round eleven
Demons Jake Lever and Steven May celebrate their win over the Bulldogs. Photo: www.dailytelegraph.com.au/AAP

Round eleven of the 2021 AFL calendar marks the half way point of the season. It’s also Sir Doug Nicholls round, celebrating the First Nations football pioneer, and the thousands of indigenous footballers that have followed in his footsteps. As part of the celebration, clubs stepped out in their special indigenous guernseys that, as well a looking splendid, add a further layer of culture to our national game.

The football itself was an unusual affair, with the latest COVID outbreak forcing many games to be played behind closed doors, and others to be moved to neutral venues. That resulted in, at times, stunted football where teams seemingly couldn’t get themselves amped up without the backing of the crowds.

Here at Vendetta Sports Media we’ll be covering the entire AFL season for you. In case you missed it, all our team previews, and this writer’s ladder predictions, are located here.

Match of the Week: Western Bulldogs vs Melbourne Demons

A top of the table, Friday night blockbuster opened Sir Doug Nicholls round as the Bulldogs, fresh off a triple figure evisceration of the Saints, took on the Demons who were coming off a controversial one point loss to Adelaide that saw them lose their perfect record.

This contest also saw the league’s best attack come up against its best defense: the irresistible force of the Bulldogs against the Demons immovable object.

Melbourne got the perfect start when, from the opening bounce, they pushed forward. James Harmes stayed at the edge of the contest, eventually capitalising as the ball came out of the pack to kick the opener inside 20 seconds.

For the traditionally slow starting Demons it was the perfect tonic. Christian Petracca snapped truly before Bayley Fritsch slipped out behind the Dogs defense to take an uncontested mark. Bulldogs goals to Cody Weightman and Aaron Naughton – remarkably, the Bulldogs full forward has kicked all of his 28 goals this season from set shots – were answered when Fritsch intercepted a poor cross field ball to kick his 2nd and Max Gawn kicked truly.

Melbourne led by a comfortable 27 points at the opening change, their 41 points their best opening quarter of the season. Importantly, Melbourne’s defense held the Bulldogs to their worst scoring 1st term of 2021. In fact, it was the first time this season that the Bulldogs had trailed at the 1st break.

The Demons were able to shut down the Dogs’ much vaunted running game, forcing their phalanx of ball movers into a series of uncharacteristic skill errors. It would set the tone for the rest of the match.

The Bulldogs opened the 2nd quarter looking to regain some momentum and did so through a pair of typical goals: big men taking contested marks on the lead. On this occasion, it was Josh Bruce and Tim English who marked and kicked truly. Melbourne were able to quickly respond through a pair of goals to the reborn Tom McDonald. The first came from a beautifully disguised pass by Christian Petracca, the second an old fashioned full forwards lead out.

There was a lull in scoring for a stretch after McDonald’s 2nd, but not a lull in the action. Weightman had the Demons defense in knots as he twisted and turned, but couldn’t kick truly. Demon defender Harrison Petty skied for a big mark and Melbourne’s teenage live wire Kysaiah Pickett’s dancing feet broke the ankles of poor Zaine Cordy. It was the 2nd time Pickett had embarrassed the big Bulldog, after racing by him on the wing in the opening term.

Pickett eventually kicked truly from a set shot to extend Melbourne’s lead to 32 points. With an attack as potent as the Bulldogs, 32 points wasn’t exactly ‘out of reach’ but trailing by that much, in the context of this game, felt cavernous. Sensing that, the Dogs answered through the diminutive Caleb Daniel, who goaled well on the run, before Jason Johannisen smartly found English, who kicked his 2nd of the quarter to reduce the half time margin to 19 points.

The 3rd quarter was a true arm wrestle, as the Bulldogs lifted their intensity to match their opponent. The opening play of the term was typical: Bulldog star Marcus Bontompelli breaking clear to send the ball forward only to see Petty take a strong defensive mark.

It took a full 10 minutes before Fritsch popped up to snap the opening goal of the term – his 3rd. The Dogs had chances to stem the bleeding but missed very getable set shots through Bruce and Naughton. At the other end Sam Weideman – to that point very much anonymous – didn’t waste his opportunities. The young forward popped up in a pocket to mark and kick truly before, not more than two minutes later, taking a strong contested grab from a Charlie Spargo pass. Again, he made the most of his chance.

The Bulldogs had just played out their first goalless quarter of the year; their resistance effectively broken.

McDonald’s 3rd goal early in the final term pushed the lead out to a game high 42 points, and despite a pair of goals to Bruce, including a clever left foot snap, the damage was done. The Demons running out comfortable 28 point winners.

The usual suspects stood up for Melbourne. Clayton Oliver had 33 disposals, and Christian Petracca a telling 24 of his own. Demons captain Gawn had his way in the ruck duel, allowing his midfield to feed the Demons array of scoring options. Fritsch and McDonald both had three goals.

Defensively Steven May and Jake Lever did their usual stellar job of blanketing the Bulldogs’ dangerous forwards, but Harrison Petty proved a surprise packet, playing perhaps the best game of his young career. Defensive midfielder James Harmes did a number on Tom Liberatore, holding the dangerous Bulldog to just 16 possessions.

In a contrast of styles, the Bulldogs like to possess the football, where as the Demons are happy to absorb pressure and catch you on the counter. So, as expected, the Dogs dominated the possession stats, with seven players all having 25 or more disposals, with only Oliver hitting those heights for Melbourne.

However it was the effectiveness of those possessions that proved the difference, Melbourne not allowing the Bulldogs to play with their usual precision.

The win sees Melbourne move back to the top of the AFL ladder ahead of another Friday night blockbuster against the rampant Lions next week. The Bulldogs will travel west to take on the talented though erratic Dockers.

Western Bulldogs: 8 goals, 11 behinds (59)

Melbourne Demons: 13 goals, 9 behinds (87)

Goals

Bulldogs: Bruce 3, English 2, Daniel, Naughton, Weightman

Melbourne: Fritsch 3, McDonald 3, Weideman 2, Gawn, Harmes, Jordan, Petracca, Pickett

Best

Bulldogs: Macrae, Dale, Bontompelli, Daniel, Smith

Melbourne: Oliver, Petracca, May, Gawn, Lever, McDonald

Onto the other games of round eleven of the AFL season.

Collingwood Magpies 6 goals, 15 behinds (51) lost to Geelong Cats 8 goals, 13 behinds (61)

Goals

Collingwood: De Goey 2, Grundy, Hoskin-Elliott, Mihocek, Maynard

Geelong: Hawkins 3, Cameron 2, Dahlhaus, Ratugolea, Stanley

Best

Collingwood: Mayne, Moore, Quaynor, Crisp, Bianco

Geelong: Hawkins, Parfitt, Selwood, Tuohy, Narkle, Stewart

On the surface, Collingwood managing to stay within 10 points of a powerful Cats lineup could be seen as a moral victory for the moribund club. Scratch below the surface, however, and it’s a very different story. The Magpies were held goalless in the first half at the MCG for the first time in 16 years, only managing a single goal to three quarter time. Only a garbage time flourish gave the scoreboard a respectable look. The Cats didn’t start out on fire either, to be fair. Though dominant around the ground, it took three 2nd term goals in the space of five minutes to truly break the game open. Despite Collingwood’s late charge, Geelong were not seriously threatened. Brodie Grundy was amongst Collingwood’s best before being taken to hospital with a 3rd quarter neck injury. Tom Hawkins was a menace up forward for the Cats in a low scoring contest

Brisbane Lions 19 goals, 15 behinds (129) defeated GWS Giants 10 goals, 5 behinds (65)

Goals

Brisbane: Robinson 4, McStay 2, McCarthy 2, Zorko 2, Cameron, Bailey, Coleman, Daniher, Hipwood, McInerney, McCluggage, Rich, Prior

GWS: Kelly 2, Ward 2, Hill 2, Sproule, Flynn, Hopper, Finlayson

Best

Brisbane: Robinson, Zorko, Adams, Mathieson, Lyons, Andrews, McInerneny

GWS: Ward, Hopper, Taranto, Buckley, Kelly

After a sluggish start to their 2021 campaign, the Lions look like they could take on the world, right now. They certainly had no problem taking on the Giants, slamming on 40 points before GWS had even bothered the scorers. There was more than a whiff of Globetrotters vs Generals in the early stages of this one. Brisbane pulled out all the tricks: Daniel Rich launched a 55m torpedo, Dayne Zorko soccered through from 35m, Charlie Cameron played basketball with the oval ball before setting up Daniel McStay. By contrast, the Giants were a step behind in just about every play phase, letting their opposition run riot. Though the Giants started to show some of their formidable talent as the game wore on, Brisbane’s early sucker punch, as well as a run in the 3rd quarter, contributed to most of the eventual 64 point margin. Veteran midfielder/agitator Mitch Robinson won 30 possessions and kicked a career high four goals and Zorko kicked a pair to go along with his 35 disposals. For the Giants, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and Callan Ward all amassed 30+ disposals, though their influence didn’t match their gaudy stat lines.

St Kilda Saints 12 goals, 16 behinds (88) defeated North Melbourne Kangaroos 10 goals, 8 behinds (68)

Goals

St Kilda: Wood 3, Billings 2, Membrey 2, Higgins, Ross, Crouch, Byrnes, Geary

North Melbourne: Zurhaar 2, Larkey 2, Ziebell 2, Thomas 2, Garner, Taylor

Best

St Kilda: Dunstan, Crouch, Steele, Wood, Billings

North Melbourne: Hall, Simpkin, Ziebell, Thomas, Cunnington

Groundhog Day for the struggling Kangaroos, as they fought hard but were ultimately outclassed, this time by a Saints outfit desperate to atone for last week’s 111 point loss to the Bulldogs. The Saints jumped out of the blocks early with only inaccurate kicking for goal stopping them from blowing the Roos away. Whilst the Kangaroos battled gallantly, the gulf in class between the sides was evident. As soon as their intensity dropped, the Saints were able to go on little runs of two or three quick goals to push the margin out. The Saints put their feet up in the late stages, allowing the Roos to kick the last four goals of the game to add some respectability to the scoreboard. Saint Mason Wood kicked three goals against his former club, Luke Dunstan (26 disposals, 13 clearances) and Brad Crouch (26 possessions and a goal) led from midfield. Aaron Hall was the Roos best with 33 possessions and veteran Jack Zieball played his best game for a long while with 23 touches and two goals.

Gold Coast Suns 17 goals, 11 behinds (113) defeated Hawthorn Hawks 11 goals, 10 behinds (76)

Goals

Gold Coast: Rankine 4, King 4, Sexton 3, Burgess, Holman, Lukosius, Miller, Weaver, Ellis

Hawthorn: McEvoy 2, Lewis 2, Moore 2, Phillips, Reeves, Worpel, Breust, Greaves

Best

Gold Coast: Lukosius, Miller, Rankine, Ellis, Markov, King

Hawthorn: Wingard, McEvoy, Moore, Shiels, Burgoyne

The Suns – in particular Izak Rankine – came out blazing against Hawthorn, Ranking kicking three of his teams four opening goals in the opening 10 minutes. When Hawthorn belatedly turned up for this contest they were able to kick three quick goals of their own to narrow the margin to nine at the first break. The Suns impressive brigade of youngsters once again came to the fore: Rankine, Ben King and Alex Sexton slotting 11 goals between them, whilst Jack Lukosius (27 possessions, 14 marks) combined with veteran Touk Miller (37 possessions) to set up so many attacks from half back. The Suns superior class shone through, despite a brave and committed performance from the Hawks, led by Chad Wingard and Liam Shiels.

West Coast Eagles 11 goals, 5 behinds (71) lost to Essendon Bombers 12 goals, 15 behinds (87)

Goals

West Coast: Kennedy 3, Waterman 2, Ah Chee, Cripps, Darling, Petrucelle, Ryan, Sheed

Essendon: Stringer 3, Hooker 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Cox, Jones, Langford, Snelling, Waterman

Best

West Coast: Sheed, Naitanui, Barrass, Kennedy, Hurn, Redden

Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Stringer, Heppell, Hind, McGrath, Langford

Essendon fans have taken their punches over the past few years. From the drugs saga, to the false dawns under Mark Thompson and John Worsfold, it’s been an unhappy decade for the Bombers faithful. A game like this is validation for all the patience they’ve shown. Their young, untested side traveled west to take down the Eagles in their Perth fortress in an inspiring display. After a tight opening term, three 2nd quarter Eagles goals in five minutes eased the margin out. A pair of late Eagles goals quickly answered by the Bombers. Midway through the 3rd West Coast led by 25 points before Essendon turned on the afterburners. A run of four goals to close the 3rd saw them right back in the contest, before Jake Stringer gave his side the lead with a goal 39 seconds into the final term. The Eagles would level, but never lead again as late goals to Stringer and former Eagle Alec Waterman cemented a famous win. Darcy Parish continued his hot form with 36 disposals, whilst skipper Dyson Heppell’s leadership was vital. Eagle Dom Sheed had his own football, with a career high 43 possessions.

Richmond Tigers 17 goals, 9 behinds (111) defeated Adelaide Crows 12 goals, 11 behinds (83)

Goals

Richmond: Riewoldt 5, Coleman-Jones 4, Chol 2, Ralphsmith 2, Cotchin, Bolton, Graham, Martin

Adelaide: Walker 4, Fogarty 3, O’Brien, Berry, Thilthorpe, Rowe, Scholl

Best

Richmond: Riewoldt, Short, Cotchin, Martin, Coleman-Jones, Broad

Adelaide: Keays, Sloane, Walker, Doedee, Laird, McHenry

On the back of their uplifting win over the Demons last week, Adelaide jumped out of the gates, kicking six first quarter goals to take a lead over the fancied Tigers. Through lesser lights in Maribor Chol and Callum Coleman-Jones, the Tigers worked their way back into the game through the 2nd quarter before a scintillating run of six straight goals in the 3rd broke the game open for the champions as they led by 33 at the final change. Adelaide kicked four straight goals to open the final stanza as they threatened to steal the game, but: cometh the moment; cometh the man. Tigers veteran superstar Jack Riewoldt grabbed the contest by the throat, kicking the final three goals of the game, including one from a truly spectacular mark that brought memories of the one his big cousin Nick took back in 2004. Riewoldt’s clutch play steadied the Tigers as they hold on for a 28 point victory.

Sydney Swans 15 goals, 10 behinds (100) defeated Carlton Blues 11 goals 12 behinds (78)

Goals

Sydney: Heeney 3, Franklin 3, Papley 3, Hayward 2, Kennedy 2, Parker, Wicks

Carlton: McKay 3, Cripps 3, Betts 2, Silvagni, Williams, De Koning

Best

Sydney: Heeney, Kennedy, Mills, Franklin, Papley, Parker, Lloyd

Carlton: Cripps, Walsh, Docherty, McKay, Fogarty, Betts

The Swans and Blues played out a roller coaster of a match at the SCG. Carlton grabbed the early ascendancy with four goals capped by some Eddie Betts sorcery, before Sydney answered with four of their own to cap a breathless opening quarter. The Blues again kicked away with three goals in the opening five minutes of the 2nd period, though again Sydney were able to answer, the game on a knifes edge as the Blues led by a point at the half. The 3rd quarter arm wrestle continued, though in the final term Sydney’s class up forward began to shine through. A quick counter attack saw Josh Kennedy sneak out the back for a goal and when Tom Papley kicked his 2nd of the term the gig was up for Carlton. Disappointingly for the Blues, star forward Harry McKay had chances to keep his team in touch late on, but on three occasions sprayed his shots at goal. Swans star utility Isaac Heeney was best on ground with 22 possessions, 14 marks and three goals. Blues skipper Patrick Cripps was immense with 27 disposals, six tackles, six clearances and three goals.

Port Adelaide Power 18 goals, 7 points (115) defeated Fremantle Dockers 9 goals, 15 behinds (69)

Goals

Port Adelaide: Dixon 3, Powell-Pepper 3,Ladhams 2, Fantasia 2, Gray 2, Marshall 2, Farrell, Georgiades, Bergman, Amon

Fremantle: Fyfe 2, Colyer, Crowden, Henry, Lobb, Mundy, Schultz, Walters

Best

Port Adelaide: Dixon, Wines, Boak, Amon, Houston, Powell-Pepper

Fremantle: Cerra, Brayshaw, Ryan, Aish, Lobb, Fyfe

Port Adelaide were in command of this match from beginning to end, thanks to a devastating opening term. The Power’s 40 point lead at the end of the 1st should have been closer, but for some typically horrid kicking for goal form the Dockers. Port’s Karl Amon, with 16 disposals in the quarter, was particularly damaging. Fremantle seemingly located their kicking boots at the quarter time break as they started corral the Power, outscoring them by nine points in the term. Indeed, it was the Power’s remarkably accurate kicking that kept their buffer intact. Fremantle continued to battle in the 2nd half, but a superior Port outfit ultimately pulled away, kicking the final four goals of the match to run out 46 point winners. Ollie Wines (35 disposals and eight clearances) and Travis Boak (31 and 7) drove the Power forward, where Charlie Dixon and Sam Powell-Pepper cashed in with three goals each. Youngsters Adam Cerra and Andrew Brayshaw led the way for Fremantle, with 27 possessions apiece.

Coleman Medal leader board

Harry McKay (Carlton) – 38 (3 goals this week)

Taylor Walker (Adelaide) – 34 goals (4)

Josh Bruce (Bulldogs) – 33 (3)

Ben King (Suns) – 32 (4)

Jack Reiwoldt (Richmond) – 30 (5)

Jack Darling (Eagles) – 28 (1)

Aaron Naughton (Bulldogs) – 28 (1)

Matt Taberner (Dockers) – 27 (-)

Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Bombers) – 27 (2)

Cale Hooker (Bombers) – 26 (2)

#ClubMPts%ForAgtThis WeekProjectedNext
1Melbourne1140138.5 %990715Won @ W.B.
87 β€“ 59
2nd: 68– pts, 124 %Friday
vs B.L.
2W Bulldogs1136150.6 %1092725Lost vs Melb
59 β€“ 87
1st: 68 pts, 143 %Sunday
@ Freo
3Brisbane1132133.5 %1049786Won vs GWS
129 β€“ 65
3rd: 64 pts, 130 %Friday
@ Melb
4Geelong1132130.6 %948726Won @ Coll
61 β€“ 51
4th: 60– pts, 121 %BYE
5Port Adel1132123.3 %957776Won vs Freo
115 β€“ 69
5th: 56 pts, 115 %BYE
6Sydney1128113.0 %979866Won vs Carl
100 β€“ 78
7th: 52– pts, 106 %Saturday
@ St.K
7WC Eagles1124106.4 %992932Lost vs Ess
71 β€“ 87
8th: 44 pts, 102 %Sunday
@ Carl
8Richmond1124102.4 %926904Won vs Adel
111 β€“ 83
6th: 52 pts, 110 %Saturday
@ Ess
9Essendon1120106.2 %1041980Won @ WCE
87 β€“ 71
10th: 40+ pts, 103 %Saturday
vs Rich
10GWS Giants112093.3 %882945Lost @ B.L.
65 β€“ 129
9th: 44 pts, 99 %BYE
11Fremantle112090.2 %848940Lost @ P.A.
69 β€“ 115
12th: 40 pts, 94 %Sunday
vs W.B.
12St Kilda112076.4 %7751014Won vs N.M.
88 β€“ 68
15th: 36 pts, 82 %Saturday
vs Syd
13Carlton111693.9 %9431004Lost @ Syd
78 β€“ 100
11th: 40 pts, 100 %Sunday
vs WCE
14Gold Coast111692.7 %810874Won vs Haw
113 β€“ 76
13th: 36– pts, 91 %BYE
15Adelaide111685.0 %8981056Lost @ Rich
83 β€“ 111
14th: 36 pts, 88 %Saturday
vs Coll
16Collingwood11885.8 %752876Lost vs Geel
51 β€“ 61
16th: 24 pts, 86 %Saturday
@ Adel
17Hawthorn11874.4 %7801049Lost @ G.C.
76 β€“ 113
17th: 20 pts, 77 %BYE
18North Melb11457.9 %6791173Lost @ St.K
68 β€“ 88
18th: 12 pts, 63 %BYE