round twelve
Tigers star Dustin Martin celebrates. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

2021 AFL roundup: round twelve

Round twelve of the 2021 AFL season saw a reduced fixture list, as the first of the mid-year bye’s took place. Over the next three weeks, each of the AFL’s 18 clubs will enjoy a week off, in groups of six. As luck would have it, there was an even spread of bye teams with two top eight sides, two cellar dwellers and a pair of mid-table pretenders all putting their feet up.

Round 12 also saw the continuation of the annual celebration of First Nations footballing pioneer Sir Doug Nicholls, as teams played in their special edition indigenous guernseys.

Due to ongoing Covid restrictions in Victoria, many games were relocated to neutral venues though fortunately that didn’t seem to detract from the atmosphere, in particular for our feature match. Which is a nice segue……

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 writers ladder predictions, are located here.

Match of the Week: Essendon Bombers vs Richmond Tigers

The traditional Dreamtime match between the Bombers and Tigers was, for the first time in it’s history, played away from the MCG due to Melbourne’s COVID lock down. To the immense credit of the Perth footy going public, the revised fixture sold out within hours as over 55,000 packed Optus Stadium.

The final margin of this match – a 39 point victory to the Tigers – does scant justice to the competitiveness of the contest, as the Tigers slammed on seven straight goals to a solitary Essendon behind to close the game.

Whilst the Tigers finish was white hot, their start wasn’t too shabby either, with Callum Coleman-Jones and Dustin Martin kicking truly before the Bombers were off the mark. Leading 27 points to eight, and seeing Essendon prime mover Andrew McGrath hobble off with an apparent knee injury, the Tigers looked to be in the box seat.

The 2nd quarter, however, was an arm wrestle as the young Bombers took it up to their more credentialed opposition, particularly in the back half of the term. The two teams traded goals as the intensity lifted. The slippery Optus Stadium surface only helped each team’s tackling as the combatants struggled to keep their feet. Brayden Ham’s 2ng goal for Essendon saw the half time margin sit at 21 points and the Bombers with the momentum.

With McGrath out of service, Darcy Parrish picked up the slack for Essendon, with 25 disposals to half time. The 5th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Parish has been in career best form in 2021, to the point where we have to ask: is he a genuine superstar of the competition, now?

The Bombers continued to push the Tigers in the 3rd period, though some wayward shooting for goal saw them unable to turn pressure on the field into pressure on the scoreboard. By contrast, Richmond were ruthless in attack. Shai Bolton, Jason Castagna and Jack Graham all kicked goals in a period where Essendon could only manage five behinds in response. The lead got out to 30 points before Bombers finally rallied though goals to Nik Cox and the enigmatic Jake Stringer, but Dustin Martin was able to answer as the Tigers took a 22 point lead into the final change.

The opening 10 minutes of the final quarter might well be Essendon’s best patch of football in years. They maintained the manic pressure that they brought through the 3rd term, but this time were able to make that pressure count. Cale Hooker kicked his 2nd and 3rd goals to give the Bombers some hope before Kyle Langford snuck one home. When Alec Waterman slammed home another, the Bombers somehow had a three point lead, as the reigning premiers were staggering.

Like a champion does, the Tigers shook off their haze, and ruthlessly tore the young Bombers apart from that point on, almost in contempt of their attempts to take them down.

Castagna kicked his 3rd of the evening before Bolton, Martin, then Bolton again, put the game out of reach for the Bombers.

Three more Richmond goals only rubbed salt into Bombers wounds.

Whilst the margin was certainly flattering to Richmond, don’t take that as diminishing a solid win for the champs. Essendon’s young chargers have had their tails up in recent weeks and when they took the lead in the final term you would have put serious money that they would ride the wave and run away with the game. It’s to Richmond’s credit that they were able to so quickly and brutally turn the game to their terms.

As he usually is in big games, Martin was the main man for Richmond. His 27 disposals and three goals paced the team. Bolton was a menace up forward with three goals and 21 possessions, whilst Maribor Chol stepped in manfully for injured ruck Toby Nankervis.

Parish ended up with 44 possessions – a record over the 149 year history of the club. It’s the 5th straight game that he’s amassed 35 or more disposals. Zach Merrett and Kyle Langford (32 and 28 possessions) were fantastic, Langford in particular, as he picked up the slack after McGrath’s injury.

With a difficult away trip to play West Coast next week, the win was important for the Tigers as it saw them stay in the top eight, opening up a two game gap on a chasing group of four teams, the 9th placed Bombers, who have the bye next week.

Essendon Bombers: 12 goals, 12 behinds (84)

Richmond Tigers: 19 goals, 9 behinds (123)


Essendon: Ham 3, Hooker 3, Waterman 2, Cox, Langford, Phillips, Stringer

Richmond: Bolton 3, Castagna 3, Martin 3, Coleman-Jones 2, Graham 2, Riewoldt, Balta, Caddy, McIntosh, Rioli


Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Langford, Hooker, Cox, Hind, Ham

Richmond: Martin, Bolton, Grimes, Castagna, Graham, Chol, Prestia

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

Melbourne Demons 14 goals, 13 behinds (97) defeated Brisbane Lions 11 goals, 9 behinds (75)


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

Brisbane: Bailey 4, Cameron 2, Daniher, McCarthy, Zorko, Coleman, Hipwood


Melbourne: Oliver, Petracca, Pickett, May, Harmes, Neal-Bullen

Brisbane: Bailey, Zorko, Neal, Andrews, Lyons

Back to back blockbusters for the ladder leading Demons and it looked as though fatigue was setting in as the Lions controlled the game early. Brisbane made a concerted effort to get physical with Demons ruck Max Gawn and influential defenders Steven May and Jake Lever. The Lions were all over Melbourne, leading by 20 points at the half through three Zac Bailey goals, including a wonderful volleyed effort. It was a different Demons side that came out after half time as they ratcheted up the pressure and it took a toll on Brisbane, who perhaps punched themselves out through their first half efforts. Forwards Tom McDonald and Kysaiah Pickett – unsighted to that point – each kicked three in the 2nd half as the Demons turned the game on its head to run out 22 point winners. As usual, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver were at the centre of Melbourne’s best work. Bailey’s four goals told only a part of his influence for the Lions. Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale made a successful return to Brisbane’s lineup after ankle surgery, with 25 disposals.

Sydney Swans 13 goals, 14 behinds (92) defeated St Kilda Saints 12 goals, 11 behinds (83)


Sydney: Hayward 3, Heeney 2, Franklin 2, McDonald 2, Papley, Parker, Kennedy, Rowbottom

St Kilda: Membrey 2, Byrnes 2, Wood, Higgins, Steele, Butler, Ross, Billings, Battle


Sydney: Parker, Rampe, Hickey, Heeney, Lloyd, McCartin

St Kilda: Membrey, Steele, Higgins, Crouch, Hill, Sinclair

A somewhat lucky escape the Swans, here, as the Saints couldn’t capitalise on their late momentum to steal this one. The Swans took control of the game early with a four goal in seven minute run midway thought the opening term. St Kilda worked their way back into the game through Brad Hill’s strong running from half back, though their profligacy in front of goal was proving costly, as it would later in the game. Momentum ebbed and flowed in the 3rd term as neither team were able to wrest control of the contest. With Mason Wood Jarryn Geary coming off injured, as well as full forward Max King hampered with a back injury, St Kilda looked done. However, a Josh Battle goal saw the Saints trail by less than a kick late in the game. Jack Billings missed set shots not once, not twice, but thrice that could have put the Saints in front, before James Rowbottom sealed the game for Sydney.

Adelaide Crows 10 goals, 13 behinds (73) lost to Collingwood Magpies 12 goals, 6 behinds (78)


Adelaide: Walker 2, Seedsman 2, Fogarty 2, McAdam 2, Thilthorpe, McHenry

Collingwood: Elliott 6, Thomas, De Goey, Bianco, Poulter, Daicos, Sidebottom


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

Collingwood: Elliott, Crisp, Pendlebury, Daicos, Sidebottom

Returning live-wire forward Jamie Elliott starred for the Magpies as they recorded a desperately needed win. Playing his first game since injuring a leg in round two, Elliott kicked an astonishing four goals in the opening term on his way a career high six majors. Despite that opening burst, the Magpies could only push the lead out to 23 points at the first break. Crows big men Taylor Walker and Riley Thilthorpe each scored to bring Adelaide back into the game. Against the run of play Walker put the Crows in front midway through the 3rd before Collingwood’s pressure paid dividends with three late quarter goals. Again, Adelaide responded with Shane McAdam kicking two final quarter goals, the latter putting the Crows ahead. Fittingly, it was Elliott who restored the Magpie lead with a dashing goal on the run. Rory Laird’s 40 possessions paced the Crows, whilst Elliott’s haul showed just how dangerous the oft injured small forward can be.

Carlton Blues 10 goals, 13 behinds (73) lost to West Coast Eagles 14 goals, 11 behinds (95)


Carlton: De Koning 2, Owies 2, Betts 2, Setterfield, Walsh, Catrrell, Williams

West Coast: Ryan 4, Jones 2, Darling, Sheed, Gaff Redden, Langdon, Foley, Cripps, O’Neill


Carlton: Walsh, Williams, Saad, Dow, Newman

West Coast: Ryan, Gaff, Sheed, Langdon, Yeo, Hurn

A mature performance from the injury ravaged Eagles, as they did just enough to keep a struggling Carlton at arms length. Though after kicking the opening three goals of the match, it briefly looked as though West Coast might blow the Blues out of the water. To Carlton’s credit, they worked their way back into the contest and when Matt Owies goaled midway through the 2nd term, Carlton led for the first time and looked likely to break the game open. It was a false dawn. Eagle Jamaine Jones kicked truly 90 seconds later and the Blues never led again. Carlton played out a most dispiriting final term. After Eddie Betts goaled 45 seconds in, the Eagles dominated. They only kicked a pair of goals themselves, but completely blanketed their lacklustre opponent. Liam Ryan kicked four for West Coast though grabbed at his hamstring in the late stages, only adding to the Eagles injury woes. Dom Sheed and Andrew Gaff both picked up 30+ possessions. Sam Walsh had 30 of his own for Carlton. A valuable victory for the Eagles. A damning result for a Carlton outfit that can never seem to get it together.

Fremantle Dockers 9 goals, 11 behinds (65) lost to Western Bulldogs 13 goals, 15 behinds (93)


Fremantle: Treacy 3, Brayshaw, Crowden, Henry, Lobb, Serong, Walters

Bulldogs: Bontompelli 2, Hannan 2,Liberatore 2, Weightman 2, Bruce, English, Hunter, Naughton, Scott


Fremantle: Mundy, Brayshaw, Treacy, Darcy, Ryan, Fyfe

Bulldogs: Bontompelli, Hunter, Macrae, Daniel, Liberatore,Duryea

A brave performance from the young Dockers against a star packed Bulldogs line-up. Alas, it wasn’t enough, but coach Justin Longmuir will take heart that his team – even in a depleted state – can go toe-to-toe with the elite. Fremantle never led but trailed by not more than three goals for the vast majority of the first three quarters. Unfortunately for the Dockers, they lost captain Nat Fyfe, as well as Sean Darcy, Brennan Cox and Griffin Logue to injury. That came to the fore in the final term as the Dogs were finally able to kick away, scoring five goals to tow and turning an eight point margin into 28 at the final siren. This was a match full of highlights: Liam McHenry kicking a wonder goal under immense pressure, Tom Liberatore slotting long shots from the boundary, Aaron Naughton flying for spectacular grabs and Andrew Brayshaw slotting a contender for Goal of the Year:

Bye: Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Hawthorn, Geelong, GWS

Coleman Medal leader board

Harry McKay (Carlton) – 38 (0 goals this week)

Taylor Walker (Adelaide) – 36 goals (2)

Josh Bruce (Bulldogs) – 34 (1)

Ben King (Suns) – 32 (-)

Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) – 32 (2)

Jack Darling (Eagles) – 29 (1)

Aaron Naughton (Bulldogs) – 29 (1)

Cale Hooker (Bombers) – 29 (3)

Matt Taberner (Dockers) – 27 (-)

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

Bayley Fritsch (Demons) – 27 (2)

#ClubMPts%ForAgtThis WeekProjectedNext
1Melbourne1244137.6 %1087790Won vs B.L.
97 â€“ 75
1st: 72 pts, 131 %Saturday
vs Coll
2W Bulldogs1240150.0 %1185790Won @ Freo
93 â€“ 65
2nd: 68 pts, 141 %BYE
3Geelong1132130.6 %948726BYE4th: 56+ pts, 120 %Saturday
@ P.A.
4Brisbane1232127.3 %1124883Lost @ Melb
75 â€“ 97
3rd: 60 pts, 129 %BYE
5Port Adel1132123.3 %957776BYE5th: 56+ pts, 116 %Saturday
vs Geel
6Sydney1232112.9 %1071949Won vs St.K
92 â€“ 83
7th: 52 pts, 107 %Saturday
vs Haw
7WC Eagles1228108.2 %10871005Won @ Carl
95 â€“ 73
9th: 44 pts, 101 %Sunday
vs Rich
8Richmond1228106.2 %1049988Won @ Ess
123 â€“ 84
6th: 56– pts, 112 %Sunday
9Essendon1220102.0 %11251103Lost vs Rich
84 â€“ 123
8th: 44 pts, 105 %BYE
10GWS Giants112093.3 %882945BYE11th: 40+ pts, 97 %Saturday
@ N.M.
11Fremantle122088.4 %9131033Lost vs W.B.
65 â€“ 93
12th: 40 pts, 93 %Saturday
vs G.C.
12St Kilda122077.6 %8581106Lost @ Syd
83 â€“ 92
14th: 36 pts, 83 %Saturday
vs Adel
13Gold Coast111692.7 %810874BYE13th: 36 pts, 92 %Saturday
@ Freo
14Carlton121692.4 %10161099Lost vs WCE
73 â€“ 95
10th: 40– pts, 98 %BYE
15Adelaide121685.6 %9711134Lost vs Coll
73 â€“ 78
15th: 32 pts, 87 %Saturday
@ St.K
16Collingwood121287.5 %830949Won @ Adel
78 â€“ 73
16th: 28 pts, 87 %Saturday
@ Melb
17Hawthorn11874.4 %7801049BYE17th: 20 pts, 76 %Saturday
@ Syd
18North Melb11457.9 %6791173BYE18th: 12 pts, 63 %Saturday
vs GWS