Every week, Jimmy Ayres turns up the heat on those in the AFL.

Do they get to sit by the glow of his comfy fire, or get their toes burnt by his flamethrower? Let’s find out in this week’s On Fire/Under Fire. And yes, Jimmy is well aware that some teams have a bye, but he is an inclusive type of guy – get off his back.

 

Adelaide

On Fire – Reilly O’Brien

The Crows ruckman further pressed his case against being dropped a fortnight ago. His SANFL numbers were impressive, his effort against Geelong was even better. Battling hard with Mark Blicavs and the AFL virgin in his first game, Shannon Neale, O’Brien was dominant in the centre and around the ground, clunking five marks, three of which were contested, on his way to amassing 28 disposals and laying seven tackles. The big man was close to best on ground.

 

Under Fire – Matt Crouch

Won plenty of the ball, but found a new way to butcher the pill almost every time he disposed of it. It became almost second nature when he got the ball on the wing, you’d see it come sailing straight back. Some of the Crows’ disposal at times throughout the day looked really composed, Crouch will need to work on emulating this in his own game if Adelaide are to begin their rise. Racking up disposals is one thing, making the most of them is another.

 

Brisbane

On Fire – Lachie Neale & Lincoln McCarthy

McCarthy’s first quarter in particular, three goals from it on his way to four for the match. In recent weeks the conversation about scoring in the Brisbane forward line has been a topic of contention, McCarthy laid any concerns to rest by getting behind his opposition and proving that crafty spark that the Lions needed to kick-start their scoring.

What more can be said about Lachie Neale that myself and others haven’t marvelled at already? If this isn’t the closest he’s been to his patch of form that won him his Brownlow Medal, then I’ll go he!

 

Under Fire – Daniel Rich

I thought the Giants might be tempted to emulate Hawthorn of the week before and throw a player alongside Lachie Neale to try and curb his influence, but instead, Mark McVeigh opted to quell the games of Daniel Rich and Dayne Zorko by having players running with and effectively hampering their game, something that worked well in one sense, given that neither Zorko nor rich were allowed their usual heavy impact on the contest. However, if you look at it in overall terms, it didn’t actually achieve the set goal given that the Giants went on to lose the game.

 

Carlton

On Fire – Charlie Curnow

Most are calling Curnow the best forward in the comp, and it’s bloody hard to argue with now. Each week Curnow either finds a new way to bother the opposition defenders and affect the scoreboard, or he continues to dominate in the same fashion and the same defenders lack the same answers to stop him.

 

Under Fire – Jacob Weitering

What. A. Blow. Weitering was as good as an All Australian lock at the midpoint of the season, but a shoulder injury in the first term against the Magpies was a massive blow to a Carlton backline that’s already feeling the pinch. I mentioned in last week’s preview that the Blues’ resilience in defence has been noteworthy this season. Given that they lost Liam Jones before the season started, follows by subsequent losses of Mitch McGovern, Zac Williams, Caleb Marchbank and Oscar McDonald, it has been a torrid time, but one that coach Michael Voss has adjusted to brilliantly. Throw in the loss of key ruckman Marc Pittonet and last year’s Coleman Medallist in Harry McKay, the Blues are in a bloody good spot, all things considered.

 

Collingwood

On Fire – Steele Sidebottom & Mason Cox’s Second Half

If I tag a player as Under Fire and they have a brilliant game, they’re usually one of the first on my radar because I love a little redemption. Sidebottom fills my redemption quote for this week! He was brilliant against the Blues, possibly his best game that I’ve seen this season. With the veteran getting into the final stages of his career, this season looked to have hit him hard early on, but his two goals and lovely effort on the ball was pivotal for the Magpies winning on Sunday. Speaking of pivotal and maligned players, how was Mason Cox in the second half? Written off by most, myself partially included, the big Texan made light work of his Carlton counterparts, clunking big marks, winning big hitouts and even getting on the end of a good goal. It’s almost like you need to bottle up Cox and only pop the cork when the Pies are playing a final, or some sort of grudge match in front of 70,000+ fans. That’s where he does his best work.

 

Under Fire – Brody Mihocek

This one hurts a little because I’ve been a huge advocate of Mihocek this season, especially given his side’s shortcomings in the forward half, Mihocek has provided a pivotal scoring role most weeks. But he was heavily subdued by the Carlton defence, unable to get a decent run at the ball or win the ball when it spilled to ground level without being under instant pressure.

 

Essendon

On Fire – Nic Martin & Sam Durham

On another day that looked destined to be dogged for the Bombers. They managed to control the game in a brilliant third quarter, handling the wet conditions much better than their South Australian counterparts, however, they weren’t able to hit those final couple of goals that would’ve put them within a kick. Anyways, back to the positives. If Nic Martin isn’t currently third or better in the Bombers’ best and fairest tally at this point of the season, then I’ll chew my boot. The dashing wingman shows class heading forward and enough grunt through the midfield that it beggars belief no other team had selected him in a draft. Sam Durham shows plenty of fight, enough to warrant a mention here. Throwing his body on the line and a few brilliant field kicks, especially when the Bombers were up and firing would’ve instilled some confidence in his coaches. Shoutout to Nick Hind for playing well with his speed in the wet, no easy feat.

 

Under Fire – “The Same Olds”

The same old inability to prevent transition football.

The same old reluctance, or obliviousness, to stop players from getting back and deep in their forward line.

The same old forced handball game, because nobody wants to lead and provide an option.

The same old bomb it long because nobody is presenting and I don’t want to handball, game.

The same old players battling their hardest and the same old passengers making the same old mistakes.

 

Fremantle

On Fire – Rory Lobb & Luke Ryan

Lobb was one of the staunchest reasons that Fremantle gained the upper hand against the Demons, and this is the hill I choose to die on. His influence was massive, in the ruck, in the forward line and even as a marking target out on the wings. This was a huge game from the former Giant. Speaking of giant, Luke Ryan was instrumental in his side’s win. Many a foray forward for Melbourne was quelled at the experience and confidence of their resident stopper and rebounder. Ryan was rarely beaten in the air, nor on the ground. His ability to sight up a teammate further along the line was the catalyst for his side’s scoring transition, and in negating the Demons’ forward press of their own.

 

Under Fire – Darcy Tucker

The entire Fremantle team was excellent in bringing an end to the Demons’ 17-game overall winning streak, which included winning the first 10 games of this season. It was one of those composed, team efforts where you struggle to find a weak link without nitpicking. One thing I did have in my notes during the game was Darcy Tucker’s poor disposal. A few of them were forced, and I’ll happily conde that. But for the most part, it was a dog’s breakfast straight out of the Tucker box.             I’ll see myself out….

 

Geelong

On Fire – Tom Stewart & Gryan Miers

First off, redemption story part two. I’ve been tough on Miers this season because he’s at that stage in his career where he’s played enough games in a good enough side that we need to see some consistency within his game. Against the Crows, I saw a young man with a spiffy haircut (not that I disliked the dreads in any way) doing things that everybody knows he is capable of, and doing a bloody good job of them. He played the role of the small pressure forward well, barely hesitated and found a way to win plenty of the ball. I’m not even scared to say that it was one of his best games that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Tom Stewart. Honestly.. what can actually be said that hasn’t already been announced publicly? I made the comment myself a few weeks ago that Stewart is the most important player in the Geelong side, and I stick by that. Between him and mark Blicavs, it’s a somewhat uncanny partnership, but one of the better and undersung defensive duos in the AFL.

 

Under Fire – Midfield Cracks

Now, keeping in mind the praises that I have just sung for Geelong’s backline, is it fair to say that their midfield may have a number of cracks that are plastered over, thanks largely to their terrific backline? I’m not saying that their midfield is hopeless, not by any stretch. But at a number of times against a lesser opponent in the Crows, I just felt that multiple key contests went the way of the visitors, thanks to their clearance machine in Rory Laird, plus the brilliance of Reilly O’Brien in the ruck, giving Keays and Crouch first service as well. In the end, it’s a somewhat moot point in relation to this game because the Cats still won by 42 points. However, against a renowned, strong midfield like that of the Demons or the Blues, I worry that the Cats may not have the depth to go with them. We saw something similar against the Saints only two rounds ago.

 

Gold Coast

On Fire – Lachie Weller & Brandon Ellis

If I had a dollar for every time I read “is he still on a list?” In regards to Brandon Ellis, from an ignorant, interstate supporter, I’d probably buy myself a nice Monte Cristo cigar. Ellis was terrific in Darwin, helping the Suns to their first victory on Northern Territorian soil. He snagged two goals and was brilliant with plenty of the ball in hand, both he and Lachie Weller, who I’ve been critical of at times, racked up decent numbers and provided brilliant support, not allowing the Hawks any room nor grace.

 

Under Fire – Will Powell

Whilst Powell wasn’t terrible, I really felt as if he was the weaker link in the Gold Coast backline. Let off a number of times by Hawthorn’s Inaccuracy, the conditions weren’t tailor-made to a defender of his size.

 

GWS

On Fire – Harry Himmelberg & Josh Kelly

What an inspired transformation sending Himmelberg to defence has been for the Giants. His height and marking abilities have become key, plus it’s a sight to behold to see the once wayward kicking forward hit up targets out if the backline. It’s funny how a positional change can really open up your eyes to a player and their capabilities. The Rolls Royce deserves a mention, he got on the end of a couple of goals and was the best for the Giants out of the midfield. Especially earlier in the game when Greater Western Sydney for out on a role and held a decent lead over the better placed Lions.

 

Under Fire – Tanner Bruhn

The Giants midfield for out on top of the Lions early, but I made note of a few errors and hesitations from Bruhn. Nothing worth branding him as terrible, but enough for me to take heed and question why he appeared so happy to step back and allow others to do the heavy lifting. Perhaps an off day, but certainly not a great one.

 

Hawthorn

On Fire – Harry Morrison & Tom Mitchell

Harry Morrison might be one to take some by surprise, but I thought his efforts in the back pocket and up on the defensive wing were great for the Hawks. In a game that was largely won and lost in the midfield, Morrison was lively and rebounded the ball well, whether on the end of one or off his own defensive work. It’s also hard to credit anyone without praising Tom Mitchell’s efforts once again. He looks to be back to his best after a dismal couple of weeks that saw him “rested”.

 

Under Fire – Jarman Impey & Jacob Koschitzke

Through little fault of his own, Koschitzke was thrown into the ruck out of pure necessity, given that his club’s three first choice ruckmen are all injured. He was beaten soundly by Jarrod Witts who has overtaken Max Gawn in the stakes for this year’s best ruckmen by a lot of accounts. It also wasn’t his day up forward, spraying numerous shots on goal. Jarman Impey was also cited for dropping his knees into an opponent’s back, an act that ultimately cost him a fine, but a horrible look nonetheless.

 

Melbourne

On Fire – Angus Brayshaw

Superb in defence once again, Brayshaw has become the ultimate plug in a backline that’s been missing one of its best runners in Christian Salem for the entire season thus far. Losing Steven May was a cruel blow, but Gus was at his best, and probably got the chocolates over his brother in the battle of the Brayshaws that J hyped up last week.

 

Under Fire – Dysfunctional Forward Line

This will sound a little silly given that up until last week the Demons were undefeated, but their forward line looked really dysfunctional and lost at times against the Dockers. Almost like they were confused and unsure of which way to lead, where to kick the ball and generally well held by their Fremantle counterparts. Chalk this one up to a bad day at the office and bounce back next week.

 

North Melbourne

On Fire – Todd Goldstein & Jed Anderson

The veteran ruckman was in fine form against one of the best ruck duos in the league. Goldstein more than held his own against Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall, but showed a presence up forward, kicking two goals and taking a spectacular mark in the goalsquare.

Jed Anderson set the world alight for the Kangaroos. The former Hawk more than doubled his output in any game this season and showed the exact form that he has flirted with throughout a career plagued by injury.

 

Under Fire – Nick Larkey & Tarryn Thomas

I found it hard to split these two in terms of disappointment. Larkey was barely spotted for large stints throughout the game, especially when the ball struggled to make its way into the Kangaroos’ forward half, the struggling side could have done with a tall marking target patrolling the wings. Likewise, the output from Tarryn Thomas just wasn’t enough. The North Melbourne midfield were screaming for a big body to come in and alleviate some of the pressure applied by Jade Gresham and Brad Crouch at the contest.

 

Port Adelaide

On Fire – Connor Rozee

A strong game predominantly out of the midfield for Rozee, matching it with the likes of Darcy Parish and providing his wingers with brilliant usage. He managed to turn up the pressure in the third quarter when the Bombers began to dominate, laying three of his seven tackles in that quarter alone. A brief cameo up forward also netted him a goal, but with multiple other opportunities going begging.

 

Under Fire – Sam Hayes

The young ruckman struggled at times against the duo of Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips, with the Bombers rotating their big men out of the ruck and into the forward line, with Phillips causing some damage with his marking around the ground.

 

Richmond

On Fire – Toby Nankervis & Shane Edwards

The Richmond co-captain started the season somewhat subdued, but his efforts against the Swans were one of his best games for the season. Whilst Peter Ladhams was handy in the ruck and around the ground, the pairing of Nankervis along with Ivan Soldo was the better ruck duo on the night.

Shane Edwards deserves a mention after his best fortnight of football for the year, stringing together two good games in a row after myself, and many others had been critical of the veteran’s output at different stages earlier in the season. He seemed to spend more time in the forward line on Friday night and managed to get on the end of a couple of goals for his trouble.

 

Under Fire – John Howorth

He’s not alone, but I thought I’d throw a puzzling name out there just for the fun of it. For those scouring through their footy record and wondering who the hell old mate Johnny is, since he’s not listed as playing for either side, it’s the officiating umpire that slight clarification after the siren on Friday night on whether or not to pay a 50 metre penalty against Sydney’s Chad Warner.

 

St. Kilda

On Fire – Jack Sinclair

What a season Sinclair is putting together. The rebounding half-back has his name cemented in any rolling All Australian side worth its merit. He was terrific against the Kangaroos once again, with their sloppy forward line unable to stop his attack and press.

 

Under Fire – Jimmy Webster

The Saints were great against a lacklustre opponent, almost to the point where not many players deserved harsh criticism. Jimmy Webster did however make my notes, whilst not playing a horrible game, the reliable defender with the beautiful kick was on the end of a couple of howlers, paired with a horrible broken tackle that cost his side a goal. In the bigger picture, it wasn’t a big deal as his side cruised to the easiest of wins. However, from an individual’s standpoint, Webster can do better.

 

Sydney

On Fire – James Rowbottom

Both Luke Parker and Chad Warner were brilliant for the Swans, but I went with the 21-year-old midfielder who has been somewhat of a pillar of consistency for Sydney this season. Starting behind the ball at times, but predominantly at the centre square, Rowbottom has a brilliant set of hands and is one of the young Swans stars that has been keeping the likes of Josh Kennedy out of that midfield up until his untimely injury last week.

 

Under Fire – Lance Franklin

Buddy almost would’ve made it in the prior section, if not for his minor incident with Richmond’s Trent Cotchin. A very minor tussle between the two ended in Franklin planting a wayward and somewhat benign fist on his opponent’s jaw, seeing the superstar forward rubbed out for a week’s suspension, missing the club’s important clash against the formerly undefeated Demons this week.

 

West Coast

On Fire – Tim Kelly & Alex Witherden

Two shining lights in a game that epitomized the Eagles’ season so far. Kelly was instrumental and damaging, the lack of cohesion around the ground lead to the unravelling once again, but Kelly was sensational. As was Alex Witherden, I’ve never noticed how beautiful of a kick he has. When using the ball by foot, it feels like he never misses his target.

 

Under Fire – Jake Waterman

The term downhill skier is a harsh one, but it feels like Waterman plays better when his side is up and about. The worse things get for the Eagles, the bigger the toll it takes on some of the younger players, and Waterman appears to be suffering this affliction.

 

Western Bulldogs

On Fire – Bailey Williams & Tim English

I must admit, Bailey Williams wasn’t a name that I expected to grace this section any time soon, however, he was exceptional behind the ball and crept forward for a couple of rare goals, much to the surprise of most. The triumphant return of Tim English couldn’t have come at a better time, having such a weakened ruck department to ease him back into the swings of senior football, something that he did brilliantly.

 

Under Fire – Jordon Sweet

Whilst one ruckman prospered, the other floundered. Sweet had very little influence on the game, largely because the focus was shifted back to his partner in crime’s return to the squad, with Sweet forced to play second string, not a role that did him any favours.

 

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