The Demons missed a chance to move into the top two when they crashed to the Magpies in a 42 point loss on the Queens Birthday match. The loss saw them fall to fifth, just one spot ahead of Collingwood who climbed to sixth, on the back of a dominant performance. The Demon’s loss meant Richmond stayed in second spot despite their loss to Port Adelaide in the opening game of the round. The Power got the decisive break during the second term, and then held on against a fierce Tigers effort to record a 14 point win.
The Giants and Swans both recorded comfortable wins against the Suns and the Saints, while Geelong secured a vital win over North Melbourne which saw the Cats move into the top four. The Kangaroos closed within a couple of kicks in the final term before Geelong motored away with the final five goals of the game to win by 42 points.
The Bombers continued their mid-season revival with a scrappy 22 point win over Brisbane, while the Dockers dented the Crows finals hopes with an upset three point win, despite being without Nat Fyfe, Aaron Sandilands and the two Hill brothers. Adelaide now find themselves in 10th spot, a game out of the top eight, and in serious danger of missing the finals after making the Grand Final last season.
Here are some (possibly outlandish) observations from Round 12:
It’s the end of football if Hodge gets suspended
There will be plenty of interest in the findings handed down by MRO Michael Christian over the incident involving Luke Hodge and Essendon captain Dyson Heppell. The two clashed coming together over a loose ball, but Heppell finished the worse off between the two, helped off by trainers and unable to continue in the game.
Replays showed that Hodge was the instigator of the contact, with his shoulder making contact to Heppell’s head. Whilst there was nothing malicious in Hodge’s actions, there seems to be a trend of players getting penalised based on outcome rather than action, or even intent. The medical report on Heppell will be damning, but it would be a travesty if Hodge were to get suspended, particularly as there are so few big hits in todays football.
Intention should play a factor in the final ruling and common sense would hopefully prevail in seeing Hodge cleared. However, considering Michael Christian’s track record this year, who knows!
Callum Sinclair is the forgotten ruckman of the competition
2018 has been a blessed year for the ruckman, with some of the big men in the competition having break out years. Much of the build up to the Queens Birthday clash was around the duel involving Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn, and the two didn’t disappoint. Neither dominated for their side, with Grundy probably getting the points, but they both had their moments during the game as they compete for the starting ruck position in the All-Australian side.
Along with Gawn and Grundy, Nic Naitanui has been a big driver behind the Eagles’ near-perfect start, Todd Goldstein has rediscovered some of his vintage form, Stefan Martin continues to rack up impressive numbers while Ben McEvoy, Paddy Ryder, Sam Jacobs and
Callum Sinclair has been almost the forgotten ruckman in the competition, having carried the Swan’s ruck duties single-handledly all year. Kurt Tippett retired ahead of the season and Sam Naismith was lost to a knee reconstruction meaning Sinclair had to step up in responsibility. Sinclair has averaged 30 hit-outs in the first 12 rounds, but it has been his work around the ground that has added an extra component to the Swans.
Sinclair is averaging 15 disposals, four marks, two tackles and has booted 10 goals, including three on the weekend against the Saints. Sinclair has shown he can provide an option up forward, which has been important for a side that is considered Buddy-reliant. The Swans added Dean Cox to their coaching ranks in the off-season and Sinclair is clearly moulding his game around the former West Coast legend.
The Giants are still the competition sleeper
The Giants made a statement in their 108 point thrashing of the Gold Coast and while the result itself may have been nothing of a surprise, it does remind everyone in the competition that their best football is right up there. Jeremy Cameron finished with six goals from 26 disposals and plenty of the key Giants midfielders cashed in against their impotent opponents.
Josh Kelly had the class with 40, Lachie Whitfield had 36 and Dylan Shiel recovered from an ankle inury to finish with 35. Callan Ward continues to be one of the more underrated captains in the league booting two goals from 34 touches and Heath Shaw did as he pleased to pick up 31 in defence.
That now makes it two in a row after their crucial win in Adelaide last week and moves them back within touching distance of the top eight. The Giants will start heavy favourites in their next two games (against Brisbane and Hawthorn) before a tough stretch against the Eagles and Power away, with Richmond at home in between.
The Giants will still be confident of reaching finals and even if they finish in the lower reaches, they could pose a serious premiership threat if they have their full complement of players available. From the side that won on the weekend, they can still add Stephen Coniglio, Tom Scully, Toby Greene and Brett Deledio and their star quality will hold them in good stead if they can fire at seasons end.
The Dockers are doing all the right things for a side on the rise
Fremantle secured easily their most impressive win of the season when they claimed a thrilling three-point win over last years Grand Finallists. That made it five wins for the season, all at home, which is a fundamental step for any young interstate squad.
Being difficult to beat at home is generally the first challenge for a young side and the Dockers have been almost unbeatable at the new Perth Stadium this season. North Melbourne are the only visiting side to have gotten the premiership points against Fremantle this season, while the Dockers also went down to co-tenants West Coast in a close contest. In their other five outings, Fremantle have recorded wins against Esssendon, the Bulldogs, St Kilda, the Gold Coast Suns and now the Crows. The Dockers have 11 home games at Perth Stadium each season, plus an away derby and when they make Perth Stadium a fortress, it can almost guarantee the Dockers a finals berth.
The win against Adelaide was even more meritorious without Nathan Fyfe and Aaron Sandilands, but also should spell the end of a number of careers. Michael Johnson and Danyle Pearce shouldn’t get another game this year, while there will be others who find themselves at the crossroads, such as Cam McCarthy and Cameron Sutcliffe.
Instead the future of the Dockers will be based around Adam Cerra (who should get a rising star nomination this week) and Ed Langdon through the middle, Alex Pearce and Luke Ryan down back and Brennan Cox up forward.
Collingwood and Melbourne saved the bye round
The AFL are always playing a risky game when they enter the bye rounds with less games against the NRL’s state-of-origin, and this year, the FIFA World Cup. Round 12 was essentially a soft bye round with seven games played, but the first five games of the round left little for fans to be excited about.
Saturday in particular was a disappointment with the Cats runaway win against North Melbourne followed up by the Giants whitewash of Gold Coast and the Swans thumping of St Kilda. Only two teams across the weekend managed to hit 100 points and the standard also left little to be desired. The Bombers/Lions game was particularly poor in skill and the Friday night fixture saw the Power score just one goal in the second half in their win over Richmond.
And while the final result was a blow out in favour of the Magpies, it was the kind of entertaining, free-flowing game that the game committee will no doubt use as their model for establishing the future of the game.
St Kilda have a decade of pain ahead of them
Watching the Swans do as they please in the opening quarter against St Kilda would have filled the most ardent of fans with an uneasy feeling and it may be something that they will have to get used to. The Saints are still winless since Round 1 and the positives are dwindling.
Further to the Saints plight is the lack of form in many of the players who were meant to be the next wave driving the Saints up the ladder. Jack Billings spent the weekend in the VFL, Blake Acres, Dylan Roberton, Koby Stevens, Ben Long and Luke Dunstan are on the injury list and many of their youngsters have failed to step up following the departures of Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna.
Josh Bruce has battled injury and form, Paddy McCartin is failing as a number one draft pick, and apart from a six goal haul against West Coast, Tim Membrey has struggled in front of goal. The Saints were also considered to have one of the better up and coming midfields but too many players have been unable to improve on 2017.
The Saints are falling behind their bullet proof plan which was to deliver a premiership in the next couple of seasons and now look as though they will struggle to land the free agents they had been planning on loading up on at the end of this season. The Saints traded themselves out of this year’s draft, holding only a first round pick (currently number 3 overall) in the first three rounds.
That leaves stuck from both a drafting and negotiation standpoint, meaning they may have to offer a quality youngster – such as Billings – to land the A-grader that they are clearly missing. If they do have to trade some of their recent draftees and start again, it could be a while before they are a serious finals contender again.