Upstart to premiership contender
As Geelong was systematically picked apart by Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval, the Cats might have pondered for a moment that they had created this mess, if you can call it that. For Ken Hinkley was a Geelong player, a lilting half-back who could drift forward and mark before anyone invented the term swing man.
He spent years honing his coaching skills under Bomber Thompson at Kardinia Park in the best system the game has seen in the modern era, almost any era, and when Thompson left, the Cats overlooked him, devastatingly so.
So Hinkley left and he has recreated Geelong across the border after finally winning that “best man standing job” last year. Just two years after the Power finished 14th and sacked Matthew Primus as head coach, the club is on top of the ladder (“We’ll never stop, stop, stop ’til we’re top, top, top”) and unquestionably in premiership contention.
Travis Boak won the Anzac Medal but there were many more heroes.
For good-natured Hinkley, who applied for various coaching jobs without success, it was a tad of revenge. Port swamped Geelong before 47,000 people with its fanatical attack on the football and assaulting of opponents when the ball was in their hands.
Six rounds in, the AFL has no undefeated teams, and Hawthorn, Geelong and Port stand out as the frontrunners with many more tales to be told.
Travis Boak won the Anzac Medal but there were many more heroes such as mercurial Robbie Gray, the flint hard midfielder Hamish Hartlett, and Alipate Carlisle, who managed the Tom Hawkins danger. Port runs harder than anyone.
Spell it out. Bona fides is what Port has.
Richmond, on the other hand, confronts at least a week under the blowtorch. And it is not just the media that has rounded on the 2-4 Tigers; their own supporters are the toughest markers of all.
Damien Hardwick’s team, it seems, could not stand prosperity. Having reached the finals last year for the first time in 11 years, Richmond became fat and comfortable. It has never reached the same levels of intensity and the results speak for themselves.
Hardwick was left to lament the schoolboy errors that gifted too many goals to Hawthorn.
The Tigers lost by 66 points, albeit against a wonderful Hawthorn team. Hardwick’s side has to confront Geelong next weekend in what shapes as a watershed game for them; right now they are in danger of missing September again.
The Hawks might have had Matthew Lloyd, the former Essendon superstar, for some of their triumph. Lloyd’s newspaper column suggesting that Cyril Rioli was an underachiever worked its magic and Rioli performed his own stage act full of tricks, and four third-quarter goals.
Hardwick was left to lament the “schoolboy errors” that gifted too many goals to Hawthorn. The Hawks, meanwhile, are a given, just as Sam Mitchell, who celebrated his 250th game with a customary 35-disposal job, is a given.
Richmond has replaced Carlton under the glow of scrutiny, after the Blues booted the last five goals to sneak home against West Coast. Troy Menzel’s late goal gave Carlton the lead but Mick Malthouse’s team still had to survive three Eagles’ shots at goal that could have reversed the result.
Two hit the post, including a spinning wobbler from Josh Kennedy that was a few millimetres from going through.
So for now, Carlton is in a good space, with consecutive wins to reflect upon.
But the groundbreaking win of the round might well belong to North Melbourne, who went to Perth, played a game on Fremantle’s terms, and scrapped out a win to remain in the hunt for the top four.
The Roos were inspired by Brent Harvey, the 36-year-old veteran who had to contend with the game’s best wet blanket, Ryan Crowley, and who surged through the open spaces at Subiaco Oval all night.
North has been a little unpredictable in output. But wins over Sydney and Fremantle on the road suggest Brad Scott’s team has put some extra steel into its method that could be handy in September.
Swan sensation (1)
Collingwood also is in the top four after a workmanlike win over Essendon on Anzac Day. Dane Swan’s heroics and his four goals were a highlight on a day when the game was at its best, with more than 90,000 in the colosseum.
Swan sensation (2)
Buddy Franklin is hurting and he is only a few months into a nine-year contract. Franklin tweaked his dodgy right knee in Sydney’s forgettable win over Melbourne and might miss some football, continuing his troubles of 2014.
Paul Roos looked like he’d blow a gasket in his first coaching assignment against his old team. He might well be wondering whether it was such a great idea to comeback after three years in the media.