AFL Round 21 – Winners and Losers: North are the anti-Essendon

Round 21 saw the Swans go clear atop the ladder, Adelaide lose in shocking circumstances, West Coast get a sniff at a top four spot once again, North Melbourne continue their late season surge, Fremantle climb into the eight, and Essendon get crushed yet again. So not much really.


North Melbourne

The anti-Essendon. They’ve been astonishing in the second half of the year. Drew Petrie, Lachlan Hansen, and Robbie Tarrant are quickly establishing themselves as the answer to the question ‘most unlikely potent forward trio in the AFL’. Their midfield is sneaky good. You have the clearance prowess of Andrew Swallow, the class of Daniel Wells (who didn’t even play against the Pies) and the continuing brilliance of Brent Harvey, who clearly knows where the fountain of youth is located. There are also unsung members like Leigh Adams and Liam Anthony. But perhaps the best part of all is the young up and comers. Jack Ziebell is the poster-child of the future at Arden Street, but he isn’t the only one. Ben Cunnington has evolved from ‘has this guy really got it?’ to tearing apart the opposition in close. He mirrors Swallow’s desire to lay tackles, has lightening quick hands around packs, and looks like he could kill people with his stare. There is Ryan Bastinac, who finds the ball with ease, and Shaun Atley, who any North fan will gladly tell you is the greatest thing since sliced bread. And by sliced bread they mean Jack Ziebell.

Having said all that, I bet they lose their Elimination Final. I feel such an outcome would be typical of North’s year.


There is not a single player in the league who benefits more from missing games than Jarrad Waite does. His absence is the default answer given when Carlton’s on field performances are put under the microscope. It’s like he is some sort of amalgamation of Wayne Carey and Lance Franklin. If you point out he is not as good as either of them, your 98.8% likely to hear ‘yes but he is critical to our structure’ in response. The other 1.2% is Carlton fans arguing he is as good as them.

While I am not as bullish on the abilities of Jarrad Waite as the Carlton faithful, there is certainly validity in the claims of the 98.8 per cent. Waite kicked 5 goals in the murder of the Bombers, and actually gives them a forward target taller than myself. In this kind of form, the Blues are a textbook case of a side you would probably rather avoid in the first week of the finals.

Ryan Griffen

His side may have been belted, but Ryan Griffen was outstanding against the Swans on Sunday. He was so good, that as I watched I felt anger toward the rest of the Bulldogs.

Somebody help this man!

Griffen had more than double the possessions of any team mate not named Matthew Boyd. 46 touches of the pill. He had more contested possessions than 19 of his teammates had total possessions. He must have felt like he had won a ‘live like Gary Ablett Jnr for a day’ competition.

Jack Redden

Redden had a Ryan Griffen-esque performance against the Crows, the major difference being his side won in the end. He led the Lions in disposals, contested possessions, clearances and tackles.  The only categories he didn’t top were goals (Rohan Bewick) and fist pump celebrations (Tom Rockliff).



Boy oh boy. Started the year 8 and 1 and have gone 3 and 8 since. They seem to have forgotten how to win, and have more injuries than Alex Murphy in RoboCop. Their struggle has all the makings of a Disney movie though. The only thing missing is James Hird pulling on a jumper and leading the team back into the finals. Imagine if during the week Hird announced that he was going to play against Richmond. Ignoring all the obvious rules this breaks and whatnot, wouldn’t this be the most fascinating storyline ever? Is there a single AFL fan who wouldn’t watch the game with interest? Surely he is better than Jake Melksham? Sure, he’d almost certainly do a hamstring in the pre-match warm-up and be a late withdrawal (to the chagrin of Damien Hardwick), but every single football show and every single article throughout the week would focus on this. It would be massive. Is he having a laugh? Is he serious? Does he still have it? They play Collingwood the week after as well. I bet you Buckley would happily put himself in (he’d give more than Cloke is at the moment). One last Buckley v Hird showdown. It’s almost too perfect.

And yes, I did just manage to squeeze “Disney Movie” and “RoboCop” in the same paragraph.

Trent Cotchin

In my round 5 Winners and Losers list I wrote the following:

If it does all go downhill for Richmond then I suggest the Tiger faithful just collect footage of Trent Cotchin and watch it on repeat.

I stand by this recommendation.


A cautionary tale of what happens when you stop playing at quarter time.

Port Adelaide

Only 13,683 people came through the gates at West Lakes Sunday afternoon, the lowest attendance figure for an AFL game in the stadium’s history. I feel bad for Port fans, who have to listen to talking heads imply there is something fundamentally wrong with Port Adelaide. Some suggest the Port Adelaide name alienates people, and they should re-brand the club to attract new fans. I’m not sure what is achieved through this. Do a mass of Crows fans suddenly decide they’d rather support the Adelaide Jets? Do they attract the massive amount of people who immigrate to South Australia every year? Do a bunch of children suddenly decide they like this new team? The only thing I know for sure is they alienate every single existing Port Adelaide fan. In 2011 they had 36,624 members. I hope the Adelaide Jets can magic up more than 36 thousand dormant AFL fans in little old Adelaide, because none of those Port Adelaide members are coming out to see them. The issue isn’t the name. Port Adelaide doesn’t have a problem with attracting fans. They have them. It’s just that some of them aren’t coming out to games.

Who could blame them?

Their performances, not their name, alienate people. They are rubbish. Worse, there are very few players who supporters can attach their hopes too. In a performance sense, they are in the darkest of dark places. But they are not dying. There is not some fundamental, unsolvable problem here. They’ve drafted poorly, and they’ve developed poorly. As a result they play poorly. People don’t like spending their time and money watching poor football sides. This is especially true when there are very few shining lights to hang your hat on. Fans can’t even sit in their seats and shrug off defeat after defeat with the knowledge that they are building toward something. Ultimately, there are two things that draw fans, hope and success. Port Adelaide are providing neither.

But, if they start recruiting more wisely, then they will have those shining lights, and people will come to see them. And if they develop their players better, then they will start winning more games. The hardcore fans show up week after week, no matter the weather, and no matter the performance of the week before. But these people do not represent the majority of the crowd at any game. People go to the football to be entertained. Port Adelaide is failing to provide this at the moment. Eventually they will turn this around, and people will come once again.

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?

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