Sorry Eminem fans, it’s actually Gab Rossi, and here are the ten things he learnt after Round 21
1 – It’s official – Collingwood are now taking the piss
When was the last time a team had 15 wins from 20 games with a percentage of just 106.3? I’m sure there’ll be some smart-arse who will know the answer to this, but surely it’s an absolute rarity. The Magpies have now won 11 games in a row by a combined aggregate of just 79 points. That’s an average winning margin of 7.2 points, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re playing a top four team or a bottom four team. They always seem to do just enough to win regardless of who they’re playing, and, in many cases, after giving up a handy lead to their opponents.
In this week’s game against the Demons, trailing by seven points at the last break, tell me you didn’t think Collingwood would get up. I know I did. It’s getting ridiculous now. This was the game that was supposed to be the end of Collingwood’s run of good luck against a Melbourne team looking as though their big win in Perth against the Dockers was the launching pad for their assault on back-to-back flags. Now the Dees will be sitting there licking their wounds wondering how they fell short. The reality is they didn’t play bad, but when the game was on the line they just couldn’t break the lines and hit the scoreboard. The doubters will have been silenced now. The Pies are second on the ladder looking invincible even though 9 of their last 11 wins were in single digits. Something else worth noting was the fact that Melbourne had the ball 90 more times than Collingwood, as well as entering their forward 50 24 more times. The Pies keep winning the unwinnable, and I’m starting to get the feeling they’re having a lend of us.
2 – Disappointing end to the season for the Suns
The Suns have been very watchable this year and are a vastly improved side. They’ve also lost a lot of games by small margins. This could’ve been the year that they made finals for the first time but it wasn’t to be. Like so many teams who have struggled for a lengthy period, they often just don’t know how to win. Now there is talk that Izak Rankine may have an offer on the table that’s just too good to refuse back in his home state. Keeping this group together is still a challenge, so there’s no guarantee that the Suns will be able to build on this season and have a crack at finals in 2023.
Gold Coast can be optimistic with their improvement this year, but they’ll also see it as a lost opportunity with a playing group that might not be able to find that next level required to play finals. Next year will be crunch time for Stewart Dew one feels.
The Hawks have been pretty good at times this year and many feel they are heading in the right direction. Veteran Jack Gunston has found form late in the season and looks set to play on in 2023. They have a good crop of youngsters coming through, but it would be a mistake to move on any of their older players. Luke Breust is still hitting the scoreboard. Ben McEvoy is back and playing well. They have two more games coming up against the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Their best is good enough to trouble both of these sides, so whilst the Hawks can’t make finals this year, they can still put a dampener on those two teams with respect to their aspirations of finals action. I’m sure the Blues fans will be hoping so anyway.
3. The Giants check back in
It was a stinging assessment by coach Jarrad McVeigh after their humiliating loss to the Swans last round. He described members of his playing group as having “checked out early” for the season. Based on their indifferent form in recent weeks and what looked very much like a disinterested group, it was a fair call.
As much as it would be fair enough to believe that GWS in 2022 might simply not be that good, it will take a lot to convince me that they’re as bad as their position on the ladder would suggest. Whilst they’ve lost a few players to other clubs, their list still boasts quite a few players who would be walk-up starts at most clubs. The challenge for them is to find a suitable coach who can get them back playing at the level we know they can. This win against the Bombers was an important one. Maybe they’re keen to finish the season off well. Beware, Bulldogs and Dockers, unless they check back out again.
The Bombers were disappointing in this game. Their recent run of form has been good and they would’ve gone into this game with high expectations. It was obvious early on that the Giants were more switched on. The Bombers were outplayed in just about all areas. Clearly, last week’s comments by the coach stung the Giants’ players into action. The Bombers will want to find form again for the last two games. With just two wins from the first twelve games there was a huge amount of pressure on the club. Once they started chalking up a few wins, supporters stopped calling for heads to roll and began enjoying watching their team again. One gets the feeling that it’s important they finish the season well to set up for a big pre-season and a push for finals in 2023. A poor final two games might put a dent in their confidence moving forward.
4 – The Bulldogs’ finals hopes take a dive
Many thought that the Bulldogs were a chance to win their final three games of the season and waltz into the finals. The Dockers weren’t in top form in recent weeks, and being at Marvel, many had the Bulldogs as favourites in this game. The Western Bulldogs of 2022 are nothing like the side from their runner-up performance last season. They’ve played well at times, but they’ve been inconsistent and somewhat mediocre for most of the season.
The Dockers broke the game open in the second quarter opening up a 23-point lead at the long break, and they were able to maintain a three-to-four goal lead for the remainder of the game eventually running out winners by 17 points to secure a finals spot for the first time in six seasons. The Doggies just couldn’t get a run-on with the Dockers answering every time they scored after half-time. The Bulldogs will need to win both their remaining games to have any chance of playing finals. They face GWS at Marvel next week and would be expected to win although it will be interesting to see if the Giants will continue on from their good win against Essendon. Their last game against the Hawks is no pushover either, although, once again, the Dogs will be favourites. It’s all down to the teams above them and what they do. Any wins by either Richmond or Carlton and their season is over. That would be a disappointing result for the Bulldogs after playing in the Grand Final last season, but they have been found wanting for most of the year and you have to wonder if another average year will put pressure on Beveridge.
5 – The Cats firming as flag favourites
Geelong don’t seem to be getting troubled by too many teams this late in the season. They made pretty light work of St Kilda who I imagine have spent their last week in the eight. It was a clinical effort where the Cats weren’t dominant in the stats but were far more damaging with what they did. Even with Patrick Dangerfield rested for this game there were plenty of other midfielders ready to step up and fill the void. They were also without Blicavs, Selwood and Rohan. The depth at Geelong is clear to see. They no longer rely on Hawkins and Cameron to do all their scoring. They only contributed five between them out of Geelong’s 17 for the match. So the Cats are perfectly placed and look well and truly set to win the minor premiership.
The Saints won’t play finals. They’ll need to beat Brisbane and Sydney in their remaining two games and it’s very hard to see that happening. Max King managed just the one goal and really hasn’t had a great second half of the season. The St Kilda midfield also seems vulnerable without Jade Gresham in the team. They’ve managed to win just three games since the bye and have not been competitive at times. It will be interesting to see what changes they make to their list. There’d be a few there who should be nervous. In my humble opinion the coach should’ve been as well, but a two year deal was signed…
6 – Richmond look like playing finals
The Tigers have done their best to miss finals, losing games that they should’ve won. It appears they have steadied the ship after their great comeback win at the MCG agqinst the Lions. They now find themselves inisde the eight with upcoming games against the Hawks and the Bombers. Their form would suggest they’ll be good enough to win at least one and possibly both of those to ensure September action. They were far too good for the Power in this game, and Shai Bolton continues to impress. Once Bolton can tidy up his kicking for goal, he may well be considered the most damaging player at Richmond and could be a big reason why they may even go beyond week one of the finals. If you haven’t been to a Tigers game yet, do yourself a favour and get there. It’s even better watching him live.
This is a season to forget for the Power. Ken Hinkley is contracted for 2023, and I expect that to be fulfilled, but I also believe another season like this one could result in an early exit. The season’s over and their remaining games are against sides who won’t be playing finals including a derby which will only be of interest to people living in South Australia. Does Robbie Gray go on one more year? I like the guy but I’ve seen a few signs that the end is near. Travis Boak is still one of Port’s best at 34. He should stay on. Based on what I’ve seen this year the Power are off the pace and will need to fill a few holes to play finals next year.
7. Swans and the Pies to play for a Top 4 spot next week.
The Sydney v Collingwood fixture this coming Sunday looms as the decider for which of these two teams get the double chance. And what a game that will be. I’m not even going to comment on the Pies running out of luck anymore. I’ve given up. It was no surprise that the Swans were too good for the Kangaroos, but the losers weren’t terrible, thanks in part to seven goals from Nick Larkey. The margin did threaten to blow out to something embarrassing but the Roos fought it out and eventually went down by 38 points.
Lance Franklin kicked four for the Swans as the rumours of his departure grow. Chad Warner continued his great form with three goals from 20 touches.
North Melbourne have shown some promise later in the year. They play the Suns in the final round and may fancy their chances in that one. If they were to somehow lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder, I’m sure they would see that as a positive. I’ve already mentioned Larkey’s game. Simpkin and Davies-Uniacke continued their good form both collecting 30 touches or more, but the pleasing thing for Roos fans will be the more consistent efforts of Stephenson in recent games. When he was languishing in the VFL earlier in the season it was beginning to look like his career was going to end early. I’d say he’s done enough to show he’s worth persisting with, but he’ll need a solid year next year.
Just don’t let him kick in…
8 – The Blues slip further despite another Lions fadeout
The Lions would’ve been ruing last week’s loss after giving up a 42-point lead against the Tigers. It was obvious early that the Blues were just not up for the contest as the Lions went to quarter time with a five-goal lead. That lead had blown out to 57 points by the final break and it was a case of Brisbane by how much. The Blues finally decided to get into the game kicking eight out of the first nine goals of the final term inching to within 15 points with three minutes still remaining.
Any ideas that we were going to see a historical win were quickly snuffed out when Brisbane booted three quick goals to seal the deal by 33 points. Even though the Lions won, they will be concerned that the Blues had a sniff, and likewise, the Blues will be concerned as to why they were non-competitive for the best part of three-quarters of football.
So, the question for the Lions is can they make Top 4? They’re taking on St Kilda at Marvel next round and I expect them to win that. That will be followed by a game against Melbourne which could decide which of either team gets the double-chance. The Blues are in real danger of missing finals altogether after such a great start to the year. Losses to Melbourne and Collingwood almost seem likely as the form of the Blues is nowhere near that of their early season matchwinning form. Add in the chance that Cripps might end up on the sidelines after his heavy bump an Ah Chee and the problems get real. Maybe that last quarter burst against Brisbane can spur them on enough to pinch a win. It may be their only hope unless, of course, the Bulldogs and Saints fall over.
9 – The Crows spoil the Josh Kennedy show
It’s not very often a team loses when its full forward kicks a bag of eight goals. It’s not often that a player kicks eight goals in his final game before retiring. The last time that happened was back on August 30, 1991, when David Cloke of Richmond booted eight goals in his final appearance against arch-rivals Carlton at the MCG. Kennedy finished his career with 721 goals from 293 games. But, in amongst all the fanfare, there was a game to be won, and sadly for Josh, his side went down by 16 points to the Crows.
Kennedy may be ruing his miss which would’ve given him a ninth goal that would’ve put the Eagles within a point of their opponents. But it wasn’t to be, and the Crows kicked two late goals to collect win number seven for the year.
For the Crows, Rory Laird celebrated his 200th game in style kicking two goals from his 36 touches. He was unstoppable and seems to be really enjoying his role in the midfield after years in defence. Darcy Fogarty is showing more consistency. He finished with four goals and McAdam kicked three. It was a good win considering Taylor Walker was quiet which suggests that they don’t have an unhealthy reliance on the star.
Despite struggling for big parts of the season, Adelaide have now won two in a row and take on the Kangaroos and the Power to close out the season. One or two more wins will be a good result and a small step forward from last year.
10 – It looks like the dissent rule is done
Who remembers the beginning of the season where you would cop a 50m penalty for simply raising an eyebrow after a decision went against you? There were moments of ridiculousness, so it’s no wonder that the umpiring fraternity have finally eased up on the interpretation and realised that the players aren’t robots.
I saw many instances in this weekend’s games that I’m sure would’ve resulted in fifty metres in the earlier rounds. I’m sure this is the source of plenty of frustration for many lovers of the game. It appears that they’re hot on certain rules for a limited time in order to appease someone, and we all know how that ends. I’m also pretty sure Jack Ginnivan is hoping they get off his case soon with respect to him being tackled high. I understand the sentiment behind the shift, but I personally think that it went too far and seemingly had one player singled out.
I’m still very concerned with the protected space rule. This rule lacks common sense. A player 5m away and off to the side is hardly impeding on a player’s ability to dispose of the ball, and there were a few silly instances on the weekend as always. One wonders if there’ll be any more rule changes in the off-season. Wouldn’t it be great if they just left the game alone? How many times have we said that? Maybe they’ll start going after us fans for dissent soon…