At the conclusion of every round, Jimmy Ayres peruses the goings-on in the AFL world and ignites his flamethrower.
It only has two settings – toasty warm… and scorched earth.
Here is this week’s version of On Fire/Under Fire
On Fire – Taylor Walker & Rory Laird
It was hard to split these two. Walker started the game as a beacon of selflessness, passing off two certain goals to allow his teammates the chance of scoring, and kicking three majors of his own. I predicted last week that Tex would thrive against West Coast’s embattled back line, and he did so accordingly with a sense of benevolence, clunking a game-high four contested marks and ten score involvements.
Likewise, Rory Laird was a competitive beast in the midfield, more than half of his 30 disposals were contested and almost a third of them were clearances, paired with his nine tackles, there was not a hell of a lot more that the former defender could have done in a dominant day out of the centre.
Under Fire – Riley Thilthorpe
Gee, I hate chucking a 19-year-old that’s played less than 20 game’s name in here. But Thilthorpe just appeared lost against West Coast on the weekend. I don’t know if it’s a team directive, a change in position or just a kid lacking hubris, but the Crows are getting very little effect out of their once-blooming young forward.
On Fire – Zac Bailey
Another outstanding game from Zac Bailey, he was almost the catalyst for a ripping comeback for the Lions in the second half. His four goals and 22 disposals were something special. Bailey is yet another one of these Brisbane players who are capable of kicking a handful of goals and impacting the game in a major way. Unfortunately for the Lions, it wasn’t enough to get them back over the line in the end.
Under Fire – Jarryd Lyons
If I wrote this piece purely on tackling intensity, Lyons would’ve made the former category. His 10 tackles were more than any player on the field as he led the way in the middle. Unfortunately, his disposal was woeful! Especially in the second half when his side needed a little composure to aid their comeback, Lyons was a real let down with his ball usage.
On Fire – DNP
Under Fire – DNP
On Fire – Nick Daicos & Darcy Cameron
The Rising Star hopeful did his chances of securing the award absolutely no harm at the MCG on Sunday. On a wet, sloppy day, Daicos was brilliant. Managing to hit targets by foot with a waterlogged ball, keeping his feet amidst some brilliant displays of agility and chopping off plenty of Hawthorn passes that fared too close. Given the weather conditions, it was one of the 19-year-old star’s more impressive games in his debut season. I thought Darcy Cameron too was brilliant. Assuming the majority of ruck contests, Cameron won plenty of the ball and provided a tall, mobile option around the ground, troubling the Hawks on many an occasion as they tried to transition the ball.
Under Fire – Will Hoskin-Elliot
Sometimes you just watch a player and wonder what they are currently bringing to a team. Unfortunately for the Magpies, this player is Will Hoskin-Elliot. I watched the game against the Hawks closely on Sunday and was left scratching my beard on numerous occasions, puzzled at what exactly W.H-E. was bringing to the table. His once signature run and dash looks long gone, there’s very little pressure applied and hitting a target was a rare occurrence.
On Fire – DNP
Under Fire – DNP
On Fire – Fremantle
That’s right, I’m not doing anyone an injustice in this side by singling out just one. Michael Frederick played his best game for the club, Andy Brayshaw and James Aish were instrumental, Bailey Banfield was electric in the forward half, Caleb Serong and Travis Colyer moved the ball at will and speaking of Will, Will Brodie was tremendous. This may seem like a cop-out, but this entire team did what was required of them and caused the number one side in the competition to lose their second game in as many weeks.
Under Fire – Lachie Schultz
Booooooo. You said that you couldn’t fault anyone!? Unfortunately, I have to. Schultz wasn’t terrible, but I just really wanted more from him. Seeing players like Banfield and Frederick light up that forward line, I kept looking thinking that some Lachie-time must not be far away.. unfortunately, a somewhat quiet game from Schultz.
On Fire – Jeremy Cameron & Mitch Duncan
A six goal haul to Jezza Cameron, including three in a first-quarter burst that helped set up the Cats winning margin, saw the spearhead leading the Coleman Medal race at the end of their Friday night clash. Cameron was the focal point in the forward line, one that the Bulldogs defenders just weren’t able to go with. Mitch Duncan was also instrumental in the win, his first and last quarters were dominant and his class throughout the back half of the ground stood out.
Under Fire – Zach Tuohy
You put your forehead in, you put your forehead out. You put your forehead in and Bailey Smith takes it out…
The best thing that Zach Tuohy did was shake hands after the game with Smith, laugh off the mini fracas that they had at three-quarter time, and give a classy response when asked about the incident post-game. Whilst Smith unceremoniously and idiotically drove his forehead into Tuohy’s with force, the fact that Tuohy leant in and buried his face into that of Smith’s to prompt further contact should not be overlooked. Before you berate me Cats fans, check the entire footage, I’ve done so now multiple times in slow-motion to settle an argument between supporters. Whilst I wholeheartedly condemn Bailey Smith for his action, and do so further down in this article, you cannot deny that the initial head-to-head contact was instigated by Tuohy. Smith first strikes Rhys Stanley which prompts Tuohy to grab Smith by the jumper. Marcus Bontempelli attempts to break up the altercation, if you watch closely enough Tuohy pulls Smith in towards himself before leaning in (with Bontempelli’s arm still over his shoulder) and engages his head into contact with Smith’s. This was even highlighted on commentary by BT – “ohh, Zach’s trying to go the headbutt.”
In conclusion, Smith’s action was nothing short of stupid, however, the incident was undeniably caused by Tuohy. As I mentioned, his response directly after the game and in the post-game media setting were handled brilliantly.
On Fire – The Rowell & Powell Show
The Suns had another impressive win at their new home away from home in Darwin. Matt Rowell played superbly, looking to be playing free of the team restraints that have burdened his season to date. He was second only to Touk Miller for clearances but led the game in tackles and was impressive for his willingness to put his body on the line to win the ball. Another player who looked out of position for much of the game, but greatly surprised me was Will Powell. The usual defender spent a lot of time up on the wing and drifting through the forward half to much avail. Playing a role as almost an extra man in the forward half, negating the Kangaroos’ loose defenders, Powell won plenty of the ball, earned himself a few shots in goal and genuinely impressed me in a position that I don’t recall him playing a lot of football in previously.
Under Fire – Lachie Weller
I really felt for Weller when the 26-year-old hit the ground clutching the lower half of his leg. He had looked excellent out of his side’s backline and up onto the wing. His booming kick helped drive the ball towards their forward half, Weller accrued over 800 metres gained in just his 20 disposals prior to his untimely injury.
On Fire – DNP
Under Fire – DNP
On Fire – Lachie Bramble
Definitely not who you expected, but I was really impressed by the 24-year-old in just his 16th game. In the first half especially, Bramble was a regular stopper on the last line for the Hawks, stopping the forward press of the Magpies on numerous occasions, and throwing his body on the line to spoil. Jai Newcombe deserves yet another shoutout too. Couldn’t nail his passes late in the game, but a lot of that came down to the wet weather influence. Amassed 12 tackles and was one of the Hawks’ better players across four quarters.
Under Fire – Jack Gunston
Really struggled to get ahead of the ball and present himself, even after being pushed up onto the wing in the second half, Gunston was essentially a non-factor. The Hawks were screaming for a little forward composure late in the game as the rain tumbled down, unfortunately, this wasn’t coming from Gunston. Also, Chad Wingard for playing possum in the fourth quarter. I had no problem at all with saluting the crowd, I absolutely loved it. But laying on the ground with a gunshot wound, only to spring up and run into the open goal irked me.
On Fire – Maximus Decimus Meridius Gawn
If you haven’t seen Russell Crowe’s critically acclaimed hit movie Gladiator, then the awesomeness of the introductory line will be completely lost on you. Like Crowe’s character in the movie, Gawn wasn’t just the best ruckman on the field, he was amongst the best forwards for the game, and also one of the better rovers. I can’t even say this is his most complete game, because we’ve seen Gawn do exactly this before. It’s scary to think how much higher this bloke could take his game. I don’t think he’ll be far from conversations amongst some of the greatest Demons players of all time when his career is sewn up. A big call, but one I’ll stand by.
Under Fire – Jayden Hunt, Ben Brown, there were a few disappointing players.
A game that the Demons definitely did not want to lose, unfortunately, they have and now sit only one game ahead of second-placed Brisbane and third-placed Fremantle thanks to the latter’s win over the former on the weekend. The back line looked rattled which is something that we haven’t seen from this side for over 12 months. The loss of Steven May cannot be understated, he is clearly the Demons’ most important player.
On Fire – Luke Davies-Uniacke
On another dogged day for the embattled Kangaroos, LDU was a lone beacon of positivity. His grunt work in the middle can’t be undersold, and his nous when forward of the contest was brilliant, something plenty of young players around him could learn off.
Under Fire – The Club
There’s not a lot to add that hasn’t already been said, but this club is in a dire situation currently. There was a level of expectation that we would continue to see a gradual improvement as we did in the latter half of last season, but unfortunately, we’re seeing the exact opposite, with the club moving backwards more than it is forwards.
On Fire – DNP
Under Fire – DNP
On Fire – DNP
Under Fire – DNP
On Fire – DNP
Under Fire – DNP
On Fire – Sam Reid and Jake Lloyd
Bookends at either end of the ground were pivotal for the Swans in their triumphant win over the Demons. I made the call last week that in the absence of Buddy Franklin from their own forward line, and premiership defender Steven May from the opposition’s backline, the Swans needed players such as Sam Reid and Logan McDonald to stand up and score goals when required – something they both did brilliantly. I’ve been harsh on Lloyd this season, I’ve felt that his output has been well below that of which we’ve seen in seasons passed, and I’ve been critical of his reduced capacity to attack the contest. Nothing against the Demons reflected this as he shows courage in contests, bravery in his decision making with ball in hand and a desire to do what’s best for the team regardless of its effect on his own stats sheet. Perhaps the McCartin brothers are beginning to have an influence on the veteran, but I liked what I saw.
Under Fire – Joel Amartey
Called into the side as an extra slab of height with Lance Franklin forced to miss the game due to suspension, unfortunately with the bulk of the damage being dealt by McDonald and Reid, plus Ladhams assuming the majority of the ruck work against the formidable pair of Gawn and Jackson, it was just not a night to remember for Amartey who struggled to get himself into the game offensively.
But wait, Swans fans, this section actually has a silver lining. It’s lucky the game has two sides to it – offence and defence. Despite struggling to impact the offensive side of the contest in any major way, Amartey’s positioning and contesting caused the Demon defenders, and Jake Lever, in particular, to divert from their regular roles.
And that allowed other Swans to flourish.
That said, it would be good to see him contribute more on the offensive end.
On Fire – Andrew Gaff & Jack Darling
Predominantly Andrew Gaff, but a starring cameo by Jack Darling up forward helped the Eagles when they looked like they were working their way back into contention. It was Gaff that held sway when the Eagles needed a push in the middle. His outside run, his ability to find the goals and even his tackling pressure when required were at the fore against the Crows.
Under Fire – Josh Kennedy
This one pains me to write, but this one just did not go the way that the champion forward, nor the Eagles would’ve hoped. Kennedy had a number of missed shots on goal as well as that terrible dropped mark that has been shown time and time again since, eventually spending time off the ground later in the game.
On Fire – Tom Liberatore & Bailey Dale
Absolutely loved what I saw from these two. Libba dragged the Dogs back into contention almost upon his own back in the second and third quarters, as did Bailey Dale. The latter served a brief cameo in the centre and won a lot of the football in the meantime. There were a few moments where Liberatore lived a little on the edge, but it was that style of play that spurred the Dogs into action.
Under Fire – Bailey Smith & Cody Weightman
Smith’s inclusion writes itself. No, he didn’t actually draw blood. Yes, the toughly renowned Tuohy went off like he’d just been shot. Yes Tuohy actually initiated the first head-to-head contact if you rewatch the video attentively. But! Smith just needed to use his head for a little more thinking and a little less ‘thunking’ in that situation. I get it. The Bulldogs were on the burst and needed to show a little aggression to turn the game, unfortunately, it lit a fire up under the opposition and had the exact opposite effect.
But as bad as Smith’s headbutt was, I would much rather have a player on my side that has brain fades and does silly, aggressive acts over a player that dives and plays for free kicks. Any day. Weightman hasn’t even played 30 games yet, and the small forward dynamo has already etched out a reputation as a player that exaggerates contact and intentionally seeks out soft free-kicks. As pointed out by the general media the next day, the umpires are beginning to wake up to his tactics, and wisely refusing at times to pay those. He is becoming the football epitome of the boy who cried wolf.