware of the Pies forward line deficiencies, but I’m sure that it may have been a different story if the 54 inside-50’s by the Bombers had to get through one of the best centre-half backs in the game currently.


9. The Saints could prove the disappointment of the season

2020 was a great year for the St Kilda Football Club. They brought in some hot recruits from other clubs who seemed to fit in nicely and they found themselves in the finals for the first time in several years. I’m sure the beginning of the season held great expectations that they could vie for a Top Four spot and take another step forward. After six games and with just two wins on the board, it isn’t just their win-loss ratio that’s a concern, but rather the number of heavy losses they’ve suffered.

In 2021, their average losing margin is 59 points, and their prize recruits from last year have seemingly stagnated. Next week they take on Hawthorn. A loss to the Hawks would probably put any talk of finals on ice.

Port, on the other hand, look primed for a genuine tilt at the big one. They’ve picked up from where they left off last year, and the additions of Fantasia and Aliir have been seamless. They look right at home in the Power outfit and have definitely enhanced the fortunes of the club. Not much seems to get past Aliir, and Fantasia is leading the club’s goalkicking with 11. The pieces are all in place. Barring injury or just a poor run of form, this could be their year, although I’m sure the two undefeated teams might have something to say about that.

There’s a long way to go, and many other potential contenders are still in the mix, but even after losing Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma, the depth of the club is such that their replacements proved more than capable. Next week will be a big test in Brisbane in what looms as the match of the round.


10. I don’t think I like the “deliberate out of bounds” rule

Before I talk about this, let me say first that I know the umpires are fairly consistent with this. So I guess that’s something positive. My concern is the number of times that I feel the player is genuinely trying to keep the ball in play and either miscues or has an unlucky bounce and is penalised. I’m also wondering if the umpires would be better served to take into consideration what sort of pressure the player is under when executing.

I saw too many instances on the weekend when the players were clearly not trying to put the ball out of play and it should’ve been a ball-in. I like rules that promote fairness. When a player has literally done nothing wrong, it just doesn’t make sense for there to be a subsequent penalty. One of the objects of the game is to keep the ball off your opponent, and it’s a split-second decision in most cases under some extreme pressure.

I actually remember playing footy 25 years ago where I kicked the ball off the ground three times from the goal square taking the ball all the way to the wing and out of the hot zone. My third kick eventually found the boundary line. Today, I would’ve been pinged for what was a good defensive effort. It just doesn’t seem right. I’m sure others will see it differently, but that’s just my two cents.