By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
Ben Brown celebrates a goal with Nathan Jones in round seven. Photo: AFL Photos
Big Ben given an opportunity to shine
I must sound like Ben Brown's biggest fan with my writing about him over the past 12 months, but I think it’s warranted. Tom McDonald has a great tank and likes to roam up the ground, which is fine, because it’s worked for them all year. Luke Jackson is a 19-year-old, 199cm player, so he can be excused for not being 100 per cent ready to be the stay at home dominant forward. He doesn't need to be dropped he’s in the Demons’ best 22, but some help from Brown would benefit him and the team greatly. Brown has played five VFL games and kicked 12.5. He’s been given three chances at AFL level and has averaged nearly two goals, four score involvements, and over two marks inside 50 a game, which is above average. They have the pieces to go deep in the finals, they just need the right role players to fill in the rest. Brown is one of them and he gets his chance under the bright lights of Adelaide Oval on Thursday night against Port Adelaide.
The Kangaroos are beginning to find their way North
After North Melbourne’s 128-point loss in round three to the Western Bulldogs it was hard to see how this team could possibly get a win in 2021. It was the ease in which the Kangaroos were being beaten that raised the alarm bells, however from round seven onwards the improvement has been clear. While they’ve only won just the two games they’ve been competitive in every game over the past ten weeks and at least given themselves a chance. They have a plethora of young talent on their list and they are improving by the week. The clear example was there against the Dogs in round 16, after falling to the Bulldogs by 128-points in round three, just 14 weeks later they were defeated by 29 points, making it clear the Kangaroos are beginning to find their way North.
Sam Reid celebrates a goal with Lachie Ash during their round 16 win over Melbourne. Photo: GWS Giants
GWS are putting it together at the right time
The GWS Giants have one of the most talented lists in the AFL, but they’ve often been referred to as a selfish team. However, it looks as though Leon Cameron may have gotten through to his players as they begin to use their talent and play as a team as we reach the business end of the year. They were incredibly attacking and moved the ball with a high level of efficiency against Melbourne, who are currently one of the best teams in the competition and were previously unbeaten on their home ground in 2021. It was enough to show us that when the Giants are at their best they can compete with anyone, and another test looms in round 17 where they face the Gold Coast Suns who will be full of confidence after a strong win over Richmond.
The age of the smaller midfielder
In recent years, midfielders have gotten bigger. Nat Fyfe, Marcus Bontempelli, Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield etc. All near key forward size with the ability to impact in the most taxing position on the ground. It’s not a league wide new trend, but seeing smaller bodies midfielders like Darcy Parish and Sam Walsh start to dominate has been an unexpected change. Parish is just 180cm and 80kg, yet averages 14.1 contested possessions and eight clearances per game, both in the elite category. Walsh isn’t quite to that standard, but the fact he hasn’t been bullied out of the middle at 184cm and 83kg is pretty impressive. For context, Jack Steele is 187cm and 91kg, Fyfe is 191cm and 92kg, even Jack Macrae is 192cm and 88kg. The little men are back, led by Parish and Walsh this season and by 2020 Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale.
Touk Miller continued his phenomenal year with 36 disposals against Richmond in round 16. Photo: Getty Images
Touk Miller a star
I’m not buying into the ‘Touk Miller should be All-Australian,’ talk, as I think there is too many midfielders ahead of him that have had better individual and team seasons. I do, however, think he’s a star and will one day be an All-Australian. He has a great mix of inside and outside game, averaging five clearances a game but also picking up 19.6 uncontested possessions and 445.6 metres gained per game. His running power was especially prevalent against Richmond. He’s picking up 30.6 disposals per game, which is currently the eighth best in the competition. The next step, as it is for a lot of midfielders, would be to hit the scoreboard more, but that will come. If 2021 is anything to go by, he’ll keep adding different parts to his game.
Dockers blow huge opportunity
Whenever Fremantle is playing away from Perth it’s almost a lock that you will tip against them, which is exactly why I tipped Carlton to beat them on Saturday night. With the game being at the MCG it was a huge opportunity for the Dockers to prove everyone wrong and show us they can win on the big stage away from home. However, they can only blame themselves as they could have defeated the Blues if it wasn’t for a number of wasted opportunities in front of goal. The Dockers finished with 8.16 to Carlton’s 12.8. They had 24 scoring shots but only kicked their eight goals across two quarters. Fremantle kicked 8.11 to Carlton’s 6.1 in both the second and third quarters combined and it looked as though they were going to run over the top of the Blues who led by as much as 28 points early in the second quarter, however the Dockers managed just one behind in the final quarter. Carlton found another gear and managed to finish off Fremantle in the final quarter in what was a golden opportunity blown by the Purple Haze, as a win would have leapfrogged them into the top eight.
Cover Photo: Gold Coast Suns