One third of the way through the season and Richmond remains the team to catch after their demolition job of the Dockers. The Tigers coasted to a 77 point win, which probably should have been more to hold top spot ahead of surprise packets West Coast in second, by percentage. The Eagles made it six wins on the trot when they accounted for the Power at home, with the Crows and Hawks rounding out the top four after also both registering easy wins.
The Cats smashed the Giants in the opening game of the round, North Melbourne produced the upset of the season in knocking off the Swans in Sydney, the Dogs made it consecutive wins when they defeated Gold Coast and the Demons won a scrappy encounter against the Saints. The final game of the round produced one of the best games of the season when the Magpies held on in a high scoring clash to defeat a gallant Brisbane by seven points.
Here are some (possibly outlandish) observations from Round 7:
There needs to be a inquest on set shot goal kicking
The state of the game came under fire last week with congestion and the lack of scoring highlighted as areas of concern affecting the aesthetics of the matches being played. One way to increase scoring is to make sure of the shots on goal and the weekend once again produced a bevy of straight forward shots being missed.
The Saints-Demons game was a shocker for set shots on goal and there were plenty of examples of players missing from directly in front. Charlie Dixon finished with 1.3 and two out of bounds from six shots inside 50 against the Eagles and the Bombers were also guilty of missing simple chances, particularly early in the game, that could have given them a chance to build a lead.
The general discussion out of clubs is that sport science dictates a large chunk of the training that is done by players, both at an individual level and a team level and that there aren’t enough hours during the week to work on the basic skills of players. Considering that games are won 100% of the time by the side that kicks the higher score, the ability of players to convert scoring opportunities into goals more often than not, should be seen as a priority. An extra 30 minutes per session for players to have practice shots on goal shouldn’t be too much of a physical detriment and as well as bringing out higher scores with better accuracy on goal (the Saints would for one be a great beneficiary of this), it could also be the difference between winning and losing.
It’s about time Paddy McCartin started wearing a helmet
Paddy McCartin has not had a lot go right in the first few years of his career, and the growing number of concussions must be a concern for the Saints. It seems to have gotten to the point now that even the slightest of knocks affects McCartin and so it was again against the Demons. McCartin clashed heads with Melbourne defender Neville Jetta, and while he initially stayed on the ground, he eventually left the field of play as precaution.
The Saints would know that they haven’t gotten the return they hoped for from their number one draft pick and with Nick Riewoldt retired and Josh Bruce languishing in the twos, expectation has risen that McCartin can be the player they can build their next period of success around but that won’t happen if he keeps getting head knocks.
It is time for McCartin to wear a helmet and he only had to look at the opposition to witness the positive enforcement having a helmet can have on a player. Angus Brayshaw has adopted a helmet following a string of his own concussion issues and was arguably one of the best players on the ground. Brayshaw finished with a career best 32 possessions, laid three tackles and kicked a goal in a typically fearless performance. Brayshaw’s appetite for the contest has never been questioned despite his concussion problems and he will be an important factor in the Demons push for finals.
The 2018 All-Australian Team Could Buck The Trend
The second ruckman is an endangered breed within AFL clubs, with the majority of the sides opting to go with one premier ruckman and use a forward or tall midfielder as the back up or relief role. However, when it comes to picking the final All-Australian side come the end of the 2018 season, selectors will have to go against the thoughts of the clubs and choose two first-choice ruckman.
Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy have both had incredible starts to the season and if their present forms continue for the remainder of the year, it will be nigh on impossible to pick one over the other. Gawn is one of the early Brownlow contenders and Grundy has been a standout in Collingwood’s season. Both have the stats to back up their claims for AA selection.
Gawn has recorded the most hit-outs for the year, and last week recorded the most hit-outs to advantage when he put on a masterclass against Essendon ruckman Matthew Leuenberger. Gawn has also averaged 17 disposals per game, five marks, three tackles, three clearances and booted four goals across the opening seven games. Grundy sits fourth on the hit-outs but is basically an extra midfielder for the Magpies, racking up 22 possessions on average, five tackles (including 11 against the Lions), six clearances and has booted three goals in the first seven games.
At this point in the season, neither player should miss out on All-Australian honours.
Port Adelaide Lost At Match Committee
The Power were one of the more disappointing efforts over the weekend, slumping to a 42 point loss to West Coast, even with a third quarter revival. Ken Hinkley was scathing of his side after the game, calling their effort ‘soft’ and highlighting the disparity in the contested possession, which the Eagles won 162-120.
Which makes the decision to give Sam Powell-Pepper and Tom Rockliff an extra run in the SANFL a peculiar one when their bigger bodies may have given the Power a vital edge. The Eagles’ biggest strength in 2018 has been their hit-out dominance, but it hasn’t translated into an advantage at clearances. But against the Power, the Eagles recorded their best return in 2018 with a 45-31 win at the stoppages, even when they were without Dom Sheed and then losing Luke Shuey in the opening minutes.
The Eagles were more willing around the contest and enabled them to control forward half possession with Port Adelaide unable to get effective first ball use. Powell-Pepper and Rockliff might have been handy inclusions.
Lyndon Dunn Will Cost Collingwood a Game One Day
The Magpies squeezed past the Lions in an enthralling end-to-end game to make it four wins from five games and lift themselves into top eight. Collingwood registered a seven point win, but they could have been counting the costs had they slipped to the winless Brisbane. And had the margin been less than a goal, they could have gone back to a first-quarter incident that handed Mitch Robinson the opening goal of the game.
With the ball on the wing, Lynden Dunn gave away a free kick in the Brisbane goal square when he collected Robinson high as a group of players jostled for position. The indiscretion resulted in a simple goal and comes after Dunn gave away a ‘double goal’ against the Tigers when he toppled over young forward Jack Higgins. The Magpies would be keen to rein Dunn in to prevent an easy goal being given away that costs more than just six points on the scoreboard.
The Final 8 still has many changes in it
Historically, the top eight is generally done by this time of the season. Considering the season runs across 22 games, it’s a bizarre phenomenon that the teams bound for September can be known so early in the season, even if it isn’t officially known for another few months.
But in 2018, there are a number of sides sitting high up on the ladder that few were predicting and the consensus is that they won’t be able to sustain it for the full year. West Coast are sitting second on the back of a six game winning streak, the Hawks are in the top four and North Melbourne – the popular pick for the wooden spoon – also find themselves in the top eight having claimed the scalps of Hawthorn and Sydney in the opening seven rounds.
However, all three still have their doubters on whether they are genuine finals aspirants and there are plenty of teams sitting just outside the finals positions that are well credentialed. Collingwood lead the chasing pack and have a desirable run over the next five weeks, which will see them start favourites in four of them. Port Adelaide and Melbourne also sit just outside the eight, having been walk up starts in many eyes at the beginning of the year, while the Bombers and Saints were expected to be challenging, and may still do so, despite horror starts to their year.
It’s only Round 7, but there are still plenty of permutations left in the chase for finals.