The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – AFL Round 9

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 Good

Geelong

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)

Sydney

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)

North Melbourne

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)

The Bad

Richmond

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)

Hawthorn

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)

St Kilda

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)

The Ugly

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)

Ian O’Brien

@VFTCS_Blog

@PPAstonVilla

 

 

 

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