Dusty Martin’s Tigers are in charge.
By NATHAN JOHN,
The divide between Richmond and the rest of the competition grows, the Bulldogs claim their first win on Mars and the Saints, Bombers and Blues sink further into the abyss. Sport editor Nathan John takes a look at the key talking points from Round 7.
Giants lose the aerial battle
Tall timber has rarely been an issue for Leon Cameron, but with Jeremy Cameron absent and Jonathan Patton sent into the ruck, his side had nobody to mark or bring the ball to ground in their forward 50. Geelong’s defence launched wave after wave from intercept possessions and the resultant volume of entries saw the Cats claim 17 marks in their forward arc, with tall options Tom Hawkins, Esava Ratugolea and former Bulldog Stewart Crameri booting eight goals between them. Cameron is unlikely to read into the result, with his side’s endeavour strong (+8 tackles) and a handful of players on the sideline, but the Cats are similarly depleted by injury and will take heart in a victory for both their brand of football and their developing defence.
Pattern continues for dismal Dons
Last week deputy editor Kavisha Di Pietro wrote about the Bombers’ third-quarter woes, and they maintained their reputation with another capitulation, this time to Hawthorn at the MCG on Saturday. Leading by seven points at the main break, the Dons conceded six unanswered goals to trail by 31 points at the last change. Favouring a handball-oriented game, John Worsfold’s side met far more pressure than they applied (-27 tackles) and were sliced open on the turnover, the Hawks scoring with every 14th possession while the Bombers needed 23. Of most concern is Worsfold’s persistent inability to arrest a slide when the game moves beyond Essendon’s control, and the absence of on-field leadership to right the ship in his stead. Suddenly, this weekend’s game against Carlton looms as dangerous.
Esava Ratugolea helped with Geelong’s goal feast on Friday night.
Roos claim season-defining win
Early in 2015 the Western Bulldogs travelled to Sydney with a young squad bolstered by veterans, and claimed a gritty win that participants and observers would later claim set Luke Beveridge’s side on the path to a premiership. North Melbourne’s two point win over the Swans on Saturday night bore similarities. Experienced midfielders Shaun Higgins, Ben Jacobs and Ben Cunnington ensured the Roos wouldn’t be bullied around the ground, while Mason Wood (four goals) and Jed Anderson (24 disposals, 11 contested) recorded career best performances. Controversy reigned as the Swans questioned an early goal to North recruit Billy Hartung, with replays indicating former skipper Jarrad McVeigh touched the ball, but the cultural value of the win will endure for Brad Scott’s side.
Richmond, daylight, the rest
In a season that has several sides scrabbling to find an identity, Damien Hardwick’s Richmond are a team blissfully aware of what they stand for. Missing skipper Trent Cotchin and stalwart Shaun Grigg, the Tigers were beaten to the ball (-22 for clearances and -20 for contested possessions) but smothered a lazy and wasteful Fremantle, recording 28 more tackles and 22 more inside-50s. After the Brisbane Lions were held to just two goals on the MCG three weeks ago, Ross Lyon’s side could only manage four. Amid heavy contemplation of the state of the game, sides butchering the ball and recording such low tallies is fodder for negativity, the Tigers demonstrated they are in full control of their ferocious, swarming brand of football and it’s a breathtaking sight.
Jaidyn Stephenson was a match-winner.
Lions tiring of honourable losses
Save for a 93 point thrashing at the hands of competition pacesetters Richmond, the Brisbane Lions have been more competitive than their winless record would have you believe. Chris Fagan’s side have lost three games by seven points or less, including Sunday night’s narrow home defeat to Collingwood. Captain Dayne Beams tied the scores with under five minutes remaining, but a scrappy behind to Pies forward Chris Mayne and a sealer to Jaidyn Stephenson consigned the Lions to their seventh defeat of the season. Brisbane fans have plenty to look forward to, with first year players Cam Rayner (18 disposals, four marks) and Zac Bailey (17 disposals, four tackles and a goal) among their best on the night, but a breakthrough win would quantify their progress. Next weekend’s road trip to Melbourne to face a young and depleted Bulldogs side may be their best opportunity yet.