Round-by-round: A Sacking, a Hacking and an Essendon Shellacking

AFL Round 21, 2013Three rounds left in the Home and Away season, and we’re at the point where AFL personnel start to question their job security, or have others do it for them.The first of these scenarios was embodied during the week by the sacking of Brisbane coach Michael Voss, following which the Brisbane board confirmed it had contacted former Sydney coach Paul Roos about his availability for the job almost six weeks ago. The second scenario involved that technology we hate to love and love to hate: social media. Buddy Franklin (Hawthorn) and Dale Thomas (Collingwood) had their Instagram and Twitter accounts hacked during the week. In each case, the crafty computer wizzes updated the player’s profile to suggest they were heading elsewhere at the end of the season. And after six months of speculation, the AFL has laid charges against the Essendon Football Club for its supplements program in 2011-12. Coach James Hird, assistant coach Mark Thompson, footy manager Danny Corcoran and doctor Bruce Reid were also charged individually, and the hearing is scheduled for Monday, August 26. With any luck, we’ll have closure on at least this aspect of the ‘drugs in sport’ affair before the finals series. It’s getting hard to write about it constantly even with such an entertaining headline this week. Hawthorn vs Collingwood (Friday, August 16)The match was touted as a pseudo-final, and the two teams delivered with one of the best, toughest, most highly skilled first quarters of the year. Hawthorn dominated the disposal and Inside 50 count, while Collingwood were highly efficient going forward. By quarter time, 10 goals had been kicked and Hawthorn led by 11 points.As the wind screamed through the ‘G and rubbish swirled onto the field in the second, Hawthorn took control. Their players were able to find plenty of space to mark in the forward 50, and led by 34 points before a Collingwood revival put it back to 15.The weather finally took its toll on scoring in the third term, and making the most of opportunities became crucial. Hawthorn did, trapping the ball in their forward half and kicking the only three goals of the quarter. They regained that 34-point lead for the final break.Though Collingwood matched Hawthorn on scoring terms in the last quarter, Hawthorn in the end had too much skill. They won by 35 points, ending any hope Collingwood had of making the top four.Hodge had another best-afield game for Hawthorn with 28 touches, while Franklin kicked four goals. Whitecross also deserves a mention for his 17 touches, two goals and shut-down job on Collingwood’s attacking back man Shaw. Swan and Pendlebury both played their part in the second half for Collingwood, finishing with 35 and 31 touches respectively.Hawthorn 18.11.119 def Collingwood 12.12.84 Richmond vs Carlton (Saturday, August 17)Richmond continued their scintillating first-quarter form of recent weeks, scoring eight goals in the first term for a 30-point lead at quarter time.Carlton clawed their way back into the match in the second term, finally able to find some space and notch up uncontested possessions. With six goals for the term they were within five points of Richmond at half-time.They took the lead soon after play resumed, and a genuine goal-for-goal arm wrestle ensued between the two foes. Richmond regained the lead in the middle of the term, but two quick goals to Carlton put them three points ahead at the final change.A long-range goal from Tuohy inside the first five minutes put Carlton’s lead beyond a goal, and as scoring dried up this lead became all the more insurmountable from Richmond’s perspective. Though they played out the match with two more goals, they still finished the match 10 points down. While it was a reality check for the finals-bound Richmond, Carlton are now still an unlikely chance to make the finals themselves.McLean’s 27 touches and three goals helped Carlton get back into the match, while Casboult also kicked three in a performance that highlighted his growing stature as a forward. Deledio had 29 touches for Richmond.Carlton 16.10.106 def Richmond 14.12.96 Port Adelaide vs Gold CoastWith no defensive pressure by the Suns, Port romped to a four-goal lead at quarter time, having scored seven goals in the opening term.Things went dirty for Port in the second term, with young star Hartlett on report and Gold Coast outscoring them three goals to one. Their lead was cut to 13 at half-time.By the third quarter the match was well and truly being played on Gold Coast’s terms. With their young stars firing they banged on three goals to hit the front in the first five minutes. Though Port were back in front after two consecutive goals, Gold Coast responded with another quick three. The last of these by Rising Star hopeful O’Meara put them nine points in front at the final break.In the last quarter, Port did what the Suns had done to them in the third term: a burst of three quick goals to start the term put them back in front, and after a brief lull in scoring, another quick three put the match beyond doubt. It denied Gold Coast their eighth win of the season and keeps Port in pole position to play finals. Boak cemented his place as an All-Australian contender with 35 touches and three goals, almost matched by Bennell from Gold Coast with 28 touches and three goals.Port Adelaide 16.17.113 def Gold Coast 14.12.96 Essendon vs North MelbourneThis was a match between the worst team currently in the top eight and the best team currently not, and early on the contest looked even. North scored two quick goals to start the game, but Essendon then steadied and brought the match back to almost even terms with a late goal. North’s margin was six points at quarter time.A goal to Melksham early in the second saw Essendon take the lead, but it would be short lived as North scored the next three goals and held a 16-point lead at half-time.What resolve Essendon had shown in the first half disappeared in a flash in the second, while whatever hope supporters had after a month of misery evaporated. North goaled three times in the first five minutes of play resuming, as Essendon’s pressure eased off. With six goals to two for the third term, North had more than doubled their lead to 40 points at three-quarter time.Though North only beat Essendon by five points in the final term, they had still proved why they are just as — if not more — worthy of a top eight spot than the scandal-ridden Bombers. Their final margin was 45 points.Greenwood had 38 touches, and Petrie 30 (and three goals) for North, while Grima kicked his first goal after 72 games at AFL level. For Essendon, Watson and Goddard just got on with it like all champions do, with 31 and 30 touches respectively.North Melbourne 17.13.115 def Essendon 9.16.70 Brisbane vs GWSLet’s remember Kevin Sheedy in his last home game as a coach: 27 years at Essendon, 634 games, seven Grand Finals, four day and five night premierships, and 43 games and three wins at GWS (I wonder which club he had more fun coaching?). There was little else to celebrate for GWS in the match, finding themselves a familiar five goals down to the Harvey-coached Lions. Brisbane clearly wanted to separate off-field issues from on-field form, and did it with style, kicking seven goals to two in the second term to lead by 59 points at half-time.A further four goals in the third term put them 80 points ahead at the final change, before a too-little-too-late burst of five goals by GWS in the last term put the final margin at an even 10 goals.Cameron’s two goals for GWS puts him on 60 for the season, equal with Kennedy (West Coast) and Roughead (Hawthorn). Greene (31 touches) and Coniglio (28) were GWS’s major ball winners.Black topped Brisbane’s disposal count with 28 touches, while another 10 players had over 20.Brisbane 18.15.123 def GWS 9.9.63 West Coast vs GeelongGeelong dominated the disposals from the outset, and set the tone for the match with the first five goals. Though West Coast stemmed the flow with two goals of their own, Geelong were still 24 points up at quarter time.There was even less resistance from West Coast in the second term. Geelong players had plenty of space to work into as the team scored another five goals to lead by 56 points by half-time.The match was over by half-time, and in the second half both teams played like they wanted it to be over. Geelong’s lead was 66 points by the final siren, and the match seemed to sum up West Coast’s season: disappointing given last year’s finals finish and a lack of hunger for the contest.The name Selwood comes up on both team’s best player list. At Geelong, captain Joel had 29 touches and four goals, while younger brother Scott of West Coast had 26. Other good players were Johnson (Geelong) with 37 touches and Wellingham (West Coast) with 29 and a goal.Geelong 16.11.107 def West Coast 6.5.41 Melbourne vs Fremantle (Sunday, August 18)Fremantle utterly dominated the opening 20 minutes of the match, kicking four goals and with a monopoly on free kicks and Inside 50s. Melbourne’s first Inside 50 was greeted with ironic applause, and even then Melbourne couldn’t find the goals and were 27 points down at quarter time.Melbourne played better in the second term, but a mixture of poor execution and bad luck in front of goals prevented them from converting this into a score. Nonetheless, they remained somewhat in touch of Fremantle, who were 31 points up at half-time.Fremantle did away with Melbourne in the second half, as star forward Pavlich found his groove and Melbourne’s ability to match the top four side disintegrated all together. Five goals to one put Fremantle 58 points ahead at the final change.The margin and the injuries built up for Melbourne in the last term, and with no goals of their own they ended the match 95 points and three players down. Time will tell if an easy run home is the best preparation for Fremantle before the finals, but they looked every bit the top three side they may well end the season as.Pearce was best afield with 32 touches, seven marks and a goal for Fremantle, while young recruit Viney had a good game for Melbourne with 28 disposals.Fremantle 20.13.133 def Melbourne 5.8.38 Sydney vs St. KildaBoth teams had a history of playing grinding football, and in the first term looked evenly matched. The scoreboard reflected this at quarter time, when both teams were on 15 points.Sydney gradually began to wear St. Kilda down in the second term, first through consistent forward 50 entries and then more accurate ball use. St. Kilda briefly had the lead, but three late goals put Sydney 14 points up for half-time.Sydney’s hard work finally paid off in the third term. The floodgates opened as they slammed on seven goals to one and led by 51 points at the final change. St. Kilda hung tight in the last quarter, creating many forward opportunities at the death. But all this did was prevent a big win from turning into a thrashing, and with the win Sydney cement themselves in the top four and gain a double chance for the finals.With five goals to his name, Tippett took his tally to 17 in the last three weeks. Meanwhile Kennedy dominated with 38 touches for Sydney. Steven remains a shining light for St. Kilda after 35 disposals, joined by Montagna and Armitage as major ball winners.Sydney 18.10.118 def St. Kilda 8.11.59 Western Bulldogs vs AdelaideAfter a tight contest early, the Dogs found their groove, kicking the last three goals of the first quarter to lead by that margin at quarter time. They defended this lead well into the second term, going goal-for-goal with a hungry Adelaide. But two late goals to the Crows closed the gap to only five points at half-time.A burst of two quick goals to start the third term by the Dogs was quickly reciprocated by Adelaide, and it was the latter that took the momentum. Adelaide landed another four goals over the rest of the quarter, surging to a 22-point lead before two more late goals to the Dogs put the margin at nine points for the final change.A big last quarter ensued. Another two goals to the Dogs put them back in front early, before Adelaide responded with two of their own. The Dogs then won the game with a burst of five consecutive goals — three of these to Dickson — and finished 17 points in front.Dickson’s three last-quarter goals took his tally for the match to six, while Liberatore was the Dogs’ main possession getter with 30. Vince had 27 touches for Adelaide.Western Bulldogs 20.11.131 def Adelaide 17.12.114by Alexander Darling

August 20th 2013
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