Eight Things I Learnt After Round Six

Just the eight from Gab for Round Six.


1. Dogs prove a week is a long time in football

A lacklustre performance against the Bombers last round came with calls for the blood of Luke Beveridge and harsh criticism for the club’s team selection so far in 2024. It was a poor performance that saw them end the week with a lot of commentators asking the tough questions.

The Saints entered the game as favourites on the back of their strong showing against the Giants in Canberra. However, it was pretty obvious early that they were going to have an off-night and found themselves trailing by 37 pints at quarter time. The absence of Max King was laid bare as their entries into their forward line yielded very little fruit. Ross Lyon was quick to point out that his boys had played three games in just 11 days plus the travel factor. Too bad there were no journalists in the room clever enough to point that their much livelier opponents had played three games in 12 days which included a trip interstate.

This was a great return to form by the Bulldogs, and most of the Doggies’ faithful were very ready to pounce on the coach after last week’s loss. Could it be said that Bailey Dale’s stellar performance may be attributed to him having to re-establish himself as a member of the Doggies’ best 22? Macrae had 30 touches. Maybe there was method in the madness for Bevo. Naughton kicking six weeks will also get him wondering how the forward line should function. Decisions, decisions.

Bevo’s not out of the woods yet. He’ll be back on the chopping block with another poor effort against Freo.


2. The Bombers are exceeding expectations. Even their own.

Ask any Essendon supporter if they thought they’d be 4-2 at this stage before the season started and they would’ve laughed at you. After the humiliating loss to Port Adelaide, many thought we’d be seeing the Bombers slide into oblivion for this season. Somehow, the Bombers have found an extra gear. The win against the Bulldogs was emphatic, and no matter which way you spin it, beating the Crows at home is a fair effort. They’ve also found a few players that have gone from so-so list cloggers to genuine stars such as Sam Durham. They arguably have the best skipper in the league with Zach Merrett. They’re going along well, and the Anzac Day clash now looks like being a belter.

Adelaide entered this game with renewed confidence after their shock win against the Blues at Marvel in Round 5. Another win on the back of that would’ve breathed new life into this difficult season. Sadly, they fell short by under a kick, but who are we kidding? The Bombers’ wastefulness up forward was the only reason why the Crows remained a chance. It was a strange game in which youngster Josh Rachele came under fire for what looked like flinching in a marking contest. Izak Rankine’s great game against Carlton also meant he was a marked man on the night. These guys are still young but they’ll be targeted in the future. For now, it’s back to the drawing board for Matthew Nicks and his men. A game against the winless Kangaroos next round might be just the tonic for one use of the defibrillator required to kickstart their ailing fortunes in 2024.


3. Uh-oh! Looks like the Pies have got their mojo back!

Midway through the second term, at 2-3 after five games, and trailing Port Adelaide by five goals, Collingwood’s premiership defence was on the precipice. Then something changed. It was like a switch had been flicked and, suddenly, the Collingwood players remembered that they were actually good again. They booted the last six majors of the half to go into the break 12 points in a performance that resembled 2023. After half time, it was eight goals to just four. The final margin of 36 points probably flattered the Power due to Collingwood’s inaccurate 17.21 score line. Hoskin-Elliott starred with two goals from his 21 touches while Nick Daicos had 30. The Pies go Into a big Anzac Day clash with the Bombers.

After such a solid start, once the Magpies took control, Port had no answers. Rozee lowered his colours probably for the first time this year. The forward line didn’t function as well when the absent Charlie Dixon is playing. They conceded 19 more inside 50s and had 50 less touches than the Magpies. Butters was one of Port’s better players, picking up over 30 touches, but the normally dominant group of mids including Rozee, Horne-Francis and Drew didn’t have their usual impact on the game. The Saints head over to the city of churches to face the Power in a must-win clash for both clubs.


4. Blues fans can get a little excited

The Blues should’ve really been undefeated To this point having endured a narrow loss to the Crows which is included major lapses late in the game allowing the Crows to score the past three goals of the game. This week, the Giants held sway for much of the first half and lead by as much as 22 points at one point. The Giants threatened to take the game away courtesy of two quick goals from Kelly in the third term, but as is becoming a regular thing, the spark came from Charlie Curnow. After kicking five behinds in the second quarter, Charlie booted three out of the eight unanswered goals which eventually resulted in a 19-point victory to Carlton. When the Blues get momentum, they’re one of the hardest sides to stop. This show of strength against a genuine contender serves as a warning that Carlton is the real deal.

The Giants were pretty good for most of the game but lost their way during the Blues’ onslaught in the third term. Whitfield and Tom Green worked tirelessly. Josh Kelly was as classy as ever, booting three goals from 23 touches. The Giants head back home to take on the Lions at home. They’ll be desperate after yet another home ground loss. And at this stage at least, they’ll be entering that game without Toby Greene.

Blues fans were reeling after the loss to Adelaide. Many saw that loss as perhaps a reality check and perhaps an indication of where they truly sit. The response was epic. But can this team maintain the rage for the end of the year? The game against Geelong will tell us plenty.


5. The Lions now have the GABBA curse.

What was once a fortress and a dreaded trip for travelling clubs is now looking like a happy hunting ground for visiting teams. They’ve now lost all three games played there this year and almost looked timid in those games. Surrendering a 46-point lead in the opening round match was seemingly the beginning of the rot and if it were to continue, perhaps only a magic spell could lift it. The conditions were very heavy, but the Lions should’ve been more accustomed to the Queensland rain than the Cats. However, it was Geelong who adapted the better with the Lions managing just four majors for the whole match. Strangely enough, they dominated the possession count, but scoring 4.13 just showed how inefficient their ball use was. The Lions’ season is on life support, and if they go down to the Giants in Canberra next week, you might as well need to pull the plug.

The Cats were workmanlike. It was a tight game for three quarters, and with cooler heads they were able to break the game open kicking three goals to none in the final term. What’s more impressive is that neither Cameron or Hawkins scored a goal. Geelong have been the surprise packet of the year. Nobody would’ve seen them in this position before the start of the season, but it is worth pointing out that their six wins have all come against sides that are no higher on the ladder than 8th. It will be a huge test against Carlton this Saturday. A win there will propel them into premiership favouritism, while a loss will bring them in line with the chasing pack in what is proving to be a very even season. Beating the Blues might be a little tricky without Tom Stewart, though.


6. The Eagles are officially no longer a basket case

We were all shaking our heads through the first four appearances of the West Coast Eagles. They were getting belted and had a percentage of around 50. It looked like a continuation of their two previous years, but from the Sydney game onwards, it seems as though the worst has passed. They lost that game by a respectable margin then beat an undermanned Richmond the following week. We weren’t sure what to read into their maiden victory against a side so ravaged by injuries, but after beating the Dockers, it’s fair to say they may have turned the corner. We’re loving the form of Jake Waterman and Elliot Yeo. They’ve both played huge roles in the victories. But if ever there was a more certain winner if the Rising Star in Harley Reid, I haven’t seen one.

Where to from here for Fremantle? Undefeated through the first three rounds, they suffered two narrow losses against good teams in Port Adelaide and Carlton, but it’s only now with a shock loss to the Eagles that their credentials might be exposed. They lost handsomely after kicking a few goals late in the game. They were out of contention by midway through the second term. Finals are all but wiped off the table for the moment as they will need to regroup and find a way to beat the Bulldogs in Perth this week. Whilst Serong and Brayshaw did their best, and Nat Fyfe had one of his best games in a while, the Eagles were far too good and they won far too easily.

The Eagles go up to the Gold Coast to take on the Suns. What would have been a certain four points to the home team is no more. And that can only be good for the competition.


7. Isaac Heeney would be miles ahead in the Brownlow right now.

What a season Isaac Heeney is having. Once again, he was likely the best player on the ground. Since moving into the middle he’s been a revelation. Sunday against the Suns was no exception – 28 touches and a goal in a stellar performance. He may have some competition from his teammate in Errol Gulden who is also having big year, but Heeney is really standing out as the player of the year so far. And the Swans looked refreshed after their bye following two questionable weeks.

If Sunday’s game is any indication, the Hawks might be in real trouble this week. Gold Coast look destined for another year finishing outside of the eight. As I pointed out last week, they’re good against bad teams and bad against the good ones. Until they can match it with the best, they’ll be nothing more than the middle table nuisance they are now. I’m sure Hardwick knew what he was taking on, and it’s fair to say with their young and developing list it might come together nicely over the next few years. But haven’t they been saying that for years now? That’s the worry for me. There seems to be a glass ceiling over Carrara, and I’m not sure they have what it takes to break through.


8. North Melbourne are officially the worst team in the competition

Many expected the Hawks to win, but we thought it would’ve been closer than 45 points. North Melbourne look almost certain wooden spooners at this stage and it’s difficult to see them winning a game, to tell the truth. They might trouble a severely undermanned Richmond perhaps. Of all the teams down that end of the ladder, it seems the gap has widened. It’s hard to see them beating the Saints, Crows, Lions or even the Eagles. They don’t play the Tigers until Round 21. I suspect they’ll have a stronger lineup by then. They’ll probably bob up for at least one victory at some point, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t.

Hawthorn needed this win. They’ve been good at times but not for long enough. We know what the club is doing. They’re a young group, plus they’ve had a few injuries. But by and large we thought they were a cut above the bottom placed team and they proved that on Sunday. Nash and Newcombe both had 32 touches. Dylan Moore showed his class with four goals for the match. The Hawks will be better for their first win of the year, but it will take one almighty effort to not let Sydney blow them away this coming week. I wonder who will get the job of quelling Isaac Heeney