Round 8 produced some thrilling matches and some blow-outs to emphasise who is in form and who needs to find some in the coming weeks.
Gold Coast 6.10 (46) defeated by Western Bulldogs 7.9 (51)
In a slippery Thursday night affair, the Dogs managed to grit their teeth and forge through for a vital victory. The Suns were valiant, but were left to rue missed opportunities.
Superb ball users have big nights
The Dogs needed players to step up when the going got tough.
It wasn’t a fun night to play footy, but Caleb Daniel excelled off half-back with 25 touches at around 84 per cent efficiency. His constant rebounding benefited Jack Macrae, who was unstoppable around ball-ups and often belted the Sherrin forward out of scrimmages.
Alongside Daniel, Hayden Crozier also showed his value in defence, with some wonderful intercept marks thwarting Gold Coast attacks that could have won them the match.
Experience nearly gets the Suns over the line
So much has been said about Gold Coast’s young players. But on Thursday night, it was a core group of elder statesmen who led the charge.
Touk Miller was outstanding in the middle, and often roved off the dominant Jarrod Witts. Alex Sexton proved to be a headache for the Dogs up forward, slamming through three crafty majors and always looking dangerous when near the ball. David Swallow and Hugh Greenwood were also strong around the ball; if Izak Rankine’s exciting mark had been converted in the final minutes, his brilliant efforts would have validated the hard work done by Greenwood, Miller and Swallow.
Verdict: The Dogs can get it done when it counts, while Gold Coast are so close to mixing it with finals-bound sides.
GWS 9.8 (62) defeated Richmond 6.14 (50)
In an important Grand Final rematch, last year’s losers trumped the Tigers in a tight affair. Toby Greene was the star with five majors, as his side got one over the hampered Richmond in a superb clash.
Toby leads his troops forward
Greene may have been the best player on the ground by far with five goals and 18 disposals, but he wasn’t the only contributor.
His talent around goals inspired the brilliant Josh Kelly (26 touches and a wonderful goal) and Stephen Coniglio (24 disposals) to destroy Richmond’s second-string midfield. When Lachie Whitfield and Jacob Hopper also made themselves busy around the ground, the Tigers had no way of coping with GWS’ potent side.
Some veterans could take a leaf out of Dusty’s book
Halfway through the third quarter GWS looked on track to win. They had opened up a sizeable margin and were cantering to a redeeming win. But then Dustin Martin took control.
He booted two goals in the second half of the term and matched Greene around goals. With Shai Bolton and Marlion Pickett also looking smooth through the centre, Richmond entered the last quarter with a great chance of stealing victory.
But it was too much to do. Without the plethora of wise heads in the side, Richmond had to have their experienced players performing. Kane Lambert was one who didn’t do so, alongside Dylan Grimes. It’s no massive worry for the Tigers, but they need some players to find form soon if they are to keep winning.
Verdict: GWS are inconsistent, yet when they are on song they are extremely impressive. Richmond have their champion in form, but need even contributions if they are to be a contender once again.
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North Melbourne 9.3 (57) defeated by Carlton 9.10 (64)
Carlton love taking games down to the wire. A strong start gave them a great chance to storm home, but North Melbourne’s tenacity in the contest meant the Blues were forced to grimly hang on.
Blues get it done despite Cripps’ quiet day
For not the first time this season, Carlton have done the impossible.
After the last few years, it was a foregone conclusion that Patrick Cripps had to star for the Blues to win. But the champion wasn’t at his best on Saturday, and it didn’t matter.
Marc Murphy’s 22-touch game on the wing was influential, while Matthew Kennedy and Will Setterfield were key contributors in the guts. With Jack Martin up to his usual tricks and recruit Jack Newnes playing his best game all year, Carlton had many contributors who fired them to a vital win.
Smart decisions keep the Roos in it
At quarter-time, Rhyce Shaw’s men were all over the shop. Luckily, the coach had some new weapons to use.
Nick Larkey took the load off Ben Brown’s shoulders and kicked some important goals for himself. Bailey Scott was great all day, popping up for three goals in a terrific return to footy. Jared Polec moved back to his usual position on the wing and cracked back into form, setting up majors left, right and centre in his 25-touch game. Jed Anderson and Luke McDonald also continued to hunt the contested ball in a revamped second half performance.
Verdict: Carlton keep improving by the week, while North Melbourne face a tough struggle to get back onto the winners’ list.
Sydney 9.6 (60) defeated Hawthorn 7.11 (53)
It was a hard game to predict, and proved to be a tight contest all day. A fiery clash ended with the Swans snatching victory and condemning the Hawks to more turmoil.
Papley leads a charge of great Swans
During a momentum-shifting second term, it was Tom Papley who broke the game open. A goal soon turned into a second after a scuffle gave him another free. By the end of the match he had slotted four and proven to be the difference.
But he wasn’t the only star – Dane Rampe and Jake Lloyd were brilliant in defence all day, while James Rowbottom and Luke Parker were instrumental in the midfield to outclass Hawthorn’s touted on-ballers.
Too little Hawks left to do too much
Some Hawthorn players can hold their head high, but many can’t.
Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara (25 touches and one goal) definitely fought bravely, and James Sicily and Chad Wingard broke past Swans all day. Other than that, Hawthorn were dismal.
Ben McEvoy is struggling once again, Mitchell Lewis only had one disposal and Jack Gunston was soundly beaten by Rampe. That doesn’t even account for other young Hawks; eight players had ten disposals or less during a horror day for Hawthorn.
Verdict: Sydney have the talent to be a force in the coming years. Hawthorn are in desperate trouble of slipping to the bottom four.
Port Adelaide 6.8 (44) defeated by St Kilda 12.1 (73)
Another upset eventuated on Saturday night when St Kilda rose to the top four off the back of a wonderful away victory.
Youngsters the only shining light
It may have been a disappointing home match for the Power, but once again younger players fought the game out bravely.
Darcy Byrne-Jones was again terrific off half-back, delivering passes efficiently and adding some pace to the Power line-up. Mitch Georgiades showed the potential he has with an impressive start, and Ollie Wines bullied his way through traffic all night.
Xavier Duursma also popped up plenty in the match, pulling out his trademark bow-and-arrow celebration when slotting a crucial goal. For Port Adelaide, their problem lies with their experienced core group.
St Kilda’s recruits only get better with age
Like a fine wine, St Kilda’s choice to bring in many new faces has only looked better and better this year.
Paddy Ryder and Dougal Howard raised the ire of Power fans by returning to Adelaide Oval to destroy their old club. The former performed wonderfully in the ruck alongside Rowan Marshall while the latter blanketed Charlie Dixon.
Zak Jones was superb through the middle all night, while Dan Butler continued to slot crafty majors in important times. With draft pick Max King and former Bomber Jake Carlisle controlling the airways, the Saints have a strong line-up capable of matching it with the best.
Verdict: The Power may not be the frontrunners of the league, while St Kilda are not just a finals chance anymore.
Adelaide 8.11 (59) defeated by Essendon 9.8 (62)
For the majority of the final quarter, Bombers fans would have been fearing a catastrophic loss. But they did just enough to edge past the unlucky Crows.
The red and black young mids get the job done
Without so much experience, Essendon’s youthful on-ballers would have been forgiven for falling away. But Andrew McGrath (25 touches), Darcy Parish (22 and a goal) and Zach Merrett (33) didn’t get the memo has they put Adelaide’s midfielders to the sword.
In the end, their business around the ball got Essendon the four points, as they won the clearance count by eight and constantly thwarted Adelaide whenever they got momentum. Kyle Langford was also important as a half-forward/ midfielder, kicking two goals to compliment the exhilarating bounce of Conor McKenna off half-back.
Poor execution and no luck haunts the Crows
Once again the Crows were good enough to nearly steal victory, but when it came down to the final minutes they couldn’t compose themselves.
Taylor Walker had another great game, discovering his bustling form up forward. Lachlan Murphy bounced back into the line-up with three crucial goals – his intensity around the ball and pressure added a different dynamic to the Adelaide forward line.
1 goals 6 in the final few minutes cruelled the Crows, and meant they fell just short once again. With Tom Doedee and Brad Crouch both succumbing to hamstring injuries, Adelaide must regather if they are to lodge their first win in season 2020.
Verdict: The Bombers don’t look like contenders, but just keep winning. Adelaide are unlucky – they are so close to clicking things into place for a win.
West Coast 18.3 (111) defeated Collingwood 6.9 (45)
At quarter time we looked in for another tense clash between two AFL powerhouses. But after the first break West Coast put the foot down and produced their best display of football since the 2018 Preliminary Final.
Who can stop the Eagles midfield and forward line?
If West Coast can put on such an exhibition against the competition’s best defence, who can stop them?
From the get-go, the likes of Josh Kennedy (7 goals), Jack Darling (one) and Oscar Allen (three) were unstoppable. While Darcy Moore and his black and white teammates missed the aerial security of Jeremy Howe, they weren’t to blame.
The Collingwood midfield got taken to the cleaners. Nic Naitanui pounced on Brodie Grundy, while Luke Shuey, Tim Kelly and Andrew Gaff taught an inexperienced Pies on-ball brigade (they were without Steele Sidebottom, Jordan De Goey and Scott Pendlebury) how to win clearances and deliver to their forwards. It may have been a day out for the Eagles, but if they can play to 50% of what they did on Sunday they should destroy teams.
Two different game plans – one consistent result
Barring Collingwood’s remarkable one-point win at Optus Stadium last year, the Eagles have the Magpies’ measure.
Collingwood play a fast moving and handball-heavy style that seems to overbear most teams. But when it comes to West Coast, the experienced heads out west know how to compose themselves and pick through the black and white press.
West Coast often caught Collingwood’s over-handballing and then didn’t suck in too many players into the contest – their strength means they can spread fast from the contest and hurt the swarming Pies. If Nathan Buckley’s men are to beat the Eagles, they need to rethink how they go about attacking them.
Verdict: The Eagles could solidify themselves as flag favourites in the next four home games, while Collingwood should recover from a poor day at the office.
Melbourne 7.7 (49) defeated by Brisbane 7.11 (53)
The Dees came very close to causing the upset they needed if they were to shoot into the top eight. But Brisbane know how to win even when it isn’t their day.
Youthful Lions with wise heads
It may have been a tight finish, but young Brisbane players held strong when it counted.
With Lachie Neale (33 disposals), Jarryd Lyons (23) and Hugh McCluggage (22) controlling the midfield, Brisbane needed some assurance from others to lock down the four points. When Melbourne surged back to within a kick, Jarrod Berry’s attack on the contest was telling, while Zac Bailey also cooled down the match with some telling possessions.
Brisbane may have been lucky to escape after a needless review and a stupid 50 metre penalty call ruined Melbourne’s chances at snagging a winning goal, but their young players proved they are capable of closing out intense finishes.
The Demons are coming back
Last week’s rampant win over the Hawks excited Melbourne fans that they may be discovering their 2018 form. Although they didn’t get the result on Sunday, the effort proved they are warming up.
Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca were once again brilliant in the middle, using their strong frames to win contested possessions and set up attacks. Max Gawn did his usual thing in the midfield, while Jack Viney played his best game in a long time.
To add more positives, Jake Melksham rediscovered his dangerous touch across half-forward, and Jake Lever took many intercept marks to excite Melbourne fans about the future.
Verdict: Brisbane are very close to solidifying the top spot. Melbourne face an interesting month that’ll determine where they stand in the AFL landscape for season 2020.
Fremantle 2.4 (16) defeated by Geelong 6.12 (48)
Plenty of rain meant this game soon collapsed into a storm of contested football. Geelong, with their solid defence, proved too good when it mattered to down an inexperienced Fremantle.
The Dockers narrowly avoid a record low
Up until the final minutes of the last quarter, Fremantle were heading for their lowest ever score as a club. With only one goal on the board courtesy of Matt Taberner, the purple haze had to strike if they were to avoid embarrassment.
Enter young Caleb Serong. A beautiful left foot shot from the boundary avoided complete misery, and highlighted the talent Fremantle have in their ranks. Alongside the blossoming Andrew Brayshaw and the impressive Adam Cerra, it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Dockers.
Wet weather suits the Cats
It may not always appear so, but Geelong play good wet weather footy.
Tom Hawkins is a rare key forward who can kick goals in slippery conditions, booting three in trying weather to give his team the four points. The likes of Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie, Zach Tuohy and Sam Menegola are all classy and able to thrive on a wet deck. Once again, the hard work was done by Geelong’s second-string midfielders – a trend Chris Scott would be pleased by.
Verdict: The Dockers suffered a dint in their confidence, while Geelong continue to get it done.
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