The most relieved man after round 15 will be Matty Nick, Adelaide’s coach who has had to wait 15 games before tasting success as a head coach. It’s been a tough season for Nicks, however it’s a testament to him that’s he stayed the course and kept faith in his systems, when he could have easily second-guessed himself. The Crows have been woeful for much of the year, but they played with real spirit against a Hawks them that showed anything but. Whilst they’ll still win the wooden spoon, at least they have a win next to their name finally to close out the season.

Whilst Nicks will be relieved, Simon Goodwin would be ropeable, as his Melbourne team again shot themselves in the foot in their quest for a finals berth. Having led to a preliminary final in 2018 (in which they were then completely uncompetitive), he’s over seen a bottom 2 finish last year whilst in 2017 they coughed up the final game of the year against a struggling Collingwood outfit to see themselves miss the finals on percentage. But it’s not just Goodwin, it’s the Melbourne football club full stop. This is a club that have struggled to ever really shake off the ability to implode when they needed to fire. Too many of their players are living off a stellar 2018 season, the players they have brought in to take them to the next step haven’t fully delivered yet and it looks like another season without post-season footy. Questions will be asked, as they should, and the fear is Goodwin might pay the ultimate price.

Speaking of shooting yourselves in the foot. Carlton…. what can you say? Really, if Carlton tried to shoot themselves in the foot, they would probably miss. In their last 6 quarters of footy, the have kicked 5 goals, of which 4 came in the first quarter against the Giants. They’ve had 4 goalless quarters amongst that as well, all at a time when they were pushing for finals. They have the core of a good side, but they can’t keep trotting out the line that they have to get more support for Cripps. They knew that in the offseason, yet chased Papley, Jack Martin and Betts last offseason. They aren’t helping Cripps, and whilst it filled a need it was clear they needed more midfield depth and failed to try and fix it. Similar to Melbourne, they just can’t get out of their own way when they need to win a key game. until they learn to do that, it’ll be more long lean seasons for the Blue-Baggers.

However, the Dees and Blues players & coaches are happy in the fact that 2 Richmond players, Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones were sprung breaching COVID regulations on Thursday night. Apparently, having seen their captain and his wife cop a big fine after Brooke Cotchin going to a day spa, these two blokes didn’t think it was a problem to go to a strip club, then get into a punch-on outside it whilst grabbing a couple of kebabs. I mean f#$ken seriously!! How dumb are these guys? And don’t give me the it’s tough for them, it’s f#$ken tough for everyone at the moment. The club has been fined $75k for this breach, plus have to now cough up the $25k suspended fine from the Cotchin breach, which is likely to come from their soft cap, which impacts their off-field staffing. In other words, the desire for a couple of lappies potentially sees someone lose their job in the back office. Words can’t explain how unbelievably selfish and stupid this is. They’ve been sent home, suspended for 10 games (commending after Rd17 this year) and been told they have to pay the fines. The AFLPA are now saying they can’t force this, but it would be a brave player to push back on it and not voluntarily pay it from here. For a club whose culture has been praised so much over the last few years, the indiscretions are starting to mount up at Richmond.

Hawthorn 7.6.48 lost to Adelaide 12.11.83
The Round started on Tuesday with the Hawks hosting the Crows at the Adelaide Oval. Yep, the Hawks were the home side, in Adelaide, against Adelaide. Strange. The Crows were up and about early, and Hawthorn were lucky to be with 7pts at quarter time as the Crows missed some simple changes in front of goal. Clarkson gave his side a bake at qtr time, but it amounted to little, as the Crows continue to win the ball around the contest and move the ball with speed. They led by 15pts at half time, but the margin didn’t reflect the dominance Adelaide had. From there, they just powered away and but for a fantastic 4 goal effort from Jack Gunston, the margin would have been much worse. Put simply, watching the game, the Crows were playing for pride and started well, and it looked like the Hawks just thought it was all too hard from there. They were playing to not get injured and the season can’t come quick enough for them now. For Adelaide, it’s a boost for the rest of the season, and whilst they’ll be unlikely to get another win, they have saved themselves from the ignominy of being the only winless side in the AFL era.

West Coast Eagles 9.6.60 defeated Essendon 6.9.45
Essendon weren’t ever going to get a better chance to beat the Eagles. At the Gabba where the Eagles have been poor this year, no Josh Kennedy and the Bombers coming off a confidance-boosting second half against the Hawks the week before. And they had their chances, but butchered them in front of goal. Int eh first quarter it was 4.1 to 1.4 and that was just about the game done there. It’s a loss that probably ends their finals chances, as they have the rampaging Cats this round, whilst the current owners of 8th spot, GWS, have the Crows. They are 6pts adrift and would need to win two more games than either the Giants or the Dogs to claim 8th spot, which I can’t see happening, looking at the run home. The Eagles just got the job done and can focus on nailing a top four spot in the run home, whilst Essendon will look back on this season as a massive what-if. Injuries have hurt, they’ve lost close games which they were in winning positions in, and Joe Daniher has played just 2 games. Yesterday (4th September) marked 16 full years since their last finals win, and that streak looks like going for at least another 365 days.

Richmond 8.8.56 defeated Fremantle 4.5.29
It took the Tigers a long time to shake off the Dockers, who were up for the fight but just lacked the quality in the end to really punish the Tigers. Really, the Tigers were simply able to punish the Dockers better when they made a mistake, but the Dockers were right into this until late in the last, when Richmond kicked away. Justin Longmuir has been superb in his opening year, has built his team from the back and they are hard to score against. In the coming years, if they can get their transition from defence to their forwards better, they will be a tough team to beat. The Tigers though did what good sides do (see this Melbourne), they put away a lower side despite not playing at their best. One positive for the Tigers was Martin was well beaten, Cotchin wasn’t at his best and Riewoldt did little, and they still won.

Sydney 10.7.67 defeated Melbourne 6.10.46
Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne……really? again?? This is a loss that will burn for a while for Dees fan, though they are used to it now so it’s probably just water off a duck’s back. Sydney haven’t been great of late, whilst the Dees have shown good form over the last month. It’s a game they just had to show up for and again they didn’t. Did they get ahead of themselves? Probably. For the Swans, it’s a good win late in the season. Whilst all Hawthorn supporters will be happy to see themselves bumped up to getting the 3rd pick in the draft, culture is everything in the AFL, and developing a winning culture is critical to success. It’s probably the biggest difference between clubs like Sydney and Melbourne. Getting wins into the kids is huge so the Swans will be rapt to see their players fighting the season out.

GWS Giants 6.12.48 defeated Carlton 5.9.39
Another week, another second half fade-out from the Blues. They have 1 goal in second halves over the last 2 weeks, giving up leads against two potential finalists and ultimately costing themselves a finals shot in the last 2 rounds. It’s shows that they have the talent, but not the mental fortitude yet to get the wins they need. They only kicked 1 goal after qtr time, and having taken a 15pt lead into the last quarter, weren’t able to hold off a fast finishing Giants who kicked 4.1 to just 0.1 in the last. They’re a funny side the Giants. They now sit 8th yet haven’t really ever got going this season. They loom as an interesting story in the finals, as they showed last year that they can lift when the real stuff starts (outside of the GF). They have found a new tall forward in Jake Riccardi, and if they can get their best players on the park, then they are one to watch in the run to the flag.

Brisbane 6.6.42 defeated Collingwood 5.4.34
If Collingwood has shown us anything this year, it’s that their defence can stand up against the best. Sadly, their forward line can’t say the same. The Lions had 2 goalless quarters in this game, had two blokes on the bench for about a half of footy, one of which was Harris Andrews who is their best defender, and the Pies still weren’t able to register more than 6 goals to win the game. It was a 5-goal burst in the second quarter that won Brisbane the game, and it’s this sort of burst that is why I think they are still the team to beat for the flag. When they click, they play an attacking style of footy that is hard to stop, and as shown last night, they are happy to scrap it out with the best when needed. Kicking for goal is still a worry, but they keep producing enough shots to kick enough of score to win (generally). For the Pies, all isn’t lost, but a loss here has cost them a top 4 chance. TO win the flag, they’ll have to do it the hard way. Wouldn’t put it past them, but their lively forward structure of the last few years is now anything but.

So, let’s have a look at the winners and the losers from round 15.

The Winners:
1: Adelaide – It took them 15 rounds, but they have finally tasted success. It’s been a long tough year for them, but I reckon they looked at the Hawks as their best chance of a win in the run home, and it proved correct. They attacked with pace, they had a lively forward set-up and they were dominant through the middle. For Matty Nicks, is a deserved result for his hard work to date. He’s stayed true to his formula and finally got a reward.

2: GWS Giants – Like Melbourne, their finals spot looked in jeopardy in their clash with Carlton, but a 4-goal to 0 last quarter got them home. It kept their finals hopes alive, and show that when they want to turn it on, they can beat anyone.

3: Brisbane – Beat a fellow likely finalist, moved themselves to 2nd and a potential home final, and toughed it out in the end when down to two on the bench. Most impressively, was that Oscar McInerney was able to beat Grundy across the night, showing his development to date. The loss of Andrews for a few weeks is going to but their run home is favorable.

4: Sydney – a great win from the young Swans team, and its testament to their culture that they are able to get these sorts of wins. Forget draft picks, winning culture is far more important and this young side will get a lot more out of this than any draft pick they might end up with.

The Losers:
1: Melbourne – Their finals chances on the line, offer up a really disappointing performance against the 16th placed side. Even when they got on top, they butchered their last quarter shots at goal, eliminating any chance they had to win. It’s meant they are now outsiders to make the finals, with their Round 17 match against the Giants now crucial.

2: Hawthorn – Looks like a side that just wants the season to end. Away from home for many months, nothing to play for, and when the Crows started well, it all seemed to hard for the Hawks. Of their leaders, only Gunston is showing any and Clarkson’s request for the AFL to release the list sizes for next year shows the Hawks are in 2021 planning mode now.

3: Carlton – 5 goals in 6 quarters of footy. 5……just 5. 4 goalless quarters to boot. Say they need more support for Cripps, but they have been saying this for several years now. Need to stop making excuses and just start to win games from winnable positions.

4: Essendon – 1.4 to 4.1 in the first quarter shows they were in the game, this was the game right here, and it’s probably cost them a finals chances this season. An injury to their likely B&F winner in McGrath topped off the night for them.