Finals Talking Points - Week One

What's this? Time to write on a Monday? Holy crap, I've never had this! What to call this article? Hmmm... how about The Knee Jerk Reacti... nah, been done. What about Titus O'Mongrel's extremely unhelpf... nah, heard that somewhere else, too. Maybe I'll just go with the generic?

Finals Week One – The Talking Points. Yeah, that'll do.

OK, before we gets started, you may be perusing this article and think ‘Hang on… I’ve read this bit before!’ Well, that’d be because you probably have, or at least something a little similar. As we covered every game on the weekend, and many of these incidents in the game review columns, there’ll be some double up. Don’t get mad… get even. I promise there’s new stuff in here as well. I’m a machine, damn it.

And hey, while you’re at it, support The Mongrel Punt and make sure we’re around next year. We’re selling bumper stickers and stubby holders as well as our redbubble clothing line. All money from sales goes straight into the running costs for the site. Buy a little something here. Come on man... help a Mongrel out and help promote us. We wanna be around.

 

Toby Greene

As I write this, news has come through that Toby Greene has no case to answer for his contact with Nic Newman in a marking contest where he used to hoot to clear/protect space to complete the mark.

Hallelujah!

There has been a tactic in Aussie Rules marking contests forever, where you use your legs to create distance or protection to mark the ball. It’s not a new thing, so can we all just settle down (Cameron Ling, and Bob Murphy who seems to have an opinion on why the sky is blue and ducks quack… and also cut me off whilst driving the other day – asshole) and take an objective look at things?

Yes, Toby Greene uses his feet in marking contests to protect the space. He has every right to do that when someone is running at him. There is not much difference between this, and using your feet to kick off someone’s back when trying to take a hanger. Anyone old enough to remember Nicky Winmar doing it? I am. How about Michael Mitchell for those in WA? Do you remember that? Those marks are celebrated. They’re celebrated because they’re spectacular, and legal.

If the AFL want to stop Toby Greene from using his feet in marking contests, change yet another rule, but don’t go doing it on the fly in some knee-jerk reaction, as is their regular modus operandi. Why the hell not, right? They’re planning on changing the rules anyway – what’s one more? And then, when someone gets a kidney injury again, they can ban players using knees in marking contests, and while you’re at it, a lot of people seem to get hurt whilst running with the flight of the ball, so we’d better put a stop to that as well. And Jeremy Cameron got Harris Andrews with an errant elbow – maybe all players should keep their arms tucked in by their sides as well and run around like pumped up Riverdancers.

Toby Greene did nothing outside the laws of the game. If you’re upset about how it looks, or whether your eight year old will copy him at Auskick next week, do your job, sit down and parent your kid and tell them what you expect from them. I get so tired of this “it’ll start happening in juniors” crap. It won’t. They’re incapable of the timing, as are 99% of AFL players.

If the AFL introduce a rule to prevent this action after the season concludes, I have no problem with it, but as it stands it is not outside the rules, and therefore, there is no issue here. Play on.

Absolutely stoked he has no case to answer. Of course, he got a fine for dropping the knees into Isaac Heeney. No argument on that one – he deserved it.

The Selwood Reversed Free Kick

This was such a pivotal moment in the game. Hawkins had the pending shot at goal as the Demons seemingly couldn’t get near slotting it through the big sticks. But for some reason, Joel Selwood decided to grab Jake Melksham by the head as made his way off the ground.

The incident was 100 metres from the play and the emergency umpire awarded the free kick to Melksham as James Harmes celebrated. Gary Ablett looked at Selwood on the bench with the kind of look your dog gives you when you pretend to throw the ball and he doesn’t know where it’s gone. It was a real “what the hell did you just do?” kind of look and gesture.

The ball was taken from Hawkins and the Dees got the free kick on the wing. It killed the little momentum Geelong was starting to build. If I were watching this as an opposition coach, I would be instructing my players to harrass, jostle, insult and scrag players as the opposition were kicking for goal in the hopes one would react and reverse the freekick. It seems to work, and there is little done to prevent it. It's always the retaliator that gets caught, right? Why not capitalise on that?

I dislike these sort of small incidents having a huge impact on games. I can remember several years ago now, seeing Cyril Rioli kicking for goal late in a game (I believe it was against St Kilda) when the whistle blew and the ball, and 50 metres was given to the Saints for… an interchange infringement.

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These sorts of small infractions with no bearing on the play unfolding have the kind of punishment attached that far outweighs the crime. Selwood getting tangled up with Melksham as they run off the ground should not cost a shot at goal. Someone stepping over a line shouldn’t incur the same consequence. It’s over-officiating at it’s worst.

If someone goes out there and decks someone, then by all means jump in and pay the off-the-ball free kick, but for these pissy little things.... LET THE BOYS PLAY!

 

All-Australian Captain destroyed by an actual leader

I don’t want to hear any excuses here. This was an absolute bath from a defender at the peak of his powers against a forward who just had three weeks to freshen up since his last game. Prior to that, Buddy had been in good form. No excuses, please.

Davis was all over Franklin right from the outset. I was keeping a running tally of their one-on-one contests in the first half and I simply stopped counting given how dominant Davis was. He was great in the air, taking ten marks, fantastic at ground level, leaving Franklin to impact other contests when the opportunity presented, and he just knows how to play against the best forward in the game.

Cast your mind back to their Round 22 game for a moment. Before Davis incurred a potentially serious injury to his kidney, he was definitely having the better of Franklin. His absence opened the game right up, with Buddy slamming home four second half goals.

Well, Davis was there for the whole game this time, and Buddy looked like a beaten man. He held the All-Australian Captain to eight disposals (at 50% efficiency, mind you) and did not lower his colours against Franklin in a single marking contest. Franklin had only two marks for the game compared to Davis’ ten.

I watched an interview with Davis during the week. He looked so serious when asked about Franklin. Someone said that he always gets asked about playing on Franklin, but Buddy is never asked about playing on Davis. Maybe it’s time we started asking the question to Buddy? How will he handle Davis next time? What will he do differently? Because right now, one defender has his number. It’s not Alex Rance – it’s  Phil Davis.

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The selection wins and losses

The temptation to rush stars back for the big finals is powerful, and basically all the clubs pulled the trigger on at least one or two moves that could have been a big risk. We’ll run them down and rate them in terms of their comeback performances..

James Sicily – He gets a 5. Had plenty of the ball but really hacked it at times. 10 of his 17 kicks hit the mark, and he had eight turnovers. Nowhere near his best.

Kane Lambert – Rates a 7. Had 17 contested touches on the night and three direct goal assists. Slotted back into the Tigers midfield like he hadn’t missed a beat.

Jack Viney – I give him an 7.5. His tackling pressure, particularly when he went after Ablett, in the first half was top notch. Finished with 11 for the game to go along with his 20 touches.

Toby Greene – He’s the best of the returning players. We give him a 9.5 in terms of the impact he had. Three goals, plenty of marks, and caused havoc wherever he went. Also earned his red belt late in the quarter and sent soccer mums into panic about whether their little boy will get hurt at Auskick next week.

Brett Deledio – 6.5. I’ll cop a whack for this, and do it happily. I didn’t think the Giants should have played Lids. He has looked brittle this season… but I am glad they did.22 touches and some class on display was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Josh Kennedy –5. He showed up in the last quarter and a half, and we’d probably rate him higher had he not been “just off” for the majority of the game. Got his hands to plenty of the ball, and then failed to hold on. 2.4 in front of goals as well

Lance Franklin – Sorry Buddy, you get a 2. I expected big things from Buddy after three weeks on the sidelines, but Phil Davis was his master. Didn’t get a sniff all game.

Luke Parker – 6. Started well but seemed to run out of steam. Trademark determination was on display, with nine tackles to go with his 21 touches, but went at 48% efficiency.

Zac Williams – 7.5. Made a huge impact in the first half in what was his first game of the season. Trailed off, as you’d expect, but none marks and six intercept possessions were incredibly valuable to the Giants, particularly when the game was there to be won.

Jeremy Howe – 6. There were no hangers, and nothing special about his game, but he was a reliable defender for most of the evening. Had six contested touches and seven intercept possessions.

Tyson Goldsack – 7.5. He was Josh Kennedy’s master for two and a half quarters, and then fatigue set in. In one-on-one contests, he looked superb, but was aided by Kennedy being unable to glove more than his share of grabs.

Did I miss anyone?

 

Are Yeo, Redden, Sheed and Shuey enough for West Coast to win the flag?

I have to come clean here. Prior to the start of the season, I thought west Coast would struggle with midfield depth. With Priddis and Mitchell hanging them up (two of the absolute best players on the ground in their 2017 Elimination Final win over Port Adelaide), I wasn’t expecting the next tier of players to step up so readily.

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Yeo has gone to another level. He is a great competitor, and his 24 contested touches against Collingwood are evidence of this. He is already the reigning WCE Best and Fairest, and will be hard to knock off that perch this year as well. Sheed has surprised, and after a fast start, and some time back in the WAFL, has stepped into the absent Andrew Gaff’s role admirably.

Then there’s Jack Redden. He has grabbed the chance on offer with both hands and shook it to within an inch of its life. He is +5 in disposals on his 2017 numbers, and is up in clearances and contested possession as well.

All this has taken an enormous weight off the shoulders of Luke Shuey, who still gets the tag when one is allocated. Whilst his numbers have dropped a little, they didn’t have to improve – everyone else has picked up the slack.

The Eagles’ improvement has been thanks to many factors, but the consistency and high-quality of the midfield and their ability to cover high-profile personnel departing has made West Coast the contenders they now are.

PS – Sorry for not believing in you earlier in the year.

Is Dusty peaking right now?

OK, first the numbers in week one of the finals. 29 disposals with 17 contested touches and 10 clearances.

Want more? No probs. 10 score involvements, three contested marks and five inside fifty disposals. He’s been threatening to do this for the last month. Actually, scrap that. He has been more than threatening – he HAS been doing it.

When the game was there to be won against the Hawks, Dustin Martin stepped to the fore with a vintage second quarter effort.

He was at his tackle-shrugging, bulldozing, hard running best, winning hard  ball and delivering the footy beautifully to set up goals and snag one himself. He just happened to kick one of the goals of the year from the boundary line, as well. This goal was Akermanis-like, and that is about as high a compliment as I can give it, as I have always held the skills of Akermanis in the highest regard possible. The margin for error on Dusty’s shot was so slim that anything other than perfect contact would’ve resulted in a behind or worse. But the contact was perfect, the kick was perfect and the result was pretty good, I suppose…nah, it was PERFECT as well.

But it wasn’t like he was done after slotting that goal. He was instrumental in setting up Dion Prestia’s squaring kick to the top of the goal square with an excellent underground handball. Rioli flew, McIntosh stayed down and reaped the rewards of a three-on-two situation right in front of goals. How Richmond managed to outnumber Hawthorn deep in their forward line remains a mystery to rival that of the Loch Ness Monster or what happened at Area 51, but without Dusty’s quick thinking and perfect execution of an underground handball, there is no fly from Rioli, no squaring kick from Prestia and no goal to McIntosh. 

Martin is rising to the occasion, and if you’re an opposition coach, player or supporter, you should be afraid.

Very afraid.

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Mooted Off-Season moves

I loved that word - mooted. It's one of my favourites.

Andrew Gaff – Looked pretty happy cheering the Eagles on in the box on the weekend, but with offers coming thick and fast, and still no word from Gaff at all, he looks likely to move. The Saints and North have both been mentioned as suitors, but with Tim Kelly perhaps looking to move back to Perth, could there be an avenue for Geelong?

Lachie Neale – Strongly linked to Brisbane despite Fremantle officials denial. You don’t fly to Brisbane and meet with club officials just because you’ve heard they make nice coffee. Interesting that former junior teammate, Lincoln McCarthy is also looking at Brisbane as an option.

Jake Lloyd – With the Swans season over, expect an announcement imminently from Kelly and his manager. I’ve heard Gold Coast could be an option, which would be a coup for them, but at this stage, Lloyd and his camp have been quite tight-lipped.

Tom Lynch – Headed to Richmond in a move that will cause the AFL to seriously look at the free agency system closely. Meanwhile, the Tigers will smile, having got in and reaped the rewards before the system changes. The horse has bolted, and the AFL are now closing the gate. Nice job, Gil.

Jesse Hogan – An interesting one. The late season surge of the Demons without Hogan may have a few eyebrows raising. Do they need him? With Weideman coming on nicely, Tom McDonald’s consistency, and Hogan’s penchant for disappearing against good teams, maybe it’s time to allow him to head back home?

Tim Kelly – Speaking of heading home, the drums have been beating all year about Kelly returning to Western Australia. His value will be high, and with the Cats hamstrung around trading their picks this season, moving Kelly whilst his value is high may reap some significant rewards. He’s a huge loss, though.

Dylan Shiel – Still has a year to run, but if the Giants know they’re going to lose him, why wait? Carlton are very keen, and with the possibility of a couple of early picks to play with, Shiel in the old , dark navy blue would give Blues fans a bit of a funny feeling in their nether regions. That’s excitement, Carlton fans… I know you haven’t had it for a while.

Dan Hannebery - Saints, if you give this bloke a five year deal, you should be shot. So far past his best he can't even see it. If you pick him up, you deserve a place in the bottom half of the ladder... FOREVER!

Daniel Menzel - Saints, please see above. If you go after this bloke with rusted hinges for knees, you're kidding yourselves. Cats, if you re-sign him to longer than a year, you are too.

Darcy Moore – Well, his stocks certainly haven’t soared this season, have they? Sydney were rumoured to be very interested earlier in the year, but are they buying a bloke with dodgy hamstrings? The Swans need midfield speed, and Moore won’t be providing that any time soon.

Mitch McGovern – Another bound for Carlton, apparently. If they can pull off trading for both Gov and Shiel, they’ll effectively be getting those two and Sam Docherty into that side, which automatically makes them better.

Scott Lycett – The big man is out of contract and rumoured to be headed to Port Adelaide, where he can slot into the cosy second ruck spot behind Paddy Ryder. Ut wait on, why would he want another second ruck spot? Pretty soft effort if that’s the case.

Got anyone else? Respond on our Facebook Page with who you think is going where and we’ll have an argument, then realise we’re all pretty good people, then kiss and make up… and maybe more. Bum-chick-wow-wow.

 

Are the Cats and Swans shot?

Watch out for a full article on the Cats tonight, but for now, with Ablett, Selwood and Danger failing on the big stage, and their Sydney equivalents doing the same, have we seen the last of these perennial powerhouses in the mix for a flag?

Sydney seem particularly susceptible with a significant drop off in talent after their top-tier mids, and even those in the top tier seem to be grinding to a halt as we watch them. Kennedy, Hannebery and Jack look like slow motion versions of their former selves, and I'm not sure that Isaac Heeney is ready to make the leap into being the number one man in the Sydney midfield next year.

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At Sleepy Hollow, the Holy Triinity had plenty of holes in it. danger hacked it, Ablett took ages to warm up after starting out of the heat of the centre square, and Joel Selwood was again taken out of the game by James Harmes. The problem was - no one stepped into the void.

The Cats cannot trade away their 2018 draft pick due to activity in previous trade periods.their room to move players on, resulting in the addition of talent commensurate with where they're headed will be vital if they plan to hang around.

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Teams like Sydney and Geelong supposedly never bottom out, but the future is not as bright as it seemed 12 months ago. What do you think they'll be doing this off-season, and who should they target?

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