AFL Round 7 – Pain’s points

Macrae

Image: Getty Images

1. Jack Macrae, superstar.

When AFL fans think of the Western Bulldogs, most minds race to 2016 All-Australian Marcus Bontempelli.

Following his 40 disposals, 12 clearances and 8 tackles against the Gold Coast Suns, fans should start including Macrae in the conversation for best player at the ‘Dogs. The sixth overall pick in the 2012 AFL Draft has gotten better each year with 2018 looking like his breakout.

The midfielder has recorded 31, 31, 30, 34, 26, 32 and the aforementioned 40 touches in his seven games this season, a form streak that, if sustained, should see the Dog earn his first All-Australian selection. Arguably unlucky to not receive a selection last season, Macrae is well on his way to being a lock for the 22-man squad as he and Bontempelli (both 22 years old) form a devastating midfield duo that the Bulldogs can build around for years to come.

2. Saints’ season from hell

Heading into season 2018, St. Kilda were fancied as finals contenders after finishing just a game outside of the top eight in 2017.

Seven games in and the Saints sit 16th with one win, one draw and five losses to their name. Their only win coming in Round 1 against a young Brisbane Lions squad.

Jack Billings, who some in the AFL world rated better than Marcus Bontempelli in the offseason, has topped 25 possessions just once this season and has kicked a paltry four goals and eleven behinds in front of the posts. Meanwhile, forwards Tim Membrey and Paddy McCartin, the latter an heir apparent to Nick Riewoldt, have a goalkicking accuracy of less than 36%. They don’t even have a player inside the Top 50 for number of goals kicked.

A trip to Perth to face Fremantle awaits the Saints in Round 8, a must-win as a loss would effectively end their season after just eight games and heap more pressure on coach Alan Richardson.

3. Dons bomb another third term

They came with all the usual headline grabbers. ‘We’ll be harder at the ball,’ ‘There’ll be more pressure around the contest.’

But when the time came to back up their words, the Bombers fell flat. Yet to win a third quarter in 2018, Essendon scored just one behind against Hawthorn in Round 7 and conceded six goals and three behinds. A seven-point lead turning into a 31-point deficit in just one quarter.

Too often Essendon players gathered around the ball but didn’t provide an option when going forward, last year’s Best and Fairest winner Joe Daniher being pushed up to the half back flank to provide an outlet for the Bombers defenders.

Finalists last year, the game plan has to be questioned as it’s unclear how Essendon wants to play when they get the ball in the back half and look to attack.

A combination of form slumps in key players; Daniher, Dyson Heppell and Zach Merrett, and a lacklustre game plan and structure have left the Bombers languishing at 15th ahead of its Round 8 clash with Carlton.

Whether they drop several big names or change game style, the Bombers need to do something if they want to get their season off life support and start their charge towards a now unlikely finals berth.

4. Giants’ efforts not up to size

Missing stars Josh Kelly, Jeremy Cameron and Tom Scully among others, the GWS Giants faced a monumental task in travelling to Geelong and trying to overcome the Cats.

What they served up was nothing short of embarrassing. They kicked just two goals through the first three quarters and never looked like taking up the fight needed to the home side.

Dylan Shiel and Stephen Coniglio tried valiantly for the Giants but it was in vain as just one forward (Harry Himmelburg) kicked a major for the visitors. Jonathan Patton had little impact in the ruck with just 13 hitouts and was easily beaten by Rhys Stanley.

Week after week the Giants players and coaches stress that they’re able to put in the hard yards when the going gets tough, but performances like what they dished up at the ‘Cattery’ are far too common. If they want to reach their premiership dreams, they’ll need to change their course or face another premature exit from the finals.

5. Score review needs a review

In theory, the AFL’s score review system should help clear up contentious calls on-field where umpires are unable to determine if goals were touched before crossing the goal line or scored before the siren sounds.

The weekend’s action showed the flawed nature of the system and potentially cost Sydney four premiership points. In the Essendon and Hawthorn clash, Tom Mitchell scored after the three-quarter time siren sounded. Watching the game live, it appeared he was late getting the ball off and fans in the stands were confused as to the result.

Surprisingly, the on-field umpire called a goal without checking the kick upstairs in a blatant system failure.

North Melbourne’s two-point victory against Sydney was steeped in controversy following Billy Hartung’s first term goal which was touched off the boot by the Swans’ Jarrad McVeigh. The AFL deemed the footage inconclusive despite the replay clearly showing that the ball was touched.

It soured the Kangaroos hard fought win and called into question the AFL’s review system. If they can’t get clear and concise camera angles that allow for the correct decision to be made, then perhaps the system should be scrapped until the AFL can do so. Let field umpires make the call so that there is no confusion on goal decisions long after the final siren has sounded.

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