Round-by-round: Switcheroo

AFL Round 6, 2013It seemed that the footy fields had been turned into war zones for last week’s ANZAC round, as big name players from many clubs were injured in action and face lengthy stints on the sidelines. Forwards Rioli (Hawthorn) and Clark (Melbourne) are expected to miss two months each, Gibbs (Carlton) and Rivers (Geelong) are out, as are Walker (Adelaide) and Toovey (Collingwood) for the rest of the year. Conversely, many high-profile players also returned for Round 6; notably Sewell (Hawthorn), Krakouer (Collingwood), Waite (Carlton) and Naitanui (West Coast). This week’s INs and OUTs may have had people’s eyes darting back and forth like in a tennis match, but this didn’t diminish the interest or significance of the matches played this round. For many teams, winning this week meant the difference between a good start to the season and their chances of making the finals being put in grave jeopardy. Collingwood vs St. Kilda (Friday, May 3)Collingwood brought in two debutants for the match, clearly looking to put new life into their season after being comprehensively beaten by fellow finals hopefuls Hawthorn and Essendon.Early on it looked like they were headed for a hopeful for recovery, as Collingwood controlled the flow of play against the out-of-form Saints. Yet for all their hard work, Collingwood were only two points in front at quarter time.  St. Kilda played a rope-and-dope style of game, hurting Collingwood on the rebound. Two consecutive goals to start the second term gave them an 11-point lead, but Collingwood regained composure to restore their two-point lead by half-time.The grind of the first half gave way to free flowing play in the third, from which Collingwood gradually got on top—they opened up a two-goal lead by three-quarter time. But St. Kilda remained gutsy and refused to go away, Reiwoldt kicking two critical goals in an unrelenting effort. Time was ultimately Collingwood’s ally, as they held off St. Kilda to win by four goals.Cloke regained his spot as the league’s leading goal kicker with four majors, while O’Brien, Thomas, Swan and Pendlebury were all superb for Collingwood. Meanwhile, Saint’s captain Riewoldt’s work rate continues to earn him credit, with 11 marks and each of his four goals coming at crucial times.Collingwood 15.13.103 def St. Kilda 11.11.77 Essendon vs GWS (Saturday, May 4)Essendon had yet to lose a match and GWS were yet to win one, but you wouldn’t have known based on how the match began. With slick skills and quick ball movement, GWS slammed on five goals in the first term — three of these to full-forward Cameron — to take a quarter time lead of 21 points. Inaccuracy and a subdued start to the match cost Essendon, and the bottom-placed team was still leading the top-placed team by 21 at half-time.When Cameron bagged his fifth goal 30 seconds into the second half, it looked like we were headed for the ultimate upset. But Essendon set about restoring things to their natural AFL order thereafter, kicking the next seven goals straight as their supporters found their voice. They took a three-goal lead into half-time, before another seven goals in the final term gave them a winning margin of nearly 40 points. Had you only seen the final scores, you’d never have known how close GWS got to pulling off a shock win.Hibberd won the most ball for Essendon with 29 touches, and Davey top scored with four goals. Treloar had another good match with 26 touches, and Cameron finished with six goals (a club record) in a coming-of-age performance.Essendon 17.18.120 def GWS 12.9.81 North Melbourne vs Port AdelaideAll week those associated with the club had been saying North was ready to snap Port’s unbeaten run in 2013. Nonetheless, the Hobart crowd was still surprised when North delivered on this promise: they blitzed Port in a seven-goal-to-one first term, also dominating free kicks, inside-50s and contested possessions. Port had been in this situation only the previous week against West Coast, and again looked set to eliminate the big lead with five goals of their own in the second term. But North proved too great an obstacle, steadying after half-time with the first three goals, and fighting hard to hold on under pressure when Port kicked another five in the final term. North ended up winning by 10 points, in the process preventing Port from being 6-0 for the first time in their history and proving they were a force to be reckoned with despite early losses.There were no surprises with the best players for both sides: Swallow and Bastinac, and Cornes and Boak were the highest disposal winners for North and Port respectively, while spearheads Petrie (North) and Schulz (Port) each kicked three goals.North Melbourne 14.9.93 def Port 12.11.83 Adelaide vs HawthornExpectations were low for Adelaide going into the match after they lost star forward Taylor Walker to a season-ending knee injury. The play matched these expectations early, as Hawthorn came out with more composure and cruised to a 22-point lead at quarter time. But the blowout that was anticipated didn’t eventuate, as Adelaide returned fire in the second; Dangerfield and Jenkins were instrumental as the Crows kicked four unanswered goals to square things up. Hawthorn kicked two behinds to end the term, and this was the margin they led by at half-time. Hawthorn began to move the ball with the same confidence they started the match with when play resumed, two early goals putting them 17 points ahead. But as it had in the first half, momentum swung back Adelaide’s way, and the Crows kicked three of the term’s last four goals to stay within five points at the final break. The Adelaide crowd broke into a roar when Thompson goaled to put them in front two minutes into the final term, but their joy was short-lived. The Hawks responded with four quick goals — two of these to Breust — and led by 24 points with four minutes to go. Adelaide scored the last two goals, but it was too little too late, and Hawthorn got away with it even despite Franklin being held goalless for the second week in a row.Dangerfield continued his superb form for Adelaide, with 35 touches, two goals and 145 Dream Team points. He was matched by Hawthorn’s on-field leaders Mitchell and Hodge, each with 29.Hawthorn 13.11.89 def Adelaide 11.12.78 Richmond vs GeelongGeelong had the best of Richmond early, punishing Richmond by scoring two of their three early goals from turnovers. Richmond were efficient, however, and scored three goals from four inside-50s to lead by four points at the first change.Richmond picked up where they left off with four goals in the second term, stretching their lead to as much 19 points at the 20-minute mark. They looked every chance to inflict Geelong’s first defeat of the season by this point, seeming every bit a team capable of playing finals football before Geelong came back.A combination of Richmond gifting them plenty of space and a spirited performance from their youngsters saw Geelong kick four goals in the last six minutes of the term, giving them a five-point lead at half-time.The long break did nothing to stop Richmond’s game falling apart: within five minutes of play resuming, both their ruckmen Vickery and Maric were injured, they had conceded two 50 metre penalties and Geelong had scored another two goals. Though Richmond steadied thereafter, Geelong now had unassailable control of the match, leading by four goals at three-quarter time and seven goals by full time.King was the most influential Richmond player with four goals and 20 touches. For Geelong, Johnson (200 games) and Enright (250 games) made their milestones memorable with 31 and 28 touches respectively, Bartel and Christensen also having 30 possessions and scoring multiple goals.Geelong 20.11.131 def Richmond 13.9.87 Gold Coast vs FremantleThough Fremantle were missing four players in their best 22, they still had little trouble beating Gold Coast. They kicked the first four goals of the match, Gold Coast’s first coming five minutes into the second term. By then the margin was three goals, and Crowley was doing a superb job of shutting down the influence of Gold Coast captain Ablett, always in control. With their main playmaker subdued, it was only a matter of time before the match got away from Gold Coast. To their credit, the Suns kept the margin modest, scoring five goals to Fremantle’s seven in the middle two terms, and Ablett’s set shot from the boundary on half-time was a highlight. But a five-goal final term by Fremantle pushed the final margin out to 45 points, more reflective of Fremantle’s ascendancy in the match overall.Harbrow was the Sun’s best with 32 touches, while Walters continued the revival of his career with Fremantle kicking four goals. Ruckman Griffin added three of his own for the Dockers, while Ibbotson, Mundy and Suban were tied on 22 touches each.Fremantle 15.9.99 def Gold Coast 7.12.54 Sydney vs Brisbane (Sunday, May 5)Some class by Goodes kicked Sydney into gear early. They pummelled the goal face, kicking the first 40 points of the match. They led by this margin at quarter time, Brisbane failing to build on the momentum they gained from winning the previous week. Sydney continued to attack with ease in the second term, extending the margin to 48 points before a late burst by Brisbane returned their lead to seven goals for half-time.Brown scored another goal for Brisbane in the first 30 seconds of the third term, the only goal they would kick for the quarter. Sydney, with three goals for the term, made the margin nine goals at the final break and 10 by the end of the match. Sydney have set themselves up perfectly for the Saturday night Grand Final rematch with the Hawks, and from both team’s current form it looks like they’ll be in a few more finals series yet.Sydney’s Reid answered critics of his poor form with three goals, while Hannebery registered 32 touches. Lester was best for Brisbane with 27 disposals.Sydney 17.13.115 def Brisbane 8.7.55 Carlton vs MelbourneCachia was a late replacement for Carazzo in the Carlton side, which also welcomed back key forward Waite. Carlton went on to score the only five goals of the term after it was tight early. By quarter time, they already led by 28 points, and the outlook for Melbourne was made bleaker when co-captain Grimes went down with a shoulder injury. The small forward brigade of Betts, Garlett and Yarran were again critical to Carlton’s attack, ensuring the Blues were still five goals ahead at half-time despite a more competitive second-quarter effort by Melbourne. Melbourne failed to challenge Carlton when play resumed, however, instead being antagonised by the absence of their main ruckman Jamar and inability to create opportunities from contests. Carlton, by contrast, racked up tackles and contested possessions easily, and Murphy started to hit his best form as his team extended their lead to 43 by the final break and to 61 by the final siren.Betts and Garlett kicked eight (four each) of Carlton’s 18 goals between them, Murphy adding three of his own and a lazy 28 touches to boot. M. Jones did his best for Melbourne with 27 touches.Carlton 18.13.121 def Melbourne 8.12.60 West Coast vs Western BulldogsAfter an even contest early — Eagles ruckman Cox kicked two goals and the Dogs responded with two of their own — West Coast broke away with three quick goals, eventually leading by 21 points at quarter time.Like Cox, Darling had a purple patch with the first two goals of the second quarter. He had five goals — and not coincidentally the Eagles were five goals ahead — by half-time.  The Eagles continued their charge in the third term, kicking six goals to three and benefitting from Naitanui’s return to the ruck. They had all the skill, run and confidence, and built on their already match-winning lead right up until the end, by which time they were in front by 70 points.The Eagle’s stunning ruck tag-team of Cox and Naitanui had a combined 46 hit outs, beating the 40 hit outs by the opposition. Cox also contributed four goals, continuing his remarkable form in 2013, and Priddis notched up 29 touches for West Coast. For the Bulldogs, Smith’s 29 disposals and two goals was the silver lining in the dark cloud that now hangs over them, having lost five games in a row after such a promising start to the season.West Coast 21.11.137 def Western Bulldogs 10.7.67The big story: Geelong and Essendon will face off on Friday night as the only two undefeated teams in Alexander Darling

May 7th 2013
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