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AFL 2020 Round 6 Review: Upsets and comebacks

Who would’ve thought that all nine neutral clashes would fall the way of the ‘home’ sides? It was a weirdly normal result for an otherwise nonsensical season of footy. The outcome of Round 6 leaves new teams in the eight, powerhouses out of it and a change of the guard in premiership favouritism.

Geelong 11.7 (73) defeated Brisbane 6.10 (46)

For the first half of this game Brisbane looked in total control. They outran and outshone their older foes to take a sizeable lead into half time. But the Cats bounced back with a measured and brutal second half to secure their spot in the top four.

Patrick Dangerfield had a great night on Thursday (Herald Sun)

A combination of experience and emerging talent powered the Cats

For many years, Geelong relied on a hardened core of established stars to carry their side’s prospects. In certain wins during the 2020 season, younger members have covered for their teammates’ poor form. On Thursday night, Chris Scott witnessed a blend of the two combine to smack the Lions.

Pat Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins and Gary Ablett Jnr all wound back the clock to set up goals and dominate in the midfield and up forward. Ablett in particular was electric; after a mediocre first half he became involved in everything inside attacking 50. With the experienced trio were Sam Menegola, whose season continues to go from strength to strength, Sam Simpson and Gary Rohan. With Mark Blicavs controlling all defensive traffic, Geelong’s side is looking stronger by the week.

Geelong won off the back of some fine attacking work by Gary Ablett Jnr (Daily Telegraph)

What happens when Charlie isn’t on?

Brisbane’s forward line has looked versatile in the two years since Charlie Cameron’s arrival from Adelaide.

But Chris Scott planned to nullify Charlie, using Mark O’Connor and Jed Bews effectively to hold him to a solitary major. Without Cameron’s dominance up forward, only Cam Rayner could enjoy any success – his two goals kept Brisbane in with a chance during their third quarter demolition. Eric Hipwood couldn’t get away from Geelong’s tall defenders, while Dan McStay experienced a horror fall from grace alongside pal Lincoln McCarthy.

Verdict: Geelong are warming as flag favourites, yet face a big test against the Pies in Perth. Brisbane will be ok, but their forward line is their major concern.

Collingwood 8.11 (59) defeated Hawthorn 3.9 (27)

The Pies faced a nervy match up against the Hawks, who held the wood over them in recent clashes. However, Collingwood’s rejuvenated side flipped the tables on Alastair Clarkson’s men and recorded a solid 32-point win.

Travis Varcoe rebounded well out of defending 50 (AAP: Brendon Thorne)

New inclusions and changes revamp the Pies

It’s rare to say Alastair Clarkson has been out-coached. But on Friday, Nathan Buckley trumped him.

Bringing in attacking young defender Isaac Quaynor alongside debutants Atu Bosenavulagi and Will Kelly proved a masterstroke – the former was brilliant in rebounding, Bosenavulagi dazzled with his forward flair while Kelly added power and mobility before suffering a horror elbow injury.

But Buckley didn’t stop there; Jaidyn Stephenson was thrown to half back to add some versatility to his game, while Jamie Elliott flourished in the midfield. With Travis Varcoe slotting nicely across half back, Collingwood proved they can adapt to find their spark.

Can anyone help Sicily?

For the majority of Friday night, James Sicily was the only Hawk stopping Collingwood from trouncing their opponents.

He was huge, collecting 28 disposals and racking up 14 marks. The question was why didn’t he get switched onto the dangerous Brody Mihocek? James Frawley and Ben McEvoy struggled down back, and it was only Sicily who could cut off Collingwood attacks. Ben Stratton looked woefully out of form. It’s a major concern for Clarkson – he can’t keep relying on Sicily, Tom Mitchell and Isaac Smith if they are to improve.

Ben McEvoy had a poor night against Brodie Grundy (Fox Sports)

Verdict: It may have been understated but the Pies are slowly coming back to their best. Hawthorn are in disarray – is it time to bring in youth?

Fremantle 12.7 (79) defeated St Kilda 11.7 (73)

In almost unheard-of terms, Fremantle rebounded from a six-goal deficit to edge past the failing Saints at the death. St Kilda went from being in total control to slipping up due to Fremantle’s tenacity and desire for the four points.

The Dockers can rally past injuries

Fremantle were given no hope when they sat 36 points in arrears at quarter time. When ruckman Sean Darcy went down not long after and Nat Fyfe retired to the goal square with injury concerns, their issues became worse.

Nat Fyfe looked not quite right on Saturday (News Corp Australia/ Michael Klein)

But somehow Justin Longmuir’s men found spirit. The best part about it was that it came from a younger collective. Michael Walters led the way with 26 touches, while Lachie Schultz’ two goals (including the winner) and Matt Taberner’s efforts up forward went a long way to securing the win. Andrew Brayshaw put together another assured performance alongside the improving Darcy Tucker.

Not all is perfect at St Kilda

For the past fortnight the Saints were riding high off a rejuvenated list that was on the precipice of making a top four run.

But the Saints faltered in a game they had to win. St Kilda’s stars faded out of the game – Dan Butler went missing and Jade Gresham wasn’t as brutally effective as usual. In the final quarter comeback, it was only Jack Steele, Tim Membrey and Zak Jones who mustered any fight. If the Saints are to rebound, they need an even four quarter performance from their entire side.

Verdict: Fremantle can head back to WA full of confidence, while St Kilda will begin Round 7 with their tails between their legs.

St Kilda players left Metricon Stadium disgusted by their loss (The Courier)

West Coast 10.7 (67) defeated Adelaide 5.4 (34)

It may not have been clean or pretty, but the Eagles did what they had to do. Adelaide once again couldn’t find any targets up forward, leaving West Coast ample time to run away for another win.

The midfield is humming

It’s taken many weeks, but West Coast’s engine room is back to its best.

Tim Kelly dominated the Crows with 25 touches, but he was ably helped by Elliot Yeo, Jack Redden and Dom Sheed. Andrew Gaff was selfless in absorbing a tag and aiding his flourishing teammates, who performed without captain Luke Shuey.

Nic Naitanui started off hot against Reilly O’Brien, but cooled down to narrowly take the points. The Eagles now look dangerous, as two consecutive wins proved their midfield is returning to its top-tier form.

West Coast were glad to have Jeremy McGovern back and firing

Some positives in another low week

Adelaide will continue to struggle in 2020. With Taylor Walker and Darcy Fogarty out, they have no key targets who can take a mark.

But there are some efforts that deserve recognition. Brodie Smith and Matt Crouch are getting their hands on the footy, while Ben Keays blanketed Gaff. Tom Doedee’s season is only getting better, as he is intercepting the ball beautifully.

Verdict: West Coast are firming as the team to beat. Adelaide need to scrap away and find a forward line balance that works.

Adelaide were left to trudge off once again (Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

Melbourne 12.8 (80) defeated Gold Coast 9.9 (63)

Melbourne secured the four points they had to get. In a see-sawing contest, Gold Coast’s youthful brilliance nearly stole victory. But Simon Goodwin’s men were desperate when it counted to win a tight contest.

Melbourne’s engine room and inclusions do the job

Max Gawn has had a tough initiation as skipper, but his best on ground performance on Saturday was the catalyst for Melbourne’s win. Joined by Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver, who rebounded from their poor disposal efficiency against the Tigers, the Dees produced some mature football.

Harley Bennell celebrates his first goal in red and blue (Ryan Pierse/ Getty Images)

Christian Petracca continued to look dangerous all over the ground, while Mitch Hannan and Ed Langdon added some badly needed outside run. New inclusion Sam Weideman showed he should never have been left out of the side, kicking two goals and giving Melbourne the tall target they yearn for.

The Suns can take solace in some blistering youth

Many expected Gold Coast’s eye-popping young talent to dry up after Matt Rowell’s shoulder injury. The Suns knew better, giving Izak Rankine his debut game.

The lively forward lived up to the hype, booting a mesmerising snap goal with his first touch in footy. He went on to kick two more and keep his side in the goal-for-goal contest. With Lachie Weller, Touk Miller and Charlie Ballard all remaining steady, Rankine was allowed to roam and create, giving Gold Coast a new element that is dangerous in a different way.

Ben King had a quiet night compared to his usual standards (The Gold Coast Bulletin)

Verdict: Melbourne have learnt what works for them going forward, while Gold Coast can work on harnessing Rankine and co.

Essendon 9.13 (67) defeated North Melbourne 7.11 (53)

In a scrappy affair up north, Essendon steadied when it mattered to gain the upper hand over the Roos. It definitely wasn’t an eye-catching contest, but it highlighted the problems North Melbourne face going forward.

David Zaharakis returned to form on Saturday night (Matt Roberts/ AFL Photos)

Old and new talent stand up

Essendon needed new heroes. With Jake Stringer sidelined after his Collingwood heroics, it was David Zaharakis’ turn to put in an age-defying performance. His three goals proved the difference and added some running spark to the Bombers midfield and forward line.

Dylan Shiel was targeted by the Roos. In his absence, it was Andrew McGrath and Darcy Parish who controlled the centre bounces. Orazio Fantasia enjoyed an improved game off half-back, while Conor McKenna and Adam Saad connected beautifully to rebound off defensive 50.

Some positives and some negatives for North Melbourne

Rhyce Shaw would be left scratching his head at how to invigorate Ben Brown. The runner-up in last year’s Coleman Medal is bereft of all form, only kicking a goal on Saturday after the Sherrin fortuitously fell into his hands.

Robbie Tarrant was one of the few Roos to stand up (NMFC)

But on a better note, Cam Zurhaar gave an improved effort around the footy, imposing his will and solid frame on all Bombers who dared to stand in his way. Todd Goldstein had a great night rucking, while Luke McDonald tagged well for the second consecutive week and Jy Simpkin had another consistently strong game in the middle.

Verdict: Essendon have some toughness, but will be tested when they play more polished sides. North Melbourne are slowly coming along, but need some tall targets outside of Ben Brown. They are missing Nick Larkey big time.

Port Adelaide 9.9 (63) defeated GWS 6.10 (46)

It was the first time this season the Power got tested by a scrappy, low-scoring encounter. Coming off a disappointing loss to Brisbane, Ken Hinkley’s men steadied when it mattered to work past an off-song Giants’ outfit.

Robbie Gray has flown under the radar so far in 2020 (Racing and Sports)

Do Port Adelaide hold the best all-round side in the league?

After an important win on Sunday, Port Adelaide’s list is looking more solid by the week. Hinkley was able to drop Tom Rockliff and still get a rise in the middle from the likes of Dan Houston, Connor Rozee and Brad Ebert.

Robbie Gray only has to show flashes of brilliance, while Kane Farrell, Hamish Hartlett and Karl Amon have created a formidable running defensive unit that beats any other team’s half-backs. Sam Powell-Pepper is another player who doesn’t have to star, but adds grunt and power to a line-up bursting with talent.

Stars faded when it mattered

For the majority of Sunday’s clash, Lachie Whitfield, Nick Haynes and Toby Greene all starred. Stephen Coniglio had a strong day, but went missing when the match was on the line.

Shane Mumford (left) gave his all for the Giants (Getty Images)

But other known names in Josh Kelly and Callan Ward were nowhere to be seen when the game tightened up. Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Himmelberg weren’t as good as their barnstorming efforts last week, leaving GWS carrying too many passengers when the final quarter broke out.

Verdict: Port Adelaide’s tough win leaves them entrenched in the top four. GWS need consistency if they are to go one better this year.

Richmond 4.10 (34) defeated Sydney 3.8 (26)

In a snooze-fest impacted by heavy rain and sloppy skills, Richmond came out lucky to record a win. Sydney just couldn’t generate anything up forward and were too defensive in key moments to topple the scratchy Tigers.

Lesser known Tigers covered their stars

Halfway through the first quarter, it would’ve been hard to fathom that Richmond would stumble to such a low score.

But by the match’s end Richmond were lucky to escape with a win. With many established stars out, Dustin Martin and Tom Lynch also had shockers. It was Jayden Short, Kamdyn McIntosh and Kane Lambert who led the charge. They constantly rebounded off defensive fifty and proved tougher than the Swans in the contested ball situations.

Shai Bolton stood up and kicked a vital goal on Sunday (RTFC)

A solid back line but only one player forward

John Longmire didn’t get it right on Sunday. Bringing in Robbie Fox to take on Tom Lynch was a wise decision, but the Sydney coach was otherwise way too defensive.

He has a tough task playing with a forward line missing tall timber, but with Tom Papley leading the Coleman Medal race he could surely encourage his troops to be a little more aggressive in getting the ball to him? Callum Mills and Jake Lloyd are impressing down back, but if the Swans are to win games they need to help Papley out.

Many Sydney players hunted the footy but couldn’t get their hands on it (AAP)

Verdict: Richmond are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, while Sydney are falling away badly. It’ll be a marvellous effort if Papley brings home a Coleman in such a dysfunctional forward line.

Carlton 16.7 (103) defeated Western Bulldogs 7.9 (51)

In a complete contrast to the previous game, Carlton brought up the century in a wonderful four-quarter performance. They out-worked the Bulldogs all game and looked dangerous up forward to breach the top eight.

Carlton now loom as a finals chance (Chris Hyde/ Getty Images)

A plethora of Blues have improved

There’s a lot to like for Carlton.

Will Setterfield and Matt Kennedy played wonderful games in the middle, while Harry McKay returned to his prominent best up forward. Combined with Jack Martin, Eddie Betts and Levi Casboult, the Blues’ forward line is bursting with potential.

Michael Gibbons has come along as a superb midfield/ small forward, winning the hard balls and powering the midfield when Patrick Cripps has off nights. Jacob Weitering is right up there in All-Australian talks after accounting for Josh Schache easily. Alongside the improving Sam Petrevski-Seton and the ever-reliable Ed Curnow, Carlton are looking solid across the board.

A bunch of emerging Blues celebrate yet another goal (CBFC)

Not many shining lights for the Dogs

In a horror night at the office, only Bailey Smith and Tom Liberatore can really hold their heads high.

The pair matched Carlton’s intensity in the midfield battle, fighting hard for momentum late in the first half. Marcus Bontempelli and Tim English had inconsistent nights that suggested their best is not far away. The main issue was the Bulldogs’ forward line, which failed when coming under pressure from Carlton’s emerging defenders.

Verdict: Carlton have reason to believe a finals spot isn’t out of the question. The Bulldogs have been taken down a peg, and need a Plan B if they fail to out-work the opposition.

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