With just seven games this weekend, Gab Rossi gives the brain a bit of a rest (like most of us) and brings us eight things he learnt after Round 12.
1 – Please don’t give Carlton any more Friday night games
Not only have Carlton supporters got a little ahead of themselves regarding the prospects of their team coming into this season, but it would appear whoever is responsible at the AFL for fixturing the Blues in these marquee time slots was also under the illusion they would be a good advertisement for the game. If the person or people responsible for that decision have not been fired, I’m sure they would be on their last warning.
The Melbourne v Carlton game would’ve had neutral supporters switching channels by halftime, and Blues fans would’ve possibly joined them soon after despite never being more than four goals down. Carlton’s last four matches have seen them averaging just 53 points per game. And this is on the back of a forward line comprising of the last two winners of the Coleman Medal. The season is pretty much over for the Blues. They now seem to have adopted the tactic of playing a game style designed to keep the scoring low to avoid heavy defeats. It may not be all the fault of their embattled coach, but if Carlton lose their next two matches against Essendon and the Gold Coast (in Melbourne), with seven losses on the trot culminating against a team who rarely wins in Melbourne, the pressure to act on the club might be too great.
Melbourne did enough to win and never really looked threatened. Carlton did their best to drag the Demons down to their level and it almost worked, but Melbourne just have that too much polish to go down in this match. Christian Petracca was a standout with 32 touches and was always ready to impose himself on the game when it mattered. In last year’s infamous game between these two teams where Pickett kicked a late goal to snatch the lead with under 20 seconds on the clock, Max Gawn willed his team across the line with a big last quarter. This year’s game was no different. After Zac Fisher scored a goal early in the last quarter to put the Blues within 11 points, Max stood up taking marks all over the ground as well as kicking a monster goal from just outside 50 to keep the margin at a safe level.
Perhaps somebody like Patrick Cripps should take note of how Max goes about it when the game is on the line. Cripps had a solid game, but with his team within striking distance late in the game, his presence was nowhere near that of his opposing skipper. Melbourne have a huge game next Monday against the Pies. The Dees look a little shaky right now sitting on 8-4 and another loss will put them back in the lower half of the Top 8. Many think Collingwood are due for a loss, and if the Demons were to win it would be a huge statement, but they’ll have to go up a few levels from this game.
2 – Port Adelaide played the best half of football so far this year
With Hawthorn coming off two consecutive wins, some may have considered this a potential for an upset, especially when you consider how the Hawks beat them convincingly at this venue in Round Two last year. However, any thoughts of that were put to bed just ten minutes into the game. The Power already had five goals on the board and were making it look pretty easy scoring at will and winning every contest. By half time they’d already passed 100 scoring 16.9 (105) which also happens to be the highest half-time score in the club’s history. The message it sends is pretty clear. Port Adelaide are the real deal and after their ninth straight win, also a club record, they’ve announced themselves as a genuine contender.
They may have tapered off a little in the second half, but that first half was so good that you can forgive them for taking their foot off the pedal a little. The forward line seems to be functioning well without Charlie Dixon out there. Finlayson and Marshall finished with five goals each and Junior Rioli had a good day withfour4. The Power have a test against the Bulldogs in Melbourne coming up. Their record at Marvel Stadium is very strong and they will go in favourites, but the Doggies have lost their last two and will be desperate to stay in touch with the Top 4.
Hawthorn will be reeling after that first half. It was as comprehensive a thumping as we’ve seen this year, and the Power could do no wrong. The Hawthorn defence looked all at sea due to the rapid-fire ball movement which just gave them no chance to get into the right spot to intercept or spoil. There were players in space all over their inside 50 and the young Hawks were helpless. Losing their captain to an unnecessary suspension after the game of his last week probably didn’t help, and it is a result that he would’ve been dreading. If Sicily was out there, he may not have been able to keep his team in the game, but it would’ve possibly meant their passage to goal might not have been as easy. The Hawks will take heart from their second half where they outscored Port and, despite still going down by almost ten goals, at one stage it looked like it was going to be a triple-digit margin. Luke Breust’s 500th career goal in the first quarter was a small highlight. He finished with five and Mitch Lewis kicked three. The Hawks take on the Lions at the MCG next week. I’m fairly certain they’ll have a more competitive start.
3 – De-Goey is De-Gone
I’ve watched the De-Goey incident several times. He’s done. Some are suggesting it’s a four-week ban. It’s gone straight to the tribunal, and I would find it hard to mount a reasonable argument against a harsh penalty.
Young Eagle Elijah Hewitt played no further part and will miss next week. It was pure instinct on the part of De Goey unfortunately. The option to tackle Hewitt was gone as he’d already gotten rid of the ball, and he was going at full pace directlly towards De Goey who braced then stepped towards him making contact to the head with the incriminating feet being airborne. That’s game over there, and to stop doing that takes being able to override up to twenty years of what seems a natural reaction. I know some may criticise this line of thinking, and fair enough. It’s just that I’ve played the game, and from a young age I was told a well-executed hip and shoulder was fair play. It takes almost a generation for that to truly be gone from your psyche as a footballer.
De Goey could’ve got out of the way instead. But when he was playing junior football, the coach might’ve taken him off for doing that. Times have changed and none of us don’t understand why, but there’s just going to be these moments on the field where the instincts of yesteryear may come out and cost you dearly. Collingwood were challenged for two and a half quarters before they broke the game open and ran away with it in the final term. The forward line seems to be gaining potency with a good spread of goalkickers. Nick Daicos booted threein another solid game, as did Mihocek, Johnson and Hill. Big Mason Cox kicked two as well and seems to be enjoying his football as much as any time in his career. It’s going to be a game against the Demons next week. My money is on the Pies at this stage, but they have to lose a game sooner or later. Will it be next week?
West Coast showed a bit of fight against the top team. Midway through the third term they were as close as 14 points down after trailing by as much as seven goals at one stage. It was heartening to see them fighting hard, but their last quarter fadeout will no doubt disappoint their fans. Dom Sheed, despite the loss, was quite clearly the best player on the ground with 43 possessions and a goal in a dominant solo performance. He does seem to relish playing against the Magpies. Oscar Allen kept up his solid form kicking three goals as he is inching his way within contention of the Coleman Medal leaders. It’s a great performance in a side that is struggling to score and win games. It’s still hard to see where their next win is coming from, but the last two weeks since that debacle against Hawthorn have seen some signs to suggest there is a glimmer of hope.
4 – The Cats have the wood on the Bulldogs
Whilst Geelong have been a well-performed team for quite some time, the Bulldogs have also been up there for quite a bit of the last 14 years, so it comes as a surprise to me that Geelong have won 17 of their past 19 clashes against the Western Bulldogs including the last five in a row. I wish I had have known that prior to the game. I would have possibly tipped the Cats, but you live and learn. It was an important win for Geelong who would’ve fallen well down the ladder had this one gone the other way.
The Dogs will be ruing their inaccuracy in front of goal. The Cats made the most of their opportunities kicking 15.7 while Dogs kicked a wasteful 10.15. A quick look at the possession numbers for the teams shows the Bulldogs well ahead in the possession count. The ever-reliable Tom Stewart played a huge role in this win. He finished with 27 touches and a rare goal. Many believe him to be Geelong’s most important player and this game only adds fuel to that notion. Jeremy Cameron also had a strong game kicking two goals and doing plenty of great work up the ground. Geelong have a week off and one hopes the likes of Dangerfield will be back after the break. They’ll need all the help they can get as they’ll be playing the Power at Adelaide Oval following the bye.
The Bulldogs had a beautiful run winning five in a row after an indifferent start to the season. They’ve now lost their last two games and will need to be at their absolute best next week at Marvel Stadium as they take on the in-form Port Adelaide. A loss there may see them slip outside the top 8. This game saw them go into the game against a team with a midfield missing a few of their better players. The Bulldog on-ballers got more of the ball, but the damage wasn’t done on the scoreboard. It will also a concern to see the Bulldogs fail to kick a major after midway through the third quarter while Geelong kicked six. The two tall forwards in Naughton and Ugle-Hagan managed just 2.4 between them. Jamara has struggled a little with accuracy in recent weeks and will need to remedy that to help get his team in the finals. There’s also talk that Bontompelli should be available next week despite talk of an injury. He may be below 100% against the Power.
5 – I actually know a few of the lyrics from the Suns theme song
I found myself singing along with the Suns after their impressive victory against the Crows. I got to about the fourth line and thought to myself that now we’re hearing the song a little more often I’ve absorbed it. And it’s a catchy little tune in my humble opinion. I’m not quite on the Suns as yet as I still see them as having a lot of work to do if they want to play finals, but they certainly are in with a shot. They get the week off next week and then they come down to the MCG in Round 14 to take on the Blues. That is definitely a winnable game considering they probably only need to score ten goals for victory against a Carlton unit that seems to have found a path to goal which goes via Hong Kong. If they can get over the Blues they’ll be playing the Hawks in Round 15 at Carrara and they could be 8-6 and inside the top 8.
This is great news for the club and the hard-working Stewart Dew. Lukosius kicked five goals for the third time this year and is fast becoming a dangerous goal-kicking forward. Noah Anderson continued his great form once again finishing with 28 touches and 2 goals. The most impressive part of this win was their strong finish to the game kicking 11 goals to just 5 after trailing by 17 points at half time. The Suns of old rarely did that. Could this be the year?
Adelaide will be ruing yet another loss on the road, but one can’t help if the sweltering conditions in Darwin favoured the Suns allowing them to run out the game a little better. In his first game against his former club Izak Rankine wasn’t at his best managing just 13 touches and failed to kick a goal. Fogarty and Walker kicked five goals between them and the midfield got plenty of the ball with Ben Keays one of their best with 25 touches and 2 goals. The Crows have really found it hard to string any wins together. They should win their next match against the Eagles in Adelaide before their mid-season break. However, straight after their break they have to face the Magpies in Melbourne. A quick look at the rest of their season suggests they’ll win a lot of games at home and might lose a lot of their games away. The Crows need to learn how to travel well.
6 – The high-scoring Giants and Tigers is how footy should be played
On Friday night we saw a dour and sometimes boring affair as the combined total of the two teams’ scores was a paltry 105 points which I daresay is as low as any game has been this year. The Sunday game at Giants stadium between GWS and Richmond saw a combined score of 214, more than double the pitiful Friday night’s output. And what a game it was with Richmond scraping home by just 6 points. The final term also saw the Giants booting seven goals to Richmond’s five in what was a fast-paced and exhilarating rush to the finish line with the result undecided until the last 20 seconds. I do feel that lockdown defensive-styled game plans are a blight on the game, but I guess coaches do what they do to procure a win any way they can. But as a Blues fan sitting here as I write this, watching my team kicking just six goals in the past two matches makes me sick when I see a game like this one where 31 goals are scored and you can actually see some skills on display.
It was also a big game for Jack Riewoldt who is nearing the end of his career, but after kicking a bag of five and making a genuine contribution to the win, maybe we might see him run around again? I guess only he knows the answer to that. As for the Tigers remainder of the season, you know they are still not without a chance of sneaking into the eight. They have a reasonable draw with many winnable games, but I imagine three more losses is their absolute limit from their last 11 games. It’s not impossible for this mob, and nothing would surprise me, but it will be a minor miracle all the same.
As for the Giants, you’d have to say they’re pretty much done. They needed this win and were oh so close, as they’ve been in quite a few games. This tells me they’re not as far off as their ladder position might suggest. In fact, a quick look at their percentage in the high 90s really tells the story. They don’t often lose by big margins. Toby Greene almost helped get his team across the line with a few moments of brilliance including a clever last-quarter goal. He will lead this team in an upwards direction on the ladder one feels. Ruckman Kieren Briggs had an absolute blinder of a game kicking two goals from his 11 disposals, but more importantly, keeping pace with the much more experienced Toby Nankervis in the ruck contests with 31 hitouts. The Giants will be disappointed with the loss no doubt. They had their chances, but I feel they’re building something and just need to fine-tune their game and gel as a group. It’s a shame they lost this one. They play the Kangaroos next week followed by Freo at home. I know Fremantle are going well at the moment, but at home they would’ve been a chance. The story could’ve been vastly different going into that game had they beat Richmond today. That’s their story all year so far. So close, and yet, not even in the frame.
7 – Ben McKay can play football after all
Even though Essendon won the game against the Kangaroos in a close one, the form of Ben McKay would’ve brought a smile to the faces of many Roos fans. He’s been living in the shadow of his brother Harry who has had a better start to his career, but after this game, not only did he look like a genuine AFL player collecting 18 touches and 10 marks, another couple of games like this and he might even take over from his brother who, it has to be said, is not having his best year. It’s probably cold comfort to the North Melbourne defender as, once again, they’ve fallen agonisingly short from that elusive win. But surely it’s not far away now.
Zuurhar booted four in a strong showing. Stevenson is finding consistency. The midfield is working hard. The Kangaroos now go into next week’s game against the Giants in Tasmania with some belief. It could be next week.
The Bombers were challenged by North. They found a way and they’ll take the win, but their credentials as a genuine finals team might’ve taken a small hit on Sunday night. That can be easily fixed with a strong win over the struggling Blues next Sunday, but a loss there will see them slip back to that middle rung. Zach Merrett led from the front again with 34 disposals and two goals. Kyle Langford bobbed up again with four and is fast becoming a mainstay in the Bombers forward half. These two teams always seem to have tight contests whenever they meet regardless of their ladder positions. The question I’m asking myself is have they improved under Ratten? And if so, what does that say for Clarkson? Or are Essendon good without being great? Time will tell. Next week’s clash with the Blues looms large for both teams.
8 – There’s going to be a real logjam of sides trying to squeeze into the eight
For all intents and purposes, I still think the Tigers and Blues will not be a part of September action. That leaves 12 sides who can still, in all likelihood, make the eight. The Sydney v St Kilda match next week is massive. If the Saints lose that they are almost in free fall and may repeat what they did last year and miss the eight on the back of a very good start. The Bulldogs have to beat the Power or they’ll also be on the brink of collapse. The Tigers head over to Perth to take on the Dockers. Every game for them becomes an elimination final, and a win there would bring the Dockers would end their four game winning streak, and also put their prospects of finals footy in jeopardy. It is turning into a very interesting season. The Cats and Suns are getting the break at the right time I feel. They’ll get some players back and will come out firing in the hope of pushing up the ladder and making their caser for qa spot in September, although Geelong have one of the toughest tests in current football going to Adelaide to play the Power after the break. A win there would set them up beautifully. A loss will make it hard but you get the feeling the Cats are simply too good to not make it.
For me, I’ll be watching the Suns closely. They are finally looking like a team with a bit of fight which has been seriously lacking till now. Their path to finals is very tough, but if they were to make it, it will prove beyond doubt that Stuart Dew is an excellent coach. There’s a lot to play out. This is fast becoming one of the better seasons in a while. Now, if my Blues can stop pissing about and start playing more direct football I could enjoy it more.