Hey, look what Andrew built
Somewhere, Andrew Demetriou must have been smiling quietly. The Gold Coast Suns are technically his creation, and in the week where his successor as league supremo was announced, the AFL’s south-east Queensland expansion team is soaring like never before.
The Suns are 5-2 and in fifth place, almost certainly headed for a maiden finals appearance, after they shocked North Melbourne at the Docklands. Gold Coast had never previously won at Etihad Stadium in six previous tries; the Suns keep ticking boxes one after the other in their fourth season.
North is mercurial to say the least and apparently suffered from the much-discussed post-Perth Syndrome, a lethargy that cost the game. Gold Coast banged on the first seven goals before quarter-time and that was effectively the contest. The Roos made a few surges but when it came to the last quarter, Gary Ablett finished it for them, the executioner stepping forward.
Ablett versus Levi Greenwood was the individual highlight. According to North’s coaching staff, Greenwood was not instructed to run a hard tag; rather to make Ablett defend as well as ensure he earned his possessions.
For three quarters, Greenwood had matched his opponent stat for stat. Then Ablett conjured three final quarter goals, making it four for the match, and gave off another to a teammate, deftly timed. You might keep him down for a moment, maybe a moment or two. Good luck stopping him for a full game.
Melbourne has won as many games in 2014 under Paul Roos (two) as it won in all of 2013. Does this make Roos the Messiah, as social media was debating on Saturday night? Hardly, but the Demons are playing a much more competitive brand and their win over Adelaide on the road was arguably the highlight of round seven.
Melbourne was impressive, with Chris Dawes straightening them up, Jeremy Howe looking comfortable in defence, and unfettered youth. Jack Viney is a human battering ram at just 20, cast in the image of his father Todd, who still works at the club. Viney took out not one but two players in a collision, one from each team, Tom Lynch having his jaw broken and teammate Alex Georgiou needing treatment for concussion.
Viney’s attack on the football set the tone for Melbourne. But he was not alone. Jay Kennedy-Harris was notable for his clean ball-handling and calm decision-making, and DomTyson kicked the matchwinning goal, while Bernie Vince was outstanding against his old team.
Roos has committed only to the end of next year but may get a taste for this. “It keeps the momentum going,” he said. “It keeps the players really enthusiastic. It’s a long year when a team starts at the bottom of the ladder.”
Al and the Pop Ups
Hawthorn inflicted one of St Kilda’s worst defeats, a 145-point thrashing at the MCG, having a dozen goalkickers including three men who kicked four.
Al Clarkson’s team has dangerous players who pop up like sprinkler heads.
This is the method for Al Clarkson’s team, which has dangerous players who pop up like sprinkler heads, so that the opposition has no idea club who to cover.
It is also near-impossible to get the Sherrin back from them; late in Saturday’s game their disposal efficiency was running above 80 percent even in the persistent rain. (Bearing in mind that 70 is a good number.)
The concerns were soft tissue injuries to Brian Lake and Sam Mitchell that will sideline them from Friday night’s blockbuster against Sydney Swans, where Clarkson said Lance Franklin would be treated merely as “another opponent”.
The Swans are warming up, having flogged an injury-riddled Brisbane Lions at the Gabba.
Old man river
Essendon held off Western Bulldogs to eke out an important win that could have slipped away at the Docklands, with the 38-year-old Dustin Fletcher being best-afield from his traditional station in defence. Fletcher turns 39 next week; as a gauge of what he is achieving, no 39-year-old has played VFL or AFL football since the 1920s.
There are plenty of players out there from all teams who were not born when he played in the 1993 Essendon premiership. Fletcher appears to be taking Joe Hockey’s notion of working to 70 rather more literally than most footballers would interpret it.
The rest …
Collingwood remains in the top four and certainly headed for finals, while Port Adelaide slipped from top spot even though the Power defeated Greater Western Sydney Giants at Manuka Oval.
The Magpies won plaudits for Friday night’s workmanlike performance – they may be the hardest toiling team in the competition – but much of the focus is bound to fall on Mick Malthouse’s Carlton, 16th and in the mire. The Blues’ task is to rebuild the list; their failing is that they did not recognise this quite early enough.
Meanwhile Richmond is in a dour battle to reach finals after a gallant defeat at the hand of Geelong, while Fremantle showed some of its 2013 vintage in winning the western derby at Subiaco.