1. Daniher has settled in well, but he won’t make it to Hollywood

Much has been said about the report on Joe Daniher for staging. It definitely wasn’t a good look. However, the umpire took the bait and awarded the free kick. So, with all that in mind, why penalise the player? After all, when on the football field, we do what we can to end up in possession of the football, and I hardly think fining the player $1000 for doing this is any sort of deterrent, especially when you consider it still goes on long after attention was brought to the practice. I would, however, question why the umpire was so easily fooled in this instance when Daniher’s “acting” was hardly equivalent to Russell Crowe’s Gladiator performance.

Daniher, despite this little moment in time which may cause him some embarrassment, has found his feet well and truly at the Brisbane Lions. Not only is he hitting the scoreboard, but he seems to have added some versatility to his game playing up the ground more than his Bomber days. I’m sure the risk in taking in the injury-prone big man is paying off as it certainly won’t hurt their finals aspirations.

The Cats on the other hand continue to tease us before stumbling in a major way as they did on Thursday night. This was one of their more inept efforts for the year and their normally potent forwards were kept quiet. They take on the dangerous Bombers next week, and another effort like this will leave them vulnerable. The Lions head to Adelaide to face the Crows in what will be a tough match, but one they should win.

 

2. We’re allowed to start questioning the Tigers now

Nobody saw this coming.

On Friday night Richmond posted the lowest final score for the year, and at 2.10 (22), it’s going to take some beating. No doubt people will be scrambling for the record books to see when the last time Richmond managed just two goals in a game. And it’s also hard to fathom that these two sides met earlier in the season with the Tigers running out victors by a staggering 86 points. That’s a turnaround of 126 points in just ten weeks!

So, what can you put this down to? The inside-50 count between the two sides was on par, and there wasn’t a huge discrepancy in the possession tally either. But where the Saints were dominant was in the ruck and clearance numbers. The Ryder-Marshall combination proved way too strong for the lesser experienced Chol and debutante Ryan who failed to get a possession. It was also the Saints’ pressure that forced the normally sure-footed Tigers to make several uncharacteristic mistakes. No doubt Brett Ratten will be wondering why this pressure isn’t a more consistent feature with his bi-polar team in 2021. The Saints are still rank outsiders to make the 8 due in part to their poor percentage, but a win against the Magpies next week might open the door a little more.

As for the Tigers, it’s very hard for them to see them challenging for the flag at this stage. They’d almost certainly need to remain undefeated for the next eight games to finish in the Top 4, so you can almost put a line through them when tipping a Premier. We’ve forgiven the Tigers a number of times after losses this year, but this one suggests to me that they’re just a middle of the road team in this current season. They’ve had a good run. I’m making a mental note that I hope these comments don’t come back to haunt me, but I’m reasonably confident they won’t.

 

3. The Dockers can win in Melbourne

With Fyfe a late withdrawal and facing an improving Collingwood outfit, it seemed a tough ask to take the four points, especially when you consider their poor form when playing in Melbourne. Their previous three trips to Melbourne all resulted in defeats and they’d only managed one win outside of Perth against Adelaide back in Round Five. So this win was a welcome one, and it also showed a bit of grit late in the game to fall across the line in a tight contest with the assistance of two late goals to a star on the rise in Brett Bewley.

The goal that put them ahead was something special and will no doubt give him the confidence he needs to go the next step as a player. The Dockers did get out to a handy four-goal lead before the Pies came back and hit the lead in the final term. Most onlookers would’ve thought the momentum was with the Pies before Brayden Maynard was on the wrong end of a poor umpiring decision that was just too much for him to bear resulting in a 50m penalty for dissent that cost a crucial goal and swung things back the Dockers’ way.

The Dockers are now knocking on the door of the 8 with a very winnable game coming up at home against the Blues next week. Their percentage will be a problem for them, but if they keep winning who knows? And once more, the evergreen Mundy was best afield and getting better with age.

 

4. North aren’t tanking

The pride of the North Melbourne Football Club is such that they would want to do all they can to not finish last. And from what they’ve served up in the past month or so, it’s quite clear that at least three or four teams running around in the AFL right now are worthy of being considered worse than the Roos. The nine-point victory against the struggling Suns should’ve been greater due to North’s inability to kick straight in front of goal, but the job got done and I’m sure first-time coach David Noble will be delighted to be tasting success.

The Kangaroos seem to be moving the ball more quickly than earlier in the season giving the forward combination of Larkey and Zuurhar more opportunities, resulting in five goals between the pair. Onballers Simpkin and Cunnington also got plenty of the ball, proving once more just how important the elder of the pair is to this team. I also believe Todd Goldstein’s form might help drag his team off the bottom.

Enough has been said about the Suns. They had their chances in this game and it was one they would’ve been eyeing off as a win a few weeks ago. It’s very hard to understand the slip in form from their more competitive output in the first half of the season. It’s been the same story in recent years with wins in the second half of the season a rarity.

One small concern is the indifferent form of superstar in the making Matt Rowell. We’ve seen his best and it’s incredible. Of course, he has missed a lot of football and needs time to regain his touch, so the concern is not major for now, but his return has been underwhelming so far averaging just 16 possessions in his three games and not really having an impact. The Suns need an explosive player like Rowell to give them a spark. Touk Miller is carrying the team right now and I’m sure he could use the young man’s help.

 

5. Still a bit of life left in Buddy

He almost did it. Lance Franklin’s huge last quarter turned back the clock and came close to dragging the Swans across the line. The pleasing thing for me as an observer and an admirer of Buddy is that he does seem to be moving more freely than he has for a while which tells me that he may well provide some value in his remaining years of his extraordinary contract. With the Sydney Swans also lifting their rating this year, it may still pay dividends.

Buddy now needs just 27 goals to reach 1000 for his career, and for the first time in a while, it looks very certain he’ll achieve that. It may even happen this year!

Port will be very pleased to have a win against a side vying for finals and currently in the 8. Their limited success against teams up high on the ladder has been a talking point, so if this game went the other way I might even go so far as to say that a little heat would’ve been applied to Hinkley. All of a sudden they find themselves back in the Top 4 and may be hard to shift with their favourable draw for the rest of the season. Travis Boak is a month shy of his 33rd birthday but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. His efforts after half time lifted his side to victory, as he often does.

 

6. Melbourne slip quietly into premiership favouritism

A look at the various betting agencies has Melbourne mostly as favourites, albeit equal with Brisbane and Geelong in some instances, and rightly so. In any other year, a team sitting 12-2 having beaten all other flag contenders thus far would be a resounding favourite, but the Demons are still haunted by the mediocrity and lack of success in their recent history for punters to go all-in at this stage. Their last month of the home and away season will give us one last final indication of their credentials as they have three big challenges. So far they’ve been up to it.

The midfield duo in Petracca and Oliver played their role despite Essendon duo, Merrett and Parish dominating the possession count. The Bombers face an uphill battle to reach the eight due mostly to their poor start to the season. But as we’ve seen time and again, the younger players on the list are showing a bright future which suggests it may not happen this year, but look out in the coming years. Harrison Jones continues to impress, as does Cox and Perkins. However, they face Geelong next week who’ll be stinging after their loss and will want to steady the ship with a strong performance. It’s a danger game for the Cats, but I think they’ll get the job done.

 

7. GWS are chokers

Poised to leap into the 8 against a side that was sitting in 17th place on the ladder with just three wins on the board, the Giants started well, only to eventually wilt under the pressure inflicted on them by the improving Hawks. Considering that the Giants had the first four goals on the board, you would think a team with so much on the line would not surrender in such a meek and mild manner. Sadly this has been the story of the Giants since the 2019 Grand Final when they were humbled with an 89 point thrashing. One gets the feeling that the psychological scars remain and that the self-doubt it created means that, not unlike 2020, when a finals berth is within reach they’ll capitulate and lose their normal dash.

Toby Greene did his best to resurrect his side in the third term, but in the end the Hawks finished the stronger and ran out 18-point winners.

Dylan Moore announced himself on the AFL stage with a stunning four-goal effort including two late goals which iced the game. In just his 23rd game it seems the next generation of small forward craft might’ve been on display at the Hawks as the brilliant Luke Breust heads into the twilight of his stellar career. Tim O’Brien also looked more like the AFL player we have seen only glimpses of, holding onto marks that may have escaped his grasp in previous outings. So finally, there are some positives for what has been a tough season, and perhaps Clarko may now feel he has something to work with moving forward.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Giants now as they face not only the uncertainty created by the Sydney Covid situation, but they also take on ladder leaders Melbourne in Round 16. This loss may be the one they’ll look back on with the most regret if they end up falling short for the second year running.

 

8. The Dogs midfield made their Eagles counterparts look second rate

Make no mistake ladies and gentleman, the Eagles midfield had most of their best out there although you could be forgiven for thinking they went in undermanned. That said, there certainly have been injury concerns that have plagued the West Coast onballers making it difficult for them to be at their best. The dominance of the Bulldogs playmakers was such that they booted six goals between them and averaged around 30 possessions whilst none of the quartet of Gaff, Shuey, Kelly and Sheed managed more than 20 disposals and only Gaff booted one major. All this with Nic Naitanui in fine form getting first hands on the ball only to be watching it finishing with the Bulldogs’ stars more often than not.

The Eagles are now no certainty to play finals. Four more wins will probably be sufficient, but their form suggests this will be no easy task. The Dogs made an emphatic statement today. They’re eyeing off a Top 4 spot and seem to be doing all the right things to get them there.

Marcus Bontempelli will probably earn another three votes following 29 disposals and three goals in a strong four-quarter showing. His name will feature prominently in the Brownlow count come September. Looking at the next four rounds, the Western Bulldogs could have a Top 4 slot sewn up before the end of July before they face a showdown against the Dees where they’ll be seeking redemption for their poor showing the last time they played. All in all, they’re very well placed, and it’s interesting to see the mirroring of the young Hawthorn team who unexpectedly took out the 2008 grand final only to have a few indifferent seasons before winning three in a row beginning five years later. It was 2016 when the Dogs won the flag from seventh position on the ladder. Here we are five years later and it looks like they’re coming again.

 

9. Twenty minutes of scintillating footy was enough to get the Blues home

It has been very rare to see the Carlton team of 2021 play a game where the effort was spread evenly and strongly across the four quarters. The strong win against Fremantle back in Round Three and perhaps the win over Essendon in Round Seven come to mind, but outside of that, we’ve seen them go into their shells for lengthy periods of many games. This game was almost the opposite of their regular efforts whereby they really only managed one good quarter of football and three indifferent quarters in which they were outscored in each of them. But, that one quarter was easily the best football they have played this year.

From the nine-minute mark to the thirty-minute mark they piled on eight goals to one after failing to score at all in the first 25 minutes of the game. This set up a halftime lead of 28 points which was whittled down to 10 points by a fighting Crows outfit at the final siren, but clearly, the damage was done.

Interestingly, for the other 100 plus minutes of game time, the Blues could only manage four goals including a goalless final term. David Teague would’ve been excited by what he saw in that second term, but possibly equally frustrated that it was only short-lived and never threatened to return later in the game with the match hanging by a thread. I’m sure he’ll be breathing a little easier after banking the four points, but the club’s review begins in full force tomorrow, and this was hardly the watershed moment that will save his career.

The Blues and the Crows are both pretty much done for the year as far as finals aspirations go. The Crows will be scratching their heads wondering how they were the better side for three quarters and still went down. Were it not for the heroics of Liam Jones and Jacob Weitering taking intercept marks at will, the result would’ve definitely been different. The Blues defence still looked brittle at times, but they kept Adelaide down to 73 points which is a win for them compared to their recent record. One still gets the feeling the Crows are in a better place than the Carlton Football Club is at this point in time.

 

10. More shenanigans to come due to COVID

Here we go again, guys! We’ve seen the shemozzle created by the Sydney outbreak, and perhaps the number of cases warrants real attention as far as moving games away from the Harbour city. But now we have another snap lockdown in Perth as well as Queensland being on the brink.

The Perth decision is a little mystifying as it is being done for one case. As we saw on Sunday, the Eagles v Bulldogs game was played without a crowd. For just one case! And now the Fremantle v Carlton game is under threat as well. All for one case! Am I wrong to question this call? It does seem a theme of the WA government to shut down at the smallest numbers of cases.

The Queensland scenario is a little more concerning with three new local cases and 40 active cases in total, although most of those are internationally acquired and are in hotel quarantine. It appears the Palaschuk government like to jump at shadows as well. Now before you think I’m just making some sort of political rant, hear me out. There’s talk of a new “hub” being created in Melbourne. Yes, that’s right. In Melbourne!!

Whilst Melbourne had no new locally acquired cases today, they’ve had their fair share of Delta cases as recently as a week ago still floating around, and at present, there are 44 active cases in the state. Yes, they’re heading in the right direction, but there’s cause to suggest the situation in Melbourne is no better than South East Queensland, and certainly markedly worse than Perth, and yet they’ve decided that Melbourne could be the destination for a player hub?

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make much sense to me. Feel free to comment below if you like. I know it centres around border closures and the like, but they seem just as nonsensical at the best of times. Whatever the case, this season is possibly on a knife’s edge once more.