By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
Brisbane are flying after a slow start to the season. Photo: AAP - Dave Hunt
The Lions are swarming
The Brisbane Lions are flying under the radar right now. Have we somehow missed the fact that they’ve just quietly won seven straight games? Across those seven weeks the Lions have averaged 106.9 points per game which is the most in the competition. With a forward line as strong as theirs you’d expect the likes of Joe Daniher, Eric Hipwood and Charlie Cameron to be dominating the scoring, however, that’s not the case. Against the GWS Giants in round 11 the three of them combined for just three of Brisbane’s 19 goals. It’s the spread of goal kickers that is making this pride of Lions so dangerous. In their 64-point win over the Giants midfielder Mitch Robinson was phenomenal kicking four goals, while Lincoln McCarthy, Dan McStay and Dayne Zorko all finished with two goals each. It makes for a mouth-watering clash on Friday night with top of the table Melbourne who are coming off an impressive 28-point win over the Western Bulldogs. Will this pride of Lions continue on their winning ways? Their biggest test yet looms next.
Amazing what winning does
I went and watched Melbourne live in round one against Fremantle and its win and the way it played was nothing to write home about. It’s amazing what winning does, however, as you fast forward to round 11 and the Demons play with more confidence, authority and flare. All of a sudden, players are willing to make that defensive effort or run off the ball because it works. Who would of thought? Imagine if they had of butchered the win over St Kilda in round two, a game they only led by four points at half-time. Or if they had fallen over against GWS the next week when they trailed by a goal at half-time. They may have figured it out anyway, but it’s amazing what these wins do for your confidence. They help you get wins over Geelong, Richmond, Sydney and the Western Bulldogs, as the Demons have done this year. Go back and watch that round one game, you’ll see the difference.
Jack Riewoldt was best on ground in Richmond's win over Adelaide. Photo: Mark Kolbe/AFL Photos
Make it realistic Kane
I know it’s Kane Cornes’ job to create headlines and half of what he says he doesn’t actually believe, it’s just to, as I said, create headlines. However, to say that Richmond should trade its 32-year-old key forward in Jack Riewoldt to keep Callum Coleman-Jones, who’s played two games and kicked four goals is idiotic. Riewoldt is in great form, sits top five in the Coleman medal and the Tigers are in the hunt for the premiership. Coleman-Jones played a great game and has earned his try in the senior side, but I can bet that he is the biggest advocate for not trading or retiring Riewoldt. He’s played two games! It’s the biggest overreaction to one game of footy I’ve ever seen. Melbourne provided the best case study to do the opposite of what Cornes said after its 2018 Preliminary Final run. The Demons were seemingly happy enough to trade Jesse Hogan to Fremantle because young-gun Sam Weiderman had played one good final that year. What happened? Melbourne finished second last in 2019 and ninth in 2020, with Weiderman playing a 24 of a possible 39 games in those two years and kicking 30 goals. Young players need these older heads for guidance and help, and in contrast to what Cornes said, Richmond absolutely can play three talls, in fact, it needs to. Back-up ruck help for Toby Nankervis and a key forward that takes some pressure off Tom Lynch, who gets smashed in marking contests for 120 minutes every week. Jason Castagna, Jake Aarts, Shai Bolton, Jack Graham and Daniel Rioli as your pressure smalls and the Tigers are good to go.
The Dockers aren’t going anywhere
Fremantle aren’t going anywhere unless they learn how to win on the road. The Dockers have one of the most exciting young lists in the competition. They’ve showed signs of how good they can be as well. Going into this season like many I had them pushing for the top eight and whilst they still can make the finals, their record away from Perth makes it seem less likely they’ll make the jump. If they were to make the finals and finish in 7th or 8th it’s hard to see how they get past the first week. Port Adelaide had the game wrapped up at quarter time on Sunday. They took a 40-point lead into the first break, and whilst they are a contender in 2021 it proved the Dockers are still a long way off. Away from Optus Stadium this year they’ve lost by 22 points, 45 points, 24 points, seven points and 46 points. Their only win outside of WA came against the Adelaide Crows by 12 points. If this team is going to make the jump and play finals this year or next, these are the games they need to be a lot more competitive in. You’re not a legitimate contender if you can’t win away from home.
Jake Stringer and the Bombers are flying into Dreamtime at Optus Stadium. Photo: AFL Photos
Dreamtime can’t come fast enough
I’m not one of the believers that Essendon’s win over West Coast at Optus Stadium was “one of the best of the modern era,” as one commentator called it, because the Bombers did it in 2018. However, it doesn’t take away from the superb win that it was, a game which they trailed by 29 points at one point. Darcy Parish was superb again, as was Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, who is an All-Australian small forward at the moment. It sets up a mouth-watering Dreamtime game with Richmond, albeit at Optus Stadium rather than the MCG. Essendon should be confident heading back to the same ground and if it’s a genuine threat to the top eight, should expect to win. Richmond needs some continuity with winning and its team being on the park, so expect a fired up Tigers also. I can’t wait.
The Blues let another opportunity slip
Carlton currently sit 13th on the ladder with a record of 4-7. We have been waiting for the Blues to make that jump from the lower half of the ladder into the top eight as their young list begins to mature. However, it looks like 2021 might be another year where the Blues miss the eight. They have improved, no doubt, however, they’re struggling to get the job done with the game in the balance. On Sunday, Carlton trailed Sydney by just three points at three-quarter time, however, the Swans went on to kick four goals to one in the last quarter and run away with a 22-point win. This seems to be a reoccurring theme for the Blues. In four of their seven losses the games sat in the balance at three-quarter time. If they were able to get on top like the best teams do their record would look a lot different. They’d be 8-3 and entrenched in the top eight. While there has been improvement, 2021 might be the same old story for Carlton unless they turn things around in the second half of the season.
Cover Photo: AFL Photos