Ten Things I Learnt After Round 11

  1. Chad Warner is an absolute freak 

I remember when Warner debuted for Sydney during lockdown in 2020. It was against the Tigers at the GABBA. His hair was a bit longer up top and he looked like a schoolboy. He’s now gone the buzz-cut for a more aerodynamic look and it seems to have worked because he’s quicker and stronger than any of us thought.

He’d rival Dustin Martin at his peak in terms of the inability opponents have to lay an effective tackle on him. And if getting 25 touches and gaining 500 metres a game isn’t enough, now he’s hitting the scoreboard. Warner has booted seven goals from his last two outings, and the four he finished with on Thursday night are a big part of why they were able to hold the Bulldogs off.

I know Isaac Heeney would’ve polled Brownlow votes in most games so far this year, but I’d say Chad may have eaten in to that dominance these last two weeks.

You hate using the word gallant when a side has a loss, but the Bulldogs really were in this game. They were down on rotations with three injured players on the sidelines, and they’re still managed a late surge to almost pinch it. Sydney’s accuracy was also a factor as the Doggies were a little wayward. It won’t get any easier next week when they take on the Magpies without Naughton and Richards. They can’t afford too many more losses, and it’ll be a tough ask to play finals from a win-loss record of 5-7.

The Swans are flying, and the only question hanging over their heads is are they peaking too early? Well, things like injuries can’t be helped so that can happen moving forward. I guess seasons are long and form can waver, but as it stands right now there’s a bit of daylight between Sydney and the following pack. A loss is coming soon I would think. They have the bye next week so we’ll have to wait another week to see if the Cats can take it up to them at the SCG in Round 13.


  1. A very tough call probably cost the Pies a win 

The decision awarded to Sean Darcy late in the game which resulted in a goal is now front and centre of the conversation regarding this game, and in my opinion it’s understandable. A young Pie on the ground handed the ball to his teammate as he rose, who then in turn passed it to the umpire should have never been adjudged as a free kick even if it is arguably in the rules.

This type of penalty should be reserved for far more blatant efforts to not return the ball correctly and in a timely manner. Fans were confused by it, as were the players. If the umpires were trying to make a point, perhaps their energies need to go back to focusing on the holding the ball rule which is clearly a huge problem right now.

Ok, now that’s off my chest, let’s talk about the game.

Collingwood looked to be cruising towards a very commendable interstate victory when they found themselves 25 points ahead with less than seven minutes of playing time remaining. We’ve already spoken of the free kick that resulted in the second of the four late goals scored by the Dockers. It was clear towards the end that the Collingwood players were tiring and the Dockers took full advantage and even had a chance to win when Jeremy Sharp’s shot from 25m went left to tie up the scores.

Collingwood will see this as a lost opportunity. In a tight season like this one, next week’s game against the Bulldogs takes on a lot of significance.

The Dockers can consider themselves lucky to walk away with two points. Poor old Jeremy Sharp will feel he should’ve nailed his shot for the win. Since coming across from the Suns he’s been the surprise of the year at Fremantle, so hopefully he won’t be too hard on himself. Alex Pearce kicked the goal that put the Dockers within one point. It was just the fifth goal he’s kicked in his 118 game career. Fremantle are still within reach of the eight, and their game against the Demons in Darwin next week is a vital one for both teams.


  1. North Melbourne still no closer to a win 

After the last couple of weeks, it seemed the Kangaroos might have had a chance of a victory when they face the Tigers later this year, but after they put up a strong effort against the Bombers, now most pundits might be thinking a winless year is still in the frame.

Losing every week is one thing, but they are losing most games by 50+ points. They’ve never really looked like winning a game other than their Round Three clash against Freo where they lead at half time before being blown away in the third quarter and eventually lost by 26 points. People are trying to find positives when they play a good quarter here and there, they simply can’t stay in games for very long at all.

History says they’ll win a game somewhere, and I sincerely hope they do. However, next week’s bye might be the only week left where they don’t lose.

Port Adelaide did what was expected. Todd Marshall has had an indifferent year so his bag of five might be just the tonic required to launch him into the second half of the season. Next week’s game against Carlton is massive for both clubs. The winner of the Thursday night game could go a long way towards who makes the Top 4. Ollie Wines returned strongly with 26 touches and 2 goals. Despite some.health concerns, he’s putting together a good season, as is Byrne-Jones who seems to be enjoying life as a forward after spending a lot of time in defence. The Blues’ record at Adelaide Oval isn’t the best, so the Power will enter the game as solid favourites.


  1. Gold Coast can’t play finals if they can’t win in Melbourne 

It’s an all too familiar scenario. The Suns have had a strong first half of the year with a 6-4 record and came into the round inside the Top 8. In order to cement that spot, they needed to win against the Blues at Marvel, and the form of Carlton suggested they were gettable.

For most of the game the Suns were in contention, trailing by as little as five points during the third quarter, but when the Blues lifted their intensity, the Suns fell away predictably, and trailed by as much as 47 points midway through the final term before finishing the game with the last three goals to go down by 29.

Most people expected this sort of result, and it’s for this reason that the Suns will probably miss out yet again, but under Hardwick, you might see them take another step forward in 2025 that could get them there. This season is still alive and they’ll be hoping for a win against the Bombers at home next week.

Carlton certainly looked a little better with the return of Adam Saad down back, and many don’t realise the important role Lachie Fogarty has played this year. His pressure inside the F50 is as good as any small forward and it has been missed during his absence. Charlie Curnow had a goalless first half with many wondering if his streak of scoring in games was coming to an end. Mac Andrew seemed to have his measure until he scored his first in the third quarter and went on to kick four. The move to put Zac Williams forward has paid dividends as he also finished with four and may well have put his days in defence in the past. Sam Walsh and Patrick Cripps had over 30 touches each, and you’d think these two will need to have the game of their lives if Carlton were to beat Port Adelaide next week.


  1. GWS at GMHBA is now officially a Geelong hoodoo 

Even when Geelong aren’t the strongest team, a trip to GMHBA stadium fills most teams with dread, let alone when they are high up on the ladder. Both clubs came into this game having lost the momentum from their strong starts to the season.

Most expected the Cats to win, but just like the previous three occasions where the Giants visited the cattery, it wasn’t to be. And who else but Toby Greene would it be to kick the goal that would ultimately be the match winner. He’s working his way back into some form with two goals from 24 touches. Jake Riccardi booted four, as well. Unfortunately, Coniglio went down with injury yet again. He’s been a great player, but one wonders if his body will allow him to go on. Next week the Giants have a bye which will allow the likes of Josh Kelly to possibly be available for their next game. This huge win puts them in the frame to play finals and it’s the rare feat of four consecutive victories in Geelong. That’s definitely some kind of curse.

The Cats attacked hard in the last quarter but couldn’t finish their work. They came back from as much as 31 points during the third term, and actually led by two points at the 17 minute mark, before Toby Greene snapped truly to break the hearts of the Geelong faithful.

The last ten minutes of the game were scoreless, and the 4 point margin now puts the Cats back into the pack trying to make the eight on 28 points. They’ll hopefully be able to break their streak of four losses against the Tigers at GMHBA next week.

Special mention to Tom Hawkins who is now the games record holder for Geelong on 356. He scored two goals in this game. Jeremy Cameron was quiet, finishing with just the one.


  1. The Tigers seem to like playing the top teams 

It’s bordering on ridiculous to think the one game that Richmond have won is against the Swans. They almost beat Carlton early in the year as well. Their two huge losses have been against teams outside the eight. Going into this game, the Tigers were rank outsiders. They fought hard and went down to the second placed Bombers by just 12 points. Dustin Martin turned it on, and the Tiger fans would like to see that happen more often as it seems to lift the whole team.

What a strange scenario it would’ve been had they won and been on just two wins in 17th place having beaten the top two sides. After this effort, Richmond might go down to Geelong next week with some hope.

I heard a lot of Essendon supporters expressing concern about beating Richmond by just two goals after they’ve been beaten soundly in their last two outings. I believe it was a good win against a team that still boasts a few premiership players who finally decided to turn up. Stringer was instrumental booting four goals in his 200th game. Jordan Ridley was voted best on ground in his first game for the year demonstrating just how good a player he is.

Many are saying the Bombers are where they are thanks to a favourable draw. They can put that notion to bed if they were to head to People First Stadium and beat the Suns.


  1. Hawthorn clearly have the wood on Brisbane 

I was one of those people that still believed the Lions would make finals this year despite their low ladder position. They simply had to win this game, and even though the Hawks are in good form, I thought they’d be too good. But, for the fifth time in a row, the Hawks took the points.

For whatever reason, Hawthorn seem to love playing against Brisbane. In what is almost adding insult to injury, Jack Gunston booted four against the team he played for last year. Mabior Chol booted three, while Will Day was one of Hawthorn’s best with 26 touches and a goal. Hawthorn have chalked up their fourth win and really should’ve won last week. Their last month has been incredible after a very shaky start to this year.

Sam Mitchell is back in the genius category after his coaching was brought into question as a result of last week’s closing thirty seconds. They face the Crows at the MCG next week in what will be a last roll of the dice for both teams.

Brisbane have some problems. They simply had to win this game. Poor kicking for goal didn’t help. Charlie Cameron finished with 1.3. It’s just not happening right now. When you look at the games Brisbane have won, they’re against sides that are mostly not front runners of the competition. Their victories have come against North Melbourne, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Richmond with a draw against Adelaide. They certainly aren’t playing like a team that played off in last year’s Grand Final.

They get a week off next week and they would do well to use that time to think about how they can revive their year and have a genuine tilt at being a part of September.


  1. St Kilda will finish in the bottom four 

The Saints are in a world of pain. Last year they played finals and looked to be on a good trajectory with the return of coach Ross Lyon, but the drop-off this year has been dramatic, prompting many to contemplate whether Lyon’s style of defensive coaching has made it unlikely that the Saints can kick a winning score. Max King finished with three goals in a better effort on recent performances, but it did don’t bring his team any closer to victory.

They were soundly beaten in the end by 38 points, and that’s was with the Saints kicking the last three goals of the game. Jack Steele had a good game finishing with 33 touches while Jack Sinclair had 30. Unfortunately it’s always the same few at St Kilda making these sorts of contributions. They’ll need to find a few more to be able to beat the Eagles in Perth next week.

Melbourne were a class above St Kilda and really came out with intent after their shock loss to West Coast last week. It’s actually quite difficult to get a true gauge on Melbourne this season. They’ve lost games they were expected to win against Brisbane and West Coast. Carlton had a fast start and only hung on by a point after a late surge. Their other loss was to Sydney which seems nowhere near as concerning as it did at the time.

They’re still figuring out their forward setup. Van Rooyen threatened to kick a bag finishing with 3.2. They had 9 different goalkickers for 14 goals. Salem showed his importance with 32 pinpoint disposals, but Max Gawn was by far best afield with 27 touches and a goal. He’s now 32 years of age and playing as good as he ever has. Melbourne would not be anywhere near as strong without Max, and he’ll need to be at his best if Melbourne want to beat the Dockers in Darwin next week.


  1. West Coast can still stink it up on occasion 

In light of their recent form, the Crows would’ve been very cautious going into this game against the Eagles. One of the main priorities would’ve been to curtail the influence of spearhead Jake Waterman. He was kept to just one goal from only five possessions.

Harley Reid showed glimpses but was certainly not a major factor with a modest 14 touches. There is still a massive gap between the Eagles’ worst and best performances. And they still seem quite below par when travelling. They still have their work cut out to break out of the bottom four, but their worst is definitely behind them. I expect them to take the points at home next week against the struggling Saints.

Make no mistake, Adelaide are a good team. None of us are really sure what went wrong in those first four weeks, but they’ve definitely addressed it. The win against Carlton showed a more attacking run and carry style that worked well and they made light work of the Power in the showdown. Their two losses since Round Four were both under a goal against Essendon and Collingwood. They drew with the Lions in a result that may prove to be the reason they miss finals again.

The record of 4-1-6 really does belie their potential, but I guess starting 0-4 was always going to be a hindrance. The Crows kicked 21 goals from 13 different players. Shill, Dawson, Laird and Crouch all had 30 or more touches. The game against Hawthorne next week is huge for both clubs.


  1. The calls to address holding the ball are falling on deaf ears. 

The Carlton v Gold Coast game consisted of a collective total of 131 tackles. If you haven’t already heard, the total sum of holding the ball decisions from that many tackles was a measly four.

We could also talk about the free kick count being 13-2 in favour of the Suns with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but that’s a conversation for another day, and possibly only of concern for dyed-in-the-wool Blues fans like myself. (For what it’s worth, the final tally was 16-11 funnily enough including seven last quarter free kicks to Carlton, but I digress!).

So, getting back to holding the ball, something is dreadfully wrong! It seems nobody at AFL house wants to address the elephant in the room. There are a lot of grey areas in the rules of AFL football. The holding the ball rule is definitely one that can be interpreted differently. The main area of conjecture can be what constitutes prior opportunity. Is it two or three steps? Is it based on time? That part may be difficult to nail each time, but it really is the only vague part of the holding the ball rule if we’re being honest about it. Once you’ve decided whether or not prior opportunity existed, it comes down to if the tackle was legal, and if the player did dispose of the ball, was it done correctly and in a timely manner. It’s really that simple in theory.

Something has definitely changed, and no amount of arguing the case or defending the umpires will change my mind. We are seeing players being tackled well where prior opportunity existed, and the ball falls out of their hands and it’s called play on. Most fans in that situation are apoplectic at seeing what we’ve been led to believe is an obvious decision to make.

The rule will never be perfect. However, like so many things in this world we live in, just when it seems we’ve got it as close to being perfect as it can be, some bright spark will strive for impossible perfection and, basically, fuck it up altogether. The umpires are all following some strange directive it would seem. I don’t like this notion of throwing away the whistle. Free kicks need to be paid when they are there. A good tackle should be rewarded. Fans are getting confused. Umpires are throwing away the whistle while players are getting away with throwing away the ball in a tackle.

I know this is the second time I’ve raised this topic, but they’re just not listening.