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

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – AFL Round 6

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.

The Good

Collingwood

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)

St Kilda

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)

Melbourne

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)

The Bad

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)

Western Bulldogs

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)

Richmond

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)

The Ugly

Brisbane

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)

Ian O’Brien

vftcsblog.wordpress.com

@vftcsblog