It’s time for the wrap of round 4, a round that started last Thursday night and carried on for five days. Do you remember five days ago? The world was a very different place. The sky burned bright with the laughter of children and porcelain was used as currency. Now, with what we have learned over the weekend, a very different landscape stretches before us.
WEST COAST (13.13.91) DEFEATED SYDNEY (10.5.65) BY 26 POINTS
West Coast only had a five-day break coming into the opening match of the round, while Sydney had had a three-round break, but it mattered not on the Eagles’ stomping ground.
Sydney kept pace until midway through the second quarter, but once West Coast were able to take control, Sydney were unable to break the 2-4 goal buffer for the rest of the match.
Elliott Yeo mopped up everything that a wasteful Sydney offered finishing with 29 possessions, while Luke Shuey had 30. Jeremy McGovern provided a marking option, sucking some residual marking power from his injured Crows brother Mitch to improve his already impressive skills through an osmosis process that siblings possess. It’s done in a ceremony involving an enchantment spell and the blood of a yak.
Sydney are now 0-4, a position that no side has ever made the finals from since the introduction of the top eight system in 1994. If anyone can do it this year it’s Sydney. Well, the only teams that can are Sydney, Hawthorn and North Melbourne, and Hawthorn look shot to pieces and the last time North Melbourne sang their club song was when Yoplait still did commercials with the Frenchman in the hot air balloon.
WESTERN BULLDOGS (12.17.89) DEFEATED NORTH MELBOURNE (12.14.86) BY 3 POINTS
North Melbourne have forgotten how to win. More accurately, they’ve forgotten how to not lose.
After holding a five goal lead in the third quarter, they squandered opportunities and left the door ajar for the reigning premiers to barge through, allowing them 16 more inside-50s for the match, the majority of which came in the second half.
Lindsay Thomas, in his 200th match, had a shot from the 50m arc to win the match as the siren sounded. He missed, and it took all his willpower to not try to con the umpires and play for the goal.
Luke Dahlhaus had 32 possessions while seven other Bulldogs had between 23-27 possessions in a shared contribution. Tom Campbell held his own with 37 hit outs between the combined ruck power of Todd Goldstein and Braydon Preuss. Clay Smith had 15 tackles for the Bulldogs while Aaron Mullett once again had the worst name for the Kangaroos.
"I thought we were outstanding in the end to win that game. I thought North Melbourne were almost every bit as outstanding," Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said. I guess if you had to represent as a ratio how outstanding the two teams were quantitatively, you’d say it was about an 89:86 ratio for the Bulldogs.
FREMANTLE (16.10.106) DEFEATED MELBOURNE (15.14.104) BY 2 POINTS
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a Melbourne supporter. They’re supposedly the oldest club in the competition, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they just feel like the oldest because their fans just walk around with a tired gaze of sorrowful inevitability. I can’t remember the last time a season began with Melbourne being mentioned as ‘one to watch’, and so I don’t.
If not for the fact that they share their name with the city of Melbourne, home of the MCG and capital of Victoria where the VFL was born that became the AFL, I don’t think I’d remember they were a team.
As I consciously think about Melbourne teams of old now, I can think of some really exciting and legendary players in my lifetime. Jim Stynes, Garry Lyon, David Schwarz, David Neitz, Jeff Farmer, Shane Woewodin, Russell Robertson, Adem Yze…Brownlow medals, All-Australians, excitement machines and strong leaders, and the list goes on. But that’s now that I’m thinking about Melbourne. Ask me again tomorrow when I’m not thinking about Melbourne, like when I’m thinking about cereal or something, and it’ll take me a few minutes to recount them all again.
Anyway, Fremantle won and they looked terrible two weeks ago so good for them.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (16.16.112) DEFEATED PORT ADELAIDE (11.15.81) BY 31 POINTS
Up until midway through the final quarter, this game was in the balance with the Power actually leading at three-quarter time. 13 clearances to 3 in the Giants’ favour for the final quarter just showed how their midfield dominance was able to expose Port Adelaide’s comparative lack of depth.
Tom Scully led the clearances with seven, and picked up 32 disposals along the way. Jonathon Patton was a force up forward, kicking six goals straight.
Despite two losses in a row for the Power, who were top of the table after two rounds, there was still much to like. If they can hold their performances together more consistently for the four quarters, they’re not too far away from bridging the gap between them and the top sides.
"I think we're playing pretty strongly for most parts of games, and our last two games have been against the teams that people say are the best in the competition, and we've been able to push them, but not be able to beat them," Power coach Ken Hinkley said.
If Port Adelaide can more frequently execute their tough and efficient brand of football, they could push for a good place among the top eight. That’s until their season is interrupted with an international trip to run around in a smog-filled atmosphere that will infect their lungs for the remaining rounds.
GOLD COAST (17.6.108) DEFEATED CARLTON (12.10.82) BY 26 POINTS
Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch was head and shoulders above the Carlton defence, kicking seven goals and taking 12 marks to propel his team to their second win of the season.
Lynch was a beneficiary of Gold Coast’s possession dominance, winning the count 441-321 including 11 more clearances. Gary Ablett collected 34 touches which, for an old, injury-hampered ex-captain who’s not trying and everyone agrees is past it, is pretty good.
Brandon Matera was electric as well, collecting 29 touches and hitting the scoreboard three times, while for the Blues Marc Murphy was once again the standout, in the same way Beyonce was the stand out Destiny’s Child member but the other ones had to keep showing up to get their royalties.
"It was a great way to win – I was really pleased with tonight,” said Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade. It’s actually the only way to win, getting a larger score.
ADELAIDE (24.9.153) DEFEATED ESSENDON (13.10.88) BY 65 POINTS
This game was similar to the famed parable of the tortoise and the hare. Adelaide’s hares raced out to a frighteningly dominating early lead, almost breaking the 100 point barrier by half-time with a score of 15.6.96, including five goals each to Eddie Betts and Taylor Walker before the main break.
Adelaide, like the hare in tale, took a nap in the third quarter and Essendon chipped away at the margin, winning the quarter and exposing a lack of commitment from many Adelaide players.
This is where the comparison to the tortoise and hare story breaks down, however, because in the final part of the race I can’t remember the hare waking up, seeing the tortoise gaining ground, and punching the tortoise repeatedly in the face until it died before winning, which is what Adelaide did.
Essendon had more disposals for the match but Adelaide’s efficiency was exceptional, with their dangerous forward line combining almost telepathically on several occasions.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, after tossing the coin pre-game with Eddie Betts as a response to indigenous vilification the week previous at Adelaide Oval, was a shining light for Essendon in their second half, kicking four goals. No-one was a shining light in the first half.
"The game was played really open and fast and Adelaide are better at that than us,” said Essendon coach John Worsfold. One might argue that open and fast are two descriptors that really separate the AFL from the lower state leagues and each team should aim to master those traits. What Worsfold could have said was ‘Adelaide are better at football’.
ST KILDA (9.15.69) DEFEATED COLLINGWOOD (7.13.55) BY 14 POINTS
St Kilda are trying a never-before seen tactic this year, aiming to win games almost entirely by kicking behinds. They defeated Brisbane last round with a score of 14.23.107 and this week followed it up with a winning score of 9.15.69, combining for a total of 23.38 for the last two rounds.
Hey, whatever works.
Taylor Adams led the game’s possession count with 39 touches for Collingwood. Remember years ago when a 30+ possession game was something newsworthy, and a player with that much midfield dominance would often be the difference between the two sides? Now you can almost get as many possessions as your team’s score. I tell you, the disposals stats have really changed since the AFL introduced multiball.
"I think we'd all acknowledge it wasn't an amazing game of footy from a technical or skill perspective,” said St Kilda coach Alan Richardson.
“I don’t know,” said one neutral football fan.
“I really enjoyed watching that game,” he continued before slicing open his testicles with a disc sander.
"We weren't going to win with that score,” said Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, sadly interrupted before he could continue listing other things that they’re not going to win with, including their game plan, skill level and coach.
RICHMOND (17.17.119) DEFEATED BRISBANE (10.7.67) BY 52 POINTS
Despite not yet playing the top teams, Richmond fans can take comfort in the fact that they’re making easy work of teams like Brisbane, never really looking tested. Richmond fans can be pleased about their team’s start to the season, the best since 1995, which has set them up well for a push for the finals. Richmond fans can be excited about their non-reliance on Dustin Martin to win matches, with a dominating performance despite the star’s uncharacteristically low 16 possessions.
Richmond fans will do all of those things because they never learn.
"Outside the footy club things will be beat up, but the reality is we’re four rounds into a long season," Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said, which sounds suspiciously like there’s a subtext stating ‘Watch out, we might do what Richmond always does’.
Shaun Grigg stepped up for the Tigers with 31 touches, and Jack Riewoldt and Jason Castagna kicked four goals apiece.
For Brisbane, Tom Rockliff had 33 touches including 11 tackles, while Dayne Zorko had 26 touches, eight tackles and two goals, which goes to show that while Brisbane may not push for finals, their players will carry Fantasy Dream Team and Supercoach teams to finals all over the country.
GEELONG (20.14.134) DEFEATED HAWTHORN (6.12.48) BY 86 POINTS
Earlier in the round, Nathan Buckley said that his side weren’t going to win with a score of 55. Well, that just proves how little he knows about football because they could have convincingly beat Hawthorn by seven points if they had have played each other.
Geelong were a lot better than Hawthorn at football. Motlop had 33 touches with three goals. Sam Menegola, a couple of weeks after I traded him out of my Dream Team, had 31 touches and 10 tackles. Tom Hawkins kicked four goals, Daniel Menzel kicked three, Mitch Duncan had 32 touches and Alistair Clarkson had an existential crisis.
“I’m hoping like hell it’s not a whole season of this sort of ‘rubbish’ that we’re playing at the minute,” said Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.
When asked about whether he thinks his side can turn around their form sooner or later, Clarkson responded abruptly.
“I don’t want to keep answering the same question.”
Alastair Clarkson, at a press conference about a game in which his side were demolished, as the head coach of Hawthorn, didn’t want to answer questions about Hawthorn’s performances now and in the near future, but this is ok because he is a genius.