Round-by-round: Career Finders

AFL Round 20, 2013Hawthorn forward — and arguably the most exciting player in the competition — Lance Franklin drew half smiles from supporters and club officials this week. He said on Wednesday, for the first time, that he wants to stay at Hawthorn, but reiterated he didn’t want to commit to any contract before the 2013 season was over. Franklin will snub a $12 million offer from GWS if he chooses to recommit to Hawthorn, though no matter what he ultimately chooses he will become the highest paid player in that club’s history.Gary Ablett had a similar positive message for Gold Coast, saying he wants to play on after his current contract expires in 2015. This all but rules out a return to his alma mater Geelong, with whom he won two premierships last decade. Eagles captain Darren Glass also committed to his club for next year.Meanwhile, the case against Essendon seems to be mounting, after the AFL-ASADA report was released last Friday and allegedly contains evidence that Essendon players were indeed injected with WADA banned substances. The noose tightens with each passing day. St. Kilda vs Hawthorn (Friday, August 9)As they had in many matches this year, St. Kilda were able to match their superior opponents early, going goal for goal in the first term. However, the last goal fell the way of Hawthorn and they had a four-point lead at quarter time.Hawthorn won the match in the second term with a string of five goals to one, though inaccurate kicking prevented them doing significantly greater damage. Nonetheless, by half-time they were 37 points in front and also had comfortable advantages in many key statistical areas.Inaccuracy continued to plague both sides in the third term, with 11 points and only three goals scored. This effectively denied Hawthorn the chance to turn a comfortable win into a blowout like they normally do. By three-quarter time, Hawthorn were 42 points in front, and the game had lost whatever sting it had.Though the game had gone flat, the last quarter was semi-interesting given both teams improved accuracy, and Hawthorn supporters won’t be complaining about their first win in three weeks.Roughead continued one of the best seasons of his career with five goals for Hawthorn, while in the absence of captain Hodge, Savage stood up with 30 touches. Savage was matched by Ray at St. Kilda, while with 33 disposals Steven again proved he is one of the few positives in a disappointing year for St. Kilda.Hawthorn 14.18.102 def St. Kilda 7.14.56 Richmond vs Brisbane (Saturday, August 10)Richmond applied heavy forward pressure from the first bounce, and were rewarded with more free kicks, more clearances, six goals and a 29-point lead at quarter time.The finals-bound Tigers refused to relent in the second term. With blistering attacking runs from half back, they slammed on another five goals, extending their lead to 45 by half-time.The match was looking like a blowout at this stage, but momentum shifted for the second half. Richmond’s Forward 50 entries became more and more futile just as Brisbane’s big-bodied found more of the footy. With three goals to two behinds for the third term, Brisbane had pegged the lead back to 26 points at the final change.Richmond started to offer resistance again in the last term, and though Brisbane got to within 16 points on the back of three consecutive goals, a great snap by Reiwoldt soon after sealed Richmond’s 13th win of the season. The game might make Richmond fans uneasy so close to September, but a win is a win, and that’s what matters above all else in the finals.Deledio and Cotchin were again major ball winners for Richmond, while Conca and McGuane kicked three goals each in the first half. Rockliff (34 touches) and Hanley (24 touches) were part of the reason Brisbane got back to a competitive position in the second half.Richmond 14.13.97 def Brisbane 11.8.74 Geelong vs Port AdelaideGeelong started strongly as had been predicted, kicking six goals to one despite some on-field injuries and leading by 31 points at quarter time.Though Port scored some early goals in the second term, Geelong still had no difficulty negotiating the packs and the contested ball. Another six goals put them 51 points in front at half-time, and again Geelong had exposed the form difference between a top eight team and a top two team in the AFL.Port matched Geelong well after half-time, kicking six goals to Geelong’s seven in the third term. Nonetheless, the match remained an exhibition of Geelong’s skill as a team, with a goal to Motlop a highlight for the day. They were 58 points ahead at quarter time. This margin was 64 after a goal went to Geelong immediately after the final break, but the goal-fest that looked to ensue went the other way. On the back of blistering form by Monfries, Port banged on the final six goals of the game unanswered, reducing the margin to a far more respectable and far less accurate 25 points. Port will be looking to dominate the game like this before the season is over, given they’re now a certainty to play in this year’s finals series.Monfries finished with seven goals for Port Adelaide, while Boak had 30 touches and Lobbe a record 59 hit outs. Geelong’s Selwood relished a rare spell forward with four goals in addition to his standard 28 possessions, while Johnson had 32 touches.Geelong 20.9.129 def Port Adelaide 16.8.104 Carlton vs Western BulldogsThe Dogs showed early zing in their attacking forays, and Carlton had trouble keeping up. A string of behinds after Carlton briefly had the lead gave the Dogs a five-point lead at quarter time.The Dogs had threatened to break away in the first term, and did just that in the second. Though two goals to Henderson briefly kept Carlton in it, they couldn’t match the Dogs’ flair and were five goals down halfway through the term. Two late goals kept them within striking distance, however, the Dogs lead by 15 points at half-time.With a finals spot the potential prize of winning, Carlton came hard to start the third term. They outscored the Dogs by two goals to one, and levelled the scores three minutes before three-quarter time. A goal to Giansiracusa kept the Dogs in front by this stage.That match was either sides to win at the start of the final term, and the Dogs won it. They wrestled the momentum back with two quick goals early, and Carlton offered minimal resistance, though they had so much to play for. The Dogs’ sixth win of the year came by a margin of 28 points.Griffen secured his place as dark horse for the Brownlow with 34 touches, while Grant continues to get better; each of his four goals in this match were absolutely wonderful. Scotland (31 possessions) and McLean (25) were Carlton’s major ball winners.Western Bulldogs 16.21.117 def Carlton 13.11.89 Sydney vs CollingwoodCollingwood had won eight of their past 11 matches at ANZ stadium coming into the match but you wouldn’t have guessed it based on the first term. With the superman-like Tippet providing all sorts of headaches for Collingwood’s defence, Sydney kicked the first four goals to lead by 25 points. It was then that Collingwood ground out a comeback on the back of sustained pressure around the field. As their marquee midfielders kicked into action, Collingwood kicked the next six goals of the match unanswered, leading by nine points at half-time before Tippet kicked his third after the siren.Tippet had another two within two minutes of the second half beginning, putting Sydney nine points ahead. But Sydney’s over-reliance on the big forward proved a weakness for Collingwood to exploit, while at the other end their wealth small forward seized every opportunity they got. With six goals for the term, the last on the three-quarter-time siren, Collingwood were 18 points in front for the run home.Though you can never count Sydney out of a match, it looked less and less likely they could pull off the win as the last quarter wore on. A scoreless first five minutes was followed by two goals to Collingwood, and the margin stretched out to 35 points before Kennedy’s goal at the death put it to 29 at the final siren. With the win, Collingwood keep their top four hopes and premiership credentials alive, and Sydney surrender second spot to Hawthorn only a week after attaining it.Tippet finished with six goals and McVeigh had 35 touches for Sydney, but the most impressive individual performances went to Collingwood’s reliable midfielders. Pendlebury (35 possessions), Ball (31), Beams (32) and Sidebottom (23 and two goals) were a great deal of the reason Collingwood looked so formidable against the reigning premiers.Collingwood 14.16.100 def Sydney 10.11.71 Gold Coast vs MelbourneThe two sides looked evenly matched in the first term, going goal for goal. The last of these goals fell to Byrnes of Melbourne, who held on to a four-point lead at quarter time.Gold Coast came out the better side in the second term, and with their forward line starting to make its presence known they kicked the first three goals. Melbourne didn’t lose hope, however, and great goals to Watts and Kent kept them within three points by half-time.Momentum continued to swing in the third term. Following two early goals to Gold Coast, which pushed the lead to 16 points, Melbourne cobbled together three in a row to lead for the first time since the first quarter. In the blink of an eye Gold Coast were back in front and had responded with three goals of their own, leading by 12 points at the final change.Gold Coast were able to extend their scoring patch well into the final term — kicking three quick goals — and it was this that won them the game. By the end of this period, they had a 28-point lead with 15 minutes to play, and though Melbourne had the forward impetus for the rest of the match, inaccurate kicking and the size of the margin meant they were never going to win it from there.Swallow matched the feats of his brother at North Melbourne with 28 touches, while Brown’s career renaissance in the forward line continued with three goals. The champion Ablett was surprisingly quiet and got no sympathy from the umpires in his 250th game. Jones had another 29 touches for Melbourne.Gold Coast 13.12.90 def Melbourne 10.17.77 Essendon vs West Coast (Sunday, August 11)The match was an arm wrestle in the first term, with both teams scoring three goals and making contests of every passage of play. West Coast went into quarter time three points ahead.The second term was almost a repeat of the first, as the contest remained tight and both teams scored three goals. West Coast’s margin remained slim, at two points, by half-time.The second half perhaps told the tale of the two teams. Essendon are a team who are falling off the pace after a year of scandal, while West Coast have nothing to lose in the last four matches of the year and may even play in the finals if Essendon are penalised premiership points. With the superior mindset, West Coast sustained their effort by slamming on six third-quarter goals, while Essendon capitulated with two goals six. The margin was 21 points at three-quarter time, and with another six goals in the final term West Coast inflicted a 53-point loss on Essendon, their third defeat in as many weeks and by a total margin of 198 points.A host of West Coast’s star names were on song in this match, most notably LeCras (five goals), Priddis (28 touches) and Masten (26 touches). Watson returned solidly with 32 touches and Goddard had 27 and three goals.West Coast 18.12.120 def Essendon 9.13.67 Adelaide vs North MelbourneNorth looked flat from the first bounce of the match, unable to take advantage of kicking with the wind in the first term. By contrast, Adelaide made the most of their attacking opportunities, and were 20 points ahead at quarter time.North began to work their way back into the match in the second term, but Adelaide still looked the more polished side and extended their margin to 26 points by half-time.North finally began putting pressure on Adelaide and winning the clearances in the third term, and the immediate effect was Adelaide failing to hit targets when moving forward. This translated into five goals to two in favour of North, placing the game back on even terms (Adelaide still led by four points) at the final change.Adelaide dominated the Inside 50s in the last term — Dangerfield finished with a record 13 individually —, and this was enough for them to kick two goals and keep North at bay till the final siren. They won by nine points, and may have ended North’s hopes of playing in September, just as they pulled off a shock win against North earlier this year.Aside from Dangerfield, Adelaide’s well-built midfielders Crouch, Douglas and Henderson had high-possession, high-importance matches for Adelaide. For North, Adams kicked three goals and Wells two, the latter arguably best on ground with some brilliant running passages and 30 possessions.Adelaide 11.13.79 def North Melbourne 10.10.70 Fremantle vs GWSFremantle sensed a great opportunity to seal their spot in the top three after Sydney’s defeat, and annihilated GWS in the first term. With the mosquito fleet of small forwards firing, Fremantle kicked the only six goals of the term to lead by 40 points at quarter time.Spurred on by two goals to forward Cameron, GWS staged an inspired comeback in the second term. They scored five straight goals for the quarter to Fremantle’s two, cutting the margin to a manageable three goals before Sheridan scored after the siren to steady Fremantle for half-time.Back at the scoring end in the third term, Fremantle again found the way to dominate the game, and this time they didn’t let GWS back in. Just like in the first term, Freo crippled GWS by scoring seven goals to zip, their small forwards fired and their players found space with ease. The margin was 67 points at three-quarter time.It only got worse for GWS in the final term, as Fremantle slammed on nine goals to one, blowing out the final margin to a percentage-boosting 113 points. Come September, the purple haze may be well placed to win their first ever premiership.A sign of Fremantle’s dominance and the evenness of their talent was their winning team boasting fifteen different goal-kickers and nine players with over 20 possessions. For GWS, Ward remained the solitary shining light with 29 possessions.Fremantle 24.13.157 def GWS 6.8.44by Alexander Darling

August 13th 2013
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