Midway through the bye rounds and we’re just getting used to spreading all the games over the longest amount of time possible so that the supporters of teams who aren’t playing can really wallow in the long periods of uninterest and disinterest. If only Brian Taylor could constantly roam the changing rooms of our mind, interrupting our conversations and dreams to remind us that football is on and potentially stumble upon our most guarded secrets.
SYDNEY (12.16.88) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS (6.6.42) BY 46 POINTS
A pairing of teams that have somehow become traditional rivals over the last couple of years because, y’know, they played some good games against each other, and this match was not one of them.
The Bulldogs didn’t turn up and if it weren’t for some inaccurate kicking, Sydney would have made this defeat simply embarrassing. Lance Franklin kicked 3.5 for the night, so over half the Bulldogs score, and Josh Kennedy had 37 touches including a goal. Isaac Heeney and Jake Lloyd also broke the 30 possessions barrier with 31 each while Jack Macrae was the only Dog to do so.
71 inside-50s to 39 in Sydney’s favour shows the dominance they had, and Jason Johannisen’s nine touches shows the dominance he didn’t. George Hewett completely negated the Bulldogs livewire despite his explosive potential. It was like Australia’s NBN network – a quick and electrifying asset shut down by constant pressure from a private school kid living in New South Wales.
Sydney now have the best percentage outside the top eight while the Western Bulldogs sit just inside the eight on percentage. The Bulldogs will want to push in the second half of the year if they want to reach their traditional premiership winning position of top seven.
ADELAIDE (16.15.111) DEFEATED ST KILDA (7.12.54) BY 57 POINTS
One of the worst Friday night games of the season, Adelaide just slowly and methodically progressed to a comfortable win against a listless, luckless and Riewoldtless Saints.
Seb Ross’s 39 touches was a career high for him, while Rory Laird again reliably gained 34 possessions just a couple of weeks after him failing to do so cost me $800 in winnings. I was very happy for him.
"We had way too many passengers," Saints coach Alan Richardson said.
"We were badly beaten around the ball,” he continued, to which he meant a 55 metre radius around the ball at all times.
St Kilda have now lost eight of its last nine matches without Nick Riewoldt, and have a positive record of 5-3 in the games inbetween. They also only had one goalkicker to three quarter time, Josh Bruce, who finished with four.
Remember when most of the regular cast left Scrubs and they tried to prolong the life of the show with less talented but more youthful actors? It got cancelled after a year. St Kilda are looking scarily like Scrubs but thankfully without a ham-fisted moral message at the end or a distracting sound effects track. Also, I apologise to Riewoldt for comparing him to Zach Braff in this analogy.
GOLD COAST (13.17.95) DEFEATED HAWTHORN (12.7.79) BY 16 POINTS
Given that Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson felt obliged to punch an opposition supporter in seasons past when Hawthorn were at the top end of the table, every supporter must feel appreciative that he hasn’t opened the coaches’ box window and toasted everyone with a flamethrower given Hawthorn’s horrifically unpredictable and frequently disappointing current form.
Gold Coast dominated the clearances 42-27 on their way to an away-from-home victory with Gary Ablett’s 37 touches, 10 tackles and two goals.
Tom Mitchell had 39 possessions for the Hawks and Jack Gunston kicked five goals, but besides a period in the second half when Hawthorn kicked six unanswered goals, the Suns outplayed the Hawks at every turn.
"Our polish with the ball wasn't quite the standard you need against Gold Coast,” said Clarkson, elevating Gold Coast to some unique standard that is only befitting of a team that finished the round sitting in 13th place. Other champion teams that have finished in 13th place include no-one and that’s it.
The inflation of their opposition’s performance was also evident in Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade’s post-match press conference.
"Their pressure in the last quarter was as good as I've seen,” said Eade, who seems to have never seen Hawthorn play in any game of the past 5 years. Or Adelaide or Geelong this year. Or never seen AFL football in general.
BRISBANE (18.13.121) DEFEATED FREMANTLE (9.10.64) BY 57 POINTS
Despite the commentators, special comments guys and also Dermott Brereton trying to talk up Fremantle’s chances even midway through the third quarter, this game was a rout from beginning to end.
Brisbane have a midfield. Dayne Beams and Dayne Zorko are two elite players, rivalling Adelaide’s Rorys, St Kilda’s Jacks and Essendon’s Dysons (Heppell and the vacuum that cleans up the pretzel salt from the changeroom floors).
Beams had 36 touches and a goal while Zorko had 30 and two goals.
"I thought our midfield got obliterated. They couldn't get near them,” said Fremantle coach Ross Lyon, correctly.
"We need to go to the break, we need to re-assess and we need to make some changes, because we can't just roll along."
Fremantle have been just rolling along since 2015, and the changes they’ve made in that time include Matthew Pavlich retiring and nothing else. Their gameplan is the same and their personnel are the same. I had the good fortune of bumping into Tony Modra at the Adelaide v St Kilda match and he could honestly inject more dynamism into their forwardline right now than McCarthy is currently showing. Clive Waterhouse could. Dare I say it, even Chris Groom could.
A special mention also has to be made for Rhys Mathieson whose celebrations are some of the most cringe inducing celebrations I’ve seen. While many admire his enthusiasm and pluck, his celebrations just look lame. Eddie Betts with arms outstretched to his admiring fans in the pocket, Lance Franklin with a steely gaze running with his finger pointing to the stands, Jarryd Roughead pointing to the skies and purposefully nodding his head as his teammates surround him. Rhys Mathieson hyperextending his arms and prancing around with his head violently bobbing like a literal show pony that has been crossbred with a goose.
ESSENDON (19.17.131) DEFEATED PORT ADELAIDE (8.13.61) BY 70 POINTS
Essendon blew Port Adelaide away with a seven goals to one first quarter that the Power could never recover from to make their way into the top eight with only percentage separating them from fifth position.
Essendon’s forward line worked with much-maligned ‘project’ Cale Hooker kicking five goals, star Joe Daniher and club favourite Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti kicking four each and Hooker and Daniher taking 18 marks between them.
Cale Hooker was so dominant in the first half that Ken Hinkley had to change his opponent from Jack Hombsch to Troy Clurey which confused Cale Hooker immensely. He’d never had a defensive opponent switched on him mid-game and so for a moment he thought he’d travelled through a portal to a different dimension like in that show Sliders, but instead Port Adelaide were just changing their personnel to try and hold off their imminent destruction, like they did with the cast in that show Sliders. It didn’t work, like in that show, Scrubs.
"It was really good pressure on them and we were obviously getting the ball forward quick, (but) I certainly didn't expect to be that far in front at quarter-time,” said Essendon coach John Worsfold, which is a really nice way of saying ‘holy hell, we’re not that good’.
CARLTON (10.11.71) DEFEATED GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (9.16.70) BY 1 POINT
A wonderfully tense game that made you forget how mediocre the rest of the round was, Carlton overcame premiership contenders Greater Western Sydney thanks to a voodoo curse placed on Toby Greene.
Greene kicked 0.5 for the day including a running shot for goal in the final minutes that looked like a shot for goal from one of the under-12’s matches I see on the way to my train on a Saturday morning. It was bizarre for an AFL footballer. He followed it up with a pass to absolutely no one deep in the pocket in the final minute. It’s like his feet were being controlled independently from the rest of his body, like in the game Octodad.
Just to confirm, by the way, I have to go past the underage matches to get to my train station at that time for work. I don’t stop and I certainly don’t take pictures. That would be ludicrous.
Matthew Kreuzer put on a commanding performance in his 150th match with 33 hit outs, 21 disposals and even eight tackles from the big man. Sam Docherty led the disposals with 35.
MELBOURNE (15.14.104) DEFEATED COLLINGWOOD (15.10.100) BY 4 POINTS
Melbourne have overcome a 28 point deficit in the second quarter to beat the in-form Magpies on the Queen’s birthday, which is fitting because, without any evidence or statistics, Melbourne definitely have the most monarchist fans.
This public holiday has now, with inspiration from Neale Daniher, become a traditional Motor Neurone Disease fundraising day with the ‘Freeze’ promotion in which celebrities slide into an ice bath for the charity.
Collingwood decided to ‘freeze’ in the third quarter, conceding six goals to two (editor’s note: LOLOLOL GOOD ONE).
The possessions were evenly spread for the Demons with eight players collecting between 21-26 touches, while for the Magpies Steele Sidebottom was the only man to break 30. Jack Watts and Christian Petracca kicked three goals each, including the sealer from the former.
“The siren went at the wrong time,” said Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, although the final siren very rarely goes in the second quarter.
That still doesn’t stop hilarious fans, however, calling for the timekeeper to ‘blow the bloody siren’ whenever their team is in front and they’re not confident of holding the lead. At that point they look around to the surrounding supporters who look over and chuckle while the jokester takes a sip from their thermos and waits for death.