Round-by-round: Go hard, but not too hard (unless you’re Dees or Bulldogs)

AFL Round 8, 2013“The bump is dead!” So said Geelong captain Selwood after the Match Review Panel upheld a two-match suspension for his teammate Kelly, for what many saw as a fair hip-and-shoulder on Essendon’s Goddard. It only rekindles the fuddy-duddy argument that footy’s gone soft, as does the unending plight of Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. Both clubs had only one win from seven games before this round, Melbourne’s last loss at the hands of Gold Coast, a team only three years old.Meanwhile, the entire town of Perth was licking its lips all week at the prospect of seeing exhilarating youngsters Naitanui (West Coast) and Daw (North Melbourne) on the same ground. We expected a big match, and weren’t disappointed. North Melbourne vs West Coast (Friday, May 17)Returning from suspension, Harvey kicked North’s first goal. North gradually got the ascendancy, with a long bomb by Thompson helping them to a 17-point lead at quarter time.Though play remained free-flowing in the-second term, the scoring dried up. Each team managed only one goal for the term, and West Coast were again inaccurate kicking seven behinds. The Eagles were still two goals down at half-time despite having 15 Inside 50s for the term.West Coast came out firing in the third term, kicking four early goals to lead by eight points halfway through. North then steadied with two goals to Black, giving them back the lead for three-quarter time.By the time North had a 15-point lead — and the Eagles had kicked 9.17 — midway through the last term, they looked to have the match won. But for the third consecutive week, the match in Perth became a thriller. The courageous Eagles slashed the margin to three points with less than three minutes to go. Then at the death, West Coast’s Naitanui — well known for being able to do the impossible on the footy field — soared over the pack to take a big mark 30 metres from goal. The siren sounded but, undeterred, Natanui calmly slotted the goal to win the game. Statistically speaking, it was the first time ever the Eagles won a game after the siren, and the third time this year North have lost a match by under a goal after being in a winning position.Playing his second consecutive match against West Coast in Perth, Harvey dramatically improved his performance with 24 touches and two goals. Black also impressed for North with three big goals. Hill kicked three for West Coast, while Gaff had 22 touches.West Coast 12.18.90 def North Melbourne 13.10.88 Essendon vs Brisbane (Saturday, May 18)Stanton and Ryder returned for Essendon, and everyone expected them to win comfortably and teach Brisbane a lesson in how to play good football. What a surprise it was then when Brisbane’s Zorko scored the first two goals of the match. Essendon quickly equalled this feat, but Brisbane had clearly rediscovered their will to win the ball that had been missing from their season. They went into quarter time three points in front.The tight contest set the stage for the rest of the match. The lead changed six times in the space of six goals to start the second term, before Essendon steadied and were seven points ahead by half-time.The arm-wrestle only got more intense after play resumed, with Essendon dominating the clearances and Brisbane the tackles. The lead changed another seven times, and umpiring decisions and free kicks that were and weren’t paid became crucial in the third term. A behind to Brown on the three-quarter time siren gave Brisbane a four-point lead. It was still game on with two minutes left in the final term, by which time the lead had changed 18 times for the match and Brisbane were still only four points ahead. But then Staker, in his first game of 2013, goaled from the boundary, giving Brisbane that elusive two-goal lead and ultimately the win.Zorko finished with three for Brisbane and Redden had 22 touches and 12 tackles. Goddard had 32 touches and Watson 29 for Essendon.Brisbane 14.12.96 def Essendon 12.14.86 Hawthorn vs GWSHawthorn kicked the first four goals to start the match, and led by that margin at quarter time.The Hawks gradually built on this lead in the second — though GWS showed admirable competitiveness — so that by half-time their lead was 47 points.GWS continued to impress in the third term, matching Hawthorn with three goals while Cameron and Scully did well individually.The margin was still around eight goals by three-quarter time, but thereafter Hawthorn ran away with it. They kicked six goals to GWS’s one in the final term to make it a thrashing, though the final margin of 83 points was still well short of the margins people were predicting before the match.For the losers, Cameron reminded us why he’ll be the next big thing in the AFL with four goals, while Coniglio had 28 touches. Mitchell was arguably best on ground with 35 touches for Hawthorn, while Roughead had 27 and kicked five goals for good measure.Hawthorn 21.14.140 def GWS 9.3.57 Gold Coast vs Western BulldogsThe Dogs started well, with prize recruits Stringer and Macrae playing a starring role. They took a two-goal lead into quarter time.Gold Coast responded with a good second term, with veteran Brown a solid target up forward and O’Meara bobbing up with characteristic flashes of brilliance. The Suns pinched the lead halfway through the term, before Markovic goaled to put the Dogs five points up at half-time.The second half highlighted where the two teams were at form wise: the Suns, who show more promise and maturity every week, kicked seven goals for the term, and the Dogs, by contrast, tend to fade out in the later stages of matches, and could only kick one goal for the term. The Suns took a five-goal lead into three-quarter time, and a lacklustre last quarter from both sides ensured it stayed that way at full time. The Suns now have four wins from eight games, and look a much more competitive outfit than when they began two years ago.Former Brownlow medallists Cooney (Dogs) and Ablett (Suns) each had 31 touches, while Brown and stringer ended with three goals each.Gold Coast 13.15.93 def Western Bulldogs 8.13.61 Sydney vs FremantleWith Griffin and Sandilands out, Fremantle had difficulty finding ruckmen. Fyfe was a big inclusion, though, giving Fremantle’s midfield that extra spark that helped them to kick the first three goals of the match. Sydney responded with the next three however, and the six points Fremantle scored was all that separated the teams at quarter time.Fremantle’s early inaccuracy cost them dearly in the second term. Pyke put Sydney in front early on, before teammate Hannebery turned it on with three consecutive goals. Fremantle could only score two behinds in reply, and Sydney lead by three goals at half-time.The third term was an arm wrestle, which Fremantle ended up winning after Ballantyne scored a late goal.Sydney quickly resurrected their comfortable lead with three goals to start the last term, at one stage up by 27 points. But Fremantle, with only two players on the bench and seemingly all hope gone, staged an incredible comeback. Spurred on by a rundown tackle and goal by Fyfe, Fremantle kicked the next three goals to get within a point of Sydney with three minutes to go. In the heart-stopping countdown to full time, Fremantle scored another point while Reid took a goal line mark that prevented them scoring again. The match ended in a draw, the first of this season and the first ever in Fremantle’s history as an AFL club.Jack finished with 33 touches and Hannebery four goals for Sydney, while Barlow had 28 for Fremantle.Sydney 11.4.70 drew with Fremantle 9.16.70 Collingwood vs GeelongCollingwood lost key players Fasolo and Thomas for their clash with the undefeated Cats, but got back another, Ball. An uncharacteristic mistake by Bartel in defence gave Collingwood their first goal, and this set the tone for the first term. Collingwood’s immense tackling and inferred pressure worried the normally unshakable Geelong into poor disposal use, and Collingwood had a three-goal lead by quarter time. With all the momentum, Collingwood continued to punish Geelong in the second term. They added another four goals to lead by as much as 28 points at one stage, and by 26 points at half-time. Then after half-time, something happened that we’ve come to expect: Geelong came back. Star players young and old somehow found their form as Geelong scored eight of the term’s 10 goals to lead by 13 points at the final break. Then after three-quarter time, something happened that no-one expected: Collingwood came back. Cleary not dispirited by the latest Geelong revival, Collingwood continued to pile on the forward pressure. They kicked three goals to Geelong’s one to level the scores with seven minutes to go. But unlike in Sydney, the draw didn’t eventuate. Krakouer (who played a cracker) slammed on his third goal to give Collingwood a six-point win and claim the biggest scalp of the season.In a game that delivered the engrossing contest that it promised, Pendlebury and O’Brien were the best individual players. Each provided penetrating run, had 31 disposals and multiple forward 50 entries. Corey had 33 touches for GeelongCollingwood 15.12.102 def Geelong 14.12.96 Carlton vs Port Adelaide (Sunday, May 19)Carlton were looking to give their three players on milestone matches (Murphy, Walker and Scotland) a day to remember, and they made sure of this early with the first three goals. The early burst helped Carlton secure a 15-point lead at quarter time. From here, Carlton looked the team in control. Dominating the contested possession, they built their lead to four goals halfway through the second term. Port hit back with the last two goals before half-time, ensuring the margin remained at just over two goals.The floodgates looked set to open when play resumed, as Carlton kicked four of the third term’s first five goals to lead by 33 points at three-quarter time.But Port salvaged the pride from their third consecutive loss, showing teamwork and booting five goals in the last term to make the final margin only 18 points.  In his 150th match, Murphy was arguably best afield with 24 touches and three goals, and teammate Garlett kicked four for Carlton. Cornes again was Port’s best player with 23 touches.Carlton 16.13.109 def Port Adelaide 14.7.91 Richmond vs MelbourneMagner replaced Grimes for Melbourne, who looked a much more professional outfit early on. Dawes proved a vital forward target for Melbourne with two early goals, and Melbourne were rewarded for their goal kicking accuracy with a two-point lead at quarter time. Richmond fought hard to break away from Melbourne in the second term, but Melbourne kept snatching the lead back, mostly on the back of their remarkable efficiency when going forward: they kicked six goals before their first behind, and their first eight goals came from only 17 inside 50s, and all the while Richmond dominated the disposal count and time inside their forward half. By half-time the lead had changed nine times, and Richmond were only seven points ahead.Richmond slowly but surely started to get on top of a tiring Melbourne in the second half, though Melbourne should be commended for remaining competitive up until the end of the third term. A snap by Reiwoldt on the siren put Richmond 22 points up by three-quarter time.A three-goal-to-one final term gave Richmond a 34-point final winning margin, an ideal way to prepare for Essendon, West Coast and Adelaide in the coming month.Ellis had the best performance of his career with 39 touches, 11 marks, 155 Dream Team points and a goal, while Martin and Reiwoldt each kicked three for Richmond. Davey had a much-needed influential game for Melbourne with three goals.Richmond 15.16.106 def Melbourne 11.6.72 Adelaide vs St. KildaAfter a series of behinds to start the match, Mackay kicked the first goal of the match for Adelaide. A goal to St. Kilda’s Saad made it 16 points apiece on the quarter time siren.The teams continued trading goals early in the second term, before Vince put Adelaide over a goal ahead 12 minutes into the term. It would be the last goal before half-time, and by then Adelaide led by nine points.The Saints narrowed the margin to two points soon after half-time, but then Adelaide stamped their authority on the match. They kicked eight of the next nine goals in a purple patch that extended well into the last quarter, and saw them lead by as much as 47 points before Saad goaled again. Adelaide were 40 points in front by match’s end.Though Adelaide led in all key statistical areas, St. Kilda’s Montagna had the most disposals of any player with 34. Douglas had 26 touches for the Crows.Adelaide 12.15.87 def St. Kilda 6.11.47by Alexander Darling

May 21st 2013
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