Round twenty two of the AFL season saw the scriptwriters set up a doozy of a cliffhanger, as results will see next week’s final round of home and away matches pit 1st against 2nd, 3rd against 4th, and 5th place (with a chance of a top four finish) versus 9th (trying to get into the finals). Kudos, AFL scriptwriters. Kudos.
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: Geelong Cats versus St Kilda Saints
Over the past few weeks, it has sometimes seemed as if no team wants the status/pressure of entering the finals as the 1st place team. The Demons and Bulldogs have both lost winnable matches, as have the Cats.
In this game against St Kilda, it looked in the early stages as though we were again witnessing a contender completely make a mess of things.
The Saints jumped out to an almost incomprehensible 31-0 lead midway through the 1st quarter. Max King got proceedings underway with a smart set shot from tight on the boundary line before Cooper Sharman marked and scored a goal. Tim Membrey slotted home another before some strong pack work from King saw Zac Jones stroll in for another Saints major. When King again marked – his 5th of the opening quarter – and kicked truly, the Cats looked a mess. They were without star defender Tom Stewart who withdrew the night prior with a potentially season ending foot injury, but it’s fair to say nobody expected the Cats defense to look this ramshackle.
King went down into the change rooms to receive treatment on a groin complaint, and almost immediately, the Cats started to find their feet. Goals to Rhys Stanley and Jeremy Cameron gave the scoreboard a look of respectability when another 10 minutes of St Kilda dominance could have proved fatal.
Geelong continued their recovery in the 2nd term with Sam Menegola scoring before Brad Close reduced the margin back to eight points. By this time, King had returned to the field but was clearly hobbled, unable to run at full pace or lunge for the football. Despite his limitations, the Saints picked up their play with Jack Higgins and Membrey scoring quickfire goals to push the margin back out to an even 20 points.
Menegola provided a little piece of inspiration for the Cats, intercepting a careless Brad Hill kick before spearing a laser of a pass to Jeremy Cameron for his 2nd of the day. The Cats had control of the play by this stage, peppering the Saints goal. Cameron would add a 3rd for the half to see the margin at the main break sit at just six points, a scant reward for all of St Kilda’s early dominance.
With the Cats looking to maintain their momentum after the break, Brad Crouch bent home a brilliant, steadying goal from the boundary for St Kilda just a minute into the period. That proved only a temporary respite as the Cats moved through the gears.
Well held to that point, Tom Hawkins finally got on the board for the Cats before Sam Simpson gave Geelong their 1st lead of the afternoon. When Isaac Smith found an acre of space 30 metres out, directly in front, his goal had the Saints staggering.
To their credit, St Kilda rallied with goals through Membrey and Crouch, the latter restoring the Saints lead.
Hawkins 3rd was the 3rd lead change inside 15 minutes, setting up a barnstorming final quarter.
The intensity was already extreme, but the veteran Cats were able to find another gear as they start to push the Saints backward. Eventually, the pressure showed as Hawkins kicked another. Again, though, St Kilda responded, this time through Sharman.
Patrick Dangerfield marked strongly on the goal line and converted, then Cameron kicked the sealer to see off a resilient Saints by 14 points in a highly entertaining match of football.
Without Stewart, Geelong had to adapt on the fly defensively. Mack Blicavs spent the game in defense, usually taking care of King. Mark O’Connor also rotated into defense at times. How the Cats manage their back line will be crucial to their Premiership tilt.
Cam Guthrie (36 possessions) and Menegola (35) were ball magnets for the Cats. Veteran pair Dangerfield and Shaun Higgins were a handful moving between the midfield and forward lines.
Jack Steele was, as always, impressive for St Kilda. The skipper racked up 24 disposals.
The loss sees St Kilda, though mathematically still in it, effectively out of the finals running, with practically every result needing to go their way and even then by margins big enough to make up their percentage deficit.
Geelong find themselves in 2nd place going into next weeks battle for the minor premiership with Melbourne. There is a small chance that Geelong could drop out of the top four with a loss: they would need to lose by a significant amount to the Demons, see the Dogs take down the Power by a narrow margin, and then see Brisbane win against the Eagle.
Geelong Cats: 13 Goals, 7 Behinds (85)
St Kilda Saints: 11 Goals, 5 Behinds (71)
Geelong: Cameron 4, Hawkins 3, Stanley, Menegola, Close, Simpson, Smith, Dangerfield
St Kilda: Membrey 3, King 2, Crouch 2, Sharman 2, Jones, Higgins
Geelong: Dangerfield, Menegola, C. Guthrie, Cameron, Higgins
St Kilda: Steele, Crouch, Sinclair, Membrey, King, Howard
Onto the other games of round twenty two of the AFL season.
Greater Western Sydney Giants 16 goals, 10 behinds (106) defeated Richmond Tigers 10 goals, 7 behinds (67)
GWS: Taranto 4, Himmelberg 3, De Boer 2, Lloyd 2, Hogan, Hopper, Mumford, Ward, Perryman
Richmond: Baker 2, Bolton 2, Lynch 2, Coleman-Jones, Edwards, M. Rioli, Riewoldt
GWS: Taranto, Cumming, Whitfield, Kelly, Hopper, Haynes
Richmond: Baker, Short, Graham, Prestia, D. Rioli
For the 2nd week running, the Giants played out of their skins to take down a highly fancied opponent despite missing close to half of their playing list through injury or suspension. GWS never trailed in this match, blasting seven goals past the Tigers in the opening term to lead by 31 points and set up a thrashing. Another five goals in the 2nd quarter saw the Giants lead by an even 50 at halftime, Tim Taranto starring with four goals. The Giants took their collective foot off the gas in the 2nd half as the Tigers – a few notable exceptions aside – looked broken. Richmond kicked the final three goals of the game to bring the final margin back to 39 points, a gap that frankly flattered the Premiers. Josh Kelly (32 disposals) and Jacob Hopper (26) both excelled on their return from injury. Nick Haynes and Isaac Cumming were strong in defense. The Tigers inexperienced back line was monstered in the first half by Taranto. With this loss, the Tigers premiership defense is over. Whilst they can still mathematically make the top eight, the circumstances that need to occur are incredibly unlikely.
Hawthorn Hawks 9 goals, 10 behinds (64) defeated Western Bulldogs 5 goals, 7 behinds (37)
Hawthorn: Koschitzke 2, McEvoy, Bramble, Hanrahan, Mitchell, Lewis, Wingard, Howe
Western Bulldogs: Weightman 2, Hannan, Naughton, Garcia
Hawthorn: Howe, Koschitzke, O’Brien, Newcombe, Mitchell, Wingard
Western Bulldogs: Liberatore, Bontompelli, Macrae, Dale, Weightman
When the Hawks announced their coaching succession, moving from the legendary Alistair Clarkson to Sam Mitchell, the Hawks were in line for a coveted top two pick. Since that succession plan went belly up and Clarkson was told to leave at the end of the season, the Hawks have won three straight games, moving up the ladder and down the draft board. The lesson, as always: never mess with Clarkson. In blustery conditions, this match was hardly a classic, with the Hawks and the usually high octane Bulldogs only managing five goals between them in a turgid 1st half. When the Bulldogs opened up with three goals in five minutes in the 3rd term, it looked like normal service had been resumed, but Clarkson’s veterans stepped up to see the Hawks go on a run of six goals to close the game, holding the Dogs to a single behind in the last term, as they ran out comfortable 27 point winners. The Bulldogs slump comes at a worrying point of the season, with only one game left before the finals begin. The Dogs are worryingly close to dropping out of the top four and losing the coveted 2nd chance, with the fast finishing Lions hot on their heels. A tough match against the Power looms.
Port Adelaide Power 21 goals, 14 behinds (140) defeated Carlton Blues 5 goals, 15 behinds (45)
Port Adelaide: Dixon 4, Gray 3, Marshall 2, Georgiades 2, Fantasia 2, Bergman 2, Boak, Lycett, Rozee, Ladhams, Mayes, Houston
Carlton: Honey 2, McGovern, Kennedy, Casboult
Port Adelaide: Boak, Aliir, Amon, Wines, Bergman, Byrne-Jones, Rozee
Carlton: Walsh, Kennedy, Murphy, Dow
That sombre music you hear is the death march for Carlton coach David Teague. If his fate wasn’t already known, it was surely sealed in these disastrous two hours of football. Remarkably, the Blues kept the game close in the opening quarter and even took a 23 point lead midway through the 2nd when Josh Honey capped a three goal run that would prove to be the final Carlton major of the afternoon. From that point on, the Power exploded to rattle off the final 19 (that’s nineteen!!!) majors of the match. They slammed on six unanswered to close the 1st half, turning that 23 point deficit into a 15 point lead in what felt like the blink of an eye. A nine goal final term saw the Power threaten a triple figure margin before the siren mercifully sounded, with the final margin sitting at 95 points. Let’s not sugar coat it: there is practically no edifying element in this game for Carlton, despite the lead they held. For their part, Port Adelaide – this writers Premiership fancy before the season – are rounding into their devastating best at exactly the right point of the season.
Brisbane Lions 7 goals, 9 behinds (51) defeated Collingwood Magpies 7 goals, 13 behinds (55)
Brisbane: Cameron 6, Daniher 3, McStay 3, Cockatoo 2, McCarthy 2, Ah Chee, Bailey, Birchall, Lyons, McCluggage, Neale
Collingwood: Ginnivan 2, Thomas 2, Cameron, De Goey, Mihocek, Henry
Brisbane: Neale, Zorko, McCluggage, Bailey, Cameron, Daniher, Ah Chee
Collingwood: Crisp, Adams, De Goey, Sidebottom
For a while, it seemed that Collingwood saw Carlton’s huge loss and said to their great rivals: any loss you can do, we can do better. Josh Thomas kicked the opener inside 30 seconds, but that would be the Magpies only lead on a night where the Lions put themselves back in contention for a coveted top four finish. The Lions forward line was irrepressible with Charlie Cameron returning to his devastating best with six goals, Joe Daniher and Dan McStay each with three. The sides were reasonably even over the first term and a half before a quickfire three goals opened the game up, Brisbane adding another two before halftime to ease out to a 37 point lead. Cameron took over in the 2nd half, kicking four goals as the Lions ran rampant. Their 3rd term, in particular, was spectacular, kicking seven goals to one. Brisbane dominated the midfield battle with Lachie Neal, Dayne Zorko, Jarryd Lyons, Zac Bailey, and Hugh McCluggage all gathering between 27 and 30 possessions in a balanced though dominant effort. To move into the top four, the Lions need to defeat the Eagle next week and hope the Power continue their good form and take down the Bulldogs.
North Melbourne Kangaroos 12 goals, 5 behinds (77) lost to Sydney Swans 13 goals, 13 behinds (91)
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 2, Larkey 2, Ford 2, Stephenson, Taylor, Anderson, Thomas, Comben
Sydney: Hayward 3, Papley 2, Heeney, Wicks, Campbell, Parker, McLean, Dawson, Gulden, Florent
North Melbourne: Simpkin, Anderson, Hall, Davies-Uniacke, Zurhaar, Phillips
Sydney: Parker, Hayward, Hewett, Rowbottom, Cunnington, Kennedy, Hickey
Keen to put last weeks loss to the Saints behind them, the Swans shot out of the blocks against a Kangaroos outfit that was keen to avoid the wooden spoon. Five goals to one saw the lead at 24 points before Nick Larkey scored a goal to reduce Sydney’s lead to 18 at the 1st break. A tight and contested 2nd quarter saw the Swans slowly but surely ease out the margin through quick goals to Hayden McLean and Will Hayward before Jaidyn Stephenson answered for the Roos. The teams exchanged goals for most of the 3rd quarter before a Kangaroos run of four goals in the final term saw the Swans lead cut to just four points. Sydney ensured there would be no grandstand finish, though, Hayward kicking a paid before Oliver Florent added another. The Roos added two more, but that did nothing more than pad their stats as the Swans got themselves back in the groove. They hold the longest chance at a top four spot but could finish 5th, giving themselves a shot at the 8th placed team in their opening final. The loss confirms the Kangaroos as this season’s wooden spooner.
Melbourne Demons 16 goals, 8 behinds (104) defeated Adelaide Crows 9 goals, 9 behinds (63)
Melbourne: Fritsch 7, Brown 2, Petracca 2, Jackson 2, Melksham, Pickett, Spargo
Adelaide: Fogarty 3, McAdam 2, Lynch, Mackay, Murphy, Seedsman
Melbourne: Fristch, Gawn, Petracca, Lever, Langdon, Jackson
Adelaide: Seedsman, Keays, Fogarty, Lynch, Sholl
For three quarters, the Demons were workmanlike against the lowly Crows, performing in spurts that saw them outclass their opponent and put some distance between them, only to take their foot off the gas and let Adelaide get on a mini run of their own. A five goal run spanning the quarter time break saw Melbourne lead by as much as 28 points before the Crows hit back through the excellent Paul Seedsman and David McKay. Trailing by 21 points at the half but not looking out of the match by any means, Adelaide kicked a trio of quick goals to get to within three points. The sides traded majors until Rising Star favourite Luke Jackson kicked his 2nd, Bayley Fritsch quickly following with his 3rd. The final term was all Melbourne – or more specifically, all Fritsch – as the Demons leading goal kicking bagged all four of his sides final term majors to lead Melbourne back to the top of the ladder with a 41 point victory.
Gold Coast Suns 4 goals, 6 behinds (30) lost to Essendon Bombers 14 goals, 14 behinds (98)
Gold Coast: Corbett, Fiorini, Jeffrey, Townsend
Essendon: Stringer 5, Guelfi 2, Waterman 2, Clarke, Durham, Hind, Perkins, Smith
Gold Coast: Miller, Anderson, Collins, Ballard
Essendon: Stringer, Parish, Draper, Merrett, Hind, Laverde, Ridley
The Bombers moved into prime position to snare the last finals berth with a comprehensive victory over the Suns. Gold Coast continued their troubling recent trend of starting games reasonably well before completely disappearing. This week the Suns held the Bombers through the first quarter with the score tied at 14 apiece before falling apart. Essendon opened the 2nd term with three quick majors to open up the game, adding a couple more before Brayden Fiorini broke the run for the Suns. Matt Guelfi added his 2nd for the Bombers, who closed the half with a comfortable 34 point lead. The 3rd term was all Essendon, kicking 28 points to two as the Suns continued their horrible 2nd half form. A lacklustre final term from both sides saw the Bombers manage their players as they cruised to a most effortless 68 point win. Jake Stringer continued his career year with another five goals to go along with 19 disposals as he spent time both up forward and in the midfield. Darcy Parish (35 possessions) and Zach Merrett (32) were once again a formidable double act. As he is seemingly every week, Touk Miller was by far the Suns best.
Fremantle Dockers 12 goals, 7 behinds (79) defeated West Coast Eagles 9 goals, 10 behinds (64)
Fremantle: Taberner 3, Schultz 2, Serong 2, Mundy, Cerra, Darcy, Colyer, Treacy
West Coast: Ryan 3, Kennedy 3, Darling 2, Witherden
Fremantle: Serong, Ryan, Mundy, Darcy, Taberner, Cerra
West Coast: Naitanui, Redden, Gaff, Ryan, Witherden, Shuey
Fremantle withstood a furious Eagles fightback to take the points in the Western Derby, though the result ultimately leaves neither with a realistic shot at finals action. In a frenetic opening quarter, the Dockers swapped goals with Eagles veteran Josh Kennedy before a run of four goals saw the Dockers pull away. Liam Ryan responded for West Coast, but the Dockers answered with another three goals to take a 30 point lead. Matt Taberner kicked three as the Dockers slammed an astonishing 50 points on the scoreboard. The action calmed considerably in the 2nd term as the Eagles gained control of general play but were undone by poor kicking for goal, only scoring one goal from six shots. By contrast, the Dockers converted both of their shots at the sticks. Slowly but surely, the Eagles turned that ball control and territorial ascendancy into scoreboard pressure as Ryan, Alex Witherden, and Jack Darling all kicking truly. Fremantle managed a late reply through Travis Colyer, but their 17 point three quarter time lead looked anything but safe. West Coast opened the final term breathing fire but could only manage a pair of goals – Ryan and Kennedy both kicking their 3rd – as the young Dockers dug in. Finally, their young legs started to shine through as Caleb Serong kicked a much needed steadier. The Dockers finished the stronger of the two sides to hold on to a 15 point win against their arch rivals.
Coleman Medal leader board
Harry McKay (Carlton) – 58 goals (- goals this week)
Tom Hawkins (Geelong) – 50 (3)
Taylor Walker (Adelaide) – 48 (-)
Josh Bruce (Bulldogs) – 48 (-)
Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) – 48 (1)
Bayley Fritsch (Demons) – 46 (7)
Charlie Dixon (Power) – 46 (4)
Charlie Cameron (Lions) – 44 (6)
Ben King (Suns) – 43 (0)
Lance Franklin (Swans) – 42 (-)
|1||Melbourne||21||66||132.3 %||1807||1366||Won vs Adel|
104 – 63
|2nd: 66+ pts, 130 %||Saturday|
|2||Geelong||21||64||128.6 %||1768||1375||Won vs St.K|
85 – 71
|1st: 68– pts, 127 %||Saturday|
|3||Port Adel||21||64||127.3 %||1818||1428||Won vs Carl|
140 – 45
|4th: 64 pts, 125 %||Saturday|
|4||W Bulldogs||21||60||134.5 %||1930||1435||Lost @ Haw|
37 – 64
|3rd: 64 pts, 134 %||Saturday|
|5||Brisbane||21||56||132.7 %||2006||1512||Won vs Coll|
142 – 57
|5th: 60 pts, 134 %||Saturday|
|6||Sydney||21||56||115.1 %||1850||1607||Won @ N.M.|
91 – 77
|6th: 60– pts, 115 %||Saturday|
|7||GWS Giants||21||42||98.9 %||1679||1698||Won vs Rich|
106 – 67
|8th: 42+ pts, 99 %||Saturday|
|8||Essendon||21||40||107.2 %||1851||1726||Won @ G.C.|
98 – 30
|7th: 44– pts, 107 %||Saturday|
|9||WC Eagles||21||40||94.9 %||1665||1755||Lost @ Freo|
64 – 79
|10th: 40 pts, 93 %||Saturday|
|10||Fremantle||21||40||89.0 %||1529||1718||Won vs WCE|
79 – 64
|12th: 40 pts, 88 %||Saturday|
|11||Richmond||21||36||97.8 %||1660||1697||Lost @ GWS|
67 – 106
|9th: 40 pts, 99 %||Saturday|
|12||St Kilda||21||36||88.0 %||1537||1747||Lost @ Geel|
71 – 85
|11th: 40 pts, 90 %||Saturday|
|13||Carlton||21||32||88.7 %||1671||1883||Lost @ P.A.|
45 – 140
|13th: 36– pts, 90 %||Saturday|
|14||Hawthorn||21||30||84.5 %||1546||1829||Won vs W.B.|
64 – 37
|14th: 30 pts, 84 %||Saturday|
|15||Gold Coast||21||28||80.0 %||1381||1727||Lost vs Ess|
30 – 98
|16th: 28+ pts, 81 %||Saturday|
|16||Collingwood||21||24||87.0 %||1493||1716||Lost @ B.L.|
57 – 142
|17th: 24+ pts, 87 %||Saturday|
|17||Adelaide||21||24||79.2 %||1518||1917||Lost @ Melb|
63 – 104
|15th: 28 pts, 81 %||Saturday|
|18||North Melb||21||18||71.0 %||1404||1977||Lost vs Syd|
77 – 91
|18th: 18 pts, 72 %||Saturday|