2017 is the season that keeps on giving, and Round 9 highlighted all the things that we love about AFL. Each match (except for the fizzer at the ’Gabba between Brisbane and Adelaide) had a high level of intrigue, surprise, skill and showed how unpredictable this season has become. All of the mysterious properties of AFL were on display: fast ball movement, confusion about rule interpretations, goal reviews, close matches, comebacks, redemption, and passion. Who is now the favourite for the premiership? There are 17 teams still in contention, and any one of them can win the 2017 flag. Check out our AFL review.
AFL Review Game 1: Geelong 16.8.104 defeated Western Bulldogs 12.9.81, by 23 points.
Starting on Friday night, Geelong overcame the reigning premiers, Western Bulldogs by 23 points. Geelong had lost their previous three matches and looked likely to break this run when they led by 32 points early in the third quarter. Western Bulldogs then ramped it up and proceeded to score 6.5 to 0.0, to lead by nine points at three-quarter time. Then, Geelong kicked the first three goals of the final quarter, the Bulldogs came back to within four points: Geelong finally ran off with the game, completing a truly bizarre game, where there was little wind, yet most of the scoring took place at one end of the ground.
AFL Review Game 2: Sydney 18.10.118 defeated St Kilda 10.8.68, by 50 points.
St Kilda had won their previous three games, including a thumping win over Hawthorn, and another one over premiership favourites, Greater Western Sydney. At the Docklands, that great football cliche reared its head: Sydney had come to play. Sydney controlled most parts of this match, but the first half was tough and relentless. St Kilda seemed to be thereabouts, but Sydney really ran away with the game in the second half, including two spectacular goals by Lance Franklin. This was a great test for Sydney, and they passed with flying colours. The season is long, hard and arduous, but Sydney at this level is hard to beat and makes everyone wonder what on earth happened to this team when they lost their first six games of the year. Sydney have come to play, are back in town and the competition will need to watch out.
AFL Review Game 3: Greater Western Sydney 11.12.78 defeated Richmond 10.15.75, by 3 points.
It’s very difficult being a Richmond supporter this year. They commenced the season with five victories (admittedly, against not great opposition), but were walloped by Adelaide in Round 6 to cast severe doubts over their credibility this year. Since then, they’ve had three close losses in a row: by five points against Western Bulldogs, a match they controlled except for the final 10 minutes; by two points against Fremantle, defeated by a goal after the siren; and three points in this match, where they controlled the Giants for all but the final 10 minutes (again!). Strange luck – a goal scored in the final minute by Richmond debutante, Shai Bolton, was deemed to have been touched by someone else’s fingernail, and was overturned on review. The Giants whisked the ball to the other end: goal, and then the siren blows, match over – another close loss to Richmond. This offers a strange contradiction. Richmond are playing good football, but not winning games: Greater Western Sydney, on the other hand, are playing poorly, but still managing to win the close ones. Like Hawthorn of 2016, these close victories are masking some problems for Greater Western Sydney. We’ll find out over the next few weeks what those problems are.
AFL Review Game 4: Adelaide 21.14.140 defeated Brisbane 7.18.60, by 80 points.
The less said about this match, the better. Adelaide, after two losses in a row, were still a class far above Brisbane. It’s often said that the difference between most teams is the calibre of their bottom six players, but Brisbane’s mediocre list expands to their bottom 12: they’re just not up to scratch at present. The two Daynes – Beams and Zorko – are excellent players, but there’s not much quality to back them up. After an even first quarter, Adelaide did as they pleased, the final quarter was a training drill.
AFL Review Game 5: Collingwood 13.12.90 defeated Hawthorn 11.6.72, by 18 points.
How many people thought Nathan Buckley’s coaching career might be over at 9 minutes 14 seconds in the second quarter, when Hawthorn led by 43 points, 7.2 to 0.1? I certainly did. It wasn’t their greatest comeback ever: the greatest is 60 points against St Kilda back in 1970 – but it was their fifth greatest comeback, and that’s a great effort. Another victory with their backs to the wall. It has almost reached a point where the main interest in a Collingwood match is whether their coach will avoid the gallows for another week, rather than the final result. They’ve survived and in this crazy season, finals are not yet out of the question. Hawthorn are decimated by injury – their season could be over, but anything is possible.
AFL Review Game 6: Essendon 19.11.125 defeated West Coast 8.16.64, by 61 points.
The result is not the surprise, the margin is. Essendon are playing with such enthusiasm, that there are reflections of the 1993 ‘Baby Bombers’ in this team. West Coast definitely have some psychological issues to deal with: like oil and water, West Coast and the city of Melbourne do not mix. They are 3–7 in their last 10 matches in Melbourne and for a team that has high aspirations, that’s not good enough. Joe Daniher grows by the week, as does his Essendon team. Great to watch – clean, determined, passionate. Everything you want from an AFL team. West Coast, on the other hand, are slow, disjointed, inconsistent and inaccurate. The highlight of the match? Well, there were two. Eleni Glouftsis became the first women to field umpire an AFL game. And she was good. The other? The jacket and scarf twirling in a sea of red and black. A sight to behold.
AFL Review Game 7: North Melbourne 15.14.104 defeated Melbourne 13.12.90, by 14 points.
This was a high intensity match, and probably the match of the round – it had everything: fast pace, pressure, drama, brawls, jumper tearing. Everything, except for a large crowd: only 33,218 at the MCG. The game expanded and contracted like an accordion. North broke away, only for Melbourne to reel them back in. Broke away again, Melbourne came back again. While Melbourne never actually hit the lead, it always felt like they were an errant kick or handball away from running over the top of North Melbourne. But the errant kick or handball never arrived. North held on to win, and avoided yet another honourable loss.
AFL Review Game 8: Fremantle 13.8.86 defeated Carlton 7.9.51, by 35 points.
At the 23-minute mark of the first quarter, Carlton led 4.4 to 0.0 – 28 points – Fremantle hadn’t even made an entry into their forward 50 zone, and Carlton had the ball in their forward half for 85 per cent of the time. We don’t see those figures very often. We had to look to the skies to find an answer to this madness. Carlton, while they are down on skills, are the wet-weather experts. They are almost unbeatable in water. It seemed that Perth received its annual rainfall in that two-hour period and this made the ball slippery and difficult to control. Fremantle clicked into gear and went on to record their sixth victory from their last seven games. They’re smoking.