The Winners and Losers of Round Two

Sounds like an easy job – listing five winners and five losers from Round Two, right?

I mean, there were plenty fitting each category. But who were the biggest winners? And who were the biggest losers? And who will I leave out, incurring your wrath?

Well, let’s leave that up to my terrible judgement to assess.





Pick 11 – Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera

Pick 33 – Mitch Owens

Pick 47 – Marcus Windhager

Tick! Tick!!! TICK!!!

These three were fantastic as the Saints rolled over the reigning premiers on Thursday night. Wanganeen-Milera is getting to the point where teams will need to start tightening up on him, as he is carving things up from defence. Mitch Owens continues to play tall, small, and all sizes in between as he does whatever it takes to get his team on the scoreboard. And Marcus Windhager joined the party with what was probably the best game of his career to date, crashing and bashing his way through the midfield.

People like to write the Saints off. They did it early last year, and they were doing it again this preseason. These three might make them think twice about doing that again.

Saints footy is good footy.



There were a contingent of media people who thought Fremantle signing Luke Jackson was a bad move.

Even now, there are those readily criticising Freo for having both him and Sean Darcy on the list and actually paying them what they’re worth. Their argument is simple – Gawn and Grundy didn’t work.

Yes… we know that. But did you know that Gawn and Jackson DID work? And it worked so well that it helped the Dees win a flag!

That is often conveniently forgotten.

With Darcy injured, Jackson has arguably been best on ground in two-straight games, as his athleticism drives opposition rucks crazy, and his overhead marking is something teams struggle to stop.

I reckon there would be a few very vocal people from about 18 months ago that are suddenly very quiet at the moment. Let’s hope they stay that way – the more they talk, the less I want to listen.



If Luke Jackson has been good, how do you sum up Isaac Heeney’s first three weeks of 2024?

Playing as a full-time midfielder, he is averaging 29 disposals and 1.3 goals per game as he controls the footy at stoppages (over eight clearances per game) and has the pace and explosiveness to break away and get the Swans running.

People have wondered how good this bloke can be, and after three games, many are speculating he could have nine Brownlow votes on the board.

He is dominating, and even run-with players are finding the heat a little too warm for their liking.



It was the master against the apprentice in Ballarat, as Tom Liberatore went head-to-head with Matt Rowell from the Gold Coast, and although you might see some stat-heads argue that Rowell matched him, those who watched the game will tell you that Libba won contests when it mattered.

He won the tussles when it was him and Rowell on the bottom of the pack. He stole the ball when others were wrestling for it, and he even snuck forward to snag a goal, as well.

I’ve loved Matt Rowell’s start to 2024, but he ran into a wily veteran in this game, and found out that Libba still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

There may be a new kid in town in terms of contested footy, but the old dog still has plenty of tricks.



I love seeing a player take over a game of footy, and if you were lucky enough to watch the third quarter of the Power versus the Tigers, you would need no explanation as to how good Zak Butters was.

I’ll put it out there – without Butters, Port could have very well lost this game. He willed them back into this contest, providing three goal assists for the quarter to go with 14 touches, nine contested possessions, and four clearances.

Port started the quarter 11-points down and ended up a goal up (it was up to an 18-point lead before Liam Baker slotted two late ones).

Butters is a star. The more you watch him, the more you start to appreciate just how he can influence a game. He took this one over, and it takes a special player to do something akin to what he did. There are stars, superstars, and matchwinners.

Zak slots right into the last category, quite comfortably. And there are not many of them around.





Righto Luke… there is this bloke named Tom Stewart. He tends to get a lot of the ball and reads it really well in the air. Your job, should you choose to accept it, will be to cover him in the first quarter and make sure he doesn’t have an influence on the game. Are you okay to do this job for us?

“Yes, I am!”

You’re not lying, are you?

“No, I’m not.”

Good… because if you are lying, and you really cannot do this job, we’ll soon find out.

And yes… we found out.

I like Pedlar as a pressire half forward who oinch hits in the middle, but sometimes, you get a reality check. Tom Stewart had six intercept possessions in the first quarter en route to taking ten intercept marks for the game, equalling an AFL record. Pedlar lasted a quarter before Adelaide coach, Matthew Nicks tried another bold plan…

This one consisted of not putting anyone on Stewart,’


Lucky he doesn’t have his name on the list, as well.



The Hawks coach won no friends with his “keepings off” style of play against the Demons in the first quarter.

His team took over 40 marks for the quarter and were only able to conjure one solitary point as reward for effort, as the Hawthorn defence bolstered their stats with pointless chip-kicking across half-back, only to end up having to go down the line, anyway, when the Dees rotated over to block things up.

Why do something with one kick, when you can use five?

More is not better in footy, unless you’re talking about goals, and in Hawthorn’s case, even one would have been better than what their defensive tactics resulted in.



The knives are coming out, and it is not for the young blokes, or the fringe players at Collingwood – it’s the veterans that are copping it.

Scott Pendlebury is playing for free kicks, Steele Sidebottom is shanking kicks, the backline is revolving around Darcy Moore, and he is determined to play on nobody, and Jeremy Howe is looking like he is eyeing off retirement.

Do we write these blokes off?

Don’t be silly.

The preseason saw some carry injuries into the season, and after they get miles into their legs, they’ll be a lot better. This week at The Gabba looms as a massive game for both teams. 0-5 between the Grand Finalists… this is the point of the season that could make or break top-four chances. Yep, in Round Three.



Maybe a controversial one, eh?

Or maybe not. Larkey’s first two games of the season have yielded four goals, which is a decent return, but he is playing as the main marking target inside North’s forward line, and the bloke simply cannot take a contested mark to save himself.

He was monstered by Sam Taylor in Round One, and then this week, Freo captain, Alex Pearce took him to the cleaners, as well.

After two weeks, the main marking target for the Kangaroos has ZERO contested grabs for the year. You’ve gotta be better than that.



Not because of what he did – I reckon he ran in a straight line at the footy to take a chest mark, turned at the last second to protect himself, and in the process, Harry Cunningham was on the receiving end of a bit hit.

No, he is in this column because he has already been found guilty by armchair critics all over Australia. Many of these people strain muscles reaching for the remote control, but are suddenly experts on biomechanics and how people react in the face of heavy contact.

You ever see one of those instances when a person has a trial elsewhere because they cannot get a fair hearing where they are? That’s where Peter Wright is at, right now.

Guilty before the trial even begins.

Personally, I thought Sam Draper’s deliberate forearm to the back of Jake Lloyd had more malice in it than Wright’s action, but as always, the AFL punishes the outcome because… they’re idiots.


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