By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash.
The Saints let one slip against the Cats on Friday night. Photo: AFL
Saints blow golden chance under the roof
St Kilda were all over Geelong in the first half on Friday night, however they went into halftime with just a one-point lead. The Saints kicked 3.11 in the first half to the Cats’ 4.2. They had more than double Geelong’s scoring shots and were all over them across the ground, however they succumbed to woeful accuracy in front of goal eventually losing by 21 points. If they had've kicked straight early the match could've been over by quarter time. It was a golden opportunity blown by the Saints against arguably the most in form team in the competition. There is a long way to go in 2021, however this is a game they should’ve and needed to win. Going into this season the Saints were one of the most hyped up teams in the league, after the loss to the Cats they sit in 11th position on the ladder with a record of 4-5, however more alarmingly they have a percentage of just 81.5.
Are we letting Hawthorn off too easy?
Here are some of the names that played for Hawthorn on the weekend. Blake Hardwick, Kyle Hartigan, Sam Frost, Jarman Impey, Liam Shiels, James Worpel, Tom Phillips, Luke Breust, Chad Wingard, Ben McEvoy, Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara. Three premiership players, a Brownlow medalist, a best and fairest winner and three multiple All-Australians … and they lost to North Melbourne. The only players for the Kangaroos that I would put in a similar category to those I just mentioned would be Ben Cunnington, Jack Ziebell, Jy Simpkin and Todd Goldstein. That’s an embarrassing loss in what has been an embarrassing season to date. Alistair Clarkson deserves the right to never be sacked given his unbelievable record, but he has to cop some flack for the season they’ve had. Their list is simply too good to be 17th on the ladder, with a 2-7 record and a percentage of 75.4.
The Western Bulldogs continued their impressive start to the season with a 19 point win over Port Adelaide in Adelaide on Saturday night. Photo: Getty Images
I’m on the Dogs’ and Dees’ train
When teams that have been down for a while begin a season strongly and look like contenders, I’m usually of the believe that you need to win a final for me to jump on board. I’m making an excuse for Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, however. It’s for a few reasons. Both teams have beaten legitimate contenders this season, on multiple occasions. Both sides have stacked midfields full of star power that also defend, which is a necessity in the competition. Lastly, both have key position stocks at either end that are really strong. The Dog’s backline not so much, however, given the way their midfielders defend up the ground, they don’t need key defenders, their team defence does the job. Melbourne have three legitimate key forwards and two of the best defenders in the league. That’s hard to stop and that’s why both sides are contenders in my eyes now.
Are Port Adelaide really as good as we think?
After the loss to the Western Bulldogs the Power find themselves 1-3 against the current top eight teams. They’ve lost to the West Coast Eagles by 37 points, the Brisbane Lions by 44 points and the Western Bulldogs by 19 points. The only team in the top eight they have beaten is Richmond. Are the Power flat track bullies? Personally, I don’t think so. The stats are alarming considering how badly they’ve been beaten in two of those games, however I think as the season goes on they'll level that stat out against the fellow top eight teams. They are too good of a team not to, however with the Power currently looking dim against the best teams in the league the pressure is on to flick the switch.
GWS had no answers for superstar Tiger Dustin Martin. Photo: Getty Images
What were the Giants thinking?
It’s beyond me that GWS didn’t have someone running with Dustin Martin throughout their clash with Richmond on Saturday night. It’s well known if you stop Dusty you’re well on your way to stopping the Tigers. In every Richmond loss this season Martin has struggled to have a strong influence on the game as he has been heavily tagged, whilst in every win he’s been arguably the best player on the ground as he's been let off the chain. Against the Giants he had 28 disposals and four goals. While Martin hasn’t played poorly in the matches where he has been ‘shut down’ it is a long way from his game breaking best. The Giants only lost to the Tigers by four points, it only makes me wonder if someone went to Dusty and even kept him to just one or two goals … GWS win the game.
Are the finals teams locked in?
We’re nine rounds in, but are the finals sides locked in already? As the ladder stands it’s Melbourne (36), Western Bulldogs (32), Geelong (24), Brisbane (24), Port Adelaide (24), Sydney (24), West Coast (24) and Richmond (20). GWS, Fremantle and St Kilda sit a game behind the Tigers, however, I just don’t see them finding a way in. Inconsistency has and will continue to let them down and plain and simply they won’t beat the teams inside the top eight to give it a shake-up. St Kilda and GWS had chances at the weekend and butchered it, as did Fremantle against Essendon. Unless there’s a bunch of injuries for one of the current top eight teams, I think they’re locked in.
Cover Photo: AFL Photos
By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
Melbourne have entrenched themselves in the premiership race after starting the season 8-0. Photo: AFL Photos
The premiership race is wide open
Usually after eight rounds you’ve got a clear premiership favourite. However, in 2021 the race is wide open. You could make a claim for just about every team in the top eight right now, some obviously more likely than others, but looking at the ladder going into round nine there’s a number of clubs in the mix. Melbourne are an obvious one sitting atop the ladder undefeated, while the Bulldogs sit 7-1. The Power who are incredibly tough to beat in Adelaide sit third and then we have four teams at 5-3 being Geelong, Brisbane, Sydney and West Coast. We then have Richmond in eighth who know how to put it all together at the right time. If the season continues the way it has it’s going to come down to who peaks in September, because right now the race is wide open and anyone could win it. It might just be the most exciting year yet.
Eddie McGuire needs to let this one slide
Eddie was asked the question about Port Adelaide wearing the prison bar jumper, which isn’t his fault, because he’ll be asked about all issues regarding Collingwood even without being president. However, he then proceeds to say, “no, nothing from me Jon (Ralph),” and then comments anyway! He calls out the size of Power president David Kochs’ nose, mentions the manufacturing of the prison bar jumpers and how that breaks a contract they signed and says it’s a shot at the AFL. Ed, you’re not the president anymore, you don’t have to answer the question. Say ‘nothing from me,’ as you did, and leave it at that. The whole argument is idiotic, however, I think most people agree McGuire is coming out the worst.
Carlton's Harry McKay is in career best form as he leads the league in goal kicking with 30 goals in eight games. Photo: Getty Images
The Coleman Race
I’ve spoken of the premiership race, well the Coleman medal race is just as exciting. The key forwards are back! Going into 2021 if I told you the top five goal kickers after eight rounds included Harry Mckay, Taylor Walker, Josh Bruce, Ben King and Matt Taberner you would’ve told me I was on another planet. However, these forwards have turned it on, and they deserve to be our current top five. McKay has developed a lot more rapidly than we probably expected, at 204cm and 105kg he is arguably the most powerful forward in the competition right now. Walker has had an incredible start to 2021, in particular his first three games of the season, while Bruce is reaping the rewards of the Bulldogs incredible midfield depth. King is continuing to grow in front of our eyes as the Suns continue to develop, while Taberner is quietly one of the most underrated forwards in the league, having kicked at least two goals or more in every game this season. I’m tipping Harry McKay to take the chocolates but the race is wide open!
I have to admit, it was pretty funny seeing what Rhylee Wests’ parents shared Facebook account commented online during the week. Whether it was father Soctt or Mother Lindie, I’m not sure, however, it was great to see the human side to the AFL. We’ve all been there, getting home after a game and sooking to your parents about others getting more of a go than you etc. Usually, your parents don’t hold back in backing you up. To see it in such a public forum was funny, but they were right. A player bides his time in the VFL, is elevated for a week and immediately dropped. I’ve never understood managing a player like that. I see no positive in it. Confidence is shot and getting used to the speed and physicality of the game is impossible. If you’re going to pick them, give them two weeks at the absolute minimum, three weeks is ideal. Leave them in the VFL longer if required, but then when you pick them, leave them in, get them comfortable and see how they develop without the stress and worry of being dropped the following week.
Adam Saad hasn't lived up to expectations across his first few games with the Blues. Photo: Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens
What did Carlton expect with Adam Saad
Adam Saad has copped some hate this week and it’s warranted. My question to Carlton is, what did you expect? He’s a fine AFL player and will play 250 plus games if his career continues as it has to this point. However, he’s always been just a handy player, he was never going to be the final piece to a side, as Carlton thought he may be. He’s reportedly earning $650,000 a year over five years, which was a terrible when they did it and is proving terrible now. He averages 17 disposals and 3.7 rebound 50s per game over his career. He averaged a career best 4.5 rebound 50s in 2020, great, it was still only 17th best in the league and there were six key defenders that averaged more. Essendon fans booed him when Carlton played the Bombers and I remember asking why? Is he a player worth booing? He’s a half-back flanker that has a few highlight plays running through the middle of the ground a year and that’s really it. As I said, a very fine AFL player and is only young so can get better. However, I have never read into the hype though and I’m not surprised by his mediocre form to start the season.
Suns miss huge chance to shine
Gold Coast were in the box seat to string three straight wins together and find themselves on the cusp of the top eight. They led St Kilda 51-36 going into the final quarter, before being outscored 27-3, letting a huge opportunity slip. The game was in the balance throughout, however, at home you would’ve expected the Suns to hold on in this one. If Gold Coast are going to play finals in 2021 these are the games they have to finish off, especially at home.
Cover Photo: Port Adelaide Football Club
By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
The Tigers proved they are still the team to beat with an impressive come from behind victory over the undefeated Western Bulldogs. Photo: AFL Photos
Stop writing off the best
I don’t know why people do it to themselves. Every time the slightest crack appeared at Hawthorn during their dominant era, the headline read ‘Hawks dynasty coming to an end?’ With the New England Patriots in the NFL during the Tom Brady era, once a year the media said the dynasty was ending. Last week Richmond endured it. I’ll say what I said after that round; they’re the favourites until their beaten, plain and simple. So were the Golden State Warriors during their run and so are the Los Angeles Lakers now. The Hawks and the Cats were the same, as were Brisbane. When you’ve won three of the last four premierships and made a preliminary final the other year, you earn that right.
Does anyone actually know what holding the ball is anymore?
Firstly, by asking this question this is not me looking to criticize the umpires, it’s a genuine question. It seems as though every match there are different requirements for what is holding the ball and what isn’t. What is deemed to be prior opportunity seems to change every game to the point where it’s incredibly inconsistent. I remember the days where if you took on the tackler and you dropped the ball, the umpire would pay holding the ball, it was rarely missed. I’d love to see that again. The rules are constantly altered every season, however holding the ball is a staple rule and there shouldn’t be confusion over what is and what isn’t holding the ball.
Is Tom Hickey the recruit of the year to date? Photo: Getty Images
Tom Hickey is the recruit of the year to date
We’re only seven rounds in but the Swans have found a diamond in the rough, in ruckman Tom Hickey. Hickey has done the nationwide tour of Australia but looks as though he is right at home on the Eastern beaches of Sydney. Currently averaging 16.2 disposals and 11 contested possessions, it’s his ability to win clearances that has been the most impressive for me. He currently averages six clearances and he has effectively become another midfielder for the Swans. He moves around the ground well and right now is arguably the second best ruckman in the league behind Melbourne’s Max Gawn. The Swans are 5-1 with Hickey in the line-up and could very well be 6-0 if it wasn’t for an injury to his knee midway through the Swans’ loss to the Giants. He is a major reason why Sydney currently sit fourth on the ladder.
Stop blaming the umpires
If you’re a Geelong supporter blaming the umpire mistake at the end of the game for your loss, you need to wrap it up. A missed mark call, of course. Happens a lot throughout a game though and I know for fact the Cats were the beneficiary of some handy bad calls throughout the game that resulted in goals. The Brad Close free kick was a prime example. Geelong fans should be looking at the fact their side had the game in control and could never put Sydney away, or that they allowed the Swans to kick three of the last four, or the fact they led 41-13 at quarter time and then proceeded to concede 5.1 in the second term to 1.3.
Jesse Hogan was terrific in round seven kicking four goals in his debut with the GWS Giants. Photo: AFL Photos
Is there a sleeping Giant in the west of town?
Jesse Hogan had a dream debut for GWS against the Adelaide Crows on Saturday with the former Demon and Docker kicking 4.1 and looking right at home in the Giants forward line. Hogan burst onto the scene with Melbourne in 2015 kicking 85 goals in his first 41 games across two years before moving to Fremantle where he struggled to find his feet. While the Giants defeated the Crows with ease, Hogan slotted in perfectly in the GWS forward line and could be the perfect replacement for Jeremy Cameron. While it is early days the Giants could have found themselves an absolute steal.
Players you can’t win flags with
As a Richmond supporter, I’ve seen my fair share of bad games and results. One thing we always used to discuss was guys we couldn’t win a premiership with. Daniel Jackson was a real battler for the Tigers, a best and fairest winner, a very good player, but we weren’t going to win a premiership if he was in our starting midfield. If you look at the Bulldogs, they are not winning a premiership with Josh Bruce and Josh Schache up forward. Schache was never going to be in the team at the end of the year, Tim English will come back, however, the point remains; you can’t win flags with these guys. I love every other part of the Dogs game and line-up, but if the forward line doesn’t change, a premiership is out the window.
Cover Photo: AFL Photos