Port Adelaide remained the only unbeaten side in the competition after they escaped with a five point win over a persistent Brisbane. The Hawks, Giants and Suns all fell to their first defeat, with Hawthorn going down to reigning premiers Richmond in front of a record crowd of 70+ between the two sides, the Giants losing the Battle of the Bridge to Sydney, and the Suns dropping their ‘home’ game to Fremantle.
The Magpies got off the mark in 2018 with a comfortable win over Carlton in the opening game of the round, the Bulldogs also broke their duck in defeating a disappointing Essendon and Adelaide easily accounted for St.Kilda. Melbourne ended their 12 year hoodoo against North Melbourne and in the final game of the round, West Coast recorded their first win at their new stadium against an injury-riddled Geelong.
Here are some (possibly outlandish) observations from Round 3:
Carlton won’t ton up in 2018
The Blues remain winless after a third loss, this time to arch rivals Collingwood. After two seasons under Brendon Bolton bedding down the defensive system, the promise coming out of Princes Park was that the Blues would get more offensive. The Blues cracked the 100 point barrier just twice in the first two seasons under Bolton’s tutelage and haven’t looked likely in their past two efforts, after narrowly falling short in Round 1.
Having seen Jarrod Waite, Eddie Betts, Jeff Garlett and Lachie Henderson depart the club in recent times, the Blues have looked to regenerate their forward half through the draft with the likes of Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay, Jack Silvagni and Jarrod Garlett. Carlton have shown that they can get runs of goals – they started the clash with the Magpies with the first four goals of the game, and rattled five in ten minutes against Richmond, but haven’t been able to sustain this rate over four quarters. The Blues have won the inside 50 count in their past two matches, so the opportunities are there, but with a young group still gelling, the Blues will still be posting a number of low scores this season.
Tom Mitchell will average over 40 disposals for the year
It says a lot when you can tally 42 possessions in a game and it reduces your average for the year, but that is the case for Tom Mitchell after a blazing start to the season. Mitchell recorded 30 plus possessions in 20 of 22 games in 2017 (an AFL record) and obviously believes in the mantra of ’40 is the new 30’. Mitchell has started the year with disposal numbers of 54 (also an AFL record), 40 and 42 in the first three rounds and there is no suggestion he couldn’t keep racking up these numbers for the remainder of the year.
Opposition clubs seem unable or unwilling to tag the Hawk midfielder and Mitchell is having a devastating effect on games. As well as 136 disposals in three games, Mitchell has averaged 11 clearances, five tackles, seven inside-50’s and booted three goals. Mitchell has shown that he can win the inside ball and link up on the outside and his work rate has jumped to another level. He would be a fair show for this years Brownlow medal and there is a fair argument that he has polled maximum votes in all games so far.
Brisbane are going to trouble some teams this year
The Lions were given next to no chance to take the points from Alberton, but an incredibly stoic effort almost delivered once of the steals this decade. The Lions stuck with the home side to hold a narrow 11 point lead at the main break, and despite the Power slamming on seven goals to two to take the lead, the Lions weren’t disheartened.
As the Power squandered shots on goal and other forward entries in the final term, the Lions inched their way back and two goals to Eric Hipwood had them within a kick in the final minute. The Lions kept the ball front of centre, but couldn’t find a decisive score as the Power grittily hung on. All with captain Dayne Beams being a late withdrawal, and Dayne Zorko having little impact in a subdued start to the season.
If the Lions can replicate that performance on a regular basis, there is no reason to suggest that they can’t claim some big scalps in 2018. The Lions have several winnable games at the GABBA before the mid-season bye and while a 0-3 start means that finals are off the table, they shouldn’t be too far off come the end of round 23.
The Bombers trading will be a bust compared to expectation
Essendon were lauded after an active trading period, but only Devon Smith may end up being a pass mark. Jake Stringer has battled in the opening three rounds – with a poke in the eye limiting him against the Bulldogs – and Adam Saad has also struggled to provide run out of defence.
Stringer and Smith were seen as depth options to run through the midfield, but haven’t adapted to the increased role as well as the Bombers would have liked. Smith and Stringer had 20 and 16 disposals, respectively, and each kicked a goal, but were overwhelmed by a manic Bulldog outfit.
Smith has cracked 20 possessions in each of the games, but the other two have been hit-and-miss, with Stringer only managing nine disposals against the Dockers, while Saad has tallied 12, 16 and 12 in his three games off half-back.
The Bulldogs went over the top singing the song twice
The Bulldogs cracked through for their first win in 2018, disposing of the Bombers by 21 points and comes after much speculation about how smooth things have been running at Whitten Oval. After a summer of discontent which had seen a public spat between board members and two recruiting managers and a president leave, the troubles spilled out onto the field in insipid defeats to GWS and West Coast by a combined 133 points. In the week leading up to the Bombers clash, there had been discussion of a fallout between players and coaches.
Luke Beveridge looked to make a point that all was fine at the club by insisting that all support staff and supporters present in the club rooms join in for a second rendition of the club song, after the players had completed an initial version. While the idea might have been to show one of solidarity, it also smacked off desperation to suggest that things are better than they are. The Bulldogs have failed to bring an attitude to the start of the season and the last thing they need is to get ahead of things after one solid performance.
The 2017 Top Ten Won’t Match the 2016 Class
Three games is admittedly a small sample size, but the immediate impact of the 2017 draftees has been nowhere as impressive as the 2016 group. Talked up in the lead-up as one of the best midfielder drafts, there was plenty to like about high draft choices in Andrew Brayshaw, Paddy Dow, Luke Davies-Uniacke and number one pick Cameron Rayner. However, while they have all been serviceable in their opening three games with their respective clubs, no one has really set the world on fire.
Adam Cerra has played the last two games at Fremantle after being conspicuously absent through much of the pre-season while Jaidyn Stephenson has shown glimpses but seemed overwhelmed in front of the large Collingwood-Carlton game. Hunter Clark was dropped after two games at St Kilda and Nick Coffield only made his debut in the loss to Adelaide. Aaron Naughton showed improvement against Essendon and Lachie O’Brien has yet to be seen at the Blues.
While they will all be destined for long careers, its hard not to compare them to last years crop who all had a greater impact from their debuts. 2016 number one pick Andrew McGrath slotted straight into the Bombers defence, averaging 20 disposals across 21 games. Tim Taranto fit right into a strong GWS side, as did Hugh McCluggage at the Lions. Griffin Logue warmed up through the year and finished the year in a key defensive role and Sam Petrevski-Seton became an immediate fan favourite at the Blues.
It might be unfair to expect much from a group of 18 year olds, but many of the top ten have plenty to go to live up to the hype they were given before the draft.