Adelaide have guaranteed themselves two home finals and a double chance by cementing their place in the top two, but all other finals entitlements are still up for grabs for a myriad of teams. Even Hawthorn, mathematically, can still make the finals. Even Toby Greene, possibly, could still play finals. I mean, his team’s going to make it but we’ll have to see the MRP’s decision after he stabs someone in Round 23.
Until then, however, here is Round 21.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (16.9.105) DEFEATED WESTERN BULLDOGS (7.15.57) BY 48 POINTS
Western Bulldogs’ finals hopes are in trouble after the Giants earned a comfortable victory in their Friday night clash, or as comfortable as you can be after being kicked in the face.
Dylan Shiel was the only player to manage 30 possessions for the two sides, while Jonathon Patton kicked four goals for the Giants in the absence of Jeremy Cameron. For the Bulldogs, some players kicked goals and did some football. None of them were in the forward lines, though, as the Bulldogs led the inside-50 count 65-34 and lost by eight goals.
The talk of the game was Toby Greene’s boot to the face of Luke Dahlhaus during a passage of play on the wing, as Greene received a handpass and lifted his leg in the air and connected with Luke Dahlhaus with his sprigs.
Here’s my inexperienced, uninformed and worthless take on the situation. The defence of Toby Greene’s actions were that his eyes were on the football and he was protecting himself rather than attacking Dahlhaus. Some commentators, and I mean the ones that were commentating on the actual incident for television as it happened, said that you’re allowed to protect yourself in a marking contest but it was not a marking contest so that point is immediately invalidated. I can see how it would be difficult to remember the circumstances of an incident four seconds after it happens, so Brian Taylor and Cameron Ling are forgiven.
Firstly, the idea that his eyes were on the football. At the time his boot made contact, and the time he collected the ball, his eyes were on the football. I think this is a moot point, as the very fact he knew he had to protect himself from a player coming from that direction means that he was aware of Dahlhaus’s positioning. A fundamental and rudimentary knowledge of human biology would suggest that, when leaping to collect a ball and lifting your leg to horizontal, your foot will end up somewhere around the opposition player’s chest, neck or face. You don’t need to be looking directly into the eyes of someone as you kick them to know you’re kicking them. Whether it was consciously malicious or dangerous is another question, but it was definitely intentional contact regardless of whether he was looking at him at the exact moment.
The second point, that he was protecting himself, is one I take real issue with. You can protect yourself in football. No question. You can’t protect yourself by jumping in the air and sticking your foot at head height. Imagine if Dustin Martin, instead of his trademark ‘don’t argues’, jumped up and pushed off people’s chests with his feet, like a Jackie Chan movie. That’s insane, but it’s essentially what Greene was doing. He was trying not to get tackled, but for some reason because he was off the ground as he did it, people are giving him more leeway. The comparison with Martin’s ‘don’t argues’ is made more valid by the fact that Greene pushed his foot further through Dahlhaus’s head in the motion of trying to twist his body mid-air to give off an immediate handpass to a teammate behind him. That means that the action was not purely a defensive action, but was also one used to try gain an advantage beyond not getting tackled.
You can protect yourself, you can push off other players and you can try to hurt other players, but not with a foot to the face.
SYDNEY (22.11.143) DEFEATED FREMANTLE (5.9.39) BY 104 POINTS
Holy hell this was a procession.
Sydney were able to run the ball and keep it away from Fremantle with ease, who inexplicably decided to play with only five players on the field, a tactic that Ross Lyon will come under heavy scrutiny for.
Lance Franklin kicked four goals and had 24 touches to set up the win, and then every other Sydney player continued to set up the win, and then Fremantle’s players set up the win, so Sydney won. Nat Fyfe had 28 possessions and 43 thoughts of ‘What’s the point?’.
"They’re a hard-nosed professional team. I think they had four players different from last year, we had 14 or 15,” said Fremantle coach Ross Lyon. Last year Fremantle were also terrible. It’s an interesting tactic, to completely change your side after each crushing result so you’ve constantly got an excuse, but it’s working so far.
GEELONG (11.14.80) DEFEATED RICHMOND (9.12.66) BY 14 POINTS
With a lot of big names out of their side, Geelong were able to rally their troops, their fans and the umpires to hold off Richmond in their battle for the top four at Simonds Stadium on Saturday.
Patrick Dangerfield had a game-high 30 possessions in another commanding performance, and Joel Selwood managed three Frees For despite not playing, a league record. Harry Taylor kicked four goals against the greatest defender ever, Alex Rance, after realising he’d never hold that title himself and making the move up forward earlier this year.
“Look at the free kick count,” said Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, referring to the 28-17 count in Geelong’s favour. When further pressed, Hardwick said “it is what it is”, the universally accepted alternative phrase to “it’s fucked but we can’t do anything”.
Hardwick was referring to the influence of the home crowd, which has often been referred to at grounds like Adelaide Oval and Domain Stadium. The disadvantage for the sides that call those grounds home is that when playing away, they have to fly interstate and the effect of that can often be as greater hindrance as their home crowd is a benefit. When Geelong play an away game, they often just have to drive an hour up the road.
Imagine if, for most of Adelaide’s games, they just had to drive an hour up the road to Noarlunga to play? Actually, that would probably be worse.
BRISBANE (22.10.142) DEFEATED GOLD COAST (12.12.84) BY 58 POINTS
After trailing at quarter time, Brisbane stepped up their output for the last three quarters and convincingly defeated Gold Coast in their once again meaningless QClash.
The performance showed the differing directions of these two clubs, with Brisbane showing what their future may hold with another energetic and exciting performance, while Gold Coast looked sluggish and unadventurous.
It was mainly Brisbane’s old firm who held their dominance, with Dayne Beams, Tom Rockliff, Stefan Martin and Dayne Zorko topping the possession count, with the exception of 22 year-old Lewis Taylor who had 25 possessions. Beams also topped the goalkicking with four goals. For Gold Coast, David Swallow had 30 touches in another Ablett-less game because, well, if you were Ablett why would you?
"There's no magic formula, it's pure hard work and that's what the boys are committed to for the next two weeks,” said Gold Coast caretaker coach Dean Solomon. Two weeks sounds like nothing but, in the context of Gold Coast’s history and their previous application of effort, it’s a huge testament to Solomon that he’s been able to expect that level of commitment in such a short time in charge.
Brisbane’s win brings them once again level with North Melbourne, keeping the dreams of Spoonbowl alive. ‘Spoonbowl’ is the term that internet commenters have given to Brisbane and North Melbourne’s Round 23 clash which could determine who finishes bottom. ‘Spoonbowl’ is also the direct translation of the IKEA product ‘Flaknan’, which confusingly is a standing mirror.
ADELAIDE (18.15.123) DEFEATED ESSENDON (12.8.80) BY 43 POINTS
Despite a third quarter scare from three impressive Cale Hooker goals, Adelaide have run out comfortable winners against an Essendon side still pushing for a top eight finish.
Matt Crouch had 35 touches in a game-winning performance, while Rory Atkins had 27 touches, including one on his head after Joe Daniher kicked a goal and celebrated by ruffling his hair. This prompted nearly everyone in the footballing world, including John Worsfold, to scream that everyone should ‘toughen up’ rather than criticise Daniher, despite the aforementioned ‘everyone’ being fine with it.
It’s an amazing thing to see, 100% of a community defending something from 0%. It’s like when they find soldiers on an island years after a war who think it’s still on, defending their camp from the threat of a perceived enemy, but really everyone just wants to pat them on the head and tell them it’s ok.
“We can’t stamp this out of the game! We’ve gone too far! We have to have personalities! I can’t believe it! You guys have ruined the sport!”
“There, there. It’s ok. We’re on your side.”
One thing that was horrific was Tom Lynch’s missed goal from 10 metres out with no-one defending him. It was the worst thing I’d seen on a football field since Joe Daniher’s shocking attack on Rory Atkins minutes before.
"(There were) areas of our game we learned that we're not quite at the elite level yet, so that's probably always the bonus of playing the team that at round 21 is premiership favourite and on top of the ladder," said Essendon coach John Worsfold. It’s interesting that for a side trying to get into finals they’ve contextualised losing to the top team as a ‘bonus’ because you can find out where you need to improve. At Round 21, you want to win. Find out where you need to improve early, and then improve in those areas. You’d think that would be the winning strategy. Apparently having your finals chances slipping away is a ‘bonus’ when you get to learn how to play better for two more weeks.
WEST COAST (15.10.100) DEFEATED CARLTON (12.11.83) BY 17 POINTS
West Coast have kept their chances of finals football mathematically possible, but their performance against the competition’s 17th placed side was less than emphatic.
The Eagles have been famous for their recent fade-outs and with Carlton hitting the front just before three quarter time it looked like West Coast’s fans may have been in for more heart break, but final quarter goals to Kennedy, Darling, Partington and Redden sealed the win.
Josh Kennedy was the only real stand-out for the Eagles, kicking six goals and pushing him to the top of the Coleman Medal race, despite missing a chunk of games throughout the year. It was supply to the Eagles front man that was limited, with Carlton winning the inside-50 count 55-46. West Coast will be looking for more midfield dominance in the future, hopefully coming from their Brownlow-winning midfield of Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis, who will hopefully work in tandem to rectify West Coast’s shortcomings in years to come.
MELBOURNE (14.12.96) DEFEATED ST KILDA (10.12.72) BY 24 POINTS
Melbourne have seen off a St Kilda side trying to keep their top eight hopes alive, and in doing so have finished the round in 7th place with two very winnable games remaining.
Nathan Jones and Clayton Oliver controlled the midfield for the Demons while James Harmes kicked three goals.
St Kilda were struggling to get back in the match thanks to a wayward first half, in which they looked more interested in kicking the ball to Melbourne than kicking the ball to their own team. In fact, they looked more interested in kicking the ball to Melbourne than they were in almost anything, like kicking it to their own team, or the smell of warm bread, or the smiling faces of children. Nothing could have distracted them from their mission.
"The issue for us was the start of the game," St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said.
"They're ability to fight and get back in and the pressure and effort was there, (but) it was as bad as I've seen us use the footy.”
Keep in mind that once, Alan Richardson saw Jack Billings try to use the footy to get something out of his teeth. It was worse than that.
Angus Brayshaw was the feel good story, coming back from a series of concussions to play his first game since round 2, and picked up 26 touches in the process.
HAWTHORN (18.8.116) DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE (14.5.89) BY 27 POINTS
Has anyone ever had as much fanfare for their final game in Tasmania than Luke Hodge? Hodge played 46 games at York Park in Launceston, which is more than any other player. It’s also 46 games. Jason Torney played 49 games at Football Park, but as a Crows supporter I can’t remember this level of fanfare when he played his final game there.
It’s that stupid Victorian-Tasmanian bias again, and it’s the only reason Luke Hodge will be remembered for longer than Jason Torney.
Luke Breust kicked four goals for the Hawks and had four goal assists to be the goalkicking difference between the sides, while Tom Mitchell again topped the possessions with 35. Isaac Smith had 29 possessions, kicked two goals and finished with 11 marks. Ben Brown kicked three goals for the Kangaroos.
North Melbourne won the clearance count and the inside-50 count, close as they were, but couldn’t find enough goalkicking power up forward.
"You're almost thinking some of our young guys might turn it up a little bit, but they went the other and they got back on the front foot and kept attacking and kept the effort up around the contest,” said North Melbourne coach Brad Scott in a stunning lack of sentence structure.
PORT ADELAIDE (14.14.98) DEFEATED COLLINGWOOD (10.11.71) BY 27 POINTS
Port Adelaide have again comfortably defeated a side that they won’t meet at any point in September.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley described it as a “win we needed to have”, which shows that he has a stable grip on the win-loss ladder system. Let’s see if the finals system, which holds many of the same ‘try to win’ values as the regular season, will play into Ken’s hands as forgivingly.
The first quarter was a cavalcade of wasted possessions, with both clubs burning the ball more than Johnny Knoxville setting his testicles on fire. Port Adelaide stepped up in the second quarter and Collingwood, despite a gallant showing in the third quarter, were never able to fully recover.
Chad Wingard finished with 32 touches while Taylor Adams and Adam Treloar had 31 each for the Magpies. Ben Reid topped the goalkicking for the match as Collingwood’s lone effective forward, kicking four.
"Late goals hurt us, Gray's stoppage goal at the end of the second, Dixon's goal at the end of the third and the couple that were the icing on the cake,” said Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, referring to Collingwood’s penchant for conceding goals in the final minute of nearly every quarter. While that’s a worry, goals are worth the same at any point in the match. It’s not like a game of NBA Jam where boosts appear on the ground and any goals from there are worth more, or those arcade basketball games where shots made in the final 10 seconds are worth three points compared to the regular two. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that objectively, the game is nothing like any arcade-based basketball entertainment.
And that’s the message of the round.