You guys know the drill by now – Gab is a Melbourne-based comedian. As such, he sometimes calls teams from others states “interstate teams”. He makes jokes about some things, and he loves his footy.

If you disagree with what he says, more power to you, but please… take it the way it is intended.

 


 

 

1 – Brisbane really don’t like playing at the MCG

It’s actually quite staggering to think that the Lions haven’t had a win at the MCG since 2014. Only Daniel McStay from the current line up played in that match. When you consider that Brisbane under Chris Fagan have been a better side in recent years, it’s amazing that their record is so poor at Melbourne’s home of football, and it would be something playing on the minds of the coaching staff as another finals campaign is approaching.

Admittedly, fewer games have been played there in recent years due to COVID, and the Lions venture to the MCG possibly only two to three times a year anyway, but entering this game they would’ve been optimistic against a Demons outfit who had lost three in a row and looked vulnerable. To lose by 64 points in the manner they did is a major concern, although one does get the feeling the Demons have used the bye week to regroup and address the turmoil that had plagued the club over the past three weeks.

Melbourne, on the other hand, were unstoppable. When you consider they scored 21 behinds for the night, it’s fair to say that if they kicked a little straighter on the night we may have been talking about an even more embarrassing defeat handed to Brisbane. The usual suspects in Oliver and Petracca got plenty of the ball, while Jack Viney seemed to enjoy being in the role of captain for the night due to the absence of Max Gawn with 34 touches. Many pundits thought the loss of the Melbourne skipper may hurt the Demons in this game, but Jackson did his job with Weideman chipping in for back-up. Has the struggling forward found another string to his bow?

Goodwin may now feel the Demons have had their mid-season slump and are back on track. It may be fair to suggest that the drop in form coming mid-season is much better than it happening late in the season. The Demons may still be favourites for the flag, but there are now four teams just one game behind snapping at their heels so they’ll need to maintain good form throughout in order to stay at the top. Of their eight remaining games, six are against teams in the eight. Hopefully, Steven May can behave himself during that time.

 

2 – The Bulldogs’ biggest test is yet to come

The Bulldogs looked ominous after half-time in the manner they blew away a plucky Hawthorn, booting 13 unanswered goals. The Hawks held sway early in the game and there were signs of a potential upset in the making, but the Bulldogs machine went into serious overdrive and the Hawks could only sit and watch. Whilst there are indicators that the Dogs are finding their groove, the sad fact is that they have only won two games against teams currently in the Top 8.

They have a tough fortnight ahead of them on the road against Brisbane and Sydney. They’ve won five out of their last six games to work their way back into the eight, but it will more or less count for nothing if they drop these two games. The football they’ve been playing appears to be good enough, but their one loss in the last six was against Geelong which still leaves a question mark over their credentials.

Tom Liberatore was one of the Bulldogs’ best and Bontempelli is finding form. Things seem to be clicking, but they need to take a scalp, and with 5 of their remaining games against Top 8 teams, their biggest test is yet to come.

The Hawks looked good early, but one of their issues has been the ability to maintain the fight for four quarters. They fell away alarmingly after getting out to an early lead and were reduced to virtual spectators. The future does look bright for the likes of Mitch Lewis who booted another four goals and the evergreen Luke Breust looks likely to go on into next year based on his form. They may have also unearthed a great ruckman in Ned Reeves who looks likely to have a long career filling the hole left by skipper Ben McEvoy. Over the next month, the Hawks have a few winnable games. Hopefully, they can notch up a few wins as they do look like they are a lot better than their ladder position suggests. As the young group matures, one gets the feeling they’ll be a force to reckon with and the lapses such as the one we saw in this game may be a thing of the past.

 

3 – Going to Perth to play the Eagles won’t be fun anymore

In spite of all the challenges that the West Coast Eagles have had to endure in what is a horror season for the proud club, most of us still expected them to have chalked up more than two wins by now, or at the very least not be beaten soundly every week as they mostly have. They’ve finally got a few more players back, and after a stronger showing against the Cats last week, they must be feeling both relieved and exasperated to get a reward against a Bombers outfit coming off a good win against the Saints.

When you look at the forward line of the Eagles boasting the likes of Kennedy, Darling, Cripps, Rioli and Ryan, it should come as no surprise that these guys scored 15 of their 16 goals between them with Kennedy back to his best with five. The better sides should still prove too strong for the Eagles, but anyone travelling over there will need to bring their A-game or it could cost them.

A quick look at their remaining games suggests they may win a few in the run home. The Bombers would be hugely disappointed with this loss. After finally having their third win last week, I’m sure many within the club would’ve seen this as a back-to-back prospect against the struggling Eagles. They were also on top early with Peter Wright dominating in the first half, but he didn’t do much after half-time which seemed to coincide with the rest of the team also dropping off.

Essendon also entered their forward 50 16 more times than their opponents but the Eagles were far more efficient and made the most of their opportunities. For perhaps one week, Ben Rutten had the heat on him turned down, but now some are suggesting it’s right back up. Whichever way you look at it, this year has been a poor one for the Bombers, so I’m fairly certain nobody is safe for now.

 

4 – Undermanned Blues pass the test

Carlton’s great season looked on shaky ground after two losses in the last three weeks and with players in key defensive roles out through injury. Blues fans were wondering what the side would look like, and when it was announced that youngster Brodie Kemp would be brought into the defensive unit in just his fifth game with the prospect of playing on Dockers gun Matt Taberner, there would’ve been a few nervous fans going into the game. There were definitely one on one contests where Taberner looked too strong against the inexperienced Blue, but the good news for Carlton fans is that, while so many of their key defenders are unavailable, the system is holding up.

Lewis Young is only 21 and knows what he needs to do, and with a cool head like Sam Docherty by your side, you’d be feeling OK about the situation. Adam Saad is also a major headache for opponents as well, but the real reason why the Blues’ defence held up well against the Dockers was an improved showing by the midfield. The dominance of Sam Walsh and co meant that forward entries for the Dockers were down so the defenders had time to catch their breath unlike the previous week.

Fremantle started well with the first three goals of the game but really struggled to maintain pace with Carlton’s ball movement. The speed at which Carlton moved the ball in this game was a welcome return to the earlier season form that has set up Carlton’s first chance at playing finals in nearly a decade. It was breathtaking at times, and Freo had no answer. Will Brodie worked tirelessly for his 36 touches and Brayshaw continued his good form. Taberner returned to the side with two goals and showed some good signs without really having a major impact, but the Dockers certainly need a lot more from Rory Lobb up forward or they may struggle to kick winning scores if they persist with him. They’ve been very good this year, but they’d be very disappointed with what appeared to be a lack of intensity in this game.

 

5 – Tom Stewart gets a holiday

In what was an epic game, it’s a shame that the Prestia incident will be the main talking point. Having closely watched the incident, as Stewart approaches Prestia ready to apply the bump, you will notice Prestia’s head slip down several inches which then puts it in line with Stewart’s shoulder and that’s when connection to the head was made. Had Prestia remained in a more upright position, the shoulder would’ve hit him in the chest as I believe it was meant to do. So I do buy into Stewart’s remorseful response to the incident in which he explains that it was a mistake that resulted in head-high contact.

This by no means exonerates Stewart, but I think it should mitigate the severity of his upcoming suspension. He still did the wrong thing, but it was just one of those things that go horribly wrong and I sincerely hope that is taken into consideration.

That said, my Blues take on Geelong in Round 18, and I view Tom Stewart as one of Geelong’s most important players, so my suggested penalty would be three matches…

All that aside, what a game!

Richmond looked stunned early as the Cats were up by as much as 35 points before they worked their way back into the game. It looked to be all Richmond as they continued outplaying the Cats into the final term and leading by as much as 17 points when Geelong finally began to realise there was a game on the line and through sheer will power they hit the lead only to see that lead taken off them by a goal to Maurice Rioli with just over two minutes remaining. Jack Henry was the ultimate hero kicking the winning goal after a courageous mark. A win to either side would’ve been a fitting result, but what it does mean is that Geelong are still in the hunt for a Top 4 spot and Richmond once again find themselves 9th on the ladder.

Prestia will miss next week’s game against West Coast but should be right to return against his old side in the Suns. A lot of the Tigers’ fortunes hinge on this man who I believe is one of their most influential players. The cynics out there have suggested Chris Scott is aware of this too, begging the question as to whether or not certain instructions may have been followed.

 

6 – The Saints are in free-fall

After Round 11, St Kilda were sitting pretty with an 8-3 win-loss record sitting comfortably within the Top 8 with a genuine shot at making Top 4. They would’ve gone to the bye feeling pretty chuffed with their season to date and coming back hard after the break. Their loss to Brisbane at the Gabba didn’t set off any alarm bells. Most sides struggle to win there. When they lost to the Bombers last week, many eyebrows were raised yet it could’ve been put down as an off-night. However, after their even poorer showing against the Swans in which they kicked their lowest ever score under coach Brett Ratten, it’s pretty hard to deny that something has gone wrong.

They are increasingly looking likely to miss the finals, and with games against Carlton, Fremantle and the Bulldogs in their next three weeks, they’ll be hoping to regain their early season form. Max King was kept goalless against the Swans and has scored just three goals in their last three weeks.

The Swans were disappointing against the Power last week and answered strongly. Isaac Heeney is finding form booting another three goals on the back of four goals against Port. Lance Franklin only booted one goal but it has to be said he has notably become a great team player in recent times with his willingness to tackle and present further up the ground. They’re a good unit in Sydney but have bouts of inconsistency that have cost them at times. Their best is very good and they simply crushed the Saints with their strong defence strangling their forwards. Jake Lloyd had a game-high 39 disposals and Nick Blakey had 31, demonstrating how hard they work in their back line.

 

7 – The Kangaroos won’t win another game

It was suggested by some that the Kangaroos might pinch an unlikely win against the Crows. The Crows have struggled at times, so if the Roos managed to get it together for a game, you just never know – that’s what they said. The first quarter saw North Melbourne keep pace with Adelaide, but after quarter-time is was one-way traffic.

I’ve often thought that defender Ben McKay could be tried up forward, but when you consider that Adelaide’s two tall forwards kicked ten goals between them, perhaps it wasn’t such a great move. Ben managed one goal and looked OK at times while also looking like a fish out of water at other times. It may be worth persisting with, but the problems at North run far and deep, and when you lose to a side sitting 15th by ten goals, it’s hard to be positive in any way.

Tex Walker was on fire today booting six goals while Darcy Fogarty managed to reward the club’s patience kicking four and taking a huge grab in his 50th game. The Adelaide Crows have a few winnable games out of the remaining eight rounds. If they can manage three wins before the end of the year to finish with eight wins, you would think that would be about where we thought they were with some improvement on last year. Matthew Nicks would’ve shown enough to see out his third year at the helm. Some say his job is also under pressure but I believe he was given the job when the playing list was at a low ebb and would need time to get it to a level of competitiveness they’d be happy with. I see them finishing on 7 or 8 wins and that would be good enough for me to give him a pass mark.

I can’t say the same for David Noble, however. He doesn’t appear to be making any progress with his group. They’ll most likely end this year with that one win and it was against a side ravaged by COVID so much that they had to pluck four players out of obscurity to field a team. They have failed to come close in any other game.

 

8 – Bad kicking for goal almost cost the Pies

Conditions were wet, but there were some howlers in front of goal for Collingwood who finished with 11 goals and 22 behinds to eventually win by 11 points against their more accurate opponents in GWS who kicked 12.5 for the match.

The Pies dominated most of the second half and found themselves 34 points up 12 minutes into the final term only to see the Giants kick the last four goals of the game. Collingwood now find themselves back in the 8 with nine wins and I believe they’ll be hard to shift from there. Their next five games are against teams outside the 8 although it does include a trip to the Gold Coast to take on the dangerous Suns. That said, they may need to win four of their next five to be assured of finals before they take on Melbourne, Sydney and Carlton in their last three rounds. I think they’ll get there in the end although you wouldn’t want to slip up too much before the final three games.

The Giants are an interesting team for me. They have a list on paper that seems far more advanced than their lowly ladder position. They are competitive in most games but look like they’ve forgotten how to win. On the surface, it does look like they’re playing better under their new interim coach, but then that seems to be the case every time a coach is given their marching orders. Jarrod McVeigh probably would be a worthy appointee for the job beyond this year, but do we know who else the club is talking to? Is Clarko in the mix? It’s anybody’s guess.

And here’s my two cents on Josh Kelly if I may. Last year, Josh Kelly signed up to be a Giant for life. He’s playing good footy right now, but even with his good form, I still get the sense he isn’t happy right now. His best is incredible, and some may have forgotten just how good a player he is. This year hasn’t been his best, and I sincerely get the feeling he may be regretting signing that eight-year deal.

 

9 – Port Adelaide need a ruckman fast!

Scott Lycett is still 4-5 weeks away from returning after injuring his shoulder earlier in the year. They brought in Brynn Teakle via the mid-season draft to fill the hole. He looked lively until he went down in his debut match for the Power in eerily similar circumstances to Carlton recruit Sam Durdin who was taken in the mid-season draft to bolster the tall defensive stocks and was unable to see out his first game in the navy blue. They will both be missing for a month or more.

Port recruited Jeremy Finlayson as a tall forward, but instead he has been forced to take on the ruck duties. By the final term of this game, with arguably the best ruckman in the comp in Jarrod Witts to contend with, Ken Hinkley decided to put Charlie Dixon in there, such was the dominance of the Suns champion. One can’t help but feel that Port Adelaide may have had a slightly more comfortable victory had they had the likes of Lycett available. Finlayson tries hard, but even by his own admission I’d say he doesn’t see himself as a genuine ruckman.

It still needs some kind of miracle for the Power to play finals from here, but that would be an even bigger miracle for them without a recognised ruckman.

The Suns were very good in this game and came oh so close to winning. I feel very much like I’m being teased by this team. I know they’re good, and while watching this game they looked prettier to watch and even seemed to move the ball quicker with players that exhibited silky skills and loads of class. Yet here we are talking about another loss. It is always difficult to travel interstate and secure a win, particularly in Adelaide with such an adoring home crowd giving you crickets each time you score.

The Suns haven’t lost any admirers, but one does get the feeling that it will end up being another year of “nearly” and “what-ifs” come Round 23 as they fall short of playing finals. Make no mistake. They have a pretty forgiving draw so winning five or six games out of their next 8 is not impossible. But, as I said, I think this mob are the biggest tease in the competition. They look good, seem to have all the right attributes with an even spread of talent across the ground. They seem settled in most positions and are certainly building to something better, but for now at least, it’s looking like we might be getting all excited for nothing.

 

10 – Three weeks of bye rounds needs to go

I don’t mind the idea of players wanting a mid-season break. It’s perfectly understandable and it would be a good way to nurse any niggles or minor injuries with a week off. For a few seasons now we’ve had three rounds in the middle of the year with just six games to facilitate a break for all teams. I’m starting to feel it would be better to just have a weekend with no football at all and be done with it in one fell swoop rather than a protracted reduced fixture over three weeks to drag it out.

Whatever you think of this or otherwise, I’m yet to meet a true football fan who isn’t happy when those three weeks are over. Shutting down footy for one week means it’s over in one go, and maybe we could all use a complete break from footy mid-year.

Another consideration is how sides coming off a bye sometimes seem to struggle in that return game when competing against a team who isn’t. You would think the opposite would apply, but it does seem to be more of a hindrance than a benefit. Looking at examples in this season, I can cite a few instances where teams performed at a mediocre level after a bye. The one that comes to mind in this round is Fremantle against Carlton. A 31-point loss to a team decimated by injuries is not the result they would’ve been expecting. Last week the Cats only just hung on against bottom of the ladder West Coast. The Cats have a dreadful record after byes having won just five from fourteen games following the week off in recent years. The Saints went into the bye round with 8 wins from 11 and have now lost three in a row following their week off. The Demons are probably the only side who really used their week off to full advantage to get their season back on track, but I’m sure some saw it as an unwelcome interruption.

Except maybe Jordan De Goey’s Bali companion.

This year, eight teams won following their break while ten teams lost. These numbers are not necessarily too alarming, but there is an argument there as to how it can halt momentum and affect teams in different ways. This could be sorted out by simply giving everyone a week off at once so they all come back on an even keel fresh from the break or stale from the week off, whichever way you want to look at it. There’s definitely a downside to a week with no footy, but I’d be much happier with that than three weeks of shorter rounds.

What do you guys think?

 

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