Firstly, I’d like to start off by saying, to all the readers of my original blog, the interchange bench, I had a break last week while trying to work out a naming problem. But thanks to AFL Space’s founder, Phillip Malone, my thoughts now have a new home on aflspace.com. Make sure you put the site into your favourites feed, because we’ll be doing this every week! Now, as a change-of-pace column, today will only feature 5 quick-hit thoughts from Round 6 as opposed to the 3,000-4,000 monstrosity I generally abuse your eyes with. Let’s roll.
Demons need to lift: The Demons put in a shocking display at Patersons Stadium on Thursday night against the West Coast Eagles. Coming in to season 2011, the Dees seemed poise for a return to September action for the first time since 2006. So far this season, they haven’t shown any signs of improvement that will see them be successful in the near future. Thursday night, they served up one of the worst games they’ve played in a long time. Seemingly disinterested for long periods of the game, the Eagles had a 5 goal to zero first quarter, setting themselves up with a comfortable 54-point victory. Through the underrated Matt Priddis, rejuvenated Daniel Kerr and athletic Nic Naitanui, the man the Demons left on the draft board to take Jack Watts in 2008, the Eagles feasted on poor disposals from the Demons, kicking 9 goals from direct turnovers during the game.
For the Demons, there seemed to be a severe lack of structure up forward and lack of heart in the midfield. Their lackluster 37 inside 50s was an excellent reflection on the dominance of the Eagles’ midfield, who, unlike their opponents, worked tirelessly at centre bounces, limiting Melbourne to only 6 clearances from the centre of the ground.
With West Coast coach John Worsfold quieting rumours of his demise with a surprisingly good start to the season, it now seems that Demons coach Dean Bailey is on the hot seat. With winnable games against Adelaide, North Melbourne and St. Kilda in the next three rounds, the seat will only get hotter for Bailey if he can’t right the ship of his pre-season darling Demons and win at least two of the next three.
Round 6, Sydney vs. Carlton. Three votes: C. Judd: What a remarkable performance by Chris Judd on Friday night at the SCG. Playing at a venue where Carlton hadn’t won since 1993, the man known as the Juddernaut to the Carlton faithful put the Blues on his back and willed them to an historic victory. Finishing with 33 touches, an astounding 25 of which were contested possessions, Judd was the most influential man on the field. The most impressive part of Judd’s performance was his work in close, where he finished with 15 clearances, 6 of which came in the last quarter, where he helped the Blues pull away for an impressive 17-point victory.
After a sluggish start in the wet, where the bigger bodied, more experienced Sydney outfit controlled the tempo of the game, the Blues fought back hard in the second half. Playing against the AFL leader for clearances per game, the Blues (with help from Bryce Gibbs’ excellent second-half nullification of Adam Goodes and an ankle injury to key Swan Kieren Jack), dominated proceedings, recording 60 clearances for the match and outmuscling the Swans to record 106 tackles for the game.
By coming back from a 14-point half-time deficit and beating Sydney at their own game, the Blues not only shook their SCG voodoo, but set themselves up nicely to have a successful first half to the season with their most impressive performance of the year.
Totally eclipsed: After experiencing the euphoria of their first ever win in the AFL premiership season, the Suns turned in an unacceptable performance against Essendon on Sunday. Seemingly still focused on their efforts last week, the Suns had the game well and truly lost by quarter-time, having surrendered the highest first-quarter score in VFL/AFL history.
While Essendon were clicking on all cylinders in this one, let’s focus on the AFL’s fresh-faced franchise instead of applauding a well-established team for what was nothing more than a glorified training run. The young Suns seemed lost, as if they weren’t sure how to attack the football or even contest the ball in 50-50 situations. However, rather than point out how insipid, uninspiring and utterly belittled the Suns were, there were a couple of encouraging signs.
No. 1 pick David Swallow was impressive, showing that he can deliver the ball to anyone on the field with pin-point accuracy, while also not giving up in the centre-square battles. On top of that, the young boys from Queensland mustered up 50 inside 50s, more than their season average. Although they could only muster 8 goals from the forward thrusts, any ray of light that can be taken from this game must be taken, for fear of what a loss like this could do to such a young team if focused on too pessimistically.
Dustin Martin will win a Brownlow medal in the next 6 years: You heard it here first, folks. Dustin Martin, Richmond’s 19-year-old man-child with the most devastating stiff-arm in the AFL, is destined to win a Brownlow if his current form is anything to map his future on. With nearly a third of the season gone, Martin is averaging an extremely impressive 27 disposals a game, including 68 in the last two, both wins, to go along with 10 goals on the year.
In the win over the Brisbane Lions on Saturday night, Martin was outstanding, collecting 35 disposals, 10 inside 50s and a very impressive 7 goal assists. Maligned for much of the past 10 years, having finished 9th or lower in each of the last 9 seasons, the Tigers are definitely on the way up. The catalyst? Drafting Martin to be the running mate of gun on-baller Trent Cotchin, who is the league-leader for clearances in 2011, averaging more than 8 per contest. The Tiger is most certainly stirring.
The Saints are sunk: After a drought busting win last week that didn’t seem to fully right the ship, the Saints sunk deeper into the abyss this season, losing to an Adelaide Crows outfit that, so far, hasn’t set the world on fire. After such a long time at the top, the Saints are suffering through what appears to be a long and unsuccessful season.
The biggest issue for the Saints at the moment seems to be sloppy execution and a lack of adherence to the ethos that has helped them play in back-to-back Grand Finals (not including the replay). Generally an accurate team when disposing of the football, the Saints have become inefficient in season 2011. Against the Crows, a team St. Kilda could have beaten, only four players hit their targets more than 75% of their disposals. Further highlighting the Saints’ fall from grace is there ineffective forward line. Only averaging 49 inside 50s per game, the Saints can’t seem to find a big man who can help captain Nick Riewoldt by taking a mark up forward. With captain Nick Riewoldt still only 29 and in his prime, the lack of development of Rhys Stanley and poor performances from Justin Koschitzke, have combined to spoil a potentially potent forward line, consisting of Riewoldt, Koschitzke and good ground-level players Adam Schneider and Stephen Milne.
Compounding the Saints’ issues in attack is their lack of depth around the ground. Hypothetically speaking, if one was able to pick St. Kilda-listed players and place them on premiership contender Collingwood, Carlton and Fremantle’s lists, only 5 players seem as if they could get named, and that’s counting the injured Lenny Hayes. Even though those 5, Nick Dal Santo, Brendon Goddard, Nick Riewoldt, Lenny Hayes and Leigh Montagna have also been woefully out of form (or injured), it is the depth players and important role-players that are bringing this team down, and seem destined to anchor the club in the lower half of the ladder for the foreseeable future.
So, there you have it. From a big week in football, those are the 5 main topics that I believe will shape the footballing landscape this season. For anyone who had previously been readers of my stand-alone blog, note that it will now be a part of aflspace.com. I’d like to finish this post by saying thanks to Phillip for giving me the ability to publish my thoughts on this site, and I’ll be back again next week. Thanks for reading!