Each week, Jimmy Ayres puts on his fire-retardant gloves and presents some pretty hot stuff for your pleasure… assuming you like it hot?

Here is the week’s edition of On Fire/Under Fire

 

Adelaide

On Fire – Jordan Dawson & Rory Laird

A pair of shining lights on an otherwise dark day for the Crows. Dawson continues to stake his claim as the best wingman in the AFL, helping drive the Crows forward as the link-up man on the wing. Likewise, Rory Laird has been the club leader in terms of midfield output this season. Special shoutout to Sam Berry and his clearance work at the centre bounces, this kid can play.

 

Under Fire – Decision Making

One thing that stood out to me was the Crows’ incredibly poor decision-making. At times, their ball transition was hard to watch, not because of the occasional turnover, but just the outright poor choice of target. Obviously with the benefit of a TV screen in a controlled environment, time and time again I saw the Adelaide players pick out the first teammate they saw to handball to, but more often than not there was a far better option, in the clear only a short distance away. I can chalk a few up to being pressure reactions, but for the most part, the Crows’ inability to spot up a target slightly out of their eye line was a great factor in them being uncompetitive against the Suns.

 

Brisbane

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Carlton

On Fire – Harry McKay

I feel like I’m selling Cripps and Walsh up the river a little here, even Sam Docherty if I’m honest. But anybody that watched that game on Thursday night will understand that for about 6 minutes in the fourth quarter, Harry McKay was untouchable by man, woman, beast nor act of God, to the point that his efforts in the forward half almost single-handedly turned the tide of the match back in Carlton’s favour. After a lacklustre first half that spawned only one goal, followed by a third-quarter that barely registered a stat, McKay played a patch of individual brilliance that netted 3.2 and had Blues fans on their feet and at their vocal best.

 

Under Fire – Embattled Backline

It’s widely known how dire things are in the Carlton backline currently, I wrote a largely in-depth piece on their current defensive shortcomings prior to the midseason draft. But we got a glimpse of just how greatly this affects the Blues when they play a half-decent side that are willing to exploit their opponent’s situation. Coach Michael Voss will be tested in the coming weeks with games against fellow contenders Fremantle and St. Kilda to come.

 

Collingwood

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Essendon

On Fire – Composure

I think it’s safe to say, and Bombers fans will agree with me, that it’s very hard to pick just one player from this game to highlight, and it’s a positive problem that we haven’t seen from this side for a very long time. Dylan Shiel’s first half was tremendous in some facets – yes he still turns the ball over by foot, but he was brilliant in the middle with sturdy clearance work and power running into the forward line. Peter Wright and Jake Stringer had a strong presence in the third quarter after rough starts, Mason Redman set up the play from the back line, Jordan Ridley blanketed Max King and Jai Caldwell had a strong break across the second and third quarters. The question rightfully on Dons fans’ lips, where has this effort and composure been?

 

Under Fire – Brayden Ham

Essendon have a knack for recruiting players that are excellent at VFL level, but can’t relay that form regularly at the top level. Whilst the Bombers played a great team game against the Saints and showed a mix of dare and composure, there is always a weakest link. To me, that link was the scrappy handballs that always manage to find their way to a teammate’s knees, or painfully two feet too far in front or behind a running opponent, to his disadvantage.

 

Fremantle

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Geelong

On Fire – Cam Guthrie

Pressure, pressure, pressure. Guthrie laid 10 tackles in the first half and finished with 14 for the game – six more tackles than the next best on the field and eight more than any other Cat. His work at the centre bounces personified Geelong’s midfield presence, despite his questionable disposal at times, these plaudits are fired by his pressure and his run. Although the Eagles gave the Cats somewhat of a run for their money and didn’t just roll over and die as many expected of them, it was Geelong who proved too strong out of the middle, on the backs of Cam Guthrie and Sam Menegola.

 

Under Fire – The Post-Bye Loss

After suffering something akin to 86 losses in a row and a tremendous shift in form annually in their first game back after having the bye, the Cats look to have exorcised those demons, now recording their third post-bye win in as many seasons. Having been on the prosperous end of the “Kennett Curse” themselves for a number of years, it’s a great little quirk on our game that Geelong have now laid to rest.

 

Gold Coast

On Fire – Matt Rowell

What a terrific game from Rowell against the Crows on the weekend. The 20-year-old tackled the game and his opponent with ferocity, as he started on the ball and wound up winning more clearances than any other Sun. His defensive game was superb as he managed to stop a number of Adelaide’s forays forward, even nailing a perfectly polished kick from the wing towards his own forward line that looked improbable, but hit his teammate lace out.

 

Under Fire – Will Powell

Gee that was a nasty incident, wasn’t it? It had shades of Sid Vicious from WCW’s 2001 Sin PPV all over it. It was during the third quarter that Powell’s leg seemed to get trapped under him, causing the defender to land awkwardly and be taken off on the medical cart. We had not long seen Connor Budarick leave the field with a hamstring injury when Powell was taken off the ground, visibly in horrific pain. The current string of injuries now adds to Lachie Weller who ruptured his ACL only a few weeks prior.

 

GWS

On Fire – Tobias ‘Mean Machine’ Greene

I may have taken a little poetic licence with the naming, but how good was my man, Toby Greene. This is exactly the sort of game that I’ve been waiting for since his return to the side a couple of months ago. Greene was at his dangerous best, winning the ball in the forward half, leading like a key position forward and crumbing like an opportunistic small on his way to 7.2 for the night, as he and fellow small forward alumni Cody Weightman had themselves somewhat of a goal shootout.

 

Under Fire – Breaking The Shackles

In the third quarter, the Bulldogs began to dominate the game in many ways, most notably it was their ability to control the ball and lock it in their forward half. The Giants only had two disposals inside their forward 50 for that quarter, compared to 23 for the Bulldogs. It was just as much a blight on the Giants as it was a credit to the Bulldogs. It’s something that whoever takes over the coaching at the end of the season must address, because although they’re playing much better footy under Mark McVeigh, there are still numerous improvements to be made.

 

Hawthorn

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Melbourne

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

North Melbourne

On Fire – DNP

 

Under Fire – DNP

 

Port Adelaide

On Fire – Todd Marshall

I’ll put my hand up and admit that I was one of the masses that were critical of Marshall earlier this year. But in our defence, he wasn’t really giving us much to fantasise over. I will happily concede, however, that with Charlie Dixon spending the vast majority of the first half of the season off the park, Marshall was more than amicable in holding up the forward line for Port, especially once they got over their first five weeks of lacklustre performances. I’m also just as happy to report that even with Dixon being back in the side, this newfound confidence in Marshall’s game seems to be continuing as he’s providing a more than acceptable tall forward target, especially with Jeremy Finlayson spending so much time in the ruck as of late.

 

Under Fire – Injury Concerns

It was a great win over Sydney on Saturday afternoon, the injury cost may be racking up though. Zac Butters suffered a crunch to his knee as a Harry Cunningham tackle caused the Sydney player to land straight on Butters’ knee. Likewise, debutante Brynn Teakle came off second best in his attempt to bump Justin McInerney, causing the 22-year-old ruckman to injure his collarbone.

 

Richmond

On Fire – Liam Baker

Geez, I like watching this bloke play. He’s much-maligned by opposition supporters, but more in the ilk of a Toby Greene than a Jack Ginnivan in the way he riles up the fans. He’s taken his game to a new level this season, playing above his size each week across the back half and generally leading up either wing. He was in the first wave of Richmond players to run in and support Dion Prestia during the three-quarter time brawl, he is exactly the kind of player every side wishes they had.

Dion Prestia also deserves a shout. His game was terrific, and against some quality opposition in the middle. He had more than twice as many clearances as any other player on the ground and 20 of his 33 disposals were contested. The only thing that worries me is when he finds himself in form like this he usually ends up injured within a few weeks.

 

Under Fire – Shai Bolton

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St. Kilda

On Fire – Jade Gresham

One of only a few Saints players that can say that tried their absolute hearts out against the Bombers. Gresham’s three goals to go with his 28 disposals were a constant threat to the Bombers and a marvel to watch. I love seeing him at full tilt, when he has his eyes on the goals there are very few who can come between them.

 

Under Fire – Stagnant Midfield

As good as Jade Gresham was, especially during his time in the middle, the rest of the midfield looked overly stagnant – especially in the first half. With the exception of their five-goal burst to start the third quarter, the Saints midfield looked borderline apathetic at the very of times, allowing the Bombers too easy of a run and not showing any care to stop their own ball from being rebounded and turned into a scoring opportunity.

 

Sydney

On Fire – Isaac Heeney

This was the Isaac Heeney that had me up and about over the first five or six rounds of football this season. When he’s given a free rein to patrol that forward line, the Swans really look like a scoring threat. His high leaping ability and burst pace to get off the mark set him apart from your standard midsized forward, but he’s also unafraid to win his own ball at ground level.

 

Under Fire – Peter Ladhams

Complete and utter brain fade from the former Power ruckman, a number of incidents involving Ladhams against his old side raised eyebrows during the game, capped off by a soft but no less sordid punch to the stomach of former teammate Ollie Wines that now sees Ladhams spending a week on the sideline, with Sydney lucky to have Tom Hickey available to make the replacement for next week.

 

West Coast

On Fire – Jake Waterman

This was one of Waterman’s better games for the year, especially that I’ve seen. He had a presence around goal and despite the stat sheet only recording two tackles, I feel that’s not an accurate representation of the pressure he was applying to his Geelong opponents. Waterman would finish the game with 2.1 and a direct goal assist, but it was his chase and applied pressure behind play that really impressed me. Something we haven’t seen enough of from an array of Eagles players this season.

 

Under Fire – Jack Darling

After a couple of decent games against the Bulldogs and the Crows prior to the bye, it was a massive case of crashing back to earth for Jack Darling who struggled to break free from the Geelong defence, even when his midfielders were sending the ball in with ample opportunity that others capitalised on, Darling was nowhere near it. He sprayed a shot on goal in the fourth quarter which was the first time he’d really looked likely.

 

Western Bulldogs

On Fire – Cody Weightman & Jack Macrae

Weightman gets my first nod this week, largely due to the redemption factor behind his five-goal haul. After being called out by the entire AFL world for his dubious antics in playing for free kicks a fortnight ago, Weightman bounced back in the best way possible – kicking goals in the most traditional ways possible. Not only that, but he showed great courage to return to the field after dislocating his elbow, having it popped back in and heavily strapped, but managing to play out the game. Jack Macrae was phenomenal in the midfield. This bloke just racks up disposals for fun, finishing the game with 37 disposals to his name, more than any other player on the field. But his defensive game is just as impressive, laying nine tackles which coincidentally was also more than any other player on the field.

 

Under Fire – Tim English

When Brayden Preuss left the field with an ankle injury before being officially subbed out in the second term, English saw an opportunity to capitalise on an undermanned ruck department, and capitalise he did. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs ruckman, he copped a knock during the game that led to headaches post-match, with the Bulldogs medical staff diagnosing English with delayed concussion, ruling him out of this week’s huge clash against the Hawks at Marvel Stadium.

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