By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash.
Lincoln McCarthy celebrates a goal during Brisbane's remarkable 49-point win over the Gold Coast Suns. Photo: AFL Photos
Lions roar out of the den to claim Q-Clash and keep top-four hopes alive
It was a dismal first half for Brisbane on Saturday as they trailed the Suns by 27-points at halftime in the battle of the two Queensland teams. Going into the match the Lions had been out of form and at halftime it looked as if the run of bad form was going to continue as a much-improved Gold Coast Suns team was all over them. However, after the main-break the Lions found their roar and managed to kick 13 goals to one in the second-half to run away 49-point winners in what was a stunning victory. The huge win and massive second-half may have ignited belief into a team that looked extremely flat, as we approach the final few games of the season.
They all deserved a week
When David Astbury elbowed Lachie Plowman back in round one I remember saying, “that’s got to be a week.” Same thought with Joe Daniher’s incident in the same round and Luke Shuey’s in round 16. So, when I saw Lance Franklin elbow Luke Ryan, while I thought it deserved a week, he couldn’t be handed one, because of the precedent that’s been set. It’s the wrong call though and I think the entire footy world agrees. All four of them involved a wind up, throw the elbow back and connect with the head. Gary Lyon hit the nail on the head on AFL 360.
“In the end you can argue, if you want to punch a bloke in the head no worries, write me a check, write the check before you go out, punch him in the head,” he said.
“Don’t knock him out or break his jaw, because then you’re going to be in trouble, but punch him in the head and that’ll be fine or if you want to chuck an elbow, chuck and elbow but don’t break his jaw and we’ll be okay.”
He’s spot on. All four deserve a week and all four would get a week in 2022 when there will no doubt be a new precedent set on the action.
Isaac Heeney was superb in Sydney's 40 point win over the Fremantle Dockers. Photo: AFL
The Swans have found the perfect mix to fly up the ladder
Going into 2021 most people had Sydney improving but almost no one besides Damien Barrett had them finishing in the top-eight. As we head towards the final four weeks of the season the Swans are a genuine contender. They will play finals and are currently only one game out of the top-four. They’ve spent the past two years in the lower half of the ladder, but this enabled them to bring in an abundance of young talent, while also debuting and getting games into their youth. Now they’ve got a combination of established senior players such as Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, Lance Franklin, Dane Rampe and Jake Lloyd, mixed with players in the 23-25 age bracket including Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, Tom Papley and Jordan Dawson combined with a number of players in the 18-21 age bracket who are improving every week. The young Swans have injected much needed energy and pace into the playing group, while the experienced players are driving the ship, as this flock of Cygnets and Swans make their charge up the ladder. There's a lot of belief in this Sydney team who have come from behind to win in their past two matches. They'll look to make it five-straight wins as they take on the Bombers on Saturday night.
Carlton need to bounce back
The mark of a good team is the ability to bounce back and respond after a poor performance. Melbourne’s been superb at it all season, Sydney did it against Geelong after back-to-back losses to GWS and Gold Coast and the Cats themselves did it against Essendon after a loss to Brisbane, just to name a few. Carlton isn’t to these sides level and a win against St Kilda this week probably doesn’t matter much in terms of finals for 2021, but what it would do is instil that belief and confidence in itself going into 2022. Friday night footy with the whole country watching the week after an embarrassing loss to the bottom side in North Melbourne. The ability to take the hit from the fans, cop the media scrutiny and respond on the biggest stage in a weekend fixture does a lot for a side.
The Cats are now premiership favourites after dismantling Richmond in round 19. Photo: AFL Photos
Geelong is the team to beat
I’ve watched Geelong dismantle Richmond twice this year and other teams for that matter, firstly with its defence. Whether it’s Tom Stewart, Mark Blicavs, Lachie Henderson, the list goes on, there is always one or two spare players behind the ball that always seem to impact the contest. What assists them is the pressure up the ground which doesn’t allow teams to move the ball quickly and expose those loose defenders. It’s this commitment to defence and the ability to execute it that has them as my premiership favourites. Now can it be exposed and broken? Yes. Brisbane did it superbly in round 15, quick ball movement catching Geelong off guard and putting the Lions in good scoring positions. Ultimately, when it comes to the nitty gritty come finals time, this defensive focus will win the Cats games. Couple it with their ability to score quickly when required through Tom Hawkins, Gary Rohan and Jeremy Cameron when he’s healthy and Geelong seem a dangerous prospect.
Round 20 could see the ladder take shape with just three games to follow
There are a number of games in round 20 that will help shape the ladder with just four games remaining in the home and away season. Currently 9-12th all sit on 32-points with just percentage separating each team. The GWS Giants are eighth after defeating Essendon on Sunday night, however they sit ahead of the four teams below them by just two points. While the top-four race is also well and truly still on, with the Brisbane Lions and Sydney Swans sitting one game behind Port Adelaide in 5th and 6th respectively. With Melbourne struggling over the past month they also look vulnerable in third position, only one and a half games clear inside the top-four on 54-points. The battle for the minor premiership is also still on, with the Western Bulldogs and Geelong only separated by percentage but also only two points ahead of Melbourne, and top-spot may still be in reach for the Demons if they can turn their form around. We're in for an exciting few weeks leading into the finals.
Cover Photo: North Melbourne FC