AFL Round 4: Winners and Losers

Round Four saw the Demons come away with a win after spending the first three quarters digging an even deeper hole for themselves. North Melbourne and Carlton both jumped on the winners train for the first time too.

But the round truly belonged to two players, Joel Selwood and Travis Cloke.

Winners

Great Individual Performances

Football is a team sport (except for up on the Gold Coast), but round four saw some impressive individual performances.

The first belonged to Joel Selwood on Friday night. The Cat’s captain had 31 disposals, ten tackles, eight clearances and seven inside fifties. The greatness of his performance was beyond mere statistics though. His play throughout the third quarter was at such a level that had it been a Grand Final it would’ve been spoken about forever. The amount of times he had the definitive influence in a passage of play or contested situation requires more than one hand to count. It wasn’t just winning the ball, it was doing so in a way that made you gasp or laugh.

The second great individual showing would come Saturday afternoon courtesy of Travis Cloke. The giant Pie seemed to have magnets in his hands, taking 14 marks, six of them contested and inside fifty. He kicked seven goals. Some directly in front due to his marking prowess, some from on the boundary and outside fifty. He was having one of those rarest of games. The ones in which everything you touch turns to gold, and you couldn’t make an error if you tried.

Like Selwood before him, he owned the third quarter. Owned it. We witnessed a twenty minute evisceration of Richmond and his direct opponent Alex Rance. The young Tiger was made to look feeble as he repeatedly tried to punch the ball, yet seemingly got further from it with each successive attempt. The single best passage was when Cloke snared yet another contested mark in front of goal mere seconds after his last one. He immediately turned to let Rance know about it. I don’t know what he said, but the whole thing looked glorious.

I am destroying you.

I am making you look like a fool. 

It was like those moments when you are crushing someone else in a contest after they had mouthed off earlier. You know you are not supposed to react, be the bigger combatant and just do your business and beat them on the scoreboard, but come on, it feels really, really good to let them know about it.

Younger Players

A lot of young players had some great games. Here are some that stood out on the weekend

George Horlin-Smith

Anyone who knows anything about the hyphen raves about him, and on Friday night he gave evidence as to why. Despite their incredible success over the past few years, clearances have been a struggle for the Cats. Horlin-Smith was excellent in this area, and his seven clearances trailed only Selwood’s eight. Another area he finished second behind the captain was contested possessions. That performance will have locked him into the side for the next few weeks at least, regardless of who is returning during that time.

Jaeger O’Meara

Suns coach Guy McKenna suggested some of his players were put to shame by O’Meara’s efforts against Port Adelaide, and he isn’t far from the truth. In a second quarter that saw them rampaged by the Power, their lone goal came from the near lone efforts of O’Meara. The young Sun first marked the ball in defensive fifty, won the ball twice from ensuing stoppages, before finishing off with a goal. In the opening four weeks he has looked every bit the star we were promised.

Oliver Wines

This Port Adelaide youngster is in danger of making this AFL thing look a little too easy. Early days, but it’s hard to believe there will be six better players than him from the 2012 draft, making his selection a seven a bargain.

Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel

These two young Giants led the way for their club on Sunday, notching 30 and 29 disposals respectively.

Treloar has everything you could want in a young footballer. I can’t think of anything he does poorly. Meanwhile Shiel’s ability to create with his disposal is seriously impressive. Everything he did was ambitious and aggressive. He reminds me a bit of Chris Judd. I was hesitant to say that but it is what I thought while watching him against the Demons.

Carlton

The Blues broke their 2013 duck with a win over the Eagles in Perth. Their victory boiled down to one factor. Efficiency. The Eagles managed to beat the Blues in nearly every major statistical indicator, not by much, but they did. They were wasteful, while the Blues were slightly less so.

Carlton had West Coast beat for speed and it played a significant role Saturday night. They had 34 running bounces to the Eagles 13. In fact Chris Yarran alone had as many running bounces as the Eagles. He was able to exploit the opposition’s lack of pace again and again, cruising down the wings and into fifty for shots on goal with ease. He kicked four, and was symbolic of the difference between the sides.

Port Adelaide

Four straight wins to begin the year, no matter the opposition, is good. Most importantly, the manner in which they approach games is worlds apart from what we saw last year.

Several players have improved significantly. Boak has elevated his game dramatically since becoming captain. Hartlett is kicking goals at will from half-back and the middle. Justin Westhoff looks like the best forward in the league. JUSTIN WESTHOFF PEOPLE. Their spread from the back half has been very impressive. I have a hard time believing Westhoff can maintain this level of play, and you have to assume they as a side are going to drop off eventually. But they look to be in an infinitely better position than they appeared to be five weeks ago before the season had even started.

North Melbourne

The Kangaroos notched their first tick in the win column with a commanding 63 point victory over the increasingly hapless Lions.

Hyped debutant Majak Daw burst onto the scene with a stunning mark and goal within the opening twenty seconds, but the euphoria was diminished when he was taken out of the game a mere twenty minutes as a result of friendly fire concussion.  Lindsay Thomas continued his early season form with another four goals, sitting him alongside Cloke atop the Coleman standings. Scott Thompson marshalled the game from the back half. In all it was a solid performance from North, but they face another tough opponent in Hawthorn next week, so it’s unlikely this will be the start of a winning run.

Adelaide

The Crows triumphed over an opposition that was as dour as the conditions at AAMI Stadium. Despite the poor Bulldogs showing, there were some positive signs for what has been a lacklustre Adelaide outfit to date.

First the defence. Rutten and Otten, who is perhaps Adelaide’s most (only?) improved player in 2013, led the way. The Bulldogs went two and a half quarters goalless and nearly two quarters scoreless. Adelaide’s tackling, for so long a real deficiency, was significantly improved on the day. In the sloppy conditions they laid 94, a club record.

Adelaide were led ably once again by the youthful fulcrum named DangerSloane. Both were outstanding. The aforementioned Rutten was commanding in the back half, and the oft maligned Richard Douglas was the equal of DangerSloane, eliminating the one or two horrendous errors that often plague even his best outings.

But it was their younger players who gave the most cause for excitement. Touted Victorian Brad Crouch had by far the best performance of his young career, and looked a class above considering the conditions. Luke Brown, in his fourth game, was assured in possession and made good defensive decisions. Former Saint Tom Lynch provided a much needed marking target around the half-forward flank. Mid-week rookie upgrade Rory Laird had some shaky early disposals, but excelled with his defensive pressure. Likewise Sam Kerridge, who alongside Douglas set the tone in terms of tackles.

BIG SETANTA O’HAIPLIN AND HIS BIG CELEBRATIONS

Who doesn’t love Setanta? Every time he has the ball you begin to brace yourself for something truly awful, and even when it’s good it still has a hint of awfulness about it.

But his goal celebrations were so delightfully over the top on Sunday. Evidently he has been watching Paolo DiCanio on the Sunderland touchline and figured he could do that too.

Jacob Townsend’s Miracle Handball

Midway through the second term the young Giant executed a marvellous handball. Townsend was wrapped in a tackle and was being slung 360 degrees when he, blindly, slotted a perfect handball over the heads of an intermediate Demon to hit an open team mate in the attacking fifty. The Giants capitalised with a goal, and left the rest of us to marvel over the brilliance of it all.

Melbourne

A win is a win. 12 goal final terms are nice as well.

If they play at the level they displayed  in the first three terms of this game they won’t beat anyone else.

A win is a win though.

Brendon Goddard

A lot has been made of his post-match interview. I liked it, even if it was slightly uncomfortable watching somebody unexpectedly emote during an on-field post match interview, which is an event so stale that you can predict with 98% accuracy what will be said in any given one.

It felt genuine though. I thought it was clear he had mixed feelings about playing against a club he spent over ten years. Against players he spent over ten years with.

There have been plenty of Saints fans dismissing it and Goddard, suggesting that if he genuinely cared he wouldn’t have “taken the money and left”. There is this weird set of rules many fans seem to live by, where players leaving for better pay and a better opportunity is some sort of crime, while millions of people in effectively every other profession do the same thing all the time.

Loyalty, it seems, is a one way street. We expect players to be loyal to clubs, but we don’t seem particularly phased if clubs are loyal back. You can bet every dollar you own that if, for whatever reason, the Saints decided it was in their best interests to part ways with Goddard, then they would’ve done so, and these same people would justify it by saying “football is a business” and “it was in the best interests of the club”. Goddard decided it was in his best interests to sign a deal with the Bombers, and the Saints decided it was in theirs not to match it.  He didn’t lie through his teeth. He didn’t slander the club on the way out. He didn’t carry on like a spoilt child. He is a bloke who did something nearly everyone does at some stage in their lives, pursue a more rewarding opportunity, and he is a bloke who understandably had an emotional reaction when coming up against a club and some blokes that were a big part of his life. I thought it was refreshing. Good on him.

Losers

Score Reviews

Always inconclusive. Unless it is conclusive, in which case it is especially inconclusive.

St Kilda

Just seem to be slowly meandering their way to the depths of the ladder.

Richmond

Their first clash against a legitimate premiership threat was a textbook reality check. They held their own throughout most of the first half, but it was a third quarter onslaught in the middle and up forward courtesy of Cloke that was the difference.

Dustin Martin also has this weird affliction in which he has good first halves and then disappears in the second. It happens alarmingly often.

The Hawthorn v Fremantle Game

It may just be me, but I thought this whole contest was quite dull. If felt as if it dragged on for an eternity, yet nothing happened.

Brisbane

It has been a dire opening four weeks for the pre-season premiers, with their solitary victory coming against the Suns with the far from convincing margin of two points.

Relief doesn’t appear all that forthcoming either. They face the Demons this coming weekend, and are no certainties in that given their level of play to date. Following that they have what can only be described as a brutal two month stretch.

Round Opponent Ground
6 Sydney SCG
7 West Coast GABBA
8 Essendon Etihad
9 Carlton GABBA
10 Collingwood GABBA
12 Fremantle Patersons
13 Geelong GABBA
14 Hawthorn Aurora

 

Anyone still think they can make the finals? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Just about the solitary good news in the Queensland capital is the performances of their younger players. First round draftee Sam Mayes has been very impressive in his first two games. His 18 touches against North Melbourne went at 94.4% efficiency. He looks composed and skilled, making him standout amongst some of his more experienced team mates. Fellow draftee Marco Paparone removed the substitute vest at quarter time and kicked three goals in his first appearance as a Lion. Last years first round selection Sam Docherty was capable down back. Beyond this though the Brisbane picture is bleak in the immediate term, and it will be interesting to see if Michael Voss is still their coach come 2014 if the current season continues on this uninspiring trend.

West Coast

If you are looking for a fan base that is as angry as Melbourne’s then look no further than your friends from the West. The pre-season premiership favourites have three losses from four outings, and have realistically only played one half of quality football to date, and that was against the Demons.

They look sloppy and slow. Their vaunted team defence from last year has been a sieve in the opening month. Their efficiency in front of goal has been poor, and plummeted to new depths Saturday night when they had a 7.23 showing.

A big tick in their favour in the minor premiers contender discussion was their home field advantage. I know when I went through the fixture prior to the year starting I had them beating a lot of quality opposition because they were facing them at home. So far the Eagles have lost all three games they’ve played at Patersons. Top four is starting to slip away from their grasp, so they have to turn around their play post haste if they want to remain a genuine premiership shot this season.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. Adam

    Good read. And not much to quibble with.

    Your observations of Cloke are spot on. He was more riled than usual, and from where I was sitting, it didn’t seem to stem from physical attention. One can only presume that Rance was in his ear for the whole first half, and Cloke decided it was time to square the ledger.

    He is at the peak of his powers right now, and is fitter than ever. Buckley also has him playing much closer to goal, and the game plan of cutting through the middle and getting into the 50 quicker means more one-on-ones. He wins most of those.

    Tomorrow’s battle with Carlisle will be fascinating.

    Port are on fire and injury free. They are definitely on New Coach Honeymoon, but did anyone think Hinkley wouldn’t be good at this? If Hartlett, Gray and Schulz stay out of the medical room, they MUST make the eight. And, by the way, Chad Wingard is a star.

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