There were loads of talking points to come out of round five. ANZAC Day, an enthralling contest between the Hawks and the Roos, the Tigers stumbling at the death again, West Coast’s ongoing struggles and Port’s ongoing triumphs. There was fierce debate about goal umpire positioning, the review system, and Shane Mumford’s facial hair. ACL injuries abound, and Ahmed Saad takes more time to walk into goal than Phileas Fogg takes to traverse the world.
And all this is only scratching the surface. This is a long one folks.
The Hawthorn v North Melbourne Clash
Hawthorn against North Melbourne was the game of the round, a see-sawing contest that once again illustrated two truths regarding the Kangaroos: their best football is sublime, but they nearly always fall short against the very best sides. They played spectacular football at times, but you have to wonder if they’ll get a better chance at toppling the Hawks. Hawthorn were average by their lofty standards, and the Roos had the rub of the green in the officiating, with 29 frees to Hawthorns 15.
The battle at opposite ends between Rioli and Thomas was the crown jewel of the contest, but we were denied a fitting final act when Rioli hurt his hamstring in the middle of the fourth. Up until that moment Rioli had been doing everything we had grown accustom to seeing from him, relentless pressure and exquisite movement, with the significant bonus of hitting the scoreboard himself. His four goals were being matched at the other end by Lindsay Thomas, who had a scoring shot with every possession (and perhaps a theatrical flick of the head immediately prior to said possessions…).
Swallow, Wells and Thompson were the best in blue and white. Franklin had one of his worst outings in some time, largely thanks to Thompson’s efforts. Swallow was his industrious best, while Wells was the dominant force in the clearances.
When the siren sounded it felt like a soul crushing moment for the Roos. Their schedule is brutal, and a win against the Hawks would’ve given them some serious belief that they could overcome this hurdle, serving as a friendly reminder that the club is heading in the right direction, and that when it comes together they can match it with anyone. Instead they return to Arden Street with a hollow feeling of what could’ve, and probably should have, been.
Zaharakis has played in five ANZAC day clashes and left an indelible mark on two. He memorably kicked the winner in the waning seconds of his first, and in his latest he was awarded the ANZAC Day Medal for a best on ground performance. The 23 year old Bomber was influential throughout, recording 34 disposals and kicking 4 goals, one in each term, as his side ran out 46 point victors over the Pies.
Charlie Dixon and Jaegar O’Meara
The Suns pulled away from the Giants in the final term, but as always it’s the play of the developing youngsters that is the focus for the longer term. Throughout their short existence they have had some problems with tall forwards. Lynch and Day were the initial, and probably still the long term, pairing in the forward arc. Lynch started well but slowed down while Day never really took off in a goal kicking sense during the first couple of seasons, which has led to both being played in several different positions for the sake of experience so far this year.
On Saturday it was the less fancied Charlie Dixon who filled the role of forward focal point, and he filled it better than any Sun had before. Dixon was the dominant tall on the ground, plucking nine marks and kicking a commanding six goals in a best on ground performance. He was the difference in the opening three terms.
As for O’Meara, look at these numbers for an 18 year old in his fifth game.
25 disposals, 14 contested, 11 clearances, 2 goals, 3 behinds
Midway through their game against the Eagles, with the margin at 38 points, I had a discussion with a friend of mine regarding Port Adelaide’s finals chances. He thought they would make it. I didn’t. Of course they immediately came back and made me look foolish.
For the record I’m still sceptical. They’ve scored wins against the Suns, Demons and Giants, three sides they would’ve been favourites in when you looked at the fixture pre-season. They’ve also beaten the Crows and Eagles, who are playing so horribly they may as well be in the former group too. They trailed those sides by more than five goals at stages. Last year you needed 14 wins to reach the finals. They have five. Can they get another nine?
I still have my doubts regarding their finals credentials. Regardless, they are playing their best football in years. They are also alarmingly fit, playing with the same intensity in final terms as they are at the opening bounce. They have overrun Adelaide and now the Eagles in second halves despite trailing by significant margins.
They’ve played five and won five. You can’t ask for a better start. Now they have to capitalise on their tremendous form. A finals placing for Port Adelaide two months ago seemed an impossibility. Now it is very achievable. The fact this is true speaks volumes about the improvement they’ve made.
One of the few bright spots to the Saints most uninspiring start to the year has been the play of Riewoldt, who is turning back the clock with some vintage performances.
Having reinvented himself as a more stay at home forward the last couple of years, he has displayed more of his style from 2009 and before in the opening five rounds. He was back to his rangy best in New Zealand, pushing up the ground and racking up 27 disposals and 13 marks in the process.
Geelong were 21 point victors over the Bulldogs, a smaller margin than expected but one that reflects reality: The Cats only had to operate at 60 per cent to come away with the win.
The stand-outs on the ground were Stevie J and Harry T (admittedly doesn’t have the same ring to it). Johnson was relentless with 30 touches and an impressive ten tackles, eight of which came in the first half. If not for some inaccuracy on the scoreboard (he kicked 1.3) it could’ve been a truly spectacular evening.
Harry Taylor meanwhile continues to be one of the most underrated footballers in the competition. With the Doggies lack of talls, and the absence of Hawkins, the Cats shifted Taylor up forward, where he had 11 marks and kicked 5.2. He was ably supported by the impressive Steven Motlop, who had ten marks and three goals of his own. With Milne well out of form, Motlop and Lindsey Thomas are probably the competition front runners for the title of best small forward at the moment.
The young Lion is a tremendous user of the football. Keep an eye out for him, he wears number 32.
Brisbane themselves did as expected, coming away with a comfortable win against the Demons. Melbourne weren’t as horrific as they’ve been in previous weeks, but the 28 point margin flatters them given the Lions had thirteen more scoring shots and 20 marks inside fifty.
Moloney was outstanding in his first game against his former side. He registered 35 disposals, ten clearances and seven inside 50s. He, Rockliff, Polkinghorne and Mayes ran riot throughout the middle of the park. Up forward Brown, Bewick and Zorko had a field day. Zorko, with 29 disposals and seven scoring shots, had a particularly remarkable day.
The speed of the Blues was once again a major point of difference between themselves and their opponents the Crows. Garlett and Yarran tore them apart on Saturday, making an already slow outfit look even slower.
It wasn’t just down to those two though. They outworked them all over the ground. They had 41 more contested possessions than Adelaide, and 32 more uncontested touches. They exploited open space in the middle to such a degree that it looked at times as if they had more men on the field.
There were a couple of neagtives for the Blues though. The first was the play of Hampson and Rowe. Rutten and Talia effectively blanketed them, and they did not manage a goal between them. Their smalls fired and kicked a winning score, but they don’t want to be relying on that every weekend. The second was their intensity in the second half. They allowed a seriously undermanned side to temporarily get back into the game. Overall it was a good performance, but one that didn’t really leave you feeling all that better about where the club is realative to the other finals contenders. With Warnock performing well in the ruck, we may see Kreuzer in the forward line when he returns in order to help counteract this tall forward problem. Waite has returned in the VFL, and realistically we won’t know Carlton’s 2013 ceiling until he returns to the side.
Jobe Watson being interviewed by his dad
I spent this whole thing hoping Jobe would ask his dad what he was getting for Christmas. Part of me also thought the following conversation was on the cards:
“Now Jobe, you know your mother and I love you very much…”
“… and we only want the best for you.”
“Here it comes…”
“Are you on drugs?”
“Really dad? On television? I’m 28 for goodness sakes”
“Because they may seem cool if all the cool kids are taking them, but they are most certainly not cool and if those kids are pressuring you then they are no friends of yours.”
“You’re so embarrassing”
“Okay okay I’m sorry. I see you had another 31 touches today. Think you’ve earnt a trip to Maccas?”
“Awwww yeeeeeah! Can I get a chocolate thickshake!?!?!”
“Oh come on Dad!”
“oh fine. Boy I spoil you”
“BEST. DAY. EVER!”
Shane Mumford’s facial hair
I wasn’t sure if this belonged in the winners or losers section. I ended up picking winners because you truly have to a winner to willingly leave your home in the morning looking like that. It is both glorious and hideous.
When White kicked his spectacular goal to put the Tigers in front, I immediately looked toward the time remaining in the game. It was approximately ninety seconds.
They’ve gone too early here.
That is what I thought, and I imagine I wasn’t alone. Asking Richmond to survive ninety seconds without some sort of calamity taking place is a tall order.
And now to the game’s biggest talking point, umpires and the goal line.
Firstly I don’t know why people are calling for a review. Have these people seen any of the reviews so far? Any? Nothing is ever shown either way, and if it is they don’t call it anyway. What would a review have illustrated that they would have been prepared to back? The answer is nothing. They could have had an aerial shot along the line that shows the ball hit the umpire and was certain to hit the post and they wouldn’t have said it would. Even if it had shown the ball had deviated and was probable to go through for a goal, there is no way they would have said that was the case. It’s always inconclusive. The review system is just embarrassing That is the only word for it. It is embarrassing for a code that sold its broadcast rights for over a billion dollars to not have cameras in the right places, or with any picture quality whatsoever. I get angry when I see them investigate whether the ball was touched. We’ve had a dozen of these, and have any of them shown anything whatsoever? It’s a giant blur, and not a single thing can be determined from that footage. They may as well put a blank card on screen for fifteen seconds, as that would shed more light on the situation. In the Hawthorn v North game they managed to butcher the touched conundrum in a new and exciting way. Bruest snapped for a goal with North hands nearby. They decided to review it, entering the review by saying “we believe it’s a goal”. What followed was the typical nonsense in which nothing could be conclusively decided, until decision time came and they decided it had in fact been touched. It’s like a lucky dip, in which the answer is nearly always “I don’t know”, and when it isn’t it’s just wrong.
The better question is in regard to goal umpire positioning. There is no conceivable reason as to why a goal umpire should be instructed to position himself on the line against a post, in any situation, but particularly the one we saw Friday night. If the ball is kicked from that type of angle from the left hand side, then it is highly probable the ball is going to head toward the right side goal post. Standing on the right side goal post makes no sense. It’s tempting fate. In that situation there isn’t anything the umpire is likely to see from a position on the line by the post that he couldn’t see a foot behind the line at the post.
Did you know Bellchambers has acted in Academy Award winning films? You probably wouldn’t have noticed as there was a lot of makeup involved, but Bellchambers was actually the plastic bag in American Beauty. He just floats about in the wind, falling up and down at the slightest contact.
Ahmed Saad’s run-up
I could watch the Director’s Cut of The Lord of the Rings in the time it takes him.
Eagerly awaiting Sheedy’s impassioned plea that all games be stopped at three quarter time.
What is going on?
They are well down on their efforts of the previous two years, but over the course of four quarters they are still winning the clearance battle more often than not. There are two striking problems. The first is ability to get the ball forward. In the opening two rounds they were crushed by Fremantle and Hawthorn in terms of forward entries, with both clubs close to doubling the Eagles’ total.
Against Carlton and Port Adelaide they rectified this issue, beating the Blues and having the same amount as the Power. However they have been grossly wasteful in front of goal, kicking 17.42 over the past fortnight. Bad kicking is bad football, and fundamentally the biggest reason they’ve lost those two games is inaccuracy in front of goal. A close second is their play in fourth quarters. Against the Blues they could manage only five behinds in the final term, while against Port their entire second half was an atrocity. They kicked 3.6.24 to Port Adelaide’s 10.7.67, with only 1.3 in the final term as a rampant Port Adelaide crushed them in all areas.
We are in a bad era for these, and it feels like we are getting at least one a week right now. Collingwood in particular have been struck by these over the past couple of years. Ball, Krakouer, Keefe, Macaffer, and now Toovey have all succumbed to them.
Seeing Walker go down was pretty much the lowest moment of my football following life. I’ve witnessed the Crows lose finals in some pretty crushing ways. I’ve seen them lose Preliminary Finals over and over again. But the difference between those and the Walker moment is twofold. The first is the time in the season. Those finals losses happen at the end of the year, not at the beginning. As disappointing as they are I don’t have to watch the side come out the following week to remind me of it. The second is after a finals loss you can talk yourself into going the next step the following year.
But Walker going down with a potential ACL effectively ruins two years of football for the Crows. This year is most certainly done and dusted if the worst is confirmed, and while it is still very early in the season, the way in which they were playing wasn’t inspiring confidence. I’m facing the prospect of seventeen weeks of knowing, no matter how well the team manages to play, that they aren’t at their very best because of his absence Worse even is the fact that an ACL is effectively a two year injury. You miss 12 months, then you spend the next 12 months hopefully getting back to the level you were at prior to the injury. That’s two years without a fit and firing Walker. I found myself more than willing to trade a 100 point loss to Carlton for Walker to not have done his ACL. I can probably be talked into sacrificing my own knee.
Losing your star is bad in any year, but in true Adelaide fashion they are going to manage it at the very worst possible time for the club. Normally when your club is performing poorly you can trick yourself into a positive, and that positive is draft day. Your struggles mean you are going to have access to one of the prime talents in the country. But Adelaide can’t even hang their hat on that. We don’t have a first round pick this year. Or a second. This was inexcusable to begin with, but at least with the club performing well it was likely to be a late first rounder we threw away. Now it’s almost certainly a top ten pick we are going to miss out. The prospect of watching the Zombified Crows play the next 17 rounds, most probably losing more often than not, and knowing we aren’t even going to “benefit” from these loses because our administration is so inept at all things football it makes Melbourne look like it knows what it is doing, is seriously gutting. At least Melbourne fire people who do their jobs poorly. We just wait until their six month suspensions are done then gleefully welcome them back. The Crows will probably throw a party in the wayward mindset that we the fans were eagerly awaiting their return. If Steven Trigg is so good at his job then maybe we can trade him to another club to recuperate that first round selection his actions deprived us of. Not only did he cheat, he cost the club any chance of getting compensation for Tippett, and his cheating deprived the club of four draft picks. And for what? Three extra years out of a player who clearly didn’t want to stay anyway. Cheers.
In times like these you get told to dwell on the positives. So I made a list:
- We still have Dangerfield and Sloane. The latter’s efforts in particular against Carlton helped warm my heart that had frozen early in the first.
- We are going to see if Lewis Johnston and Shaun McKernan have what it takes to be AFL footballers. Your time is now gents. Please do something.
- The absence of both Walker and Tippett should force the club to investigate some new forward setups. We saw this begin on the weekend with Otten and Jaensch shifting up forward. Otten played well but I doubt the forward line can be his long term home. Jaensch however should be in the side as a forward or not at all. It’s all well and good to play him in defence to make use of his raking boot, but you get exploited when it, you know, comes time to actually defend. He kicked three goals as the small forward, so hopefully the club sticks with this for a while.
- We still have a lot of quality players, and if a Johnston or McKernan can go some way to filling Walker’s mammoth void, then a low finals spots is still a possibility. Maybe the club as a whole will lift. Maybe an unexpected star will be born.
- The lack of draft selections means there is no point in pulling a Melbourne. The club must maintain a finals or bust mentality.
That is about all I’ve got at the moment. The prospect of watching the losses rack up in a year we don’t have a first round selection is infuriating. I’m off to see a witch doctor regarding Walker’s knee. Have to explore all options.