Round-by-round: A game of words

AFL Round 17, 2013We’re into the final third of the home and away season, and this year there are two words you can expect to hear quite a lot in the next seven weeks.The first is “mathematically”, which Dictionary.com defines as “of, or pertaining to, the nature of mathematics”. But come mid-July and August every year, it becomes a hackneyed term used by rambling commentators and financially-minded club football departments to describe the ever-shrinking likelihood of teams in the middle bar of the ladder scraping into the final eight. Richmond, Port Adelaide, Carlton, West Coast, Brisbane, North Melbourne and Adelaide supporters be prepared; over the coming weeks you’ll hear the phrase “mathematically possible” so many times you’ll wonder whether Isaac Newton and Archimedes get to decide who plays in the finals each year. The second word clogging the space in every AFL fan’s ears — this year in particular — will be “allegedly”. In the lead up to the AFL-ASADA investigation into Essendon being released next month, the scandal-happy newspapers will no doubt dedicate front page spreads to even the smallest skerrick of information relating to the infringements, responsibility and penalties of those involved at the club. This week, coach James Hird was again under scrutiny, allegedly warned by the AFL against introducing a high-performance program involving peptides to his playing group.Don’t say I didn’t warn you. North Melbourne vs Carlton (Friday, July 19)Of all the games this weekend, the result of this one would immediately have an effect on the race for the eight. Carlton went into the match one game behind eighth spot, North Melbourne two. The game was made only more interesting by the fact that North — traditionally the Friday night specialists — was predicted to win.The North forward line looked dangerous throughout the first term — Thomas scored three crumbing goals — but inaccuracy cost them a four-goal lead. And Carlton made them pay, leading by one point at quarter time after Murphy kicked their sixth straight after the siren.The match remained even in the second term, but Carlton capitalized on turnovers in their back 50. They led by six points at half-time.Carlton made their move to start the second half, slamming on five goals in the first 15 minutes of the third term. The infamous North Melbourne fadeout began earlier than usual, but it was no less devastating. Carlton were 21 points ahead at the final break.North came hard in the last term, as centre clearances became vital. Forwards Petri and Thomas kicked a collective five goals as North got within one point with 2:22 left on the clock. With two club’s seasons on the line, Kreuzer kicked a set shot out on the full for Carlton, Harvey misread a ball near the goal square for North, and nothing more was scored. Carlton won by a point, putting themselves in the eight. North’s season by contrast, was well and truly over, having lost their fifth match this year by under a goal.Kreuzer was best for Carlton with five big marks, 29 hit outs and 107 Dream Team points, while Garlett kicked four goals. For North, Thomas kicked six and Petrie four, while Harvey was exciting with 26 touches.Carlton 16.13.109 def North Melbourne 16.12.108 Hawthorn vs Western Bulldogs (Saturday, July 20)The Dogs had immediate difficulty trying to get the ball out of defence, and Hawthorn made them pay for their turnovers, taking a 16-point lead into quarter time.Both teams wasted opportunities in the second term, but some class from Luke Hodge helped Hawthorn extend their lead to 20 by the half.The stalemate continued in the second half. The first two goals went to the Dogs, and by three-quarter time Hawthorn’s lead had been shaved to 15 points.Twelve goals were kicked in the last quarter — the same amount as the first two quarters combined — six each to Hawthorn and the Dogs. Hawthorn’s flurry of goals came first, and they extended their lead to 44 points before the Dogs slammed on four goals in the last five minutes of the match. Hawthorn’s final margin was 19 points.For Hawthorn, Smith rediscovered his top form with 27 touches, while Roughead kicked three goals playing on his cousin of the same surname. Griffen and Cooney were as impressive as ever for the Dogs, with 37 and 33 touches respectively.Hawthorn 13.17.95 def Western Bulldogs 11.10.76 GWS vs EssendonA goal fest in the first term produced a quality arm wrestle. Last placed GWS surprised third placed Essendon by matching them with five goals and leading by three points at quarter time.Goals were less frequent in the second term, but Essendon outscored GWS by 15 points to lead by two goals at half-time.Three consecutive goals in the third quarter put GWS only a goal down, but then Essendon laid down the law: with four straight goals they blew GWS out of the water, up by 32 points at the final break. Another four goals in the final term sealed Essendon’s 39-point win.Heppell did well with 23 touches for Essendon, while Cameron and Giles kicked four goals each for GWS, and eight of their team’s 11 goals collectively.Essendon 18.8.116 def GWS 11.11.77 Gold Coast vs CollingwoodHalfway through the first term, Swan (of all players) turned the ball over in the centre with a poor kick, which was scooped up by Gold Coast’s Tate and rammed home for a goal from 60 out. This passage summed up the first term, in which the classy Suns made Collingwood pay for their mistakes to lead by three points at quarter time.The contest became more even as Collingwood found their feet in the second term. Both teams scored 26 points for the quarter, so the Sun’s three point lead remained by half-time.By the third term, people were wondering if the clubs had swapped jumpers before the match. Gold Coast surged to a 22-point lead nearing the end of the term, before Collingwood pulled it back to 15 at the final change.Some magic from Ablett helped the Suns maintain a three-goal lead with 10 minutes to play. Two goals in the final three minutes to Collingwood trimmed the margin to seven points, but the siren sounded with Gold Coast winning their first match ever against Collingwood. Ablett was again superb for Gold Coast with 49 possessions, two goals and 163 Dream Team points, while O’Meara kicked three goals. The two Danes of Collingwood, Swan and Beames, were also solid with 34 and 32 touches.Gold Coast 13.7.85 def Collingwood 11.12.78 St. Kilda vs Port AdelaidePort, playing to retain eighth spot, came storming out of the blocks with little resistance from St. Kilda. Conveniently forgetting their poor record in Victoria, Port banged on seven goals to two in a powerful first quarter display.Their lead grew to 45 points in the middle of the second term, and was still a commanding 39 at half-time.In the second half, a St. Kilda revival came out of nowhere: five goals to one in the second term trimmed Port’s margin to 13 points at three-quarter time, before they took the lead for the first time on the back of three straight goals in the last quarter.In a nerve-stricken final 10 minutes, St. Kilda’s three-point lead evaporated after an unlucky free and then a 50m penalty was given away to Port’s Pittard. The shift in momentum was enough for Port to keep the ball away from St. Kilda’s forward half, and they finished the match in front by five points to keep their finals hopes intact.Some will say Port won because the umpires were on their side, but in fact St. Kilda had three more free kicks for the game. Where Port really won was in their dominant first half, the stars of which were Wingard (two goals) with 22 possessions and ruckman Lobbe with 40 hit outs. For St. Kilda, veterans Montagna (35 possessions), Dal Santo (33 possessions) experienced a renaissance of form, while McEvoy was solid in the ruck with three goals.Port Adelaide 14.13.97 def St. Kilda 13.14.92 Melbourne vs BrisbaneMelbourne finished the first quarter strongly with three goals, the mini break giving them a nine-point lead at quarter time.Brisbane roared back into the contest in the second term, kicking five goals and — after the teams traded goals and the lead changed several times — going into half-time two goals ahead.Brisbane’s lead edged out to 17 by the middle of the third term, but Melbourne, who are clearly a different side under Neil Craig, refused to go away. With three of the next five goals, Melbourne were only 11 points down at three-quarter time and a very real chance to win.Crucially, the first goal in the last quarter went to Brisbane, giving them an insurmountable three-goal lead as goals became hard to come by for the rest of the match.Watts was a solid target for Melbourne with 10 marks, while Sylvia had 27 possessions and Fitzpatrick kicked four goals (three in the first term). For Brisbane, Rockliff was best afield with 34 touches, Leuenberger had 38 hit outs and Green and Staker each kicked three goals.Brisbane 13.16.94 def Melbourne 11.9.75 Richmond vs Fremantle (Sunday, July 21)Still hurting from their one-point loss to Fremantle earlier this year, Richmond used the ball well and slammed on the first three goals of the game. Fremantle responded with the next two, and Richmond’s lead was only seven points at quarter time.Ross Lyon’s tactics took the game by the throat in the second term, and drudgery set in. One hundred-gamer White scored the only goal of the term for Richmond, and considering Richmond led by 13 points at half-time, it could be said Lyon’s tactics had backfired.The teams traded goals in the third term, or more specifically Richmond traded goal with Mzungu. The Zimbabwean-born ruck-rover scored three majors in the third quarter, single-handedly keeping Fremantle in it. But Richmond showed how far they’ve come as a team, winning the quarter with five goals to four after captain Cotchin goaled after the siren. By three-quarter time, the momentum and the 21-point lead lay with Richmond, and the match — and the structure of the final eight — lay delicately poised.Fremantle brought renewed hunger into the second term, trimming the margin to eight points. But then Richmond secured their first win over a top six side this year, kicking three straight goals. Richmond’s final margin was 27 points, and they’ve all but secured a spot in September.Reiwoldt kicked four goals, and Rance had 30 touches and 16 marks down back for Richmond, while for Fremantle Barlow and Mundy again topped the disposal count.Richmond 12.12.84 def Fremantle 8.9.57 Adelaide vs GeelongAdelaide got on top of the centre clearances early, and kicked three early goals to take an unpredicted lead. Geelong showed why they were a great team, however, kicking four first-quarter goals from only seven Inside 50 entries. Though beaten round the ground, they were one point in front at quarter time.Geelong started to take control in the second term. With Selwood and Hawkins as forward targets, Geelong continued to defy their inferiority in all key statistics, kicking five goals to one to lead by 24 points at half-time.Intensity went through the roof in the third term, as the teams traded goals before Adelaide broke the deadlock. Two goals to end the third term put them within 14 points at three-quarter time, and the mini-comeback left them with all the momentum. Though Geelong continued to repel Adelaide’s goals in the final term, a great one-handed mark and goal from Otten gave Adelaide an extra spark. Adelaide kicked four of the next five goals and led by four points with three minutes left to play. Desperately playing to save their season, Adelaide threw eight men behind the ball, but still couldn’t stop Geelong surging forward. In the final minute, both Bartel and Taylor kicked around the body and both missed, and Adelaide pulled off arguably the best win in their 22 year history. What a great game of Aussie Rules!With the loss, Geelong slumps to third on the ladder, meaning that Essendon and Hawthorn will play next Friday as the top two teams in the AFL.Normally statistics tell you who played the best in the match, but not today. There were so many acts of individual brilliance that kept both sides in it that several players from each side deserve recognition. For Geelong, these players were Selwood, Blicavs, Taylor, Caddy, and Bartel. Henderson, Douglas, Van Berlo, Sloane, Lynch and Vince were best for Adelaide.Adelaide 14.10.94 def Geelong 14.8.92 West Coast vs SydneyWest Coast started well with the first two goals, but Sydney then took control and kicked four of the next five goals to lead by six points at quarter time.Sydney broke the game open in the second term with a string of five straight goals, stunning the home team as they led by 32 points at half-time.As the second half developed, it became clear that Sydney’s purple patch would prove the difference between the two sides. West Coast kept Sydney to two goals — though only scoring one themselves — in the second term, and then scored three of the first four goals of the final term. But for all their effort they were never able to get closer than 22 points, and thereafter Sydney scored three of their own to eventually win by 34 points. Sydney are now a game clear of fifth spot; with Freo’s loss, the top four is taking shape.Hannebery dominated with 40 touches for Sydney, while Kennedy had 29. His namesake at the Eagles hopped, skipped and jumped his way to four goals, while Masten and Priddis both had 31 disposals.     Sydney 17.11.113 def West Coast 11.13.79by Alexander Darling

July 23rd 2013
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