The Tackle - Mark Robinson
WHAT I LIKE
HIGH-stakes game and the Tigers bring heart and the Giants bring hope. Always, heart wins out. We’ll find out if the small forwards can take this team deep into September, but late July has delivered them a top-four placing. Had more substance on Sunday and Dusty Martin probably accrued another three votes. Nick Vlastuin played his best game in his shortened season and adds substance to the defence. This was a huge win.
2 INSPIRING MAGPIES
Whether it was the tackles by Jordan De Goey and Alex Fasolo in the final minutes, or the goals by Fasolo and Jamie Elliott, or the last 10 minutes by Levi Greenwood and his overall game on Andrew Gaff, take your pick, but Collingwood was monstrous in a game which produced a hugfest with coach Nathan Buckley when he joined his players on the ground after the game. To come from behind with two players out of the contest with concussion says plenty about the team’s spirit. Who knows if Buckley’s coaching is over, but if it hasn’t already been decided, it’s performances like this which sway it in Buckley’s favour.
3 SMOOTH OPERATOR
Sydney’s rejuvenation was alive before Jarrad McVeigh returned to the line-up a second time, but there’s no doubting his leadership, calmness and decision-making with the ball lifts the Swans to another level. He is averaging 17.7 disposals at 81 per cent efficiency in his six games, and amid the craziness of modern football, McVeigh keeps law and order. How much would the other mob in Sydney like a player like him?
4 MELBOURNE’S MIDFIELD
Had been beaten for a month, but with the inclusions of Jack Viney and Dom Tyson, won contested footy by 29, clearances by 12 and disposals by 77. It was a total team performance based on pressure and outnumber. In Rounds 1-14, Melbourne was the No. 1 pressure team in the league before losing it for three weeks, but against Port Adelaide had a pressure factor of 200, which is furious football. Add Michael Hibberd off the back flank with his 36 disposals and 821m gained, and the Demons are building again.
5 LIAM PICKEN
Best game of the season as the Bulldogs rebuild their season off Broadway, this time in Cairns. Picken kicked six goals and underlined his standing as the bloke who has got every inch out of himself. The other good news story at the Dogs continues to be Mitch Wallis. Had a game-high 16 contested possessions and 13 score involvements and is rated elite in both areas. It helped that Luke Dahlhaus worked as hard as he did.
6 THE TEAM TO BEAT?
Six points clear at the top with five games to play, consecutive finals are beckoning for Adelaide. Footy isn’t as simple as that, of course, but after the comfortable win at home against the Cats, the Crows are the best-placed team in the competition. Their midfield had been smashed against Geelong under coach Don Pyke, but it dominated on Friday night. At three quarter-time it was +13 for contested footy and +19 in clearances and were helped by a pressure factor of 191, the third best of the season. (Note to self: Ask Chris Scott why he didn’t use Scott Selwood to tag Rory Sloane after the same tactic saw Sloane kept to six disposals in 35 minutes in Round 11, according to Champion Data).
7 BEN BROWN
The Kangaroos forward played a superb hand again on Saturday. Was the target inside 50 22 times, took seven marks inside 50, and kicked 6.2 from 12 disposals. In a team near the bottom of the ladder, Brown is vying for the All-Australian full-forward spot. He gets unders because the commentary largely centres on his accurate goalkicking (47.22 this year) but he’s much more than that. He’s a colossus overhead and with Jarrad Waite supplying the tricks the youthful Kangaroos might sneak a win in the run home.
8 THE MAGNET MAN
Alastair Clarkson’s transformation of Hawthorn in 2017 adds another chapter to the Clarkson Chronicles, and his ability to move players to different positions and get results is reminiscent of Kevin Sheedy at his creative best. There’s been Will Langford forward and James Sicily back, joining Sicily in defence is Jack Gunston. Had a horrid season as a forward and in the past three weeks has played 90 per cent of game-time in defence. Had a career-high 35 disposals, career-high 32 uncontested possessions and a career-high 536m gained against the Dockers. He wouldn’t be the first forward-cum-defender to say: How good is this?
9 CALE HOOKER
Like and dislike for the big fella. His final quarter, with the game up for grabs, saw him take four marks and kick four goals, and in today’s footy, that’s a BOG performance. Don’t know what was said or done between Hooker and Kangaroos youngster Daniel Nielson, and from afar it appeared Hooker wanted to humiliate his opponent. That’s OK, but rubbing an opponent’s head and hair and screaming into his face looked a little over the top.
10 IT’S TIME, STU
THE majestic MCG has served the game well this season, but it’s looking like it’s had an all-nighter on the town. It’s patchy and scratchy and needs replacement grass. MCC secretary Stu Fox is about to oversee his first finals series, and that means a surface upgrade should be coming soon.
WHAT I DISLIKE
1 GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
What a ramshackle performance at the MCG on Sunday in a statement game. They kicked one goal in about two quarters before the rain really came and, after quarter-time, never looked like threatening. Too many young blokes didn’t handle the heat, and apart from Callan Ward and Phil Davis, the leaders didn’t stand up. That includes Steve Johnson and Toby Greene. There were questions about the Giants entering the game and there are even more now. Have they the game style and hard edge? Early season suggestions the Giants should be handed the premiership were hasty at the time and deadset ludicrous now.
2 OH TOBY
Can understand why he wants to fly the flag and not let the opposition stand over him or his teammates, but throwing a cheap left into the face of Alex Rance when the umpire is 1m away is stupid. Johnson had the pill after being knocked down by Rance and Greene got the free kick overturned. He is now in the hands of the MRP. The contact was low, but why run the risk of throwing a punch in the first place? He’s looking at two weeks, which is bonkers.
3 DALE MORRIS
The Dogs are about system, yet when an important cog of that system is lost, it takes a hit. With Dale Morris breaking his arm and his season in doubt, the club’s premiership chances nosedived. Someone will replace him, but the replacement won’t have his leadership, heart and competitiveness. We talk about pillars in football teams and Morris is Luke Beveridge’s defensive pillar. Reckon the Bulldogs won’t be a threat without Morris and it remains to be seen if he plays again. Sad times.
4 PORT ADELAIDE
Were labelled pretenders a month ago, which coach Ken Hinkley acknowledged. They teased us again before being sorted out by Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday. Kenny took positives from his team not laying down, which is fair enough, but he should also be furious about the first half. Lost contested ball and clearances and were too easy to play against. Against top eight teams they are 1-6. Against bottom-10 teams they are 9-1. That equates to being a flat-track bully.
5 IT’S NOT ALWAYS PRESSURE BASED, BUT ...
St Kilda was never really in the game for a host of reasons, but once again the Saints didn’t bring enough pressure and again they didn’t get the result they wanted. Their pressure factor was 174 against Sydney, which was low when you consider Alan Richardson lamented the inability to put pressure on Essendon the weekend before. It’s not always correct to correlate pressure and performance, but with St Kilda there is a link. When they have a pressure factor of 179-plus they have won six of seven matches. When they don’t reach 179, they have won three of 10. Their two games since the Richmond annihilation have been disappointing and Port Adelaide next week (away) looms as a finals decider.
6 PING FOR JOEY
St Kilda’s disappointing night was highlighted when Leigh Montagna tore his hamstring. Straightaway there were questions about whether he will play again this season — or again at all. Get the feeling Montagna and Nick Riewoldt are a package deal in discussions about them playing next year, and that’s unfair on Montagna because his season has been pretty consistent. It’s a nervy time for the pair, but they have to accept there’s more to life than playing football. They should speak to their great mate Nick Dal Santo, whose disappointment last year has been replaced by enthusiasm in the media.
7 STEVE MOTLOP
The finger is being pointed at Tom Hawkins, but he’s not the only one at Geelong down on form. Motlop might be a strong discussion at selection this week after another lacklustre game. Had 36 SuperCoach points against Adelaide and is averaging his fewest points in a season since 2012, his fewest disposals since 2013, fewest score involvements since 2012 and equal fewest goals since 2011. He kicked eight goals in the first four games of this season and nine in the next 13 games as a mid/forward. Ouch.
8 CHOKING EAGLES
Had the game when Elliot Yeo ran in for a simple shot at goal in the final quarter, but he missed and momentum changed. The Magpies took on the game, the Eagles played safe football and the Pies rode the wave. Gee whiz, the Eagles are disappointing. They tease and tantalise and then turn it up. Their past six matches read LWLWLW. They can’t be playing finals with that kind of performance fluctuation.
9 KURT TIPPETT
Kicked five goals in the NEAFL, and that’s still not going to get him a senior game for the Swans because Callum Sinclair kicked a career-high five goals and had 11 score involvements. His teammates must have thought he was better option than Buddy Franklin because they went to him 17 times inside 50 as opposed to Franklin, who was targeted just eight times. Sinclair over Franklin, who would have thought it?