1. Richmond will not finish Top 4
The Tigers now sit 5-5. It seems that Richmond’s dream run of low injuries to key players has finally come to an end at a huge cost. For the next twelve games, the Tigers will most likely only be able to afford to lose two or three more games, maximum, in order to be in contention for a double-chance.
You can never write them off, and if they do get their players back there’s every chance they may win 9 or 10 of their next 12 games, but it is a huge ask and it will make their quest for a 4th flag in 5 years very difficult if they have to do it from outside the Top 4.
Brisbane are on fire and playing with the aggression that the Tigers are normally dishing out. They were relentless on Friday night demonstrated by the three times Dusty was caught holding the ball. It seems they’ve shaken off the cobwebs from their slow start to the year and now appear to be back on track for another genuine tilt. Their next two games against the Giants and Demons will tell us more. And if anyone was clever enough to put a sly bet on Hugh McCluggage for the Brownlow, they might be happy with what they’ve seen so far.
2. Harry McKay did a Buddy for the sealer
With about seven minutes left on the clock, and the Blues leading by just 14 points, big Harry took a mark just outside 50 and decided right away he was going for goal. He went back with steely resolve and despite looking like getting a little too close to the man on the mark, he converted the shot to ice the game with a sweetly hit drop punt.
It’s fair to say that McKay has had his fair share of trouble with accuracy from set shots this year. Most of the time, since the early rounds, he’s opted for the kick around the body with some success, although it’s still hard to understand how a drop punt isn’t the more reliable choice. Perhaps it’s a confidence thing, and after that kick on Saturday, maybe the Blues star forward may use the drop punt more often moving forward.
Despite the Blues winning the game, it’s clear they’re still not really a legitimate finals chance. The standard of the game didn’t reach any great heights, particularly during a phase in the last quarter when it seemed as though both sides thought the jumpers had reversed. Carlton are still vulnerable down back and wasteful with disposals, and they were only able to overcome the Hawks due to their inexperience.
Sam Walsh starred once again and may be another one on Brownlow watch. The Blues face Sydney away and the Eagles at home over the next two weeks. It’s important for them to take a scalp at some point, but whilst they haven’t been blown away in those games, they’ve rarely looked like taking the points either. The club should never talk up the finals prospects of this team.
3. Joel Selwood is not done with yet
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Geelong skipper might’ve been past his best early on this season. In the last few weeks that seems to have changed and he seems to be back to somewhere near his best and playing the good consistent footy we’ve seen for his career. And with his 33rd birthday just a few days away, I’d say he looks certain to go in 2022 after racking up a lazy 39 disposals in the clash against the Suns in a best afield performance.
The Cats take on the struggling Magpies in Round 11 before their mid-year break and should be nicely poised with an 8-3 record after a somewhat indifferent start to the season.
It’s hard to know what to say about the Suns. Even though they only lost by 34 points, the statistics show a more devastating picture. The Cats beat them convincingly in every department, including the possession count by a whopping 161 disposals. The Cats had no players with less than ten possessions while the Suns had eight. That’s just too many players who aren’t getting their hands on the ball to have an impact. That said, they take on the Hawks next week and have their best chance at a fourth win. A loss to Hawthorn will condemn the Suns to a certain bottom four finish, which I’m sure will do nothing for their long term prospects.
4. The Crows have now beaten two Top 4 teams
It’s been an odd year for the Adelaide Football Club. The football world was shocked after the Round One win against last year’s runners-up, and when the Crows were 3-1 after Round Four, all of a sudden last year’s wooden spooners looked as though they had turned it around overnight and dared to threaten a finals spot.
It all came crashing down with five consecutive losses, but there’s no better way to end that run with a win against an undefeated ladder-leader in Melbourne. Even when Melbourne had a 16-point lead with seven minutes remaining and it looked like the Dees finally had shaken them off, they found a way.
And it was fitting that Tex Walker kicked the match-winner in what was a stunning upset. Notably, it’s also an extremely rare event to see this year’s Melbourne defence concede 15 goals.
Clayton Oliver was the dominant midfielder in the match with 38 disposals and 3 goals. He’s in career-best form and may take away votes from his teammate in Petracca for Brownlow honours. Despite his heroics the Dees fell short in a game they would have expected to win and now face two huge tests leading into the bye with games against the Bulldogs and the Lions. It’s not unreasonable to see them ending up losing three in a row. If that was to happen, expect to see headlines talking of bubbles bursting and snow trips being booked.
To be fair, if they lose their next two it will no doubt bring their credibility as a premiership contender into some doubt.
5. St Kilda’s average losing margin is now 61pts
There is something drastically wrong with St Kilda. They’ve come off a season where they won a final and many expected them to be a finals contender, but their losses for the most part have been disastrous. The gap between their best and worst is greater than any other side in the competition, and I’m certain the coaching staff are literally scratching their heads wondering why this is now happening on a regular basis.
Even a dominant ruck department was unable to stem the bleeding. It was an annihilation in which they looked slow and out of their depth for the match while the Dogs were able to score with ease. There wouldn’t be too many players whose position in the team is guaranteed, and we can no longer put this kind of thing down to a one-off “bad night”.
The Bulldogs are flying at the moment, and once again Bontempelli has laid claim to a potential three more Brownlow votes, although Jackson Macrae might have a say in that with his 41 touches. The game this Friday against Melbourne shapes up to be a beauty. It will be interesting to see how the Demons bounce back from their first loss of the season. I’m expecting the Bulldogs to continue their rampage and prove a little too strong. It appears the good form of Naughton and Bruce might do enough to challenge Lever and May, and when the likes of Bontempelli are hitting the scoreboard as well, it may prove too much in the end.
6. The Dockers are so much better at home
This year more than others has really shown a stark difference in terms of how much tougher it is for the Perth teams to win on the road. The Eagles and the Dockers have managed just one win each outside of WA. Yet at home, they are almost unbeatable.
The Swans threw everything they had at the Dockers including a six-goal haul from Lance Franklin, but it wasn’t enough. Mundy and Fyfe led the way once again with Fyfe kicking the winning goal in the dying stages. However, if the Dockers want to contend for a finals berth, they will need to take this form on the road with them, particularly against Port Adelaide next week.
Sydney will be disappointed, but it was great to see Lance Franklin at full flight. He’s only played twice at Optus Oval and now has 14 goals from his two games at the Perth venue. Sydney take on the Blues at the SCG next Sunday in what is a must-win game. They may win it off Buddy’s boot if the last time he played on Liam Jones is any indication, although I reckon Jacob Weitering will be given the job this time.
7. Eagles fail again on the road
As I’ve already mentioned, the travel bug has hit the Western Australian teams hard. Once again the Eagles missed out on the road, this time against an undermanned Giants outfit that went into the game without Toby Greene and Jesse Hogan.
It seemed most pundits thought that GWS would struggle to kick a winning score, but multiple goals to Finlayson, Sproule, Flynn, Hill and Green ensured a hard-fought victory. The depth of the Giants’ list is no longer in dispute as they find themselves in the Top Eight after a poor start to the season, even with a long injury list. They face a huge challenge against the Lions at the Gabba next week, although finals are a real possibility now.
The Eagles take on the Bombers next week at home and should likely bounce back, but their losses on the road should be a real concern to them. Even Shannon Hurn breaking the club games record couldn’t fire them up enough to get over the line in a tight contest. West Coast have only managed to beat the struggling Hawks while playing out of their home state and have won all their home games. This alone tells me that they will unlikely go deep into September unless this is rectified.
8. Port Adelaide have the softest draw in the competition
A quick analysis of Port’s season to date will show you that they have not fared well against Top Eight teams so far (lost all three) and their seven victories have all come against sides currently outside the eight. The only significant win would be against Richmond who will most likely be there in September, but the remaining wins are all against lower-placed teams, and Sunday’s win was extremely lucky in the end.
With ten games down, it may surprise you to know that of their remaining 12 games, only five of them are against teams currently in the eight, three of which will be home games. They have three home games against teams outside the eight and three away games against low-placed teams as well. They already have seven wins on the board and look set to win at least half of their remaining games which will ensure them a place in the Top eight. But the question is, how is it that a team who finishes 1st after the home and away rounds only plays three of last year’s finalists twice the following year, none of which were Top 4??
The Magpies were stiff but they can’t escape their inability to kick a winning score. Even restricting the Power to just eight goals wasn’t enough to score a win. Buckley will be cursing his luck today after a second one-point loss for the season. There’s plenty of unrest at the club already, and being 2-8 and sitting in 16th spot with finals off the table isn’t helping, but unless they can score a quality key forward soon, this problem will remain.
9. The Kangaroos came back to Earth
There must have been huge relief after the Roos scored their first win in Round Nine against the Hawks. Training during the week would’ve had a better feel and the playing group would’ve had a spring in their step. The prospect of back-to-back wins might have even been going through their minds as they were coming up against a young, albeit talented Essendon outfit. But by the end of the first quarter, and trailing by 27 points, it all seemed business as usual as the bottom-placed North Melbourne were eventually blown away by 72 points in what was reminiscent of their early season form. It’s still going to be a long season for the Roos.
The Bombers were impressive and were never troubled. The younger guys on their list continue to grow and the future does look bright. They’re only a game out of the eight, and if they can find some of this good form when playing the better sides, who knows? The acquisition of Peter Wright is looking like paying dividends as his last couple of weeks have seen a good contribution from the tall forward. It’s also very promising to note that the Bombers had a spread of 13 goalkickers as well. Next week they travel to Perth to take on the Eagles. They need to win those games in order to push up the ladder, but West Coast don’t lose at home.
10. The AFL preaching COVID rules at games is laughable
I took my young fella to the MCG on Saturday to watch the Carlton v Hawthorn game. There was a crowd of 45,741 in attendance. During the half-time break there was a short video showing current AFL players spruiking COVID-safe slogans such as social distancing, handwashing and the like. No problem so far right? Except for the fact, that the MCG has a capacity of 100,000, and where I was sitting there was definitely no social distancing possible due to the manner in which all the general admission tickets were crammed into a small section of Level 4 of the Olympic stand.
So, I put to you, that if the AFL were serious about keeping us all safe, they wouldn’t be putting us all in such close proximity when so much space was available. Look, before you say it, yes I know the MCC section was vacant and not available for use. But the Ponsford stand was all but empty, as were various sections all over the ground that were available to the public.
So we are allowed 85% capacity at grounds. That, in itself, makes the concept of social distancing incredibly difficult. I’ve heard all manner of arguments suggesting why the AFL would’ve done it the way they did for this particular game. Staffing, cleaning, and even somebody suggested it helps with contact tracing if we’re all kept in a smaller area. But you can’t tell me that the messaging of social distancing is consistent with any of that.