Tigers find a new way to lose
With the top-four heavyweights growing tedious in their majesty, a lot of the best contests this year have been fought by the teams occupying the thick band of also-rans.
So it proved again on Sunday night, when North Melbourne and Richmond played out an epic, see-sawing contest. Richmond did an uncanny impersonation of an actual football team in the first half, but then an erratic Majak Daw was subbed off, and Drew Petrie came to life with four goals.
Richmond discard Robin Nahas was at his gadfly best and, in a niggly game, he found himself in the middle of every scrap.
The Tigers watched helplessly as a revitalised North kicked eight goals to one in the third quarter, and they never looked like landing a blow thereafter. (See the eight goals straight in the video below.)
Damien Hardwick watched on, the very image of impotent rage: at one point he managed a laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
Meanwhile, Matt White and Jay Schulz, Tiger rejects, have become key planks in what is starting to look like a premiership-calibre Port Adelaide side. If you can’t laugh, you’ll cry.
Mick’s Blues overshadowed by Mick’s blue
Friday night’s match at the MCG was the other headline event, as a shaky Geelong side held off Carlton. Carlton put in a purposeful performance, and might have snatched the game if not for two dubious non-decisions in the game’s final moments.
First came Jared Rivers’ high tackle on Troy Menzel in the goal-mouth, and then runner Nigel Lappin escaped unpunished when he obstructed Mitch Robinson at a stoppage deep in attack.
Mick Malthouse, though, took a potential good-news story and turned it into another chapter in the saga of Mick Versus Everybody.
Malthouse was within his rights to be upset about those decisions, but he just succeeded in distracting everyone from a highly creditable performance by his team, in a season that’s been light on for them.
Having said that, you have to wonder whether Lappin absolutely needed to be in the heart of the action in the game’s dying moments. Or anywhere, for that matter. Are runners absolutely essential? Would contests collapse into total anarchy without a constant stream of instruction from upstairs? I doubt it.
Players having to show a bit of initiative out there? I could get behind that.
Hawthorn kept the right gorilla
Jarryd Roughead’s long Achilles layoff back in 2011 gave Hawthorn a snapshot of life without Buddy’s buddy – and they didn’t like it.
Against West Coast, Roughead reminded fans that though he lacks Buddy’s flash, he’s arguably the more valuable player.
On an off day, Roughead still has the competitive courage – and the frame – to make life very difficult for opponents. When he’s on, though, he’s one of the absolute best. His eight goals, eight marks, six tackles and 24 touches were the main reason that Hawthorn cruised to a comfortable victory at Aurora Stadium.
Hawthorn have lost their coach and a third of their best 22, but they keep finding ways to win.
Big man Luke Lowden, meanwhile, tarnished his memorable three-goal Hawthorn debut with a seriously regrettable haircut. Burn the video, Luke – your grandchildren needn’t know.
Wingard and Port find themselves in clear air
Port Adelaide continued a sequence of calmly dominant performances against St Kilda at the Adelaide Oval, and officially confirmed their flag favouritism by going two games clear at the top of the ladder. And while Port fans will be tempted to book their late-September flights, St Kilda were too poor to serve as any sort of barometer.
Chad Wingard obviously felt that all those three-goal, 30-touch performances were getting a bit stale, so he had a crack at taking the mark of the year with a jack-knifing solo effort over Sean ‘Jerker’ Dempster (see the video).
St Kilda, meanwhile, dropped to 17th, after Brisbane’s win over the fast-stagnating Bulldogs. They still have GWS below them, but you wouldn’t put money on it staying that way.
After running Hawthorn to the line last week, GWS gave Essendon a proper scare with another spirited performance – spirit, though, is not a term that you associate with the Saints at the moment. Peta Searle had better come up with something quick-smart.
Loose ends: bumps and twangs
A lot of pundits wondered how the Swans would fit their tall talent into one forward line, but Kurt Tippet and and Lance Franklin might have made things a little easier. Sydney continued to pick up momentum with their seventh win on the trot, but Tippet was subbed out with knee soreness in the third quarter, and faces an uncertain prognosis.
Meanwhile, the match review panel will take an interest in Franklin’s late, gratuitous hit on Suns defender Clay Cameron: initial contact was to the chest, but that contact snapped Cameron’s head into contact with Franklin’s sizeable shoulder (see the video). The bump may not be dead, but tall blokes had better be awfully circumspect.
Essendon’s finals hopes might have gone twang along with Jobe Watson’s quad: Watson is looking at a month out after an innocuous incident against GWS. Over in Perth on Sunday, Michael Johnson was a casualty in Freo’s comfortable victory over Adelaide.
Meanwhile, Cyril Rioli returned to Hawthorn’s all-star treatment room, picking up a knee injury on his return from a hamstring strain. The Hawks might want to contact their local witch-doctor and try to put an end to all this nonsense.