Ten Things I Learnt After Round Four

Gab Rossi provides a light-hearted look at the round just past. Heads up – Gab is a comedian by trade – it is his job to poke fun at things and be a little provocative. Once in a while, he might have an opinion that upsets you. You’ve been warned – if you’re offended, own it, but don’t blame us – we warned you and you went right on reading, anyway.

 


 

 

1. It won’t be long before the Power get accused of tanking

On the weekend somebody posed the question to me to see if I thought it possible this horror start to the season is some sort of plan on the part of the club and Ken Hinkley to enable Port Adelaide to secure a high draft pick. I naturally responded with words to the effect of suggesting the person who asked the question was as dumb as a fencepost and that Ken Hinkley’s tenure is hanging in the balance – the last thing he would need is for the team to bottom out in 2022 in what would certainly result in him being moved on.

Unless, of course, Ken Hinkley is in fact planning all this as part of the Global Reset/New World Order being bandied around by all the conspiracy theorists in society. I know. I’m just being silly. A better explanation is that Port Adelaide are just not playing well. That’s it!

Meanwhile, how good does Melbourne look already? They’ve barely got out of second gear to win their four opening games of the season and be the only undefeated team in the competition so far. A six-goal burst in the second quarter put the result beyond doubt against a side that failed to kick a goal in the first half for the first time since the club entered the competition in 1997. Max Gawn put on a dominant display once again while Port Power overused the ball with an array of short kicks that barely hit the mark.

And for those who are wondering if Ken Hinkley is likely to see out this year, the club has said recently that he has their support… and we all know what usually happens after they say that. Next week, Port head to Melbourne to take on the Blues. They simply have to win this game. It will be a tipster’s nightmare now the Blues have slipped back to the pack a little with a few key injuries to deal with.

 

2. Tom Hawkins leads the Coleman medal at the age of 33

Some suggested coming into this season that Tom Hawkins would not go on beyond season 2022, and while none of us know what Tom himself is planning in his future, at this early stage of the season there are no signs of a loss of form and the 33-year-old has more than justified his place in the team with a five-goal haul against the highly-rated Brisbane Lions which went a long way towards securing win number three for the Cats. In fact, I imagine there are contract talks underway to secure Tom into next season.

The game was decided by a slender 10-point margin but Geelong’s wastefulness in front of the goal kept Brisbane in the game despite the Cats dominating in many other statistical aspects of the game. Geelong now sit 3-1 after Round Four and despite the list being one of the oldest ones in the AFL, it seems likely that Chris Scott will get them into another finals series. Meanwhile, another 33 year old for the Cats in Isaac Smith was voted best on ground by many, so the aging list seems to be working out fine. He’s not slowing down either and maybe hoping for a fourth premiership medallion.

For the Lions, whilst they were competitive, the 10-poimt margin flattered them to be honest. The Cats had 18 more inside 50’s and dominated the hitouts in what was a good night for the Stanley/Blicavs combination. Brisbane went into the game without their number one ruckman in Oscar McInerney and the role was filled by former Geelong listed player in Darcy Fort after managing just eight games in his three seasons with Geelong. McInerney’s absence proved costly as Fort tried hard but struggled against his more seasoned opponents. The concern for me for the Brisbane Lions is whether they can take a big scalp when playing away. Last year they failed on each occasion when playing a side away from home that went on to play finals. Going down to Geelong is hard at the best of times, however, Brisbane need to find another level when travelling in order to be a true contender. Will this be the year they do that?

 

3. Jack Ziebell belongs in the forward line

North Melbourne captain Jack Ziebell has spent most of his time playing down back in the last couple of seasons where he always fought valiantly against a rising tide of opposition forward entries against the struggling Kangaroos. During his 14 year career, he has also had stints in the midfield, however, it was as a forward he often had the biggest impact. It’s no coincidence that the struggling Kangaroos coming off a 108 point shellacking courtesy of the Lions almost pulled off the unthinkable by almost defeating the Swans on their home deck. Sadly they fell agonisingly short but it was Jack’s five-goal haul that had a lot to do with their vastly improved effort. It proved to be a great coaching move and one I daresay David Noble will persist with.

Sydney will be breathing a huge sigh of relief. They were certainly surprised by North’s tenacity and the Roos should be commended on their response to their horrible performance at the Gabba just seven days prior. Justin McInerney played one of his best games for the Swans collecting 33 touches and a goal. Sydney venture across to Perth to take on the Eagles who will no doubt be riding high after their surprise victory against Collingwood in Melbourne. Coming into Round Four, this game seemed a foregone conclusion. I’m sure Longmire’s crew will be putting in the work from now to prepare Sydney for what now looms as a danger game. It will be interesting to see who comes back fpr the Eagles this week.

 

4. People seem to forget that the Eagles still have some very good players

We all know the troubles the Eagles have had filling a team in this season, whether it was through a troubled pre-season, vaccine hesitancy, or even a COVID outbreak, the problems experienced at West Coast are the stuff of nightmares and wins seemed out of reach. The return of Tom Barrass to the backline saw him combine with the excellent Jeremy McGovern to continually thwart the Collingwood forward entries. Despite getting the ball inside 19 more times than the Eagles, they fell short by 13 points in a game the Pies were expecting to win.

Wayward kicking for goal from the Pies didn’t help, but the Barrass and McGovern combination proved to be resolute and ultimately decided the game. For the record, the Eagles team on paper is hardly terrible, even with so many on the sidelines so it was slightly amusing to see so many writing them off. There are still a number of premiership players in the side.

This loss will be a body blow to the Magpies. After winning the first two games for the season after managing just six wins in 2021, they were flying high and daring to dream. The last fortnight has brought the club back to Earth and there is plenty of work to be done to keep the Magpies in the hunt. This won’t be helped by their next round clash against Brisbane at the Gabba in what will be a huge assignment. Jamie Elliott has suffered yet another injury blow in what looks like another long layoff. Nick Daicos continues to live up to the hype, however, the Pies seeming lack of a major goal-kicking forward is still posing a problem. Down at the other end you had Kennedy and Darling combining for five goals between them with Willie Rioli chiming in for three in what are becoming ominous signs for defences coming up against the Eagles. West Coast will most likely get some more players back this week as the line-up will start to resemble something that looks like their best 22 in the coming weeks. If you were thinking the Eagles looked destined for a bottom-four spot this year, you may want to revise that notion. They’re not that bad… but without Nic Nat, they may be a different team.

 

5. Goal kicking practice time for the Doggies

The Western Bulldogs are languishing at 1-3 after Round Four and would never have expected to be in this position coming off a good year finishing runner-up in the premiership race. Their first two rounds were a disappointment, and despite wayward kicking in Round Three they were able to secure a win against a good team in Sydney and many thought this would be the beginning of getting the Bulldogs back on track in the race for a finals spot.

The Tigers came into this game also with just the one win, but their last quarter belting at the hands of the Saints last week led many, including myself, to believe that they were on a downward spiral and unlikely to be pushing up the ladder. Most tipsters overwhelmingly backed the Western Bulldogs for a comfortable win, but it wasn’t to be. And with all else going on with the Dogs, the last fortnight has seen them kick a combined total of 16 goals and 36 behinds. Champion player Marcus Bontompelli managed 1.3 while Aaron Naughton kicked 2.3. Any team who scores seven goals and 19 behinds will lose more than they win, for sure. It’s becoming a problem and needs addressing.

The Tigers this year have been hard to gauge. They were overrun in Round One by the Blues, bounced back with a strong win against the Giants in Round Two, were smashed by the Saints after leading by 25 points late in the 3rd quarter, and now this strong showing against the more fancied Bulldogs. They’ll need to string two good games together when heading to Adelaide to take on the Crows in Round Five. Adelaide are up and about and if the pattern of good game/mediocre game were to continue, it would not be a shock if the Tigers were beaten.

It’s probably no coincidence Dion Prestia made a successful return in this game. Hopefully, he can stay fit as he does seem very important to Richmond. And look out if Lynch gets going after his four-goal haul. I wrote the Tigers off last week, and just as one would expect after making such a call they put in a good performance leaving us scratching our heads. Or maybe I just have bad dandruff…

 

6. Dockers: No Fyfe, no problem

Nat Fyfe is yet to make an appearance in season 2022 due to an ongoing issue with his back. Reports suggest he is still another 5-6 weeks away from returning. The Dockers suddenly leap up to third on the ladder after blowing away the Giants with a six-goal final term. Their one loss this year was against the Saints at home, and while they were no doubt disappointed to lose on home soil, the form exhibited by the Saints this past fortnight, in particular, suggests a loss to them isn’t necessarily a time to panic.

Scoring has been an area of concern for the Dockers but it appears the goalkicking duties are spread across the team as this week’s 13 goals came from 10 players. The only knock on Freo’s season so far is that they haven’t played any of the highly fancied teams as yet so we’ll know a bit more about them in the coming weeks, but for now Justin Longmuir can be optimistic about the prospect of finals action but with caution. Many scribes did have them there, and if a fit Nathan Fyfe can be added midway through the year that will do their chances no harm.

Leon Cameron, on the other hand, maybe having a few restless nights. The Giants would not like the position they find themselves in at 1-3, and with games in the next fortnight coming up against Melbourne and St Kilda, they may be staring down the barrel with the coach unlikely to be given another year with the group. All too often this year, the Giants have run out of puff. In all their losses so far they’ve been scored against heavily in the final term and this will no doubt be a concern to the coaching crew. I am reasonably confident they’ll be 1-5 after their Round Six clash against St Kilda, although they will be at home so that one could go their way but for now it’s the Saints for me. This will be a disaster. And although some of the Giants’ young stars have been poached by other clubs in recent times, they still come across to me as having a decent list. The ingredients are there: the talent, the combination of youth and experience, a pretty decent spine and midfield, and a coach that many believe has a very smart football brain. There’s still something about these expansion clubs even over ten years on. Do they have a soul?

 

7. The Crows have now lost two of three games by under a kick

Adelaide have come into this season on the back of a couple of pretty ordinary years, so expectations weren’t high coming into this season. They lost to the Dockers by just one point in Round One, and against the Bombers, they fell short by just four points. What this tells us is that they are improving and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The signs aren’t all bad, and while I feel it may be very unlikely that Adelaide will threaten the Top 8, they appear to be going in the right direction and are unearthing a few stars along the way.

Josh Rachele has been a revelation in his first season with five goals on debut and 10 for the season so far. Elliott Himmelberg seems to be hitting the scoreboard and making a contribution, as well. The Crows have been patient with him and it is paying off. The ingredients are there and a few more games for the younger recruits should see a big improvement in their prospects moving forward.

The Bombers have finally opened up their account after losing the first three matches of the season for the first time in decades. Darcy Parish made a welcome return to his great form from last year with a best on ground 38 possession game. Rory Laird matched Parish’s 38 touches in a standout game for the losing team. The Bombers go into Round Five with some confidence taking on the Fremantle Dockers. The Dockers don’t always seem to travel well so the Bombers may feel they’re a good chance of chalking up their second win of the season.

Adelaide face the Tigers at home this coming Sunday. Richmond seem to be alternating between good and bad games so far this season and they are coming off a good win against the Bulldogs, so you just never know.

 

8. The Saints are starting to really march in

Many Saints fans could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be a pretty long year following on from their Round One loss to Collingwood. They weren’t at their best on that day for sure. They bounced back the following week in Perth with a dogged win against the Dockers which is never a mean feat on the road. With all that in mind, their last two weeks have been ominous, and in part due to the form of their emerging gun at full-forward in Max King. He is now equal leader in the Coleman with 13 goals for the season so far. He can go missing for periods in games, but when he’s on, he’s virtually unstoppable.

There’s a lot to like about St Kilda right now. Four players kicked four goals apiece for the match in King, Membrey, Hill and Gresham. Jack Steele has picked up where he left off in 2021 and Jack Sinclair’s stocks continue to rise following another stellar performance with 35-possessions. But one man who seems to put the icing on the cake for the Saints is Paddy Ryder, who at 34 continues to amaze and just keeps getting better. His presence on the field seems to elevate the whole team, so I’m sure they’ll be waiting with bated breath on the decision coming out of the MRO in relation to the contact he made on Will Day.

For the Hawks who started so well and could’ve so easily been undefeated coming into this game after their narrow loss in Round Three to Carlton, this one was a jolt for them I’m sure. It was a comprehensive beating and one the Hawks would want to put behind them before their Round Five clash against Geelong which will be a massive challenge. It looks likely they’ll be 2-3 which will be a disappointing result after they annihilated the Power at Adelaide Oval in what seems a lifetime ago.

The St Kilda midfield group had the better of the Hawks and the ball use going forward was a class above their opponents on the day. St Kilda’s efficiency was such that despite winning by a whopping 69 points, they only entered their forward 50 on one more occasion than Hawthorn ending up with 22 goals to 10. I imagine most clubs will now be viewing the Saints a little differently compared to two weeks ago. Whatever the case, something seems to have clicked and they do seem poised for a solid season. And for you who is reading this, you just know that next round they’re going to go out and put in a shocker purely because I chose to talk them up. Such is life.

 

9. Blues supporters may be regretting cancelling their September vacation

You can understand the excitement of the Carlton faithful who have stuck by their team in what has been a very dark period in the club’s history. Perhaps the loss to the Suns was needed to bring them back to Earth and get them to dispense with talk of playing finals at this early stage of what is a long season. The writing was on the wall after the Hawthorn game in Round Three where the Blues nearly coughed up a 41 point lead to eventually win by just one point after losing the lead briefly late in the game. Add the unavailability of Carlton’s number one ruckman in Marc Pittonet coming up against one of the best ruckmen going around in Jarrod Witts, things had already tipped the scales against them before the first bounce.

Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps was out of the game by quarter time with a hamstring so it soon became obvious that it was just not the Blues’ night. What is now rather obvious is that the Carlton Football Club still suffers from a lack of depth in their list and Sunday night’s game laid it bare.

The Suns came out of the blocks a little slowly conceding the first two goals in just two minutes, but that was the last of any semblance of dominance from the Blues. From that point on it was all Gold Coast. As expected against the ruck combination of an emerging yet very inexperienced De Koning with Jack Silvagni lending a gallant hand, Jarrod Witts dominated the ruck contests all night. The end result was an annihilation of 52 to 19 hitouts resulting in 43 Suns clearances to just 27, and the Blues were the number one clearance team in the AFL coming into this game, albeit with the clearance king himself in Cripps absent after quarter time.

What also seemed obvious was a reluctance to curb the influence of Touk Miller who is the driving force of many of the Suns forward thrusts. It seems the Blues mids were still exercising COVID protocols and refusing to get closer than 1.5m to the Suns champion who basically did as he pleased on the back of Witts giving him golden service with his taps. Many people wouldn’t necessarily be giving the Suns much attention, but if they did they may see what I have known for some time and that is that their skipper in Jarrod Witts is as good as any ruckman in the comp, and with his giant 209cm frame it’s no wonder.

For the Blues, it’s back to the drawing board. They’ll be without their best player for 2-3 weeks. Hopefully, Pittonet will be available for their Round Five clash against Port Adelaide. The likes of the newly recruited George Hewett or Matthew Kennedy may have to fill that gaping hole left by their captain and step up. The Blues’ defence also seems fragile without McGovern and he’s not available for a few weeks to come. One gets the feeling the winless Port Adelaide may have liked what they saw on Sunday night and could fancy their chances this Sunday. For the Suns, now with two wins from four, it’ll be a tough assignment against the rampaging Saints on Saturday away from home. Unfortunately, those are the games you sort of need to win if you want to be taken seriously as an AFL team, and although the Suns were far superior to the Blues this round, a loss to the Saints will make this win a distant memory for a club so desperate for success and respect.

 

10. Booing Taylor Walker won’t solve the racism issue

In what many thought was a controversial move, Adelaide brought the much-maligned Taylor Walker right back into the side after he served his six-match ban due to his racist comments at an SANFL game last year. Most found what he said to be in extremely poor taste and certainly not becoming of a high profile sportsman. One wonders what possessed him to say what he did or if he actually thought it was OK. He clearly knows now that such things come with consequences, and sadly for him it will be something he will be remembered for in years to come when he really should be remembered for his prodigious talent as demonstrated by his strong four-goal return to the side straight after serving a lengthy ban made all the more longer by the summer break.

To the people who will remain perpetually outraged by his actions, if you feel he should’ve been removed from the game altogether, I understand, but I can’t agree that it’s the right thing to do. I just don’t understand how we live in a world where many seem happy to see someone have everything they’ve worked for taken away on the basis of one instance of ignorance and stupidity.

Racism has no place in society, but somebody losing their cool and making the shittiest possible choice in the heat of a really lowbrow confrontation is hardly the equal of taking everything away that somebody, who had barely put a foot wrong in 13 years, had worked for. I get it, we know Taylor is a goose. He’s been severely embarrassed having to apologise for his actions as well as the games he was banned from playing in. I know it’s not the same as the loss of dignity and oppression that comes with racist rhetoric on the back of the historical pain caused. Believe me, as a son of migrant parents growing up as a kid in the 70’s and 80’s, I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty words myself, funnily enough on the football field as well. However, I’m just not comfortable with ruining somebody’s life forever on the basis of words.

Hey, that’s just me, because, well, I care about ALL sorts of people – even some of the shitty ones. I’m sensitive to their pain too. Everyone is carrying some form of mental burden. Nobody knows what others are going through. Whatever happened to a thing called forgiveness? I’m happy Taylor has made a successful return. Screw the haters. He nearly dragged the Crows across the line singlehandedly. I’ve seen enough wasted talent in my time. I don’t want to see any more. We’ve learned something, and so has Taylor. It’s now time to move on – you know, like the grown-ups do.

The people at the G who booed him whenever he was near the ball might as well start a new hashtag to save the world from a guy who plays football for a living and feel better about themselves despite achieving nothing. You can’t spread awareness when you have no self-awareness kids…