The Tackle: Is Bucks coach of the year?
THERE was so much to like about Round 18, including Collingwood's refusal to surrender to its injury curse.
And Nathan Buckley is a major factor behind the club's surge up the ladder in 2018.
There was plenty of individual brilliance, particularly from Geelong's superstar key forward Tom Hawkins.
But there were big losers from the weekend as well, headed by Melbourne after the Demons threw away a big last-quarter lead against Geelong.
Hawk Daniel Howe deserves time on the sidelines for his punch on Patrick Cripps and there is no place for crowd violence at an AFL game.
Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinson reveals his highlights and lowlights from the weekend.
1. THE COACH
If the season ended today, Nathan Buckley would probably pip West Coast's Adam Simpson as coach of the year. To have his team third on the ladder, a position underpinned by stronger morale, better ball movement and a reworked forward line, on top of the worst injury list in the AFL, speaks volumes about his performance.
His team plays Richmond on Saturday - let's hope there's 90K at the 'G - and has a finals series to come. Said last year that if Collingwood's greatest player was to win a premiership as a coach, it would be the club's greatest story. At the very least, Buckley has given the Magpies a shot at the title.
2. THE TOMAHAWK
Tom Hawkins is not in the All-Australian discussion - as was suggested after his seven goals on Saturday night - he's in the team. He is in the best of form of his career and looks fit and agile. One of his goals against the Demons was a left-foot snap, another a right-foot snap. His run of goals is 7, 4, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2 and he is the best performed key forward in that time.
3. THE SLEEPING GIANTS
Maybe they sleep no more. Beat Port Adelaide with guts in the final quarter after exposing them with their spread in the first half. Backs to the wall in the final term, Stephen Coniglio, Callan Ward, Dylan Shiel had four clearances each of the Giants' 17, while Port only had five.
Dawson Simpson was huge and finished with 17 hitouts to advantage. Port thinks it's tough, but the Giants were +16 contested ball in the final term and +32 overall. Coniglio, Ward, Shiel, Josh Kelly, Simpson, Tim Taranto and Lachie Whitfield from a back flank is as powerful a running brigade as there is in the AFL.
4. THE CAPTAIN
Who knows if Steven May will recommit with a season to run on his contract at Gold Coast, but he was absolutely committed in the win against Sydney. He took 10 intercept marks and, post-game, hinted at the enormous responsibility he carries as captain. The win wasn't about him, it was about his younger teammates, May said. "I really wanted to win, not for me, for the young boys,'' he said. He sounded a true leader and, dare we say it, a leader who could be at the club for some time.
5. THE LITTLE MASTER
Have queried Gary Ablett's effort in recent weeks or, to be more specific, his want to play safe football. That wasn't a consideration in the final quarter on Saturday night against Melbourne. This wasn't safe, this was match-winning. Ablett had 59 ranking points, 14 disposals, two clearances, seven contested possessions, two tackles, three score involvements and one of those tackles came in the final play of the game starting in defence.
It's easy to read the numbers, but far more difficult to quantify his will and competitiveness. Others shone, such as Tim Kelly and, in the end, Zach Tuohy, but if there was no Gazza, the Cats don't win.
6. THE NEW LITTLE MASTER
This is becoming a joke. Tagged or not, Tom Mitchell is an unstoppable force. When he's not tagged, it's 40-plus touches. When he is tagged, it's generally 30 disposals. On Sunday, it was 46 disposals (21 kicks, 25 handballs), nine marks, a game-high nine tackles and a game-high 12 score involvements against Carlton, which equals another three Brownlow Medal votes.
Clearly, he is a clone of Greg Williams, who won two Brownlows and missed a third in 1993 after failing to win a vote for a 44-disposal, one-goal effort against Melbourne in Round 10. Can't imagine the umpires making such a huge error again.
7. THE EMERGING SUPERSTAR
Picked up for drink driving at the start of the year, Jordan De Goey is a strong contender for the All-Australian team. The longer this season goes, the more imposing he has become. He kicked four goals against North Melbourne to take his tally to 34 for the year and is fighting for the sixth position in the All-Australian forward line against Jack Darling, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Josh Caddy, Jack Gunston or even Patrick Dangerfield. Breust is a lock with 41 goals from 17 games, so De Goey must be close with 34 goals from 15.
8. THE INSPIRATION
Maddie's Match is ensconced on the football calendar and much of it has to do with Jack and Nick Riewoldt, cousins who work tirelessly to raise money for Maddie Riewoldt's Vision. Jack and Nick are the face of the charity and it's a role Jack takes with great pride. The warmth of his relationship with young Elliot Vanderland this week, on AFL360 and on Channel 7 on Friday night, says plenty about Jack.
He never left Elliott's side on Tuesday night on AFL 360 and after Friday's game had a kick-to-kick with Elliot before carrying him from the ground. He's a star Jack, but he made a young fella with challenges the star on the night.
9. THE FORGOTTEN ONE
Orazio Fantasia has played just 10 games this season because of injuries yet Champion Data rates him as the No.1 general forward. Kicked five goals against Fremantle to take his tally to 16, yet continues to shine with his defensive work. He is rated above average for disposals (14.7), contested possessions (6.9), goals, goal assists and score involvements and elite for forward 50m marks and tackles (5.2). He is, arguably, Essendon's most valuable player.
10. THE RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Geelong coach Chris Scott didn't like the ruck rule which handed Patrick Dangerfield a goal in the second term because, he said, it's not a fair outcome for a player who didn't hear the umpire's call. The rule is a farce, as former coach Terry Wallace said on the weekend, and it's difficult to disagree. The AFL will change rules at the end of the season and ruck nominations have to go. Keep out the third-man up, but dispense with this childish atrocity.
1. THE BIGGEST LOSER (I)
By the time Melbourne gets its act together it will be the best educated team in the competition. After every damning loss coach Simon Goodwin says his players "will learn from that''. They will, but frustrations have reached boiling point. Did the Demons choke? Probably, because they couldn't withstand Geelong after leading by 29 points two minutes into the fourth term.
They were smashed in centre-square clearances (7-1), beaten in uncontested possessions (61-37) and outscored (48-17) despite having 13 inside-50s to Geelong's 15. The Demons won major moments in the first three terms but were founding wanting when the game was up for grabs in the last. They are close, the Demons, but still can't be trusted.
2. THE LAUGHTER
Shattered Melbourne fans watched Bernie Vince laugh with former Adelaide teammate Patrick Dangerfield. True, Vince was shattered when Zach Tuohy's goal won the game, but that disappeared when he and Dangerfield shook hands. Nathan Jones was angry, Clayton Oliver dropped to his haunches, Christian Petracca looked like he was going to cry, Jordan Lewis and Max Gawn were devastated and Alex Neal-Bullen slammed his hands into the turf.
And then there was Bernie. Dangerfield says everyone should ease up, that it's just a game, but it wasn't a good look. It might be a sport to Dangerfield, but for angry Demons fans it's much more than that.
3. THE BIGGEST LOSER (II)
Sydney's game style is to kick 80 points and restrict opponents. It's not working. In its past four games the Swans have kicked 11.1, 9.5, 16.8 and, on Saturday, 8.16 which included two goalless quarters against Gold Coast. Dermott Brereton argues coach John Longmire has to change how he uses Lance Franklin. "If you have the best key forward since Wayne Carey, let him play,'' Derm said.
We wrote two weeks ago the Swans don't have leg speed or quick ball movement and when their much-celebrated midfield is down they are in trouble. They led by 29 points at quarter-time and it seemed the cue went in the rack. They allowed the Suns to run and score and gain confidence. After the first break, the Suns kicked 11.11 from 48 inside-50s and the Swans 2.12 from 34. It was breathtaking footy by the Suns and laborious by the Swans. Their season is hanging by a thread.
4. THE BLOODIED LOSERS
North Melbourne was beaten up on the scoreboard and around the head. Todd Goldstein, Luke McDonald, Scott Thompson and Jed Anderson were swathed in bandages and the scoreboard was even bloodier. This was a season-shaper. North is a game and 11 per cent from eighth spot and has West Coast (home) and Brisbane (Gabba) in the next two weeks.
The disappointment was the first term when Collingwood did the damage. The Pies were +11 contested possessions, +32 uncontested possession and the pressure comparison was 180 to 158. This was a game where the Roos couldn't make many mistakes, yet they didn't turn up to play. Had to get more out of Kayne Turner, Shaun Atley and McDonald in such a big game.
5. THE PRETENDERS
Port Adelaide has lost two in a row after winning five on the trot. The Power is the highest pressure team in the AFL but, in doing that, it stifles their obvious talent. Is Ken Hinkley too defensive? After last night's loss their attack is ranked 12th for scoring, which is amazing considering the talent. They are scoring 82 points a match - last year they averaged 98. They have lost 2½ goals with the addition of Jack Watts, Tom Rockliff and Steven Motlop and average the most stoppages in the AFL. Less defence and more offence might be the key coming home.
6. THE FIST
It's expected pressure will be applied to Patrick Cripps because he is Carlton's heartbeat, but no one expects him to be punched in the face. It wasn't an obscene act by Hawk Daniel Howe, but it stands out because such blatant punching has been largely eradicated from the game. Richmond's Josh Caddy got a week for accidental contact earlier this season, so it doesn't seem right that Howe will get a week if Match Review Officer Michael Christian decides the blow is deliberate, high and low impact. It has to be medium impact to take into consideration Howe deliberately belted Cripps.
7. THE INJURY
Shaun McKernan salvaged his career when Essendon coach John Worsfold brought him into the team in Round 8 and his form forced James Stewart out of the side after Round 11. In nine games, McKernan has kicked 16.10, averaged six marks and became an integral part of the Bombers. The injury looks worse than your average hamstring and, make no mistake, Essendon's charge towards a potential finals spot took a hit when McKernan went down. Stewart will probably return or maybe even Aaron Francis, who is knocking down the door with a sledgehammer.
8. THE TIME WASTER
Heartstopper at the Gabba was blighted by a decision not to call time-on deep in the last quarter. A dubious free kick for holding the ball was paid against Brisbane's Daniel Rich with 1min 18sec left on the clock. Tick. Tick. An exhausted Rich is at the bottom of the pack and hands the ball to ball to Adelaide's Hugh Greenwood with 1:01 to play. Tick. Tick.
Greenwood walks back to the top of his mark and stops with 39sec to play. Tick. Tick. Greenwood walks in and his kick hits the post and there is 25sec to play. Almost a minute had passed from free kick to the kick for goal. Why wasn't time-on called when Rich was on the bottom of the pack, which would have given the Lions a minor chance of winning?
9. THE BIGGEST LOSER (III)
Two steps forward and one major step back for the Saints in what was a soul-destroying game for coach Alan Richardson's team. Obliterated in the first half, they outscored the Tigers 6.6 to 5.8 in the second half, but gallant halves of football are hardly what you can hang your hat on. If anyone doesn't think there will be major change off-field in the off-season, you're kidding yourself.
Similar to North Melbourne, the build-up to the season was full of hope and the delivery was sponsored by disappointment. For the Saints, the Blues, who have gone 50 games without kicking 100 points, and the Western Bulldogs, who were beaten easily by the Eagles yesterday, it is a season of major disappointment.
10. THE BRAWL
Another game, another fight in the crowd, this time on the standing-area terrace at Geelong. Some people will call it passion, others would call it mindless violence between adult men in front of families. Find them and ban them. That's twice violence has erupted at Geelong games this season. Maybe more security is needed.
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