Round six of this fascinating AFL season is in the rear view mirror and the ladder still looks like someone tipped it on its head with Sydney Swans rock bottom with a 0-6 record, followed closely by Hawthorn on 1-5.
At the other end of the ladder Adelaide Crows’ march to September continues to pick up pace as they now sit alone on top of the pile as the only remaining undefeated team.
Just as the pressure mounting on coach Nathan Buckley was starting to look insurmountable, Collingwood go and do what only Collingwood seem able to and win a game that no one fancied them to win.
Uninspiring in last week’s ANZAC day defeat to Essendon, the Pies were a very different team this week against Geelong. Following on from a standout ANZAC day performance, Daniel Well’s second game for Collingwood helped inspire a midfield display that out ran, out worked and outmaneuvered their more fancied opposition. Joel Selwood, just one week removed from a 43 disposal performance, was held in check by a masterful tag by Levi Greenwood whilst reigning Brownlow medalist Patrick Dangerfield could only muster 21 disposals and a goal for his own efforts, well down on his normal output.
It is no surprise to see a midfield that contains Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom and Daniel Wells dominate a game and it is not the first time this year they have done so. The difference this week was that the Pies found some much needed fire power, The Pies had 13 different goal scorers for their 15 goals. In the absence of a genuinely dominant key forward, Collingwood need more goals from around the ground and they need this week to be a sign of things to come if they are to feature this September.
Next Up: Carlton (H)
Previous to this week, Hawthorn had won 19 straight games at their Tasmanian fortress, spanning back to a 2012 defeat to Sydney. The challenge of playing the Hawks in Launceston is intimidating for even the best of teams, but these are not the Hawks of old and although they only have a 3-3 record, these Saints aren’t scared of anyone.
Leading at every break, St Kilda buried the sorry Hawks with an eight goal to one third quarter and eventually ran over them in the fourth to register a 75 point win. They even managed to accommodate possibly the most embarrassing miss in AFL history into their Saturday afternoon stroll.
It is hardly a unique view to suggest that this St Kilda team has the makings of a very strong side but they are really starting to show it now. Speedy midfielder Jack Steven registered 36 disposals in his second game back from a punctured lung and showed why he is regarded as one of the best midfielders in the competition whilst evergreen Nick Riewoldt scored four goals including his 700th career goal.
With a young spine that includes emergint talent in the likes of Jake Carlisle, Tim Membrey, Josh Bruce and Jade Gresham, this Saints team has all the tools to make finals this year and for many years to come.
Next Up: GWS Giants (A)
It has been a strong week for the Melbourne teams on the cusp of finals contention and that includes a welcome return to form for the so far underwhelming Demons.
Whilst the Demons have been disappointing based on pre-season predictions, they do have some valid excuses. Key ruckman Max Gawn is out for a large chunk of the season with a serious hamstring injury, forward Jesse Hogan has missed three games through a combination of suspension and personal leave and star recruit Jordan Lewis has also sat out three games through suspension.
That Lewis’ return to the team this week coincided with a comprehensive victory over Essendon comes as no surprise. However, the strength of their performance is not why the Demons find themselves in the ‘good’ column. In fact, their win over the Bombers came in a terrible game riddled with personal errors and poor skills. Essendon looked tired on the back of their five day break and Melbourne were just sloppy, pulling it together just enough to come out on top in the end, thanks in no small part to Joe Danniher’s wastefulness in front of goal for Essendon.
At this stage of the season there are not too many must win games, but for Melbourne this one was and they managed to do enough to register the four points.
Next Up: Hawthorn (H)
Fremantle (and West Coast)
With three tight and ultimately deserved wins under their belt in the weeks leading up to the Western Derby the Dockers went into this week’s game against arch rivals West Coast with all the momentum and no lack of belief. On the other side of the coin, the Eagles entered the game on the back of a 51 point thumping from the previously winless Hawthorn.
Whilst the Eagles were still favourites, the conditions seemed ripe for an upset and most people expected a barn buster of a Derby. Instead, the fans were treated to a damp squib of a game that was over by quarter time with the Eagles having piled on seven goals to Fremantle’s one in the first quarter. What threatened in the early stages to become a one sided blowout instead tapered out to an uninspiring plod of a game that, at times, resembled a training match such was the lack of passion from either team.
The Dockers, for their part, once again showed an inability to score goals. Each of their recent victories have come in low scoring affairs where the Dockers ability to limit their opposition’s scoring threat proving the difference. Against the Eagles they had no answer to Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy and in response had nothing to offer beyond new man Cam McCarthy’s respectable three goals effort.
Nat Fyfe continued his indifferent form with just 19 disposals and a fortunate escape from suspension after a frustrated swing at the impressive Elliot Yeo. Whilst Michael Walters was anonymous in his 100th game and Lachie Neale is yet to recapture his Doig medalist form of 2016.
On the evidence of this game, neither the Dockers or the Eagles are likely to make too much of an impression on the competition unless both teams can rediscover some passion and intensity.
Next Up: Essendon (H)
Whilst a two point defeat to GWS Giants in Canberra is not a result to be ashamed of, this was a game that the Bulldogs would have wanted to win, not just for the points but for the symbolism of beating the team that many have tipped as flag favourites.
In a disappointing display in front of goal the Bulldogs kicked 9.19 to the Giants’ 11.9 to eventually lose by two points. Josh Dunkley was the worst culprit kicking four behinds without scoring a goal.
There was still plenty to like from the Bulldogs, Bontempelli was a stand out as he often is, Jake Stringer worked hard for his 3 goals and Caleb Daniel impressed on his return after a one week VFL demotion.
Although it is still early in the season and the Dogs have registered four wins so far, there seems to be something missing from the side that lifted the flag last year. The speed is still there and they are scintillating to watch when they attack through the middle, but they don’t seem quite as damaging and their defence looks vulnerable at times.
A big win over Richmond next week will go some way to restoring confidence
Next Up: Richmond (H)
It is hard to be too critical of the Tigers considering the excellent start they have made to a season where little was expected of them. However, Sunday’s shellacking at the hands of Adelaide will have brought the buoyant Tigers fans back to Earth with a bump.
For a quarter of football the Tigers competed hard and looked every inch the Crows’ equals, going in at quarter time with a slim lead. That was as good as it got though for Richmond as the Crows blew them away from quarter time onwards to eventually win by 76 points.
Richmond’s success this year has been built on the pressure and speed of their rookie small forwards Daniel Rioli, Jason Castagna and Dan Butler. Against the Crows they had little impact beyond Rioli’s two goals and were no match for the experience and cool heads of the Adelaide back line.
Star midfielders Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin carried the fight to the Crows with 26 and 25 disposals each but all to often they were burrowing a lone furrow as their teammates went missing.
Anonymous displays have been a hallmark of a large number of Richmond’s players in recent seasons and something that had not occurred this season up until this week. The Tigers face another tough test next week against the Bulldogs and their fans will be keen for a good showing so that their darkest fears of a return to middle of the pack obscurity can be kept at bay.
Next Up: Western Bulldogs (A)
Brisbane entered round six with just one win under their belt against neighbours Gold Coast and on the back of a very spirited performance in defeat to the Western Bulldogs.
Though still expected to be down the bottom end of the ladder, there were hopes of improvement for the Lions this year with highly rated draftee Hugh McCluggage joining the team along with second year players Eric Hipwood and Josh Schache and the return from serious injury of former Magpie Dane Beams.
For the most part this year, Brisbane has definitely improved. Under Craig Fagan, they don’t look as intimidated as they did under Justin Leppitsch, their youngsters are contributing and former skipper Tom Rockliff has been a ball magnet in their midfield.
However, for all of the improvements that the side has shown, Saturday’s humiliation at the hands of Port Adelaide was as bad as anything they have produced since their three-peat glory days. The Lions’ ball use was atrocious in the first half as they continually coughed up hard won possession either through frustration trying to force plays or through sheer lack of skill and as the game wore on the Lions’ players visibly sagged in confidence.
The Lions are now on a five game losing skid and are going to have to battle hard to avoid the wooden spoon, starting next week against bottom placed Sydney. If the Lions are serious about their improvements, they will take the game to Sydney and knock another nail in the Swans’ coffin.
Next Up: Sydney (A)