The Lions are struggling to fire against the league's best. Photo: Getty images.
Lions struggling to attack prey when it matters
The Lions are latching onto the smaller inhabitants of the 2020 jungle, but when it comes to the tougher enemies they struggle to attack their prey. Brisbane has been one of the strongest teams of 2020 to date, and will likely feature late in the finals series this year. Since the season restart the Lions are 7-2, a record you can’t complain with at all.
However, the two losses have had two key similarities. The first one being inaccuracy, something that has haunted them all year even in some of their biggest wins, and secondly they have allowed the floodgates to open and have leaked goals. The two losses have come at the hands of Richmond and Geelong, two other teams we’re expecting to see at the business end of the season. The Tigers have the psychological mantle over Brisbane winning their last 15 against the Lions, and it showed on Tuesday night.
The reigning premiers played with confidence and looked much more composed than their opponents, who looked as though they struggled with the elite pressure that Richmond bring. The Lions had all the momentum in the third quarter, but failed to strike when they had their chance kicking 0.7 to the Tigers’ 1.1, putting the game basically out of reach by three quarter time.
The Lions may be up the top of the ladder more than halfway through the 2020 season, but they still have a lot of work to do if they want to regain the crown as the King of the Jungle for the first time in over 15 years.
The Western Bulldogs are going to be just fine
Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley are 24, 26, and 23 respectively. The Western Bulldogs have a top tier midfield group that have been playing together for what feels like a decade already, but they’re only just entering their prime.
The Bulldogs’ young talent looks comfortable and composed and their veterans Easton Wood, Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis are all on the right side of 30. Their emerging ruckman in Tim English is 23. Bailey Smith is 19, Ed Richards is 21 and Patrick Lipinski is 22. I could go on and on, but what I’m getting at is that the Bulldogs are going to be just fine, even if they are a bit up and down this season.
They took it right up to Port Adelaide on Monday night, but without Aaron Naughton, Josh Bruce received all the attention from Tom Jonas and Tom Clurey, and it proved too tough for the Dogs to kick a winning score. They found a way to be competitive though, and almost stole the game when it was in the balance. Promising signs down at the Kennel.
Taylor Walker's leadership may be more valuable than ever in 2020. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images.
Is Tex’s leadership on the field more valuable than his output?
Ever since the thrashing the Adelaide football club received in the 2017 grand final, Taylor Walker has copped flack from every angle in the media, most notably from former rival Kane Cornes. The public forget how damaging Walker was throughout the peak of his career, and that he led the Adelaide football club to a grand final a year in which they were minor premiers.
Walker's fingerprints are all over young forward Darcy Fogarty, he hits packs with the force of a freight train and has a bit of mongrel about him, which is ideal for a key forward. Fogarty presents well to the football in such a way that reminds a footy fan of a 2015 Taylor Walker. He will pressure in such a way that is reminiscent of the former captain, who knew when a big tackle was what the team needed. Whilst the season goes from bad to worse for the crows, Taylor Walker may be more pivotal to the crows in a mentoring capacity than any sort of output he has on the field.
Young Cats tick the boxes
Whilst Geelong did not run away with a commanding win against a struggling North Melbourne, the win would have ticked a lot of boxes in the coach’s box. The congested nature of the ‘festival of footy’ means that teams must become creative when managing players without crippling the team, and putting a group of players on the park that is susceptible to being beaten by teams much lower on the ladder.
Geelong decided to play Dangerfield out of full forward against the Kangaroos, thus allowing him to rest but giving them the flexibility to throw him in the midfield to ensure victory if the game became tight. This allowed many of the young Cats' players to play through what is usually a star studded midfield. Lachie Fogarty since being re-introduced to the team has enjoyed more midfield time, he picked up 23 disposals which is a career high.
Cam Guthrie and Sam Menegola have enjoyed welcome extra minutes through the midfield, and are growing as players which can only bode well for a team that seemed to lack players for the big games. The compact nature of this season is allowing growth for the cats, and creating depth that they have lacked in seasons past.
Josh Daicos was a step ahead of the Swans on Thursday night with 25 disposals and the match sealing goal. Photo: The Australian
Magpies still swooping despite clipped wings
Josh Daicos may have saved Collingwood’s season with his very own boot on Thursday night. It was an iconic Daicos snap that sealed the win for Collingwood, just like many that the young Magpie watched his father kick while growing up. While the win has pushed Collingwood back inside the top eight and kept the Magpies season afloat, it came at a cost.
Collingwood went into the clash with Sydney already missing the likes of Scott Pendlebury and Jordan De Goey due to injury, as well as key defenders Jeremy Howe and Tom Langdon who have also been out for an extended period.
Will Hoskin-Elliot left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter, Adam Treloar injured his hamstring, Brayden Maynard left the field for some time with a shoulder complaint, and Isaac Quaynor had his leg split open in an accidental incident with Sydney forward Sam Wicks’s boot.
While it was a strong win for the Pies, the wings have been clipped as injuries are starting to mount at a time where you want to begin getting your best 22 together for an assault on the flag.
North in no mans’ land
North Melbourne continue to baffle me this season. On-field everyone has seen their troubles, but it’s some of their decisions off-field that have surprised me, particularly around Ben Brown. After some struggles in the early part of the season, rumours emerged about the Kangaroos shopping him around in trade talks. There are not many teams that would be willing to trade a 200cm, 28-year-old key forward who is the only player in the AFL to kick at least 60 goals in all of the last three seasons.
Senior coach Rhyce Shaw then decides to drop Brown for their round nine clash against Adelaide, who were 0-8 at the time with one key defender in Daniel Talia, all the while bringing Nick Larkey back in. Imagine how much easier Brown’s day would have been with another key forward playing alongside him. Then to really help his confidence, he brings Brown back into the side in round 10 to face Geelong, who have three key defenders and are one of the top defensive groups in the league, while managing Nick Larkey. All the defensive attention turns to Brown without Larkey there and with North’s ball use inside 50, he didn’t stand a chance.
I didn’t see any point in dropping Brown just to bring him back against the formidable Geelong and I don’t see any positive in trading him at seasons end.
Cover Photo: Herald Sun