We are in the second half of the 2022 season and things are starting to get seriously interesting. With Melbourne’s resurgence, the Freo hype can no longer be ignored.
Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that was.
Melbourne’s demons cause for concern?
Two weeks ago here at the Round-Up, we pitched ahead to Melbourne’s next four games and suggested that the biggest test of the season for the Demons yet was about to come.
In fact, we said the coming month would “provide a final judgment on how far Melbourne is ahead of the pack”.
The Dees are only halfway through that run, but an early judgment has been made. They’re probably not as far ahead as we thought.
And maybe it’s not so much a matter of the demons falling back into the pack, though they certainly seemed a different beast without Steven May’s cool hand steering the ship at the back.
The big difference could be the strides made by teams like Fremantle and Sydney, who have now both taken decisive victories over Melbourne at the MCG.
In early 2021, the Swans recorded a striking victory over reigning champions Richmond, showing the full capacity of their young attacking arsenal. This felt similar, only the execution needed to be more complete and mature.
It was difficult to split the teams with a look at the stats, but what did stand out was Sydney’s big win in the tackle count, which ended at 75-53.
There was a commitment to rival Melbourne in the game – not an easy feat, especially as Max Gawn played the most dominant game of his season so far.
Sydney’s ability to attack and move the ball through open space has not been discussed. But it was this paved ridge that raises the ceiling of the Swans for the second half of the year.
As for Melbourne? No need to panic. But having now competed for two weeks in a row against teams that can match them in the game and attack with speed and flair, they should quickly find improvement for games against Collingwood and Brisbane.
Flag cloak, baby
If you had to identify two characteristics of this Fremantle team – the one that has fans who dare to dream and load themselves with thousands of preemptive Flagmantle tattoos – it would be defensive structure and complete, unwavering ruthlessness.
You don’t get any free time against Fremantle. They are not going to doze off for fifteen minutes to let you catch your breath. They come with the same heat, the same miserly defense, for four full quarters.
They played rope-a-dope footy for the first half against Brisbane. The Dockers didn’t put in much offensive play and the Lions certainly held the ball and field possession.
But they couldn’t find a way through. And when the Lions went down just a little bit, the Dockers suddenly came alive.
Just like against Melbourne, Fremantle burned Brisbane on fire after the break. Will Brodie, Bailey Banfield and Michael Frederick were all fantastic and the Lions defense couldn’t match the resilience of their opponents.
This is now very real for Freo. Most people have taken small steps to realize what they are capable of. But as they continue to take away the big guns around them, and because so much of the ladder keeps moving, their claim to the throne is currently as strong as anyone’s.
Around the site
The Pies have done it again. Another beeper at the MCG, another crucial win for a team now legitimately chasing the finals. Hawthorn’s realignment and kickback were impressive, but a sloppy first half proved costly.
There is now an absolute blockade of teams trying to crack the top four. They may not be the best of that pack, but Geelong may have the best chance of taking that third or fourth place† Their competition schedule is quite friendly and the experience is starting to learn for the Cats on a weekly basis.
It was a tough Saturday afternoon at Adelaide Oval. West Coast lost by just five goals, which is a marked and depressing improvement. Adelaide played a good quarter and that was really all they had to do.
A few times this season, Gold Coast has lowered itself to the level of lesser opponents, and there was soon a fear of the same happening against North – but not for long. The Suns are still learning how good they can beand their hunt for first place in the finale may well be the most compelling story of the second half of the season.
In the clubhouse
Here we take stock of who leads the race for the season’s individual prizes.
The first of the farewell weeks meant some of our Rising Star candidates had their legs up, but plenty of others were making serious strides.
Nick Daicos played the best game of his career to date for 36 disposals in Collingwood’s win, while Jai Newcombe’s second half was almost enough to drag the Hawks to a win.
On fridaynight, Sam De Koning was fantastic in the Cats defence, filling in for the bruised Stewart and holding the Bulldogs key still enough forward.
So, who is currently leading? Last week we had nic martin on top, and it probably isn’t fair to boot him up without him playing a game. But those three mentioned are now seriously in his neck.
Pretty slow round for pendants so we mark the sign of the week Taylor Walker and move on quickly.
Goal of the week goes to Jason Horne-Francis† Most of the highlights of the number one pick this season have been defensive efforts, so it’s good to have a reminder of what a powerful offensive force he can and will be.
Ed Langdon remains the GOTY leader for us, and Cam Zurhaar still leads the MOTY race.
#AFL #RoundUp #Melbournes #Demons #Return #Freo #Ready #Strike