AFL Round 2: Suns rise, Docker Shocker, and Essendon Wins?
Round 2 began with a fizz, as the exciting run and gun footy of round 1 seemed to vanish into thin air. This was a dour affair made exciting by the fact that the scoreboard was close. Both sides appeared to play safe (yet scrappy) football, and the game never reached any great heights. The standout player on the field was the Faz, Alex Fasolo, with 6 goals, and a hand in 3 more. Once again for Richmond, the story remains the poor decision making of some of their senior players. They made bad mistakes and decisions all night – which culminated in a fairly ordinary last 3 minutes to allow the Fasolo led Pies to storm home and take the lead with a snapped goal from Brodie Grundy with 4 seconds remaining.
The Crows kicked Saturday footy off with an old fashioned flogging of Port in the 40th edition of The Showdown. The Crows simply worked harder than Port, winning the uncontested ball by 56 in the first half alone. Rory Laird was everywhere across half back, and Lynch, Betts, and Jenkins kicked 15 between them, as Adelaide romped to a comfortable 58 point victory. Robbie Gray had 37 touches for the Power, while Aaron Young popped up with 4 second half goals. Adelaide are looking mighty impressive at this early stage of the season.
Melbourne were looking to win back to back games for the first time since 2011, however the AFL’s version of The Replacements produced a performance that will warm every Essendon fan’s hearts. 12-14 thousand Bomber fans marched to the G in a show of support for the embattled club, and witnessed their beloved team defeat the Demons by 13 points. David Zaharakis picked up where he left off last week, as did the rapidly improving Zach Merrett. The duo picked up 34 and 32 possessions respectively. It was also the day that Joe Daniher, in his 50th game for the Bombers, showed the first real glimpse of the player he could become, with a dominant performance up forward. Daniher had 15 marks – 9 of them coming inside the forward 50, and 7 contested. The only downer for the Bombers was Daniher’s kicking for goal – they could easily have won this game by 5 or 6 goals.
In the first of the Saturday evening games, Gold Coast showed they will be a definite finals contender with a comprehensive victory against Fremantle, who slip to 0-2 before the Western Derby next week. The Dockers won contested possession and clearance, but butchered the ball under pressure from the faster, and younger Suns. Gold Coast have a real chance to go 4-0, as they tackle Carlton next week at Metricon, followed by the Lions at the Gabba. Big Tom Lynch kicked 5 for the Suns, and Jack Martin kicked 4 and set up 2 others. For the Dockers, Nat Fyfe bounced back from last weeks shocker (by his standards), and booted 3 goals to go along with 34 possessions, while Michael Walters chipped in with 3 as well. The ominous thing for teams facing Gold Coast? They won this without a massive impact from Ablett.
Meanwhile, North Melbourne did no more than they needed to see off an improving Brisbane Lions. The Lions didn’t quite kick themselves out of the game in the first half, but missing 5 set shots in the first ten minutes of the second quarter proved costly, with the Roos putting on 6 goals to Brisbane’s 2. The Lions didn’t throw in the towel, though, and managed to win the last quarter. Jarrad Waite kicked 5 for the Roos, and was comfortably the best player on the ground. I saw very little of this match, save for the hanger from young Laurence Schache, the number 2 pick in the draft. North are interesting – it seems to me that they don’t have a lot of young talent coming through, and their best players were largely their older ones: Waite, Harvey, Wells, and Petrie all put in solid games. Frustratingly for this Supercoach player – Daniel Rich was ordinary for the Lions – just 7 possessions after a pretty good performance in round 1.
Nick Riewoldt’s 300th didn’t prove enough motivation for the Saints to overcome the Bulldogs. The Saints were simply outclassed by the Bulldogs, who racked up almost 500 possessions. It was a pretty scrappy sort of match – but the Bulldogs drive off half back through Johanisen, Murphy, and Matthew Boyd eventually proved too much for the hard working Saints to handle. Despite being outclassed, the Saints were honest, and worked hard all game – laying more tackles than their opponents and breaking even in the clearances. Riewoldt was his team’s best – with 23 possessions and 2 goals, while Jack Steven also worked hard with 29 possessions and 5 tackles. Good signs for the Saints, even better from the Bulldogs, who sit comfortably atop the ladder, for now at least. They take on the Hawks next week, in what will be a must watch match.
After Geelong’s performance against the Hawks last week, most were expecting them to take the chocolates against the Giants in Canberra. But nobody told Steve Johnson, and he was among the best players against his old club – with 23 possessions and 2 goals. The Giants led by 37 points in the third term, as Toby Greene ran amok with 34 possessions. Geelong being Geelong though, they kept coming, banging on 5 goals unanswered to draw within a kick in the last quarter – however, Ryan Griffen managed a major in the 27th minute to ice the game for the Giants. Blicavs and Hawkins were among the best for the Cats, as was Mackie. Good to see Jon Patton play – not good that he only managed 8 possessions. I’m on Patton watch – he’s contracted for this season and next – but has “trade bait” written all over him at the moment.
Hawthorn bounced back to form with a destroyation of West Coast as they unfurled yet another premiership flag. It was a premiership rematch in name only, as each team had 7 changes to last years Grand Final. Josh Gibson was immense for the Hawks, with 44 disposals, 9 marks and a goal, Mitchell had 37 possessions, and Rioli was Rioli with 20 possessions and 4 goals. The Eagles were simply outclassed, outworked, and outmatched. Hawthorn had 165 more possessions, double the inside 50 count, and took 16 marks inside 50 to 9. The Eagles were never seriously in the game, and have now lost 11 of their last 14 games at the MCG. I’m going to throw it out there: I think they overachieved last year – I can’t see them making top 4 this year. Any talk of Kennedy kicking 100 for the season this week?
The last game of the round went as expected, with Sydney handing Carlton a 10 goal flogging. The Blues were brave, and have improved out of sight under Brendan Bolton, however they were no match for a bigger, more experienced Sydney side, whose big bodied midfielders won the contested possession count and continually pumped the ball inside 50. The Swans have started the season on fire, and sit 2-0 heading into the derby against GWS next week. Parker and Kennedy are looking in great nick for the Swans, and there’s a bloke by the name of Franklin who’s made a reasonable start to 2016 as well.
Good stuff this week: The Bombers. A great statement by the Red and Black faithful, matched by a strong performance from the players. Hawthorn had a famous line in the sand moment (against Essendon) some years ago, and it’s hard not to think that this match from Essendon had a similar feel, minus the melee.
Bad stuff this week: Soft umpires. Far too many players reported for innocuous challenges under the guise of rough conduct. It’s footy. It’s supposed to be rough. And Richmond – their composure under pressure was found wanting again.
Under the pump: Fremantle. We won’t hear much in Melbourne, but the heat is going to come on the Dockers in Perth this week – particularly the decision to give Ross Lyon a 5 year contract extension.