AFL Round 8 – Pain’s Points

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Image: James Elsby

1. The Bombers sink to new low

The Bombers 13-point loss to Carlton in Round 8 is arguably one of the club’s worst in recent memory. While the Blues were due for a win, it should not have come against Essendon in a game that the club had to win if it wanted to keep its already slim finals hopes alive.

The loss pushes Essendon to 15th on the ladder, already three games outside of the top eight and increases the already intense pressure on the Dons following their mediocre 2018.

Their season was plunged into further chaos following the news that assistant coach Mark Neeld resigned effective immediately. AFL.com.au reported that Neeld had been in talks with the club about a new role but he decided to resign instead.

His departure leaves a sizeable gap in Essendon’s coaching department and adds to the dysfunction that has plagued the club through its first eight games. The timing of Neeld’s resignation couldn’t be worse for the Bombers ahead of a Round 9 clash with Geelong.

If the Bombers go down by more than 40 points and look as listless as they have in recent games, more heads could roll in both the playing group down to the VFL and in the coach’s box.

2. Player-umpire contact

Tom Hawkins’ suspension for Geelong’s Round 8 win against Collingwood was odd in itself, given he was the first AFL player in years to be suspended for intentionally touching an umpire.

Less than a week after the Tomahawk’s suspension, three more players were reported for similar actions in their Round 8 games. Carlton’s Charlie and Ed Curnow were sent straight to the tribunal for their infractions and as of publication we’re awaiting an outcome, while the Gold Coast’s Steven May escaped with a $1000 fine after being cleared of making intentional contact with an umpire.

Some fans would argue that the contact made was too minimal to warrant a report, much less a suspension, but this fad of players touching and pushing umpires needs to be stamped out of the game.

While the umpires don’t always make the correct decisions, leading to unrest in both fans and players, officials should never take the field wondering if they will have hands laid on them by players often substantially bigger than them.

If players continue to make contact with umpires, it could lead to junior players making similar choices in football fields across the country which could lead to even more unnecessary violence. Players need to be punished accordingly for umpire contact to stamp out this recent trend once and for all.

3. Clarkson spits the dummy

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is widely recognised as the best coach in the AFL currently, but it’s fair to say that he’s just as known for his fiery personality and temperament as he is his coaching abilities.

Following Hawthorn’s narrow eight-point defeat to Sydney, Clarkson publicly complained about the Swans alleged tactics when defending kicks into their defensive 50. He didn’t stop there as he met with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on Monday morning, allegedly producing a laptop and showing the AFL boss several instances where he felt Hawthorn forwards were aggrieved and should have received free kicks.

It’s disappointing that a coach of Clarkson’s stature continues to let his competitiveness get the better of him, particularly in an instance where his issues could have been addressed by requesting a ‘please explain’ from the AFL or the Umpires Association.

He is well within his rights to have complaints about certain plays or perceived no-calls from umpires, but Clarkson’s actions of publicly calling out an opposition team for tactics that may have not even been in place and meeting the AFL CEO (McLachlan was reportedly unaware of what the meeting was about until he sat down) one on one gives an appearance that Clarkson thinks he can say and do as he wants until he gets his way.

4. Brownlow bolters

Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield entered 2018 tipped by many to once again end the season judged as the competition’s best players. Nat Fyfe was an outside chance but it was still up in the air as to whether he could regain the form that saw him win ‘Charlie’ back in 2015.

Eight rounds in and it’s safe to say no one would have predicted Fyfe as the outright favourite and Jackson Macrae to have the fifth best odds.

Fyfe has well and truly regained his status as one of the competition’s top three players as he now sits as favourite for the medal at $3.50. Macrae’s season has gone from strength to strength, his 47 possessions in Round 8 a career high and further legitimised his potential as an outside Brownlow Medal chance as his odds have been slashed dramatically and now sit at $14.00.

With 15 rounds remaining the odds are guaranteed to fluctuate as the season progresses, but expect one or two bolters to be there at the end to make the medal count interesting.

5. The Showdown delivered

In what turned out to be the game of the round, the 44th Showdown was one of the best ever. Three majors were kicked in the last minute, Steven Motlop’s running goal helped Port Adelaide turn a one-point deficit into a five-point victory with less than 30 seconds remaining.

You’d be forgiven for having to get your heart checked after the siren rang.

Port’s fifth win could kickstart their up and down season as they now sit outside the top four by percentage, ahead of their clash with Gold Coast in their second annual game in China.

Their offseason recruiting is so far yet to pay repeated dividends, but if Motlop and Tom Rockliff (31 disposals) can add to their Showdown performances then the Power can continue to climb the ladder and make a real charge for the top four.

The AFL won’t face questions about the state of the game if more matches turn out like Showdown 44.

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