AFL Review: This Beautiful Game Is Becoming A Work Of Art

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As we mentioned last week, yes, the pointy end of the season is getting pointier. We thought there would be no more boilovers or thrilling games in 2017, where the teams we expected to win, would win, and predictable results would become more predictable. But we were wrong. In this superb Round 18, there were mini-upsets, and some minor thrillers. This is oddly an even year, and we should never forget this.

On Saturday, Melbourne mini-blitzed a team above them, Port Adelaide, and on Sunday, Richmond knocked off Greater Western Sydney in a match played in the rain, and a top eight contender, West Coast, gave up the lead in the final minutes of their match against a gallant Collingwood. Also on Sunday, the cellar-dweller Brisbane caused a mini-upset by beating a team above them. It was only Carlton, but a team above them nevertheless.

At this rate, Brisbane might escape the wooden spoon and hand it over to North Melbourne for the first time since 1972. That was such a long time ago, that it was even before North’s successful Barassi era. Forty-five years without a wooden spoon. That would be some cause for celebration.

Albeit these minor upsets, the shapes of the ladder are forming. Previously, we were trying to fit round shapes into square, triangular into ellipse, but the pieces are starting to come together.

The form teams are maintaining their form – Sydney has won 10 from their last 11 and Hawthorn has won four of their last five. Unfortunately for the Hawks fans, time may be running out for them. For Sydney, the time may be just right. Greater Western Sydney are stuttering on their way to September and have won only one game from last six games since the bye. Will they actually make the finals? It’s a question that needs to be asked.

Port Adelaide, now out of the top four, are an absolute flat-track bully, only good at beating up the bottom sides, and not so good at facing quality opposition. West Coast are the ultimate home boys, and once again, proved they are no good on the road. They are not the real deal; they are the pretenders. Richmond with a win in the wet, showed yet another great sign that they are ‘the real deal’. Let’s see if they disappoint us yet again next week against Gold Coast.

Still with a mathematical chance to make the finals, Hawthorn at least will have a big say in the make up of the final eight. They will play Sydney next week, then Richmond the week after, both games at the MCG. In the final home and away round, they will play Western Bulldogs. If Hawthorn can win all of these, they may still make it into the finals.

Perhaps not as solid as Hawthorn, Collingwood can also influence the shape of the September. The ’Pies will play Adelaide next, then Port Adelaide in Round 21, Geelong in Round 22 and in the final round, Melbourne. Collingwood, who have little to play for 2017, is still capable of knocking off a few top sides.

Look at the AFL Round 18 highlights.

If you want to compare what we said in our preview with the reality of what happened in Round 18, check it out in our Round 18 preview. Or listen in to our great podcast. Das ist gut. It’s good in any language.

Round 18 Round-up – Feature Games

Collingwood 13.15 (93) defeated West Coast 13.7 (85)

Who thought Collingwood would come back when it was four goals down five minutes into the last quarter? The team from the west was sailing nicely but started thinking about their trip to Tullamarine Airport and which meals to order on the flight back to Perth. Or whether they’d get the seats with the extra leg room, because that makes the four-hour flight back to Perth just that little bit more bearable. Or perhaps they’re just a bit too excited about their brand spanking new Perth Stadium coming up in 2018.

Collingwood was without their best player and captain, Scott Pendlebery before the game, then Darcy Moore and Travis Varcoe during the game, the two men they could not afford to lose, on the sideline for most of the game, and they looked certain to go down.

The way they came back and snatched life from the jaws of death was brilliant. In the final term, Collingwood kicked 5.4 and kept the Eagles to 1.2. Josh J. Kennedy playing his 200th game for the Eagles was brilliant in the first three quarters, kicking two in each and six for the match, but was kept goalless in the final quarter. He’s a big man, and leg room on the flight back to Perth was definitely playing on his mind in that final quarter.

For Collingwood, Jordan de Goey was absolutely huge, kicking four majors for the game, in a  Swan-like performance (not Swan Lake, but Dane Swan), almost single-handedly winning the game. He was well assisted by Jack Crisp, who probably played his best game for the team and Adam Treloar was exceptional in the final quarter.

Don’t forget the ‘Daniel Wells’ factor. With him playing, Collingwood’s record this year is 6–2. If he can remain on the ground, even on a stretcher, who knows what will happen. He is their talisman, their lucky charm.

Richmond 9.10 (64) defeated Greater Western Sydney 6.9 (45)

An ‘8-point’ game played in the wet, a low-scoring affair. Greater Western Sydney started the game well, dominating the first quarter with three goals, and leading by 20 points at the first break. But it was never going to be the day of the Giants once Richmond regained control in the middle, led by Trent Cotchin (the reigning Brownlow medalist, even though he was awarded the 2012 Brownlow in 2016, if that can make any sense at all) and Dustin Martin (who will more than likely be the 2017 Brownlow medalist), kicking six unanswered goals in the second and third quarters.

The Giants were, in fact, held scoreless from the end of first quarter until midway through the third quarter. They pegged back a little bit in the final quarter but by then, it was too late.

The result has reconfirmed that Greater Western Sydney is no good at the MCG, winning only one of their 11 games there (against a putrid Melbourne team in Round 21, 2014 – three years ago!). Greater Western Sydney has hardly had any chance to get used to the MCG, and it was only the second time this year that they’ve played at the home of football. They haven’t won in four games. Can they regain their form?

Richmond has got their key structures working well, Jack Riewoldt kicking goals at one end while Alex Rance, probably the best defender in the league,  holding up the other end, with Cotchin and Martin in the middle. Good stuff.

Melbourne 13.10 (88) defeated Port Adelaide 9.11 (65)

A gutsy effort by Melbourne. Port Adelaide confirmed its reputation as an ultimate flat-track bully, only good at beating up the lesser teams. Port Adelaide was unable to score its first goal until the 23rd minute mark of the second term, allowing Melbourne to have a five-goal lead going into the main break. Port played better in the second half and pegged back a little, led by Robbie Gray and Travis Boak, but ultimately went down by 23 points.

Coach Ken Hinkley said “We didn’t seem to enjoy the fight or the contest and got steamrolled a bit on the inside.” You can say that again. “We didn’t seem to enjoy…”

Max Gawn dominated against the competition’s in-form ruckman, Patrick Ryder, and gave the Demons’ midfielders the first use of the ball.

Jack Viney led the midfield by example, involved in a number of contests in the first term, and when Port Adelaide made their charge in the second half, it was Dom Tyson and Clayton Oliver who took control of the midfield. Michael Hibberd was prolific all over the ground. Forward Jesse Hogan showed his presence, kicking three majors, but It was Jake Melksham who kicked crucial goals at a time when his team was threatened. His snap at the start of the third term extended their lead to 37 points. He kicked one from a tight angle from the boundary, in the final quarter, a sealer.

Jeff Garlett was entertaining. There was some doubt whether he would play in this match following the death of a relative, but he did, and In the opening term, he not only kicked a goal, but two posters.

Sydney 14.17 (101) defeated St Kilda 9.5 (59)

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Going into the game, both teams were eyeing September action but it seems that only one of these teams is now likely to play finals. And it looks like it will be Sydney.

A week is a long time in the footy, but it was only two weeks ago, after winning four games in a row, the Saints were in the top eight, and the expectations were getting high – a second premiership to team up with that lonely 1966 cup was on the cards. But a poor showing against Essendon last week and now getting thumped by Sydney, it seems like an eternity ago when we talked about the St Kilda colours appearing in September. Red and white, or black and red might be playing, but we don’t think the red, white and black will be.

Now sitting tenth on the ladder, St Kilda has a tough run home, playing against genuine finals contenders. Port Adelaide (away) next week, West Coast (home), Melbourne, North Melbourne and Richmond. Judging from the way they’ve played over last two weeks, they may as well book their end-of-season trip to Bali for early September. Because they won’t be anywhere near finals football.

Sydney’s rise from the bottom of the ladder in May during Rounds 5 and 6 is simply staggering. With six successive losses, last year’s losing grand finalist could not have started the season in a worse manner. The way they opened the season was woeful, but their rise has been simply incredible. Is it timed this way? Are they peaking at right time? Did they decide just to get all of their losses for the season out of the way at the beginning of the season, rather than distribute throughout? Winning ten of last 11 games, the Swans sit sixth on the ladder – they are the real contenders.

It was the second annual Pride Game, and a great celebration. Ruckman Callum Sinclair was an unexpected hero for the Swans, coming into the side to replace the injured Sam Reid. He was unstoppable against Jake Carlisle, grabbing contested marks everywhere and kicking five goals. Kurt Tippett is playing well in the reserves, and this will create a selection headache for the Swans.

Sydney is in red-and-white-hot form, with only one loss to Hawthorn since Round 6 and it is the team they face this weekend. Can they keep on winning? Or is this going to be the game they have to lose?

Round 18 Round-up – The Others

Adelaide 13.13 (91) defeated Geelong 10.10 (70). Match highlights? Adelaide stamped themselves as the premiership favourite, Geelong are fading, and some idiot lit a flare under the scoreboard. This was announced as ‘the Grand Final preview’, but we don’t think so. Only one of these teams will make the Grand Final and we think it will be Adelaide. In fact, if Geelong does meet Adelaide in the Grand Final, they will lose by even more than the 119-point margin they handed out to Port Adelaide in the 2007 Grand Final. Revenge, even if Adelaide hands it out on behalf of Port Adelaide, would be sweet but might upset some people at Alberton Park.

Essendon 20.12 (132) defeated North Melbourne 16.9 (105). Match highlights? North Melbourne lost seven games in a row for the first time since 1984 and are heading towards their first wooden spoon since 1972. And Essendon are now in the top eight!

Western Bulldogs 16.14 (110) defeated Gold Coast 8.8 (56). Match highlights? The biggest win of the season for Western, and still yapping at the base of the top eight. Cazaly Oval, which reminded us of suburban VFL games of the 1960s.

Hawthorn 15.10 (100) defeated Fremantle 7.6 (48). Match highlights? Hawthorn’s hot-headed youngster James Sicily telling teammate Taylor Duryea to “f**k off” when they were embroiled in an ugly spat just before half-time. Coach Alistair Clarkson coached his 300th game, which is quite an achievement. Especially when you consider there are two types of coaches: those that have been sacked, and those that will be sacked.

Brisbane 17.10 (112) defeated Carlton 11.16 (82). Match highlights? Brisbane almost coughing up a 56-point lead, when Carlton kicked seven consecutive goals, and only trailing by 11 points late in the third quarter. And the crowd. Only 18,847 at the ’Gabba, far away from the average of 37,000 that were turning up to watch Brisbane during their 2001–2003 halcyon days.

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