It may be a topsy turvy kind of a season but some things never change, Richmond find new, more heart breaking ways to lose, Buddy Franklin kicks monstrous goals off one step and West Coast lose in Melbourne. Let’s look at The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of round nine of the 2017 AFL season.
The first game at the new look Kardinia Park brought a lot of fan fare and a well deserved win for a Geelong side that has been under a lot of pressure after three very disappointing defeats on the bounce.
The focus following last week’s defeat at the hands of Essendon was on the lack of fight from the Cats’ as they registered a lowly 40 tackles for the game and only 15 to half time. This was a very different performance from the Cats though as they attacked the Bulldogs with relentless pressure and fierce tackling, ending the game with a phenomenal 134 tackles and 162 contested possessions. Led by Mitch Duncan with 18 tackles and Scott Selwood with 17 in his first game of the season, Geelong looked like they had taken every single bit of criticism as a personal affront and were determined to prove the World wrong.
Whilst they were good value for their win against an equally desperate Bulldogs side, the challenge now for the Cats is to bring that intensity on a consistent basis. There is undoubtedly talent in the Cats’ squad, but all too often they look like a team that expects to win games without trying and this year more than ever is proving that that simply cannot be done in the AFL.
Next Up: Port Adelaide (H)
Finally the Swans that we all expected to see this year look like they have shown up to play, all be it six weeks too late.
In a normal season any team that starts a season with zero wins from six games would find it nigh on impossible to make the finals. However, this is not a normal season and with three strong wins now under their belts the Swans are already starting to knock on the door of the top eight sitting just two wins outside.
Whilst big wins over Brisbane and North Melbourne can be partly dismissed due to their low positions on the ladder, a 50 point thumping of the previously impressive Saints cannot be ignored.
What is most promising for the Swans is that their good recent form is being built off strong performances from their star players. This week Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebury and Luke Parker registered 35, 30 and 28 disposals respectively whilst Buddy kicked four goals.
It is also no coincidence that Sydney have improved with the return of young gun Isaac Heeney from illness, already considered one of, if not, the best young players in the competition, Heeney has carried last season’s form into the last three games and added a new dimension to the Swan’s game. With Callum Mills also recovering from some shaky early season performances the future continues to look bright for Sydney.
A big win over Hawthorn this week will confirm the suspicion that the Swans are going to make a huge impact this season.
Next Up: Hawthorn (H)
Whilst the bulk of the attention at the bottom end of the ladder has been on Sydney’s revival, North Melbourne are putting together an impressive run of their own.
Winners now of three of their last four games including their unbelievable win over table toppers Adelaide, the Roos continued their recent strangle hold over the Demons with a convincing 14 point victory.
North Melbourne showed last year that when games get feisty it brings out the best in them and so it proved again this weekend with a particularly feisty encounter seeing them come out on top.
Where a lot of the league is adopting a fast moving, ball carrying kind of the game, North Melbourne have remained true to a more traditional kick and mark style of game. It might not be too pretty but it can be effective, especially with Ben Brown in good form and Todd Goldstein approaching something like All Australian form.
Unlike Sydney, North Melbourne almost certainly will not be playing finals, they are at least beginning to bring some respectability to what promised to be a very disappointing season though.
Next Up: Carlton (A)
It would be unbelievable that a team could lose to a last minute goal twice in two weeks if that team weren’t Richmond. The joke’s are beginning to write themselves but it really is no laughing matter for Richmond and their supporters.
The three point defeat to GWS this week came in a game in which, for three quarters, the Tigers were the better team, played the better football and looked like the potential flag winner of the two teams.
However, the fourth quarter was a story of inaccuracy and sloppiness for Richmond as the Giants kicked 33 points to the Tigers five in the final stanza that culminated in a long punt up the corridor being punched on to a horrible mismatch and a cool finish by Giants star Jeremy Cameron.
The questions are being asked of the Tigers as to how this can keep happening and the answers are not forthcoming but the fact of the matter is that three defeats by less than a goal in three weeks, two of those in games that the Tigers were winning comfortably, are threatening to derail a season that could have been so very good. Where the Tigers are still in contention with five wins, eight wins would have them comfortably top of the ladder.
The silver lining for the Tigers is that they are still playing (for three quarters of games at least) good football and don’t look to be intimidated by any team in the competition. This week they face a rejuvenated Essendon team in what looms as the game of the round.
Next Up: Essendon (H)
An awful season just continues to get worse for the Hawks with a deeply disappointing defeat to the ever unpredictable Collingwood at the MCG.
The Hawks came out like a bull at a gate, limiting the Pies to just one behind in the first quarter and racing out to a game high 43 point lead in the second. Whilst Collingwood clawed the margin back to 34 points at half time, no one could have predicted what would occur in the second half as the Magpies blew the Hawks away to eventually win by a comfortable 18 points.
No team expects to lose a game that they are winning by 43 points but to see Hawthorn throw a game away from that position is unfathomable. That Tom Mitchell is in potential Brownlow winning form in the midst of this horror show is even more remarkable as Mitchell racked up a lazy 50 disposals in defeat.
Whilst the temptation at Hawthorn might be to write this season off as a failure and rebuild, their task has been made even harder by the fact that they traded their first and second round draft picks to land the talented but injury prone Jaeger O’Meara meaning that they won’t enter the 2017 draft until pick number 33.
The future is looking bleak for the Hawks
Next Up: Sydney (A)
Under normal circumstances a heavy defeat at home to Sydney would be disappointing but understandable. However, given the Saints excellent form and performance in beating GWS recently coupled with the Swans lowly ladder position, this is a result that could have a huge demoralising effect on St Kilda.
Though both teams traded goals early on, the Saints were ultimately smashed at the contest and eventually blown away by a clinical Swans side.
St Kilda have impressed a lot of people this season and still have plenty of time to turn this into a very good season but face another tough game this week in the Bulldogs.
Next Up: Western Bulldogs (A)
West Coast Eagles
They may hate the tag ‘flat track bullies’ but the Eagles are never going to shake it if they continue to put in such insipid performances away from home.
Poor skills or misguided effort can be excused but a total lack of effort or application cannot and once again people like Mike Sheahan are justified in labeling this Eagles group ‘mummy’s boys‘ and other such insults.
Just as they were against Richmond in round three and Hawthorn in round five, the Eagles were embarrassed by a hungry side that quite simply wanted to win the game more than they did. Essendon tackled, harassed and bullied the Eagles to the point that by half time most of the West Coast players looked like they would rather be anywhere else but the Etihad.
What is perhaps most frustrating about this Eagles side is that, even though they were so poor at the weekend, they are just as likely to beat GWS at Domain this week and for that reason you cannot write off their flag chances just yet.
Next Up: GWS (H)