After one of the most hyped weekends of the AFL season, we take a look some of the key talking points that arose in Round 15
Where do I start? After impressive showings in the past month against Essendon, Hawthorn and Sydney, the matchup against the Pies was seen to be the match they should win. Starting impressively, things were looking up for the Blues, but then a key injury to Jarrad Waite turned things in Collingwood’s favour and they never looked back.
So what’s wrong with the Blues? You take a look at the top sides in Geelong, Hawthorn and Sydney – teams that Carlton was supposed to be rivalling this year. Players in the sub-50 game category seem to slot in perfectly, contributing to the team in just the way they were supposed to. They don’t look lost. For Carlton, inexperienced players such as Andrew McInnes, Josh Bootsma and Levi Casboult seem to be second rate players at AFL level football. Then you take their experienced players who don’t seem to have any purpose at all in much of their work. Mitch Robinson, Chris Yarran and Jeff Garlett all had absolute shockers. Bryce Gibbs is certainly struggling to demonstrate the consistency required of a number one draft pick, and Jarrad Waite whether through injury or suspension is just not working out.
Finals are a distant thought for the Blues at the moment, and quite frankly, they don’t deserve to be there. Massive personnel changes may see the list completely gutted in the off season, and no player, except Juddy, Murphy and Kreuzer will be safe.
Finals still alive for two teams
With wins to West Coast and North Melbourne, the top 8 may not be safe. The Eagles are just one win outside 8th spot, while the Roos, although on the same wins as Carlton and Adelaide, are actually playing like a finals team capable of causing some big upsets. The question is, who of the top 8 are likely to drop out? We talked last week that Richmond should not get too carried away with their top 4 chances, and focus on one week at a time. Well, against the intense pressure of North Melbourne, they came up very short. These are the sort of games that Richmond need to win to cement their position as a legitimate finals contender, not only for the rest of the AFL to take notice, but for internally at the club, where confidence levels may have taken a beating after a loss like that. Like many young teams in the past years, namely Essendon, a late season fadeout can see a fall from lofty standards set early in the year. The same applies for Port Adelaide, who were undone by a superior team in Essendon.
So with West Coast and North Melbourne looking to break into the finals, is it actually going to happen? The Roos are probably wishing they’d won even one more of their heartbreaking losses earlier in the season, as with 2 wins separating them from 8th, it may be tough. With 3 matchups against top 4 contenders it will certainly be close. One benefit of losing so many matches by narrow margins is their percentage is quite strong. The matchup against Carlton in Round 17 will be crucial
Kennett Curse still at large
Undoubtedly the match of the round looked like it was going to disappoint at three quarter time. With only 3 goals kicked in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, a massive defensive battle was underway, with horrendous kicking at goal not helping either team. At the 11 minute mark in the 4th, when Geelong had established a 33 point lead, boundary rider Cameron Ling confused everyone by saying that he still wasn’t comfortable with the lead. Surely enough, 5 goals in 9 minutes from the Hawks cut the deficit to 3 points, but it was not enough. The Cats, as always, did not panic, and recomposed themselves to extend the winning streak to 11 matches.
With much of the talk in the lead-up to the match about the Hawks needing to break the streak before the finals, many seem to forget the Sydney vs Collingwood 11 game winning streak that was broken in the 2012 Preliminary Final. Is it possible to say that in a team sport, one team can hold such a mental edge over another? In one on one battles, Nadal vs Federer come to mind, as well as Glenn McGrath vs Brian Lara, the mental edge will definitely be exposed when the crunch moment comes. In a team sport however, personnel changes, as well as general strategy evolution over the years cannot surely be such a burden on the losing half of the pair. With these two teams likely to meet at some point in the finals, while it may be the main focus of the media, it shouldn’t have too much of a bearing on both teams’ preparations and mental state before the game.
How will Essendon cope without Jobe?
After what looked like a regulation bump from Port Adelaide cult hero Justin Westhoff, Essendon suffered yet another setback in a year of incredible challenges. Skipper Jobe Watson had gone down with a broken collarbone, with an initial estimate of 4 weeks on the sideline. Does he have the same impact that Gary Ablett has on his team, and will his absence rip a hole through the Essendon midfield? Probably not. While he is certainly one of the elite players in the game, Essendon boasts incredible depth in the engine room, with Brent Stanton, Dyson Heppell, Brendan Goddard, Jason Winderlich, David Zaharakis, Heath Hocking, Jake Melksham and young gun Nick Kommer. Rotating these through the midfield during the game ensures they have plenty of cover for the 2012 Brownlow Medallist.
What they may miss however is the on field leadership and inspiration he has shown so many times over this season. In particular, his performance against West Coast last weekend was something to behold, almost singlehandedly willing his team to a victory. With so much up in the air regarding the doping scandal, Watson’s absence may be a significant issue to deal with. Their run over the next 4 weeks could be much worse, with wins pencilled in against the Dogs and GWS, but tough matches against Hawthorn and Collingwood just got a whole lot tougher.