Zones, presses, more rotations and countless stoppages mean the AFL is a very different product to what it was 20 years ago.
But the old adage that ‘bad kicking is bad football’ still rings true and North Melbourne and Collingwood paid the price on Sunday, with inaccuracy in front of goal costing both sides the chance of claiming upset victories against Richmond and Geelong, respectively.
The Kangaroos and Magpies were tipped to struggle in 2018 yet have defied the odds to make impressive starts to the season. And although neither side lost friends in defeat, they could have made significant statements with Mother’s Day victories.
Fresh off a big win in Sydney, North Melbourne gave the reigning premiers an almighty fright at Docklands despite trailing by 20 points at half time.
A four-goal-to-one third term, inspired by the terrific Ben Cunnington, gave North all the momentum and they hit the front when Shaun Higgins snapped truly early in the final quarter.
Dustin Martin, held to just 16 disposals by North’s Ben Jacobs, was having no impact through the midfield and was swung forward to try and break the tag. The move worked, with the Brownlow Medallist having a hand in three last-quarter goals as the Tigers showed the sort of polish going forward that would eventually cost their opponents.
Richmond had opened up a 13-point lead but Cunnington, who had an AFL record of 32 contested possessions in his 38-disposal haul, kept North’s hopes alive as Brad Scott’s men had the last nine inside 50’s of the match.
Yet despite dominating possession, North wasted chance after chance as the normally reliable Ben Brown sprayed two set shots and Jed Anderson missed, too, while skipper Jack Ziebell could only kick straight up in the air when trying to snap a goal from just 20m out.
The misses meant the Kangaroos, who had a very accurate 11.3 early in the last term, could not force a grandstand finish against a Tigers side led by captain Trent Cotchin, who had 37 disposals, and a four-goal effort from in-form half-forward Josh Caddy.
That little bit of class inside forward 50 was also missing for Collingwood in a 21-point loss to Geelong at the MCG on Sunday afternoon, a dour contest that saw just 14 goals kicked and the Magpies struck down by injury again.
Despite kicking just 1.6 in the first half, Collingwood were the better side after the main break and they should have properly threatened Geelong.
But inaccuracy plagued the Magpies, never more evident than in a 20-minute period either side of three-quarter time when they spurned a host of gilt-edged chances to kick 1.7.
Adam Treloar, who won a game-high 34 disposals, and Daniel Wells, returning from injury, both kicked 0.3 for the losers.
Collingwood’s poor kicking in front of goal meant the Cats, who won for the first time with Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood in the same team, were never seriously challenged in the final quarter.
And a disappointing day for the Magpies was compounded by hamstring problems with forwards Darcy Moore and Jamie Elliott.
Elliott’s injury came in the VFL but Moore’s was at the MCG and the injuries will make life tougher for coach Nathan Buckley as he aims to end Collingwood’s four-year finals hoodoo.
A Showdown to remember
The undoubted highlight of Round 8 was the 44th edition of the ‘Showdown’ between Port Adelaide and Adelaide on Saturday.
The crosstown rivals served up an utter classic as the Power turned a 21-point half time deficit into a two-goal lead at the final change on the back of five third-quarter goals from the outstanding Robbie Gray.
Port still led by 17 points with less than three minutes to play but majors from Eddie Betts and Taylor Walker kept the contest in the balance.
And the Crows thought they had pinched a famous win when Mitch McGovern goaled from 50m out in the final minute to put them in front by one point.
There was one major play left, though, as the Power won the ball forward and Steven Motlop wrote his name into Port Adelaide folklore, kicking truly on the run with just 21 seconds remaining.
— AFL (@AFL) May 12, 2018
Port now sit inside the top eight, joining Geelong, Adelaide, Hawthorn, Melbourne and Sydney as sides with five wins and three losses.
Above them are only the Tigers and West Coast, who made it seven wins in a row with a terrific 25-point win at Greater Western Sydney on Saturday, a result that whets the appetite for next week’s clash between first and second.
At the other end of the ladder, Carlton climbed off the bottom with its first win of the season, a 13-point victory over a desperately disappointing Essendon.
The Bombers are set for a week of intense scrutiny after fading in the third quarter once again.
They kicked 10.18, too, meaning that six of the sides who lost in Round 8 failed to kick more goals than behinds.
And as for the winners, seven of them kicked more goals than behinds, with only West Coast and Geelong bucking the trend. What was that saying about kicking again?