Dustin Martin and the Tigers are scary. Picture: Getty Images
Dustin Martin and the Tigers are scary. Picture: Getty Images

The Tackle: Sorry Chris, did we mishear?

It was the biggest and best round of footy of the season, with thrillers galore that had influence over the ladder.

From "scary" Richmond to Chris Scott's bizarre Charlie Cameron comments, Mark Robinson breaks down a colossal weekend in our great game.

 

Bachar Houli, Dustin Martin and the Tigers are scary. Picture: AAP
Bachar Houli, Dustin Martin and the Tigers are scary. Picture: AAP

 

LIKES

 

1 MARCH OF THE TITANS

There's a scary element about Richmond. Not the jump-from-behind-the-door-and-say-boo scary, more the hunter chasing its prey. You just know the Tigers won't abandon the chase.

They were near enough five goals down and then began their pursuit yesterday. There's not a better wet-weather team as it suits their character and game style.

Dustin Martin is in 2017 form, so is Bachar Houli, and Dion Prestia looks built for wet-weather football. The Tigers are in the top four and play Brisbane Lions on Sunday. What a finish.

 

2 BEST OF THE BULLDOGS

You can't say the Western Bulldogs are premiership contenders because they haven't cemented a finals spot … yet.

If they beat Adelaide in Ballarat, they're in. If it happens they will pose a huge problem for any team they play.

They munched on a dispirited Greater Western Sydney yesterday, kicking 12 goals in a row. That's 33 goals to four in their past six-and-a-half quarters.

That is just sensational football. And who says they can't win it from eighth spot? They won from seventh in 2016.

 

3 LAUNCH OF THE LIONS

Let's ride the wave, Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said last week.

The Lions are being swept up in a wave of emotion, not unlike the Bulldogs in 2016 and Richmond in 2017.

Riding the wave is Fagan. He choked up when interviewed by Fox Footy's Cameron Mooney after the match. He spoke of ticker, pride, finals pressure, toughness and of delivering a brave effort against Geelong in the final quarter.

"I love them,'' he said of his players. "To come from where they've come from …'' He was then choked for words as he beat his fist against his heart.

Everyone is in awe of Fagan, the middle-aged maestro who has won the admiration of all footy folk.

 

Absolute scenes in Brisbane. Picture: Getty Images
Absolute scenes in Brisbane. Picture: Getty Images

 

4 ROAR TALENT

The Lions are tough. They play football that will stand up in September. This was finals-like pressure - Brisbane was at 201 on the pressure index and Geelong at 191. And when the whips were cracking in the final quarter, Brisbane had the whip in hand.

In the final quarter the Lions won the contested possession count 55-37, including winning post-clearance ground balls 30-14, and dominated the ruck.

Those doubting Hugh McCluggage for the All-Australian side should watch a replay of this game.

Also watch Charlie Cameron's five goals, Stef Martin's ruckwork, the tenacity of Lachie Neale, Jarryd Lyons and Mitch Robinson, and Marcus Adams's intercept marking. Neale, McCluggage and Lyons combined for 31 disposals and 22 contested possessions in the final quarter alone. They're good.

 

5 BOMBERS' REBOOT

What a stunning turnaround from the previous week. As has become the norm, the Bombers won it differently, but won with character.

They weren't lucky to beat Fremantle because plenty of players were influential, but if Essendon gives up the contested ball count like it did on Saturday night, September will be fleeting.

The Bombers won despite winning 55 fewer contested possessions, the worst differential by a winning team on record.

The Dockers won the inside-50 count by 11 and had two more shots at goal, but poor kicking finishing ultimately cost them, going as they went at 56 per cent efficiency compared to Essendon's 71 per cent.

The Bombers were cleaner in the big moments, shared the goalkicking around, and had a clear winner in Patrick Ambrose.

The defender went with Nat Fyfe for most of the night. Fyfe won 26 disposals (21 contested).

It was a coaching move that hugely affected the outcome.

 

6 MAGPIES BETTER WITHOUT COX?

Clinical ball use and connection through the middle - against pathetic opposition - opened up new possibilities for Collingwood.

If the Pies deliver that in finals they will contend. It will be intriguing how their attack sets up. Will they rotate Jamie Elliott, Jaidyn Stephenson and Jordan De Goey deep forward, or aim to play just one forward deep? Keep it unpredictable with match-ups and positioning, or make it predictable, which delivers confidence and continuity.

The Pies are a better forward unit without Mason Cox. With Cox playing this year, the Magpies have an 8-6 win-loss record, average 82 points and score from 43 per cent of their forward-50 entries. Without Cox, they have a 6-1 record, average 95 points a game, and score from 47 per cent of entries.

 

Big Todd Goldstein had a mammoth performance for the Roos. Picture: Michael Klein
Big Todd Goldstein had a mammoth performance for the Roos. Picture: Michael Klein


 

7 HOT TODD

Ben Brown kicked 10 goals but thought Todd Goldstein was best afield.

Don't know if it's the tenure or the financials holding up any new deal with the Kangaroos - or if Goldstein wants to leave - but when he plays as he did against Patrick Ryder and Peter Ladhams, he's worth a solid contract.

It was the second-best game of Goldstein's career on ratings. His highest-rated game was 19 disposals, 38 hit-outs and five goals in Tasmania in 2016.

Against Port he had 34 disposals, 28 hit-outs and 17 score involvements - the most recorded by a ruckman.

 

8 CASBOULT ROCKING IT

Brisbane is the feel-good team of the year. If there was a player's equivalent, Carlton's Levi Casboult is it. He was magnificent on Saturday. He and veterans Matt Kreuzer, Ed Curnow, Kade Simpson, Dale Thomas and Marc Murphy have harnessed a spirit that feeds off the coach and their younger teammates. Casboult is hitting career high rating points, and is delivering at both ends.

 

Levi Casboult has finally cemented his standing at the Blues. Picture: Getty Images
Levi Casboult has finally cemented his standing at the Blues. Picture: Getty Images


 

9 SMOOTH ROUGH

Jarryd Roughead's first goal, which was Hawthorn's second, was worth the ticket alone. He kicked straight from 30m and was set upon by his teammates. In the Fox Footy commentary box best mate Jordan Lewis said: "It gives you tingles down your spine.'' There were also fitting scenes at Fremantle on Saturday night when Aaron Sandilands chaired Hayden Ballantyne from the field. Footy often says its farewells so well.

 

10 BOUQUET FOR FLORENT

These late-season games are for experimentation and Sydney coach John Longmire is finding out more about his players. And he's found a midfielder. Ollie Florent played purely as a midfielder for the first time in his career over the past two weeks. He has attended 31 centre bounces, and has averaged 29 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 517m gained, seven clearances and five tackles. We'll be seeing more of it next season.

 

 

Jack Riewoldt was penalised for this attempted mark over Tom Barrass. Pic: AAP
Jack Riewoldt was penalised for this attempted mark over Tom Barrass. Pic: AAP

 

DISLIKES

1 STUDS UP

The first free kick paid against Richmond's Jack Riewoldt can't be right.

He jumped to mark and his extended leg and foot made connection with the upper leg of his opponent. That surely is not why the rule was introduced. The second free kick against Riewoldt was closer to what the AFL wants out of the game. The contact from the studs was higher, although nowhere near the head.

But don't blame the umpires, blame the rule makers. Could you imagine the crowd reaction if Riewoldt marked in the goalsquare on GF day, the Tigers down by five points with 30 seconds to play, and the umpire paid a free kick against him. Oh boy!

 

2 POWERLESS

The heat's back on Port Adelaide and coach Ken Hinkley. I fully expect president David Koch to create more headlines when he comments on the performance on his TV show.

Yes, Kochie, it was a humiliation. If the president is thinking about dumping Hinkley - and who really knows what Koch is thinking - it was the type of performance that gives him ample ammunition.

There's a soft mental to side to Port Adelaide. Saturday night's effort was so poor you have to think there's something fundamentally wrong with this team. Youth delivers inconsistency, but what's unacceptable is when a team surrenders.

 

Power coach Ken Hinkley is looking for answers. Pic: Getty Images
Power coach Ken Hinkley is looking for answers. Pic: Getty Images

 

3 EM-BARRASS-ING

Not much to dislike about West Coast yesterday. The team didn't let itself down, although it would be worried by the contested-ball count (the Eagles were -22 yesterday).

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick told AFL 360 last week his team needed to bring the ball to the ground. It did that with the help of the rain. Tom Barrass played on Jack Riewoldt for 60 minutes and Tom Lynch for 40 minutes, and although he made some important defensive plays, he also made a couple of glaring errors that handed the Tigers goals. It was unlike Barrass, but now the Tigers will believe Barrass cracks under pressure.

 

4 CROW FALL

"We've let ourselves and our fans down and it's not acceptable. We came here with so much to play for and not for the first time this year, especially in the second half, we weren't able to elevate to the level required. We have got some searching to do in terms of looking at all components of our program."

That was coach Don Pyke. He's talking like a coach of team in 17th position, not one sitting fighting for a spot in the top eight.

Adelaide will run a Melbourne-type review at the end of the season. Retirements will accompany delistings and a rebuild is urgent. Not only with the list, but with the game style.

Either Pyke lacks the answers or his players aren't capable of dealing with modern defensive football. In the second half against Collingwood, they also turned up their toes. Their pressure rating was 154 - the Auskickers at halftime go at about 130 - and they conceded 85 marks. They are a mess.

 

The dejected Demons will be searching for answers in the offseason. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
The dejected Demons will be searching for answers in the offseason. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

 

5 DEE-PLORABLE

The Demons are the biggest conundrum in football.

How can they win the contested ball by 15 and inside-50 count by 10 and be embarrassed as they were by Sydney?

This club doesn't need an end-of-year review, it needs an FBI investigation.

Put every individual in a smoky, darkened room, turn on the spotlight, have a good cop (Josh Mahoney) and a bad cop (Denis Pagan) and let's get real.

Did you get ahead of yourselves?

Have you done everything to get the best out of yourselves? What could you do to improve the group and yourself? What's your view of the game plan, communication, leadership and morale? What responsibility do you take for what's happened? What about list management, player welfare and development?

It should be compulsory for the key stakeholders at the club - the players, coaches, the board and the executive.

 

6 A GIANT CAPITULATION

Two weeks in a row the Giants have crumbled in the second half, adding a worrying on-field element to a worrying situation off it.

Gun midfielder Stephen Coniglio still hasn't signed and at Round 23 that's a huge worry. The Giants have lost confidence and it's difficult to see them surviving the first week of the finals.

It's acceptable to lose to a good opposition, but not when you go down whimpering.

 

7 COME ON, COACH

It wasn't Chris Scott's most accurate summary when asked whether Brisbane's Charlie Cameron was the difference.

"I thought he was good late, he kicked a couple of goals … I don't think he had a huge influence on the game. That's my initial reaction. I think he took his chances when they were presented."

Did I mishear? Cameron kicked five of his team's 10 goals and his eight score involvements were the third most on the ground behind Patrick Dangerfield and Jarryd Lyons - and his team won by a point. Fagan certainly thought he was the difference.

"Five goals is the new 10 in football,'' he told 3AW yesterday. "I don't know why he (Scott) said that. I'd be tearing my hair out if some small forward did that to us. I did have a chuckle.''

Scott should be well aware of Cameron's capabilities - he kicked five goals against the Cats in the 2017 prelim final.

 

 

8 SCOTT HAS BIGGER ISSUES

Brisbane's Stef Martin was influential on Saturday - two of his taps resulted in goals to a running Dayne Zorko and Neale.

So, a week out from finals, the Scott still has a ruck problem. He has used five different ruckmen this year - Rhys Stanley, Zac Smith, Mark Blicavs, Ryan Abbott and Darcy Fort.

On Saturday it was Martin v Bicavs/Esava Ratugolea. The Cats lost the hit-outs to advantage count 20-7 and were outscored from stoppages 48-38.

It's not a heavy defeat in scoring, but in a one-point game, it was an area of influence. Martin was the third-highest ranked player in the final quarter with five disposals and seven hit-outs to advantage.

Will the Cats persevere with Blicavs or go back to Stanley? Midfielder Mitch Duncan told Channel 7 yesterday he believed Blicavs was best suited as a defender. A huge decision is looming.

 

9 IT WAS TOUGH, BUT WAS IT GREAT?

The intense pressure and the ability of Geelong and Brisbane to shut down the aggressive switch or corridor play meant this game was largely played down the line, which then presented a whole new level of problem.

The Lions kicked the ball out on the full 11 times, the equal-most of any team this year. Overall, the 15 for the match was the second-most this year.

The record by a team in a match is 13 by the Bulldogs in 1999.

 

10 DIVING AND HOLDING

The drama of the weekend gripped everyone. Players milked free kicks and some should be fined for acting. A few got away with murder.

Look at this photograph of Carlton's Patrick Cripps being held by held by two St Kilda players at a stoppage.

 

‘Play on, no free kick, Crippa’.
‘Play on, no free kick, Crippa’.

 

The Blues should send this photo to the AFL umpiring department and demand answers. And not just seek clarity, but demand why Cripps is not given the protection he deserves. If that was at full-forward, the forward would receive a free kick every time. Seriously, this is lamentable umpiring.

 

 

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