And here we are at the half way point of the season, and storylines are starting to develop. Some are a slow burn, like this rash I had once, and others are sudden and surprising, like this other rash I had once.
We’ve got Dusty flying to New Zealand, teams with byes, a looming cracker between Geelong and North Melbourne that no one saw coming at the start of the year, and perhaps the biggest Queen’s Birthday game in recent memory.
Let’s dive in and have a look what’s on the cards.
First of all, great result upcoming for Carlton this week, holding their opponent to no goals, no kicks and no marks. Believe me… they’ll take it.
POWER V TIGERS
So, Dusty has a niggly calf, huh? With the Tigers having the bye in a couple of weeks’ time, you have to wonder whether we’ll see Martin again before the Tigers play the Swans in Round 15. Why bring him back in for a week when you can have arguably the best player in the game take an extended break and have him ready for a big run at the back half of the season?
Port Adelaide must smell a bit of blood here. The Tigers have not travelled well at all this season. Both losses have come on the road, against West Coast and Adelaide, and without Martin, there is a rather large hole in their midfield. Luckily for the Tigers, it is filled by a bloke that’d be starting 18 at most clubs in the league.
Anthony Miles didn’t stray from the herd in the off-season and explore other options. He waited for an opportunity like this, and it’s finally presented. That he had 44 touches and three goals in the VFL last week is hard to ignore.
But the Power have some firepower of their own. Wines, Powell-Pepper, Rockliff and Ebert have the grunt to go head to head with the Richmond midfield, and are primed for a match up of this magnitude. With Ryder playing well in the ruck, Polec having a ripping year, and Gray proving that he is as good as any mid/forward in the game, it provides an intriguing setting for what should be a great game.
I’d love to see a return to form of Chad Wingard, as I am sure every Power supporter would. He’s been a shadow of himself this season, and a strong game at the feet of Charlie Dixon would create havoc for the Tiger defenders. I think it’s time for Dixon. He is averaging less than a goal a game, and needs to do more. He may make the Mongrel’s All-Disappointing team the way he’s going (oh yeah… that’s gonna be a good article- I can feel it). A big game against Alex Rance and co. would be a great way to turn things around.
On the flip side, who can stop Josh Caddy? That would’ve seemed like a dumb question a year or two ago, because really… anyone could’ve. But credit to Caddy – he has worked his butt off and now sits fourth in the race for the Coleman, even ahead of his accomplished teammate, Jack Riewoldt. Tom Jonas has been great all year for the Power, and must be in consideration for an AA berth. If he can underpin a defence that shuts down both Caddy and Riewoldt (and Butler and Castagna and Higgins) then people will have to start taking a little more notice.
Hope it’s not too wet in Adelaide. Don’t want any puddles to promote any players diving or anything…
CATS V KANGAROOS
It’s a bit of a shame, as a neutral supporter, that this is being played at the Cattery. I’d love to see this at the ‘G as it deserves as big a stage as possible.
Gaz is back after a 37 disposal and three goal performance against his old club, and may well run into the best stopper in the game this week, in Ben Jacobs. Irrespective of who Jacobs goes to, it provides a genuine match highlight. Jacobs v Gaz, Jacobs v Selwood, or Jacobs v Dangerfield are all tantalising head to head match ups. I’d throw him at Ablett and see if the ‘Little Master’ can get the better of the most accountable player in the league.
The Roos have been spectacular. I didn’t think they’d be bad this season, but they have surpassed the expectations of almost everyone outside the club. That said, a trip to Kardinia Park is a daunting prospect. A win there would cement them as a legitimate finals threat… as if the past 11 weeks haven’t done that as yet. They’re a hard bunch, led by a no-frills midfield and arguably the most cohesive backline in the game.
The Cats youngsters will need to step up yet again. They have been the catalyst for the Cats’ early success. Jack Henry, Tim Kelly and Brandon Parfitt all had great starts to the season. The injury to Ratugolea hurts… literally and figuratively. He was really showing plenty, and his clunking marks turned more than a few heads.
The ruck has been an issue for the Cats all year, and this week they run into Goldstein, who had a bit of a renaissance against Stefan Martin last week. It’d been a while since Goldy had the better in a top-tier ruck duel, but he was clearly better against Martin. If he can control the middle and provide Higgins, Cunnington and Jacobs with first use, the quick delivery to the three headed monster of Brown/Ziebell/Wood could be problematic. The Roos could really use Waite down there as well – he’s a sneaky bugger in his old age.
The Cats do have Tom Stewart patrolling the backline, who is in All-Australian form. Geelong have the best statistical defence in the league. North are second. Whichever defence holds up wins.
GIANTS V SUNS
Well, there was a little more than a heartbeat from the Giants last week, and this week they’re encountering a team that simply seemed to roll over and die. As the Tom Lynch sweepstakes heat up, the Suns need to show something, other than a substantial cheque, to compel him to stay.
The Giants are without Stephen Coniglio, who was concussed last week in an incident that didn’t even warrant a free kick, apparently, and are starting to get some semblance of a good team back on the park.
The Suns… well, they could have everyone on their list on the park, and they’d still look like a pretty ordinary team. They’re in yet another development year and though there were good early signs, those positives now seem like a distant memory. Jarryd Lyons has obviously rubbed Stewie Dew the wrong way. He was their best player over the first month of the season but can’t get into a pretty weak side right now. If anyone know what the deal is with him, give me a yell.
Giants should romp this in. Jeremy Cameron turned it on in the last quarter against the Crows and dragged them over the line, but Jon Patton had a good first half, and Callan Ward was his usual hard self… his missus would be happy.
The Giants were at a crossroads last week and they turned in A ripping effort in A hostile environment. A loss to the Suns would undo all that work. It would be a disaster, and it simply cannot happen.
SAINTS V SWANS
I’ve heard a few people talking about how the Saints are a sneaky chance in this one. I can’t see it, myself, but I’d love to be proven wrong.
The Saints’ backline still looks suspect, much like my mate Joe Ganino hanging around the public toilets, and the Swans’ youngsters (even without Callum Mills) are proving to be some of the best youngsters in the game. Ronke, Hayward and Florent have all made a significant impact this year. Their midfield, even with Hannebery struggling (averaging under 20 touches per game) and Josh Kennedy not quite himself this season, has been buoyed by the form of Jake Lloyd. He ticking over at close to 27 touches a game… and is out of contract at the end of the year. Hmmm…
Tim Membrey finally found his range last week, and for a brief moment in the fourth quarter, the Saints looked like they may catch the slowing Eagles. He’ll need to be spot on again if the Saints have any chance. The dropping of Jack Billings speaks volumes about where he’s at, and possibly where he’ll be next season. I actually thought he may push for an All-Australian slot this season. How wrong I was. I wonder where he’ll end up, and I wonder what the Saints could get for him?
LIONS V BOMBERS
You’d be liking the way this is shaping up if you’re a Lions fan. Not sure you’re liking much of anything if you’re an Essendon fan.
I’ll be looking to see what Michael Hurley can provide for the Bombers. He has been rather useless this season (though I did think he won that one on one contest against Dustin Martin and got screwed on the free kick). With the sort of talent he’s got, he surely can’t have fallen this far in such a short time?
Daniel McStay showed a bit last week, but will have Cale Hooker to contend with this week. He needs to get up the ground a little and get Hooker over the back if possible. Gotta love getting Hookers over the back. Pricey though, after a while…
The Bombers need more from McGrath. Tom Phillips has gone way past him this year and is playing the sort of footy McGrath should be. Devon Smith has been a real positive for the Dons, but they need a real lift from McDonald-Tipungwuti, who plays two bad games for every one decent one.
Harris Andrews has been amazing this season. In a defence under enormous pressure, he has stood up time and time again. In order for the Lions to have a chance, he has to be on top of his game against McKernan and possibly Jake Stringer floating forward.
Looking at Essendon, Heppell has been better, but his style isn’t in-and-under. He’s having to provide that this season for the Bombers, and that ain’t great. If David Myers gets up, he’ll provide another big body, but that isn’t a long-term answer either. When you’re looking for David Myers to be your clearance player, something’s wrong.
DOCKERS V CROWS
This is actually shaping up to be a ripping round of footy! Sandy is back for the Dockers just in time to catch the Crows without Laird or Lynch – two huge outs.
Tex Walker is back a week before expected, and you wonder whether the loss of Lynch had an impact on the Crows decision to bring him back? They need someone other than Jenkins to be a forward target, as JJ goes missing way too often for my liking, and has the propensity to drift out of contests for large chunks.
I think I might be the only one loving the Freo backline this season, despite being under siege last week. Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling and Luke Ryan are all quality defenders. Pearce in particular was the best full back in the league for the first month of the season.
Bryce Gibbs has arguably been Adelaide’s best and most reliable performer in his first season back home, and sadly, they’ll need to ask more of him again this week. He was immense in the last quarter against the Giants, but couldn’t drag Adelaide over the line despite his centre clearance dominance.
This is the sort of game that the Crows must win if top four is still a likely outcome for them. They’ve been plagued by injuries, but good teams overcome obstacles like that, particularly against middle of the road teams like the Dockers. The Crows have the troops there, despite the absences, and after Fremantle phoned in their game against the Magpies, you’d expect something more from them this week as well.
No Fyfe… no Freo? I think only Nic Nat is more important to his team than Fyfe is to the Dockers. Maybe Ross will pull out a toothpick or two and put the cue in the rack early? Play the kids and prepare for next year? The Crows would be hoping so, but the return of Sandilands is to the contrary of that.
DEMONS V MAGPIES
On paper, this is the game of the round. In terms of the possibilities, it has the potential to be the game of the year.
The Demons are flying, and people are (very) prematurely talking about contending for the flag! The Pies have been excellent this season after a rocky start. Their forward line keeps teams guessing – Josh Thomas, Jordan de Goey, Jaidyn Stephenson and Will Hoskin-Elliott all have bags of five or more goals to their name this season, and other young guns like Tom Phillips have jumped out of the gate to take their game to another level.
Howe might return, Murray is in the mix… even without their top three goal kickers from last season (Darcy Moore, Jamie Elliott and Alex Fasolo) the Pies look goo-ood.
But if the Pies have looked good, how destructive have the Demons been? They humiliated Adelaide, and have demolished the teams they were supposed to demolish. This game is the test. Collingwood are in form, and not decimated by injury. In front of a packed MCG, they have the chance to make a big statement.
Jack Viney is back, Clayton Oliver is playing out of his skin, Jesse Hogan and Tom McDonald are wreaking havoc in the forward line, and Bayley Fritsch, had he been 25 days younger, would’ve been a sure-fire rising star nominee last round. Maybe he is the player to go back and reads the ball in the air to replace Jake Lever?
I’m pumped for this as a neutral supporter, and one of the biggest reasons is the ruck clash. This duel could go a long way to determining who gets the All Australian ruck position this season. Gawn has been a tap-maestro, but Grundy’s work around the ground and his grunt work have surpassed that of Gawn. It’s a team game, but in the back of their minds, there must be a thought or two about this one on one encounter.
I expect a bit of feeling. I expect a bit of emotion, and I expect that we will walk away from Queen’s Birthday knowing if the Demons are legit, or if the Pies will play finals. I can’t wait.
What do you reckon about this round? Despite the byes, it has the makings of a ripping round of footy. Give us a Like on Facebook, or a Follow on Twitter and give us your thoughts. We’d love t hear from you… possibly fall in love with you over the internet… forward you money so you can come visit us. You know, regular kind of stuff.