Wow, a tough week for many teams in Round 4, as we saw injuries a plenty some impressive performances from Port, Suns and Lions, whilst we also saw some very average games served up to boot.
Firstly, the state of the game. It’s fair to say, it’s not been great of late. Right from the first game after the restart, we have had our fair share of low-scoring arm wrestles where the game is just a series of rolling mauls and long bombs to a crowded forward line, which result in low scores and minimal goals. The one positive here is we are getting a lot of close games. However, this is a result of teams being unable to really break away from opposition as opposed to thrilling contests.
The worst thing for the AFL is that we, as a collective, have spent much of isolation watching re-runs of the best games from the 90s and early 2000s, and we’ve been shown what we had, and sadly now see what we now have. It’s a stark reminder that footy was better in the years gone by, when you had quality players actually playing against each other and those single contests were just as enthralling as the game itself. We’ve lost that now, and the game is poorer because of it.
Anyway, on to the games, and the round stared off with the Dogs travelling to Sydney to take on the Swans. Both teams had strong wins the previous week, and would have felt good going in, but it was the Dogs that started the better and never letter up. Even after losing Aaron Naughton with an ankle injury early in the second qtr, they were still too good for the Swans who regularly butchered the footy. Sad end to a tough day for Josh Kennedy, who played his 250th game on the same day his grandfather, the great John Kennedy, passed away.
Friday night saw the Giants host the Pies in a rematch of last year’s thrilling preliminary final. The Giants, who’s form had been poor since the restart, needed a strong performance, whilst the Pies have looked the best side to date (sorry Port supporters, but they have!!). However, like a lot of games since the restart, we saw a tight arm-wrestle with little free-flowing footy. In the end, the Pies had it in their grasp, only for the Giants to pinch it, relegating the Pies to their first loss for season 2020. In a tough blow for the Pies to boot, Gun half-back Jeremy Howe has done his PCL and looks to be out for some time. The Giants also lost both Phil Davis (hamstring) and Zac Williams (groin) to injury, which made their win even all the more impressive.
Saturday offered up some good games, as the Port continued their superb form, comfortably accounting for the disappointing Eagles, with Charlie Dixon kicking 6 goals in putting the Eagles to the sword. The Tigers poor season continued as they slumped to another loss, this time to the up and down Saints who were led again by their off-season recruits. Carlton held on against the Bombers, in a game that lacked any real polish, as they continued to butcher forward entry after forward entry. The Bombers can consider themselves unlucky as they had a shot on goal late spoiled by the head of Liam Jones on the goal line, but it would have been daylight robbery as the Blues were the better side across the 4 quarters.
Final games on Saturday saw the Suns continue their winning ways, making it 3 on the trot since the restart, to knock off the competitive Dockers who are now sitting 0-4 but seem to be better than that. Funny that WA premier Mark McGowan keeps bleating about a Perth Grand Final, when his teams are sitting 16th & 17th, but he’ll say anything these days. The Suns though look the real deal and finals shouldn’t be discounted as they are genuinely playing good strong footy. Matt Rowell took another step towards an unlikely Brownlow in his first year, with another strong performance that could see another 3 votes go his way.
Lastly, we get to Sunday in which we saw 2 thrillers and a schlacking, but neither game is really worth talking about. If you just look at the scores, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Crows did ok. However, a 10-23 score line for the Lions, including 3-13 in the last half enable the Crows to stay close. Both the Cats (3pts) and Hawks (4pts) got away with tight wins, neither would be impressed with their wins, as shown by the fact their respective coaches were in agreeance that the game at the moment is largely unwatchable and it’s up the AFL to do something about it.
So, let’s have a look at the winners and the losers for Round 4
1: Alastair Clarkson and Chris Scott. Both were critical of the state of the modern game, both brutally honest in their assessment of the game and their team’s performances. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear these types of comments rather than the banal stuff we’ve become accustomed too.
2: Port Adelaide. The Eagles are poor, but they are better than the teams the Power have beaten to date, and again the Power did it easily. I’ve not been convinced with the Power to date, but another strong win, against a side that has a lot of talent, is starting to convince me they might be the rea deal. They got the Lions this week which will be a test, but unlike many teams this season, they are scoring strongly and that’s something we can all get behind.
3: Gold Coast. It’s hard not to be impressed. They could’ve been forgiven for slipping this weekend, for getting ahead of themselves. But it didn’t happen. They’ve continued to play good strong footy, are well led by Captain Jarrod Witts in the ruck and well coached by Stewie Dew. A great challenge this week coming to the Cattery to take on Geelong to test how far they’ve come.
4: Carlton. It wasn’t pretty, and like last week they nearly blew it late, but the Blues are starting to get on a roll, and winning form breeds confidance. As many Carlton fans have said, better to win ugly, than have honourable losses. They did it with one man down, having lost Silvagni early in the first qtr, which makes it even more impressive. Saints on Thursday nights will be a great test.
5: Charlie Dixon: For many of us older types, we bemoan the lack of big forwards kicking goals. And whilst 6 used to be a standard day at the office, for a forward these days its equivalent to 10. It’s great to see Dixon start to dominate games for the Power, as the game is better for it when forwards are kicking bags. Fingers crossed he can keep his body healthy, as he’s the key to a Power flag tilt.
1: Zach Merrett. There wasn’t much in it, but as soon as you clench the fist and make contact, you’re putting your life into the lap of the gods. It was unnecessary, and when you have just lost your captain, and key midfielder, for a long period, the last thing Essendon needed was to have Merrett on the sidelines.
2: Collingwood. In terms of the season, the lost 4pts is negligible. They are clearly one of the best sides in it, so losing the game won’t hurt them long term. But the loss of Jeremy Howe will. He’s a huge out, being dominant in the air, strong on the ground, sets up a lot of their attacks and was an absolute lock for and All-Australian spot. His loss won’t be easily replaced so it will be interesting to see how they replace him……if they actually can!
3: West Coast Eagles. Another loss in the bubble and their season is seriously teetering on the edge. A midfield of Shuey, Kelly, Gaff, Yeo & Redden, should be dominating teams, but are being comprehensively beaten and giving their forwards little. Crows this week now looks more interesting than it should.
4: North Melbourne. Two losses in a row, and having 2-0 and looking a real finals contender, to being 2-2, back in the pack and their old mistakes continuing to re-surface. Played about 15 minute of good football and nearly pinched it, and have a habit of finishing strongly. If they can stay in games earlier, then they could be a real threat to anyone
5: Richmond. Lost again, meaning no wins since the re-start. Have likely lost David Astbury to injury, possibly Caddy as well and their form is very average. The dynasty talk has disappeared and the game looks to have caught up with the Tigers. No crowds looks to be hurting them big time, whilst the shorter games seem to have allowed other teams to stay with them longer and manage the pressure.