Last weekend was supposed to be the round where almost anyone could’ve picked eight winners. So why were there so many upsets? Let’s look back at what was a surprisingly action-packed round five.
Five things we learnt from Round 5:
- Melbourne can do serious damage this year. They weren’t supposed to be winning consistently until at least 2013, but the Demons have remarkably won their last three games. I sat down and watched their match against the more fancied Brisbane last Saturday night and Melbourne were so exciting to watch. They moved the ball quickly through the middle and put the Lions’ defence under enormous pressure during their 50-point win. Their whole team, both young and experienced, functioned well and they were lead superbly by rising star nominee Jack Trengove. It will be a massive ask for them to make finals, but in the form they are in at the moment, anything is possible.
- Chris Judd is the best on-field leader in the competition. He has been heavily criticised for not showing leadership when it comes to off-field issues but there is no doubting his ability to lead by example when he steps onto an AFL field. Judd was outstanding during the Blues’ surprise 36-point victory over Geelong last Monday, particularly when the game was up for grabs in the first half. Since his return from suspension two weeks ago, he has been best-on-ground in both games and can safely be labelled the barometer of Carlton’s success.
- St.Kilda can’t win a flag without Nick Riewoldt. I said a couple of weeks ago that St.Kilda can win a game without him. But after their 10-point loss to port Adelaide last Saturday night, it’s apparent that the Saints need Riewoldt to have any chance of winning a premiership. We mustn’t take anything away from Port Adelaide. They were outstanding on the night and seized their opportunity when the Saints began to tire. David Rodan was the story of the night, winning the Peter Badcoe VC Medal for best-on-ground in just his second game back from his revolutionary LARS surgery to reconstruct his knee. The Saints desperately missed Riewoldt’s ability to constantly present up the wings during the last quarter and if he was playing the Saints probably would’ve won.
- Essendon fans are running out of patience. Matthew Knights’ troops are now under enormous pressure after an insipid 65-point loss to Collingwood on ANZAC Day. After the spine-tingling pre-match proceedings, the Bombers let the game slip in the opening quarter. In front of 90,070 people, the Magpies slammed through 7.5 to 0.3, forcing the fat lady to make an early appearance. Some people say that it is the attitude of the players, some say it’s Knights’ game plan. Whatever the issue is, the club better fix it soon otherwise Knights’ immediate future is in serious jeopardy.
- Sydney are nearly impossible to beat at the SCG. Actually, this is probably a well known fact amongst most people affiliated with the AFL. But after their 52 point win over West Coast on Saturday, it is even more obvious that the SCG home ground advantage will be vital to the Swans’ success this year. West Coast had no answers to Sydney’s tenacious pressure and attacking run from the backline. Daniel Bradshaw continues to thrive at his new club, booting another six goals to take his tally for the year to 17. The Swans now sit pretty in top spot on the ladder, something that not very many would have thought would occur before the season began.
Before we look forward to round six, I want to let you know about what I’m doing with the Brownlow medal this year. I am always fascinated by the Brownlow and the hype that goes with it during the finals series. So at the conclusion of every game this year, I will be looking back at all the votes given by media outlets and get a general idea of who were the three best players on the ground. I then organise those votes by the media into a rough 3-2-1 system. Yes I have no life.
I understand that awarding votes to players is an extremely subjective art and I know that the umpires have a totally different perspective on the game. But I believe that this is as accurate as to what you’ll get when you hear the votes read out on Brownlow night. So here are the top eight players, according to yours truly, after the first five rounds. And it is no surprise to see who is on top:
Gary Ablett (Geelong) 9 votes
Michael Barlow (Fremantle) 7 votes
Brendon Goddard (St.Kilda) 7 votes
Aaron Sandilands (Fremantle) 7 votes
Jarred Brennan (Brisbane) 6 votes
Jonathon Brown (Brisbane) 6 votes
Chris Judd (Carlton) 6 votes
Ben McGlynn (Sydney) 6 votes
Ryan O’Keefe (Sydney) 6 votes
What to look forward to in Round 6:
– Rivalry round is always an enthralling weekend of football. It kicks off tonight with what should be a fairly even contest between two premiership threats in the Western Bulldogs and St.Kilda. The Bulldogs took their time to take control of their match against Adelaide last Friday night, but eventually ran away with the game in the second half to win comfortably. There is a massive difference between the two sides at the moment and that is the presence of a key forward. Barry Hall has kicked 19 goals so far this season and is another player thriving at his new club. The Riewoldt-less Saints will struggle against the top clubs if Justin Koschitzke doesn’t start firing soon. Hall, as well as an almost faultless Bulldogs backline, will be the difference between the two sides tonight.
– The clash between Essendon and Hawthorn on Saturday night is set to sizzle the MCG. It is well documented that these two great rivals just plain hate each other. Their epic battles throughout the 1980’s always brought the crowd to life and who could forget the epic ‘Line in the Sand’ game between the two sides back in 2004. Now, both teams are under enormous pressure to perform this round and there could be some serious fireworks on the field. However, Lance Franklin is due to explode. Statistically, Essendon is Franklin’s opponent, averaging 4.6 goals per game which includes two bags of nine in 2007 and 2008. The stage is set for ‘Buddy’ to light up the G’!
– The local derbys in South Australia and Western Australia are always engrossing viewing for the neutral spectator. In recent years, you would’ve locked in West Coast and Adelaide to take out both games because they have been situated at the top of the ladder during those times. But things have changed. Now it is Fremantle and Port Adelaide who are the teams pushing the top eight. The fairytale story of the Dockers continues to gather momentum and they now sit in fourth position after five rounds. Aaron Sandilands has taken his game to a new level, just like I said he would in the pre-season, and he is clearly the premier ruckman in the competition at the moment. Both the Eagles and the Crows have been extremely disappointing, with only one win between them so far this season. Going on current form that should still be the case by the end of the round.
– Over 80,000 fans are expected to pack the MCG on Sunday for the clash between the game’s two fiercest rivals, Carlton and Collingwood. The Blues gained a lot of confidence out of their surprise win over Geelong last round and will be determined to continue that momentum this weekend. But Collingwood will go into the game deservedly strong favourites. They are in exquisite form and two of their players, Dale Thomas and Sharrod Wellingham, are probably the two most improved players in the competition. Don’t be surprised if the result is close, but the Magpies are in top-four form at the moment and should win.
– Two of the most in-form teams in the competition, Sydney and Brisbane, will play each other on Saturday night at the SCG. The Lions were shell-shocked by a Demons side that was certainly up and about last weekend. A bigger concern for Brisbane is the fitness of captain Jonathon Brown, who seemed restricted by a niggling injury throughout last week’s match. Despite Brown and Brendan Fevola kicking 37 goals between them so far this season, the Swans are in scintillating form at the SCG and will be tremendously hard to stop.
Ben’s Tip Tally: 23 from 40
Ben’s Tips for Round 6:
Western Bulldogs to beat St.Kilda
North Melbourne to beat Melbourne
Port Adelaide to beat Adelaide
Hawthorn to beat Essendon
Sydney to beat Brisbane
Geelong to beat Richmond
Collingwood to beat Carlton
Fremantle to beat West Coast