AFL Round Round 13: Likes and Dislikes from Sam Landsberger
St Kilda was cruelled by injuries at the Gabba but the decision to leave out some key players came back to haunt Brett Ratten. See the best and worst of round 13.
The Richmond Tigers are showing premiership winning traits, Sam Docherty’s incredible fight, the bigger issue than umpire dissent and a worry for Port Adelaide – Sam Landsberger’ runs through his likes and dislikes from the season so far.
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Wayne Carey’s observation that Max King, in game No.50, stands in one spot deep like it’s school football rather than lead into space was interesting. When King gets a run and jump at it he can mark the ball about 3m above the ground, which is unstoppable. But at times it was six on one on Saturday night and King’s set-shot routine remains a work in progress, even if his school coach – Matthew Lloyd – isn’t allowed to help. King’s two early goals came from free kicks – the second after multiple deep breaths to calm himself for a straightforward kick – and there were three behinds after that. Nathan Buckley said he would take Coleman Medallist Harry McKay above King right now. Mind you, Harris Andrews was a fair opponent and his positioning was exceptional. The Lions had leaked 48 goals in three weeks so to keep the Saints to eight – the first four courtesy of frees – would’ve pleased Chris Fagan.
Did Ratts butcher selection?
Wonder if the Saints got their selection wrong, given the kids were quiet at the Gabba as Hunter Clark and Jack Billings were left at home to play VFL. Billings had 32 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal while Clark had 24 disposals and three clearances. The sore Saints will lose Dan McKenzie, Mitchito Owens (concussion) and Zak Jones when they play Essendon on Friday night while Mason Wood ran out the game with a sore foot, so it was little surprise the Lions kicked 3.8 to 1.2 in the final term.
Blake Acres sat in the dugout in tears after appearing to rip his right hamstring, the same one he suffered tendon damage to in 2020. It was hard to watch. The Dockers have become the third-quarter kings and for the third-straight week they kicked at least six goals. A lot of that was on the back of Blake’s 13 disposals, three clearances and a goal for the term. The steak knives in the Bradley Hill trade, Acres has been in career-best form as a power runner. He will be hard to replace.
Is Griffin Logue a forward, defender or out the door? Fremantle tried him in attack again on Saturday and he tried hard but the craft is still being curated. There were two goal assists, two behinds and five marks. North Melbourne recently presented to the out-of-contract big man as one of many Victorian clubs in the market.
What’s up with Robbie Gray? The clutch champion did not touch the Sherrin in the second half when Thursday night’s game was on the line. Yep, he had doughnuts and Steven Motlop had one kick. Port Adelaide’s defence has been a big tick since round 3, but its potency has perished. Dump kicks inside 50m don’t help, but with Gray and Motlop powerless and Orazio Fantasia perennially injured it is hard yakka. Dylan Grimes, playing game 200, lowered Gray’s colours and at 34 you wonder whether this might be his final season. After halftime Port lost the inside 50m count by 15, contested ball by 19 and overall lost by 41 points on Champion Data’s expected scores. The scoreboard was flattering.
Ump dissent a decoy
Not sure many people have grasped the real issues plaguing umpires. Stamping out abuse from players and spectators would be nice but it’s not the primary concern. The AFL’s report into the national female umpiring shortage, which league heavyweights largely ignored, highlighted social and cultural environments as the key problems with girls made to feel less capable, less deserving and disrespected by their colleagues and coaches. “I just hated the way that I felt walking onto the oval and they did not accept me for who I was,” one state-league umpire who quit said. “So I did everything they wanted like I stopped eating, overexercising and completely lost myself. When I came back it was everything they wanted, it was like ‘Wow, you look good, this is what you should look like’ but on the inside I was so sick, I was absolutely at my wit’s end to the point where I’d lost my period, I’d lost everything, I just completely derailed. They never knew that because they never asked, ‘What’s going on within your life?’ When you know someone for five years you should start to learn a bit more about them and what their interests are but they didn’t care, it was umpiring or that was it. When my depression and anxiety’s already really, really bad, I’m not going to go to somewhere like that.” She didn’t quit because of players holding their arms out or bozos in the stands. The problems are mostly systemic and internal in grassroots umpiring communities.
Essendon pleaded for patience when it started teaching coach Ben Rutten and Blake Caracella’s game plan … in 2020. “What are we, round 10? We’ve only had that many opportunities to play our game plan and with the (Covid) training restrictions that is slowing up our progress,” John Worsfold said in the handover season. “We’re embedding a plan that everyone is going to be clear on and everyone is going to get more clear on the more we play it, practise it, review it and put it into action. We all have some frustrations at times around wanting to get there quicker. But our commitment to what we are trying to do is what’s going to get us to the end result we are looking for.” After round 13 in 2022 Nick Riewoldt said Rutten’s Bombers were playing with effort but without system. Contrast that to the Blues, who picked up Michael Voss’s blueprint in a single summer. Carlton players returned to pre-season in super nick and burst out of the blocks as clearance beasts. Three months on and they have added layers – now they can lose stoppages but win on turnovers – and it’s looking every bit of a sustainable September style. Plans and personnel evolve, but why does Essendon’s system still appear to be so far behind?
Smart piece of recruiting by the Blues to pounce on Lewis Young after he’d been pumped with five years of development at the Dogs. The athletic defender’s stat sheet looked like Jacob Weitering – 18 disposals at 100 per cent, 14 intercepts, seven marks and a dirty night for Peter Wright. Hard to believe that 10 games ago this bloke was monstered by Sam Draper playing as the No. 1 ruck in an elimination final. Young was played out of position – the Bulldogs didn’t yet trust Tim English at stoppages – and Patrick Lipinski was played out of the team. Both left the Bulldogs for little return. Both would be in their best 22 right now. Blues backs are going OK given Weitering, Liam Jones and Mitch McGovern aren’t around
Hawthorn plays Western Bulldogs, GWS, Adelaide, West Coast and North Melbourne after the bye and could win all five. For a young side to fight this one to the siren was fantastic. At halftime it appeared another famous road victory was on the way, and in recent seasons all of the credit for those wins has been directed at Alastair Clarkson. Well, how about the job Sam Mitchell is doing? Forget the 4-9 record, the Hawks are tough to play against and they out-Fremantled Fremantle on Saturday. They’ve pushed Melbourne, beaten Geelong and Brisbane won three quarters against the Dockers, recording 61 inside 50s. They struck five glorious set-shoals in the first quarter but were ultimately beaten by centre bounce goals. Ruckman Ned Reeves has a bright future while James Sicily would be inspiring to line up alongside. Jacob Koschitzke, Lachie Bramble, Jack Scrimshaw, Dylan Moore, Daniel Howe and CJ make for a pretty nucleus for a club devoid of high draft picks.
Three-headed monster headed for MCG
Brisbane unleashed its three-headed monster on Saturday night as Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood returned alongside Dan McStay. Daniher was the pick of them, booting three goals after two early shanks and it’s no wonder coach Chris Fagan wants fast ball movement to give his targets space. The Lions head to the MCG for the first time in 56 games to take on Melbourne after the bye, a precious run at the Grand Final venue. Steven May will be back to help quell those big boys but the Lions got a lot of their game back against the Saints. Finally, they stopped the bleeding from stoppages while Jarrod Berry’s push out to the wing looks a dangerous one given his aerial talents and running power. The Lions controlled the game in the second half through uncontested marks and it was an impressive turnaround given players returned home from Perth at 5am on Monday for a short week with a lot of work to do.
Two finger clippers should be replayed in Fremantle’s review. Rory Lobb’s touch on a centre clearance pumped inside 50m at the start of the third quarter ended in a Michael Walters goal when it was set to be intercepted. Then, Nat Fyfe’s desperate smother stopped Jai Newcombe pumping the ball inside 50m in the dying stages when the Hawks still threatened. Fyfe was far from dominant but it was fun seeing him back.
The Richmond Tigers are becoming the Richmond Transformers, arming coach Damien Hardwick with the ability to flip matches by flipping magnets. Halfback Jayden Short can morph into a running midfielder, key defenders Noah Balta and Josh Gibcus can swing into the opposite goalsquare and Liam Baker can play almost anywhere. Maurice Rioli Jr went into the VFL to learn another role and onlookers on Wednesday observed him playing as a high half forward rolling up to stoppages, where he won three clearances. The flexibility was pivotal to the 2020 flag – Nick Vlastuin got KO’d early, but wingman Kamdyn McIntosh’s VFL stint in the backline meant he rolled back ready for that challenge. Thursday night’s second-half contested ball differential of +19 was Richmond’s best since round 5 last year and they haven’t lost that stat in six games. They are healthy – 18 AFL boys played VFL – with Tom Lynch and Kane Lambert set to return. Oh, and footy-loving debutant Judson Clarke, the kid who stuffed MCG grass in his socks before Dreamtime, is a left-footer in Nathan Brown’s mould.
Daniel Rioli is another upskilled Tiger who will never forget his forward craft, but that’s one magnet Hardwick won’t be moving. He should be called “Scalps Rioli” because this year Steve Motlop, Tom Papley, Nic Martin, Kozzie Pickett, Josh Rachele and Jack Martin have all been kept goalless by him. Jack Ginnivan got one against him. Move over, Dan Andrews. There’s a new Lockdown Dan in town.
Big tick for new AFL chief medical officer and concussion expert Michael Makdissi swiftly ticking off Port Adelaide’s management of Zak Butters and Tom Jonas on Thursday night. Respected Power doctor Mark Fisher, also a long-time Olympic Games doctor for Cycling Australia, would’ve clinically assessed the players aided by video footage and declared them fit to return. The AFL has long instructed its doctors to consider the look of the game and former league medical chief Peter Harcourt fined Port $20,000 for failing to follow regulations when assessing Hamish Hartlett in 2016. But Harcourt never really experienced the pressure of treating players on the interchange with millions of people watching live on television, let alone TV commentators scrutinising decisions in real time. Makdissi did. He spent 17 years at Hawthorn and defusing the Port situation as soon as he was satisfied would’ve provided great relief across the industry.
But this ‘doc’ the biggest winner
Charlie Curnow is leading the Coleman and Patrick Cripps might be leading the Brownlow. It could be a September to saviour individually, but those prestigious medals would pale into insignificance should another achievement come to fruition. Sam Docherty must be in All-Australian consideration and that would be a blazer to behold. Two ACLs and two testicular cancer comebacks, this year’s race to be ready for round 1 was doubted by everyone at the Blues except for Sam. On Friday night he had a game-high 32 disposals, 701m gained, 13 handball receives and a disposal efficiency of 88 per cent. Docherty sprinted 60m defensively to tackle Jake Stringer in the first quarter and was a big part of the rampant rebounding. Remarkable after cramming pre-season training around 12 weeks of chemotherapy when close friends found his skinny, pale appearance confronting.
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Ben Rutten has been committed to honouring Essendon’s envious history since he became senior coach and this week the club’s hardworking staffers pulled off a spectacular 150th birthday party. Dyson Heppell’s jumper-tugging rev-up speech surrounded by champion and current Bombers was spine-tingling and the MCG spotlights illuminating the sacred chapters in the club’s history was superb. Players received powerful personal messages from former Dons who shared their jumper numbers and 16 premiership cups sparkling on the hallowed grass was a sight every supporter bar the Blues can only dream of. Rutten has always embraced what has come before and it’s a credit to him and the club the way that crystallised this week. Saturday night’s gala function will be the grandest collection of Essendon people in club history. Eddie McGuire’s message – he had a similar night also spoiled by Carlton – is to celebrate 150 years and park the current climate. Essendon’s AFLW players start pre-season training at Tullamarine on Monday night and it was great to see coach Natalie Wood, ex-Blue Maddie Prespakis, Lauren Spark and plenty of other signings in the pre-match president’s function for the special occasion. Well done, Bombers.
Originally published as AFL Round Round 13: Likes and Dislikes from Sam Landsberger