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  • Writer's pictureJack Turner

AFL Round Five

This is why we can't have nice things in 2020

Carlton (55) vs St Kilda (73)

I love it when the AFL puts blockbuster games like uh *checks notes* Carlton vs St Kilda on a Thursday Night. What a truly great way to capture the imagination of how great the quality of football will be for the rest of the weekend.

From very early on in this game, it was clear that Clarko’s tanty about holding the ball last week was going to be felt throughout this round, as St Kilda reaped the benefits of several calls in the first half that resulted in goals.

That isn’t to say that St Kilda weren’t clearly the better team, just that it was a sign of things to come, and was surely frustrating to many a Carlton supporter – though to be fair to them, they are experts at dealing with Football related frustration.

Personally, I think that St Kilda should replace one of their sponsors with that of a recycling company, as they seem to have built their entire structure on it. 15 of their 22 players on Thursday night had previously been on other clubs lists, with Dan Butler yet again leading the way.

For all the debate about how much better Carlton really are, it’s important to remember that they currently have twice as many wins as they did by this round last year, which, while not very impressive, at least they’re not Adelaide.

Collingwood (48) vs Essendon (63)

I know that I’m supposed to talk about the game, but I just quickly want to detour into talking about Eddie McGuire. Since Eddie called for Jack Steven to tell everyone why he was the victim of a crime, and called for a punishment of 100k and a season long suspension for Connor McKenna, all hell has broken loose over at Ye Olde Collingwood. I promise I’m not taking schadenfreude inspired delight in all of this (I am).

First Jordan De Goey has his court date set for texting while driving on a suspended licence, which of course is followed up by the resurfacing of allegations of racism from Héritier Lumumba – now with more backing and support from former teammates, leading to an inquest, and then Steele Sidebottom goes on a lockdown bender, breaking multiple AFL Covid rules along the way – but that’s okay because Eddie is proud of him, and then old mate De Goey bookends it by being charged for an historic sexual assault case in light of new evidence. I can't wait to see how he blames his dog for this one.

You’ve just gotta love a good old fashioned footy curse.

Now for the game, Collingwood attempted a method that has been very popular this year, which is to say have multiple goalless quarters in a game, and attempt to make it all up in a short burst. Like most others that have attempted this, it failed. Which means that Essendon now miraculously sit fifth on the ladder despite being a game behind the rest of the competition.

West Coast Eagles (77) vs Sydney Swans (43)

Does anyone remember when this was once a great rivalry between two AFL powerhouses, and not a snoozefest between two teams that barely seem interested in the season?

Someone clearly told West Coast they were going home soon, because in a miraculous turn of events, they actually showed up for this one. Without taking too much away from the win, this time it was Sydney who looked like they were debating a career change during the game.

For Sydney, I guess the only upside is that they bucked the trend from losing sides in 2020 and actually scored in all four quarters. It’s an outlandish strategy, and I think that more teams should try it.

The fact West Coast did this almost entirely without Shuey made it even more impressive, as players who had had minimal influence in recent weeks, such as Yeo and Kelly decided to show up.

Geelong Cats (89) vs Gold Coast Suns (52)

Typically when two of a clubs greatest players celebrate their 350th and 300th game milestones in the same match, at their home ground, you would expect a sellout crowd and raucous celebrations. However this is 2020 and nobody is allowed to enjoy anything, so it was played in front of a completely empty stadium, and no friends or family were allowed to attend.

This game was set to be a test for a young Gold Coast side, who had looked impressive since the resumption of the season, but who had only played sides winless since the resumption, and only at home, and as if to prove that nothing in 2020 was allowed to bring us joy, Matt Rowell went down in the first quarter with a shoulder injury.

The eerie part of the Rowell injury was that it occurred almost six years to the day that Gary Ablett Jr suffered a dislocated shoulder in an extraordinarily similar tackle, in a young and promising Gold Coast side that looked set to make finals for the first time in its history.

In the end, the Suns showed good fight, but Geelong’s control and knowledge of their home deck proved too much, as the Suns coughed up intercept mark after intercept mark to the Cats, before a scoreless final quarter from the Suns saw Geelong run away comfortable winners, with the icing on the cake being Ablett kicking the final goal in his 350th game.

This is the first time Geelong have won two games in a row in over a year, and with no byes this season, who knows what could happen.

Western Bulldogs (87) vs North Melbourne (38)

In a year where nothing makes sense, these two sides have showed mirroring form lines. While North won their first two games convincingly and people thought (perhaps foolishly) that they might be good this year, the Bulldogs lost their first two, leading people to be disappointed in a side that looked so impressive in the back end of 2019. But then, of course, they made sure tipping was impossible with the Doggies making this their third win on the trot and the Roos their third loss.

All I’m saying is, you’re better off tipping in 2020 by some kind of Ancient Greek sacrifice ritual designed for prophecy. In fact if you try the whole entrails thing, I’ll gladly put money on whoever it picks as Premiers.

As far as how this game went, North were never really in it, as their mids yet again did everything in their power to keep Ben Brown goalless. Hopefully they learned something from the Bulldogs mids, who showed that if you deliver the ball comfortably to your key forwards, they kick goals. I know it’s an old fashioned technique, but apparently it works.

60% of the Bulldogs goals in this game were kicked by someone called Josh, so look out for some heavily Josh related recruiting from them over the off season.

Miraculously, it looks like their tactic in the off season of getting players into the club, rather than forcing players out, is starting to pay dividends. It truly is amazing how increasing your talent pool assists your performance.

Brisbane Lions (85) vs Port Adelaide (48)

Now I would be lying if I said “I hate to say I told you so,” because I truly LOVE telling people that I told them so. Last week I pointed out that Port haven’t yet played a team post lockdown that actually seem care about football, and lo and behold, when they did, it wasn’t too kind to their confidence.

Charlie Dixon had to play against a quality defender, and Port's midfielders actually had to compete for the football. Neither of which seemed like particularly popular ideas, as Dixon went goalless and Brisbane’s midfielders dominated clearances and inside 50’s. Lachie Neale even decided to break his impressive streak of behinds and kick a goal, just to rub salt into the wound.

After their shock loss to Hawthorn in round one – which feels like decades ago now – Brisbane truly look to be the form side of the competition, and now sit in the cursed second place on the ladder, behind only Port.

Why is second place on the ladder cursed you ask? Well, so far in 2020 it’s the only position on the ladder where if a team started the round there, they haven’t won. To make it even more fun, last week’s number two side was dethroned by Brisbane’s next match up. Does that mean anything at all? Absolutely not, and I sincerely hope nobody is looking to this article for genuine footy tips.

Adelaide Crows (34) vs Fremantle (54)

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about how good Coronavirus could be for the international growth of AFL. Now I know that sounds like an outlandish statement, but honestly, if you’re in a country where your national sport – along with most professional sporting competitions on the planet – has been cancelled, what else are you going to watch?

Unfortunately – this game happened. Of all the games this season that could have been beamed live to the USA to appreciate our national game, this had to be it. The battle of the cellar dwellers. And it truly lived up to its rock bottom expectations. Sure, Fremantle won this game, but only because Adelaide were actively trying to lose it.

Anyone surprised at how awful this game was would do well to remember that the last time these sides met, they only managed a miserly 14 – 12 scoreline at half time. And that was with full length quarters. In fact this game was marginally higher scoring overall that their last encounter, by just three points.

All I’m trying to say is that televising these two teams shouldn’t even be done locally, let alone internationally.

Melbourne (52) vs Richmond (79)

For a long time, I thought the only thing Melbourne were good at was disappointing their fans. It turns out that skill has now developed sub-skills – my favourite of which being; butchering inside 50 entries.

In a game where Melbourne won the inside 50 count, and most other stats were even, against a Richmond side who seemed intent on having no fit players left by the end of it, Melbourne managed to lose comfortably.

On the note of Richmond, apparently a lot of their players wanted to stay home so badly, they were prepared to risk their own health to do it. I’m sure they were disappointed to learn that the club were happy to let Houli and Edwards stay home without injuries.

Does this mean Richmond are back? Probably not, but on the plus side for them they have Sydney this week, who looked utterly disinterested in their game against the Eagles, so maybe they’re good for two in a row.

GWS Giants (83) vs Hawthorn (49)

I saw the AFL marketing this game as “two of the in-form teams in the competition” which is a weird way to say “Hawthorn fell across the line against an average North Melbourne side, and lost to Geelong by an appalling amount,” but here we are I guess.

GWS, however, are absolutely one of the – if not the – in-form teams of the competition; and they showed it. They dominated disposal, were first to the ball all night, and their intercept marking -courtesy of Haynes and Perryman - was elite, and turned multiple Hawks inside 50’s into goals of their own.

Possibly the talking point of the game though is that Alastair Clarkson clearly came into possession of a monkey paw recently. “I wish there were more holding the ball decisions paid,” *monkey finger curls in*.

There absolutely were more holding the ball free kicks paid across this weekend, including some particularly contentious ones against Carlton, Sydney and Melbourne, that really took the words “prior,” and “opportunity” out of prior opportunity.

There were a whopping 11 free kicks for holding the ball paid in this game alone, and as the monkey paw would wish it, only one of those went the way of Hawthorn, resulting in a free kick count of 24-12. You just have to feel sympathy for such a long struggling coach like Clarkson who never gets his way, and hasn’t tasted enough success.

Now we potentially face six weeks in which no football can be held in Victoria. We truly do live in troubled times.

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