Round Two is upon us and some are basking in the glow of Round One stardom. Others are feeling the heat after underperforming.
Let’s launch into those on fire, and those under fire headed into the next round.
On Fire – Josh Rachele
Here’s a fact that I found fascinating. After Ben Ronke kicked a bag of seven goals for Sydney in just his third AFL game back in 2018, I researched goal kicking records, especially for players on debut. I mean, it’s pretty common knowledge that John Coleman holds the record at 12 goals on debut, it’s one of those records that’s likely to never be surpassed. But I wanted to know how many players have kicked a decent haul in their first outing ever since. At that exact moment in time, no player since Scott Cummins kicked eight goals in a masterclass first game at Essendon in 1994 had kicked more than four goals on debut. As a matter of fact, between 1994-2020 no player kicked more than four goals in their first outing at senior level. However, since then we have seen Riley Thilthorpe kick five in his debut game last year, and now in Round One we’ve had Nic Martin for the Bombers kick five in his first game and 24 hours later Josh Rachele achieve the same feat. Fascinating stuff!
Under Fire – Chayce Jones
Set to play his 50th game this season, I was a little disappointed by the disposal of Chayce Jones. His final figures read slightly over 50% efficiency, but I actually expected it to be lower. Numerous times he did the hard yards, but wasted his disposal which hurt the Crows, especially in the third quarter when the Crows got on that blinding run kicking eight of nine goals in a row, they could’ve been further in front had they not being let down by sloppy ball use. He was far from the only one, but he was the worst for it on the day.
On Fire – Lachie Neale
After a relatively quiet first half by his lofty standards, the 2020 Brownlow Medallist hit the ground running after halftime and was part of the catalyst that swung the game back in the Lions’ favour. Finished the game amongst the best on ground for Brisbane.
Zac Bailey only narrowly missed out on this spot, his errant disposal let him down. I thought he was one of few that didn’t go back in his shell when the Lions were under siege.
Under Fire – Mitch Robinson
Another year under way and another report for the experienced Lion. Robbo has been suspended for a week after he caught Xavier Duursma with a bump as the Power wingman was attempting to gather the ball. Appearing to brace for contact, Robinson collided with Duursma’s shoulder/neck area, causing him to be taken from the field after the collision in pain and nursing his collar bone. Duursma was subsequently substituted out of the game. His suspension was just upheld – Mitch will be missing a week for what he termed “bracing for contact”.
On Fire – Patrick Cripps
I thought I’d have to go for more than the first round before we saw back-to-back nominations, especially in both categories and for the same team. I was very close to nominating Matt Kennedy who was only the faintest bit under Cripps in my ratings. What a season the Blues could string together if their midfield continues to perform the way it did against Richmond.
Under Fire – Zac Williams
I despise putting players in this category two weeks in a row, especially when they cop enough flak elsewhere. All of a sudden you’re accused of holding a grudge against a player because you point out their underperformance. However I mentioned last week that Williams would find himself under fire if he returned to his natural position on the field, but still failed to have much of an impact. Outside of a couple of contests that I saw him win, it really wasn’t a great night for the evasive defender.
On Fire – Patrick Lipinski
On the fringe at the Bulldogs throughout his 56 game career there, Pat Lipinski grabbed his opportunity at his newest club with both hands and never looked back. I love a good redemption story and I’ll be following his progression at the Magpies this season.
Shoutout to Jordan De Goey, I had him under fire last week after his offseason indiscretions, needing to put his head down and play some good footy to repay his club and teammates – his effort against the Saints was a great step in that direction.
Under Fire – Mason Cox
One touch in the first half and four after three quarters just wasn’t enough. There were moments where the Magpies bombed the ball long into the forward line and along the wing where a 211cm forward should’ve been able to gobble it up, instead being beaten by smaller opponents who found ways to recover the ball with relative ease. I would’ve loved more insight as the game wore on, with the world too interested in his prescription sunglasses that was never a chance.
On Fire – Nic Martin
What a first game by the Western Australian. Having not long turned 22, Nic Martin had one of the best debuts at AFL level that you’ll see. In only the second time since 1994 that a player has kicked five or more goals on debut, Martin gave the Bombers fans a lone highlight on a day almost completely void of positivity for the club. The talk of the town at Essendon during the offseason was the new kid with the royal surname (Wanganeen), but in Martin, the Bombers may just be the latest club to unearth a gem that’s slipped through the drafting cracks.
Under Fire – 90% of the weekend’s starting 22
Honestly, even the staunchest Bombers supporter will have a hard time arguing with me here. How am I supposed to choose just one player when I could count on one hand the amount of players that dished up an effort not worthy of senior football, against the Cats. It’s only Round 1 so I’m not sinking the slipper in yet, but with Brisbane and Melbourne to come over the next fortnight, the Bombers can NOT afford to put in an effort even marginally as bad as they did against the Cats when facing the two teams voted most likely to make the Grand Final.
On Fire – Andrew Brayshaw
Fremantle’s resident clearance king. Andy Brayshaw is set for a hell of a season if his form from late last year and his start to this season are anything to go off. He was a pleasure to watch in a game that was so heavily played in the midfield. Partnering with the oldest player in the game (David Mundy), Brayshaw and also Caleb Serong proved to be the difference against the Crows, proving to be too much for Ben Keays, Rory Sloane and Matt Crouch.
Under Fire – Fremantle’s goal kicking accuracy
How many times last season did Fremantle quite literally kick themselves out of a game? It became a regular part of their season and ultimately cost them dearly. Missing some height in Taberner and Darcy, and some skill in Fyfe was less than ideal in their preparation, but they desperately need to address their scoring woes.
On Fire – Tom Hawkins
The Tomahawk loves a day out against the Bombers, early on it looked as though he and Jeremy Cameron were going to have a shootout together in the same forward line. At age 34, the career of one of this generation’s best and most decorated forwards begins to approach its end, but you wouldn’t think so when watching Hawkins play. Special mention to Patrick Dangerfield who almost single-handedly put Geelong in their winning position during the first half with his unabated drive and burst from the centre square.
Under Fire – Esava Ratugolea
On a day where Geelong’s talls had a field day against a lacklustre Essendon side, Ratugolea looked lost at times and really struggled to impose himself on the game. A number of times he had prime area to move and space between his opponent, but his hands let him down as a number of easy marks were spilt. With Jeremy Cameron leaving the field late in the first quarter, a vacancy was made in the forward line for a tall to slip in next to Tom Hawkins. Unfortunately, big Sav wasn’t the man to fill the void. Is this a negating forward role to take a defender away from Hawkins that I missed? If that’s the case then it was an extremely unselfish act as he completely sacrificed his own game to do so.
On Fire – Matt Rowell
I went four-wheel driving up in the Victorian High Country a few weekends ago and by chance stumbled upon a well-hidden and unmolested hut that would’ve been built some generations before mine, and miraculously survived the many bushfires that have ripped through the area over the years. I wandered around the far side of the antique dwelling, through the fern and scrubby overgrowth and what should lay before my very eyes? A rock-solid, brick shit-house that was built like a Matt Rowell. Yes, I am fully aware of how terrible that segue was, but does your mind begin to wonder at what this kid could’ve been by now had he not have had two seasons destroyed by injury? Can you imagine someone with his talent and sheer determination with an extra 30 games under his belt. Look out competition.
Under Fire – David Swallow
The former captain had a quiet one. I saw him easily beaten to the ball on a number of occasions which was out of character for him. Playing out on the wing and thrown behind play a number of times, Swallow struggled to get into the game. Maybe he was overshadowed by a few of his standout teammates? The Suns midfield worked well and at times showed hints of cohesion that would’ve impressed coach Stuart Dew.
On Fire – Tom Green
Almost every team has a player that their supporters think could win a Brownlow if only he boasted that panache, or dynamism that many argue is a lure for attracting votes. I’d throw Tom Green’s name into the ring for that consideration. A young man that plays beyond his age and looks to possess a football wisdom that many players could only dream of. He’s that player at the coalface that doesn’t often win the plaudits of his higher profile teammates, but he’s a player that I, along with multiple others here at the Mongrel Punt rate highly.
Special shoutout to Phil Davis for once again doing a stellar effort to curb the influence of Buddy Franklin in a game that was so heavily centred around the superstar forward.
Under Fire – Jarrod Brander
I watched as medium-sized forwards, midfielders and part-time forwards had a field day in front of goal and thought, surely one of these taller blokes named in the forward line will stand up and have his crack shortly. Harry Himmelberg finished with three, but outside of him, the bulk of the damage was done by the aforementioned players. I felt really let down watching Jarrod Brander, I just got the inkling that there was no urgency. Wasted shots on goal aside, I saw numerous instances during the game where he looked disinterested and not wanting to put any effort in to chase or get first use of the ball as it came to him.
On Fire – Changkuoth Jiath
CJ played like a man possessed, and I loved to see it. You know who else would have loved seeing it? His new coach, Sam Mitchell. He had one of those games that further prove my point about reading stats sheets – stats are great, but they don’t reflect the true nature of a player’s impact on the game.
Under Fire – Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel
Two for the price of one today. I have put forward questions about James Worpel a couple of times since late last year, and in his defence, his disposal (which was my biggest cause of concern) was a lot less erratic against the Kangaroos, but he was just nowhere near it. For that matter, neither was Jaeger O’Meara. I can’t remember off the top of my head, a game for the Hawks where both O’Meara and Worpel played so poorly. Is Jaeger carrying an injury that I missed from the preseason? Or was that a case of shaking off the rust. Because I personally don’t recall him playing a game to such a low standard for a long time.
On Fire – Christian Petracca
Can I just give a quick shoutout to the effort of Ed Langdon, whose run and pressure was pivotal to numerous goals that swayed the game back in the favour of the Demons. I really, really wanted to write this piece about him alone, but how do you look past the game of Petracca. Boasting a stats sheet that closely mirrored his herculean accumulation in the Grand Final last year, Petracca took the Dogs midfield to task and got the better of their defenders at times too. Many are calling him the best player currently in the game, whether you agree or not, you’ll have a hard time arguing that he’s not fastly approaching that tag.
Under Fire – The Melbourne Backline
Before you get bent out of shape Dees fans, even after a good win like Friday nights, someone/something has to come under fire, otherwise this article is moot. Now the backline isn’t under fire because it performed poorly, quite the opposite. Having already named a backline without the likes of Michael Hibberd, Jake Lever, Trent Rivers and Harrison Petty due to injury, Melbourne’s backup backline did an excellent job against the Bulldogs when required. Now missing Christian Salem with a knee injury is another blow that’s far from ideal this early in the season. Whilst not under fire right now, I can see the increasing list of injuries becoming cause for concern if they’re unable to get some of their stronger backline players into this team. The Demons had such a great run with injuries last season, I’d hate to see that turned on its head this season.
On Fire – Luke Davies-Uniacke
My love affair with midfielders who aren’t afraid to tackle has been no state secret over the years. I watched with intent as LDU almost hit double figures in that department and was amongst my picks for the best players in North Melbourne colours on the weekend.
Under Fire – Tarryn Thomas
Any North Melbourne supporter I spoke to in the preseason eagerly informed me that this bloke was set to explode this season. I realise that it’s only Round 1, but what I saw against the Hawks was far from impressive. The Hawthorn midfield itself wasn’t fully firing and through some questionable decisions made by Kangaroos midfielders, they were able to get on top and eventually convert that to a lead that won them the game.
On Fire – Travis Boak
I spoke earlier in regards to Tom Hawkins of some players in the competition playing well below their years, and if Travis Boak isn’t a player to fit that bill then I’ll chew my boot. I’ve made comment in the past about Port’s reliance on he and Robbie Gray, but that was before the emergence of some of their younger talent that has come along in leaps and bounds over the past two to three seasons. Will be keeping an eye on Travis Boak in the second half of the season to see if this form can carry deep into the year.
Shoutout to Dan Houston for a cracking game, especially when the chips were down and Port needed a spark. The unlikeliest of heroes, but he played his role to perfection.
Under Fire – Todd Marshall
Now I don’t want anyone to think that I’ll regularly throw players in just for having a quiet game. Even the best have a quiet one from time to time and it’s no cause for alarm bells. There were a few contests in this game, however, where I thought Todd Marshall could’ve done a little better. With only two disposals to halftime and only a further two for the remainder of the game, it was definitely a game on the leaner side for the 23-year-old. I would’ve liked to have seen some better leading and a bit of accountability.
On Fire – Shai Bolton
I believe it was our very own fearless leader, HB, that amongst us Mongrels, so accurately predicted Shai Bolton’s meteoric rise well in advance. Some in the media marvelled at his apparent reaching his full potential last season as he dazzled us with his goal sense, speed and high flying marks. I for one, firmly believe that Bolton’s best is yet to come, and I sit here in anticipation of just far he can go. One thing is for certain, and that is that Richmond are a much, much better side with Bolton in their forward half.
Under Fire – Trent Cotchin
In a round where I’ve lauded elder statesmen such as Travis Boak and Tom Hawkins, it sure appeared at times against the Blues that the sands of time may be running low for Trent Cotchin. I did also notice that he spent a little bit of time off the ground, but when playing in the middle he looked to be really struggling. Once Dion Prestia was subbed out of the game injured, things just got even harder as Cotchin and the other Richmond midfielders could not get first usage of the ball and the clearances for the game clearly reflect this. I saw one centre contest where Cotchin and Liam Baker both failed to get to the ball in time and appeared to almost stop and look at each other. It’s only week one, but some big questions need to be answered within the Tigers midfield.
On Fire – Jack Hayes
It was a week for magnificent debuts as Jack ‘Tropic Thunder’ Hayes waved the flag as the newest player to be branded a certified cult figure by those commentating. Quite often, the best time to judge a player’s mettle is when his team are down and out, requiring a spark to lift them. That was exactly the case against the Magpies as Hayes found himself on the end of three goals at crucial times and appeared set to rip the game apart. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get the Saints over the line, but the mature-aged recruit certainly gave the fans a taste of what he’s capable of.
Under Fire – Dean Kent
Yet another player who, on paper may read like I’m criticising for having a quiet game, but I can assure you there are much more astute reasons for Dean Kent’s name falling in this section. He spent a fair chunk of time on the bench in the second half, but my mind was as good as made up in the second quarter. There was a period shortly after kicking his only goal in the first quarter where he just would not approach a contest or looked to have no interest in winning a hard ball, and this cost the Saints on more than one occasion. Sadly it would seem that he’s just minding a spot in the side for one of St. Kilda’s injured or missing players.
On Fire – Luke Parker
Unfortunately, Luke Parker doesn’t turn 30 until much later in the year, which robs me of a great opportunity to throw him under the same banner as the numerous other veteran players over 30 that have earnt my praises on the weekend. Nonetheless, five goals, including a third-quarter blitz that got Sydney back in front on the scoreboard, Parker hit another level and boy were the Swans better for it. In a lot of ways, the Swans boast an unconventional forward line, but once they get out ahead, some coaches are going to pull their hair out trying to stop them from scoring.
Under Fire – Josh Kennedy
I’ll preface this by saying: I do not like Josh Kennedy being deployed in a heavily defensive role. I understand that his shift is the collateral damage of a budding young midfield group, but I still don’t like it and I would hate to see one of the best Swans players that I’ve seen in my time wind up his career chewing chaff in the long yard, rather than saddled up and working the cattle like he deserves.
On Fire – Jack Redden
Jack Redden has often been one of those players that is either lauded or forsaken for his effort on game day. Well, I can happily report that against the Suns, he definitely comes under the former category. Although his impact did taper a little in the second half, when the Eagles were up and flying it was on the backs of Andrew Gaff, and Jack Redden especially. At my last count, West Coast were without five of their starting midfielders in this game, the final score definitely flattered the Suns as a flurry of very late goals poorly reflects the true effort and intent of the Eagles.
Under Fire – Jeremy McGovern
Whoah there, just settle down a bit West Coast fans. Hear me out before you light the pitchforks. I have zero intention of taking a team to task that struggled to field 25 fit players from their senior list. For the record, I also had McGovern amongst my best in the first half and part of the third quarter, BUT.. when the game was on the line in the dying stages of the third and fourth quarters, a number of unforced errors and a very poorly executed spoil cost the Eagles greatly as the Suns went on to kick 8/10 goals in the final quarter.
On Fire – Aaron Naughton
Didn’t Naughton look good on Wednesday night? Am I the only one waiting for this bloke to explode and become a weekly high marking, goal kicking machine? Seeing him fly in packs just reminds me of some of the great forwards of old that we all dote on. 32 goals in 2019, 47 in 2021. I’m calling it a 50+ season for Naughton if he can play out the season.
(Special shoutout to Tim English. Far from a redemption story, but I love it when you question a player and they stand up to show exactly what you called for. Last week I praised English’s effort in the offseason and called on him to build on his season from last year and grab the mantle as the Bulldogs’ dominant big man in the ruck and prove a threat up forward. I saw more of this against the Demons and for the Bulldogs sake this season, I hope it’s a sign of more great things to come.)
Under Fire – Luke Beveridge
Whether you side with the Morris camp or the Beveridge camp, it’s hard to choose anyone else that’s more under fire this week. The Bulldogs coach took umbrage with the way journalist Tom Morris conducts his business and launched a tirade on live TV during the post-match press conference. The Jerry Springer-like segment proved to overshadow the match with the majority of media outlets soon to forget questions like; why was Christian Petracca able to run rampant once again? In favour of publishing their opinions on the exchange.