Ten Things I Learnt After Round Ten


  1. Gold Coast should move to Darwin permanently.


There is talk of bringing in a team from the Northern Territory some time within the next decade, so why don’t we just move the Suns there and bring it forward? They clearly like playing at TIO Stadium, and they’re probably don’t pull much bigger crowds than what they do at Carrara. If you think I’m pulling that comment based on opinion, think again.


The average crowds at People First Stadium this year is around 12,000. That’s roughly how many witnessed the demolition of the Cats on Thursday night. The capacity of TIO is 12,500. It’s a far cry from the 27,500 that can fit into their current home base, but it’s rarely ever a sell-out. If you’re reading this and thinking I’m being a tad facetious, you’d probably be right. However, Gold Coast are playing in their 14th season in the AFL. 


They’re yet to play finals, and they’re have only been able to secure 23,000 members this year which is the lowest of any club. OK. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s talk about the game.


Geelong were very ordinary. It’s really hard to gauge how good the Gold Coast played based on how poorly the Cats performed. Silly pundits like me thought the Cats would bounce back after their shock loss at home against the Power even without Jeremy Cameron. The Suns also de used to rest one of their best players in Jarrod Witt’s in what now appears to be a stroke of genius. There were also reports suggesting the Suns found conditions more draining than they’ve ever experienced during their victory over the Kangaroos. It seemed a fair recipe for a Cats win, but it was obvious by half time the opposite were true.


We’ve seen the emergence of Humphries who finished with five majors alongside Lukosius. Is Hardwick finally going to play him as a forward where he clearly does the most damage? 


Hardwick definitely did his homework on Tom Stewart. You’ll never see him take zero marks in a game ever again I suspect. Geelong have now lost three in a row and look like they’re genuinely looking no certainty to play finals despite winning the first seven games. The Giants travel down to GMHBA next week. They have a solid record at that ground but are seemingly a shadow of the team they appeared to be early on. 


Which leads me on to the Suns and what we all need to take away from what is arguably their best ever win.


The Suns play Carlton this Saturday at Marvel Stadium. A win and they cement a place in the eight. These are the games in years gone by they’d slip on a banana peel. So beating Geelong in Darwin was a good effort, but they’ll need to back it up against the Blues before I’m truly convinced they are the real deal.


  1. Sydney have no real weaknesses


It’s hard not to be envious of where the Swans find themselves right now. When Luke Parker isn’t getting a game that says a lot. 


Their injury list isn’t too alarming, and it seems they’re a very settled unit right across the field. What is also notable is the number of elite kicks in that team. It would seem that the Swans have made a policy of only recruiting players that are highly skilled.

That midfield trio of Heeney, Gulden and Warner are deadly. All three have sublime kicking, and Warner has clearly spent time in the gym making it all but impossible to bring him down in a tackle. He was clearly best afield finishing with three goals from his 28 touches and more efforts like that may rob Heeney of a Brownlow. For now, the Swans sit pretty atop the ladder six points clear of the Bombers. One gets the feeling that gap may widen. Unless the Doggies have a surprise or two in store for their Round 11 clash.


For the first time this season, Carlton have drifted out of the eight. With four losses from their last six games, being tenth on the ladder is probably fitting. They were pre-season favourites for the flag according to some, but what is becoming apparent is that they have not advanced on last year. Anything less than a Top 4 finish will be seen as a backward step, and it’s looking as though it’s beyond them.


Is it time to panic? Perhaps not. But you can bet that if they fall short this week against the Gold Coast Suns at Marvel, Ikon Park will be in meltdown.


  1. The Crows are going to miss Izak Rankine


We saw glimpses of Rankine’s prowess while he was still a Sun, but the beauty of his time at Adelaide, particularly this year, is we are now seeing him perform at a high level on a consistent basis. The Crows had shorter start to the year, but now they seem capable of matching it with anybody on any given day, and they’re look a vastly different unit to the one that saw them lose their first four matches.


Rankine has definitely played a role in this improvement. He dominated against the Blues and looked as though his goal that put them in front late in the game was going to get them over the line. Sadly it didn’t happen, and even harder to swallow might be the fact that Izak ran too far with ball in hand to hand the ball back to Collingwood in the dying stages.


If that wasn’t bad enough, he tore his hamstring on that run. The Crows will feel his absence. And the Eagles are no longer easybeats.


You only need to cast your mind back six weeks where the Pies were winless and languishing near the bottom of the ladder looking nothing like defending premiers. I guess it’s not a complete shock that they’ve regained form and have had five wins and a draw since those ladders to catapult themselves all the way up to 5th on the AFL ladder.


Nick Daicos was at his best collecting 41 touches in a standout performance. De Goey will be pleased with his return game which included 26 touches and two goals, and nobody was surprised to see him kick the winning goal. Collingwood are back whether we like it or not, and it looks as though they’ll find their way into the top four. That said, a trip to Perth to play the Dockers could spoil the party.


  1. The Dogs need goal-kicking practice


The conditions in Western Sydney were not great, so some of the inaccuracy in front of goal is to be expected. Of the 22 behinds scored by the Bulldogs, six of them hit the post. But still, 8.22 is a concern and they’ll be counting their blessing for the win in site of this. One good thing is that the Bulldogs are winning currently with Marcus Bontempelli not at his absolute best. Ed Richard’s had a top game in the midfield with 27 touches while Treloar had 35. The Dogs’ season is alive. A huge challenge awaits in Round 11 as they take on ladder-leader Sydney in Melbourne.


I’m really not sure where it’s all gone wrong for the Giants, but it sure has. They’ve lost four of their last five and are genuinely struggling to score it would seem. They don’t have an extensive jury list with Josh Kelly the only real top liner on that list. The Giants take on the Cats at GMHBA Stadium next week. 


They’ll go down with some confidence having won down there on no less than three occasions in their short history. Both sides will be wanting to arrest their slide and the loser of this game will be in real trouble.


  1. Ross Lyon needs to reassess his defensive coaching style


Ross Lyon’s reapportionment as St Kilda coach last season reinvigorated the club with immediate results. Despite having many key players on the injury list in the early part of the season, they came out of the blocks like madmen and won the four opening games. As the year wore on a few of their younger players found it hard to keep up that frenetic level and the losses came, but they still finished sixth when many gave them no chance of playing finals. All in all it was a successful year for the club and hopes were high for 2024.


After 10 games this year the Saints find themselves in 15th place with just three wins. They’re averaging the third lowest scoring rate in the competition while, in typical Lyon fashion, are the sixth best defensive team. We all know how important a strong defence is, but the Saints rarely kick winning scores these days with two of their three wins coming against the bottom two sides. Lyon has to tweak his game style. Sadly, despite only losing by 17 points, the Saints were never really in this game.


What kept them in touch was the Dockers inability to convert. Jye Amiss could’ve had a huge day but could only manage 2.5. It seemed to permeate through the entire team as shot after shot went astray. A glaring statistic in this game was the marks inside 50. The Dockers took 17 while the Saints could only manage five. The usual suspects got plenty of the ball with Serong (30), Clark (29), Ryan (27), Young (27), Brayshaw (26). Luke Jackson seems to play his best football when Sean Darcy isn’t there, but whether or not the two can work together is a debate for another day.


Freo have had a few ups and downs this year, but finals is still attainable. Wins on the road are always important, and next week they’ll be home to Collingwood. It’s really a problem when you have a big forward like Max King in the side and you only manage five marks inside the forward zone. King only took three marks for the game and did not score a goal. Mitch Owen’s fared better kicking three goals, but with the Saints only managing eight goals for the match it was never going to be enough. It’s very hard to see the Saints get back into finals contention. More forward options are required, but Max King should be alongside his brother in the Coleman race but isn’t really having the year he’d hoped for. They face the Demons next round who have scoring issues of their own, but they should be too good for the Saints and the pain might continue.


  1. North Melbourne would beat Richmond if they played now


It’s quite obvious that, at this point in time, Richmond is the worst performing team in the AFL. Their last four weeks tell a tale of woe. They’ve scored below 50 on each occasion averaging just 44 points per game while conceding an average of 121 points and are losing by an average of 77 points. During this period they’re going at a percentage of 36.6%. Compare that to the Kangaroos and you’ll see they’re doing a lot better with average losing margins of 51 points, an average score of 66 while conceding 120 with a percentage of 55.0%.


North’s numbers are pretty poor, but the Tigers’ data is diabolical. North would win by around 4 goals on those numbers. Adem Yze has his work cut out for him. I’d say his biggest issue is keeping his senior players interested. From the outside looking in, it appears those who are still at the club from their premiership days know the best is behind them and are just going through the motions. Dusty, Nankervis, Vlaustin, Short, Pickett, Rioli, Balta and McIntosh all seem spent forces. They need to show leadership. It’s rubbing off on players like Bolton who is not performing at his best. In the last month he’s averaged 17 disposals and kicked just three goals. He’s better than that. Yes they’ve been ravaged by injury and are fielding a lot of youth, but inexplicably their one win was against the top team. If they keep this up, the Dream Time game will be a nightmare.


You get the feeling that Brisbane will eventually find their way into the eight to be part of September action. They’re going to start winning all their home games. They are too good a team to be where they are and it just seems a matter of time now. There’s no guarantees of course, but Neale is starting to fire, Zorko is turning back the clock, and if Charlie and Joel gain some confidence from hitting the scoreboard they’ll be hard to beat. Their season is alive but it’s a week to week proposition starting next week with the Hawks.


  1. The Bombers had to work a little harder than they’d hoped


Essendon were always going to beat North Melbourne. In the AFL, you should never take any game lightly, so those expecting it to be an automatic percentage booster would’ve been concerned at half time when the margin in favour of the Bombers was just seven points. The third quarter eight-goal burst put any thoughts of a boilover to bed, but for three quarters the Kangaroos matched them. 


Peter Wright led the way up forward with four majors while Guelfi seems to be in career best form adding another three goals on the back of a few solid weeks.


They’re humming along nicely and look likely to beat the Tigers next week, but their draw late in the year will test them. On what we’re seeing they should play finals, but a lot can happen before September.


If only the Kangaroos could play well for four quarters. It seems two or three is the norm, and most of their games are lost during spells where they fall off the pace and are unable to get their hands on the ball. This was their tenth straight loss and the winning mentality is far and distant from their minds. 


There was a lot to like about them in this game. Davies-Uniacke is, and will be, a star. Sheezel is a gun. And Xerri probably had the better of former teammate Todd Goldstein. We want North to be better. If they can play for four quarters without these lapses, they could be.


  1. Hawthorn’s loss will haunt them forever


It’s almost unthinkable to be 11 points up with 30 seconds on the clock and lose, but that’s what happened. Port Adelaide lead for an entirety of 58 seconds for the game which included kicking the first behind. People criticising Sam Mitchell should consider the 6-6-6 rule that obviously prevented him from stacking the backline for the last centre bounce. No, this is on the players allowing it to get out of the centre too easily and then not killing the ball when it landed in defence.


In dramatic circumstances, McEntee tackled a Hawks defender with seconds to go. The ball spilled loose, and from a tight angle, Byrne-Jones soccered through the matchwinner with 2 seconds remaining. The Hawks fans will be heartbroken for weeks, and the players will be wondering how they let a 41 point lead slip as well as the horror final 30 seconds. A lot of inexperienced players will learn from this. They say you learn more from losses than wins, and in this case that’s very accurate. They play Brisbane next week. Their form has been great, so we’ll either find this has knocked the wind out of their sails or they strengthen their resolve.


Port Adelaide are currently enjoying 4th spot thanks to their last minute heroics. Had they lost, they would actually be outside the eight on percentage. In a year this tight, that’s how fine a line it is, and Port Adelaide will benefit from this win in the race to the finals hugely. Horne-Francis was impressive all day kicking two goals from 27 touches. Zak Butters didn’t have it all his way but came through in the end with 32. Houston and Rioli both finished with three goals. They’ll be breathing a huge sigh of relief, but most neutral observers would still be thinking it should never have happened. It did, and that’s football. Port should be 8-3 this time next week


  1. Jake Waterman is a huge chance for the Coleman


There’s definitely several reasons as to why the Eagles have lifted themselves out of the depths they’ve been. The form of veteran Elliott Yeo is one. Harley Reid is already a star. But for mine, the form of Jake Waterman is the biggest.


Not only is he scoring heavily, but it seems he’s brought Jack Darling up a level as well. Waterman kicked five on the weekend while Darling kicked three. And these sorts of numbers are starting to become a trend, all of a sudden making the Eagles dangerous. Sure, with just a couple of injuries the dropoff is big, but if they can field anything close to their best side, they’ll win quite a few games. They head to Adelaide to take on the Crows this week in what will be a more interesting game than we would’ve thought a month ago.


Melbourne were seemingly not prepared for that early onslaught. The Eagles came out swinging and had a good lead early. The Demons came at them and narrowed the margin a couple of times but never lead at any stage. They were still a chance midway through the final term and would be disappointed by the way they weren’t really able to fight it out till the end with the Eagles kicking the final three goals for the match.


The Dees had high hopes for this year and have looked good at times. The forward setup is still not there yet. Ben Brown can’t find his best. You’d expect Melbourne to be too strong for the Saints next week, but they are far from certain finalists after two straight losses.


  1. Here’s my report card on each team so far


Sydney Swans – A+ Maybe the A+ should go to the list manager for picking up so many players who are elite by hand and foot. The only thing stopping this team winning the flag at this stage might be injuries.


Essendon – A I considered an A+ as many expected the Bombers to be middle of the road at best. I went with A because even though they’ve played well against some good teams, their draw has been relatively tame so far and their two losses were against Top 4 teams


Geelong – B+ They were flying but have hit a road block. If they don’t get back on track soon this grade will slip quickly


Port Adelaide – B+ If they lost to the Hawks they would’ve been a C. They’ve been very good at times but have lost games they were favoured to win.


Collingwood – B This would’ve been an F after their first three games. They’ve definitely turned things around and it’ll probably become an A soon


Giants – B- Such a strong start. They were beating all comers, but four losses from the last five is a concern. They must win this week


Melbourne – C+ This might seem harsh, but their last fortnight has been poor. Slow starts and lack of scoring power is costing them.


Gold Coast – B- It could’ve been a higher grade, but they need to win games on the road, in particular in Melbourne 


Fremantle – B- Started well and then had a flat patch. Seem to be on the right track for the moment but each week we don’t know what we’re going to get


Carlton – C – Based on what we saw last year, they should be in a better spot. Yes, injuries are a factor, but there’s definitely a lack of intensity creeping into various periods in games. That needs to be addressed


Western Bulldogs – C – Seemingly getting it together after two straight wins, but a poor start to the year for a side we expected to improve


Brisbane – D+ Whilst they’re slowly working back into form, they never showed up until Round 5 this year so they’ve made it hard for themselves


Adelaide – C It might seem generous after a side loses the first four games, but they’re definitely playing better now and could’ve easily been 5-5 at this stage. They’ve been a little unlucky.


St Kilda – E They just don’t look like it. The best an out of form Collingwood, the Kangaroos and Tigers. Least improved side in the comp


Hawthorn – D They would’ve had a C or better if they held on against the Power. Their improvement has been both great and surprising.


West Coast – C From where they’ve come from to where they are from their last month, they are the biggest improvers next to the Swans this year


Richmond – F I know managing a list is hard, and I recognise what winning premierships can do when it comes to drafting young talent, but it looks like they’ve dropped the ball. I’m also concerned about the form if their senior players


North Melbourne – E They haven’t improved. Not yet anyway. I thought Clarkson might’ve had a bigger impact to this point, but it seems the problems are bigger than that.