After the controversy that has plagued the league over the past week with stories of on-field violence, everyone was looking forward to a weekend of pure footy, undiluted by outbursts of shameful rage.
The AFL’s diversity manager, Ali Fahour, had to step down during the week after punching an opposition player in a suburban league game. The fallout from this was that no-one was there this weekend to manage all the diversity, and so it spilled out all over the league, like blood pooling from a gunshot wound on a tiled surface.
I now attempt to sift through all this diversity and bring you the weekly wrap of round 16.
ADELAIDE (16.8.104) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS (5.15.45) BY 59 POINTS
The Bulldogs are in real trouble. Sure, they were playing one of the premiership favourites but, at the same time, they’re the reigning premiers so they should really be able to accomplish more than five goals over the course of a match.
The Bulldogs kicked inaccurately in front of goal, as well as around the ground finding great efficiency in kicking the ball directly to Jake Lever, Andy Otten, Daniel Talia, Jake Kelly, Rory Laird…basically any player they hadn’t trained all year to specifically kick it to.
Matt Crouch was once again the major ball-winner for the Crows with 32 touches, alongside Laird. Both of the aforementioned Crows players had a disposal efficiency of over 80%, while the Bulldogs’ top possession-getter, Toby McLean with 32, went at 62.5% efficiency.
"It's one of the worst losses since I've been at the club," said Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge. The Bulldogs had 42 clearances to 21, more inside-50s and more contested possessions than the Crows. Imagine how bad the loss would have been if they hadn’t actually touched the ball as much as they did? It would have been like the time they were kept to only four goals by the Crows in 2013. That was two years before Beveridge took over so he’s improved the team by a goal!
…and a premiership.
HAWTHORN (14.13.97) DREW WITH GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (15.7.97)
It’s another draw! It’s time to pull out all the statistics that have no bearing on anything relevant!
It’s the first time a team has had two draws in a row since Carlton in 1921!
It’s the first time a team has had two draws in the regular season since the Brisbane Lions in 2007!
It’s the first draw in Launceston!
It’s the first draw between two teams who have both had Jonathan O’Rourke represent their club nine times at AFL level!
Hawthorn were lucky to claim the draw after a monster bounce from the kick of Will Langford leapfrogged Heath Shaw who was defending the goalline to register a goal that tied the match.
Hawthorn were unlucky to not claim the win after a rushed behind was judged to have occurred after the final (troublingly quiet) siren sounded.
Hawthorn were lucky to claim the draw after trailing by two goals with only a matter of minutes remaining.
Hawthorn were unlucky not to hold on for the win after leading by almost four goals during the final quarter.
"(It’s) the old Maxwell Smart, isn’t it? Missed it by that much," said Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson.
"It is what it is,” said Giants coach Leon Cameron.
Is anyone taking this shit seriously?
ESSENDON (18.9.117) DEFEATED COLLINGWOOD (12.8.80) BY 37 POINTS
Essendon may have been worried going into the final quarter that their four goal lead may get chased down as it has in their past couple of weeks, but then they saw Collingwood in the other trench and decided to play a bit of kick to kick in no man’s land, knowing it was safe.
Collingwood’s season is effectively over, with Nathan Buckley slowly being lowered into the vat of molten steel, thumb defiantly raised all the while.
David Zaharakis had 38 touches and Orazio Fantasia kicked five goals in a game where Essendon never truly looked threatened, which is the most troubling thing for the Magpies faithful, and increasingly faithless.
"I thought it was the first time I had seen probably the players looked like they had lost a bit of hope,” said Buckley, discounting the time the club watched the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy together and all looked lost until those massive fucking eagles arrived and saved everything in a fabulous example of deus ex machina.
"The game looked very different in the first 10 and 15 [minutes] than it did for the rest of the game."
For example, in the first 10 minutes, Nathan Buckley was looking at the game through a View-Master, loaded with slides of elephants playing gleefully in water. That would have been much better than watching the remaining 110 minutes of the match, as Collingwood burned possession again and again.
SYDNEY (17.16.118) DEFEATED GOLD COAST (7.9.51) BY 67 POINTS
Sydney are on the march and, after trailing at quarter time, easily dispatched a disappointing and Ablett-less Suns.
Gary Rohan continued his rich run of form with five goals for the Swans, while Jake Lloyd had 30 possessions.
"The third quarter was disappointing. Their pressure lifted. I think the thing is, they’re a very good side,” said Suns coach Rodney Eade, almost as if he was entirely blindsided by Sydney’s quality.
“I mean, who the hell are these guys? I only got to watch their first six games and then I went on holiday. Now I’ve come back and they smashed us. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to suspect that Sydney may actually be, perhaps, just maybe, a decent team, it seems.”
“Out of the six goals they got in that second quarter, four were from pressure turnovers - so we tried to do too much with the ball,” Eade continued.
“In addition to kicking and handballing it, we tried to cook it, eat it, melt it…I think Saad even tried to marry it. We should really stick to the basics.”
GEELONG (25.13.163) DEFEATED BRISBANE (11.12.78) BY 85 POINTS
Dayne Zorko has pulled out one of the great individual performances, tearing through the Geelong midfield and defence to register 36 touches, four goals, 10 clearances and 12 tackles.
Geelong stood absolutely no chance against a midfield champion who looked almost possessed in his determination to lift his side in an inspiring performance against a real premiership contender.
Zorko started with a fabulous first quarter goal that involved a running bounce and kick from 60m, and in doing so cemented his place amongst the game’s truly elite.
"Over the course of the game, we thought some of our skill execution was a little bit off,” said Geelong coach Chris Scott.
“We didn't quite execute our skill."
Geelong were left with their champion midfielder, Patrick Dangerfield, coming into the game with a question mark over his preparation after his partner gave birth to their first child just days before the match.
Oh yeah, by the way, Dangerfield had 38 touches and every other Lions player got murdered.
ST KILDA (21.12.138) DEFEATED RICHMOND (10.11.71) BY 67 POINTS
Richmond kicked one goal for the first half. St Kilda kicked nine goals to zero in the second quarter. All of Melbourne was left in darkness as the power surge at half-time from maximum powered microwaves blew the transformers at the power station.
The last time there was such a one-sided match was at the exact same time in Brisbane.
Seb Ross and Jack Steven had 33 touches each, Tim Membrey kicked five goals and Nick Riewoldt took 12 marks against the greatest defender that’s ever eaten an ice cream.
"They were terrific around the contest and away from the contest,” said Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, meaning they were terrific everywhere, his speech as inefficient as Richmond’s ball use.
“We couldn’t hit the side of a barn in the first half,” Hardwick continued, promising to question the AFL on why a barn was installed at Etihad Stadium, another controversy brewing for the much-maligned venue.
“It’s good to get a wake up call.”
Maybe if it was scheduled for before the match rather than at three quarter time, it would be more effective.
FREMANTLE (13.8.86) DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE (12.10.82) BY 4 POINTS
North Melbourne have lost another close finish. The only people that have a worse finishing record than North Melbourne is everyone who ever raced Steven Bradbury. The only face scarier than Brad Scott’s is Steven Bradbury’s.
North Melbourne were thwarted by debutant Ryan Nyhuis, who kicked four goals, and Nat Fyfe who returned to his famed Brownlow-winning best.
A lot’s been said of Ryan Nyhuis and how North were unable to contain him in just his first game, but his direct opponent in the final minutes (as he kicked what was later revealed to be the matchwinner) was another debutant, Daniel Nielson. Feel for him.
Todd Goldstein missed a set shot for goal that would have won the match for the Kangaroos from a very gettable spot.
"I can live with the execution, because that's what you just keep working on,” said Kangaroos coach Brad Scott, referring to his decision to have Goldstein executed at their Tuesday training session.
"I feel really disappointed for our players and our fans. I think a win is always a great antidote to a few losses,” continued Scott. An interesting philosophy, contextualising a win as an antidote to a run of losses. Some teams contextualise a win as The Whole Point.
MELBOURNE (14.6.90) DEFEATED CARLTON (12.10.82) BY 8 POINTS
Melbourne managed to hold off another spirited performance from a desperate Carlton side to continue their hopes of pushing far in the finals.
Carlton were in front until midway through the final quarter before goals to Jeff Garlett, Jake Melksham and Jordan Lewis helped the Demons home.
Carlton won the clearances and inside-50s, as well as contested possession, but the loss of Patrick Cripps before half time meant that their undermanned midfield couldn’t quite hold on against a Melbourne team that haven’t been without their injury woes.
Clayton Oliver was the top ballwinner for the Demons with 29, as well as contributing with a boundary-line spray at an abusive Carlton fan. Sorry, that was tautological. I just mean a Carlton fan.
The incident was one of those that divides opinion, but it only divides the opinion between what people think internally and express externally. The outwardly correct reaction is that Oliver shouldn’t have said anything, shouldn’t have taken the bait and shouldn’t have set that sort of precedent. The sincere reaction is that if you’re copping non-stop abuse and have a member of the public yell something in your face from mere centimetres away you should be able to tell him he’s a fuckwit. As long as you don’t go into Eric Cantona territory, I think everyone secretly enjoys someone giving it back.
Is there any more satisfying clip than when Michael O’Loughlin kicked the matchwinner and screamed directly into the mouth-breathing faces of West Coast’s cheersquad?
PORT ADELAIDE (18.12.120) DEFEATED WEST COAST (13.10.88) BY 32 POINTS
Port Adelaide have come from behind at Domain Stadium in a dominating second half performance to defeat the slipping West Coast Eagles and push into top four contention.
Brad Ebert had 31 touches and Charlie Dixon kicked five goals. 60 inside-50s to 42 highlights how Port Adelaide dominated control of the midfield, with Andrew Gaff and Sam Mitchell the only Eagles to collect 25+ possessions.
Paddy Ryder was one of the critical differences between the sides, with the Power big man collecting 39 hit outs, 17 disposals and six tackles.
“I love him, I can’t help that,” said Power coach Ken Hinkley, suggesting that previously people have tried to prevent their forbidden love but love conquers all.
"He's a pretty special player," he continued before a solitary tear curled its way down his well-worn cheek.
"Just through weight of numbers in all areas we weren't good enough in the second half and until we can do it for four quarters we're going to look inconsistent," West Coast coach Adam Simpson said, nailing the idea that if you’re not consistent you’re going to look inconsistent.
Likewise, if you’re not kicking it straight you’re going to look inefficient. If you’re not running fast you’re going to look slow. If you’re not breathing you’re going to look dead.
If you’re not playing well at home, and you’re West Coast, you’re going to look fucked.