AFL Round 6 – Pain’s Points
Heading into the season, Collingwood had more question marks than answers; from the playing group to coach Nathan Buckley and everyone in between. 3-3 after six rounds and the Pies look to be a completely different side than they have previously as Buckley and the players appear rejuvenated.
Given the glut of injuries to key players – Jamie Elliott, Taylor Adams and Darcy Moore – just to name a few, Collingwood should be applauded for their efforts as they now resemble a team that can make a charge towards September.
Despite going down, their performance against Richmond in Round six showed how far the Pies have come and if they’re able to get healthy, Buckley and his men could be looking at their first finals appearance since 2013.
Tullamarine Globetrotters? More like Tullamarine Generals.
Three new recruits, plenty of young talent and a desire to build on a finals appearance in 2017, Essendon entered 2018 as a sneaky flag contender, garnering the nickname the ‘Tullamarine Globetrotters’ and looking certain to rise up the ladder from its 7th placed finish a year ago.
Uninspiring losses to the Western Bulldogs, a 49-point belting at the hands of Collingwood on Anzac Day and a lacklustre effort against Melbourne on the weekend leave the Bombers sitting 2-4, some way from the team many expected them to be. Joe Daniher is severely down on form, the midfield lacks grunt and inside pressure and a raft of players have just underperformed generally.
When the Dons put in effort like they did in their Round 4 win against Port Adelaide they look hard-nosed and ferocious on the ball, but too few performances like that have left Essendon’s season on a knife’s edge. They face Hawthorn, Carlton, Geelong, GWS and reigning premiers Richmond in their next five games, a stretch that could decide their season by Round 11. They’ll need a minimum of three wins out of those five if they are to have any chance of playing finals football in 2018.
‘Under Pressure’ – Queen
If the AFL season’s first six rounds had an official theme song, Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ would have to be the best option. Forward pressure, particularly inside the attacking 50, has been the theme for many teams this season and has shifted the way football is played in some way.
While the formula worked wonders for the Bulldogs and the Tigers, helping both sides win the last two premierships, it has had a knock-on effect on the AFL product itself. Congestion around the contest, fumbling and turnovers have led to low total scores. This has plagued the competition and left many fans, commentators and coaches wondering what to do.
Just four teams scored 100+ during Round 6, up from a paltry three teams that recorded the same mark in Round 5. In the corresponding rounds last year, there were seven teams that scored 100 points or more. A heavy percentage year on year drop is troubling for the AFL and it will be up to the competition committee probe to fix the scoring issue.
Woe ol’ Carlton
Carlton’s loss to the Western Bulldogs gave the Blues its first ever 0-6 start in the club’s history. In his post-game press conference, coach Brendan Bolton stressed patience and understanding amid fan restlessness.
“We feel their frustration” and acknowledged “we know this hasn’t happened in the club’s history.”
“We are concerned about not winning… there is a reality that we’ve gone through a rebuild” he added.
The Blues’ insistence that things will turn around is valid as they entered the season with the fifth youngest list in the competition, however the effort and game plan has to be questioned. They currently have 18 former first-round picks on their list, nine from the last four drafts alone, so the combined talent should be enough to lead the Blues to a win from its first six games.
Should results continue as they have, Carlton will ‘earn’ another top three pick in the 2018 draft to add to the stable of former first rounders they have. The Blues will need to be brutal in who they keep and view as essential players going forward as they’ll more than likely need to trade skilled younger players in order to bring in talented veteran players who can help bridge the gap between the young and old of the Carlton playing group.
Football is an emotional sport, players wear their hearts on their sleeves and fans are invested year-round. Many fans show their support through memberships and merchandise, directly putting money into their team of choice.
As such, fans can feel a sense of ‘entitlement’ that they are able to say or do what they want towards their own club, rival teams or fellow AFL fans. Unfortunately, this was on full display in Essendon’s clash with Melbourne in Round 6 as an Essendon member got into the face of the Demons’ Max Gawn and yelled profanities at him.
While the fan may have felt frustration at his team’s performance, that in no way gives him (or anyone) the right to act in the manner he did. It sums up how some fans behave in the crowd or on social media and it is simply unacceptable. Supporters often forget that the players are still human and deserve the respect of those watching. It is what led to Jake Lever deleting his Twitter account and is why there have been several players in the last few years publicising their own mental health issues.
Investment in a club is paramount to the success of the AFL, but at the end of the day football is just a game. No fan or player should be threatened on the field or off it. Let’s hope there are no more incidents like the one on the weekend.