This week we had the top nine teams playing the bottom nine, which should result in some high scores for tipping. This year, however, has been like no other and even with the ladder as it was, you would have been better off just flipping a coin, or reading tea leaves, or buying an octopus and forcing it to make predictions wildly outside its area of expertise.
My octopus got eight out of nine this week.
Well done, Orville.
Round 19, you spineless mollusc.
HAWTHORN (10.12.72) DEFEATED SYDNEY (9.12.66) BY 6 POINTS
Hawthorn, to the fury of everyone, refuses to give up their finals hopes defeating the in-form Sydney for the second time this season by a one kick margin.
It was at times an angry affair, with Lance Franklin twice taking the opportunity to hit former teammate Luke Hodge in the head without committing an act bad enough to be reported for. First it was a very strong push that was towards Hodge’s chest but ‘accidentally’ went high. Second was a foolishly clumsy tackle attempt that resulted in a forearm to the back of Hodge’s head.
It was like watching the footballing equivalent of a man beating his wife with a phone book so as not to leave a bruise. Or his kids. Who the man is beating is not really important for the analogy to work.
Hawthorn won the inside-50 count 49-43 and had a +10 contested possession differential, which one would say is enough for a goal advantage. Liam Shiels topped the possessions with 28 but it was a very even spread with eight players getting 20+ possessions for the Hawks and four players kicking two goals each. Roughead stood up in the final quarter with 12 touches in a game total of 24.
A mild level of controversy in the final quarter as well with Liam Shiels claiming a soccered goal that went to a score review to see if the ball had touched a Sydney hand. The vision was inconclusive, which every person could have predicted before it was even replayed, which left John Longmire asking after the game if we could have replay footage that’s a bit better than the quality of footage commonly referred to on the Internet as ‘potato’. Whatever is one up from potato, at least. Sweet potato, probably. They’re taking over the chip world, despite being objectively worse tasting.
NORTH MELBOURNE (11.10.76) DEFEATED MELBOURNE (10.12.72) BY 4 POINTS
Melbourne hasn’t beaten North Melbourne in 11 years, and North Melbourne are famously terrible at winning close matches so we all looked on in bewildered anticipation as this game went down to the wire.
You know that joke about how cats always land on their feet, and buttered toast always lands buttered-side down, so if you strap a piece of buttered toast to the back of a cat and dropped them they would just hover, constantly spinning, above the ground? One wondered if this would be the same, with the Kangaroos and Demons kicking it back and forth to each other in the centre square for all eternity.
Ben Brown was at his loping best with four goals, while Luke McDonald’s pressure was immense with 10 tackles. For Melbourne, Clayton Oliver tried his best with 33 touches and 12 tackles, but even his 26 contested possessions, the second highest tally this year, weren’t enough.
“It’s what you build really strong clubs on,” said North Melbourne coach Brad Scott, beating a side in Tasmania that you haven’t lost to in over a decade.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (13.20.98) DEFEATED FREMANTLE (13.8.86) BY 12 POINTS
GWS have come from behind in the last quarter to earn a much-needed win against Fremantle in a game that was filled with mistakes, like an orphanage.
Inaccurate kicking kept Fremantle in touching distance until the end, with the 12 point margin coming all from behinds. This is in direct contrast to most Fremantle matches, where Fremantle normally kick like a whole team of Daryl Pooles.
Nat Fyfe had 31 possessions and kicked two goals for Fremantle, who he has recently committed himself to for a few more years. GWS looked like they missed Toby Greene who was suspended and, by the way he’s played over his career, looks like something he has committed himself to for a few more years.
"There's no doubt that to compete with Adelaide, Geelong, Port, Richmond, Melbourne and so on, and I've probably missed a couple, we need to improve,” said Giants coach Leon Cameron. Over in Victoria, the Melbourne fans collectively said “aww, he remembered us”.
PORT ADELAIDE (9.9.63) DEFEATED ST KILDA (8.13.61) BY 2 POINTS
Three quarters of horrific, boring, error-riddled football followed by one quarter of still error-riddled football but with scoring, Port Adelaide have kicked two goals in the final minute to snatch a win from St Kilda.
Port Adelaide fans were streaming out of the stadium when their side went 10 points down with two minutes remaining. Port Adelaide’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, ‘never say die’, ‘March From The Mall’ supporters thought “screw this” and left when the game was still in the balance.
I get that every team has supporters that leave early, but very few teams have so many modern-day traditions designed to show fan dedication and solidarity. Port Adelaide fans have long-abused their Crows supporting counterparts, saying they’re old, go quiet when their team is losing, spend all their time knitting, etc. Moments like this, and images of Football Park when attendance was so low they had to block out entire bays of seating, just remind some that people in glass houses shouldn’t drink West End.
As far as stats go, Paddy Ryder won a tap and Robbie Gray kicked a goal.
"Good player, isn't he," Power coach Ken Hinkley said about Ryder, which roughly translates as “thank fuck we’ve got him because this season would be toast without him”.
RICHMOND (14.14.98) DEFEATED GOLD COAST (10.5.65) BY 33 POINTS
Richmond stay in the top four after defeating a Gold Coast side that has so many injuries they asked Warwick Capper to play because he lives nearby.
Ah Chee was concussed, Sexton was concussed, Ainsworth did his knee, Witts hurt his foot and shoulder but played on while Fiorini played on with a hamstring strain. Ablett, Barlow, Kolodjashnij, Matera, Thompson, Day, Lyons and a host of others sat on the sidelines.
Dustin Martin had 34 touches while Rioli, Castagna and Nankervis kicked three goals each for the Tigers. They had 45 inside-50s to Gold Coast’s 34, despite Aaron Hall’s best efforts with 40 disposals.
"We probably had eight or nine missing from our best team, so to be able to do what they did, I was extremely proud of them,” said Suns coach Rodney Eade, who many are saying may not be the best coaching fit for the team, but it must be hard when every game is like an episode of Roadrunner and Coyote. Where every effort to thwart the opposition ends with an injury like a torn hamstring, or a ruptured shoulder, or a stick of dynamite exploding in their shorts.
GEELONG (18.15.123) DEFEATED CARLTON (8.10.58) BY 65 POINTS
Worrying signs for Carlton who, while not expected to win this match, failed to maintain the pressure and intensity for which they’ve been admired for the second week in a row.
Tom Hawkins was at his best, some suggesting a ‘best’ that he has previously not shown. He had 27 touches and kicked six goals, which is up there with some of the great individual performances this year of players like Selwood, Ablett, Gray or Walters.
Patrick Dangerfield’s Brownlow hopes are on shaky ground after a tackle that saw Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer concussed. It was a strong tackle that pinned the arms and took Kreuzer to ground. You know, like a good tackle, but Kreuzer hit his head in this one so it was a bad tackle.
"I think what you're seeing is a club that's in contention versus a club that's in its second year of a reset and on a different path right now," Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said. Really, there is only one path which is to a premiership, and the more accurate statement would have been that Geelong are much further down that path. If they were on a different path they would have been playing netball or something, which I guess they almost were.
WESTERN BULLDOGS (19.13.127) DEFEATED ESSENDON (13.19.97) BY 30 POINTS
Joe Daniher tried his best but couldn’t drag Essendon over the line against a Western Bulldogs side that was able to execute possession in a way it has struggled to do for a lot of the season in a free-flowing match by turning it over slightly less than Essendon.
Daniher kicked six goals while for the Bulldogs Jason Johannisen was able to continue his return to form with four.
It was the Bulldogs’ ability to win the clearances, 36-22, that saw them finish on top in what was a close match for most of the day, with there only being one goal the difference as late as the final term.
"No doubt it was a manic game and a really turnover orientated game,” said Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge.
"It was a pretty frenetic game and both teams were prepared to go really fast, which does mean there is a higher risk of turnovers," said Essendon coach John Worsfold.
“I hate apple turnovers!” said Brendon Goddard before angrily slamming his after-match snack into a passing child’s face.
The Bulldogs now sit ninth, separated from sixth only by percentage, while Orazio Fantasia sits at home, separated only from Brian Taylor by a restraining order.
COLLINGWOOD (15.13.103) DREW WITH ADELAIDE (16.7.103)
The third draw of the season and to many the most exciting, Adelaide have come back from 50 points down in the third quarter to salvage two premiership points with a goal after the siren.
Forever Crow Mitch McGovern took a trademark pack mark (trackmark?) with a second remaining and kicked true to complete the comeback.
Collingwood dominated the heel-footed and inefficient Crows in the first half, with Daniel Wells playing his best game for the club with 34 touches and three goals, equalling Taylor Adams’ tally. Matt Crouch had 36 touches for Adelaide, while Mitch McGovern’s four goals was their best.
While both team shared the points, Adelaide finished the much happier with many counting them out of the contest in the third quarter. Collingwood hit the post twice in the last quarter and the frustration on Nathan Buckley’s face after the siren was apparent. Well, it wasn’t immediately apparent, because his head was in his hands, holding on as firmly as a McGovern brother holds a speccy.
"When we tried to go a little faster we tried to put a fire out by putting petrol on it, basically through the third quarter and early into the last," Buckley said, forgetting that Adelaide runs out at Adelaide Oval surrounded by literal flames and that their supporters bring flares to the ground.
"I always think were a chance and I encouraged the players to keep believing and hanging in there and sometimes it changes," said Adelaide coach Don Pyke.
“They’re just a bunch of small-town boys, and we’re looking forward to the midnight train home. Sometimes we’ll win, sometimes we’ll lose, sometimes we’ll sing the blues, but we’ll always hold onto that feeling.”
WEST COAST (17.11.113) DEFEATED BRISBANE (6.9.45) BY 68 POINTS
Josh Kennedy kicked six and Andrew Gaff touched it 30 times.
Dayne Beams touched it 41 times.
I touched it three times just to check I could still feel anything.
"Flat-track bullies, are we?" Eagles coach Adam Simpson challenged at the post-match press conference. Beating the bottom team at home is not the time to challenge that assertion, Adam.