Richmond kept their hold on top spot with a comfortable win over Collingwood, running over the top of the Magpies in the second half. At the other end of the ladder, the Blues and Lions remained winless going down to the Bulldogs and Giants in unenthralling games. Port Adelaide returned to the winners list, defeating North Melbourne and the Swans came from 22 points down at the final change to stun Geelong at the Cattery.
The Crows were too strong for the fading Suns, the Demons heaped more misery on the Bombers, the Hawks moved into the top four with a win over St Kilda and the Eagles claimed bragging rights when they claimed a narrow seven point win over rivals Fremantle, in the first Western Derby held at Perth Stadium.
Here are some (possibly outlandish) observations from Round 6:
Essendon are wishing they didn’t re-sign John Worsfold
The former Eagles captain has done wonders with the club since taking over ahead of the CAS-suspension affected 2016, lifting the Bombers to finals in 2017. With the acquisition of Adam Saad, Devon Smith and Jake Stringer, many expected Essendon to again make finals, with some predicting that even a premiership could be on the cards just two seasons after they collected the wooden spoon.
Those hopes rose further after an impressive come-from-behind win over last year’s Grand Finallists Adelaide leading to an excited Essendon board gleefully announcing Worsfold had extended his current contract. Since, the Bombers have managed just one win from five games, and the manner of the losses haven’t been encouraging. A meek display against Fremantle, defeat to the lowly Bulldogs, an insipid effort on Anzac Day and finally a dismal performance against an equally under-fire Demons side.
There are problems aplenty, and the Essendon board may now be wishing they hadn’t locked themselves into a coach that, for the meantime, seems out of solutions to his sides’ problems.
Ben Brown would transform a number of sides into premiership contenders
The Kangaroos have been a bit of a surprise packet so far in 2018 after many predicted they would collect the wooden spoon. Three wins from the first six rounds has them in the top eight, and while the expectation is that they will drop off the pace the longer the season goes on, the dark clouds supposedly surrounding the club, don’t seem so alarming.
One of the future young stars is Ben Brown, who leads the Coleman at the conclusion of this round. Brown has booted 23 goals from six games, and showed last year that he was capable of booting bags despite the Kangaroos’ lack of on-field success. The Kangaroos will build their next era around him, but there are many clubs right now, knocking on the door of contending for the premiership, that would love Brown right now.
The Cats are the obvious team as they would dearly love to have greater support for Tom Hawkins. The Swans were dealt a blow ahead of the season when Kurt Tippett chose to retire, and have been very Franklin-conscious, although they enjoyed a fantastic win without him at Kardinia Park. Collingwood have shown that they could finally contend for finals after a number of years in the wilderness and with injury concerns over Darcy Moore and the ever-continuing development of Mason Cox, Brown would suit their achilles heel up forward perfectly.
If these teams had Brown at their disposal – even in a potential mid-season loan situation – they would be favourites for the flag.
Carlton could have their worst season in club history
The Blues were expected to continue to rise in 2018, after recording an impressive six wins in 2017. However, after losing the opening six games of the season – the worst start for Carlton in club history – the Blues look as though they will struggle to match last season’s record. Further, they haven’t even looked likely in most of the games they have played.
Last weeks margin of 10 points to West Coast is the closest they have come so far, and even that was only due to a number of junk goals in the final term when the Eagles had the game sewn up. After blitzing the Tigers in the opening stages of the opening game of the year, the Blues have struggled to match their opponents. The Tigers outscored them by 10 goals following their onslaught, while the Kangaroos (86 points) and Gold Coast (34 points) both stunned Carlton, in games that on paper, they would expect to win.
Sitting at 0-6, it doesn’t get any easier for the Blues. A trip to Adelaide Oval to take on the Crows is followed by arch rivals Essendon, a clash with Melbourne and then consecutive trips to Geelong, to play the Cats, and then Sydney, to play the Swans. It could be conceivable that Carlton will remain winless until they play the Lions (who could also be winless) in Round 16. Based on how things are presently travelling, Carlton could finish on as little as two wins, which would be a worse result than their recent wooden spoon finishes.
The Commonwealth Games Will Cost Gold Coast A Maiden Finals Spot
The Suns have shown great improvement in the opening half dozen games under Stuart Dew, starting the year with three wins from their opening six games. But their three losses have come from the past four games, with the weekly travel due to the Gold Coast hosting the Commonwealth Games earlier this month, starting to take its toll. Losses in consecutive weeks in Perth and defeat to the Crows in Adelaide – by an average 52 points – has started to put the Suns behind the eight ball, with still another month of travel to come.
The Suns still have trips to Bendigo, a home game at the GABBA and then China on the horizon, with three more losses set to leave them 3-6 when they hit their bye in Round 10. Had it not been for the Commonwealth Games, the Suns could have at least hit the bye at parity. The Suns gave up their home game against the Dockers, travelling to Perth, while a home game at Metricon rather than the GABBA when they take on the Demons could also have swung favouritism towards the Suns. A 5-5 record at the halfway mark could have propelled the Suns to the second half of their season, but it seems now to have been compromised due to the Commonwealth Games.
Dayne Zorko is in a horrible slump
Many have lauded the three-time club champion in recent seasons as he performed admirably in a struggling team, rewarded with All-Australian selection in 2017. His season thus far couldn’t have been more of a contrast, as opposition sides target the Lions main ball winner. Zorko has averaged just 15 disposals per game and has only booted five goals from six games and his opponent, Touk Miller, received best on ground honours for his tagging role in last week’s Q-Clash.
With the Lions continuing their rebuild, its vital their leaders play their best football and the sooner Zorko can return to his club champion best, the sooner Brisbane may crack through for their first win.
The State of the Game is in Serious Trouble
After an enterprising opening to the season, the last few weeks have been predominantly dull, at best. Average scores have been at their lowest in 30 years, players skills have been deplorable and most games have been one-sided and gone as expected. Despite the AFL’s best efforts to increase scoring and make games more entertaining, most coaches have resorted to defensive tactics, particularly in response to the opening round glut of goals to teams and individuals. In fairness, team scores would be higher if not for the simple missed shots on goal that all sides have been guilty of; kicking on goal remains the biggest skill impediment across the competition.
The AFL would hesitate to bring in drastic rule changes to improve the visual aspect of the game, but things like less interchanges, less players on the ground, zones and other rule changes seem too far beyond the average fan’s hopes for the game. However it seems that the AFL have no choice but to make a drastic change to the future of the game to save it. While having less interchanges seems the most likely implementation, this won’t affect how the game will be played. While the AFL will hope that fatiguing players will create more one on one contests, more likely it will only lead to teams stacking backlines to conserve injuries or hold onto leads, rather than open up space. Further, it can’t be seen to have a positive affect on player disposal, considering many players can’t hit simple targets as it stands.
In a blow to the traditionalists, zones or having less players on the field seems to be the step the AFL needs to take.