Round-by-round: Familiar Demons

AFL Round 3, 2013Following a record 148-point loss to Essendon last weekend, Melbourne once again found itself the centre of football’s attention for all the wrong reasons; with CEO Cameron Schwab axed, question marks over the future of other coaches and players, criticism of the teams’ culture and calls for the AFL to step in to remedy its problems. While Melbourne went backwards, the fixture highlighted the league’s keen desire to move forward, with matches being played in Tasmania and the ACT—two states without teams competing at AFL level. Fremantle vs Essendon (Friday, April 12)Essendon had the added burden of their coach James Hird being embroiled in allegations — that he was abdominally injected with WADA banned substances — playing on their minds as they headed into the match. It may have had an effect, considering Essendon had their first ever goalless first quarter against Fremantle. The latter got on top early in the Inside 50s and clearances, scoring the first five goals of the match to lead by 30 points at quarter time.Fremantle’s lead crept up to 37 as the contest reached a stalemate in the second, but it was a different Essendon that came out after half-time—they kicked the third term’s only five goals in a display that mirrored Fremantle’s first quarter, beginning to get on top of contested ball. The latter was still three points ahead at the final break, but with an unbeaten start to the season up for grabs the game went up a notch.Kommer put Essendon in front early in the last, before Maine grabbed the lead back for Fremantle halfway through the term. In a frantic end, the scores were level before Ryder snapped a goal for Essendon and two misses by Fremantle within the final minute ensured Essendon pulled off another impassioned win while under intense scrutiny off-field.For Fremantle Fyfe continued to impress with 27 touches, while Goddard retained his solid start at Essendon with 26, and Crameri top-scored with three goals. Essendon 10.12.72 def Fremantle 9.14.68 North Melbourne vs Sydney (Saturday, April 13)Though North was rated as a Top-8 side pre-season, it had yet to win a match. The team had much to prove against the reigning premiers — who were yet to be challenged having only played newcomers Gold Coast and GWS — and got the early lead with the first two goals.North kept the lead for quarter time, but two goals by Bolton kept the Swans in the contest. A stalemate developed early in the second, before Wells landed a look away handpass in the hands of Thomas for a North goal, North eventually extending their lead to 14 by half-time.After the break Sydney, who remained within striking distance throughout the first half, turned the game on its head for the Hobart crowd: finally capitalising on their superior ball and running skills, the Swans put on a blistering 11 goals to North’s one for the term, turning two goals down into eight goals up at the final break. North, to their credit, showed competitiveness up until the final siren, winning the last quarter. But it only served to show how able a team Sydney is, winning by nearly 40 points despite having lost three of the matches four quarters.It was a match for the midfielders, with McGlynn and Parker each finishing with four goals for Sydney, while Haneberry, O’Keefe, McVeigh, Parker and Kennedy had over 25 touches and multiple goals. For North, captain Swallow continued to outperform the rest of his team with 28 touches.Sydney 20.11.131 def North Melbourne 13.14.92 Melbourne vs West CoastMelbourne were under immense pressure to respond after losing their first two matches by a combined 227 points, and early in the match they did in fact show the appetite and discipline demanded of them. Though West Coast got the lead first, Melbourne took it away from them with four consecutive goals, only a kick behind at quarter time. Melbourne kept up their inspired effort, leading as far as halfway through the second term before two goals to Kennedy gave the Eagles a 10-point buffer at half-time.After the break, however, Melbourne played with their more familiar, disappointing style. The Eagles showed their class with 11 third-quarter goals; Melbourne responded with only one, and an even match was turned into a 12-goal thumping by three-quarter time. This trend continued until the match’s end, by which time the margin was 94 and the number of Melbourne supporters still at the match was less than that.Like many times last year, forwards Clark and Sylvia were the sole standouts for Melbourne, with three and two goals respectively. Meanwhile, the Eagles elite capitalised on the lack of opposition: Masten had a career-high 39 touches, Priddis 33 and Cox scored 132 Dream Team points playing his 79th consecutive match, while Kennedy and Darling kicked five each.West Coast 27.15.177 def Melbourne 13.5.83 Greater Western Sydney vs St. KildaSt. Kilda looked to bounce back from losing the first two matches of the season, including to GWS’s fellow fledgling side Gold Coast in Round 1. They did so with ease, never being challenged by the still-winless Giants and generally looking like they had more men on the field many times during the match.It began with the Saints holding GWS scoreless in the first term, while kicking five of their own. It ended much the same, despite some goal-for-goal competitiveness from the less-experienced Giants in the middle two terms. The Saints ended the match with 100 more disposals, 20 more inside 50s and a score more than twice what GWS scored. They will leave Canberra with four points and a 100-plus percentage finally next to their name on the ladder.Whitfield showed promise for GWS. Though he only had 12 touches, he set up two of his team’s best passages of play, each of which resulting in goals. Ward played a lone hand in the midfield with 28 touches for the Giants, but an injury to number one recruit Patton was a major negative. Meanwhile Armitage and Steven showed they was ready to take over from the veteran midfielders at St. Kilda; respectively they had 31 and 32 touches, four and one goals, and 136 and 109 Dream Team points.St. Kilda 21.14.140 def GWS 10.8.68 Gold Coast vs BrisbaneThe 5th Q clash — as it is known — began with a superb snap goal by Brisbane captain Jonathan Brown, giving his team an early confidence boost. Gold Coast returned fire with some snap goals of their own, levelling the scores before Brisbane pulled away to lead by a goal at quarter time. Though the Suns levelled scores again soon after the break, they still couldn’t take the lead, and Brisbane increased their lead to three goals after a term of inaccurate goal kicking.Gold Coast lifted in intensity after half-time, playing through the centre and kicking four consecutive goals to level the scores for a third time halfway through the term. But again the Lions pulled away, kicking the last three of the term and re-establishing their three goal lead. The trend of Brisbane beating away Gold Coast’s challenges for the lead continued to the end of the match: the Lions staying in front after the Suns kicked the first two of the last term to get within a point, and Hanley sealed the match with a running goal with 90 seconds to go, giving Brisbane their fourth consecutive victory in the match between the two Queensland teams.Brown continued his strong start to the season with five goals for Brisbane, while midfielders Hanley, Rich and Redden each had 26 touches. Prized Sun’s recruit Bennell again proved his worth with three goals and 27 touches, and Ablett and Brennan also put in solid performances.Brisbane 13.16.94 def Gold Coast 13.14.92 Geelong vs CarltonCarlton got the start they were looking for with the first goal, and opened up a three-goal lead midway through the term. However, an unexpected revival we’ve come to expect from Geelong saw the Cats kick four goals in the last 10 minutes of the term, giving them an eight-point lead at quarter time. This shift in momentum was repeated in the second quarter: Carlton took control and skipped away to a three goal lead, before Geelong put on the after burners, driving the ball forward and kicking nine of the next 11 goals. A dislocated shoulder to Varcoe was the only minus for the Cats during this period.Though Carlton fought on, Geelong remained irresistible—a goal on the three-quarter time siren extending their lead to 33 points. The momentum shifted back to Carlton to start the final term, and the Blues capitalised with the first four goals of the term to get within 10 points with eight minutes to go. But Geelong’s premiership-winning defence again held strong under siege, with Taylor especially important in hampering Carlton’s attack. Geelong ended up winners by 16 points in a performance that won them praise for the depth of talent on their list and their ability to keep winning the big games after the end of their premiership era. Apart from Taylor, Geelong’s small forwards Christensen, Stokes and Johnson had good matches, with multiple goals and over 20 possessions each. Walker and McClean were good for Carlton, but No 1 ruckman Kreuzer will be out for two months with a thumb injury, exacerbating their winless start to the season.Geelong 18.11.119 def Carlton 15.13.103 Richmond vs Western Bulldogs (Sunday, April 14)Deledio bounced home a goal from 70 metres from the first bounce, setting the tone for what would be Richmond’s day. Though the Dogs would kick the next two, Richmond always looked more confident and skilled with the ball, getting on top comfortable in disposals, clearances and Inside 50s. They took a 20-point lead into quarter time, and extended it at every subsequent break up to full time, in the end doubling the Bulldogs score.The last quarter was especially gratifying for Richmond, when they responded to two late goal streaks by the Dogs kicking three and four consecutive goals respectively. For the third week running, Richmond gave other clubs reason to consider them a credible threat come September, their star midfielders on fire (Martin 35 touches, Cotchin 36, Deledio 27) and forward Reiwoldt with five goals, bringing his tally to 12 in the last two weeks. Griffen fought hard for the Bulldogs with 30 touches, but his team’s sub-standard performance meant all the attention went to the Tigers, who will face Collingwood, Fremantle and Geelong in a season-defining next few weeks.Richmond 20.15.135 def Western Bulldogs 10.8.68 Collingwood vs HawthornConditions were wet early at the MCG, to the advantage of Collingwood, who piled on the pressure and handled the ball well to set up numerous scoring opportunities. They were inaccurate, however, and in reply Hawthorn scored goals from its first two forward 50 entries, ensuring they stayed within two goals at quarter time.Hawthorn continued to challenge, getting within five points as the play got tougher, before a purple patch of two goals by Cloke put Collingwood four goals ahead. Hawthorn came back again with the last four goals of the second term, eroding Collingwood’s lead to one point by half time. With little separating the teams, the match was poised to become a thriller. It certainly looked that way early in the third, as the two teams traded superb goals and equally good passages of play, showing why they are considered the best in the league.Ultimately, Hawthorn won this display of skill, one passage of play epitomising how spine-chillingly good they can be; from a kick out, Guerra unloaded with an 80 metre torpedo to Stratton, who marked and played on in the centre. He was run down, but not before handballing to a rampaging Franklin, who leapt over his fallen teammate and fired a massive goal from 75 metres. With two kicks and a handball, Hawthorn had kicked a coast-to-coast goal and simultaneously doubled their lead over Collingwood. From here on, the match was theirs, as they outscored Collingwood with 15 goals to six after half time, winning by 55 points and getting on top in all key statistical areas.The Hawks are now huge premiership favourites, and their spread of 11 different goal kickers — including four to Franklin — again highlighted the depth of their list. Hodge was again pivotal in setting up the victory, with 31 touches and two goals. Cloke did his best with five goals for Collingwood, while ruckman Hudson made a solid debut with his fourth club.Hawthorn 22.13.145 def Collingwood 13.12.90 Port Adelaide vs AdelaideIn showdown 34, the rivalry of the South Australian clubs showed no signs of losing its famed intensity. Port began with the first two goals, before Adelaide reeled them back in, a late goal keeping Port four points in front at quarter time. Adelaide got on top in the second term, finding the goals when Port couldn’t and charging on to lead by as much a five goals halfway through the third term.In a huge momentum shift Port were reinvigorated, following two goals to Westhoff—they kicked six of the next seven goals to tie scores up at the last break. As the stadium reached fever pitch Port continued their dream run with the first four of the last term. It was enough to see off a late Adelaide comeback, to give them their third win from as many games to start the year.Westhoff has settled comfortably into his role as Port’s key forward, with four goals giving him a total of nine from the last two matches. Midfielders Sloane, Douglas and Thompson all did their bit for the Crows, with disposal counts in the high 20s.Port Adelaide 17.16.118 def Adelaide 16.13.109by Alexander Darling

April 15th 2013
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