AFL Round Eighteen
What started as a chore at work, and became a weekly hobby; It's The Weekly Turnaround!
St Kilda vs Richmond
Friday Night Football. The spectacle of the round, with a standalone fixture that typically gets the most viewing figures. The showcase of AFL, and it's... St Kilda versus Richmond. First against fifteenth at Etihad Stadium. I think this game generated as much interest from non-Richmond fans as the Global T20 being played in Canada that you probably had no idea was on.
Interestingly St Kilda were the last team to beat Richmond in Melbourne, and possibly we can blame that belting on steeling their resolve, and turning them into the monster they are now. This game went about how you'd expect. Richmond won by a lot without it being a blowout, and St Kilda were average without being terrible. Dustin Martin seems to have returned to something close to last years form, with 30 disposals and a goal, leading Richmond to a comfortable 54 point win. I keep waiting for the day that a team proves that Richmond aren't invincible in Melbourne, but unfortunately that still seems a long way off.
Collingwood vs North Melbourne
I had all bets on this being game of the round. Collingwood playing a finals contender at the MCG. North Melbourne fighting for a spot in the eight. Both teams with similar track records against quality opposition. What I got instead was a frighteningly dominant performance from Collingwood, that makes me fear for what this competition is becoming. It's almost like North Melbourne were so happy with the first half of their season, that they've just shut up shop. I think it best for the look of the game that we make it illegal for Collingwood to win. That would surely please at least 80% of AFL fans.
Collingwood kicked the first five goals of the game - three of them coming from Mihocek, who played an outstanding first half. The midfield was where the damage was done with Pendlebury proving that not even bouncing a football on top of a pigeon could slow him down on his way to a near best on ground performance. If the pigeon was a metaphor for the Kangaroos finals hopes, it probably wasn't too far off.
Sydney Swans vs Gold Coast Suns
If this isn't the upset of the season, there's going to have to be a hell of an upset coming. Sydney have now lost seven of their nine home games this year, in what appears to be a really great strategy to alienate the AFL watching public in New South Wales. The Swans started off the game on fire kicking six goals to one in the first quarter, and almost doubling the disposals of the Suns. The Suns, however, shone in the second and third quarters keeping the Swans goalless, and bagging eight of their own to burst out to a twenty point lead at three quarter time. My personal part of this game was Buddy Franklin's sledge at the start of the game, asking why Rory Thompson was playing on him, and then not scoring a goal for the game. Sydney who now face the hardest run home in the AFL, may rue this loss, and remarkably may miss the finals. With Richmond being the best team in the competition, and Sydney and Hawthorn potentially both missing finals, I'm not sure what bizarro universe we're living in, but it is certainly the strangest timeline.
Essendon vs Fremantle
Essendon played this game like a team that really didn't want to keep their finals hopes alive. They were visibly the better team all game, but thanks to some horrendous decision making, and inaccurate goal kicking, only managed to go into three quarter time four points up after nine lead changes. Credit to Fremantle, who fought hard, despite again having no Fyfe or Sandilands. This wasn't a pretty game - but one of the teams was coached by Ross Lyon, who is probably worse for the look of the game than congestion is - but it was at least entertaining until the last quarter, when Essendon's experience and class took over, and they ran out comfortable winners. Just in time for me to stop caring, and switch to the other two, much more interesting matches.
Brisbane Lions vs Adelaide Crows
Five or six weeks ago, this game would have been dismissed as a non event, however with Brisbane winning three on the trot, and Adelaide escaping their cult, and being back in finals contention, this was one of the more interesting games for the round. Brisbane have been so bad, for so long, it's hard to remember when they were a near-unbeatable powerhouse team, to rival any other. We used to talk about them the way we now talk about Richmond. Even harder to believe that was only fifteen years ago. Over 20 000 people came to this game at the Gabba, in a reflection of the excitement that's building up in Brisbane. They haven't been this excited up there since XXXX got named the official beer of Australian Cricket. It looked to be a speccy contest at the Gabba, as Brisbane's mix of youth and experience looked solid again. In the end though, the class and experience of the Crows was just enough to get them over the line - despite a late charge from the Lions leaving them heartbreakingly short of a fourth win in a row. It's okay, Brisbane. I still love you.
Geelong Cats vs Melbourne
Never have I felt the entire range of human emotion in such a small time period. I'm certain that one day my doctor will ask if there's been any stress in my life that could lead to heart problems, and I'll just have to answer "I'm a Geelong supporter," and I'm sure they'll understand.
The lead changed more than Trump's stance on Putin, before Melbourne went in to three quarter time 23 points up. When Tom McDonald kicked the Dees out to a 29 point lead, and I thought all hope was lost. But in a feeling all too familiar to Dees fans, and much like a top 8 position last year - they let it slip. Tom Hawkins played almost the best game of his career, Gary Ablett suddenly forgot how old he was, and for the first time in his 162 game career, Zach Tuohy was playing as a forward and kicked one after the siren to win the game. I'll take this moment to apologise to my neighbours, and most importantly my girlfriend, for the noise I made when he took that mark.
Carlton vs Hawthorn
After what was a sensational Saturday of football, we get Carlton versus Hawthorn. A contest that hasn't been exciting for almost twenty years, and with the Hawks searching for a top 8 spot, and the Blues locked steadfast to the bottom, Hawthorn supporters weren't expecting any feathers to be ruffled today. Carlton, after being held scoreless for the entire first quarter, went on to become the first team in AFL/VFL history to go 50 games straight without scoring 100 points. Not the record you want, but hey, a record's a record right? The only lowlight for the Hawks was that Daniel Howe decided it would be a good idea to punch Brownow fancy Patrick Cripps in the face, and break Zac Fisher's leg in the same game, ensuring he won't play again this season unless the Hawks play finals.
West Coast Eagles vs Western Bulldogs
Half of the Bulldogs best 22 travelled to Perth to take on second placed West Coast, and it went about as well as you would expect. There were no shades of the miraculous 2016 elimination final win, and despite kicking the first two goals for the match, any hope ended there, managing just four more to the Eagles fourteen. It's like when you sit down to do an exam, and you're feeling really good about the first question, and then you turn the page and that's the only content you actually studied. The downfall of the Bulldogs is one of football's most intriguing stories. Other than the fact that you can pretty easily explain it with the fact that they peaked at the right time, and now all of their best players are either at other clubs or are injured. So maybe not that intruding. Maybe just sad.
Port Adelaide vs GWS Giants
I'm certain that Port Adelaide and Geelong are in a joint conspiracy this year to ruin my tipping. Port Adelaide have this year seemed pretty Powerless without Ryder, winning eight out of ten game's he's played, but losing four of the seven he hasn't. They'll be hoping they can have him fit and firing come September. GWS on the other hand, are recovering from their Giant injury list so well, it's only a matter of time people start calling them the AFL's lovechild again, and complain about all the help they got six years ago. While Chad Wingard had a chance to put Port back within a goal at the beginning of the last quarter, it's fair to say that the Giants were the better team all day, and deserved the win here, making this season even closer and more confusing. With only five games to go, there's only four wins between first and twelfth, and really, it feels like anything could happen