The weekend’s two blockbuster games delivered on their promise, and their winners leave the seventh round with soaring stocks
Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that has been.
Lachie Lions look legit
Thursday June 23. Clear your calendar and plan your Friday sickness.
This is the date of Melbourne’s first meeting with Brisbane this season. The second will come on round 23, and will likely be a poker game between two teams keeping the cards very close to their chests.
The third meeting could well be the last Saturday of September.
What was most impressive about Brisbane’s win over Sydney was the many ways they had to beat the Swans. The first half was a full defensive stoppage, the second half a shot.
The Lions watched a vintage Lance Franklin freak show after halftime and came back stronger, all on the shoulders of the incredible Lachie Neale.
His third quarter — 12 kills, nine possessions contested, three clearances and a goal — was as good as we’ve seen this season.
A team built on excellent defence, with a variety of routes to goal and with a midfield that genuinely claims to be the best in the game? Looks like you got yourself a red flag chance right there.
Fremantle can win the post of Prime Minister
Don’t worry about the final, don’t worry about the top four. Fremantle can win the prize.
Granted, the word “may” does a lot of work there, but it’s now a scenario that begs to be considered.
The only outstanding concern is the Dockers’ relatively low inside 50 and shooting on goal numbers, but the fact that Freo ranks poorly in those stats only goes to show how convincing they have been defensively. It is certainly a more sustainable balance than the reverse.
But more than that, there is a spirit in Fremantle that cannot be quantified. Interstate teams don’t go to Geelong and only win if they can boast a good bottle share.
Dockers have the substance, now they add the style. It becomes an unavoidable mix.
The Eagles’ nadir may still be ahead
It came more suddenly and more dramatically than expected, but there’s no need to be surprised at the West Coast’s fall on the scale.
The problems currently plaguing the Eagles have been hidden to some extent since 2019, the year after Adam Simpson took the team to the premiership. They were exacerbated by the 2020 hub disaster and were clear to all in the second half of 2021.
They are a team that has not kept up with modern football, unable to go from careful control to rapid chaos. He was shattered by serious, long-term injuries that, depending on your level of sympathy for the plight of the West Coast, can be attributed to bad luck or mismanagement.
It took an injury and a COVID rash in 2022 to finally turn the whole thing to dust. On Friday night, TV broadcasters were comparing the Eagles’ record to those of the Suns and Giants in their early years, and the infamous Demons of 2013.
The difference between those teams and those Eagles is that they knew they were ground zero. They were young teams starting from scratch, taking the necessary bumps and bruises that come with a complete rebuild.
The West Coast hasn’t even reached that point yet. It’s an old team. They’ve barely touched the draft in years. Based on current evidence, Oscar Allen is the only player under 25 who deserves high hopes, and he will miss at least half of this season with a stress injury to his foot.
Like Chief Wiggum with his tie in a hot dog oven, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.
Around the field
The Hawks are fearless. They showed no scars after being blown late by Sydney last week and have never stopped taking the game to Melbourne. It’s the best loss they could have suffered.
Port Adelaide have had three games now decided by less than a goal, and four by less than two goals. This one against the Saints was the first to fall in their favor. They are not finished yet.
Footy sorely missed Toby Greene. His status as the game’s “bad boy” has always been somewhat overplayed, but his ability certainly hasn’t. He gives the Giants back their soul.
Carlton came alive in the third quarter against North. They rediscovered the swagger that lit up their early weeks, playing with rhythm and physique. They will live and die on how many chances they can give McKay and Curnow each week.
The Suns put in their best offensive effort since the first round against the Pies, but matched it with comfortably their worst defensive performance of the year. almost out of necessity Collingwood is unpredictable and multifaceted in the future, and it works.
It was feast or famine for the Dogs this year, but coming into a critical clash with Port Adelaide, they needed a confidence boost. The loser of this Friday night game is suddenly far away.
At the clubhouse
Here, we take stock of who’s leading the race for the season’s individual awards.
Josh Rachele remains our leader in the race for the Rising Star Award despite the Crows belt. Jason Horne – Francis gets a little grumpy as his Roos struggles and Nick Daicos has yet to prove he is as damaging as he was as an underage player.
Both will continue to improve, but in the meantime it’s probably Bomber Nicholas Martin or Demon Jake Bowey who follows Rachele the closest.
Moving on to the brand of the year race, we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum. The best take of the year so far was taken over the weekend, but it’s not a replay you want to watch too many times.
Brodie Smith’s the hanger on the fender was outstanding, and in our books goes ahead mitch lewis and becomes the current leader. But he absolutely broke his head on the way down.
Despite the concussion, it thankfully seems like Smith is fine now. Which makes it a little easier to celebrate his incredible brand.
Jack Ginvan can claim this week’s best goal, having driven through half the Gold Coast defense before really cracking.
He’s a GOTY gong contender, but for now we’re still leaning towards Ed Langdon. Only.