1. The Geelong forward set-up has finally clicked

We all knew that luring a player the calibre of Jeremy Cameron to Geelong would pay dividends, but nobody thought we’d see them tear apart the Tigers in the manner they did on Friday night. Hawkins and Cameron combined for ten goals in a display Tigers fans would be more accustomed to seeing from their big duo in Riewoldt and Lynch, who managed just one each.

And with all the attention in the Richmond defence focused on the two talls, Gary Rohan was able to free himself up and feast on five goals of his own. After half time there was no stopping the Cats, and for the first time in several years, Richmond looked out of their depth after leading early in the game. The Tigers now sit 4-4 which is their worst start for five years, although it would be brave to write them off. They’ll need to get things back on track very soon if they are to have any chance of finishing Top Four. That seems to be slipping away as we speak.

The Cats are surging now, and with their next three encounters against teams they should beat, after what was looking as though it would be a season of mixed fortunes, it now looks like they may be well placed, especially if their forwards can keep up this form.

 

2. The Suns blew a real chance at gaining respect

In what was a low scoring scrap, the Suns were looking strong with a 15 point lead going into the final term. This would’ve also given them three wins in a row and have them genuinely threaten to sneak into the Top Eight. Predictably, however, as is the case with most sides that aren’t intimately connected to a winning culture, the last quarter saw them go into preservation mode. They eventually went down by nine points after failing to score a goal.

The Saints, meanwhile, managed to double their goal tally for the match in a dominant display by a side that simply wanted the win more, or perhaps had a better idea how to go about achieving victory. Ben King is a shining light for Gold Coast, and there is an abundance of talent there, but I’m sure Stewart Dew is facing what seems to be an insurmountable challenge to inject more belief into his players and create a culture that will translate to winning some of the close games they invariably seem to lose.

For the Saints, it wasn’t totally convincing, but they now find themselves knocking on the door of the eight, but a fortnight from hell awaits them with games against the Cats and the Bulldogs. Their wins have been against struggling teams for the most part, so if they want to be seen as a contender, a win against at least one of these teams is imperative.

 

3. Giants are back in the mix but only just

Leon Cameron would’ve been wondering if he would see out the year after their 0-3 start to the season. They’ve now won four of their last five and have steadied the ship somewhat, although a lock for a finals spot is far from guaranteed. Toby Greene’s leadership skills have shone through in recent weeks. He’s taken to the role of captain with aplomb and has played at his usual high standard. The real challenge comes next week as they travel to Melbourne to take on the wounded Tigers. They’ll need to be at their best to have any chance, but even that might not do the trick against the team that many still think will be there at the business end of the season.

The Giants almost let this one slip. Another twenty seconds could’ve changed the result. The Bombers were very good in this game, but once again fell just short in a close one. There’s plenty to like about their young stars moving forward, who once again showed great promise. It was always going to be a tough season for the Bombers after losing a few key players in the off-season, but the games they’re getting into the likes of Jones, Cox and co will set them up in the coming years. Sitting at 2-6 at this point doesn’t bode well for 2021, but they have a couple of winnable games over the next fortnight. A couple of wins will do wonders for the confidence of their young list.

 

4. Leave Darcy Moore down back

Whilst I understood the reasoning behind playing Moore up forward in the previous few rounds, I still thought it crazy to be losing your best defender whilst trying to patch up holes in attack. His performance on Saturday night should put this to bed once and for all. His incredible tally of 19 marks and 28 disposals for a centre half back are as good as it gets, so hopefully the coaching crew won’t fix something that isn’t broken again any time soon. We see this happen a lot – players who are recruited as a specialist in a certain position being tried in alternative roles. But it’s quite rare to see it happen when someone is at the top of their game.

The Roos will look back on this one as a game they let slip. Costly skill errors allowed the Pies in far too many times. If they can tidy that up, they will find some wins by season’s end, but while that’s still the norm, a winless season is not out of the question. De Goey had a field day kicking six goals on the back of several errors that caused turnovers that left him one-out with an opponent which is just how he likes it. North Melbourne take on the Hawks next week in what some might see as a possible opportunity for a win. Here’s hoping that David Noble dispenses with talk of not being focused on win but the “process”. I’m sure supporters don’t want to hear that.

 

5. Melbourne will probably be 10-0

Sydney were very good. In fact, watching the game, I thought they were going to snatch it, but it wasn’t to be. Melbourne have Carlton and Adelaide over the next two weeks, and you would expect them to be too good in those games. The match that looms as the big one is Round 11 against the Bulldogs. Why Melbourne have been so good this year is due to their twin towers in defence with May and Lever proving very hard to get past. Now they have twin towers up forward as well with Brown hitting the scoreboard and a welcome return to form for McDonald booting four.

The Swans have shown they are a genuine finals contender and should be treated as such. Aside from their one poor game against the Suns, they’ve beaten off many challengers and gone down fighting against the big guns. It remains to be seen if they can maintain the rage till season’s end with such a young list, but the signs are good. A game at home next week against 16th placed Collingwood should result in a win, although they do have a good record at the SCG. I’ll back the Swans, and I doubt Lance will play two poor games in a row.

 

6. What’s with the prison bars, Kochie?

I wasn’t going to weigh in on the whole Port Adelaide Guernsey debate, but that little stunt after the game just had to be spoken about. Let me say first that I’m actually one of those people who couldn’t care less what they wear, although I get why the Magpies might be a little miffed about the whole thing from a merchandising point of view and even a contractual one.

Yeah, that’s right, a contract was signed upon Port Adelaide entering the competition to prevent this very thing happening, but I guess we all know how useless contracts are in the AFL.

The fact is that the club are a bunch of stirrers. It was a good bit of marketing and I’m sure their diehard supporters would’ve loved it. For 16 other clubs, it was more about thumbing their nose at the AFL and the agreement they entered into. Another distraction if you will. Whether you think the AFL and Collingwood are justified or not, this is no different than a player spitting the dummy after an umpire has made a decision he didn’t like, except it’s an entire club doing it.

I’m sure the supporters approve, but most of us are sick of this and it’s starting to become an annual talking point. By the way, Port Adelaide beat Adelaide in showdown number 49 in case anyone was paying attention.

 

7. Naitanui won the battle of the dreads

I like watching both Nic Naitanui and Changkuoth Jiath play footy. One is still playing at his near best heading into the twilight of his career while the other is an emerging star who seems to ignite the crowd whenever he goes near the ball.

Nic Naitanui is still the standout tap ruckman in the competition by a mile. He’s just turned 31, and despite having his history with knee problems, I believe he could go on until he’s 35 as it does seem his body has been healthy for the best part of the last two seasons. It’s no wonder the likes of Gaff and Kelly had the ball on a string with the work of the big man giving them endless supply.

The Eagles just had too many winners on the ground for the Hawks. Even with Mitchell getting the ball 41 times, it wasn’t enough to hurt the eventual winners. I’ll back the Eagles to win two or maybe three of their next three games to go into the mid-season break well entrenched in the Top 8. If you’re wondering, Jiath had the ball 25 times in another solid and consistent display, but Nic Nat won the battle.

 

8. The Blues are three quarters as good as the Dogs

Late in the third term, Carlton had a handy 26 point lead until two late goals for the Bulldogs cut the margin back to just 14 points. At that stage, the writing was on the wall for what eventually took place in the last term where the Bulldogs smashed on six unanswered goals making the total of the goal streak eight before the Blues scored a late goal and went down by 16 points.

It was an obliteration lead by the white-hot Marcus Bontompelli and the Blues, like so many of the other struggling teams I’ve already talked about, simply went into their shells and let the Bulldogs dictate proceedings.

It was a great shame as the Blues lead for much of the game and looked very good until the last change. Eddie Betts turned back the clock with five majors and Harry McKay continued his good form with four, but it was all for nothing in the end.

Whilst the Doggies’ season is humming along nicely with their midfield working like a charm, there’s definitely cause for concerns at Carlton. Their dominant player for the last two seasons in Patrick Cripps seems to be a shadow of his former self. He didn’t impose himself on this game at any stage and managed just 15 possessions which is way down on his expectations I’m sure. He’s in a form slump, and as a leader at the club, unfortunately for Carlton, it filters down. In that last quarter when the tide turned, there was nobody flying the flag for the Blues. They do have the makings of a good team, but the lack of leadership in a crisis that turns out to be an 8-goal turnaround in 30 minutes was telling on Sunday. Until they can address this issue, they will not play finals.

 

9. I can’t help but think that Covid gifted Brisbane an easy win

I promise not to get political here, but I just want it known that whilst I’m grateful to be living in Australia during this pandemic, I still believe our Premiers have a fetish for imposing restrictions and closing borders for a minuscule number of cases.

But I digress, and I’m more than aware that some reading this will no doubt want to tell me that I’m a conspiracy theorist or I should move to India – well, except maybe for Dockers fans? Because, let’s face it, as good as Brisbane are going right now, it would’ve been a much tougher assignment if the Lions had to travel to Perth to take on the Dockers in what should’ve been their home game.

In a season as tight as this, it may come down to one game that will mean the difference between making and missing finals. And in the end it was only a four-goal margin. It’s fair to say the Dockers are a four or five goal better side on their home deck in front of their adoring fans.

But enough of the hypotheticals. The Lions won, Charlie Cameron has found form, Daniher has settled in and after a sluggish start they’ve won four in a row and are well and truly in the mix, as expected.

The Dockers were gallant in defeat and there is upside for the club. Whilst I’m trying to remain positive about the fortunes of the Dockers, there is one unanswered question I must ask that is really bothering me: What the bloody hell was Nat Fyfe thinking with his latest haircut? I needed to get that off my chest. I feel better now.

 

10. I believe the Top Eight is now down to 11 sides

It’s hard to see any of the teams with less than four wins being in contention for a finals berth in my opinion. Sure, there are a few just one game out of the eight as it stands right now, but looking at those sides positioned 12th or lower on the ladder, there doesn’t appear to be any sides showing enough to suggest they’ll string enough wins together to climb the ladder.

So it seems to have come down to St Kilda, Fremantle and the Giants who sit just outside the eight on percentage, and even those teams aren’t necessarily giving me enough confidence to believe they’ll be there come September. This could well mean that the teams in the top eight right now might remain there. I’m more than glad to hear opposing views, and all this is mere speculation, but watching the games over the weekend I began to see a divide opening up between the top and bottom sides.

In the Carlton and Bulldogs game, it was a case of the better team going up a level and the lesser team not being able to sustain their effort. The same could be said for the Suns v Saints. West Coast were a class above the Hawks. The Pies and Roos clash was not a game that reached great heights. Perhaps the Bombers are the wildcard, but with just two wins on the board, it might be a bridge too far. Maybe if they reduced the match to three quarters then Carlton could be Top Four! Anyway, time will tell. Good season so far. Let’s see what twists may transpire…