Nearing the halfway point of the season, and I’ve gotta say that I have no bloody idea who’s going to win the flag. 2 weeks ago, Geelong were my premiership favourites (more on them later), with Sydney a close second, and I was preparing to write the Hawks off. I still don’t rate North Melbourne a chance – and was not surprised that Sydney ended their unbeaten streak. Maybe Sydney are my new flag favourites? They have the big bodied midfield, they have the gun forwards, and solid defenders. I’m confident they’ll finish top 4, and I’m confident that if Buddy turns it on in September, they’ll be thereabouts.
They were impressive Friday night, as their mids beat up on a limp North midfield. I’ve said for years that North are a downhill skiing team posing as footballers – and sure enough, once again – Petrie, Harvey, Waite, Dal Santo, Wells, and Thomas (though he was better than the rest of that group – apart from that free kick) went missing against strong opposition. The Swans were too slick, too tough, and too good for North – Mitchell, Kennedy, Hanneberry, and Jack are a Formidable Foursome, and spent the night doing as they pleased. Buddy had 7 shots on goal – and won’t be pleased with only 3 goals to his name. Neither will those of us who may have had a speculative punt on him cracking the ton. He’s still maintaining a 4 goal per game average though – so we’re a chance.
The Lions matched the Hawks for three quarters, and then the Hawks did what commentators love to call “flicking the switch”. The Wees and Poos kicked 9 last quarter goals to storm home and hand the Lions a somewhat undeserved 48 point loss. Brisbane were better this week – showing a lot more hunger than they have for much of the past month, and will be boosted by the news that Tom Rockliff is set to return next week. For the Hawks, Jordan Lewis’ bald spot had 42 possessions, and will likely take the three votes on Brownlow night, though Rioli’s 19 possessions and 5 goals were eye-catching as ever and may get him the nod. For the Lions – Mitch Robinson did a good tagging job on Sam Mitchell, and Zorko, Taylor, and Bell all had a bit of the footy and hit the scoreboard regularly.
Melbourne once again reminded tipsters why we haven’t tipped them for the last 8 years – as they turned in a rubbish performance against Port Adelaide. Big Maxy Gawn and Charlie Dixon and their beards were best on – Gawn was impressive in the ruck after a couple of ordinary weeks, but his midfield were poor with the ball in hand, and turned the ball over with regularity, giving Port’s running players a chance to shine in front of 5,000 fans at Traeger Park. Wingard and the Gray boys were good for the Power, while the Dees were best served by Gawn, Jack Watts, and Jesse Hogan.
At three quarter time at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, the Dockers looked like they were about to register their first win for the season – however, Operation Tank went into effect, and the Saints were allowed to kick 8 goals to none in the final quarter to take a 34 point win. I’m probably not giving the Saints enough credit – they did play pretty well, particularly in that last quarter – but it’s hard not to be cynical when you see a 50+ point turnaround and a lack of effort from the team losing. I’ll say this – if Fremantle lose in Perth next week to Essendon – you can pretty much guarantee they’re deliberately losing. St Kilda are developing a good team though, and I really should pay them some credit – David Armitage is becoming a really good footballer, Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna keep on keeping on, and Steven and Newnes are starting to have more impact on games. On the other hand – the Dockers are just struggling. Pavlich and Mayne were probably expecting to be top 4 this year, and now look to be struggling for motivation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the big Pav pulls the pin on this season early, and I wonder how many won’t want to be around for the rebuild…
Dreamtime at the G and The Tiger Train continues on with their third win in a row in front of 57,000 brave but freezing fans. The Bombers once again had a red hot go – but once again lacked the class to seriously challenge the opposition. The thing that can be said about this Essendon team is that they are constantly looking to take the game on, and the effort 10 rounds in has mostly been unconditional from the Black and Red. The Dons won the clearances and the tackle count, however couldn’t make good use of the footy, and continually turned the ball over. As a result, Richmond scored 47 more points than Essendon from intercept possessions, as the class of Martin, Deledio, and Cotchin shone bright under the lights. Essendon were again best served by Zaharakis, Merrett, Kelly, Cooney, and Goddard – while Darcy Parish put in an impressive performance and must be firming as the favourite for the NAB Rising Star. Also – keep an eye on Orazio Fantasia. Hasn’t scored a rising star nomination yet – but is putting together a pretty good season.
The Giants came rolling home against the Crows, but couldn’t get over the line – as the Crows 46 point three quarter time lead was just enough of a gap to hold on against a fast-finishing GWS. The Tex and Eddie Show was in full effect, as the Crows two best forwards jagged a handful each, with Betts putting in a stunning effort (from the location known as Eddie’s Pocket) that may net him the goal of the year for the second year running. For the Giants – Shiel, Kelly and Coniglio got plenty of the footy and but for some better kicking at goal – may well have got their side over the line.
PATTONWATCH: 14 possessions, 7 marks, 0 goals. Trade value dropping.
The Blues provided the upset of the round, completely outplaying Geelong at Etihad on Sunday. Their relentless pressure, running, and tackling was too much for Geelong – who have now put in two ordinary games in a row against high pressure teams. To make matters worse for the Cats – the Blues were two men down by half time. I was waiting for the Blues to run out of legs and the Cats to finish full of running, but it wasn’t to be, as Gibbs, Cripps, and Docherty (sounds like a law firm…) were too good for the likes of Dangerfield, Selwood, and Bartel. The Blues have now won 4 of their last 5, and sit just one game out of the 8. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that by round 10, the Blues would be 5-5. Then again – who would have picked the Dockers to be 0-9? The Cats have been really disappointing in the last two weeks – I wonder if they’ve started thinking premiership prematurely. It will be a very interesting game against GWS down at the Cattery next week. Very interesting indeed.
Collingwood and the Bulldogs played out a scrappy game on the MCG, the Bulldogs somewhat fortunate to win, as an injury ravaged Collingwood side simply ran out of legs in the last quarter. It was a tight scrap for most of the game – Collingwood holding a slender lead for around 75% of the game – however with no fit players left on the pine in the last 20 minutes – they simply couldn’t hold on any longer against a Bulldogs outfit that is playing uninspired footy in the last couple of weeks. Dahlhaus and Little Libba were the Doggies best, while for the Pies – Sidebottom and Pendlebury were brave in the midfield after injuries to Fasolo, Toovey, Adams and Moore robbed them of precious rotations.
The final contest of the round was a no-contest as the West Coast put another 70 point belting on the Gold Coast – taking the total points deficit from the last 5 matches to 436. This is a side in free fall, and even a return to form from little Gazza couldn’t help them this week. Adam Simpson wasn’t impressed with his side – declaring the game a “bit of a grind” and saying his side “did what we had to do”, while Rocket Eade was again happy with the effort from his players despite the 12 goal loss. Big Josh Kennedy continues to keep Buddy honest in the race for the Coleman with a 5 goal haul, while Shuey, Priddis, and Nic Nat were dominant around the ball. For the Eagles – Prestia and Rischitelli put in good shifts to match their skipper, and Jack Martin did a few nice things too.
Swans 91 def Kangas 65
Hawks 135 def Lions 87
Power 121 def Demons 76
Saints 101 def Freo 67
Tigers 105 def Bombers 67
Crows 107 def Giants 85
Blues 104 def Cats 85
Dogs 74 def Pies 53
Eagles 132 def 55
Roos v Tigers
Hawks v Demons
Blues v Lions
Cats v Giants
Suns v Swans
Dockers v Bombers
Pies v Power
Dogs v Eagles
Crows v Saints