AFL Review: The Pointy End Of The Pointiest Season Ever

Review of a not so great round of AFL

More tight games, spectacular marks, courage, and a few blow outs. Some very good games, but also some very ordinary ones.

We are approaching the business end of this oddly even season, and some kind of normality is being restored. Top teams are winning, except for Greater Western Sydney, which won only one game from its last five. Richmond, Sydney, Port Adelaide and West Coast all won to start cementing their positions in the top 8. Other contenders, Melbourne and St Kilda, went down the ladder, while Essendon and Western, 10th and 11th, are still a realistic chance to advance through to September. For the bottom seven teams, the 2017 season is well and truly over.

If you want to compare what we said in our preview with the reality of what happened in Round 17, check it out in Life On Mars And The Big Season Continues. Or listen in to our great podcast.

Watch all the AFL Round 17 Highlights

Round 17 Round-up

Essendon 17.16 (118) defeated St Kilda 7.15 (57)

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Touted as a big game, it wasn’t Friday Night Lights but more like a Friday night fizzer. The Saints, who played a blistering first half only a week ago, played very ordinary footy. In the previous week against Richmond, by the main break, St Kilda kicked 14.8 to 1.4. This week, the Saints managed only 2.6 to 6.10.

Essendon was fast and breathtaking, led by the ‘Z’ forces in the middle – Zac Merrett and Zaharakis – tall timbers Daniher, Hurley and Bellchambers. McDonald-Tipungwuti was so quick and explosive: he’s almost Byron Pickett Mark II in the making.

The St Kilda players looked unsure and often ended up spoiling each other. No cohesion. In the end, St Kilda failed to string together five wins in a row, and the way they went down was worrying. Or it is a clever new way of managing the team? No point to keep on winning. A bit of up and down is good, so that the players don’t get ahead of themselves? The old ‘one game at a time’ motto.

Because the game itself was a fizzer, we tried to amuse ourselves  by going through the name of players.
Last week, we noticed there were so many Jakes in a match. This week, St Kilda fielded a team with the ‘J’s. Six Jacks: Jack Steven, Jack Sinclair, Jack Newnes, Jack Billings, Jack Lonie, Jack Steele. On top, there were two Joshes – Bruce and Battle – then Jade Gresham, Jake Carlistle and even Jarryn Geary. Jarryn!

Essendon had only three ‘J’s: Joe Daniher, Josh Green and James Stewart. To make it onto the St Kilda team, you have to have a J, preferably Jack.

Geelong 13.10 (88) defeated Hawthorn 12.13 (85)

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Another nail biter. No more nail to bite on my fingers, but the Cats seem to have nine lives. Geelong had another escape, beating Hawthorn by three points. It was a classic Tissot moment. Hawthorn’s 300-gamer Luke Hodge kicked a goal to reduce the margin to four points, with 18 seconds remaining. Then the quick ball from the centre bounce, Mitchell to Gunston, then Isaac Smith marked, about 40 metres from the goal with eight seconds to go.

He had a chance to win the match, still 10 seconds to go. He quickly played on and hooked for a behind, instead of taking a set shot, after the siren. Maybe he did not want to do that, because it was in the Qualifying Final last year between these two teams, he missed a shot after the siren which would have won the game for Hawthorn.

Smith later commented on his decision that he was not sure on the distance to the goal, whether he marked it inside or outside 50. “I saw I had time and space in front of me and usually on the run I don’t miss, and yesterday I did.”

For the second time in the last four games, Geelong were lucky and won by less than a kick, as their opposition missed a snap shot for goal within the dying 10 seconds. Fremantle’s Michael Walters also missed a goal in the final two seconds in Round 14.

This year, the Cats have more than fair share of the close shaves, winning four games by two points or less, and drawing one game in Round 16 with Greater Western Sydney.

If his team has nine lives, Patrick Dangerfield needs only one leg. He was stunning. He was carried off in the first quarter, some suspected with a broken leg, he came back on the a couple of minutes later, limping, almost on one leg, but managed to kick five goals for the rest of the match. Former Port Adelaide player Kane Cornes claim Dangerfield has a habit of exaggerating injuries. But he would say that. He now works in the media.

Hawthorn failed to win the  game for Luke Hodge in his 300th game – it was also coach Alistair Clarkson’s 299th game at the helm, and its faint chance to play in the finals this year is all but gone.

Port Adelaide 19.13 (127) defeated North Melbourne 8.9 (57)

The game was over in the first quarter when Port Adelaide scored 8.1 to 2.0 and North Melbourne suffered its heaviest loss of the season. Though its injury list is long and for this game they had to field six players with less than 10 games, the discussion about the future of Brad Scott as their head coach will continue.

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Port Adelaide was superb, winning everywhere on the ground. Wingard, Robbie and Sam Gray, Ollie Wines, Westoff, and the first year player, Sam Powell-Pepper, all good. Paddy Ryder beat North ruck duo Todd Goldstein and Majak Daw, comprehensively.

We still think Port Adelaide is a flat track bully – only good against the bottom sides – and they will be tested against Melbourne at the MCG in Round 18.

Collingwood 15.13 (103) defeated Gold Coast 13.10 (88)

This game was not a spectacle because of the heavy rain. The win for Collingwood will relieve, at least for a week, the pressure on coach Nathan Buckley, and the media focus will switch to the losing coach, Rodney ‘Rocket’ Eade.

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With Gold Coast’s Steven May and Jarryd Lyons injured before the main break, the Suns fought gallantly, but eventually ran out of legs. Gary Ablett was outstanding in the final quarter. It was Daniel Wells’ 250th game and in an interesting statistic, in 2017, the Collingwood has a 5-2 record with Wells in the team, and
1-8 without Wells. If he can remain injury free for the rest of the season, Collingwood may yet make the finals. Highly unlikely though.

We were impressed how Jarrod Witts rucked against his former team, against Brodie Grundy. His tap work was great. Collingwood may regret letting Witts go to the Suns. Did they keep the wrong ruckman?

Sydney 14.12 (96) defeated Greater Western Sydney 12.11 (83)

In the Battle of Bridge, or as we called it, the Battle of the Hen and Chicken Bay Bridge, it looks like the game was won by the hens.

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The 13th Sydney Derby and was one of the best, if not the best. Jeremy Cameron was scratched before the game, and that could have been the crucial difference. Greater Western Sydney went down by 13 points. Sydney was leading all throughout the game with that margin and if Cameron was playing, he could have booted at least two and the game would have been much closer. Or he could have had a poor game. We’ll never know, so there’s not much point in speculating about the ‘known unknowns’.

Lance Buddy Franklin maintained his recent form, although inaccurate, but still managed to kick a match-winning four goals for the Swans.

Greater Western Sydney has been winless for three weeks. Their next game against Richmond next week at the MCG looms as a crucial one and the signs are not encouraging. The Giants have atrocious record at the MCG, losing nine of their past 10 games there, only ever defeating a very weak Melbourne team several years ago. The Swans are red hot at the moment, winning nine out of the past 10 games. They are a real contender, but can they sustain the form, or are they peaking too early?

Franklin has been in form over the past month, just like the Swans. He has averaged 17 possessions and seven marks in his past five games, but he has been quite inaccurate in front of the goal posts, scored 11.19 in those matches.

Cameron’s form has dropped off a bit, just like his team. He’s kicked just eight goals in his last five games. His fellow forward Jonathan Patton has kicked 31.8, this year, and seems in better form.

Adelaide 17.14 (116) defeated Melbourne 10.10 (70)

Earlier, we talked about the possible weakness of Adelaide, that if you could stop Rory Sloane and Taylor ‘Tex’ Walker, you could beat Adelaide. However, the Crows are adding more dimensions to their game plan.

Sloane was very well held by his former team mate Vince to eight touches before he was concussed after he was tackled by Melbourne’s Dean Kent in the third quarter. The Crouch brothers were good in the mid, while their multi-pronged forward line was devastating. Walker (4 goals), Tom Lynch (3 goals), Mitch McGovern (2 goals) and Eddie Betts (2 goals) all contributing. Josh Jenkins, who kicked four in the previous week, was quiet but it did not matter, as his team has so many other options. The Crows were challenged in the third quarter when the Dees kicked four straight goals and the margin reduced to 24 points, but led by brilliant Tex, they ran away with the game in the final quarter.

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This multi-focal forward line creates a headache, or a nightmare, for the opposition teams, especially when the ball is moved quickly into the forward 50, which the Crows are so good at. In what could be a dress rehearsal for the Grand Final 2017, Adelaide will meet Geelong in a top-of-the-table clash. The Cats defenders will no doubt be tested, and they certainly appreciate any help they can get from their midfield. An intriguing match with star midfielders from both teams, Dangerfield and Sloan, possibly sidelined.

Melbourne this year has shown that they are good at boxing and wrestling, exhibiting their intention through their body language, often forgetting this is, after all, a ball game. Several players have been reported and spent some time on the sidelines for their excessively physical behaviour. We saw in this game Bernie Vince reported for his high bump in the second quarter, and he will be scrutinised for another one, elbowing Eddie Betts in the opening term. Are they trying to bully the opposition too much?

Melbourne are expected to regain a few players including Jack Watts, Dom Tyson and Jack Viney in coming weeks, but now has lost Dean Kent with his dislocated shoulder. It faces an in-form Port Adelaide in Round 17

Darwin is certainly not China, but will the travel and playing in a hot humid condition, albeit the game was played in the cooler evening, have any effect on the players this weekend? Interesting to see how both teams perform this week.

Richmond 16.16 (112) defeated Brisbane (12.9 (81)

Richmond look complacent playing against Brisbane. They won the game, but we did not like the look of the way they played. The club culture? Maybe. They look like thugs harassing school kids.

And in scenes that were similar to Phil Carmen headbutting Graham Carbery in 1980, Brisbane’s Nick Robertson also headbutted Richmond’s Trent Cotchin. Carmen was banned for 20 weeks, how any will Robertson receive? We forgot to mention that Graham Carbery was a boundary umpire and hitting an umpire is not on. Carbery died last week after a long illness and was a very interesting guy, a great activist for the gay and lesbian community. Vale Graham.

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So weird to see so many skinny players in the Lions colours, for those who remember the big bodies of MIchael Voss, Jonathan Brown and the Scott brothers in early 2000s. I switched off. Dustin Martin is a great player, but I don’t like the Tigers.

Western Bulldogs 12.10 (82) defeated Carlton 9.8 (62)

Watching as many AFL games possible as part of your career is usually a joy, but not this match. Too many skill errors, and through some weird type of optical illusion, Carlton playing in orange socks made them appear very slow. Or maybe they were actually very slow. It also looked like they were representing Guantanamo Bay.

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Jake ‘The Package’ Stringer pulled a hamstring and was out of the game, but that (and Carlton’s orange socks) was probably the most interesting part of the game. Of course, it’s better for a team to win than it is to lose, and Western Bulldogs ticked that box. But it’s the only box they ticked. They’re still in with a chance for the finals, but still not looking great for them.

West Coast 11.8 (74) defeated Fremantle 5.14 (44)

The Western Derby is usually a big match, but this one was a fizzer, not even the marketing gimmick of $3.00 pies enough to get the crowd in. The usual prices of pies at the football is $5.60 – jeez, expensive – and the marketing slogan was “1995 pie prices“, which goes to show that pies at the football have been a rip-off forever.

Perhaps the AFL rightly predicted that looking at a pie for two hours was preferable to watching the actual game, because the game was a flop.

the protected zone
The Western Derby player of the match.

While Fremantle had plenty of the play and entries into their forward zone, the Eagles were more accurate in front of the goal and went away with 30 point victory in the last ever Western Derby to be played at Subiaco Oval. It’s Perth Stadium from 2018 onwards. The Eagles are now back in the top eight, but for how long? Returning Josh J. Kennedy booted three goals, while Mark LeCras and Jack Darling kicked two each.

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