Round 6
Melbourne champion Nathan Jones celebrates. Photo: Julian Smith/AAP

Round six saw the AFL observe ANZAC Day; a day to celebrate and honour those that have represented Australia and New Zealand in armed combat. People often like to talk about pro sports as a ‘war’ or a ‘battle’. It’s occasions like this that remind us all that as brave as these fine young athletes are, there are so many others that the world will never know, that have demonstrated far greater bravery and sacrificed so much more.

The football itself was a scattershot affair, with an ascendant side proving themselves worthy of their lofty status, a pair of star-studded veteran sides playing out an entirely unexpected result, a pair of also rand playing out a nail-biter and a pair of rivals – one traditional and one far more modern – going head to head.

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: Melbourne Demons vs Richmond Tigers

For all the talk of a newly dominant Melbourne starting the season 5-0, there was a counter argument that aside from an out of form (at the time) Geelong, they hadn’t really beaten anybody of note. On the other side of this contest stood the best team of the era in Richmond, who looked to be rounding into something close to their best form. In addition, the Demons were celebrating the 300th game of revered veteran Nathan Jones; Tigers superstar Dustin Martin was playing his 250th.

In the traditional ANZAC Day eve contest, would the Demons prove themselves? Would the Tigers put the upstarts back in their place?

From the first bounce, the Tigers looked to remind the footy world that they are still the AFL’s apex predator, as they absolutely dominated the Demons in just about every facet of the game for the first 15 or so minutes. A pair of goals to Jack Reiwoldt was all the Tigers had to show for their dominance, as the Demons defense, as it has all through 2021, stood tall under immense pressure.

Slowly, but surely, Melbourne worked their way back into the contest, finally getting on the board through a long Christian Salem – in perhaps the best performance of his career – goal on the run. After Shane Edwards capitalised from more Tigers forward pressure, the Demons answered as Kysaiah Pickett smartly set up Bayley Fritsch. The Demons – somewhat undeservedly – trailed by only seven points at the first change.

The heavens opened in the second quarter, which seemingly suited Richmond’s fabled high pressure, bull rushing style. Melbourne, however, held firm by playing the Tigers at their own game, ratcheting up their own intensity and forcing the ball forward to put the Tigers’ defense under pressure. That vigour forced a forward line free kick, Alex Neal-Bullen slotting a fantastic goal from the boundary line.

A pair of Tom McDonald goals inside three minutes saw Melbourne – now completely dominant, almost doubling the Tigers possession numbers – take the lead. A four goal to zero second quarter saw the Demons head into half time with a 17 point lead and their tails well and truly up.

All and sundry expected the Tigers to hit back hard after the break, but a wonderful counter-attacking goal just 70 seconds into the half took the wind out of Richmond sails. A quick Adam Tomlinson kick out of Meloburne’s defense bounced around before Christian Petracca took control, bursting from the pack to drive the ball to Charlie Spargo in the forward line. The small forward managed to instill enough pressure to see off two Tigers defenders, Luke Jackson capitialising to soccer through from the top of the goal square.

That contest was also a turning point for another reason. Aside from the overriding battle of the two teams, there was a secondary narrative: Martin vs Petracca; master vs heir apparent. In contesting for Tomlinson’s kick, Martin clashed heads with Demon Jack Viney, eventually forcing him off with a concussion. His 250th game proving to be his worst, Demons defender Michael Hibberd holding him to a career low 8 disposals before he was withdrawn. For Petracca, it was the first action of a remarkable second half in which he grabbed the game by the throat, willing his team forward.

The Tigers did eventually find their feet, Shane Edwards booting the Tigers first since his other goal late in the first quarter, halting a run of seven straight Demons majors. That led to a period of the teams exchanging quick fire goals with McDonald’s 3rd keeping the margin around the 30 point range.

Petracca snapped a classy goal in traffic to open the final stanza, effectively eliminating any hopes of a Tigers comeback. The game was in danger of petering out, but for a pair of ill-disciplined acts from the Tigers leading to free kicks to Melbourne, and a little bit of argy-bargy.

Melbourne improve to 6-0, but this win – both for the team and their Champion in Jones, felt like something more.

In the early stages, Salem was a harbour in the storm for Melbourne, providing a calm and constant outlet. He faded in the second half, but was integral to his side keeping touch when Richmond were rampaging. He ended up with a career high 39 disposals. Petracca was excellent all night, but his second half was simply immense. He finished with 38 disposals of his own, as well as that final term goal. The defensive trio of Jake Lever, Stephen May and Tomlinson repelled most of what was thrown their way.

Toby Nankervis was the clear best for the Tigers, beating Melbourne captain Max Gawn in the ruck. Shai Bolton had a peculiar night. He had 29 possessions and often looked like he could be the man to lead a Tigers revival, though a mixture of hapless disposal by foot and occasional poor decision making saw his reward not match his effort. Liam Baker worked hard for Richmond, collecting 27 possessions.

The Tigers will miss Martin for next week’s clash with the top of the table Bulldogs through concussion protocols. Kane Lambert will likely miss with a hamstring.

After the intensity of this contest, the Demons will welcome the bye a match against cellar dwellers North Melbourne.

For the final word, we cross to Nathan Jones:

Melbourne Demons 12 goals, 10 behinds (82) defeated Richmond Tigers 6 goals, 12 behinds (48)

Goals

Melbourne: McDonald 3, Jackson 2, Fritsch 2, Neal-Bullen 2, Salem, Petracca, Pickett

Richmond: Reiwoldt 2, Edwards 2, Aarts, Bolton

Best

Melbourne: Petracca, Salem, Hibberd, Oliver, McDonald, Langdon, May, Viney

Richmond: Bolton, Baker, Nankervis, Edwards, Houli

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

Greater Western Sydney Giants 9 goals, 11 behinds (65) lost to Western Bulldogs 15 goals, 14 behinds (104)

Goals

GWS: Greene 4, Taranto, Himmelberg, Stone, Ward, Hopper

Bulldogs: Bruce 2, McNeil 2, Liberatore 2, Dale 2, Naughton 2, Johannisen, Hunter

Best

GWS: Greene, Taranto, Ash, Cumming, Taylor, Hopper

Bulldogs: Bontompelli, Macrae, Liberatore, Dunkley, Treloar, Dale

The traditional ANZAC round was led by a fixture between two very modern, very heated rivals. Since their 2016 Grand Final meeting, these two teams have flat out hated each other. The defections of former Bulldogs captains Ryan Griffin and Callan Ward hasn’t helped matters. On this occasion, the Giants were playing for pride against the high flying Dogs. For most of the match, this contest belied the team’s respective ladder positions, with a 3rd quarter Aaron Naughton goal stretching the lead to 15 points – the largest margin of the first three periods. In the final term, however, the Bulldogs finally kicked into gear. They scored eight goals – including a pair to defender Bailey Dale – to the Giants three to run out comfortable 39 point victors. Toby Greene was back to his best for the Giants, with four goals. Jack Macrae dominated for the Dogs with 40 disposals, supported by Adam Treloar with 35 possessions and a goal. Victory came at a cost for the Dogs, with Lin Jong – in his first game back after a long term injury – Josh Dunkley and Tim English all suffering injuries. English’s in particular was horrible.

Geelong Cats 21 goals, 10 behinds (136) defeated West Coast Eagles 5 goals, 9 behinds (39)

Goals

Geelong: Duncan 4, Cameron 3, Rohan 3, Hawkins 3, Henderson 2, Miers, Stanley, Close, O’Connor, Menegola, Henry

West Coast: Allen 2, Vardy, Brander, Darling

Best

Geelong: Duncan, Guthrie, Selwood, Stewart, Henry, Hawkins, Smith

West Coast: Redden, Gaff, Darling, Witherden

Wow. Just….wow. Whilst the aging Eagles were missing a reasonable amount of first team talent, and Geelong were welcoming big money recruit, Jeremy Cameron, for his Cats debut, nobody expected this! After a tight opening 20 minutes, where the Eagles were able to eke out a narrow lead through three early goals, including one to former Cat Nathan Vardy, Geelong gave the Eagles an almighty belting. From Rhys Stanley’s goal late in the opening term, to Tom Hawkins final dagger late in the final quarter, Geelong piled on 19 goals – including a run of 13 straight – to only two. At one stage the Cats had scored 73 unanswered points. Geelong finally looked to recapture the mojo that saw them through to last season’s Grand Final, whereas the Eagle suffered their worst loss since 2009 (coincidentally also a 97 point defeat). Eagles coach Adam Simpson – suffering his worst loss in his eight years at the helm – was thoroughly embarrassed for his side. Cat Mitch Duncan kicked a career high four goals, including a 60 metre bomb right on half time.

Gold Coast Suns 15 goals, 10 behinds (100) defeated Sydney Swans 9 goals, 6 behinds (60)

Goals

Goals Coast: King 5, Ainsworth 3, Corbett 2, Rankine 2, Greenwood, Holman, Weller

Sydney: McLean 2, Florent, Heeney, Hayward, Papley, Rowbottam, Warner, Wicks

Best

Gold Coast: Anderson, Miller, King, Ainsworth, Lemmens, Holman, Rankine

Sydney: Parker, Kennedy, Mills, Lloyd, Warner

After conceding the opening 11 goals to the Bulldogs last week, all eyes were watching how the young Suns would respond. To their credit, they came back with a professional performance against a Sydney team that, though game, seemed strangely indecisive. The Suns forward line of big Max King (five goals) and live wires Ben Ainsworth and Izak Rankine (five more between them) was too classy for the Swans, especially in the middle two quarters where the Suns piled on 10 goals to two – those three forwards responsible for eight of them. The Swans were fantastic at extracting the ball, veterans Josh Kennedy (41 disposals) and Luke Parker (36 possessions) giving the Swans runners plenty of opportunities, though the Swans – perhaps missing the focal point of an inured Buddy Franklin – were unusually hesitant moving the ball to their forwards. As well as their dominant forwards, Sean Lemmens was excellent for the Suns, blanketing Swans small forward Tom Papley. Kennedy and Parker were the standouts for the Swans, though it would be remiss not to mention Chad Warner. He was moved onto Sun Touk Miller, who had 16 1st quarter possessions, at the first break and effectively held him for the rest of the contest.

Carlton Blues 12 goals 13 behinds (85) lost to Brisbane Lions 15 goals, 13 behinds (103)

Goals

Carlton: McKay 6, Murphy 2, McGovern 2, Walsh, Curnow

Brisbane: Hipwood 3, Cameron 3, Robertson 2, McStay, Zorko, McInerney, Ah Chee, Lyons, Daniher, McCarthy

Best

Carlton: Walsh, McKay, Jones, Curnow, Weitering, Docherty

Brisbane: McCluggage, Lyons, Zorko, Rich, Neale, Robertson

The Lions continued to right the ship with a comfortable win against the Blues in Melbourne. After a tight opening period, the Lions put their foot to the floor in the second quarter, Eric Hipwood scoring three of Brisbane’s seven goals for the term. Despite their dominance, the Lions lead was a manageable 26 points. Carlton spearhead Harry McKay almost single-handedly dragged his team back into the game with a trio of 3rd quarter goals in an eight minute span – he kicked six for the afternoon, thoroughly dominating Lions star defender Harris Andrews. Brisbane, though, were able to steady and restore the margin by the end of the term before running out 18 point winners. Hugh McCluggage was outstanding with 33 accurate disposals. Sam Walsh’s 33 possessions led the way for the Blues, alongside the dominant McKay. Reigning Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale was well below his best and could be in hot water for making deliberate contact with an umpire.

Fremantle Dockers 14 goals, 15 behinds (99) defeated North Melbourne Kangaroos 6 goals, 12 behinds (48)

Goals

Fremantle: Taberner 4, Schultz 4, Mundy 3, Colyer, Darcy, Walters

North Melbourne: Stephenson 2, Goldstein, Larkey, Campbell, Phillips

Best

Fremantle: Mundy, Fyfe, Schultz, Brayshaw, Taberner, Ryan, Darcy

North Melbourne: Ziebell, Cunnington, Simpkin, Stephenson, Powell, Mahony

In front of an empty Optus Stadium, thanks to Perth’s COVID outbreak, the Dockers consolidated their place in the top eight with a solid performance against the winless Kangaroos. North Melbourne came out breathing fire and the physicality of the contest from both teams threatened to spill over on more than a few occasions. As it has all to often in 2021, the Kangaroos intensity began to waver and their more talented opposition asserted their ascendancy: an eight point quarter time lead (perhaps a fortunate margin, given Matt Taberner’s late goal came form a mark after the siren) easing out to 28 points at the half on the back of a four goal in six minute burst. The young Fremantle side professionally managed the game in the second half, holding the Roos at arms length to run out comfortable 51 point winners. Fremantle’s midfield was dominant: Caleb Serong, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy and Andrew Brayshaw all racking up 30+ possessions. Taberner and Lachie Shultz each kicked four goals. This was the Dockers 3rd straight win, giving them momentum coming into a fascinating Derby against the Eagles next week.

Hawthorn Hawks 15 goals, 12 behinds (102) defeated Adelaide Crows 16 goals, 3 behinds (99)

Goals

Hawthorn: Koschitzke 5, Breust 3, Lewis 2, Phillips, O’Brien, Scrimshaw, O’Meara, Impey

Adelaide: Thilthorpe 5, Walker 3, Himmelberg 2, McAdam 2, Schoenberg, Seedsman, Keays

Best

Hawthorn: O’Meara, Koschitzke, Jiath, Mitchell, Impey, O’Brien

Adelaide: Keays, Laird, Thilthorpe, Seedsman, O’Brien, Walker

A match where momentum swung wildly from one team to the other, only to end up with less than a kick in it at the final siren. It’s also a match that highlighted the talents of a pair of precocious young forwards. In only his 5th game of AFL football, Hawk Jacob Koschitzke kicked a career high five goals (including three in the opening term), matched by five at the other end from Crow Riley Thilthorpe. In his debut game, last year’s second overall draft pick came out looking nervous – his first two kicks were turnovers – before marking on the goal line and converting for his first senior goal. That was the 2nd of a run of six second quarter Crows goals in 12 minutes; a streak that threatened to take the game away from Hawthorn. The Hawks steadied in the third period, behind a defense that held Adelaide goalless from the 13 minute mark of the period to the games end. They were able to slowly drag their way back into the match, Mitch Lewis’ goal early in the final term bringing them to within a point. That proved the last goal of the contest, the Hawks slowly moving ahead through a series of behinds. Smooth moving Hawk Jaeger O’Meara (32 possessions) and Crow Rory Laird (31) were among the best for their respective sides.

Collingwood Magpies 13 goals, 7 behinds (85) lost to Essendon Bombers 16 goals 13 behinds (109)

Goals

Collingwood: Cameron 3, McCreery 3, C. Brown, Moore, Hoskin-Elliott, Grundy, Crisp, Ruscoe

Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 5, Wright 2, Parish 2, Snelling 2, Smith, Phillips, Redman, Laverde, Stringer

Best

Collingwood: Crisp, Cameron, Grundy, Pendlebury, Daicos, Quaynor

Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti, Parish, Heppell, Merrett, Laverde, Wright, McGrath

In front of almost 80,000 spectators, the traditional ANZAC Day match-up didn’t disappoint, despite the lowly ladder positions of both clubs. The Bombers are generally understood to be rebuilding, whereas Collingwood were supposed to be challenging for honours in 2021, so the lions share of the pressure was on the black and white side of this ledger. The Magpies scored the opening three goals of the match inside six minutes, seemingly determined to kick start their flat lining campaign, before the Bombers steadied to eventually take a narrow lead at the first break. Both sides threw everything at their opponent over the next two quarters with neither able to secure a significant break on the other. When Brody Mihocek gave the Magpies the lead a minute into the final quarter, it was genuinely anyone’s game. The Bombers finished strong, though, kicking five of the final six goals to seal a brave victory. Darcy Parish was superb with 42 disposals, a pair of goals and nine score involvements. Zach Merrett backed him up with 34 possessions of his own, feeding McDonald-Tipungwuti for five goals in a season best performance. The veterans stood up for Collingwood: Scott Pendlebury and Jack Crisp amongst their best.

Port Adelaide Power 14 goals, 9 points (93) defeated St Kilda Saints 5 goals, 9 behinds (39)

Goals

Port Adelaide: Motlop 3, Fantasia 3, Rozee 2, Dixon 2, Georgiades 2, Boak, Gray

St Kilda: Higgins, Hill, Marshall, Membrey, Carlisle

Best

Port Adelaide: Amon, Motlop, Wines, Houston, Fantasia

St Kilda: Steele, Ross, Crouch, Higgins, Marshall

Port Adelaide were never truly headed in this contest, securing themselves sole possession of 3rd place on the AFL ladder, and consigning the Saints to 16th, though with a percentage about 15% worse that the 17th placed Magpies. St Kilda had the territorial advantage early on, but was unable to convert that into scoreboard pressure with only a miracle snap from Jack Higgins to show for it, before the Power turned the screws, kicking four of their own to take a 15 point lead into the first change. The Saints fought hard at the beginning of the second, though shot themselves in the foot with a pair of 50m penalties, both resulting in Mitch Georgiades goals. The Saints ran out of fight after that, with Port, despite never really getting out of 3rd gear, doing as they pleased, running out 54 point victors. Ollie Wines racked up 36 disposals, Karl Amon with 34 whilst simultaneously shutting down Bradley Hill. Frankly – and concerningly – it was difficult to pinpoint a single Saint that won their individual match-up on the day.

Coleman Medal leader board

Taylor Walker (Adelaide) – 25 goals (3 goals this week)

Harry McKay (Carlton) – 22 (6)

Josh Bruce (Bulldogs) – 19 (2)

Jack Reiwoldt (Richmond) – 19 (2)

Toby Greene (Giants) – 18 (4)

Ben King (Suns) – 18 (5)

Matt Taberner (Dockers) – 17 (4)

Oscar Allen (Eagles) – 14 (5)

#ClubMPts%ForAgtThis WeekProjectedNext
1W Bulldogs624175.3 %631360Won @ GWS
104 â€“ 65
1st: 68– pts, 134 %Friday
@ Rich
2Melbourne624150.7 %544361Won vs Rich
82 â€“ 48
2nd: 68– pts, 127 %Sunday
@ N.M.
3Port Adel620136.3 %575422Won vs St.K
93 â€“ 39
4th: 56 pts, 116 %Saturday
@ B.L.
4Geelong616123.0 %514418Won vs WCE
136 â€“ 39
6th: 48 pts, 107 %Saturday
@ Syd
5Sydney616113.9 %575505Lost @ G.C.
60 â€“ 100
7th: 48+ pts, 106 %Saturday
vs Geel
6Fremantle616109.4 %488446Won vs N.M.
99 â€“ 48
9th: 44 pts, 98 %Sunday
@ WCE
7Richmond612113.0 %514455Lost @ Melb
48 â€“ 82
3rd: 56 pts, 122 %Friday
vs W.B.
8Brisbane612105.2 %506481Won @ Carl
103 â€“ 85
5th: 52 pts, 114 %Saturday
vs P.A.
9Adelaide612102.7 %566551Lost @ Haw
99 â€“ 102
14th: 36 pts, 93 %Saturday
vs GWS
10WC Eagles61293.6 %508543Lost @ Geel
39 â€“ 136
10th: 44 pts, 97 %Sunday
vs Freo
11Gold Coast6898.1 %456465Won vs Syd
100 â€“ 60
17th: 28 pts, 87 %Saturday
@ Coll
12Essendon6897.1 %533549Won @ Coll
109 â€“ 85
11th: 40 pts, 99 %Sunday
vs Carl
13Carlton6893.2 %497533Lost vs B.L.
85 â€“ 103
8th: 44 pts, 101 %Sunday
@ Ess
14GWS Giants6884.3 %428508Lost vs W.B.
65 â€“ 104
12th: 40 pts, 94 %Saturday
@ Adel
15Hawthorn6882.3 %442537Won vs Adel
102 â€“ 99
15th: 36 pts, 89 %Saturday
@ St.K
16St Kilda6867.0 %416621Lost @ P.A.
39 â€“ 93
16th: 36 pts, 84 %Saturday
vs Haw
17Collingwood6485.4 %452529Lost vs Ess
85 â€“ 109
13th: 36 pts, 95 %Saturday
vs G.C.
18North Melb6045.9 %306667Lost @ Freo
48 â€“ 99
18th: 12 pts, 63 %Sunday
vs Melb