Three rounds from home and the heat is being turned up.
Let’s check out who is getting toasty warm from Jimmy Ayres’ love, and who is getting scorched with On Fire / Under Fire for Round 21.
On Fire – Ben Keays & Brodie Smith
These two make my job pretty easy this week, mounting a case for these two being top of the table is easier than tipping against North Melbourne this season. Keays played a new, defensive forward role in an attempt to negate the influence of Adam Saad off half-back, and he did so with sheer brilliance, strolling in for three goals out of the goal square and directly assisting four others. Brodie Smith played the exact opposite role down the other end of the ground, but commanded the ball excellently, not allowing the Blues any time nor space when looking for a goal out the back.
Under Fire – Patrick Parnell
There were some moments that I really loved what I saw from the mid-season recruit of last year, but taken with those moments of applause were the horrible turnovers from poor shot selection and a lack of awareness at times that saw the Blues capitalise on numerous occasions.
On Fire – Eric Hipwood
Probably not the best player on the ground, but this was far and away the best game of Hipwood’s season since returning from his long-term injury. Whilst he finished the game kicking 4.3, this was the best that the 24-year-old has looked this year, with a rediscovered feeling of confidence.
Under Fire – Leaving The Door Ajar
Note to self: Never go camping with the Brisbane Lions – they leave the door wide open and just let the opposition come rolling in. No need to har9 on the results. There’s no Brisbane fan is unaware of what happened and how it all transpired.
On Fire – Patrick Cripps
Not many Carlton players flew out of South Australia self-assured that they had a red hot crack, and matched the intensity of the Crows. Patrick Cripps is one of only a few that needn’t spend too long trying to convince himself. He and Sam Walsh combined out of the midfield to keep the Blues in relative touch with the game, even if the next kick along the line was the one that constantly let their side down.
Under Fire – Shellshocked Lack Of Pressure
It’s almost indefensible to argue that the Blues played their usual pressure game in Adelaide. For only the second time this season, they were beaten in the contested ball count – and it showed. The Crows were relentless and turned the Blues’ own game style against them, playing hard and swift football out of the centre, and being smart with their half forwards, not allowing Carlton an inch when they did attempt to drive the ball out of defence.
On Fire – Jordan De Goey
This is the statement game that we’ve been waiting for, and right on schedule with finals just around the corner. Rolling out 23 disposals, five clearances and scoring 2.1 was hopefully the appetiser for another dominant main course come finals.
Under Fire – Taylor Adams
I’ve said this before, but I’ve really grown to understand why so many Collingwood fans berate Adams when their side isn’t winning. Which sounds funny in itself, given that they’ve won their past 10 straight.l, it’s not something that we’ve seen for a while. But, I had his name written down for this section before his untimely groin injury that will likely see him miss the next three weeks of footy. On a day when Taylor channels his aggression and desire to conquer, into winning the football; he’s usually Collingwood’s best midfielder for the game. On a day when he’s more interested in going the man and reassuring the opposition that he is in fact, the alpha male – then more often than not, Collingwood fans are left perplexed as to why their star ball-winner is wasting his time and energy on a scrap when he could harness that into winning the game.
On Fire – Mason Redman
The running half-back has all but sewn up the Bombers’ best and fairest award for this season. In a brilliant coming of age this season, Redman has found his niche as the galloping general of the half-back line, setting up play from the back half with great efficiency and getting back to intercept as required, as well as utilising his booming right boot to kick goals on the run from outside 50 when given the opportunity.
Zach Merrett’s game deserves a shout-out too. Take notes, Essendon: the role that he is currently playing? Lock him in for that role until he is too old to have the effect on games that he is currently having. He possesses the best field kick within the AFL, do not, I repeat; do NOT let it go to waste, again.
Under Fire – Jake Kelly
I’ve learnt that Jake Kelly is a really black or white style of player in that he is really one, or the other. When he is loaded with confidence and using his staunch build for its best purpose, he looks like a galloping bull on the backline. But when he’s beaten, it’s usually on more than one occasion, and quite often at the hands of another bulking figure in the opposition’s forward line – Cam Zurhaar for instance.
On Fire – Andrew Brayshaw
Games like we saw on the weekend only further prove why Brayshaw is one of the favourites for the Brownlow this season. As the night got wetter and even more slippery, Brayshaw’s influence around the contest never wavered. His two chase-down tackles capped off what was a brilliant night from one of the Dockers’ most important players.
Under Fire – Matthew Taberner
I don’t recall a Fremantle player looking as disinterested in being on the field since those retro guernseys were last worn as the regular strip. Other than laying a few tackles in the first quarter, Taberner was barely sighted for the entire game until he popped up for a few inconsequential touches in the final quarter, only touching the ball once in the entire game up until that point. The Dockers struggled to get the ball past their half-forward line without being chopped off by Melbourne’s defence, but the lack of presentation from both Taberner and Rory Lobb when in the forward line was evident and costly.
On Fire – Cam Guthrie
A pair of goals, a pair of misses, 23 disposals and six clearances.. there’s really not much more to say other than: good lord, Cam Guthrie is a handy player. The return of Tom Stewart was a relatively successful one too, thankfully for the Cats’ vice-captain, it was largely overshadowed by Joel Selwood’s 350th game.
Under Fire – That First Half
It was a genuine mixture of nothing going right for the Cats, and the Bulldogs not allowing them the opportunity to make things go right. Alas! That changed rather rapidly in the third quarter, as the Cats turned the tables and scored nine-straight goals to bury the Bulldogs, convincingly.
On Fire – Noah Anderson & Mabior Chol
I threw a few questions Chol’s way earlier in the season as he looked more like an obstacle in Levi Casboult’s way than a genuine forward prospect. Fast forward to Round 21 and the former Tiger has kicked 43.20 for the season, including a goal in every game thus far – one of only two players in the League, alongside Melbourne’s Bayley Fritsch, to do so.
Noah Anderson has also filled me with a lot of confidence that he is, and will continue to improve at being the silky clean midfielder that the most optimistic of Suns fans have been ripping since his drafting. Especially since the Bye this year, I’ve seen a lot that I’m liking.
Under Fire – The Half Back Line
Far too little was done in the second half to combat the Eagles’ chances of a comeback. When the opposition midfielders and half-forwards combined to move the ball inside 50, there was very little resistance other than from the last line.
On Fire – Sam Taylor
On a day where the ball spent a considerable amount of time inside the Giants’ back half, Sam Taylor continued his press as one of the more skilful key defenders in the game. Finishing the game with 21 disposals for 13 intercepts, 10 marks with five being contested, there wasn’t a lot more the 23-year-old could have done.
Under Fire – Mark McVeigh
Let me preface by saying I wholeheartedly disagree with the general media consensus on this issue, and I openly welcome the opinion of any and all Giants fans as to how you feel about it.
So, for those that missed it, I’ll condense Mark McVeigh’s post-game press conference into a couple of loosely compiled notes. Essentially, McVeigh said that the players embarrassed the club today (in the loss to the Swans) and he named eight players who pulled their weight. The over-sensationalism by the general media drives me insane. Now all of a sudden, McVeigh’s credibility as an interim coach to make those kinds of comments is called into question, even though he has been at that club since 2013, all because he was publicly scathing in his assessment of a game which, quite frankly, was an embarrassment. Give me a spell. The same outlets cheer and praise certain coaches for their brutal honesty all the while demanding others be more open and transparent, only to berate them when they are.
On Fire – Josh Ward & Jai Newcombe
Is enough said about Josh Ward? A lot is said about Jai Newcombe, but I feel Ward’s efforts as an 18-year-old who has only just clocked over his tenth career game, go largely unheralded. The first-year mid was terrific against the Saints, putting in a four-quarter effort that any Hawks fan should be stoked about. I won’t spend too much time further pampering Newcombe, but I’d like to highlight his adaptability. When battling a hard tag from Marcus Windhager in the midfield, Newcombe was moved to the half-forward line where the 20-year-old was able to kick two goals and still have an influence on the game.
Under Fire – Jacob Koschitzke
A further blow to the Hawks’ tall stocks as Koschitzke battled through a nasty corky. Credit to the young man for playing out the game, with Mitch Lewis already on ice for a knee injury, the Hawks forward battled through and stayed on the ground out of necessity.
On Fire – Jack Viney
There were a number of Melbourne players that fit the bill for this section this week, and I know I’ve touched on this before, but it was the tenacity and physicality of Jack Viney that elevated him for me. It was made evidently clear from the first contest that Viney was there to make his presence known, and more often than not the Fremantle player nearest to him copped that wrath. I sound like a busted record here, but I cannot understate the importance of a player like Viney to a side, especially in his current vein of form. The 17 other clubs in the game would give their proverbial jangers to have a bloke like Viney in their 22.
Under Fire – Sam Weideman
I called for Weideman to have a big game in the week leading up to the Demons’ clash with the Dockers. I thought with the absence of Ben Brown and with a bit of room to move at Optus Stadium, the 25-year-old might finally grasp his opportunity in the big time – Nope! That was a big, fat negative.
As a key forward, Weideman just wasn’t able to get himself in the game.. at all. He was blanketed by Alex Pearce for the majority of the game, and aside from his one and only disposal for the night – a goal that he kicked after the ball had landed in his arms in the goal square, we saw absolutely nothing.
On Fire – Jy Simpkin
The North Melbourne mid won a LOT of the ball, and although his entire side struggled to make anything happen with it after completely dominating the clearances, Simpkin was at times the only one who looked capable of hitting a target or kicking to his forward’s advantage.
Under Fire – Nick Larkey
Wasn’t given much room by the pairing of Jordan Ridley and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher – and it showed. It also didn’t help the young forward’s chances that his teammates constantly kicked the ball in high, allowing his opponent a chance at spoiling every forward line entry that came his way.
On Fire – Travis Boak & Jase Burgoyne
All class from the power veteran, once again. Boak set the tone early and carried himself admirably across all four quarters. Young Jase Burgoyne in just his fifth game of football showed a lot that would indicate his future within Port Adelaide is going to be an exciting one.
Under Fire – Tall Forwards
Sam Powell-Pepper was the only thing close to a traditional forward that really worked for Port Adelaide. The Magpies (of the Collingwood variety) had a day out against the likes of Dixon, Marshall and Georgiadis, the three talks combining for only three goals to go with a whole heap of disappointment.
On Fire – Noah Cumberland & Shai Bolton
Five goals from the player that the Lions let go. Cumberland was a member of Brisbane’s academy, eventually selected by the Tigers at pick #43 in the 2019 National Draft, Cumberland bounced back from his final second torment of last week in emphatic style, kicking five goals across all four quarters in a well-rounded display of consistency.
Also, Shai Bolton. Enough said.
Under Fire – That First Half
This comment is all but moot given that the Tigers were able to claw their way back from a 42-point oblivion and maintain their composure to win the game late. But to be in that position early in the game was poor, especially from a side only half a win away from contending in finals once again.
On Fire – Brad Crouch
Another player who is commonly branded with the ‘accumulates but doesn’t impact’ iron, Crouch was influential against the Hawks and was my pick of the Saints mids. Every time he sent the ball forward, the Saints looked like scoring. Every time he laid one of his 11 tackles, the Saints looked like winning the ball back.
Under Fire – Finals Chances
Only half a game holds the Saints inside the top eight, and with Geelong in Geelong, Brisbane at Marvel and Sydney in Melbourne to come, the Saints have one of the hardest runs home, plus a percentage that doesn’t aid their fighting chance in the slightest.
On Fire – Errol Gulden
Sydney are just quietly flying under the radar of some. Back inside the top four now with a relatively easy run home, this could be the year that this young crop of players experiences finals with a view from the top half. Speaking of young crop, Errol Gulden was magnificent against the Giants. Making the opposition look almost lazy, Gulden kicked two goals to go with his 32 disposals and a whole heap of influence on the game. Luke Parker was also at his damaging best with the ball in hand.
Under Fire – Finals Nay-Sayers
I kind of ruined this by touching on it above, but there were a lot of people as early as six weeks ago questioning just how resilient this Sydney side was and how effective they would be, come finals time. I think they’ve low-key snuck under the radar of many, as most eyes are cast on the form of the top three, the Swans have just casually worked their way into fourth spot with little fanfare.
On Fire – Jack Darling
The Suns just didn’t have the answers as Darling kicked six goals across all four quarters. Most importantly though, was his four goals in the second half when the Eagles began to press. It felt as if the Suns really got out of jail in that one – the Eagles had no right getting back in the game that close, so full credit to West Coast.
Under Fire – Jai Culley
The mid-season extraordinaire ran afoul of the MRO with an errant elbow that glanced the chin of Noah Anderson from the Suns. Luckily, Anderson wasn’t affected and played out the remainder of the game in good form, but the subsequent two-week suspension for Culley was untimely, but just. The young midfielder was set to miss some footy anyway, after being subbed out of the game with a hamstring injury.
On Fire – Josh Dunkley
Other than some errant kicking and a little lapse in pressure during the second half (something that he wasn’t alone in), it was a solid hitout from Dunkley in what proved to be a disappointing result for his club. His final numbers tallying 25 disposals, eight score involvements, six tackles, five intercepts, three clearances, two contested marks, two goals and a direct assist.
Under Fire – Third Quarter Aneurysm
I don’t even know if an aneurysm accurately represents exactly what happened? All I know for sure is that it did not look good. The Dogs started the game looking rabid and craving the contest, almost as if the Cats were jumped and didn’t expect such dominance. That all changed after halftime as the home side kicked nine straight goals to the bewilderment of coach Luke Beveridge and the sheer disappointment of those sons of the ‘Scray watching on.