Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy had a career-best match.
By NATHAN JOHN and TAS MAVRIDIS
This week’s AFL action was anything but even-handed, with Essendon torpedoing Port Adelaide’s winning streak and five of nine margins exceeding 40 points.
Daring Pies stun Crows on the road
Collingwood under Nathan Buckley have been characterised by cerebral if not overly productive football, but torrential rain in Adelaide on Friday night was followed by a gritty and direct display. The Pies dominated on the ground, forcing stoppages and belting the ball forward against a Crows side that has been the benchmark for attacking, aesthetically pleasing football for some time. Their grip on the game was established at the source, going +36 for contested possessions and +23 for clearances as ruckman Brodie Grundy had a career-best outing. The Crows played into their hands with a corridor game better suited to dry conditions. Steele Sidebottom was strong again with 43 disposals and 26 contested possessions, while first year player Jaidyn Stephenson booted five goals and is first in line to claim this round’s Rising Star nomination. Most importantly, Buckley appears to be evolving as a coach and his players are heeding his message. – Nathan John
Richmond’s trademark pressure destroys Lions
Richmond brought up their third win of the season on Saturday afternoon with a 93-point victory over a hapless Brisbane. The Lions recorded their equal lowest score of 17, which also happened to be the first time since 1962 that a side was held to less than 20 points at the MCG. Brisbane only managed five marks inside their own attacking 50, with the Lions failing to adjust to the blustery and wet conditions and overplaying the ball, which will frustrate Chris Fagan especially after such a promising performance in the previous round. Richmond’s trademark pressure was at its very best. While it wasn’t the Tigers’ season best return with the total of 57 tackles below their season average of 62.5, the timing of each act seemed to be critical into forcing a Lions turnover or preventing a Brisbane score. – Tas Mavridis
Nic Naitanui has had limited playing time but had a major impact.
West Coast may be a surprise contender
Widely tipped to slide with their engine room gutted and mystery surrounding the fitness of ruckman Nic Naitanui, the Eagles sit in second place with a healthy percentage after four rounds. A host of experienced midfielders have stepped up to the coalface in the absence of veterans Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis, while Naitanui has torn apart a number of lesser ruckmen on limited minutes. Returning spearhead Josh Kennedy booted five goals against Gold Coast upon his return from injury, while Elliot Yeo was the dominant player all over the ground recording 33 possessions, five rebound-50s and five inside-50s. The Suns are youthful and Optus Stadium is swift becoming a fortress for Perth-based sides, but the potency of the Eagles’ forward line can’t be ignored with such a spread of midfielders maintaining pressure on the opposition defence. In the meantime, Suns coach Stuart Dew can take heart from the third quarter, his side defending better in transition and winning the term by four points. – Nathan John
Woes continue for Carlton
After a promising start against Richmond, not much has gone right for the Blues. One win in 14 games across 2017-18 presents a dim picture for Carlton fans, with issues rearing their head across every position. The loss of Sam Docherty before the season was disastrous for a young defence – with the Blues having the worst defensive record in the league, the likes of North Melbourne’s Ben Brown, third in the 2017 Coleman Medal tally, were able to run riot. Things didn’t look much better in the midfield with the loss of Marc Murphy prior to the bounce leaving Patrick Cripps with a lot to do. Without their captain the Blues’ midfield never really managed to get a foothold in the match, but most concerning will be Carlton’s continued impotence going forward. The Blues have not scored 100 points in a match since round 11 in 2016, and their score of 30 also broke unwanted records for the lowest score in Hobart. – Tas Mavridis
Jesse Hogan had a mixed day.
Demolition casts doubt over Dees
Having steadily built under Paul Roos and now Simon Goodwin, Dees fans could be excused for expecting better than the insipid 67-point capitulation their side delivered on Sunday afternoon. Melbourne led Hawthorn by two goals at the first change as forward-turned-midfielder Jesse Hogan racked up 12 possessions, but then conceded 15 goals to one as the Hawks tightened the screws. Alastair Clarkson’s side were cleaner with the ball in slippery conditions, more efficient going inside-50 while the game was on the line, and prepared to embrace the combat as they recorded a +39 tackle differential. More galling was that Goodwin’s side ran out the game so poorly despite having up to two extra rotations at stages of the game, with Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo sidelined by injuries and former Demon James Frawley playing through pain. On a lesser note, Nathan Jones was able to curb the impact of prolific Hawthorn onballer Tom Mitchell, who had recorded no less than 40 disposals in any of the opening three rounds. Mitchell still managed to contribute with 24 disposals, 17 of which were contested, 13 clearances and five inside-50s. – Nathan John