Nine Things I Learnt After Round Three

1. Brisbane Lions won’t be going to Las Vegas this year

So by now most of you would’ve read that certain things happened on the Brisbane players’ end of year trip to Las Vegas that were leaked, with some suggesting it may be part of the reason to their indifferent start to 2024. Clearly they forgot the saying “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

Talks of a split in the playing group resulting from this have been talked down, but whatever the case, losing the first three games of the year after playing off in last year’s Grand Final, two of which were at home where they went undefeated last year, is not the start they wanted. This side looks inept compared to previous years and there’s definitely something wrong.

They’ll say it’s all good at the club, but results suggest otherwise. Luckily the club’s early season drought should end next week when they play North Melbourne. However, should they lose, you can be sure that heads will roll.

The Magpies will be breathing easier now. One gets the feeling it might even reignite their season. Whilst Brisbane’s underperforming forward line struggled to hit the scoreboard, Jamie Elliott showed his class kicking four goals, whilst Mihocek and Hill booted three each. It tells a story of where the problems may lie for the Lions.

The Pies have the Hawks next week which they should win. They’ll have the following week off and will no doubt relaunch their season after that. I suspect this team will prove to be better than their opening three rounds suggested. Brisbane possibly will be too, although it’s hard to see them playing finals if they lose home games throughout the year.


2. You need a defence against the Blues

Could this be the year that the McKay/Curnow combination finally clicks? There has been times in past seasons where it looked ominous, but Harry’s wayward kicking diminished the potency many expected. This year is shaping up as one where we can expect the pair to both exceed 50 goals with 21 between them already after just three rounds.

North Melbourne’s defence was just too small to stop the twin towers. Harry is marking everything and his accuracy to date includes 11 goals with just three behinds. Charlie can be a little wayward, but he does have ten on the board. He left the game in the final term with what may be a knee complaint, so it will be interesting to see if he is available for a genuine test against the Dockers next week. All in all, so far so good for Carlton, but most of us still don’t know where they’re truly at.

North battled hard, but aside from games against the Eagles and Hawks, it still seems they won’t trouble too many sides.

They’re very young and may develop into a better team in the coming years. They’ve got a pretty solid midfield and a forward line that can post a score, but it would seem they lack some boba dude key position players, especially in defence. That should be their focus during the next trade period, but it is unfortunate that the Kangaroos are always going to struggle to attract free agents or established players from other clubs. Clarkson has a genuine battle on his hands this year and beyond.

As a Carlton supporter, the last thing I need to hear is the term “green shoots”. We heard that a lot in the Bolton era, and Clarko will need to offer up those kinds of platitudes. Something worth noting during the game when Callum-Coleman went down with his injury and not one of the Roos players went over to comfort him. That’s never a good sign.


3. The Dockers and the Crows are both going against expectations

It’s interesting to note the parallels between these two clubs coming into the season. Both have just extended their respective coach’s tenure. Many suggested Longmuir’s extension may have been premature whilst Nicks looked as though he’d be coaching a finalist after narrowly missing out last year.

After three rounds the script has flipped and it’s Freo undefeated whilst the Crows are winless and looking pretty ordinary. They managed just four goals against the Dockers and their season is on the brink of collapse already. Their next two games against Melbourne and Carlton won’t be easy. A 0-5 start to the year is looming.

Meanwhile, the Dockers do look promising, although it has to be said that all their wins have been against sides that are yet to win a game this year, but they’ve been getting the job done. Hayden Young was one of Freo’s best in what is looking like a breakout season. He’s been around for some time but it looks as though he might’ve found his best.

It was an ugly scrap with the Dockers pulling away late. Next week they trek to Adelaide to take on the Blues. This might reveal a little more about both teams in terms of where they truly sit at this point. Who can stop big Harry? How do Carlton control Luke Jackson? It’s going to be a beauty.


4. Jake Stringer loves the big moments

In what was another scrappy affair, the Bombers prevailed over the Saints after trailing for the first 104 minutes of the game courtesy of two last-quarter goals by Stringer. He does enjoy life on the big stage, although I’m sure there’s been times where he hasn’t covered himself in glory.

However, on Saturday he came through when it counted and the Bombers now are building a case for a finals spot. Nic Martin had a whopping 46 possession game and the skipper keeps showing why he’s as good as anyone going around. Their next fortnight includes games against Port and the Bulldogs. Both of those teams should not take the Dons lightly, although we’ve seen some wild fluctuations in form in their last couple of seasons. If they can maintain the rage they may slip into the eight.

The Saints have blown another one. The last quarter tells a story. The Bombers almost kicked themselves out of it with 2.6 while the Saints could only manage 1.1. It’s a huge concern with so much to play for. By all accounts, despite the closeness of the game it was a hard watch with mistakes being made all over the place.

One thing that would be concerning Ross Lyon is that the Bombers went up a gear in that final term and the Saints struggled to keep up. Their inaccuracy in front of goal also continues to haunt them. After making finals last year, the Saints will have to find at least one win in the next fortnight against the Tigers followed by the Giants. If they were to lose both you would almost draw a line through them.


5. The Demons are still a threat

You won’t get a much bigger win than what the Demons had on Saturday night. It was a high stakes game that swung both ways. Port Adelaide will be ruing some of their efforts in front of goal. The sad fact is they had 21 more inside 50’s and lost. The Dees were just far more efficient and it was good to see Ben Brown playing a role withis third goal putting his team in front late in the game.

If Melbourne are able to beat the Crows they’ll be 4-1 before they face the Lions in Round 6 at the MCG. Surely the Lions have got to come good at some point. If Melbourne win those two games, they’ll be hard to shake out of the eight and one would think they’ll be trying to make amends for their two consecutive straight sets finals series. Don’t count the Dees out!

And in saying that, don’t count Port Adelaide out either. This game was played at a high standard, befitting two sides who make finals. They hardly disgraced themselves and almost pinched it in the end. Connor Rozee was outstanding again. He clearly enjoys the captaincy. Willem Drew is one to watch, as well – he flies under the radar of most. This looks like a year where he’ll be noticed more. He had an awesome game and is enjoying life in the midfield.

The Power have the Bombers and the Dockers at home in the next two weeks. If they win both of those then it’s safe to say they’re the real deal.


6. Time to invoke the mercy rule for the Eagles

These last two years for the West Coast Eagles have been an absolute fail at every level. We keep hearing about their misfortunes surrounding injuries or players that are unavailable, but I dare say that if their best 22 was out on the park they’d probably still lose most games. I would’ve thought by now we’d see some signs of improvement, but it almost looks like they’re worse now.

Poor old Tim Kelly fronts up every week and gives it his all, but him and McGovern are possibly the only two A-Graders on that list. It’s embarrassing at this stage. I know going winless never happens, but I reckon this could be the year. They look woeful, and watching their games is not really time we’ll spent. Honestly, three goals in a whole game of football is just awful.

The Western Bulldogs have bounced back from their first round stinker with wins against the Suns and now the Eagles. You’d almost put this game down as a practice match such was the ease of victory. Adam Treloar was probably best afield with 35 touches. He seems to fly under the radar with the likes of Bontempelli and Liberatore leading the way, but Treloar at his best is just as influential.

A result like this doesn’t reveal too much in terms of how good or otherwise the Bulldogs are. Over the next two rounds they come up against the Cats and the Bombers. The Cats are flying and will take some beating. On current form, I think Geelong might be too good.


7. The Swans are not invincible after all

After their first three games some were suggesting this year’s flag was there’s for the taking, so it was a welcome result to see the Tigers defeat the Swans despite missing a few key players. And it only gets worse with Lynch gone again for most of the year as well as Balta suffering a late injury. But, for now at least, the monkey is off their back and their new coach Adem Yze finally has a win to his name.

Tim Taranto starred with 35 touches, and Shai Bolton kicked two goals from 25 touches. It was a spirited performance by Richmond who can still compete, but the footy gods seem to be working against them as their injury toll grows to a point that will be hard to manage.

The Swans may possibly have got slightly ahead of themselves in this one. When you’re going as well as they had been, it’s hard not to buy into the publicity a little.

This loss could go one of two ways. It could be the one they needed to remind them to stay focused, or it could create some self-doubt. Time will tell. They won’t learn anything against the Eagles next week. Maybe another 30-goal win is coming? Wouldn’t that be something!

Isaac Heeney was one of Sydney’s best once again. I’m on Brownlow watch with him. He might already be in double digits after his four games.


8. Lightning crashes the Easter Monday classic

Melbourne served up some vicious whether during the clash between Geelong and Hawthorn on Easter Monday. It result in play being suspended after 3/4 time for 40 minutes with Geelong holding sway by 36 points. After play resumed the Hawks came out with spirit to trim the margin back to 20 points before the Cats steadied to eventually maintain that 36 point cushion that seemed to be the order of the day.

The margin was 36 points after the first quarter, the third, and at the end of the game.

Tom Hawkins celebrated his 350th game in style finishing with four goals, whilst Ollie Henry also kicked four majors in one of his best games at Geelong. The Cats remain undefeated and are already exceeding expectations this year. If the Cats can overcome the Bulldogs next week, they’ll almost be certain to go 5-0 with a game against the Kangaroos to follow.

The Hawks were blown away in the first quarter before responding with a five goal to one second quarter to go into the long break just 11 points adrift. After half time the Cats took control again, but there were some signs that the Hawks had a few tricks and could trouble teams if they can put their best together for longer periods.

James Worpel was outstanding with 36 touches and eight tackles. Mabior Chol booted three goals for the Hawks. Lloyd Meek dominated the hitouts with 42. There are a few encouraging signs, but what is truly needed is a win. Despite their shock win over Collingwood last year, I imagine the Pies should get the better of them next week, and that’s followed by a trip to Carrara to take on the Suns. It’s hard to see them winning either of those.


9. It’s very unusual that theres still five teams without a win after Round 3

This year’s ladder looks strangely lopsided. After three and a bit rounds, you have four teams still undefeated, but the oddest part of this year is that there is still five teams yet to open their account. I’ve gone back as far as the year 2000, and with the exception of 2011, this hasn’t happened before. And you’ll also need to factor in that in 2011, with the introduction of Gold Coast we had a 17 team competition and after three rounds there were three teams who’d only played two games.

Whilst there were six teams who were winless after Round 3 in 2011, two of those teams had had a bye. It almost counts in comparison to this year, but not quite.

So, with all that in mind, I will go back further when time permits to see if that number of five teams having all played three games and remained winless is matched or bettered. I still think it’s rather extraordinary.

Brisbane play North Melbourne next week so the number will go down to at least four. On form Melbourne should beat Adelaide. The Swans will definitely beat the Eagles. Collingwood should prevail over the Hawks. I am quietly confident after four rounds in 2024, we may still have four winless teams.

And if there’s anybody out there that knows what the record for the most winless teams after Round Three is, I’d love to hear from you!