The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – AFL Round 7

Every round of this young AFL season has had its fair share of upsets but no round in recent memory can quite compare to this week.  For the first time since 1975, the team placed lower on the ladder won every game to once again prove that tipping footy is a mug’s game.

The Good

North Melbourne

Despite the Kangaroos impressive recent record at their second home in Hobart, very few people gave them any hope of beating the all conquering Adelaide Crows this weekend.  All that changed in one remarkable quarter of football where North Melbourne piled on 64 points to the Crows zero, incredible in so many ways, not least that it seems inconceivable that this Crows forward line could be kept scoreless in a quarter of football by any team, never mind the struggling Roos.

The Crows attempted to mount a comeback in the second quarter and for a brief moment it looked like they might have a chance but North Melbourne soon settled to win the game at a canter, running out 59 point winners.

There was a lot to like for the Kangaroos, Jarrad Waite marked his return from a shoulder injury with an impressive six goal haul, Todd Goldstein continued his slow progress towards finding his best form and Ben Cunnington turned in his best performance of the year so far with a 29 disposal, six tackle showing.

After a poor start to the year, North Melbourne have now won two games on the bounce and face a run of winable games against Sydney, Melbourne and Carlton.  Had the Kangaroos held on to win from winning positions in tight losses to the Bulldogs and Fremantle, their season would have a very different look to it than it does now.  However, the signs are there that they can compete with the top talent of the competition and they will still believe that they can play finals this year.

Next Up: Sydney (H)

Gold Coast

Another team that still believes that they can play finals this year are the Gold Coast Suns.  The Suns took confidence from a valiant performance in defeat to North Melbourne in round six to record an impressive win against Geelong.

Whilst Gary Ablett Jr wasn’t quite as dominant as he was against North Melbourne, he still followed that 43 disposal game with a 32 disposal, one goal effort this week against the club that many believe he will be playing for again next season.

However, there was a lot more to this Gold Coast performance that just Gary Ablett Jr.  Steven May loomed as a big in for the Suns pre game and so he proved, adding an assertive and calming presence to the back line that has been sorely missed in his absence.  The enigmatic Aaron Hall had his best game of the season, chasing the ball for four quarters and using it well when he got it. Star forward Tom Lynch kicked a steady three goals but could have had a massive game, ending with five behinds to go with his three goals.

After seven rounds the Suns find themselves with a 3-4 record and have once again proven themselves to be impossible to predict.  This is a team that, on their day, can challenge any side in the competition, unfortunately there are too many games where they just don’t turn up and for that reason they won’t play finals again this season.

Next Up: Port Adelaide (China)

West Coast

Unfortunately for the Eagles, their impressive win away at Port Adelaide will do little to shake the tag of ‘Flat Track Bullies’ simply because it didn’t come at the MCG.  However, the Adelaide Oval is one of the toughest away trips of the season and as such, the Eagles should savour this result.

Though West Coast have one of the most damaging forward lines in the competition, this was a result built on strong defence.  West Coast led at every change but were unable to completely pull away, leaving themselves open to the fourth quarter onslaught that came their way.

Port would finish the game with 29 more inside 50s than the Eagles, but many of the entries were hopeful rather than dangerous and the notoriously strong intercept marks in West Coast’s back line were able to deal with the danger.  Brad Sheppard was given the task of keeping Robbie Gray under control and was able to keep him goalless whilst the increasingly influential Elliot Yeo was once again one of the best on ground.

Ultimately the Eagles were good value for their ten point win and despite looking shaky at times this year, once again find themselves in the reckoning for a top four finish with a 5-2 record after seven rounds.

Next Up: Western Bulldogs (H)

The Bad

Greater Western Sydney

Perhaps it is the pressure of being pre-season favourites, perhaps there is disharmony in the camp, the reasons are not clear, but for some reason GWS are not hitting the heights expected of them this year.

This weekend, St Kilda were the team to take the Giants on head first and a strong fourth quarter was enough to see the Saints beat the Giants at their own game.

One of the more concerning issues to come out of the game for the Giants were the very public disagreements taking place on the field.  Captain Phil Davis was the main culprit, forcibly pushing young ruck Rory Lobb in the chest then having stern words with Devon Smith.  Whilst late in the game Steve Johnson and Jeremy Cameron were caught in a heated discussion following a St Kilda goal.

This is not to suggest that there are problems within the GWS camp but it is unusual to see so many public demonstrations of discord.  Many would point to it as a sign of passion from a team that hates to lose, however, the Giants coaching team will want to see less of it in the coming weeks.

GWS are still a very strong side and they will still be one of the teams to beat come the end of the season.  They now have to compete with a growing injury list, defender Adam Kennedy damaged his ACL at the weekend and is out for the season whilst there are still clouds over other key players such as Ryan Griffen, the yet to debut Brett Deledio and Shane Mumford faces a test this week on an ankle injury sustained at the weekend.

Next Up: Collingwood (H)

Essendon

Ahead of the Anzac Day clash in round four, Bombers coach John Worsfold suggested his team may have ‘hit a wall’ following the enforced 12 month suspension of a large number of key members of the squad.  The Bombers would ultimately win the Anzac Day game in an impressive manner, however, the suggestion that they are already tired has not gone away and their defeat to Fremantle this weekend seemed to confirm the suspicion.

On a hot day in Western Australia the Bombers laboured to a 27 point lead in the second quarter only to fade out in the game and get over ran by a younger and more mobile Fremantle side in the second half, the Dockers eventually winning by 37 points.

In a week where Jobe Watson was already rested, the Bombers did not have the energy to compete with the Dockers at the end of the game with returning players like Brent Stanton and Dyson Heppell looking especially heavy legged.

Joe Daniher returned to form after last week’s wayward kicking with three goals and Cale Hooker added two of his own but there are major improvements needed from the Bombers to make an impression this year,

Next Up: Geelong (H)

Geelong

A second defeat in a row for the Cats and both defeats have come against teams the Cats would have expected to beat.

As previously mentioned, Gold Coast were good value for their win but Geelong have been let down by some senior players in the past two weeks.  Joel Selwood had more of an impact than he did against Collingwood but was still a little underwhelming by his own high standards.  Champion Cat Harry Taylor looked like he was lacking confidence at both ends of the ground and Steven Motlop again flattered to deceive.

Having won their first five games of the season Geelong are still well placed to make a challenge but they will want to arrest this mini slide before it becomes a major issue.

Next Up: Essendon (A)

The Ugly

Collingwood

It doesn’t get much uglier for the Magpies that losing their 125th anniversary game to their most hated rivals, Carlton.

On the back of an excellent performance against Geelong in round six, it appeared that a number of Collingwood players had the cue firmly in the rack this week.

Perhaps most embarrassing for the Magpies was that the bulk of the damage was inflicted by Carlton players in their first and second years in the AFL.  Sam Petrevski-Seton was the best midfielder on the ground in a game that contained Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar and Steele Sidebottom whislt Jacob Weitering continued to show that he can be very effective at either end of the ground.

Collingwood’s own youth stocks look limited in comparison to their cross town rivals and you have to wonder if there is more pain on the horizon for the Magpies.

More pressing will be the increase in pressure on coach Nathan Buckley.  Despite the public declarations of confidence coming from Eddie Maguire, the questions that are being asked of Buckley are largely fair.

This Collingwood side is more than capable as they have shown in wins against Geelong and Sydney, but all too often they flatter to deceive and Buckley must wear some of the responsibility for that.  At this point in time it is hard to see Buckley remaining in charge come the end of the season.

Next Up: Greater Western Sydney (A)
Photo courtesy of aflphotos.com.au

Ian O’Brien

vftcsblog.wordpress.com

Twitter: @vftcs_blog

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – AFL Week 3

Week three of this so far, so crazy AFL season is in the bag and it was another week with shocks a plenty.  Without further ado we present, the good, the bad and the oh so very ugly.

The Good

Fremantle

Credit where credit is due, after two horrific performances that had many questioning the strength of Ross Lyon’s position, the Dockers responded in style this week with a comprehensive and well deserving victory over the reigning Premiers, Western Bulldogs.

It took six unforced changes, a monumental effort from new captain Nat Fyfe and the overdue demotion of the uninspiring Zac Dawson, but, after a full season and two games of dross, the Dockers put in a performance reminiscent of their Grand Final losing team of 2013.  They were fierce in the tackle, fearless in the contest and moved the ball as well as any of the elite teams in the competition with the Hill brothers and the underrated Lachie Neale supporting Fyfe in an excellent midfield display.

One swallow does not a summer make and it remains to be seen whether the Dockers can continue to play in such a manner but for one week at least they can be very proud of their efforts.

Gold Coast

The Dockers weren’t the only team this week to react to recent criticism in the best way possible, the much maligned Gold Coast Suns produced the best result of their short tenure with an 86 point walloping of Hawthorn at Metricon Stadium.

The Suns are one of the AFL’s biggest conundrums, they have a more than capable defense underpinned by the giant Steven May, one of the quickest midfields in the league supported by the wiliest veteran in Gary Ablett Jr (though his own situation is far from simple) and perhaps the best young full forward in the game in Tom Lynch.  Yet, year after year they continue to under perform, which, like the aforementioned Ross Lyon, has had many in the media questioning whether Rodney Eade is the man to take the Suns forward.

Though the Hawthorn of 2017 is no where near the Hawthorn of years gone by (I’m looking at you Ty Vickery) this is still a stunning result.  Yet, rather than put to bed the questions surrounding the club, it just creates more new ones.  Why, if this team is capable of playing this well, can they not do it more often.  I suspect we won’t know the answer to that question any time soon.

Adelaide

Ever so slightly lost in the confusion of so many upsets this year has been the qutie terrifying and formidable form of Adelaide.  Though they were challenged by their neighbours Port Adelaide in a highly enjoyable Showdown this weekend, the Crows ran out comfortable winners, their superiority perhaps personified by Tex Walker’s decision to smash a goal from fully 70m rather than look for other options when on paper the game still looked close.

So far the Crows have beaten the Champions select GWS, recent titans Hawthorn and a much improved Port Adelaide, all at a canter.  Though it is still early, the Crows have shown that they are more than just challengers this year, they may just be flag favourites.

The Bad

Melbourne

Not so much for the results as a 29 point defeat to Geelong is, in itself, nothing to be ashamed of, but the manner of the defeat will rankle with the Demons.

Deprived of star players Jordan Lewis and Jesse Hogan due to AFL imposed suspensions, the Demons were still able to take the game to the Cats for three quarters of a tight game.  At 3QT the Dees held a narrow three point lead that should have been a lot higher. As has been the case with a lot of games so far this season, the Demons inaccuracy cost them as the kicked just 12.17 to Geelong’s remarkable 14.2 over the first three quarters.

The Cats found another gear in the fourth quarter inspired, as always, by Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood to eventually run over a Demons team depleted of talismanic ruckman Max Gawn who left the field just before half time.

Scans this week have shown that the hamstring injury Gawn sustained is worse than first thought and he is likely to miss 10 weeks of the season.  In addition the Dees will be without Hogan for another week and Lewis for another two weeks, all of which add up to make this game a missed opportunity amid some tough games to come.

Sydney

Not many would have predicted that the Swans that lost last years Grand Final would find themselves with three defeats from three games to start the season but that is where they find themselves.

The 1 point defeat to the previously winless Collingwood this week was perhaps the worst of the lot as the Swans once again left it too late to mount a challenge just as they had the previous week against the Bulldogs.

There is no doubt that this Swans team is a good side, they are probably the best contested team in the league and have the biggest star in the AFL in Buddy Franklin.  Theyhave also been unfortunate with injuries this year, having been forced to blood a number of young players in trying circumstances.

However, the ladder does not lie and the task of even making finals for this year’s Swans has been made much tougher by their horrific start to the season.

North Melbourne

Another team without a win so far this year, you have to wonder whether the Kangaroos are regretting their decision to release much loved veterans Boomer Harvey, Drew Petrie and Nick Dal Santo last year given that they look to be missing a bit of nous around the ground.

Whilst last week’s one point defeat to Geelong was a kick in the teeth for the Roos having held a 30 point lead at one point in the game, this week’s defeat to GWS may be more demoralizing.

In recent years the Roos have been dominant at their second home in Hobart losing only one of their past nine at Blundstone Arena and went into this game confident of an upset on the back of this.  However, they were no match for the Giants and wound up on the end of a 42 point thumping.

North have been largely uninspiring in their three defeats so far this year and next week play the reigning Premiers.  After going 10-0 to start the year last season, it is not inconceivable that they could go 0-10 this year.

The Ugly

Hawthorn

It is far too easy to pin the Hawk’s failings this year on the decision to trade out star veterans Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell for the equivalent of a bag of magic beans but there is the overwhelming sense that the towel was thrown in before a ball was even kicked this year.

Against a vibrant Gold Coast side, the Hawks looked one paced and unimaginative.  The same players that carried the Hawks to the third part of a threepeat just two years ago were made to look like statues as Gary Ablett played around them and Adam Saad ran past them.

Perhaps most concerning for the Hawks were the 19 intercept possessions that the Suns registered.  Whilst they have never been a particularly quick team whilst dominating the league, the Hawks set themselves apart with their elite ball use.  Without it they are just another plodding group of tryers, we knew the end was in site, we just didn’t know it would come so soon.

View From The Cheap Seats

Ian O’Brien

Twitter: @vftcs_blog

Photo courtest of aflphotos.com.au