Ten Things I Learnt After Round Eight

  1. Carlton look set to miss finals again.

I would have to say that the Voss honeymoon is well and truly over. Cast your mind back to Round 10 last season where the Blues were sitting pretty on 8 wins and 2 losses playing a brand of football that many thought could take them all the way. Sadly for the Blues, in the twenty games since, they’ve managed to win on just eight occasions. By any metric, that’s a team that will finish around 12th or 13th on the ladder, and you’d have to say that’s pretty much where they’re at right now. Of the four wins they’ve had this season, three of them were against teams destined to finish in the bottom six, with the other being against the Cats when they were in their early season slump. Is all hope gone for the Blues in 2023?

Not quite yet, however their next five games are against sides all capable of beating them, and their form against the better teams so far this season has been disappointing. I have grave fears for this club now as anything less than a finals berth was going to create a collective meltdown amongst their fan base, but with that well and truly on the cards, what’s to become of the current list, coaching staff and club leadership? Questions will be asked and it’s likely they’ll be devoid of answers. One thing that was apparent on Friday night was the continual mistakes the Blues made with ball in hand. You can’t fix that in a week. Michael Voss is now the coach under the most pressure in the AFL.

Now Lions fans, before you start to wonder why I focused so heavily on the shortcomings of Carlton and not the hard and tough manner in which you played, calm down. Brisbane are indeed a good side and they didn’t give Carlton an inch. It was obvious as the game wore on that the Blues would eventually crack, and that happened in the third quarter where Brisbane blew the game open with six goal to nothing term. And it was game over at that point even though the Blues tried to get themselves back into the contest late. Zac Bailey and Charlie Cameron were devastating booting  four goals each for the game. Blues fans could only look on with envy wondering why their own developing small forward brigade are nowhere near these two guns. Even keeping Lachie Neale down to 20 touches didn’t seem to help when you consider star recruit Josh Dunkley was best on ground with 33 touches and a staggering 13 tackles for the match.

Brisbane get their chance at revenge against the Bombers at the GABBA next week. They suffered a shock loss to Essendon at home late last year, but judging by what we’ve seen in recent weeks, the Lions look too strong to allow a repeat performance this season.


  1. Richmond fans avoid microwaving their memberships for now

None of us came into this round believing Richmond would lose against the struggling Eagles, especially at the MCG. Although they had to work for the win, it was a sizeable margin in the end and a welcome one at that after five straight losses. With the Eagles still in the game late in third term, Dion Prestia blew the game open with five minutes of brilliance that resulted in three goals coming off his boot and giving the Tigers a comfortable 24 point lead at the final break. Dusty had his best game for the year with 27 touches and a goal. Shai Bolton was also one of Richmond’s best with three goals for the game. So, for now at least, the club can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their fans won’t tear the joint down as they would have done if the unthinkable happened and they dropped a game to a side that many are labelling a WAFL team.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, there’ll be no respite as they have to face the Cats this Friday. And with Tom Lynch still several weeks away from returning, it seems beyond them.

Trying to write positively about the West Coast Eagles is a challenge, but I’ll give it a go. This was certainly a better performance than their previous 108 point loss to Carlton. Oscar Allen continues to be a presence booting four goals. He’s playing at a more consistent level this year and just needs to stay fit for a potential 50+ goals season. Jamaine Jones is finding his feet at the level picking up 30 touches, while Dom Sheed returned with 29. West Coast’s Round 20 clash with North Melbourne at Optus Stadium looms as the battle for the wooden spoon, although the Hawks may have something to say about that. Whatever the case, West Coast have little to no hope of laying the dark memories of last year to rest.


  1. Geelong won’t lose another game at GMHBA this year

This may have caused some angst for Cats fans who reside in the Geelong area, but as of Round Eight this season, Geelong have only played two games at their home ground of GMHBA Stadium. They may take some solace in the fact there are seven more remaining for the year. And with Geelong playing in a ruthless manner, I honestly believe they won’t drop a game down there during the home and away season. They have a few tough games including Melbourne down at the Cattery, but they’ll be very hard to knock off at their home ground and are likely to win all nine games they have scheduled there.

The Crows did challenge the Cats for a while, but the game had a sense of inevitability as the Cats always seemed in control. Geelong captain Patrick Dangerfield went off the ground in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and will miss at least the next two games and possibly more in what was a bit of a negative, but the Cats’ season is back on track and life is good again down Geelong way after what looked like a year of missing finals.

The Crows were good this week in what is one of the toughest assignments in football. They were competitive but just couldn’t go with them for the whole game, eventually going down by 26 points. It’ll no doubt be a source of frustration that despite big steps forward this season, the Crows now find themselves 4-4 and outside the Top 8. The loss to Collingwood will come back to haunt them as the one that got away. Next week the Crows have another big challenge against the Saints at home. To stay in the hunt for a finals spot, they’ll need to find a way to win that one. Adelaide captain Jordan Dawson’s stellar season continues with 29 possessions leading the way. Gun recruit Izak Rankine kept up his good form, justifying his hefty price-tag with 21 touches and 2 goals. Many feared the pressure of playing for a big club in a parochial town might have created a lot of pressure for the former Sun, but whoever made the decision to get him to the club would be feeling vindicated by now.


  1. The Suns were just a goal away from being taken seriously

There was plenty to admire about the Suns’ effort against the highly-fancied Melbourne on Saturday night. They never gave in and played great footy with Noah Anderson fast becoming an AFL star with 36 touches in a mighty performance. But, once again, they fell short. For the coach, I would say he has some idea of the significance a win would’ve had for the club. A win would’ve propelled them within reach of the eight as well as gain the respect of the football world after taking a genuine scalp. However, it was not to be. The Gold Coast’s last month has seen improvement, but they have little to show for it. Hopefully they walk away from a game like this knowing they can compete with the better teams. They should get the four points next week against the Eagles, then it’s the Q-Clash against the Lions. That’ll be a tough one, but that’s the sort of game they need to win if they are to be taken seriously in the football world.

On another bright note, Malcolm Rozas with his four-goal game may have those within the club less upset about losing Rankine to the Crows.

Melbourne’s narrow win puts them on 6-2 for the year and up in that coveted Top 4. I expected big things from the Demons this year after what was a really disappointing second half to their last season on the back of a few issues within the club. Whilst they are definitely well placed after 8 rounds, I’m just not fully sold on their premiership credentials at this stage. Melbourne have had a fairly tame draw in the first eight weeks of the season. They’ve only played two teams currently in the eight in Brisbane and the Western Bulldogs. They lost to the Lions and beat the Dogs. The other loss was to the Bombers who sit just outside the eight with their remaining five wins against the Swans, Suns, Richmond, North Melbourne and the Eagles. They haven’t beaten too many teams of note, and another soft game against the struggling Hawthorn is coming up in Round Nine. A loss to the Suns would’ve put a major dent in their premiership hopes, and that was awfully close to how it played out. It may not have been the case, but it shows the Dees are gettable.


  1. The Giants losing streak at Manuka Oval is now up to

It’s easy to be unaware of little snippets of information regarding the fortunes of other clubs than your own, but it came to my attention in Round Six that GWS hadn’t won a game at their alternate home ground for a staggering four years now. Well, as of the loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday night, the streak of losses at Manuka is now up to nine.

I might use this space here in these weekly articles to keep an eye on that and update where necessary or to announce it when the streak is over. Either way I think it’s quite extraordinary they don’t seem to be able to win there any more. The task of winning would’ve been made all the more difficult with the absence of the mercurial Toby Greene. His namesake Tom Green was their player of the night with 38 possessions and a career high three-goals. Despite trailing by 33 points at the final break, they gave the Dogs a bit of a scare drawing to within 10 points before eventually losing the match by 15. The Giants are already behind the eight ball sitting on 3-5, and it only gets harder from here as they play Collingwood at the MCG next week, followed by the Saints the week after. At least the Saints game is not in Canberra, so there’s a chance!

The Bulldogs have now won three in a row after alternating wins and losses through the first five rounds. Bontempelli was the star of the night for the Western Bulldogs and gave his all as usual. Tom Liberatore came back from injury and had an impact with 29 touches demonstrating just how important he is to the team. All of a sudden the Bulldogs after being 2-3 post Round Five are now looking like contenders again, and the game this week against the Blues looms large for both sides. It looks very much like one of those eight point games they often talk about. A loss for either side will be harmful to their chances. As for the Giants, this game may have had a different result if Toby Greene was there, and we’d be talking about them being in contention for finals if that was the case, such is the tightness of the competition this year. The Bulldogs have a pretty tough few weeks ahead, so we are about to find out if they are genuine contenders or not. I think finals might be a bridge too far for GWS at this stage.


  1. The Hawks are in a percentage battle with the Eagles for that bottom spot

It looks like over the coming weeks that Hawthorn and West Coast may play musical chairs for bottom of the ladder honours depending on which of these two teams cops the biggest flogging. For the first time in a while, and despite losing last week, Hawthorn got off the bottom after the Eagles humiliating 108 point loss to Carlton in Round Seven. The teams entered Round Eight with the 17th placed Hawks with a percentage of 65.15, slightly ahead of the Eagles on 64.33. After losing to the Dockers by 69 points, Hawthorn’s percentage has slipped to 61.6 while the Eagles after losing to the Tigers by 46 points sit on 63.3.

The Kangaroos are in the mix for the spoon with a percentage of 65.4 but banked those two early wins so are a game ahead. The wooden spoon is a three horse race. Many thought that the Hawks may break away from this pack, but after this performance it’s almost back to square one. The Demons next week won’t show them too much mercy, but perhaps the Round 10 clash against the Eagles in Launceston might give them some joy. At least they hope so.

Fremantle needed this win badly to keep their season alive but, whilst it was an improvement on recent efforts, until they can bank a win against teams vying for a finals berth, they’ll just be making up numbers. The return of Fyfe is a good start and something to get excited about, but probably the most exciting thing to come out of this game was the form of Luke Jackson. By his own lofty standards, Luke probably hadn’t had the best start since crossing over from Melbourne. In this game, however, he gathered 24 possessions and booted 2 goals. It will go a long way to building his confidence back and I’m sure the club hierarchy are breathing a bit easier about the money they spent getting him over to the club. Andrew Brayshaw also came back into form in a big way with 34 touches and two goals. So the Dockers are sitting in 12th place on 3 wins just behind the Swans who they take on at the SCG next week. They’ll go into that game giving themselves a chance and why wouldn’t they? Fyfe’s back, Jacko fired up, and the Swans aren’t setting the world on fire either. But a loss there will just about be the end for their year as the following week sees them against the Cats at the Optus.


  1. The Bombers are playing well but still lose three in a row

Many at Windy Hill, or Tullamarine,  will be scratching their heads over the Bombers’ fortunes in the past three weeks. They’re actually playing good footy but are losing, albeit to sides all in contention in Collingwood, Geelong and Port Adelaide. The Round Six loss to the Pies is the one that might hurt the most after surrendering a four-goal lead at the final break. Geelong also blew them away in the opening quarter kicking the first six goals. This week’s game against the Power was a much tighter contest in which the Bombers lead for a vast majority of the game. That said, Port were wayward in front of goal kicking 12.20 to 13.9 to scrape in by a narrow margin of just five points. The concerning thing for the Bombers was the 65-47 inside 50 count Port’s way. A look at the last three weeks shows very similar numbers.

Port Adelaide’s kicking for goal made this game closer than it needed to be, but there’s no denying the Bombers are a better unit under Brad Scott. Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett got plenty of the ball and with their rucks dominating the hitouts, the Bombers smashed the Power in the centre breaks. Unfortunately they just couldn’t get it in deep enough times to really hurt them. They’ll be lamenting sitting outside the 8 on 4 wins and their cause won’t be helped by a trip to the GABBA to take on the in-form Lions next week. They did beat them there last year, but it’ll take one hell of an effort not to lose their fourth on the trot.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, Port Adelaide were looking worse for wear after the Round Three loss to their cross-town rivals and the smashing they copped from the Pies the previous week. The hunt for a new coach was probably already beginning and it was all doom and gloom coming out of Alberton. The Power have confounded all their critics winning five games in a row and currently occupy 5th position on the ladder with a 6-2 record. Looking ahead we can bank another win against the hapless Kangaroos in Round Nine followed by what will be a challenge at home against the Demons. Six in a row seems certain, while the 7th may need some things to go their way, but based on what we’re seeing from the Demons, the Power is definitely a chance. Midfield guns in Rozee and Butters had strong games despite the latter having a knee scare during the game. All in all, Port Adelaide Football Club will be pleased with where they’re at, and if this keeps up, anything is possible.


  1. The Swans are on the brink of missing finals

After playing off in last year’s Grand Final, many assumed Sydney would be in contention once again this year, but after their loss to Collingwood, their third in a row, the Swans are in serious danger of falling out of touch with the eight and having a 2023 that will be well below expectations. Their 29 point defeat from Sunday came in spite of the Swans having 78 more possessions than their opponents.

We know Collingwood’s ball movement is among the most clinical in the league, but with so much more time with ball in hand, the Swans meagre return of just 6 majors is glaring. Errol Gulden was impressive with 37 touches while Luke Parker had 34. Buddy never really got going and was goalless for the match. We all love the man, but his output this year has been modest. Hopefully he finishes the season well as we know the end is near, and we’d love to see it end on a good note. The Swans doomsday scenario will be a loss to the Dockers at the SCG next week. They’ll go into that game under immense pressure knowing a loss there will shine the spotlight on all the problems the club may be facing. Hopefully they take the points and beat the Roos in Round 10 to square up the ledger and get their season going again.

The Magpies had a battle on their hands for the first three quarters in what was a very low scoring affair. They lead by 5 points at the final change and I’m sure the Collingwood fans felt confident that their normally fast-finishing team would have a big last quarter and take the points. And they weren’t disappointed. They booted 5 goals to one in the final term, three of which came from Brody Mihocek who finished with a career best haul of five goals. The final margin was a comfortable 29 points leaving Collingwood sitting on top of the ladder with seven wins and a game ahead of the second placed Demons. Anybody who thought last year’s Collingwood Top 4 finish was a flash in the pan with lots of luck can see that what McRae got started last year is the real deal and will take them further one might suspect. There is still a long way to go, but I suspect they’ll have a good win next week against the Giants at the MCG which will bring them into Round 10 against arch-rivals Carlton. The Blues will be seeking revenge for the result that saw them miss out on September action last year, but from what we’ve seen in recent weeks, it may be beyond them, although both clubs tend to rise to the occasion for these games.


  1. The North v Saints game was very scrappy despite being played indoors

When you see a scoreline like that of the North Melbourne v St Kilda game of 4.10 v 8.16, one could be easily forgiven for thinking it was on a wet day with slippery conditions and gusty winds. But when the game is being played under the roof of Marvel Stadium with barely even a drop of dew on the playing surface, when the aggregate score for the game fails to break the century mark, it’s hard to understand why. Perhaps Clarko has grown weary of these huge losses and sent his players out there on a mission to bring the game down a few notches to avoid another blowout. When North Melbourne get within  vegoals of a Top 8 team, that’s usually a good result and less soul-destroying for the struggling team. The halftime score could’ve been embarrassing for the Kangaroos who were goalless and had posted just 7 behinds, however the Saints were only 3.9 so, North Melbourne were still in the game. In fact, midway through the last quarter the Roos were down by just three goals before St Kilda scored the final two goals for the game to eventually win by 30 points. I’m not sure if Clarko will be happy with the game overall, but he may feel he’s stopped the bleeding for the time being. Jack Ziebell had a day out with 36 touches, and once again Harry Sheezel hit the 30-possession mark. Harry hasn’t missed a beat and has had as good a start to an AFL career as any young draftee has ever had.

The Saints may well be disappointed in a lost opportunity to maybe build their percentage, but at least they got the job done when there was a little threat in the last quarter. They’ll be ruing their inaccuracy in front of goal and will no doubt have some goal kicking practice during the week along with the Crows one suspects. But it’s onwards and upwards with St Kilda in the Top 4 on 6 wins. Wanganeen-Millera had one of his best games since debuting in Round 1 last year. He had 28 possessions and 11 marks in just his 20th career game. The boy who has impressed me the most since being given a lifeline by the Saints is Liam Stocker. He hasn’t missed a beat since being unceremoniously dumped by the Blues. The person who made that decision has serious egg on his face now as Liam has been a star defender for the Saints and one of the reasons they have started so well. It’s a testament to his determination. He had a point to prove and he’s done just that. Another 25 touches off half-back which is something we’re seeing on a regular basis. The Saints head to Adelaide to take on the Crows next week. It’s a huge match and a must-win for both teams.


  1. I can’t believe the term “Tasmanian Devil” is owned by Warner Brothers

With all the excitement surrounding the announcement of the 19th franchise from Tasmania, it came with a bizarre tidbit of information that ruled out the club adopting the name Tasmanian Devils due to the named being owned by the Warner Brothers Corporation. I believe this would have been a consideration but it’s simply not an option. I find this scenario just as crazy as the one that saw the original makers of the Ugg-boot lose the rights to that name due to it being registered by somebody else. I guess that’s the business world, but how can it be that an American company legally appropriated the name of a native Australian mammal when creating their much loved Tasmanian Devil character in the Looney Tunes cartoons alongside Bugs Bunny?

In a way, the one positive is that it would’ve been kind of corny for the new team to be named that, so hopefully they come up with something more inventive than that old standard. It doesn’t change the fact that this is a very odd thing though. And while we’re talking about this new team, it’s hard for me to see how successful the new franchise will be in getting supporters to follow this club. Yes, we know Tasmania is very much a football state, and yes, they are quite a parochial lot, but there is just one problem. All the people living on the Apple Isle certainly love their AFL, and that means they already have a team they support. There may be a few who will jump ship and support the local mob, or you’ll have those who support another team but will buy a membership so they can go to a bunch of games in their home town. But how many actual prime supporters will they be able to get on board? I can’t see any coming from the mainland, and knowing what it means to support your team through thick and thin, it’s hard to imagine many will ditch the team they’ve followed their whole lives. We may be waiting a whole generation before getting a genuine supporter base for the new club. But with all this in mind, it hasn’t stop disgruntled Carlton supporters like myself suggesting the new franchise will win a premiership before the Blues win their next one…


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