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AFL 2020 Round 5 Review: Returning to form or losing touch?

Football has now wrapped up in Victoria for the foreseeable future. Round 5 gave some of the competition’s heavyweights chances to notch much needed wins, while losses deflated other sides’ bubbles. Read through to see how your team is tracking in season 2020.

Jarryn Geary returned to smother Sam Docherty (Michael Klein/ News Corp Australia)

Carlton 8.7 (55) defeated by St Kilda 11.7 (73)

Brought forward to Thursday night, the Marvel Stadium clash between these two improving teams didn’t disappoint. St Kilda started off hot and looked the goods, before a spirited Carlton comeback fell a tad short.

Steele, King and Geary blanketed the Blues’ big guns

Saints coach Brett Ratten planned well for Carlton.

Knowing that Patrick Cripps and Jacob Weitering were both decisive factors for the Blues, Ratten plunked tagger Jack Steele on the former while backing in the young Max King to kick goals on Weitering. Both delivered – Steele notched 23 touches while taking Cripps out of the game for the first half (he arguably should have been left on him to quell any second half influence) and King slotted two goals and set up another in a handy performance.

But Ratten didn’t stop there. Carlton co-skipper Sam Docherty had flourished since returning from injury, so St Kilda captain Jarryn Geary was brought back to play a defensive forward role on the Blue. This paid immense dividends – Geary slotted two goals and took a handful of other decisive marks to hold Docherty accountable.

Boom recruits propel both sides forward

When the going gets tough, St Kilda and Carlton both have new players who make the difference.

Setting the tone for a first half Saints onslaught was Dan Butler, who once again put in an electric performance up forward. He may not have gathered as many disposals as other weeks, but he made them count by converting them into two majors.

Jack Martin has been an impressive recruit for the Blues (Carlton FC)

Needing a spark, Carlton turned to ex-Sun Jack Martin – he delivered in spades. He was clearly Carlton’s best, booting a goal while lighting up the half-forward line. When moved into the middle, he often dashed out of packs and set up direct forays into their tall targets. He may not be the best Martin in the league, but he is in red hot form for his new club.

Verdict: St Kilda continue to impress as a finals prospect. Carlton need to start off better, for once they settle into they are a much improved team.

Collingwood 7.6 (48) defeated by Essendon 10.3 (63)

It was a week full of turmoil for both teams, but it was the Bombers who came out best. After a slow start, they recovered in the wet to outwork the Pies and post a wonderful Friday night win.

The injured Stringer show leads his team

Always a tantalising prospect, Jake Stringer produced the goods against Collingwood.

Having to step up in the midfield to replace the suspended Zach Merrett, Stringer gave a virtuoso performance. He often burst out of the middle to send long bombs into the forward line, and then went forward to kick three decisive goals himself.

Jake Stringer was everywhere on Friday night before injuring his ankle (Michael Klein/ News Corp Australia)

Stringer may have finished the game with a serious ankle injury, but he was influential in inspiring teammates Dylan Shiel (29 touches) and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (2 goals). The on-ball brigade of the Bombers was also boosted by Andrew Phillips – the ex-Blue managed to nullify much of Brodie Grundy’s impact at ground level.

The Pies must fix a dysfunctional forward line

It’s hard to believe Collingwood’s forward line was so potent just two years ago.

On Friday, it seemed an age since the black and white attack were propelling their side into a Grand Final. Jaidyn Stephenson continued his trend of starting strong and disappearing – he was one of the few to turn up in the latter stages with an improved last quarter. Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jamie Elliott, Brody Mihocek, Mason Cox and Callum Brown were all unsighted, giving Essendon’s defence a golden chance to rebound with ease.

Collingwood may be undermanned, but there is no excuse for their slow and disorganised forward line. If they are to get back on the board interstate, they must fix their attacking group to get the scoreboard ticking over.

Rupert Wills is one of many Pies who need to lift

Verdict: Essendon are gritting their teeth and producing solid wins in a difficult time, while Collingwood must find some grit and organisation of their own if they are to avoid a slump.

West Coast 11.11 (77) defeated Sydney 6.7 (43)

It was a sound return to form for the underperforming Eagles, as they finally broke through for their first win since the COVID-enforced break. There were shades of their 2018 selves in the second half, as they overran a brave Swans outfit who quickly crumbled under the pressure.

Fallen stars return to form

In the past few weeks, West Coast haven’t had many established players stand up.

On Saturday, Elliot Yeo, Jamie Cripps and Tim Kelly all gave their best performances of the season so far. Yeo was instrumental in the middle, Cripps was dangerous with two goals up forward and Kelly began breaking tackles and wreaking havoc.

With captain Luke Shuey falling to a hamstring injury early in the match, the experienced trio were critical to West Coast’s breakthrough win – their influence helped young guns Oscar Allen and Jake Waterman get free and kick some vital goals.

The Eagles celebrate a much-needed win (Bradley Kanaris/ Getty Images)

The Sydney tall timber is shaky

With Lance Franklin, Sam Naismith and Callum Sinclair all missing on Saturday, Sydney were exploited by the tall Eagles. Nic Naitanui dominated in the ruck against Aliir Aliir, winning hit outs with ease and controlling the clearance battle.

Hayden McLean tried valiantly up forward but was constantly double teamed by strong defenders, while Dane Rampe had his hands full with Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling and Allen. The experienced hands of Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Jake Lloyd all fought hard to keep their side in the match, but the Swans were always going to be vulnerable coming up against the strong spine of the Eagles.

Verdict: The Eagles may be back in a big way, with an open run in the next few matches giving them a chance to re-enter flag talks. Sydney are onto something, but lack the personnel currently to make a finals run.

Aliir Aliir and Hayden McLean (right) had a tough day against Nic Naitanui

Geelong 13.11 (89) defeated Gold Coast 8.4 (52)

The Cats simply had to win for their milestone men. Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett Jnr celebrated their 300th and 350th games respectively in style, as Geelong bounced away from the valiant Suns to notch another critical win.

In a milestone game, it was the young chargers who performed

It may have been all about Selwood and Ablett, but the win came courtesy of an even spread of younger performers breaking through at AFL level.

Ablett and Selwood walk off arm in arm after their milestone win (Daily Mercury)

Brandan Parfitt continued his strong year with another telling day at the office. Mitch Duncan excelled in the second half and Sam Menegola was a presence all day. With Tom Hawkins finding some form up forward, the Cats looked much more dangerous when the lesser names did the job. Zach Tuohy is a very underrated rebounding defender – alongside Menegola and Duncan he adds polish and attack to Geelong’s forward 50 entries.

They may be Rowell-less, but the Suns have enough to push

It was a horror start for the Suns. All the talk surrounded Matt Rowell and his match-up with the older guard of Geelong stars. A shoulder injury in the opening minutes ruined his debut season.

Matt Rowell looks despondent after a suspected dislocated shoulder (Michael Klein/ News Corp Australia)

But all was not lost for Gold Coast. Ben King continued his superb start to the season with three impressive goals, ably supported by Sam Day’s two. Lachie Weller, Hugh Greenwood and David Swallow all picked up the slack in the middle to lead their younger troops forward. It was two high draft picks in Noah Anderson and Jack Bowes who shone against a strong opponent to prove the Suns aren’t totally reliant on Rowell – his presence in the second half could have resulted in a different finish though.

Verdict: Geelong have the building blocks to launch a top eight assault. Gold Coast lost no respect – their list bats deeper than we all realised.

Western Bulldogs 13.9 (87) defeated North Melbourne 5.8 (38)

In an important Saturday night clash, it was the Dogs who turned up hungrier. They benefited from a sustained run of form – the Roos looked slow when they didn’t win the contested ball.

Bruce stands up

In my preview, I mentioned that the Bulldogs needed a forward to stand up in the absence of Aaron Naughton and Sam Lloyd. The answer came in ex-Saint Josh Bruce. He was everywhere, handling Robbie Tarrant and Josh Walker with ease to boot six goals.

Josh Bruce (left) dominated the Roos on Saturday night (Herald Sun)

In a forward line needing leaders, Mitch Wallis paved the way with two clever goals, while Josh Schache (2 goals) came into the side and supported Bruce perfectly. Now Bruce must prove this was no bolt of lightning – he has the game to become the key forward the Bulldogs need; his Saturday night performance teases to be the start of a great patch.

The banged-up Roos must play their cards right

North Melbourne have plenty of talented players who can leverage them to wins. But the way they were handled on Saturday night gave them no hope of taking home the four points.

Ben Cunnington was played while clearly unfit, and the Roos suffered because of it. He had no impact and ended up on the bench in the final quarter. Todd Goldstein can’t be expected to continue rucking alone for entire matches when he is only getting older – Tim English finished off strongly to split the points.

Young guns Tarryn Thomas and Bailey Smith both went off injured after dizzying knocks ruled them out. The one positive for North Melbourne is the consistency of Jy Simpkin, who is becoming their leading midfielder very quickly.

Young Roos gun Tarryn Thomas comes crashing back down to earth (North Melbourne FC)

Verdict: The Dogs could be one of 2020’s better sides if they keep improving. North Melbourne have taken a big step back, and need to regroup if they are to post wins in the coming rounds.

Brisbane 12.13 (85) defeated Port Adelaide 6.12 (48)

It was a highly-anticipated top of the table clash in front of a decent Gabba crowd. In the end, Brisbane’s sparkling second quarter run saw them take the points easily, instating themselves as current flag favourites over a Power side who weren’t at their best.

Andrews wins the battle

In a massive clash of in-form talls, Brisbane’s Harris Andrews delivered in spades. He blanketed Port Adelaide forward Charlie Dixon, holding him goalless and taking countless intercept marks himself. It was a huge win for the young star, and proves he is arguably the best tall defender in the league.

With the continued run of hot form from Lachie Neale and Hugh McCluggage, the Lions have a core group of consistent performers. When Jarryd Lyons and Daniel McStay join the party like they did on Saturday, the Lions look scarily good.

Brisbane brought their fire and passion with them on Saturday night (Brisbane Lions FC)

Youngsters salvage a bleak night

It may have been a horror show for the Power, but some high draft picks can hold their heads high. Zak Butters was everywhere, bravely flying into packs and putting in maximum effort to give his side a slim chance at a comeback. His two goals were brilliant – he is blossoming in his second year.

Connor Rozee once again showed flashes of brilliance, including a terrific snap goal – he may not have been as productive as Butters, but he shows promise in the middle.

With Travis Boak always performing well, this young crop of stars can help Port Adelaide produce more consistent footy in the coming weeks.

Verdict: Brisbane are flying high with an improving group of youthful stars. Port Adelaide may not be the best side in the competition, but they’ll beat many others.

High draft pick Zak Butters is making a name for himself at Port Adelaide (PAFC)

Adelaide 4.10 (34) defeated by Fremantle 8.6 (54)

It may not have inspired many, but this low-scoring contest went down to the final ten minutes. If Adelaide hadn’t of missed their chances, they may well have run over the top of the fast-starting Dockers. But it wasn’t to be as Fremantle flexed their muscles for their first win in 2020.

Poor kicking doesn’t hide the fact the Crows have found some talent

Adelaide had a golden opportunity to come back and snatch the lead from Freo halfway through the third term. Led ably by the Crouch brothers and Brodie Smith, they had all the play, only to miss many easy set shots.

Reilly O’Brien (left) needs to lift his team up to higher standards

In this period of frustration, Adelaide can be excited about the prospect of young Shane McAdam. The forward lit up the Crows’ attacking fifty, becoming the focal point in the final term. He possesses an innate ability to create something out of nothing, and launched for many marks in the second half. In a long season, Adelaide can look towards putting games into McAdam.

When Fyfe falls, Brayshaw steps up

Fremantle were in strife without their champion captain Nat Fyfe. Freo coach Justin Longmuir desperately needed more people to cover his absence – gifting a full game in the midfield to Andrew Brayshaw reaped rich rewards.

The emerging prospect had a career best day, amassing 23 disposals and combining wonderfully with David Mundy and Michael Walters. With Fyfe not expected back anytime soon, Brayshaw’s development could be a silver lining.

Young Dockers look relieved after finally getting on the board in 2020 (Chris Hyde/ Getty Images)

Verdict: Adelaide missed their great chance to salvage the season, while Freo snatched a win that could reverse their current form.

Melbourne 8.4 (52) defeated by Richmond 12.7 (79)

In the final game at the MCG for some time, Melbourne brought a high level of intensity to start this Sunday match-up. For all of their effort, it just wasn’t to be – Richmond regained some of their famous form to leap to an injury that brought many worrying injuries.

Petracca, Fritsch and Pickett all give Melbourne fans some joy

2020 may not be going any better than last year’s fall from grace, but Dees supporters can find solace in the rapid development of some young guns.

Christian Petracca is coming along in leaps and bounds – he was the standout player in the first half as his strong frame and precision kicking stood out. Bayley Fritsch was once again vital up forward. Without him, the Dees would have had no avenues to the big sticks. When the ball went to ground, Kysaiah Pickett cracked in and became dangerous. He may be only games into his career, but Pickett holds a special touch when near the Sherrin.

Christian Petracca was a thorn in Richmond’s side at the MCG on Sunday (AFL)

Richmond finally win, but at what cost?

The Tigers simply had to win if they were to head to the Gold Coast with a chance of making the finals.

Led by the improved Dustin Martin and Kane Lambert, the reigning premiers bounced back, but lost many experienced hands for their victory.

Toby Nankervis and Dion Prestia could both be out for a while with ankle injuries, while captain Trent Cotchin’s hamstring injury should see him sidelined for the next few weeks. With David Astbury still out, Tom Lynch’s broken finger isn’t a helpful ailment going forward. For the first time in years, Richmond must bounce back from a cruel injury run if they are to continue their improving form.

Verdict: Melbourne are crying out for a tall forward to help a developing midfield. Richmond are coming, but injuries could send them crashing back down.

Richmond star Dion Prestia faces a stint on the sidelines after injuring his ankle on Sunday (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

GWS 13.5 (83) defeated Hawthorn 7.7 (49)

The last game of the round went the home side’s way, as the Giants started off strong and finished well to cruise to a second straight victory. Hawthorn rallied in the second term, but couldn’t match GWS when it mattered.

Who needs Cameron?

Reigning Coleman Medallist Jeremy Cameron isn’t anywhere near his best, but it didn’t matter for the Giants.

Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Finlayson both carried the slack with eight goals between them. They were irresistible, both easily beating James Sicily and Ben McEvoy to power their team to an easy victory.

Toby Greene was one of many Giants to smack the Hawks (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

It’s a good issue for the Giants to have – Cameron may be out of form, but he still squeezed through two majors late to tease for the upcoming weeks.

Passengers hurt the Hawks

The top end talent at Hawthorn is up there with the best in the league.

Jack Gunston is still a wonderfully crafty tall forward who can play multiple positions, while the return of Tom Mitchell and the renaissance of Isaac Smith gives the Hawks versatility. James Worpel is slowly starting to find his feet after his 2019 breakout effort. But the main star is Jaeger O’Meara. He was everywhere on Sunday, controlling the midfield and keeping his side in the game.

Outside of this core group, Hawthorn fall away quickly. The main challenge facing Alastair Clarkson in the coming season is finding role-players who can balance the side and make them an unstoppable force, again.

Hawthorn hero Jaeger O’Meara continues to excel in the brown and gold (Wikipedia)

Verdict: The Giants are very quickly back in the flag favouritism markets. Hawthorn may not be top-end this season, but they aren’t far off.

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