Ten Things I Learnt After Round Five


  1. Adelaide gave the Blues a much-needed reality check

There’s a lot to like about the Crows.  At this early stage of the year, they look like a side that may be knocking on the door of the finals.  They have a host of young guns that have made very solid contributions in their first or second year at the club as well as old heads like Taylor Walker who looks somewhere near his high-level form again.  They had a solid lead in Round One before being overrun by the Giants on a scorching hot day that maybe gave their home ground adversaries a slight advantage. They certainly seemed to run the game out better and perhaps were more accustomed to the Western Sydney heat.

Round Two against the Tigers saw the Crows draw within a point in the final term only to see a late burst by the Tigers to take the points. And now they’ve won three in a row arguably taking a scalp in the highly-fancied Blues on Thursday, although the Carlton we saw might suggest they aren’t in the top echelon by any stretch. Just imagine the Crows held their nerve in the first two rounds and sat undefeated at this stage.

Matty Nicks would’ve had a gold statue erected by now.  It’s really hard to gauge how far the Crows will go in all honesty.  Maybe we can revisit this after their Round Seven clash against Collingwood at home.  Unless, of course, they head down to Tassie in Round Six and put in a shocker against the Hawks. And the way this season is going, who knows?

I imagine that in spite of two decades or more of mediocre football by the Carlton Football Club, that to find an opening term where they were so far off the pace would be a struggle.  Not only were they down by 38 points at the first break, they had around 70 fewer possessions.  Michael Voss could only look on as the Crows slammed on eight goals to one by the 20-minute mark.  What was obvious early was the superior pace of the Crows.

Looking at Carlton’s list will reveal a lot of handy footballers, but not too many that are truly blessed with explosive pace.  Most of their midfielders are not quick and it’s beginning to pose a major issue.  Carlton’s back line masked this problem in the first four rounds holding up many scoring thrusts and enabling the Blues to eke out ugly wins against sides who may struggle to play finals along with an out-of-form Cats.  This week, the damn wall broke.  This was due in part to the brilliant coaching move to play Keays on Saad to stop his dash.  It worked a treat, and Keays even managed three goals in his role as a stopper.

The other problem down back was the late withdrawal of McGovern.  He does a lot of heart-in-mouth things, but he has been a good intercept marking defender this year.  He was replaced by Lachie Plowman who played like a guy that hadn’t been in the team since Round 19 last year.   Some said the Blues would play finals this year and maybe even finish top 4. I won’t write them off just yet, but a game against St Kilda next Sunday may reveal more.  The disparity between the kicking efficiency of the Crows over the Blues suggests not only is more pace required at Carlton, but perhaps they need to unearth some elite kicks from somewhere.  After all, losing a game by 56 points and actually entering your forward 50 two more times than Adelaide tells you all you need to know about their wastefulness.  And as somebody who watches the Blues closely each week, I don’t see how they can rectify this problem any time soon.  They must find a way to beat the Saints next week, but only a madman would be tipping them after what they served up this week.


  1. The Dockers probably need to persist with Jye Amiss

Picked up at number eight in the 2021 draught, Jye Amiss debuted in Round Six last season.  Since then he has managed a total of seven games after undergoing surgery due to a kidney injury last year.  He missed Round One this year but has now strung four games together and looks to be building nicely. This game against the Suns was his career-best to date booting three goals and being a huge part of why the Dockers eventually overhauled the Suns after trailing for the vast majority of the game.

I wouldn’t put a line through Taberner just yet.  There’s always the idea of playing them both, but in the last fortnight I’ve seen enough of Amiss to know he has a great pair of hands, a lovely kick, and he seems to have given the Dockers a little more spark up forward.  Michael Walters bobbing up for four goals in their wins this year has helped things a little, but I’m seeing a kid that probably provides a better target than what Freo have had on offer in recent times.  I predict he’ll have a breakout game soon kicking five or more goals.

To beat the Bulldogs at home next week, the Dockers will be hoping this is the week it happens. I don’t know what to say any more about the Suns. Sure, they were very competitive and they lead for a great portion of this game.  That’s probably the more heart-breaking aspect for coach Stewart Dew.  They were the better side by a fair way in the first half and probably should have led by more than 23 points at the long break.  After half time we saw a more spirited performance befitting of a side still aspiring to play finals in 2023 against a side who are used to watching games slip away.  Gold Coast are now 1-4 and close to the bottom of the ladder with any talk of finals silenced dramatically.  Soon, no doubt, the talk will shift to the coach’s tenure and yet another list overhaul.

After missing last season with an ACL, the return of Ben King made many think it could propel them into finals contention.  He’s played all five games this season, and while missing a year always makes finding your best form difficult in the early stages of your return, so far he has managed just eight goals and is averaging a very modest seven possessions a game and a somewhat concerning two marks.  I’m guessing this will be the week where the coach will eyeball the young star and say now is the time to crank it up a gear.  As much as this is placing a lot of pressure on the boy, a firing Ben King means the Suns win this game.  Maybe against the Kangaroos next week up on the Gold Coast, who have clearly struggled in defence against tall forwards in the last two matches, will give home the opportunity to play himself into some form.


  1. The Tigers are in a world of trouble

I’m always a little nervous writing the Tigers off, but surely now they’ll need a minor miracle to find their way into the eight again this year.  Losing Nankervis and Lynch was always going to make beating the Swans a tall order, and they stayed within reach until midway through the last quarter when Sydney torched them with the final five goals of the match.

Tom Papley had a career-high booting six goals from his 25 possessions in arguably a best-afield performance.  This could be one of those games where the Tigers being usurped of a home-ground advantage may have cost them a potential win, although the Swans did look pretty strong late in the game.  Now the Tigers are truly staring down the barrel with an upcoming clash against the Demons on Anzac Eve.  You’d have to imagine they’ll finish that week 1-4-1.

After Round Six last year, they were 2-4 and managed to turn that around.  They’ll be asked to do that again this year and the task will made more difficult with Tom Lynch looking like missing three months of football.  And we’re all waiting for Dusty to impose himself on some games too, but as good as he has been, one gets the impression his body just can’t do what it used to any more.

The Swans bounced back well from their shock loss to the Power at the SCG last week.  They have to travel down to GMHBA to take on the Cats next week.  Many believe the Cats have awakened from their slumber, but a win against the struggling Hawks, as impressive as it was, might not necessarily be a true indication of whether they are back to anything resembling their premiership form, nor is their comfortable win over the Eagles.  The Swans may still go into that game chock full of confidence, and rightly so.  Whatever the result, much will be revealed as to how certain teams are travelling at this stage of the season.


  1. The Clarkson honeymoon is over

Nobody thought that North would come out and win their first two games of the year.  Especially when you consider one was in Perth against last year’s fifth-placed Fremantle.  It was very exciting for Roos fans who’ve had a very bleak time in recent years.  Since then they lost a game many thought they could win against the Hawks and were beaten by Carlton by a respectable 23 points.

Coming into Round Five we knew they had a big challenge against a Brisbane side slowly settling into this season and starting to play good football.  In the first quarter they looked great and matched it with them.  They started to fade a little in the second quarter, but after half time they were blown away and eventually went down by 75 points conceding over 150 points in the process.

The duo of Daniher and Hipwood proved too much for their undersized defence.  Those two finished with nine goals between them, and even though Charlie Cameron was held goalless in the first half, he eventually cut loose finishing with four goals, as well.  North head north to take on the Suns in a game they should gear up for as a potential win.  After today, I think Clarko’s game plan might need to be tinkered with.  It’s clear he’s trying things and experimenting, but I’m sure he wants to start creating a winning culture.  It will be interesting to see how he approaches next week’s game.

The Lions are looking like they’ve shaken off their indifferent form that we saw in their two losses.  Their last two weeks have seen a more functional forward line with goals coming from their big and small men.  They have been a bit iffy on the road this year, so a game against the Giants at Manuka is still not to be taken lightly, but a win there will set them up nicely with a few very winnable games in the next month.  Lachie Neale was best afield with 37 touches, and for the Kangaroos, young Harry Sheezel once again got over 30 possessions.  He’s now down that four times out of his first five career games.  He’s averaging 31 possessions, and I’d love to know how that stacks up against any other debutantes.  In fact, there are a number of first-year players this year that have come in ready-made AFL players. Young Ashcroft at the Lions is another. Ollie Hollands for the Blues looks as good as any other 2nd or 3rd year player.  And well know about Nick Daicos from last season as well.  Some of us knock the Gen Z kids for being softer than previous generations, but perhaps these guys are showing that it’s not the case at all.


  1. We can’t say the Bombers haven’t beaten anyone any more

Even though the Bombers were sitting pretty with three wins from their first four matches, most pundits weren’t convinced of their credentials as the three sides they’ve beaten are all sitting on just the one win and seem destined to be holding up the ladder for this season.  Their loss to the Saints wasn’t terrible, but it still cast doubt on whether they could mix it with the big boys.  When Pickett scored a goal ten minutes into the second quarter, the Dees had a nine-point lead after trailing early and looked to be gaining control over the contest.  Unfortunately for Melbourne, they failed to post another major until early in the final term after entering the quarter 6 goals down.

The Bombers kept the Demons goalless for almost two quarters while piling on seven unanswered goals of their own.  It was a signal to the rest of the competition that the Bombers are serious.  Even Clayton Oliver’s 41 touches couldn’t stop the bleeding.  And possibly, for the first time, the absence of Gawn was felt as the ruck duo of Phillips and Draper got the better of Grundy in the hitout numbers.  All of a sudden, after what was really an awful season in 2022, under new coach Brad Scott the Bombers have found a spark and I’m now convinced they will win quite a few games.  There’s still a long way to go, but this win has to have silenced the naysayers out there.

The Anzac Day clash on Tuesday week looks like being a belter. Then they have the Cats.  They’ve already won one of the three matches I thought they’d lose. Let’s see where they’re at after Round Seven.

Melbourne have come into this season with huge expectations and would’ve been banking on this win to go 4-1.  They have a bit of soul-searching to do after this loss.  The manner in which they capitulated in the middle part of the game is uncharacteristic of the modern day Demons.  It might be a tough week on the track as they figure out how to bounce back in Round Six in a must-win game against a desperate Richmond.  Things are far from hopeless for Melbourne, but they wouldn’t want to drop too many more.  Other clubs would do well to study this game.  The pressure from the Bombers was relentless and exposed the Demons at times.  Their forward line was dysfunctional, and their defence was more vulnerable than usual, although the absence of Hibberd and Lever played a part in that.  The question on everyone’s lips now will be if the Bombers can finally break their 19-year finals-win drought.  It has to happen eventually, and I won’t lie when I say it’s been fun pointing this fact out on occasion.  I think I’ll stay tight-lipped for now.  There’s definitely something brewing there.  Let’s just see where it leads.


  1. One more week Ken Hinkley can breathe easy

You get the feeling that every time Port Adelaide hit the field they’re only a loss or two away from real heat being applied to the coach.  It does make sense considering Ken Hinkley has been there 11 years and, despite finishing high on the ladder on quite a few occasions, they haven’t even managed to play off on that last day in September let alone won a premiership.  So, coming into this year, it was understandably seen as a do-or-die situation, and after the Round Two and Three poor performances, it looked very much like the writing was on the wall.  Well, two solid performances in the last fortnight have them just outside the 8 with three wins and, for now at least, the wolves are not at the door.

A win next week at home against the Eagles seems likely, but then they travel to Melbourne to take on the Saints in what will be a tough assignment. One gets the feeling that a loss there will see the pressure return, and the following week against the Bombers will also be a challenge. It’ll be a tough year mentally for Hinkley, but at least things are looking better than they did after their loss in the showdown.  How far they can go remains to be seen, but if players like Zak Butters keep having blinders like he did last night, he should at least see out this season.

The Bulldogs’ season is hanging by a thread.  They venture to Perth next week in what will be a tough match against the Dockers. The return of Cody Weightman showed just how much they missed him.  His four-goal performance almost got them across the line with his fourth coming early in the final term giving them an eight-point lead.  But in front of an adoring home crowd in driving rain, they conceded the final four goals of the match and fell short by 14 points.  It was an opportunity lost and now their finals prospects have taken another hit.

I talk about the pressure on Ken Hinkley, but I think Luke Beveridge might be in his last year at Whitten Oval.  Last year was a mediocre year on the back of playing off in the 2021 Grand Final, and this year seems to be heading along similar lines.  I don’t know how much credits the 2016 premiership brings with it, or the fact they played off in 2021, but if they miss the finals this year, it may be time to bring a new voice to the club.  With all that said, who else is there?

Premiership coaches are hard to find.  Of all the coaches in the AFL at present, there are just seven, and any potential coach waiting in the wings with premiership success are few and far between.  I can only think of Paul Roos, but he seems very unlikely to return to a senior coaching role.  Maybe Bevo might survive at least another season.  But whatever the case, the Dogs are struggling to make an impact this year.


  1. The Cats got to play struggling teams at the right time

A couple of weeks ago, it looked very much like the Cats were destined to miss finals following their shock loss to the Suns. Staring down the barrel at 0-3 and handing Gold Coast their only win had many suggesting it was the end of an era. One of the most frustrating elements of being a Carlton supporter through this dark era of mediocrity was the knowledge that I knew many a team would be played back into form after a few losses by my struggling club.  And so it came to be that last week against the Hawks. After half time, the Cats blew them off the park and did similar against the depleted Eagles.  It brings them back within touch of the eight and, with the pressure eased a little, they can play with greater confidence and self-belief.

Taking on the Swans at home will be a challenge next week, however, one gets the feeling they will prevail in front of their home crowd on the back of their two recent wins. Had they lost either or both of those matches, the mentality may have been different, but with the knowledge their back in the mix and one win away from a likely spot in the top eight might get them over the line.

Jeremy Cameron had a relatively quiet day by his standards but still finished with four goals. You can back this feller in for the Coleman at this stage.  He’s currently four goals clear of Curnow and would’ve won it last year were it not for injury.  Hopefully, he can stay fit this year.

The Eagles were down by as much as 76 points in the third quarter, so to eventually go down by just 47 points is something they can look upon as a positive.  The second quarter was one they’d want to forget, but I’m sure the coach will take some solace from their second half in which they outscored the Cats by 17 points.  Jake Waterman and Oscar Allen were very good both scoring four goals.  In fact, there were five players in this match that kicked four goals which was a little quirk you don’t see all too often.  Jamaine Jones is growing as a player as he picked up 25 touches and was one of the Eagles’ best.  The future is not all bad for West Coast.  If they can get somewhere close to their best 22, they will win games, but, as was the case last year, this looks like another year near the bottom where a lot of youngsters get a crack.  If life is fair, Adam Simpson gets one more year, but we all know the harsh realities of football.


  1. Harry Himmelberg stars at both ends of the ground

I know one guy who would’ve walked off the ground feeling rather chuffed with his role in getting his team across the line.  Harry Himmelberg had a final two minutes that will go down in folklore.  After taking a contender for mark of the year 30 metres from goal and kicking truly to put his side three points ahead with just 90 seconds on the clock, he then found himself on the Hawthorn goal line getting his outstretched fingertips onto a 50m bomb from Jarman Impey that was on target and would’ve all but sealed the game for the Hawks.  It was no wonder he was embraced by all his teammates after the siren.

Harry won’t have a more satisfying end to a game than that one, and now with two wins on the board, the Giants can dare to dream a little with a tough fortnight to come against the Lions and Swans.  If they can eke a win out of one of those, they may be able to build towards something.  It will be a tall order, and even with the likes of Steven Coniglio in super form, it may be beyond them.

The Hawks are stiff and will think of this as the one that got away.  Their fortunes were assisted by errant kicking in front of goal, particularly late in the quarter before Harry’s kick took the lead away.  The good news is they were competitive and, as a young side finding their way, that’s all you really want.  Worpel, Newcombe and Nash all managed over 30 possessions each and were very good throughout the game.  Fergus Greene played his best game in the brown and gold after a couple of years in the VFL following a stint with the Bulldogs.  Hopefully, this will relaunch his career and justify the lifeline thrown his way by the Hawthorn Football Club.

The Hawks take on the Crows in Tasmania next week.  The Crows are looking good, but the Hawks in Tassie often throws up some odd results, and the Hawks being aware of their slight advantage will go into that game knowing they’re a chance.


  1. Collingwood put their cue in the rack three minutes early.

Collingwood got the victory but not without an almighty scare. They were seemingly cruising with a 26-point lead with less than four minutes on the clock. The Saints had been off target for the bulk of the final term and posted their first major at the 27-minute mark. It still seemed a formality that the Pies were home, but then goals in the 30th and 31st minute all of a sudden had seen the margin whittled down to just six points with a staggering 51 seconds remaining. The Saints surged forward once again and were just one clean takeaway from tying up the scores which would’ve been some kind of comeback. Luckily for the Pies they left their run a little too late, but in those last four minutes, one could’ve been forgiven for thinking the Magpies had called it a day. You would’ve thought they might’ve learnt from all the games they pinched last year!

Nick Daicos was brilliant once again with a lazy 42 touches. I’d say his Brownlow count will have surpassed double figures.

The Saints looked shot. They missed some easy shots early in the final term that could’ve changed the outcome. It’s a credit to them that they got so close in the end. It seemed prior to their late surge that the Pies were in a class slightly above them and had all the answers, but by the end of the match, you could see they can match it with anybody on their day. Brad Crouch is playing his best football since crossing over from Adelaide with 33 touched and two goals. There’s plenty to like about the Saints and they’ll be tested against the Blues next Sunday, although I think they should enter that game slight favourites. At the time of writing this, however, it looks like the Blues are slight favourites with betting agencies, and based on what we saw on Thursday night, it’s hard to understand why. St Kilda haven’t done a lot wrong and life under Lyon is looking pretty good.


  1. This looks like being the most open season in a while

If you asked me a week ago which two teams I thought would be most likely to playoff in this year’s Grand Final, I would’ve said Melbourne and Collingwood. Whilst both are still well and truly contenders, what seemed to be a sizeable gap between them and the rest of the competition is all but gone. The Saints showed plenty in their narrow loss to Collingwood, and what do we make of Essendon beating Melbourne? The Swans are still thereabouts as are the Lions. Carlton supporters will be hoping that this week was a mere hiccup, and if they can bounce back strongly, you can add them to the list as well. The Cats are lurking dangerously after their lacklustre start and there are another three or four teams pressing their case, as well.

It’s truly up for grabs at this stage. It’s also interesting that by just Round Five that there are no undefeated or winless teams in the competition. At the bottom end of the ladder there are definitely a few teams that will struggle to improve their ladder position, but even those teams can pull off a win when they play at their best against almost anybody. It’s good to see and makes for great viewing, but it also makes tipping a nightmare. Despite tipping 7 in these last two rounds, I’ve only tipped 27 right from 45 games already this year. That’s 60% accuracy and was under 50% just two weeks earlier.

It’s a hard year for tipsters, and that’s just how we like it.



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