Sport AFL AFL Big Sticks: Red and slack, Bombers in the spotlight

AFL Big Sticks: Red and slack, Bombers in the spotlight

Essendon fans make their feelings known after the capitulation to Western Bulldogs. Photo: Getty
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Essendon’s five-match winning streak and solid hold on an AFL finals spot is but a memory after a horror fortnight featuring disinterested displays against Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs.

In fact, the Bombers were so bad that Essendon great Matthew Lloyd labelled Saturday night’s 104-point thumping as among the worst performances in the club’s history.

“They were horrible last night, Essendon. One of the worst performances in the history of the club,” Lloyd told Channel Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“The amount of people leaving at half-time, three quarter-time, angry, the venom towards the players for a lack of effort.”

Bombers ruckman Shaun McKernan says angry supporters had every right to boo players during the stunning defeat.

“They have got the right to boo,” he told Channel Seven’s Game Day on Sunday.

They’re obviously pretty passionate supporters … and obviously we have to own it as a group and know that we don’t stand for performances like that.’’

The right to be disappointed is one thing, but the grandstanding from some fans – who should be old enough to know better – is a sight seen too often in football these days.

The Bombers hold seventh spot on the ladder, but meet Fremantle in Perth and then Collingwood before the finals.

Lyon, king no more?

Fremantle is coming off a shock loss of its own having fallen to St Kilda in a thriller on Sunday at Marvel Stadium that leaves Ross Lyon with some decisions to make.

Saint Josh Bruce kicked the winner with less than a minute to go, leaving Lyon’s men out of the finals hunt in 12th with a 9-11 record.

Ross Lyon addresses his men before their devastating three-point loss. Photo: Getty

Jack Steven and Dan Hannebery, playing together for St Kilda for the first time, added a level of class that would have had sacked coach Alan Richardson pondering what might have been if he had the pair at his disposal.

It was St Kilda’s ninth win of the season – the third in four games under caretaker Brett Ratten, who has done no harm to his chances of getting the gig on a full-time basis.

With the coaching merry-go-round in full swing, Lyon reportedly remains committed to Fremantle, but this year’s inconsistent showing may see some reassessment by both club and one of football’s leading thinkers.

Given Lyon’s controversial switch from the St Kilda to Fremantle, in which he led both clubs to losing grand finals, it would be some irony if it was the Saints that prompted a change.

Look out for full-strength Tigers

Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin look set to return for next week’s blockbuster AFL game against West Coast.

Martin (soreness) was withdrawn from Sunday’s 11.7 (73) to 6.9 (45) victory over Carlton, while Cotchin sat out for a second-straight week with a minor hamstring injury.

Coach Damien Hardwick said he fully expected to have his two Brownlow Medallists at his disposal after a season blighted by injury, making it hard for players to push up from the VFL.

“It’s hard to continually say to players that are playing so well at the VFL level that there’s just no position available,” he said.

“Those boys are really patient. What they’ve also got to understand, though, is they are a significant part of our journey.”

Shaw got work to do with Kangaroos

One interim coach who got the gig has discovered how quickly the honeymoon can end, with North Melbourne’s Rhyce Shaw leading his team to the club’s lowest score in its 95-year history.

The Kangaroos’ 1.8 (14) against Geelong in a 55-point loss on Saturday night means Shaw has working on defence on top of his ‘to do’ list over the off-season – along with the forwards and midfielders.

We are Geelong: Winners again. Photo: Getty

“It just happened to be one of those nights,” Shaw said.

“I’m more worried about the way we played more than anything … than the score.

“We need to be able to defend a bit better. Our midfield needs to lift in a few areas and we need to try and score as best we can.”

Shaw noted Geelong dominated the contested ball.

“We got beaten pretty convincingly in there,” he said.

“Geelong gave us a real lesson inside. It’s as simple as that.

“We played some pretty good footy. We had 15 inside 50s, but we just couldn’t score … We kept changing things, but we were chasing our tail a little bit.”

Martin message heard loud and clear

Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew remains happy with his decision to send a message to out-of-contract gun midfielder Jack Martin, who sat out the  91-point loss to Brisbane Lions at the Gabba.

The Suns will collect the wooden spoon this year, but Dew says he will continue to set standards that let players know exactly what is required of them.

Jack Martin was delivered a message by his coach. Photo: Getty

Martin had 32 disposals, 11 tackles and two goals in a dominant NEAFL performance against Brisbane in the Gabba curtain-raiser, with the coach saying recent poor form – not contract issues – was the reason for the midfielder’s early start.

“We talked to Jack about his form … we brought him back in (last week against Collingwood) and we both agreed, Jack and us, that he had a poor game,” Dew said.

“There has been some form issues for a fair while and we just thought we would break the cycle. And he did that, which was really pleasing.

“I watched him play and he played well with power, particularly in the first half.

“No dramas, he will play next week.”

Next year may well be another story.

-with AAP