Saturday night AFL has provided two big upsets that recast the AFL ladder and the fight for the final eight, with Collingwood and Port Adelaide falling short against less favoured opponents.
The Magpies were smashed by North Melbourne 11.15 (81) to 5.7 (37) at Marvel Stadium, while the Power went down at home to the Western Bulldogs 10.6 (66) to 5.11 (41).
Collingwood’s horror night got off to an inauspicious start when forward Ben Reid limped off with a calf injury after just four minutes and did not return to the field.
Reid, who suffered a quad injury earlier this year, impressed last week in his AFL return, but he grabbed at his right calf after a marking contest.
Lacking firepower or inspiration things got worse from there, with the Pies recording their lowest score since round five in 1995.
While the Magpies will stay second on the ladder, they are now two games behind Geelong and the alarm bells are ringing loud.
The upset win means caretaker coach Rhyce Shaw, a former Collingwood player, boasts a 3-1 record since taking over from Brad Scott.
The resurgent Kangaroos improved to 6-8 and as of Saturday night are only one game outside the top eight.
North were outstanding and but for their inaccuracy, the game would have been over in the second term – the Kangaroos spraying 2.7 in the opening quarter.
North ultimately won the inside 50s by 64 to 35.
In Adelaide, the Bulldogs ground down Port in the wet with Josh Schache again giving the forward line bite with three goals.
The Power, a week after downing ladder-leaders Geelong, blew a chance to consolidate their finals claim, slipping from seventh to eighth spot.
Schache came off after a heavy hit, but told Channel Seven he would be good to go again next week.
“I’m fine. A little bit of a knock to the head again,” he said. “All sweet. Good I could get back out there and finish the game off.”
Marcus Bontempelli produced a dynamic first term – a dozen disposals, six clearances, four inside 50s and four tackles – and the Bulldogs led 3.2 to 1.2 at quarter-time.
Gold Coast coach sticks with attacking plan
Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew insists his AFL team won’t put the cue in the rack as they seek to keep attacking and snap a 10-game losing streak.
The Suns’ 42-point loss at the SCG on Saturday was an all-too-familiar story for Dew, who watched his charges challenge Sydney throughout the opening half then fade out.
The Suns now host Richmond and Adelaide before tackling Carlton at Marvel Stadium in a match that could potentially decide who takes home the wooden spoon in 2019.
Dew suggested a positive finish to this season could bring rewards in 2020.
“We’re certainly not putting the cue in the rack. We’re trying to get every last drop out of them for the next eight weeks,” Dew told reporters.
“I always feel like when we compete we’re not far from a win but three quarters won’t cut it. What we do in the next eight weeks in that regard (style of play) will hold us in good stead for next year.
“Spirit is still high. Motivation and mood is still good but that’s not to say we’re sitting here going ‘That’s OK, that’s another one (loss)’. We’ve just got to keep working.”
Dew will keep imploring his team, who currently sit one win above last-placed Carlton, to take the game on.
“We tried to be a bit more aggressive with our ball use. Some of it came off but they really made us pay when it didn’t,” Dew said.
“We don’t want to go into our shell, try and close the game down.
“We’d rather live on the side of having a go at it, rather than trying to play slow and lock up the game.”
Eagles comeback stuns Hawks
West Coast’s resilience to score a last-gasp six-point win over Hawthorn or Nic Naitanui’s successful AFL return after a year on the sidelines?
It was difficult to tell which aspect of Saturday’s thrilling 11.11 (77) to 9.17 (71) win at a cold and wet MCG pleased Eagles coach Adam Simpson more.
Having trailed by eight points in an enthralling final-term arm wrestle, the Eagles willed themselves across the line, Jamie Cripps’ third goal with just over a minute left proving decisive.
The Hawks were brave, erasing a game-high 22-point deficit in the second quarter to get their noses in front late, but Jack Darling bagged his fifth goal in an eye-catching display to set up the stunning final minutes.
In his first AFL game since rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament in round 17 last year, Naitanui moved well in limited game time and finished with six possessions and 41 hitouts.
“I think the AFL community is happy to see Nic Nat play,” Simpson said.
He’s such a great person and to see him get rewarded for all that hard work … it doesn’t happen all the time.
“To get him back playing and happy and smiling and joking around in the change rooms before the game … we’ve just missed that so it’s really good for us that he’s back.
“… I think there’s intensity and then there’s ‘Nic intensity’. I reckon we saw that once or twice today.
“In the last quarter at the first bounce or two, we just saw that intensity that no one can match and we’ve missed that.”
Alastair Clarkson lamented the inaccuracy in front of goal in that dominant third term after the Hawks slipped further out of finals contention with a 5-9 record.
“We’re disappointed because we thought the effort was there,” Clarkson said.
“It was close all day really … it’s just unfortunate there has to be a loser and we’re it. It would’ve been a good scalp to get.”