Ten Things I Learnt After Round 11

1. Blues fans realise they’ve been sold a pup

The appointment of Michael Voss seemed to be a stroke of genius after Round Ten in 2022. The team was flying with eight wins and was playing a brand of football not seen from the club in two decades. Their ball movement was second to none and they were hitting the scoreboard with their two big forwards dominating. It looked like the beginning of a much brighter era for a club that was in the wilderness for two decades.

Now the Blues have lost six out of their last seven games and look likely to lose next week. After sitting at second on the ladder with three wins and a draw through four rounds, unbelievably, they will most likely end up in 14th position after Round 12 and the threat of being a bottom 4 team is real. Whilst the coach is now officially under the most pressure of any of the AFL coaches, the thing that fans just can’t get their head around is the severe decline in skill level in the playing group. Whilst the game plan seems shambolic, one would argue quite successfully that their field kicking is so bad that even the best laid out game plan would fail due to the sheer incompetence shown in their inability to hit targets by foot and even hand. And let’s not even talk about their kicking for goal.

Charlie Curnow had a stinker in front of goal but he’s normally better than that. However, Harry McKay has been woeful for most of the year and is becoming a liability. Maybe the ball coming inside 50 from the midfield isn’t really helping the cause, however, it would seem the instructions given to junior footballers when playing forward to play in front has been forgotten. Don’t take my word for it. Watch the next Carlton game coming up and you’ll notice they’re not presenting and are often playing behind. Last week Darcy Moore feasted on this, and on Friday night Nick Blakey was the intercept king. As good as these two boys played against the Blues, their opponents weren’t exactly making life too difficult for them. You can pretty much put a line through the Blues for this year. It will be interesting to see if they can salvage anything from this season or if the club will pull the trigger and sack yet another underperforming coach. But one thing is certain, and that is the fans are on the verge of walking away from a club that seemingly has failure hard-wired in their DNA in the 21st century.

Conversely, the Swans have a pulse in season 2023. Their controversial win against the Kangaroos breathed some life into their year, but this one will go further. They’re still missing a lot of key players but were able to win by simply having players who were more committed under a coach who worked out what he needed to do to beat the struggling Blues. The move of Isaac Heeney onto Cripps was very clever and worked a treat. Heeney’s pace was too much for the Blues skipper and his body-on-body stuff in the middle definitely got under his skin. Longmire also put some work into ensuring that Adam Saad’s run off half-back was kept under control. Nick Blakey as I mentioned early had a field day rebounding off half-back and Sydney just managed to hit a lot more targets than the Blues. On the other side of the coin, it was obvious early on that Chad Warner was going to be a problem, but the Carlton coaching crew didn’t seem to offer any resistance. The Blues go into next week’s game against Melbourne most likely without Cripps who has an ankle injury. Cerra may be in trouble with the MRO. It’s all coming apart for them. Sydney have the bye before taking on the Saints in a must-win game in Round 13.


2. James Sicily comes of age as Hawthorn captain

In what has been a tumultuous year for the Hawthorn Football Club, beating a team currently in the top eight was the shot in the arm this team needed. But what was really impressive was the performance of their captain and how much of a key role he played in that victory. Sicily finished the game with a staggering 43 touches and 16 marks, but it was his work in the final quarter with the game on the line that really showed how much he is growing into the role. The Hawks captain had 15 touches in that final quarter and had plenty to do with why the Hawks were able to kick the last five goals of the game to overrun the Saints by ten points.

The Hawks really were the better team throughout the match but their inaccuracy was the reason they were behind on the scoreboard for most of the game. In the end it was a fitting result, and one that will give this young group confidence moving forward. They’ve suffered some heavy losses at times this year, but now with two wins in a row including a scalp in the Saints, we may see them win a few more games than many predicted, especially if their captain can lead the team like he did this week.

The Saints will be disappointed with their fadeout in the final term. They lead by as much as 20 points early in the final term but couldn’t hang on. After winning the first four games of the season, they’ve now lost four out of their last seven and now have a week off to lick their wounds and regroup for their clash against the Swans in Round 13. A loss to the Swans will make life difficult for their finals aspirations, but I expect St Kilda to win enough games based on their draw and the man in the coach’s box. That said, this would’ve been a game the Saints would’ve gone into with some confidence.

One good sign is the form of Max King who has only played the last two games this year and managed to boot 4 goals in each of those games which is a great return from somebody who has missed so much football. Quite a few Saints players were down, including Jack Sinclair who only managed 18 touches. No doubt, Sam Mitchell and Co would’ve identified him as one to stop. Perhaps other coaches will take note. So many questioned Mitchell’s credentials early in the season with the list decisions and heavy losses, but maybe we’re seeing the first signs of somebody who is building something. The only problem is that the MRO will most likely give their captain a week off after his head-high hit on Caminiti.


3. The Dockers are officially back!

You know when Fremantle is going well when they win games on the road. Languishing in 14th position after Round Seven with just two wins, it looked very much like it was going to be a long year for the Dockers. Now, it looks very much as though Longmuir has rectified a few of their issues mainly surrounding their ball movement with great success since then. They’ve now won four in a row including the Swans in Sydney and now the Demons on the MCG. It was also the same time last year when the Dockers beat Melbourne on the MCG to inflict their first loss for the year.

Melbourne fans would’ve looked on with disdain as their former premiership player, Luke Jackson continued his great recent form against his old team and really stepped up into the ruck role when Sean Darcy went out of the game in the second term with a hamstring injury. It’s interesting to see how his improved form has coincided with the Dockers getting back in the winners’ circle. It was a win with great character as Melbourne kept coming. As each week goes by they’re beginning to look more like the team that played finals last year. Jye Amiss kicked another three goals this week and seems to be playing at a consistent level. It will only be a matter of time before he kicks a bag. With their midfield working well, forwards hitting the scoreboard and a defensive unit that was always solid, they should be there in September.

I’ve come under fire for being a critic of the Demons, but here we are, once again, where they’ve dropped a game against a team in good form. Just to reiterate, I’ve based my concerns about Melbourne based on their mediocre win-loss records against the better teams since the middle of last year. They’re now 7-4 but have only played four sides that currently sit in the eight. They beat the Bulldogs in Round One, but have lost the other three games against Brisbane, Essendon and Port Adelaide. It’s a concern and I’m sure the club are aware of it. They have all the ingredients of a side that should compete well against all teams, but they have just seemed a little off that top echelon for the best part of twelve months. The Dees should be back on the winners’ list next week against the wayward Blues but then have to face Collingwood the week after that. They’re going to have to find a way to win those sorts of games in order to be a real contender, and until they do they might only be making up the numbers in the bottom half of the eight.


4. The Giants can’t win in Canberra and they can’t lose in Geelong

They’re a strange old team, the Giants. They play a number of their home games at Manuka Oval and are on a nine-game losing streak in the nation’s capital. Not a lot of sides are successful when playing the Cats at GMHBA, and yet GWS have now won their last three games at the venue, including on Saturday with a side that had won just three games from ten. The Cats would have been raging favourites in this one despite their indifferent form in the past two weeks, but the Giants rose to the occasion of Toby Greene’s 200th game in great style.

And speaking of the GWS skipper, he was one of the Giants’ best booting four goals in a typically polished performance. They really are a far superior side when he’s out there. Jake Riccardi booted 3 in what was one of his better games. Riccardi still hasn’t really established himself as an automatic selection each week, but we know he has talent and has the prototype build for the modern forward. Hopefully, he can gain some consistency and become the star many of us think he will eventually be. The game against the Tigers next week looms as a winnable game, so if the Giants can win two in a row, all of a sudden finals are not out of the question.

After losing their first three games, it looked as though Geelong had fixed all their issues and started looking like last year’s premier with their winning streak of 5 games. Now they’ve just lost three in a row again and have fallen outside the eight. Interestingly Jeremy Cameron has kicked just two goals in the past three weeks which certainly wouldn’t help. He is, arguably, Geelong’s best player so keeping him quiet is obviously going to go a long way to securing a win. The Cats are also without their skipper as well as a few other players. They have also lost Ratugolea for a few weeks with a hamstring injury after really finding his feet in Geelong’s defence. The Cats now have a must-win game coming up against the Bulldogs next week. A loss there will really see their season on a knife’s edge. Most people still think the Cats will play finals, but those same people wouldn’t have factored in this loss to GWS. It was always going to be a battle coming back from 0-3, and it looks like it has come home to roost. They’ll be hoping Jezza finds his best form again next week. They really need him right now.


5. The Rowell and Anderson show keeps rolling on

Friends since their junior football days as well as being housemates on the Gold Coast, Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson are becoming absolute stars of the competition. Each week the pair get between 50 and 60 possessions or more between them with the higher numbers often resulting in a Gold Coast victory. Last week the Brisbane Lions restricted the pair to just 19 touches apiece so we need these two midfield stars to find their best form against the better teams in order to push the Suns closer to finals contention, but the story of these two childhood mates is playing out into stellar careers for both. Both have now played 50 or more games with Rowell playing his 50th on the weekend. Both will have turned just 22 this year, and they’re both showing signs of becoming A-Graders.

It would be a huge priority for the Suns to ensure these two Victorians remain with them. They were instrumental in getting them over the line against the Bulldogs on Saturday night and will be a headache to oppositions for the rest of their careers. Jack Lukosius booted a bag of five for the second time this year, and another priority will be retaining the services of Ben King. He booted another two goals and has been pretty good all year sitting in seventh place in the Coleman race with 27 for the year, despite returning from an ACL injury.

So Can the Suns play finals? Taking it one week at a time, a win against the Crows in Darwin next week won’t hurt their chances.

The Doggies almost pulled off the great escape. A Cody Weightman goal got them within a point in the 22nd minute of the last quarter and they seemingly had all the momentum. Watching the game from home gave the viewers a sense of dread for another one of those creditable losses by a “plucky” Suns outfit. It was a good sign of maturity that they were able to withstand the last quarter onslaught and hang on for a seven-point win with the assistance of last week’s Rising Star nominee in Bailey Humphrey icing the game with a clever goal late in the game.

The Bulldogs streak of five straight wins has come to an end, but one gets the feeling that the Suns are no longer easybeats. Liam Jones was once again very strong in defence and Macrae and Bontempelli got plenty of the ball. They were pretty good but just fell short to a side who were probably a little more at home in the Darwin humidity. The Bulldogs have a huge game against the Cats at Marvel next week. Both sides will be desperate for the win.


6. The Bombers are back in the eight and should be there till their bye

Essendon, after losing four games in a row, have now managed to win their last two which puts them inside the eight for the first time since Round 6. They play the Kangaroos and will go in favourites, followed by a game against arch-rival Carlton who haven’t really fired a shot in weeks. It would be reasonable to suggest the Bombers could win both of these games and then go into their bye round with an 8-5 record. Not too bad for a side who was 2-9 this time last year.

They had a little trouble shaking off an Eagles team that were desperate to put in a better effort than their embarrassing loss to the Hawks last week. The pressure was good early but eventually, the Bombers broke the game open with a six-goal to two second half to win by 50 points. Merrett continued his good form with 32 touches while Redman was also one of Essendon’s best with 31. Kyle Langford continues to show his prowess as a forward booting 3 goals in a solid effort. It wasn’t a standout game for the Bombers, but they got the job done and have it all in front of them from here in terms of making the finals. A loss over the next two weeks would be a slip-up they don’t need.

West Coast are a broken unit. Losing to a middle-of-the-road side like the Bombers by 50 points is being lauded as an improvement which only demonstrates how far they have fallen. One player for the Eagles that has had a solid season is Oscar Allen. He’s now stepped out of the shadow provided by the great Josh Kennedy and is kicking goals from limited opportunities week in week out. Allen kicked four out of West Coast’s paltry return of six goals for the match and he’s providing a strong focal point inside 50. Despite playing for a team languishing in last place with just one win and being on the receiving end of heavy losses in most games, he’s kicked 29 goals for the season and is just eight shy of the leader in Charlie Curnow. It’s still hard to see where the Eagles will have their next win, but history shows they’ll probably pluck one somewhere unexpectedly.


7. Port Adelaide have no fears on the road

In what was a real danger game against the Tigers at the MCG on a typically chilly Melbourne day, the Power came out of the blocks strongly opening up a 25-point lead at quarter time. A goalless second quarter saw the margin trimmed back to just 11 points at the main break with both sides missing a lot of gettable goals. The second half was a dour affair with both sides making errors in the slippery conditions. The Tigers got to within two points in the final term, but eventually, the Power were able to hold on against a desperate Richmond to win by ten points.

That is now a sensational eight straight wins for Ken Hinkley’s boys and they’re sitting on nine wins, just one game behind the Pies indicates a Top 4 finish is a realistic chance. Zak Butters once again was one of Port’s best with 32 touches. Aliir Aliir got the better of Riewoldt, and Rozee was slid yet again. Port face a rejuvenated Hawks next week at Adelaide Oval. They’ll have vivid memories of the absolute thumping Hawthorn gave them at home in Round Two last season and will be not taking them lightly.

The Tigers were given a chance by many in this game. They’ve been competitive against most teams this year and look better than their 3-7-1 record might suggest. Some thought the resignation of Hardwick and playing under a new coach might also lift them across the line but it wasn’t to be. Tim Taranto was easily the Tigers best with 33 touches and 4 goals. Dustin Martin looks the most dangerous inside 50 at the moment but he was a little wayward kicking 2.3, as was Shai Bolton who managed just 1.3. After a slow start, the Tigers fought back well in the second but they were wayward kicking 2.7 while holding the Power to five behinds. The season is all but done and dusted for the Tigers, but they’ll be hopeful of a win against the Giants in Sydney next week. One gets the feeling that their luck ran out once Tom Lynch went down with a broken foot. They’ve had a number of tight losses that might’ve seen a different result had the big man been available.


8. Collingwood cruise to a win in second gear

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to North Melbourne, but what I noticed during this game is that the Pies were in cruise control for most of it. They opened up a four-goal lead, and even though the Kangaroos came out harder in the second quarter, the half time lead was a little bigger at 27 points. By the final break, the Pies had a massive 53 point lead before putting the cue in the rack somewhat in the last quarter with the Roos piling on an impressive six goals to three. The final margin was 35 points, and at no stage were the Magpies in any danger.

It was a professional performance against a team who showed a little bit at times but are just not at the same level of the competition leader. Mason Cox enjoyed his 100th game kicking two goals in front of his visiting parents looking on in the stands. Sadly for Steele Sidebottom in his 300th game, it appears he’ll be out of action for at least 4-5 weeks with a medial ligament strain. Next week the Pies head over to Perth to inflict more misery on the hapless West Coast Eagles. I imagine you’ll see a similar performance to today where they get out to an early lead and cruise to a solid victory with plenty left in the tank.

Losing by 35 points to the top side is by no means a disgrace. There is a few signs of promise at North. Nick Larkey ended the game with a commendable five-goal haul. He’s kicked 30 goals for the year and is equal with the great Tom Hawkins. Bailey Scott and Will Phillips saw plenty of the ball with 30 and 29 possessions respectively. Jaidyn Stephenson is becoming a more consistent contributor for the Kangaroos. He finished with two goals and is starting to look as dangerous as he used to be in his Collingwood days. North Melbourne play the Bombers, Giants and Bulldogs before their mid-season break. They should’ve beaten the Swans and showed a little on Sunday against Collingwood, so they’ll be aiming to pinch a win before their bye round, but it will take their best.


9. The Crows are very good at home but struggle on the road

The Brisbane Lions are a very good team. You’ll take a win against them any time, and the Adelaide Crows were unstoppable on Sunday night. It was a stark turnaround from last week’s fairly tame effort against the Bulldogs in Ballarat where they hardly gave a yelp in their 45-point smashing. Against a Lions outfit coming off seven straight wins, they were relentless and eventually won by 17 points. Their record on the road is rather poor this year. In fact, it’s a concern when you look at the disparity in terms of numbers.

Adelaide have had the advantage of playing seven of the eleven games this season at Adelaide Oval including the away fixture in the Derby. They’ve won five games from seven in Adelaide with an average score of 99.4 v 76.2 against with a percentage of 130.3. When playing on the road this year it’s a vastly different story. They’ve won just one of their four games and average just 70 points per game vs 91 against with a percentage of 77.0.

Compare that to their cross-town rivals and you’ll see their home vs away form is far more consistent. The Power have played six games for five wins in Adelaide averaging a score of 93.8 v 79.5 with a percentage of 118.0 while playing five games for four wins on the road with an average score of 85 v 81.4 with a percentage of 104.4. If the Crows want to play finals, they’ll need to close the gap between their form in Adelaide compared to their form away from home.

Adelaide skipper Jordan Dawson had another blinder on Sunday with 32 touches. Taylor Walker booted three goals while Izak Rankine put in his claim for goal of the year with a left foot snap from the boundary line nearing half time. He finished with two for the match from his 23 touches in another strong performance. Since coming across from the Gold Coast he’s been consistently making his mark and has definitely silenced any doubters. They now find themselves back in seventh position with a challenging game against the Suns in Darwin coming up.

Brisbane will be ruing their wasteful kicking for goal. They actually entered their forward 50 a staggering 19 more times than the Crows but were dogged by inaccuracy. The worst of it all was their third term where they scored 1.9 for the quarter going into the final break on 6.17 and trailing by 15 points despite having five more scoring shots than their opposition. Joe Daniher opened the scoring in the final term bringing the Lions to within nine points of the Crows, but that’s as close as they got. The Crows kicked the next three and put the game out of reach. Charlie Cameron booted four goals from limited opportunities and Daniher finished with two goals in the final term after being well held prior to that. Brisbane are still sitting pretty in 3rd position a game clear of Melbourne in 4th place. They get the week off next week and will come out firing no doubt in their Round 13 clash against the Hawks at the MCG. Hawthorn have their tails up right now and have been a bit of a bogey team for the Lions when playing them away from the GABBA. They will want to bounce back from this loss and reaffirm their place in the Top 4.


10. Round 11 was a Tipster’s nightmare

Whenever most of the favourites go down, these are the weeks where that guy in the office who comes from New Zealand and follows rugby or Cheryl in accounts who has never watched an AFL match in their life will often get more tips right than the so-called armchair experts. We always get a few rounds like this every year, so I thought I’d take an in-depth look at what was, indeed, a tipster’s nightmare.

Sydney v Carlton – Believe it or not, Carlton were favourites. The odds came in Carlton’s favour late with a lot of money on them to win. I guess the thinking there was surely Carlton can’t be that bad and have to win soon while Sydney almost lost to the Kangaroos. Well, guess what! Carlton are that bad, and in this case, their favouritism was misguided. I don’t think we’ll be making that mistake again. Lesson learnt.

St Kilda v Hawthorn – Even though Hawthorn came off a huge win last week, nobody would’ve seen this one coming. But, all I can say is, looking at St Kilda’s past seven weeks, they’ve definitely come back to the field. However, this is one where Cheryl in accounts might be the only one who got it right and some other idiot Hawks fan who never tips against his own team.

Melbourne v Fremantle – Once again, Melbourne favourites and the result didn’t pan out. Freo have lifted in recent times, and they beat the Dees in the corresponding game last year. But still, this is a tip for those trailing in the tipping comp going for an upset. Whilst it wasn’t a major upset to some, it still was one.

Geelong v GWS – Even when you factor in Geelong’s mediocre form of late, Toby’s 200th and the fact the Giants had won their last two games at GMHBA, surely the Cats would do enough to keep the previously 15th placed GWS under control? But alas, no. Only Cheryl got this one.

Gold Coast v Bulldogs – The Bulldogs were highly fancied in this game. The Suns are on the rise. The humidity of Darwin would’ve been favourable to Gold Coast. I thought the Suns were a huge chance in this one. This tip would’ve gone to the footy guru in the office who has the balls to actually back his gut feeling. It was an upset on paper, but something the more astute could see coming, but whether or not they had the bravery to actually back it in is the real story.

West Coast v Essendon – Finally, we all said, a game that went to the script. For many tipsters, this was the first one they got right. And with all the crazy results prior to this one, you couldn’t help but be nervous if you were a Bombers fan coming into this game.

Richmond v Port Adelaide – I believe the Power were slight favourites in this one. You could’ve tipped either way, and with the ten point margin to Port, I’d say the predictions and odds were about right. It just depends if you tipped it correctly or not.

Collingwood v North Melbourne – Yes, another one that followed the script. For some, this could’ve been only their second correct tip.

Adelaide v Brisbane – This was another fairly tight one favouring the Lions slightly. That said, Adelaide’s home form is on another level compared to their away form. They’re proving to be a 5-6 goal better team at Adelaide Oval, and even against the top sides it’s a brave man that bets against the Crows on home soil. But, once again, the favourite lost.

So there you have it. Literally, only three favourites won their games. So, if you’re one of those people that uses betting odds as a guide, you may have picked just 3 winners this week. If you came into this round leading your tipping comp and decided to pick “safe” choices, you might have also picked two or three winners. If you tipped four or more, that’s pretty good going. If you got eight or, God forbid, nine winners, you have no business being in a tipping competition as you clearly know SFA about football.


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