Sport AFL The big sticks: What we learned in AFL Round 6
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The big sticks: What we learned in AFL Round 6

Losing, but winning: Carlton's young team looks to be going somewhere.
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Carlton’s gutting five-point loss to Hawthorn in Launceston may have been a near-miss for the Blues, but it offered a glimpse into an exciting future.

“It’s a game of inches, it’s a game of quarters, it’s a game of seconds, it’s a game of contests and we didn’t nail those at critical times,” said Carlton coach Brendon Bolton in the aftermath of the entertaining contest.

The Blues slipped to a 1-5 record after holding a 36-point lead in the first half and fighting back in the final minutes to almost steal the match.

As the clock ticked down Zac Fisher hit the post when a goal would have levelled the scores, then the Blues appeared to have one last shot at victory when Harry McKay marked just inside 50, but he was beaten by the final siren.

The young and pacy Blues were all over the Hawks in the first half, but Bolton rued the lapses in the third quarter that let their opponents back into the game.

“You’ve got to be able to adjust and I don’t think we adjusted well enough in the third quarter,” Bolton said.

Once again No.1 draft pick Sam Walsh was superb for the Blues, racking up 27 touches.

Thompson returns, Ablett turns back clock

Mark Thompson, the coach who broke Geelong’s premiership drought in 2009, made a low key return to the Cattery to celebrate 10 years since the milestone.

Less than two months before he returns to court to face drug trafficking charges, Thompson was a surprise attendee at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday for the function preceding the Geelong and West Coast match.

But he did not join 10 members of the 2009 flag-winning team in doing a lap of honour before the game.

Thompson coached the Cats in 260 games from 2000 to 2010, including the 2007 and 2009 premiership triumphs.

He quit at the end of the 2010 season, before moving to an ill-fated stint at Essendon.

Getting the band back together: Gary Ablett was in brilliant form. Photo: Getty 

In January last year, Thompson’s Port Melbourne house was raided by police, who allegedly found a locked box containing banned drugs. The case is set to return to court for a contested hearing on June 24.

The Cats’ 58-point thrashing of West Coast saw one of Thompson’s former charges, Gary Ablett turn back the clock to rack up 28 disposals, two goals and several score assists.

One of those highlights was the left-footed pass midway through the third quarter that set up a goal for teenager Charlie Constable, who was just two years old when Ablett made his senior debut in 2002.

Evolving, it’s the new rebuilding

A 10th consecutive finals berth is looking increasingly unlikely for Sydney, with the Swans slipping to 1-5 after Saturday night’s loss to Greater Western Sydney – but don’t anyone mention the ‘R’ word.

Swans coach John Longmire steered clear of the word ‘rebuild’ in the aftermath of the 41-point loss, but acknowledged that he’d soon be bringing through a new generation.

“We’re still going to have a crack, but we’re also going to keep bringing through that next bunch of players – and keep teaching and developing,” he said.

We’ve just got to keep teaching them to play footy … we’ll try and fast-track it as quick as we can.”
sydney-swans-coach-longmire
Swans coach John Longmire. Photo: AAP

Longmire coached from the bench at the SCG against the Giants, giving him a chance to deliver one-on-one feedback directly to players.

“We need to evolve the team … I’ve got to evolve too. I’ve done a little bit of it over the pre-season, recognising the changing (nature) of the group.”

Lyon does like Mundy

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon is keen for 33-year-old, 300-gamer David Mundy to play next year.

“He’s bursting through the 300,” Lyon said.

“We spoke over summer that we’d like to get our midfield back together and intact. He’s been exceptional.

“It’s one week at a time obviously. But I know he’s keen to go on, and we’re keen for him to go on.”

Kicking on in the NFL

Forging an AFL career is a tough business and for those kids who fail to make it at the top level there’s at least a new pathway developing where some of their skills can be put to good use – punting in the NFL.

On Saturday San Francisco 49ers snapped up Perth 27-year-old Mitch Wishnowsky in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

Former Sydney Swans academy member Michael Dickson became a sensation after he was selected in the fifth round by Seattle Seahawks last year and became the top punter in the NFL in his rookie campaign.

There are 32 NFL teams and five now have Australian punters.

Wishnowsky had to quit Australian rules football after repeated shoulder injuries. His life changed when a leading Australian gridiron figure, Craig Wilson, spotted him booting a Sherrin in a Perth park with mates.

Wishnowsky said Aussie rules converts can punt the ball away from returners but NFL scouts want punters to also have booming spiral kicks in their arsenal.

“I feel keeping it away from the returner in that Aussie kind of kick is seen as a bit of a novelty,” Wishnowsky told AAP.

Australia’s other NFL punters are Cameron Johnston (Philadelphia), Jordan Berry (Pittsburgh) and Lachlan Edwards (New York Jets).

-with AAP