New champions emerge in a weekend of breakthroughs

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Charlie Curnow of the Blues celebrates on the final siren. 

By NATHAN JOHN, KAVISHA DI PIETRO AND NICK ZAKHARIA 

The weekend’s footy delivered a scintillating showdown, a Swans youngster making his name on the big stage and a breakthrough win for the Blues.  

Blues break their drought

Saturday afternoon at the ‘G saw Essendon lift a notch early on, edging ahead in the contest and recording a positive differential for forward entries, but a wasteful second quarter left the door open and Brendon Bolton’s side scurried through for their first win of the season. The Curnow brothers blew the game open, Ed with 24 disposals, 13 tackles and two goals, while Charlie took five marks in the forward 50 and booted three. It was sweet reward for effort for the Blues, who have been competitive in recent fixtures. On the other hand, it was another dispirited performance from the Bombers, and their prospects for fulfilling finals expectations appear grim given the lack of tactical acumen and flexibility in the coaching box, along with their continued poor form even while meeting the traditional metrics for competitiveness. – Nathan John

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Swans newcomer Ben Ronke tackles James Sicily in what was a massive personal performance. 

Kinnear Beatson does it again

Before Friday night’s clash against the Hawks, Sydney forward Ben Ronke was relatively unknown, but in just his third game of AFL football he made a name for himself. Becoming the first player to kick seven goals and record 10 tackles, Ronke had four to quarter-time before the Hawks defenders were able to stifle his influence. However, hard work and grit in and around the contest saw Ronke work himself back into the game, sealing the victory with his seventh goal. The 17th pick in the 2016 Rookie Draft looks to be another hidden gem uncovered by Swans list manager Kinnear Beatson. – Kavisha Di Pietro

Tougher times loom for baby Bulldogs

Luke Beveridge’s side improved to 4-4 on the season with a 14 point win over the Brisbane Lions on Saturday night, but their record masks many of the issues that came to the fore in consecutive thrashings to GWS and West Coast earlier in the season – the Bulldogs are devastatingly young. The Lions have endured almost a decade of rebuilding torpor yet on Saturday night fielded a side that was, on average, just under two years and 25 games more experienced than their opponents. Beveridge’s pups are full of promise with Aaron Naughton, Ed Richards and Billy Gowers each debuting to acclaim, Patrick Lipinski and Bailey Williams locking down places at opposite ends and forward-turned-onballer Toby McLean looking set to break into the elite bracket. While this bodes well for the Dogs in the long run, the fixture has been kind and thrashings loom as young bodies wear out, particularly with more experienced opponents on the horizon. – Nathan John

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Robbie Gray of Port Adelaide takes a contested mark on his way to winning his third consecutive Showdown Medal

Rampaging Robbie lifts Port to famous Showdown win

Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray became the fourth South Australian footballer in history to win three Showdown Medals after Saturday’s twilight victory against the sapped and fatigued Adelaide Crows. The Crows’ dominant first half was thwarted by Gray’s resurgence in the third quarter, which helped overturn a 27-point deficit for the Power. Gray trampled the Crows’ defence with his seven premiership quarter disposals resulting in five goals. Port’s scoring run continued into the last minute of the game with recruit Steven Motlop booting a sealer and celebrating well to lift the Power to a five point victory in the 44th Showdown, and develop some enmity with Adelaide fans along the way. – Nick Zakharia

Ben 10 almost drags the Roos over the line

North Melbourne gave the reigning premiers an almighty scare on Sunday afternoon, led by unheralded midfielder Ben Cunnington and his record-breaking 32 contested possessions. Slicker in transition, Richmond have delighted in blowing teams away in the final term this season, but the Roos would scrap and break ahead after the final change through Shaun Higgins and later Jarrad Waite. Had Ben Brown not sprayed two set shots in stoppage time it may have been more than a scare, and Brad Scott’s side would sit inside the top eight. With a coach on top of his game and a mixture of firing veterans and emerging youth, the Roos are primed for a surprise finals appearance if they can make the best of a favourable fixture. – Nathan John