Round-by-round: The ultimate almost-grudge match

AFL Round 11, 2013If only. Sydney played Adelaide this week, only one week before prize forward Kurt Tippet — recruited from Adelaide over the off-season — is allowed to play again, following an 11-match suspension he received for breaching AFL rules regarding his contract with Adelaide. We’ll have to wait until next year for this clash, and some of you supporters will have to wait until next week or the week after to see your team play, this being the first of three rounds where six matches are played and six teams get a week off.Bye: Richmond, Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn, Brisbane, Fremantle, Port Adelaide Essendon vs Carlton (Friday, June 7)One-hundred-and-forty years ago today, these teams played their first match against each other. Since then, both have won 16 premierships, becoming the most successful clubs ever to play Australian Football. The tight contest early seemed to reflect the likeness of the two sides.Essendon capitalised on their early forward opportunities, kicking the first two goals. But then something clicked in Carlton, more specifically in their forward Waite. Having threatened to take control of the match with spectacular marking attempts early, Waite did just that thereafter: he kicked Carlton’s first five goals — and the next five of the match after the Essendon goals — equalling his career best before half-time. Waite’s blitz resulted in a group of shattered Essendon defenders and a 19-point lead to Carlton at half-time.Carlton continued dominating around the ground and other players got on the scoreboard after half-time, at one stage leading by 31 points. But just as the momentum swung to Carlton for the second term, it slowly swung back Essendon’s way in the third. Two long-range goals put Essendon back within 20 points, and Carlton regretted not making more of their opportunities. A screamer by Ryder set up a Kommer goal to win the third term for Essendon and cut Carlton’s lead back to 14 points at the final break.As the match reached fever pith in the final quarter, Essendon players who looked beaten by half-time came into the game. Carlisle and Hurley, who were Waite’s opponents, started winning more of the ball and Essendon drew level halfway through the term. They briefly led before Carlton snatched it back, but a photo finish saw Melksham mark a poor kick coming out of Carlton defence and put Essendon five points up with 100 seconds left. Carlton attacked savagely, but Carlilse took a match-winning mark in defence and the siren sounded soon after. Man, what a match!Waite finished with seven goals, while his captain Murphy had his first 30-plus-possession match for the year. Heppell had 28 touches and Melksham three goals for Essendon.Essendon 11.11.77 def Carlton 10.12.72 GWS vs Geelong (Saturday, June 8)For the second consecutive week, Geelong was rattled by a young expansion team, and this time the team hadn’t won a game all year. The Giants stunned opponents, crowd and league by kicking the first five goals of the match and leading by 32 points halfway through the first term, before Geelong pegged back two goals.And again, for the second consecutive week, Geelong compensated for a poor start with a solid comeback. The whole team lifted in their skills and pressure, as Geelong doubled GWS’s score for the quarter with eight goals to four. Though Cameron’s goal was a highlight for GWS, Geelong led by eight points at half-time.GWS refused to go away when play resumed, as big name recruits Ward and Scully finally proved their worth. GWS drew level twice in the third term, and the upset of the millennium was still a possibility as Geelong led by only two goals at the final break.But the last quarter saw Geelong put GWS to the sword. In similar fashion to which they beat Gold Coast last week, Geelong kicked eight of the quarters nine goals to win by 59 points. Despite the margin, Geelong earned a spray from their coach and GWS a pat on the back for showing spirit. What a weird game footy is.Podsiadly kicked five for a Geelong side that had 15 different goal kickers, while Selwood had 28 touches. Ward had 30 touches and Cameron four goals for GWS.Geelong 24.13.157 def GWS 15.8.98 Adelaide vs SydneyCallinan slotted Adelaide’s first goal after Sydney scored the first of the match. It would be the only time Adelaide would match Sydney for scoreboard pressure. Another three goals gave Sydney an 18-point lead at quarter time, before six goals to two in the second term pushed this lead out to 47 points at half-time.Sydney refused to relent after the main break, with a monopoly over forward 50 entries and their goals coming in bursts of two at a time in the third term. Adelaide, by contrast, couldn’t take a trick. For all their hard work, they only scored five behinds for the term and found themselves 87 points down at three-quarter time. This margin was 99 after Sydney scored the first two goals to start the last term, before Adelaide scored the final three goals of the match to reduce the margin to 77.Sydney inflicted Adelaide’s worst home defeat in nearly 20 years — without forwards Reid, Jetta and of course Tippett — sending a stern warning to the rest of the league of their potential. Of those that did play for Sydney, Hannebery was best, the former rising star racking up 42 possessions. Sloane had 31 touches for Adelaide.Sydney 19.13.127 def Adelaide 6.14.50 Gold Coast vs North MelbourneNorth: A solid team with a tendency to give up big leads. Gold Coast: The up-and-coming home team with already more wins this year than in either of their first two seasons. Could the upset be achieved? Early on it didn’t seem so. The wet conditions meant back-to-basics football was in order: get it forward, and quickly. North was first to adapt to the conditions, dominating the clearances and kicking the first five goals of the game to lead by 31 points four minutes into the second term. But then conditions cleared, and Gold Coast returned the favour with the next seven goals and six behinds. Their purple patch was more impressive, as Gold Coast locked the ball in their forward half so well that the ball spent most of the time in Gold Coast’s forward half in the second term. The Suns took a four-point lead into half-time, and though rain returned in the third term, they extended this lead to 11 points heading into the final term.Though North scored the first goal when play resumed, the Gold Coast defence remained impenetrable thereafter, and the Suns got home to win their fifth game from 10 starts to the season, and in the process continue North’s season of missed opportunities.Ablett continued his career-best form with 33 touches for Gold Coast, while McKenzie had 25 in defence. No North player other than Cunnington stood out after quarter time.Gold Coast 9.12.66 def North Melbourne 8.3.51 St. Kilda vs West Coast (Sunday, June 9)People expected little of St. Kilda coming into the match, following dreadful performances over the past fortnight. But St. Kilda stunned everyone, kicking the first four goals of the match. Trying to compensate for his lacklustre season, small forward Milne fired with three goals before half-time. The Saints led by 24 points halfway into the first term before the Eagles ground out a comeback, a goal on the siren reducing the margin to only three points at quarter time.The second term, though more physically demanding, was much like the first. St. Kilda slowly built up a three-goal buffer before, on the siren, West Coast scored a goal to put them only two goals down at half-time.Embley, so crucial to the Eagle’s first term revival, goaled to put the Eagles within five points seven minutes into the third term. But otherwise the quarter was even, and St. Kilda retained their two-goal lead at the final change.The Eagles made their move to start the last term, three goals to one levelling the scores halfway through. The Eagles took the lead for the first time soon after, but Milne’s fifth and some behinds put the Saints back in front. At the crunch Mackenzie kicked only the third goal of his 88-game career to put the Eagles in front, and the four-point win put them back in the top eight.Montagna had 29 touches for St. Kilda, but missed a great chance to put them seven points up late in the match. Selwood had 34 touches for West Coast, while Priddis and Cox were also pivotal to their comeback.West Coast 12.12.84 def St. Kilda 11.14.80 Melbourne vs Collingwood (Monday, June 10)99,346 people attended a match between these two sides when they were the best VFL teams in 1958. It remains the highest ever attendance for a home-and-away match, and despite Melbourne’s dismal season, this year’s match still attracted 50,835 people. They were rewarded with an engrossing contest early, as each team had their own period of dominance in the first. First Collingwood, then Melbourne put enormous pressure on their opponents when the ball was in their forward 50, but both kicked for goal inaccurately, and Collingwood was only one point in front at quarter time.Collingwood broke Melbourne in the second term, as the latter stopped applying forward pressure. As a result, Collingwood scored six goals to two behinds for the term, and by half-time 39 of their 53 points had been scored from rebound 50’s and their lead was 41 points.The second half went as expected, with Collingwood slowly building their lead and Melbourne’s goals coming few and far between. The final margin was 83 points.Swan cruised to 39 possessions while Kennedy, Martin and Cloke all kicked three for Collingwood. N. Jones fought hard with 30 touches for Melbourne.Collingwood 17.20.122 def Melbourne 5.9.39by Alexander Darling

June 12th 2013
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