Round-by-round: Real life Dream Teams

AFL Round 14, 2013For the first time in 40 years, Collingwood, Essendon, Carlton and Richmond could play in this year’s finals series. Each of these teams have over 60,000 members (Richmond passed this mark at the start of last week), which must have the AFL hierarchy drooling over the prospective attendance figures and gate takings. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Carlton is still ninth heading into the round, Port Adelaide (10th) has rediscovered form with a win over the reigning premiers, and Gold Coast faces four of the bottom six teams in the second half of their season, making a finals berth in only their third season a realistic possibility.Putting aside the finals race, the inaugural women’s exhibition match between Melbourne and the Bulldogs was held on Saturday — before the AFL teams with the same name did battle — to celebrate the annual Women’s Round. It was a great way of recognising the contribution women make to football (they make up an estimated 40 percent of the crowds at AFL matches), and there may be a future where every AFL team has a women’s representative side as well. West Coast vs Essendon (Thursday, June 27)The drug scandal overshadowed Essendon’s on-field performance this week (again), after captain Watson admitted he believed he’d been injected with a WADA-banned drug last year, critically the same year he won the Brownlow as the AFL’s best and fairest (keyword: FAIREST) player. He played in the match, controversially and with little early influence. Not that it hurt Essendon, who started with intensity to kick four of the first five goals. West Coast then devised a solid defensive setup and got back within three points at quarter time.The match escalated as the teams traded goals in the second term, before LeCras intercepted a kick 35 metres out and goaled to put West Coast three points up by half-time.Two quick goals after the break extended the Eagle’s margin to nearly three goals, and though Essendon hit back the Eagle’s superstars LeCras and Naitanui found their form soon after, giving their team an ideal 17-point lead at the final break.Essendon came hard in the last quarter. Taking the game on through the corridor, they kicked three goals to take the lead halfway through, before momentum swung again and West Coast led by a goal with four minutes to go. In a heart-stopping final two minutes, Carlisle goaled from 50 and Melksham scored a behind to put Essendon a point in front, before Heppell goaled to seal a 30-point turnaround and yet another superb backs-against-the-wall win for Essendon.In Essendon’s first win in Perth in eight matches, Watson stood up to his critics in the media and the crowd. His 29 possessions, five tackles and two goals were crucial to Essendon staying in touch with West Coast, while Carlisle’s work at both ends was again outstanding. With eight marks and 24 touches, Dalziell was best for West Coast.Essendon 15.8.98 def West Coast 13.13.91 Sydney vs Carlton (Friday, June 28)In wet conditions, an early arm-wrestle gave way to Sydney dominating the play. With the only four goals of the term, and looking dangerous when going forward, Sydney romped to a 27-point lead at quarter time.A deluge of rain and claps of thunder punctuated the second term, as payers were lucky to get a clean possession, let alone goals. Some hard work and a goal by Tippett was quickly undone by a ridiculous “deliberate” decision at Carlton’s end, gifting them their first goal of the match two minutes out from half-time.The third quarter mainly played in Carlton’s half to start the third term, and the visitors ground out a comeback which saw them move within 13 points of Sydney by three-quarter time and within seven early in the final term. But Sydney then turned the tables and locked the ball in their forward half. McGlynn eventually kicked his — and Sydney’s — second goal for the half and ultimately secured the match for Sydney. O’Keefe was arguably best on ground for Sydney, having 29 disposals while simultaneously keeping Carlton’s dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd honest.  Gibbs had 24 touches for Carlton while Henderson was gallant in defence.Sydney 8.17.65 def Carlton 5.13.43 Gold Coast vs Adelaide (Saturday, June 29)Ablett scored the first two goals of the match for Gold Coast, and it had the predictable effect of lifting the entire team’s performance. The Suns streamed forward and took a 13-point lead into quarter time.Adelaide won themselves the match in the second quarter. In a six minute surge, they kicked four goals to turn the margin around, and a total of eight goals for the second term to Gold Coast’s two, gave Adelaide a morale-boosting 14-point lead at the main break.Gold Coast refused to go away in the second term with three of the first four goals, closing to within two points before Adelaide went goal for goal and put the margin out to eight points at the final break.As they had done in the second term, Adelaide stamped their authority on the game in the last. A goal within the first minute to Van Berlo made the margin 14, and another four goals for the quarter gave Adelaide a hard-earned, much-needed win considering their final eight hopes.For the winners, Wright kicked four goals as the sub (a record), while Crouch, Laird and Smith joined Dangerfield as the top disposal winners. Gun Gold Coast recruits Prestia and O’Meara (two goals each) proved their worth, the former with 42 touches and the latter with some stunning displays of ball-handling.Adelaide 16.15.111 def Gold Coast 11.17.83 Port Adelaide vs CollingwoodCollingwood attacked early with the first two goals, before Port fashioned a longer period of dominance. Over 15 minutes of the first quarter, they scored four straight goals, all from turnovers, which was enough to give them an 11-point lead at quarter time.An arm wrestle ensued in the second, as the teams traded goals and were inseparable in disposals and other key statistics. Though Collingwood were within a goal on two occasions, Port eventually drew away to lead by 16 points at half-time.Cloke goaled for Collingwood in the first minutes of play resuming, reducing the margin to only 10 points. As scoring dried up for the next 10 minutes, the two goal margin remained and the match lay on a knife’s edge. Crucially, Port scored the next goal, and as no goals were scored for the rest of the quarter they ultimately came out of the war of attrition on top, three goals up at the final break.A turnover goal to Wines in the seventh minute of the last opened the floodgates for Port, who put the match beyond doubt with four of the next five goals. Their winning margin of 35 points keeps their finals hopes alive, while Collingwood now looks less certain to play in September.Cornes, Ebert and Broadbent each had over 30 touches for the winners, while Westhoff and Schulz kicked three goals each. Collingwood’s Seedsman top-performed with 34 touches and 15 marks, while captain Maxwell was plucky in defence.Port Adelaide 13.8.86 def Collingwood 7.9.51 Geelong vs FremantleFremantle last lost a match to Geelong’s nemesis Hawthorn early in the season, and their superb defensive made them a genuine chance to win in many people’s eyes. But Geelong overcame the Fremantle forward press very early on, playing on at every occasion and slamming the ball forward to give their opponents little time to set themselves in defence. Geelong scored the only three goals of the first quarter to lead by 20 points at quarter time.Fremantle finally began to worry Geelong off the ball in the second term, and were rewarded with four goals to be less than two goals down at half-time.After the break, Geelong took the concept of “beating them at their own game” to a whole new level. Geelong implemented a crushing forward press, so that by the end of the term the ball had been in their forward half more than 80 percent of the quarter, while Fremantle had managed only one Inside 50 (a record low) and failed to score at all. Despite this dominance, Geelong failed to put Fremantle away, kicking 2.9 for the quarter to lead by 32 points at the final break.Geelong quickly set about compensating for their inaccuracy, three quick goals putting the margin out to 50 points. And thereabouts it stayed, as Fremantle got some late consolation goals which went largely unnoticed by the Geelong crowd.For Geelong, Christensen continues to get better after a 36-disposal performance, while Taylor — in the absence of Fremantle forward Pavlich — had a field day repelling Fremantle’s attacking plays. Fremantle tagger’s Crowley and Ballantyne did their bit, the former keeping Geelong captain Selwood to 13 disposals while having 15 of his own—all of which were booed.Geelong 11.19.85 def Fremantle 7.2.44 Melbourne vs Western BulldogsMelbourne finally seemed to be benefitting from their relatively easy playing fixture, getting on top of the equally out of form Dogs early on to lead by nine points at quarter time.Playing with the confidence and hunger of a quality AFL team (which they aren’t really), Melbourne continued to build their margin and pull away from the Dogs. Melbourne’s first solid half of football for the year gave them their first half-time lead of the year, by a margin of 26 points.Melbourne players clearly had their morale boosted by the half-time score line, and they came out playing with a contagious zeal that was great to watch even to non-supporters. Rodan and Dawes kicked goals for the highlights reel, and at the final break they led by 39 points.The Dogs cut the margin with the first two goals of the last quarter, but it looked like Melbourne had all the answers after they scored the next three. At this point, their lead was 44 points and the match looked beyond doubt. But the Dogs had clearly watched Brisbane beat Geelong last week, staging a similar supercharged last-gasp comeback: sparked by an electric passage of play and goal by Dalhaus, they hammered on six goals in the next 12 minutes and were only two points down with 100 seconds to play. But there was no fairy tale like in Brisbane last weekend, and instead Watts — having kicked four goals at the other end — took a crucial mark in defence to give the tiring Dees possession. The siren sounded with Melbourne three points in front, only their second win of the year and their first under new coach Neil Craig.Youngster Terlich and veteran N. Jones were again inspirations for Melbourne’s early dominance, with 24 and 26 touches respectively. For the Dogs, Griffen continued his All-Australian form with 31 touches and seven tackles, upstaged only by teammate Liberatore with 36 touches and nine tackles.Melbourne 15.13.103 def Western Bulldogs 15.10.100 Hawthorn vs Brisbane (Sunday, June 30)Hawthorn had no trouble gaining the early advantage, enacting its signature “cluster” set up and kicking the first two goals of the match. Inaccuracy — thanks to a fierce crosswind over Aurora Stadium — prevented them from being more than three goals up at quarter time.Brisbane better matched Hawthorn in the second term, winning more clearances and with Brown making his mark up forward. Hawthorn was only able to extend their lead to 22 points by the half.With two of the first three goals in the third, Brisbane brought the margin back to three goals and looked ready to challenge a side unbeaten in 11 weeks. But thereafter hawthorn showed just why they were unbeaten. A string of eight unanswered goals between the third and fourth quarters lifted the margin to 60 points, and left Brisbane eating Hawthorn’s dust.To their credit, Brisbane then went goal for goal with Hawthorn until the final siren, but Hawthorn’s win was still impressive, made all the more so because this was their 12th win in a row. The last time hawthorn did that it was 1961, and they won their first ever premiership that year.Franklin and Roughead continued their dual forward-line dominance with four goals each, a feat matched only by Brown for Brisbane. Sewell and Mitchell had 27 and 26 touches respectively for Hawthorn, while Moloney was again solid for Brisbane with 25.Hawthorn 21.17.143 def Brisbane 12.13.85 North Melbourne vs GWSGiants coach Kevin Sheedy told the commentary team before the match that he was reluctant to put a spare man in defence. It hurt GWS, whose defenders had their hands full with Petrie and Thomas who each kicked three goals in the first term. By quarter time, the margin was already 42 points and things were looking ugly for GWS.But the youngest, winless team showed spirit in the second term. They matched North with four goals for the quarter, three of which were the result of GWS running North off their feet. The margin was 45 points at half-time.North built on their lead in the third term — though perhaps more gradually than coaches and supporters would have liked — to lead by 58 points at three-quarter time and by the end of the match.Petrie kicked five and Thomas four for the winners, while Thompson and Hansen had high-possession games running off half-back. GWS’s Greene did well to earn 25 touches while playing on the ageless Harvey.North Melbourne 19.16.130 def GWS 6.8.44 Richmond vs St. KildaThe momentum see-sawed early: Dennis-Lane (St. Kilda) kicked the first two goals, Reiwoldt (Richmond) the next two, then another to St. Kilda and two more to Richmond, who came to rest eight points in front at quarter time.Richmond stormed away from St. Kilda in the second quarter, kicking six consecutive goals after their margin was cut to two points early. They led by a commanding 41 points by half-time.In complete control by the third quarter, Richmond eased off on pressure and St. Kilda were able to score more freely. St. Kilda still lost the quarter, however, and were down by 55 points at the final break.The Reiwoldts were the most interesting aspect of an otherwise lacklustre last quarter. Nick of St. Kilda got his first goal of the night, his side’s only goal for the last term, while Jack of Richmond kicked all of his team’s four last-quarter behinds without adding another goal. Richmond won by 64 points, a sign they are improving given they only beat St. Kilda by 18 earlier this season.Deledio, Cotchin and Foley topped Richmond’s disposal count, the first two with 24 and the latter with 23. Dal Santo had 25 for St. Kilda.Richmond 17.17.119 def St. Kilda 8.7.55by Alexander Darling

July 1st 2013
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