Round 3 – Hits and Misses
Nearly every side that I said was ‘in strife’ last week rectified their predicament with a win during round three.
Mainstream media certainly didn’t miss Nathan Buckley and Gary Ablett during a week of heavy criticism after their teams had slumped to a 0-2 record. Collingwood executed a smart game plan to defeat Sydney by a point on Friday night, laying 113 tackles and keeping Lance Franklin goalless.
Ablett was under all sorts of pressure following Gold Coast’s embarrassing loss to Greater Western Sydney, singled out for a lack of effort and endeavour to lift his team from its slump. He responded in a paid interview on The Footy Show, which I thought was greedy and selfish, but then put in a stellar performance against Hawthorn, racking up 36 disposals and kicking two goals. His teammates delivered too; Brandon Matera bagged six goals, and Aaron Hall, David Swallow and Touk Miller all dominated the midfield. It ended up being an 86 point win, making for an 188 point turnaround from the previous weekend, the equal-twelfth best form reversal of all-time.
Fremantle certainly belonged among the ‘in strife’ candidates last week, but pulled off an enormous upset win over the Dogs on Saturday night. Ross Lyon reinforced the reality that he was in the early stages of a rebuild after they’d conceded 40 goals in the first two rounds, losing by seven goals to Geelong and 15 goals to Port Adelaide. He made six changes to the side that lost in Adelaide, and that seemed to inject the energy they needed to challenge the premiers. After racing to a four-goal lead in the first term, and retaining a small lead at half-time, Fremantle began to wilt in the third quarter. However, the youthful side showed fight and they stormed back to regain the lead and kick away to win by 16 points.
Hawthorn’s three-peat must seem like a generation ago to Alistair Clarkson. It would appear that every team now understands what it takes to beat the Hawks and Clarkson hasn’t worked out how to change their style. There have been a few notable personnel changes, but the main recruits – O’Meara and Mitchell – have performed really well without managing to have a positive impact on the team. The forward set-up looks disjointed and unclear, which is perhaps why the midfielders’ efforts aren’t being rewarded. I didn’t think Hawthorn’s defense looked too bad until they conceded a mammoth score on the Gold Coast. Geelong await on Easter Monday, eager to heap more misery onto the Hawks.
Melbourne will believe that they should have beaten Geelong on Saturday, holding only a narrow lead at three-quarter time despite having 13 more scoring shots at that stage. The Cats went on to overrun the Demons, who admittedly were without Max Gawn for most of the match, but the Dees should have had a much more comfortable buffer at the last break.
Saturday afternoon’s weather during the Richmond West Coast match was remarkable. From my vantage point on level four of the MCC, I saw it all. During the first quarter I was regretting wearing jeans, as the temperature was in the mid to high twenties, but at three-quarter time it was difficult to see the other side of the stadium through the rain. It wasn’t all bad though – my mate and I stayed in the comfort of the MCC’s bars for a while after the game as the worst of the deluge passed.