Jimmy Ayres has his oven mitts on… maybe an apron, as well, for all I know, because he has some hot stuff to deliver just for you this week.

It’s the weekly edition of On Fire/Under Fire, just the way you like it… spicy.

 

Adelaide

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Brisbane

On Fire – Jarryd Lyons

Neale and McCluggage were prominent also, but I side with Lyons for this particular game. His cool-headedness and composure were on full display against the Saints. Whilst I was a little disappointed that he was unable to convert any of his chances on goal, he evened things up by setting up a number of direct scores off his own boot, and using his footy IQ to put the ball in the right places for his leading forwards and midfielders that were streaming towards goal.

 

Under Fire – Dayne Zorko

Brisbane fans reading this would no doubt be aware that I’ve mentioned a number of times now I admire Dayne Zorko when his head is screwed on and he just plays the game without the stupidity off the ball. Well, unfortunately, he slipped back into his old ways and let his frustration get the better of him, becoming involved in a number of off-the-ball scuffles that did himself and his team no favours. Eventually, he succumbed to a hamstring injury and was subbed out at three-quarter time.

 

Carlton

On Fire – Nic Newman

I thought Newman’s game went largely underrated as the commentators fawned over the partnership of Curnow and McKay up forward. It was Newman and Docherty that quelled any chance the Bombers looked of getting the ball inside their forward 50, blanketing their forwards and setting up the transition out of defence. The duo shared 62 disposals and 19 marks and 13 intercepts for the game. Given that myself and a number of others in the wider media were concerned about how Carlton’s back line would dare without a number of their walk up starters, they held down well, taking into account his fired up their usually disappointing opposition were.

 

Under Fire – Harry McKay

I’m a huge fan of Harry’s and I’ve been the first to sing his praises over the past few seasons. One thing that I cannot stand is a player staging for free kicks, or overly exaggerating contact for no reason other than to win the free. Especially when that player is over 6’8, 105kgs and built like a brick outhouse. McKay is one of the best contested marking players in the AFL hands down, as he showed us at times on Friday night. He does not need to be throwing himself forward like a ragdoll and dropping like he’s suffered a gunshot wound at the slightest touch. Had he avoided any of that tomfoolery, his name would’ve likely been in the previous section, such is how highly I rate him.

 

Collingwood

On Fire – Mason Cox & Brody Mihocek

Jack Crisp is stiff to not get a mention, but I show him enough love every other week. Let’s start with the big Texan. No, not Taylor Walker, the actual big bloke from Texas. Mason Cox was at his best once again. I feel like Craig McRae should just keep big Cox on ice and just wheel him out every time Collingwood play a huge game at the MCG, because that’s where he seems to bring out his absolute best. He was a marking machine around the ground and earned himself a number of shots on goal, looking like he’s fully reinvigorating his career. Likewise, I’ve harped on about Brodie Mihocek a bit this season, but he is an underrated player at Collingwood. Often afforded leeway by his opponents early, they’re soon forced to double down when he shows exactly what he’s able to do. He kicked four for the day which could’ve easily had a couple more added. I’m a huge advocate for Brody and what he brings to this side.

 

Under Fire – Nathan Buckley

“Shame on anyone that booed a champion” – Nathan Buckley, 2019.

I haven’t yet heard Nathan Buckley’s thoughts on Collingwood fans booing Clayton Oliver upon receiving the Neale Daniher trophy on the weekend, but going off his comments post-game on Anzac Day in 2019 when Essendon fans continued to boo the umpires after a string of controversial decisions, during Scott Pendlebury’s acceptance of the Anzac Medal, I’m sure we’re all set to hear exactly the same sentiments for this scenario. Especially given that he doubled down in his post-match press conference that day and said that he hoped he would be vocal and say something had it been his own club’s supporters doing the booing.

This isn’t an attack on Buckley directly, this is an attack on those who take a stance against something as nothing more than virtue signalling. They get their opinion out there on the single matter, then fail to back it up at another occurrence. I guarantee you that very few of those who were vocal on the booing that occurred during Scott Pendlebury’s acceptance speech will say a single thing about Oliver being booed during his presentation, because it no longer suits their agenda. Please don’t try and demean the comparison by saying that it was disrespectful to the Anzacs or the RSL for booing to be present at that exact point in time, that same rhetoric can be used to say the booing that Oliver was subjected to was inadvertently directed at Neale Daniher, given that the presented trophy was named after him and it was he who pioneered the Queen’s Birthday match into the massive celebration and charity event that it now is.

A few points to take into consideration after reading that:

  • For starters, I didn’t have Clayton Oliver as the best on ground in the game. To be honest, I barely even have him in Melbourne’s top three players for the game. So don’t think this is me justifying that decision, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of Collingwood supporters that there were three or more Magpies players that deservedly could’ve been named. This seems like a case of the old, check the Supercoach scores and award Best On Ground to the highest scorer. However, I also don’t believe that playing in a losing side should automatically exclude you, nor hamper your chance at being rewarded, whether it’s for the Norm Smith, or any other best-on-ground award – but that’s an opinion for another article.
  • Booing is a contentious issue within the game currently. Whilst I’ve always been a firm believer that a paying ticket holder in the crowd holds the right to cheer or jeer at any player they see fit, I concede that there are instances where booing is taken too far. No matter how you feel about the incidents prior to or thereafter, Adam Goodes was booed out of the game. That in itself is a huge injustice given that he is one of the greats of his generation. I fully understand that this entire argument becomes extremely hypocritical, but there are very few ways to hold an opinion on the matter that aren’t hypocritical in one way or another. Unfortunately for the sake of parity, a silent crowd is never going to eventuate, and nor should it.

 

Essendon

On Fire – Dylan Shiel & The Pre-Game Celebration

This wasn’t just one of Shiel’s best games of the season, it was one of his best games for the club since crossing over from the Giants. The embattled mid stood up when Darcy Parish injured his calf early in the game, racking up 27 disposals, surprisingly enough a game-high 10 tackles and an equal game-high eight clearances.

I thought the pre-game celebration from the Bombers was excellent. Yes, some of the visuals may have appeared a bit over the top, but the sentimentality behind introducing their incoming AFLW side, celebrating their past heroes and a rousing players huddle was a brilliant spectacle for a club devoid of much pride right now.

 

Under Fire – Jake Stringer

Part of me was surprised to see Stringer brought back in off an injury that has plagued his season thus far, but given the Bombers’ recent form with returning players re-injuring themselves, I wasn’t at all surprised. I gave Jake some credit for trying to light a spark in his side at points throughout the game and will them back into contention. When he’s up and about, you take the skill errors and mistakes as collateral for the brilliance he provides. But when he’s fresh off a long layoff, you need more stability and presence and less of the flashy stuff.

 

Fremantle

On Fire – Hayden Young

He may look like the kid that calls Hancock an asshole in the Will Smith movie, but I thought Hayden Young had one of his best games of the season, perhaps even one of the best in his short career. It’s funny, depending on who you ask this season, Fremantle’s backline either consists of six All-Australian locks, or six very handy players that work well together and have prevented some highly rated teams from scoring. I thought Luke Ryan and Jordan Clark were both brilliant as well, but Young was my pick of the bunch. Especially when the Hawks were able to lock the ball in their forward half for extended periods of time. Andrew Brayshaw also deserves a shoutout, but I could have his name here every other week and nobody would bat en eyelid, such is the tremendous season that he’s having.

 

Under Fire – Blake Acres

Gee, I felt for Acres in the last quarter. He was relatively quiet in the first half before exploding in the third quarter in a brilliant display of determination. He was taken off the ground clutching his hamstring in the final quarter, where the cameras showed him visibly upset. Here’s to a speedy recovery for the former Saint.

 

Geelong

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Gold Coast

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

GWS

On Fire – Harry Himmelberg

Another huge tick in the coaches switching players to a different position box for this season. Caretaker Mark McVeigh has shown that he’s not afraid to move the magnets around and find new avenues that suits his side better. This week, it was starting Himmelberg in defence after the key forward was tasked with being the Giants’ replacement for the outgoing Jeremy Cameron last season. I’m hoping we’re able to see more like this, because it was one of the best defensive games by a key defender you’ll see this season, albeit against North Melbourne. Crazy numbers like 37 disposals, 25 kicks, 16 marks, 11 intercepts and a cheeky goal in the fourth quarter.

 

Under Fire – Harry Perryman

Jake Stein was subbed in for Perryman in the second quarter as the big-bodied mid contested the ball on the wing, with North Melbourne’s Flynn Perez opting to bump the Giants utility, causing him to collapse to the ground gasping for breath. He looked in a bad way on his haunches when taken to his team’s bench, before being sent to hospital for scans on his chest, ribs and lungs.

Turns out he had four – count ’em – four broken ribs. Flynn Perez knows how to lay a bump, huh?

 

Hawthorn

On Fire – Jaeger O’Meara

There’s been a fair barrage of criticism directed at O’Meara this season, a lot of it warranted. This game is exactly why, because the expectations of many, myself included, are that he should be playing to a level like this more often. It seems harsh, but when he has the ability to be Hawthorn’s premier ball winner, rack up a game-high in clearances, get forward for a goal himself and set up multiple others, it’s only natural that you expect it more often, such is the brilliance that he is capable of.

 

Under Fire – Sam Frost

I’m seeing more so this season that in recent years – coaches are more willing to switch the magnets and swap their bookends from one end of the ground to the other. Perhaps it’s the plethora of new coaches in the league establishing their sides or finding new legs for tiring players, but we’ve seen GWS, Richmond, Essendon, Sydney and I’m sure plenty of other teams that elude me right now send their backmen forward or their forwards to the backline to change things up and open new avenues to the player and to the side. Sam Mitchell chucked Sam Frost into the forward line against the Dockers where the former Demon struggled at times before succumbing to a knee injury in the fourth quarter, being subbed out of the game.

 

Melbourne

On Fire – Angus Brayshaw & Jack Viney

With all due respect to Clayton Oliver, who would be clearly in the top three favourites for the Brownlow at this point in time, I didn’t have him as my best on ground for the Queen’s Birthday match – I didn’t even have him as my best Demons player. I thought the efforts of Angus Brayshaw out of defence were honourable, especially when Collingwood were pressing hard. The ball was locked into Melbourne’s back line for more stints than we’ve seen this season (up until the past three weeks), and Brayshaw’s calmness really shine through. He was moved to the backline to cover for the losses of Christian Salem and Jake Lever earlier in the season, and he has now surpassed Lever as a prominent part of the Demons’ behind-the-ball brigade. Especially in the absence of Steven May.

Likewise, I thought Jack Viney played a tremendous game. He is one of those players who isn’t often highlighted like Oliver, Gawn, Petracca and Langdon, however, his endeavour is second to nobody in this side. He all but had the ball on a string, he snuck forward for a goal and he laid twice as many tackles as any other player on the field for either side. Viney is the true embodiment of a heart and soul player.

 

Under Fire – Jake Lever

I can’t put it down to being a physical or a mental issue, but in the past few weeks, Jake Lever has looked like a shell of his former self. Whether it’s a physical deficiency and his body still isn’t 100%, or a mental quandary without having his partner in crime (pun not intended) in Steven May alongside him in the backline, Lever looks down and out, and it’s really affecting Melbourne’s ability to prevent easy ball transition and rebound scoring.

 

North Melbourne

On Fire – Todd Goldstein

It’s been a funny old season for Goldstein. He was hot property in the trade market only a few years ago, and has always been in the upper echelon of AFL ruckmen during his time in the game. It seemed as though the Kangaroos were favouring Tristan Xerri as their preferred ruckman early in the season, relegating Goldstein to heavy forward duties. But with a lot of clubs this year successfully employing a secondary ruckman, we’ve seen Goldy return to the centre, but also provide the tall marking target that’s able to kick goals, the kind that North have been screaming for this entire season.

 

Under Fire – Jason Horne-Francis

I won’t paste the kid because he’s going to be copping it left, right and centre this week. I’ll be surprised if Caro doesn’t buy him a one-way ticket to Tasmania. That seems to be her fix for everything North Melbourne related – just relocate it to Tassie.

 

Port Adelaide

On Fire – Karl Amon & Todd Marshall

It’s not hard to see Amon’s name has been the talk of the town this season when discussing potential moves back to Victoria. With a number of clubs reported to be interested in his services, Amon has really ramped up his touch this season. Against the Tigers he was a running powerhouse, winning plenty of the ball on the outside and numerous important clearances. His effort in the first quarter alone was brilliant before the Tigers surged away with six straight goals.

Todd Marshall’s first half was excellent. With Jeremy Finlayson assuming the bulk of the ruck duties, it allowed Dixon and Marshall to focus heavily on playing forward. He got ahold of the highly touted Josh Gibcus and won that battle, forcing the Tigers to send their prized draft pick forward in an effort to change things up.

 

Under Fire – Robbie Gray

I’ve long been a huge advocate for Robbie Gray and what he’s brought to Port Adelaide throughout his career. On Thursday night I couldn’t help but notice Gray’s influence on the game was heavily subdued. He found himself playing in the back line during the first quarter when the Tigers began their onslaught of goals, before a couple more awkward possessions in the second quarter. I barely sighted him in the third, but I kept my eye on the player tracker, thinking be may have had an extended stint on the bench, which proved to be the case in the fourth quarter as he spent large portions off the ground.

 

Richmond

On Fire – Nick Vlastuin

Over the years I’ve been critical on Vlastuin, especially when it comes to his occasional brain fade or thoughtless free kicks that he tends to give away. I remember his first two seasons took the club by storm and really showed the shifting landscape within the game, leaning back on these agile defenders that hadn’t been as prevalent over the last generation. His intercept work against Port was brilliant, especially late in the quarter when the travelling side began to mount their comeback, and did eventually hit the lead. A number of the opposition’s last-ditch efforts to score late in the game and wrestle back the lead were chopped off by Vlastuin and bounced straight back out of the back line.

 

Under Fire – Shai Bolton

Before any Tigers fans elbow me in the back of the head for this nomination, I’ll preface by saying that Bolton is quite possibly my favourite Richmond player to watch currently, and is working his way into most entertaining player in the game territory. The crowd that I watched the game with on Thursday began colloquially referring to him as ‘Dove’ or ‘Imperial Leather’ – because he looked as slippery and hard to grab onto as a wet bar of soap in a steamy wash-house. But by hell did he spray some opportunities in front of goal. Anyone who kicks 0.5 pretty much writes their own ticket in this section. Had he been able to convert his chances, I would have almost certainly had him in the above category. I waited with bated breath to hear Jason Dunstall’s reaction to Bolton’s failed attempt at a dribble kick from directly in front, but alas, the Fox presenter seems to be past that tirade now.

 

St. Kilda

On Fire – Jade Gresham

Two goals paired with plenty of deft touches, J really liked the game of Gresham. It’s easy to see why the Saints continued to push for Gresham to return to the side from injury, he is such a quality player and will undoubtedly play a huge part in Brett Ratten’s push to have this side back in finals contention. Jack Sinclair was also brilliant once again down back, he’s as good as an All-Australian lock at this point in the season.

 

Under Fire – Ben Paton

The Saints’ backline came under constant fire against the Lions. Some players held their own, whilst some struggled. I really thought Paton struggled with the pressure and tenacity that the Lions players attacked the contest with, especially with the Lions inaccuracy wallpapering over what was a pretty strong last-quarter bombardment.

 

Sydney

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

West Coast

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Western Bulldogs

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Special Mention

On Fire – Neale Daniher

Footy fans were treated to two special appearances this weekend from the man who turned the popular Queen’s Birthday clash between Melbourne and Collingwood into an entertainment blockbuster, with one goal in mind – raising money to find a cure for Motor Neurone Disease. Neale Daniher is held with the utmost respect and admiration by the entire AFL and in all honesty, anybody that knows of him. Seeing him held aloft by his brothers on the MCG turf on Friday night for Essendon’s 150th-anniversary celebrations was a tear-jerker in itself, much less having his brother hold his limp arm up so that he was able to salute the adoring fans once more.

Then on Monday’s public holiday, he once again led the walk from Federation Square in the Melbourne CBD to the MCG where a number of Australian media identities, celebrities and football personalities participated in the Big Freeze, sliding into a pool of ice in an effort to raise money for the charity Neale fronts, FightMND, under the watchful and loving eye of the deteriorating Daniher. He may have now lost his ability to speak, but his voice will resonate in the hearts and minds of AFL fans for generations to come. The brilliant work that he’s done in his final years ought never go unnoticed, and I implore the AFL to continue the promotion of his great work every year, making the annual Queen’s Birthday match forever in the memory of the great Neale Daniher.

 

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!