By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
Joe's return lifted the Bombers to a much needed win over Hawthorn. Photo: Getty Images
Joe Daniher getting back is good for footy
Seeing Joe Daniher on the field again for Essendon was a great sight for every footy fan. After just 11 games in 2018 and 2019 following an All-Australian and Best and Fairest year in 2017, it’s a feel good story to see him back on the park.
On top of getting through the game unscathed, he delivered with his performance. The big man kicked three goals, had 14 disposals and took 10 marks to lead the Bombers big second half comeback, keeping their finals hopes alive. Lots will be made about his future, either at Essendon or elsewhere, but let’s just enjoy watching him play again.
Blues blow huge opportunity
While Carlton can still technically make the eight suddenly it just got really difficult. The Blues led Collingwood by eight points at halftime on Sunday with the game in their hands. Before serving up a goalless second half, kicking just four behinds with the Pies running away winners by 24 points.
While most would call this season an improvement to date from Carlton, patience is wearing thin at Ikon Park from the Blues faithful, with fans expecting their club to return to finals.
With games to come against GWS, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane they’re likely going to have to win at least three of those maybe even four if they’re going to scrape into the eight and return to September for the first time since 2013.
Jake Riccardi's and Jeremy Cameron's four goals each got the Giants season back on track. Photo: Getty Images
Beware of the sleeping Giant
It has been a disappointing season to date for GWS, however at times throughout the year they’ve reminded us of how good they can be when they’re at their best.
The Giants currently sit in ninth place on the ladder with four games remaining, they face Carlton, Adelaide, Melbourne and St Kilda to finish the season and you’d expect they start favorites in almost all of them.
Saturday’s 38-point win over Fremantle was a sign the Giants may be about to wake up, and if they can ride the wave of confidence gained from that win going into their final four games watch out.
The sleeping Giants may have just set their alarm for the perfect time.
The Queensland Tigers
Richmond are loving their time up north in 2020, with the Tigers yet to lose a game in Queensland this year. On Thursday night, they proved to us again that they’re going to be a feature at the business end of the year once again, with a strong win over West Coast.
The Tigers aren’t even at full strength, with Shane Edwards, Dion Prestia and David Astbury still to return to the lineup. While Dylan Grimes injured his hamstring against the Eagles, he is likely to return for the finals.
It looks as though Richmond may quietly be timing their run to perfection and if the finals series and Grand Final is played in Queensland, the Tigers will be well placed for an assault at their third premiership in four years.
The Demons were able to snatch victory from the Saints and set up their run home. Photo: Melbourne Football Club
Dees lives made a lot easier with key win
The Demons three-point win over St Kilda on Saturday night has set them up for an unexpected finals run. The win has made life a lot easier for them as they look towards their last four games. They currently sit in eighth spot on 28 points, the same as GWS and the Western Bulldogs who sit ninth and tenth, with only percentage separating the three teams.
Melbourne have a favourable run home though. Sydney in round 15, followed by Fremantle, then GWS and the Bombers to finish the year. All four games are winnable, but knowing the Dees’ up and down form, they are all losable as well. On paper they should win at least three of four however, and the victory on the weekend was a great stepping-stone to do so.
Jake Riccardi further proves state league players value
Mature-age players have quickly become some of the most valuable players in the AFL. Tim Kelly from the WAFL, Brody Mihocek from the VFL and Tim Noble from the SANFL are a few examples off the top of my head. Jake Riccardi from the Giants has quickly joined that group as well.
Drafted pick 51 from Werribee in last years’ draft, Riccardi has kicked six goals in his first two games, to go with 14 disposals and nearly 10 marks a match. It further proves how valuable these mature-age recruits are.
They come to the club ready-made, with experience under their belt and equipped to make an immediate impact. Gone are the days where state league players rarely received an opportunity. Now, they are some of the most sought after players in the country. Especially for teams challenging for the premiership like GWS, Collingwood and the like, these top up players are so much more valuable to them than draft picks.
Cover Photo: James Elsby/Getty Images/AFL Photos
By Liam Melrose
Joe Daniher celebrates one of his four goals in the 2019 Anzac Day match. Photo: AFL
The big question mark around Joe Daniher is can he get back to his career-best form we saw in 2017?
If Daniher can return to that form, he is one of if not the best key forward in the competition. His elite contested marking is the key skill that stands out for me. How many times have we seen Essendon kick the ball long deep inside their forward 50, only to see the long arms of Joe Daniher pluck it from the air over a number of defenders.
After another long stint out of the game, Joe Daniher makes his long awaited return to the field today as Essendon face Hawthorn at Adelaide Oval.
It’s been reported Daniher wants out of Essendon for a number of reasons, including a loss of faith in the club’s medical staff, due to a number of injuries he hasn't been able to overcome, most notably a constant issue with his groin. There is also believed to be a desire from Daniher to escape the football bubble that lingers around Melbourne.
After he requested a trade to the Sydney Swans at the end of 2019, the Swans went hard in an attempt to pry Daniher out of Tullamarine. It was rumoured Sydney were willing to offer both picks five and 25 for the star 200cm key forward, who had managed just 11 games across 2018 and 2019.
The superstar Bomber has played just 11 games since the start of 2018. Photo: Getty Images
However, it will be different this year, with Daniher’s value dropping even more after almost another full season out of the game. Suddenly his price tag has been reduced, and with him being out of contract at the end of this year, he could land anywhere.
Rumours are also circulating that the Brisbane Lions are now in the mix for the star forward.
While he may choose to remain at Essendon, let’s look at some possible fits for Daniher’s services in 2021.
1. Sydney Swans
Sydney love a star key forward, since moving to Sydney from South Melbourne, the Swans have always gone for marketable superstar forwards that get bums on seats and ultimately win them games. Great for the club, great for the competition and great for football in Sydney.
They’ve had Warrick Capper, Tony Lockett, Barry Hall and Lance Franklin as the most notable since the Swans moved north, and with Franklin in the twilight of his career there’s no reason why Joe Daniher couldn’t be the next on that list.
At 26 years of age if Daniher can get his body right, he still has a number of good years left in him at the top level, and with the Swans injecting a number of young players into their lineup, there’s no reason why they won’t climb up the ladder again soon. A healthy Daniher roaming the forward 50 of the SCG would only fast-track that rise back into finals contention.
With him out of contract at the end of 2020, you’d expect there’s still strong interest there from both parties.
Daniher is obviously a great fit at Essendon, and while he has struggled to consistently play since 2017, if he can get his body right and regain faith in the medical staff at the club, then he is the missing link in the Bombers lineup that they so desperately need as they look to return to the finals.
If the tides have turned and Daniher is willing to give the Bombers another chance, there is no reason he can’t go back to being one of the competitions most dangerous forwards.
He would be welcomed with open arms by the Bomber faithful, as he has been a fan favourite for years.
When Daniher is up and about, he is one of the most dangerous forwards in the competition. Photo: News Corp Australia
3. Brisbane Lions
Similarly to Sydney, it’s an escape from the football bubble and the extra pressure the bubble brings to perform. The new medical staff that comes with being at a new club helps also, with Daniher clearly frustrated and wanting to get on the park.
Brisbane have something the other clubs don’t, and that’s the club doctor that looked after Daniher’s fitness during 2017, his career best year, and someone he has confidence in.
With the Lions being a young side, and well and truly in the premiership window, if Daniher wants immediate success, Brisbane is a great option. Playing out of the goal square in a Lions forward line with Eric Hipwood who can play up the ground, and arguably the best small forward in the competition crumbing at his feet in Charlie Cameron. The Lions would suddenly have one of the most potent forward lines in the competition.
While it is believed Daniher wants to move to an interstate club, if he was keen to stay in Victoria, Collingwood is a perfect fit. Injuries have hampered the Magpies in 2020, however they are a club still locked in the premiership window.
The one thing Collingwood has lacked while they’ve been at the top end of the ladder is a dominant key forward. Daniher would be the perfect fit out of the goal square. The Pies have a strong backline and arguably the best midfield in the competition, but there are question marks over their forward line and how it functions best.
Collingwood haven’t had a consistent key forward since Travis Cloke left the club in 2016. Daniher would be a welcomed addition.
5. Adelaide Crows
With Taylor Walker reaching the back end of his career, the Adelaide forward line is suddenly extremely raw.
Daniher would fit nicely there with the right pieces around him.
While it’s hard to see him going to the Crows after what has been a disappointing year for the club, he would be a nice addition as the number one key target inside the Adelaide forward line.
This would also allow the young Crows’ forwards to continue their development, without drawing the best opposition defender each week and improving their confidence.
Cover Photo: AAP
By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash.
Irving Mosquito was an excitement machine with two goals in his debut against the Tigers. Photo: SEN
Dream Time Mosquito
The conditions were warm and humid on Saturday night in Darwin, the mosquitoes were out in force, and one of those made his way to TIO Stadium. Irving Mosquito. What better way to start your career by kicking two goals in your debut match, as an Indigenous player in the annual Dream Time game.
Irving Mosquito looks a steal for the Bombers, who was taken with pick #38 in the 2018 National Draft. Essendon has been a team looking for a spark in 2020 and they may have just found one. Teaming up with fellow Indigenous small forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, this Mosquito is dangerous and looks as though he has a bright future ahead.
Reconciliation over racist past needs to be top of the agenda
Former St Kilda player Robert Muir spoke out during the week about the horrible racism he received during his playing days of the 1970s and 1980s. Abuse from opposition fans and players, being spat on and even urinated on by teammates are only some of the things that have caused the 66-year-old psychological pain to this day.
The AFL and St Kilda released statements apologising for the treatment he received and offered continued support. Adam Goodes received the same after the AFL failed to support him in his final three seasons, which were overshadowed by sustained racism.
The AFL mentioned in their statement that there were many other stories like Robert’s that needed to be addressed and they’re right. These need to become top of the agenda for the league. Players as recent as Heritier Lumumba all the way back to Muir’s days in the 1970s need to be supported as much as possible. The past can't be changed, but the present and future can, so it needs to be a focus and action needs to be taken.
Eddie and the Blues are on the brink of an unlikely finals birth. Photo: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
Blues ticked first box, five to go
If Carlton were any chance at making the top eight this season a win over the Gold Coast on Friday night was needed, and the Blues delivered. From start to finish they dominated play, eventually getting reward on the scoreboard to take a 33-point win. That’s one challenge won, but they have five more to finish.
Their next four weeks are as winnable as they come. A down in the dumps Collingwood, an out of sorts GWS, Sydney and then Adelaide in round 17. With Brisbane their final match-up, these next four weeks are season defining for Carlton. Worst case they need to split their next two, then get wins over the Swans and Crows, and see where they stand going into round 18 against the Lions. While it’s a big few weeks ahead, it’s exciting times for the Blue Baggers.
Melbourne brought back to earth yet again
The Western Bulldogs have sent the Demons back down to earth for the second time this season. There was plenty of optimism going into Melbourne’s round 13 clash with the Dogs, with many of us holding high hopes the Demons would continue their strong run of form we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks.
Melbourne looked to be finally on track but I wasn’t sold on them just yet. They’d defeated both North Melbourne and Adelaide by big margins, however both sit in 17th and 18th position respectively, before facing an injury riddled Collingwood. The Demons made easy work of the Pies, with the next test being the Western Bulldogs and they failed miserably. The Bulldogs made the Demons look second rate, especially in the third quarter kicking six unanswered goals.
Melbourne face St Kilda in Alice Springs on Saturday night in what is a massive game for their season. A win and they remain in the race, while a loss will bring further question marks about what this team can do in 2020.
The Pies found some offensive flow in their 30-point win over the Kangaroos. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Punctured Pies find a way
It was a must win game for Collingwood as their season has seemed to spiral before their eyes. While they’ve been hampered by injuries, they’ve also struggled with a dysfunctional forward line that has found it difficult to kick a high score.
North Melbourne put up a strong fight in the first half with the game looking as though it could go either way at half time. The Pies looked as though they were going to struggle to score yet again, but found a way kicking six goals to two after the main break on their way to a 30-point win. With nine different players kicking majors, the Magpies found a number of avenues to goal, a promising sign for the weeks to come.
While there is doubt over Collingwood’s finals hopes, if they can somehow work out their forward line over the next few weeks they’ll scrape into the eight.
Travis aging like a fine wine
After 12 seasons of tough midfield work in the AFL, you could understand a player starting to taper off slightly. That amount of physical attention week in, week out takes a toll on your body and mind.
However, Travis Boak has gone the other way, and played himself into career best form over the past two seasons. As a 31-year-old in 2019 the Port champion averaged a career high 30 disposals a game and nearly 15 contested possessions. In shortened quarters, Boak has continued if not bettered his form in 2020, averaging 22.5 disposals, 10 contested possessions and five clearances. Almost a lock for his third All-Australian selection and third Port Adelaide Best and Fairest Award.
Cover Photo: ABC News/Tony Hill
By Ollie Nash
The 2013 draft was dominated by the TAC Cup, with six players, including these three, coming from the underage competition. Photo: Getty Images
The 2013 AFL Draft is littered with superstar midfield talent, and the re-draft is no different. From Marcus Bontempelli to Patrick Cripps, to a fifth string star like Dom Sheed, some of the competitions best on-ballers today came from the 2013 draft. Small forwards, key defenders, and some key role players fill out this re-draft, so continue reading to see if you agree with Ollie Nash's picks.
PICK 1: GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY – MARCUS BONTEMPELLI (ORIGINALLY PICK FOUR – WESTERN BULLDOGS)
ORIGINAL PICK: TOM BOYD
Marcus Bontempelli and Patrick Cripps are the top two in this draft by the length of the Flemington straight … and then some more. I give the Bont the nod over Cripps, but only just, with a premiership the one thing he has over the Carlton skipper. A three-time Charles Sutton Medallist, two-time All-Australian, captain and a whole host of AFL Players and Coaches Association Awards, and he isn’t even 25. He has been great so early in his career for the club, but I am looking forward to his next chapter and watching him lead this young Bulldogs outfit for the next 10 years.
PICK 2: GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY – PATRICK CRIPPS (ORIGINALLY PICK 13 – CARLTON)
ORIGINAL PICK: JOSH KELLY
Like the Bont, Cripps has been the story of consistency ever since he burst onto the scene. At 6-foot-4 he’s a midfielder in a key forwards body and a contested ball beast. Averages 26 disposals through his first 109 games and over 15 contested possessions a game. He has already chalked up three John Nicholls Medals, two All-Australians and a Leigh Matthews Trophy and he’s only 25. Like Bontempelli, it’s going to be exciting to watch him lead Carlton, alongside Sam Docherty, for the next 10 years as they look to get back to the premiership winning ways the Blues were so famous for in the 1980s and 1990s.
Cripps and Bontempelli have quickly become the superstars of the 2013 draft. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
PICK 3: ST KILDA – MATT CROUCH (ORIGINALLY PICK 23 – ADELAIDE)
ORIGINAL PICK: JACK BILLINGS
Picks three to five in this draft are very even and hard to pick, with three top tier midfielders to choose from. Maybe it’s my Ballarat bias, but I’ve given Matt Crouch the nod at number three. His form this season, while still collecting a lot of the footy, has been up and down. However, during Adelaide’s contending years from 2015 to 2017, Crouch was one of their most consistent performers and it showed, winning a Showdown Medal in 2016, Adelaide’s Best and Fairest in their Grand Final season of 2017, and becoming an All-Australian in the same year. Averages 28 disposals a game throughout his career, and was collecting well over 30 for three years straight from 2017 to 2019.
PICK 4: WESTERN BULLDOGS – JOSH KELLY (ORIGINALLY PICK TWO – GWS)
ORIGINAL PICK: MARCUS BONTEMPELLI
Josh Kelly is pure silk when he’s out in open spaces and the GWS star slots in nicely at number four. Like Crouch, he has a Best and Fairest and an All-Australian jumper from 2017, but doesn’t quiet accumulate as much of the ball, which is why I have him here. You could say he can be more damaging than Crouch, but the inconsistency with injury and form in 2018 and 2019 didn’t help his case. In saying that, he has been in super form for the Giants this season despite their rollercoaster year to date, and will be a key player to revive them, and continue their push to a premiership in the years to come.
Kelly has been the Giants most consistent midfielder in 2020. Photo: AAP
PICK 5: GOLD COAST – ZACH MERRETT (ORIGINALLY PICK 26 – ESSENDON)
ORIGINAL PICK: KADE KOLODJASHNIJ
Like the two above him, Merrett was an All-Australian in 2017, and while he has two Best and Fairest awards, we have to take into consideration that the first came during Essendon’s drug saga year, where a whole host of the senior players were suspended for 12 months. Nevertheless, he has been one of the more consistent players from this draft, playing 136 games and averaging 25 disposals per game. Has a damaging left foot, and the ability to win the ball inside or outside. A key player for Essendon’s premiership hopes in the future.
PICK 6: COLLINGWOOD – BEN BROWN (ORIGINALLY PICK 47 – NORTH MELBOURNE)
ORIGINAL PICK: MATTHEW SCHARENBERG
The most consistent goal kicker of the last three years, and the unluckiest not to win a Coleman Medal. The only player to kick 60 or more goals in each of the last three seasons, and doing so in a team that missed the finals in all of those years. Has played 130 games for 287 goals to date, and if North Melbourne are stupid enough to trade him at seasons end, then a contender like Collingwood, Essendon or Brisbane should be happy enough to take him off their hands.
After missing out on three drafts, 2013 was finally Browns' year and he has made the most of his lifeline. Photo: News Corp Australia
PICK 7: BRISBANE – CHARLIE CAMERON (ORIGINALLY PICK SEVEN IN THE ROOKIE DRAFT - ADELAIDE)
ORIGINAL PICK: JAMES AISH
If you’re going off recent form then Cameron should be a lot higher and he probably will be in a couple of years, but for now he slots in at number seven. Has quickly become one of, if not the best small forwards in the competition in the last two seasons, capped off with an All-Australian guernsey in 2019. He is Brisbane’s most important player in my eyes if they are to win the premiership in the next three years, and one player they want to lock away for the future as soon as possible.
PICK 8: NORTH MELBOURNE - JAMES SICILY (ORIGINALLY PICK 56 – HAWTHORN)
ORIGINAL PICK: LUKE MCDONALD
Sicily has been a great find for Hawthorn post their three-peat era, first as a forward and now as one of the best intercept marking and attacking defenders in the league. He has averaged 18 disposals and six marks over his 93 games, and has provided footy fans with endless entertainment with his hot temper. Will be sorely missed by the Hawks in 2021 after rupturing his ACL, but will be a huge part of their rebuild back to the top when he returns in 2022 and beyond.
PICK 9: MELBOURNE – DOM SHEED (ORIGINALLY PICK 11 – WEST COAST)
ORIGINAL PICK: CHRISTIAN SALEM
This may be a bit of recency bias, but Dom Sheed has quickly become one of West Coasts’ most important and consistent midfielders over the last two seasons. As a fifth string on-baller, behind Elliot Yeo, Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff, he’s as good as they come in the competition, and a major reason West Coast are again one of the premiership favourites this season. Averaged a career high 26 disposals in 2019 after his heroics in the 2018 Premiership, and is backing it up this season with 20 touches per game in shortened quarters. Can see a top 10 Best and Fairest finish for him this season.
Dom Sheed celebrates his match winning goal in the 2018 Grand Final. Photo: AFL Media
PICK 10: COLLINGWOOD – DARCY BYRNE-JONES (ORIGINALLY PICK 52 – PORT ADELAIDE)
ORIGINAL PICK: NATHAN FREEMAN
There are probably some bigger names that I have missed in this draft, but any real football fan will know how good Darcy Byrne-Jones is, and how important he is to Port Adelaide. With less than half the season to go he is in every experts’ All-Australian squad, and is a good chance to earn his first selection in the final 22. Hasn’t played under 20 games since debuting in 2016 and averages 17 disposals and four marks, with a great balance of defending and attacking in his game.
Cover Photo: Jono Searle/AFL Photos
By Liam Melrose and Ollie Nash
Western Bulldogs forward Aaron Naughton kicked a career best six goals against the Crows. Photo: AAP/Dave Hunt.
Naughton the important Pup
With fellow key forward Josh Bruce rested, Aaron Naughton was given the Bulldogs forward 50 to himself against Adelaide, and he made the most of it kicking a career best six goals. While the Crows are without a win in 2020, Naughton reminded us of how good he can be when he is at his best, in just his second game back from an ankle injury. It’s often forgotten he’s still only 20 years of age
Kicking 6.1 he looked extremely comfortable being the number one target in the Bulldogs attacking 50, looking dangerous all afternoon kicking goals from everywhere, as the Dogs smashed the Crows by 57 points.
If Naughton can remain injury free for the rest of the year, there is no reason why the Dogs can’t sneak into the top eight and challenge the competition’s best.
The unpredictability of this season is unbelievable
The unpredictability of this season has been one of the most entertaining aspects of 2020.
Excluding Adelaide, every game feels as though it could go either way. Round 12 kicked off with Sydney smashing GWS by 41-points, North Melbourne nearly pulled off a miraculous win against Brisbane, Melbourne beat down on Collingwood by 56-points, and the Suns challenged Richmond deep into the last quarter.
It’s been one of the more entertaining seasons ever for me, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year and finals bring us.
James Rowbottom of the Sydney Swans is improving week by week. Photo: Sydney Swans
The AFL is in good hands
If round 12 showed us anything, it’s that the array of young talent throughout the league is very good.
James Rowbottom, Lachie Ash, Zak Butters, Adam Cerra, Andrew Brayshaw, Sam Walsh, Aaron Naughton, Bailey Smith and Noah Anderson, just to name a few that have been great for their teams this season, and that’s not even half of them. There’s an abundance of other young players around the league that are proving their worth.
The league and a host of its clubs are in good hands for the future.
The Cats are stalking … but will they time their pounce perfectly?
Geelong are flying right now, they’re playing the best footy they have all year. However, there is one thing Geelong have struggled with in recent years, and that’s performing in big finals.
They’ve been knocked out in straight sets, they’ve lost home preliminary finals, it seems to be a common trend that Geelong have failed on the big stage since their last premiership in 2011. The tables can turn in 2020, with the Cats arguably playing the best football in the league right now, and once again they’ll have an opportunity in finals.
With Tom Hawkins playing the most consistently he has in years, as well as the Cats being able to win strongly without Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood having massive games, there’s no reason they can’t make the Grand Final in 2020, as long as they haven’t timed their pounce too early.
Jack Newnes with ice running through his veins as he kicked the match winning goal after the siren. Photo: Weekly Times
Footy karma is real
Fremantle fans were left fuming at some late umpiring calls in their four-point loss to Carlton on Saturday night. A goal after the siren from Jack Newnes broke their hearts, and possibly the Dockers finals chances too.
It was footy karma coming back to bite them though. In the first quarter, Fremantle were gifted two free kicks that simply were not there, which led to two goals. A holding free kick against Carlton defender Jacob Weitering, and a push in the back against Liam Jones gave them a handy little buffer in a low scoring, wet game.
That last 30 seconds in the fourth quarter were the footy gods looking down and returning what was taken from the Blues earlier in the game. Either way, all footy fans can agree that it was one of the craziest finishes to a game we have seen in a long time.
Optus Stadium Swan Highway
Sydney and their brigade of Cygnets were in the fast lane on Thursday night. It was the most exciting brand of footy we’ve seen from the Swans in a while. While they’ve been looking to attack the corridor, and take the game on a lot more in 2020, they got a lot right against the Giants.
The injection of youth into Sydney’s lineup has made for a faster more attacking game plan, as coach John Longmire has looked to play to the strengths of his players. On Thursday night, the Cygnets were flying, making Optus Stadium their highway, getting the ball into open space and simply making the Giants look slow.
In a year where the Swans are rebuilding and will likely miss finals, there are extremely positive signs for the future, especially if they can maintain this level of pace, these Cygnets have some serious talent.
Cover Photo: Sydney Swans
Taylor Walker spoke out during the week in relation to abusive messages he's received on social media. Photo: Getty Images
Players deserve better
I’ve lost my fair share of AFL multi's and I’ll be the first to admit that when I do, I tend to lash out against players to my housemates. But never, in a million years, would messaging a player on social media because of that lost bet cross my mind. Not once.
The quotes earlier this week from Callan Ward, Taylor Walker and Josh Bruce on the threatening and abusive messages they receive from fans were disturbing. That kind of hate is not something that anyone, even those in the public eye, should have to experience.
Yell at the television or radio as much as you want, but once the game is over, the players deserve respect. I’m no tech wizard but there needs to be a way to identify these people and make them accountable.
They’ve found the switch at Alberton
At the end of round eight we reported there’d been a ‘power outage’ at Alberton. Fortunately for Port Adelaide they’ve found the switch, the power is back on.
After a disastrous loss to St Kilda where the Power conceded five goals to none in the final quarter to lose by 29 points, Port Adelaide have flicked the switch. Since the loss they’ve smashed the Demons by 51 points, won an arm wrestle against the Bulldogs by 13 points, and the best win of the three came in round 11.
Port Adelaide defeated reigning premier Richmond by 21 points, in a display that showed us there’s no reason why Port Adelaide can’t go all the way in 2020. Their veterans stepped up in their biggest test yet against an in-form Richmond, showing us the Power is well and truly back on for the time being.
Ollie Wines was one of the Powers' best in their win over the Tigers on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Weideman is showing signs
I was the first person to criticize Melbourne after they traded away Jesse Hogan at the end of 2018 because of Sam Weideman’s impressive finals series. There were some personal things going on with Hogan leading to him wanting to get home to Perth, but still the trade made no sense. 2019 was poor for Weideman but he was only 22, still with so much development to do.
Now, a year older and bigger, we’re seeing in season 2020 the signs of the key forward Dees fans want him to be. His attack on the footy and ability to crash packs has been superb, and that is all you can ask of a young forward. He’s top 10 in the AFL for contested marks with nearly two a game, and is averaging two goals from his six matches. He needs more time for development and another key forward to help him out, but the signs are there.
Don't forget about the Cats
Geelong’s 59-point belting of the high-flying Saints reminded everyone just how good they are when they put it all together. Tom Hawkins and Gary Rohan were standouts up front with nine goals between them, while Sam Menegola continued his good form with two goals and 26 touches.
The Cats now sit third on the ladder with a very healthy percentage of 130. With stars like Patrick Dangerfield, Harry Taylor, Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett and Tom Hawkins not getting any younger, 2020 shapes as the perfect premiership opportunity for a side which has underachieved over the last five years.
Gary Rohan and Tom Hawkins combined for nine goals in the Cats win over the Saints. Photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images/AFL Photos
Hawthorn … it’s time to unleash the Eyas
The Hawks sit in 15th position after round 11, in what has been an extremely disappointing year for a club that still felt it was in the premiership window, it’s time to unleash the Eyas … the young Hawks.
Hawthorn don’t have an abundance of strong young talent coming through the ranks on their current list, due to trading a number of draft picks to other clubs in recent years for established players. They have attempted to stay in the premiership race and avoid a complete bottom out rebuild this way, however now is the perfect time for the Hawks to play their youth. A key example is Will Day, since coming into the team he’s been arguably one of their best players, and bringing in youth can also lift the whole team.
It’s been a while since the Hawks have fielded an inexperienced team, but with Alistair Clarkson at the helm, it’s the perfect time to test this list and see what it’s capable of. You never know, there might just be a few diamonds in the rough amongst that Hawks list, waiting in the nest for their chance to fly.
Bright future ahead for the Dockers
Fremantle's win over Hawthorn would have instilled hope in even the most frustrated Dockers supporter. While in the past the side has relied on stars like Nat Fyfe, David Mundy and Michael Walters to get them over the line, it was the young brigade who really stood up on Monday night.
High draft picks Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra recorded 33 and 26 disposals respectively, while 2019 draftee Caleb Serong continued to impress with 20 disposals of his own. Fyfe’s contribution shouldn’t go unmentioned though, with a “standard” 28 touches and one goal performance.
The Dockers are now 14th on the ladder and sit only two wins behind eighth-placed GWS. Given what 2020 has served up already, can we really rule them out of playing finals?
Cover Photo: Will Russell/AFL Photos
By Ollie Nash
Brown celebrates goal number 10 against Port Adelaide in 2019. Photo: News Corp Australia
How many players have kicked 60 or more goals in all of the past three seasons? The answer is one. How many players have been in the top four goal kickers for all of the past three seasons, and the top two for the last two years? The answer is one. How many players have had 85 or more shots on goal in all of the past three seasons? The answer is, you guessed it, one.
Ben Brown is that player. The epitome of consistency and probably the unluckiest player to have not yet won a Coleman Medal. Apart from Richmond, Geelong, West Coast, GWS and Carlton, what clubs aren’t calling out for a 27-year-old, 200cm key forward that averages over two goals a game?
North Melbourne is a club that needs a key forward, but yet they’re reportedly willing to part ways with their current star due to some poor form to start season 2020. Seems weird to me. There is certainly some blame to go on Brown, but let’s not ignore the other factors affecting his form.
Brown runs off the ground after injuring his knee against Geelong in round 10. Photo: Albert Perez/AFL Media/via Getty Images.
North Melbourne have the third worst efficiency going inside forward 50, and they’re the fifth worst team at turning the footy over with nearly 62 turnovers a game.
Brown had Nick Larkey, North’s other key forward alongside him in round one, before Larkey was injured and didn't return until round eight against Carlton. Tom Campbell and Tristan Xerri were both tried for one and two games respectively as secondary options, but both struggled to perform.
Brown has been the Kangaroos only key forward target for the majority of the season, with poor ball use going inside 50, there's no wonder he was out of form.
What baffled me is that in round nine North Melbourne faced Adelaide, a team that some experts think won’t win a game this season. Larkey was named for his second consecutive game after returning the week before, but Brown was dropped. He finally had his chance to play a game with some key forward support against the Crows who have one key defender in Daniel Talia, and he’s dropped. But wait … it gets better.
In round 10 against Geelong, Larkey was managed after only playing two games, while Brown was brought back into the side. He was left to battle Harry Taylor, Lachie Henderson and Mark Blicavs alongside Majak Daw, who had played one AFL game in 709 days. What a way to help your key forward’s confidence and form.
Throughout this entire ordeal, rumours have circulated that the Kangaroos are looking to part ways with the big man. That’s the most surprising part of the entire story and recency bias at its absolute finest. Let’s not forget he kicked 10.1 against Port Adelaide in round 22 last season. But with that being said, it’s a possibility the uncontracted star will move on, so let’s look at some of the suitors for his services.
Ben Brown celebrates a goal. Photo: AAP Image/Daniel Pockett
Brisbane have all the pieces. An All-Australian defender in Harris Andrews, a possible Brownlow Medallist in Lachie Neale and a young forward line led by Charlie Cameron and Eric Hipwood. Surrounding these stars are a whole host of role players; Jarrod Berry, Hugh McCluggage, Darcy Gardiner and the like. Daniel McStay and Oscar McInerney have been serviceable second options up forward, but Ben Brown could take them over the edge to a premiership. It’s what Brisbane lacked in last years’ finals series, that second key forward that could take the pressure off Hipwood. Brown gets to roam around the Lions forward 50, while Hipwood gets up the ground and uses his running ability. It’s a partnership I’d like to see.
Is there a team crying out for a key forward more than Collingwood right now? Brown would slide in seamlessly with the Pies and free up their current forward group nicely. Darcy Cameron, a fit Ben Reid or even Mason Cox could be that other key forward, after some trial and error, one of them would fit with Brown. Brody Mihocek can revert back to being the third tall option, and the small forwards can go back to roving the marking contest, instead of being the leading target for every inside 50. It would fix a lot of their current forward line woes.
The Bombers are in no mans’ land with key forwards at the moment. Joe Daniher is slowly working back to full health and could be back in the side in the coming weeks. After requesting a trade to Sydney following 2019 though, who knows where he’ll be wanting to play in 2021. With or without Daniher, Brown could fix a lot of Essendon’s problems. With Daniher’s injury issues in the last two years, key forwards have been hard to come by for the Bombers. Shaun McKernan and James Stewart are a couple of players who have tried to take on the role, but Brown could be the man to fill the void up forward for the Dons.
If Geelong win the premiership this year, I think I would take back this suggestion. However, if they fail to win the flag in 2020, recruiting Brown could be a last-ditch effort to win a premiership with this current group of stars in 2021. Esava Ratugolea is young, but he’s only kicked three goals from nine games this season. He’ll be the key forward of the future, but for now, they need someone to consistently perform alongside Tom Hawkins. This current group led by Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield haven’t got many years at the top left. Therefore, I could see Brown giving Hawkins some support up forward and providing another avenue to goal for the Cats.
Cover Photo: Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images
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
By Brynn O'Connor
Tom Cole, Liam Duggan and Dom Sheed celebrate a goal. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
West Coast are back and they’re back in a big way.
After accumulating a 1-3 win-loss record after round four, their worst start to a season since 2013, the Eagles now sit fourth on the ladder and have firmed as many bookmakers’ favourites to claim this year’s premiership.
It’s a sharp rise from the despair the Western Australian side faced after a five-week stint in Queensland’s AFL hub from round two. The Eagles started poorly losing their first three games before registering wins in their final two matches.
Back home at Optus Stadium, the Eagles have registered their fifth straight win, thanks to two convincing performances over Fremantle and Collingwood, and a gritty nine-point victory over Geelong.
After such an unconvincing start to the season, it’s clear to see the Eagles have regained their mojo, with one statistic in particular pointing to the key reason for the turn-around in their on-field success.
It’s no secret West Coast loves to retain the ball through precise and carefully constructed ball movement. They systematically rip through opposition presses to give their potent forward line, headlined by Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling, first look through clean delivery.
West Coast look destined for finals footy for the sixth time under Adam Simpson. Photo: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos/Getty Images
A vital component of obtaining this movement is the ability for West Coast’s players to take marks.
In the Eagles’ 2018 premiership year, they were ranked number one in the AFL for marks, averaging 101 per game.
It was such a reliable indicator of their performances that in any game where they took over 90 marks, they always recorded wins.
Fast forward to 2020 and as of round 10, West Coast are again the number one team for marks, averaging 81 per game.
In their three losses this year to Gold Coast, Brisbane and Port Adelaide, the Eagles have taken 56, 47 and 71 marks respectively, which are well below their season average.
It’s a stark contrast to almost all of their victories, where they accrued 119, 92, 90, 111 and 86 marks.
The only anomaly to this came in their last win over Geelong, where they totalled 57 marks.
This can be attributed largely to the Cats’ dominance in the same category where they tallied 95 marks, combined with their efficient defence, which is ranked number one for conceding the least total points against in 2020.
Josh Kennedy celebrates one of his four goals against Geelong in round nine. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Despite being down in their key statistic, the Eagles still managed to wrestle a win late in the final quarter through some stellar individual performances, highlighted by Josh Kennedy’s four goals and a hitout masterclass by ruckman Nic Naitanui.
Barring the Geelong match, and taking 2020’s shorter quarters into mind, it appears that 80 marks and above might be the new 90 as an indicator for West Coast’s performance and likely victory.
It is worthy to note that the marking statistic can’t be used as a standalone argument as being the sole reason of West Coast’s resurgence.
However, it’s a very strong measure that other facets of the Eagles’ game are in sync, as seen when their lowest marks tally occurred at the same time their midfield was dubbed to be "soft" in their rut of three straight losses earlier this year.
The Eagles’ next two confirmed fixtures are favourable, coming up against an out of form Carlton and an inconsistent Hawthorn, at their fortress in Optus Stadium.
As for many things in this strange year that has been 2020, nothing is certain, and no team is invincible.
However, make no mistake that opposition coaches will be worrying and drilling into their side that when you come up against West Coast, you have to stop their marking game.
Otherwise winning almost becomes a statistical anomaly.
Cover Photo: West Coast Eagles
Majak Daw celebrates with teammates as North Melbourne demolished the Adelaide Crows by 69 points. Photo: Dave Hunt/AAP
Majak the story of 2020
North Melbourne’s Majak Daw completed one of the most miraculous comeback stories in AFL history. The 29-year-old hadn’t played at AFL level in 706 days since badly injuring his hips and pelvis in December 2018.
In what has been a sad and tough 2020 to date, the feel-good story lifted the spirits of everyone and gave those at home something to smile about. Daw finished with eight disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal in the 69-point win for the Kangaroos.
Another dark day in Demon land
After eight games Melbourne sit 15th on the ladder with a game in hand, however even if they were to win that extra game they’d still be outside the top eight more than halfway through the season. They have arguably one of the most talented lists in the competition, but are struggling to live up to expectations for a second year in a row, after going all the way to a preliminary final in 2018.
The Demons almost got the job done against the red-hot Brisbane Lions in round seven, and were very strong against a struggling Hawthorn in round six, which brought increased optimism about Melbourne’s chances going into their clash with ladder leaders Port Adelaide on Thursday night. However, unsurprisingly the Demons disappointed us yet again, with the match over by quarter time, in an embarrassing performance. The Power made Melbourne look like traffic cones and diced up their defence on the rebound like it was a training drill, on their way to a 51-point win. Melbourne’s foot skills have haunted them in recent years, and it’s still an alarming issue more than halfway through 2020.
Melbourne fans don’t have to spit out the brie and camembert just yet, the Demons face the winless Crows on Thursday night at Adelaide Oval, in a must win game before facing North Melbourne in Round 11. However, if their side doesn’t turn things around fast, it is seeming more likely by the day Melbourne fans won’t even be able to make their annual escape to Buller during September/October, with increased lockdown restrictions in Victoria being extended further.
It's been a rollercoaster year for the dogs to date. Photo: AAP
2020 has been a rollercoaster for the Western Bulldogs, one week they’re at the top of the track, the next week they’re at the bottom again. The year started poorly with the Dogs going 0-2 before finding some form to win three in a row, with things beginning to look good.
However, they then dipped again with a shock 52-point loss to Carlton, but then climbed the track again five days later with a 42-point win over the Bombers, and a five-point win over the Suns. The rollercoaster then took another turn, with the players reaching another unexpected stomach wrenching drop at the hands of Richmond on Wednesday night. The Tigers were way too good for the Bulldogs, winning by 41-points in a disappointing display, as we struggle to work out where we categorise the Bulldogs in 2020. Top four? Top six? Or will their rollercoaster inconsistency cost them a top eight finish?
At their best the Bulldogs are a top six side, however they face Port Adelaide and the Brisbane Lions in their next two games which will show us where they truly sit in 2020.
Suns not there yet, but not far off
After the Suns flying start to the season, many people were quick to jump on the “Flagsuns” bandwagon. The Suns progress from last year has been quite evident, but their 26-point loss to the Giants being their fourth loss in five games, suggest premiership calls or possibly finals, may have been a little premature.
The Giants experience was on show on Sunday with all their major ball-winners standing up. Lachie Whitfield (29 disposals), Jacob Hopper (27 disposals and a goal) and Josh Kelly (28 disposals and a goal) were some of the standouts. Inaccurate kicking hurt the Suns (four goals, 11 behinds), while their stars didn’t see enough of the ball.
Gold Coast currently sit 11th, and while I don’t think they can contend this season, a finish inside the top 12 will have them well-placed for a premiership assault over the next few years.
Fremantle stunned Collingwood in one of 2020's biggest upsets yet. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Western sharp-shooters place question mark over Pies
17th placed Fremantle’s 12-point win over Collingwood, continued a terrible fortnight for the Pies in Western Australia. The loss comes a week after they were hammered at the hands of West Coast, and pushes them down to 10th spot on the ladder.
The Dockers refused to miss on Sunday night kicking seven goals, one behind and outplayed the Pies all around the park. Matt Taberner (four goals) was brilliant up front, while first-year draftee Caleb Serong (24 disposals) was influential through the midfield.
Without Jordan De Goey and Scott Pendlebury, the returning Steele Sidebottom (two goals and 25 disposals) was almost the saviour for the Magpies. Sidebottom wasn’t helped by the Magpies forwards, whose goal struggles continued.
With four games to come against teams ranked outside the eight, the next few weeks are must-wins for the Magpies and will help us here at 'On The Pine' decide whether they are pretenders or the real deal.
Crows out of form and without their stars
The Adelaide Crows only had 10 players from their 2017 Grand Final side against North Melbourne on Saturday. If you want to include Brodie Smith on that list, who played all of 2017 but missed the preliminary and Grand Final, that makes it 11. Of the remaining 11 that played that day, eight aren’t even on the list anymore. The other 11 that played in the 69-point loss to the Kangaroos have played a combined 428 games and Bryce Gibbs has played 267 of them. 161 games between 10 players proves how young and starless this Crows line-up is at the moment.
On paper, there’s no surprise Adelaide is 0-9 and with Melbourne, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs to come in the next three weeks, it’s hard to see where their first win is coming from.
Cover Photo: The Mercury