Our reporters give you the lowdown on all the action from round 19 of the AFL season.
Richmond v Fremantle, Marvel Stadium
Two scoring chances within the last two minutes and zero score was the lament of Tigers’ coach Damien Hardwick, as the Tigers collect just two premiership points in a horror three-week patch that would have been comical if it wasn’t so crucial to their season. They should be on 48 points and fighting for a top four spot. Instead, they are on 38 points and struggling to make the finals. Noah Balta’s tardiness was the most culpable of the two errors as he should have been conscious that the shot clock was ticking.
Noah Cumberland is consoled by former Richmond captain Trent Cotchin following the Tigers’ draw with the Dockers.Credit:AFL Photos
Noah Cumberland showed the week before, when he played on as he hit the ground after marking and hit Jake Aarts inside 50, he is a brave player when the game is on the line. So, although the outcome was not good, his decision was understandable. Interestingly if Cumberland had won the game, Fremantle would have been cursing Sean Darcy’s decision to tap the boundary throw-in back in the corridor. The Dockers have a great defence but their forward line is inefficient, particularly with Rory Lobb out and Nat Fyfe’s ill-timed hamstring making it even weaker. The Tigers can’t cover Dustin Martin and Tom Lynch right now, with the best players from their premiership teams all just one rung below what they were and their role players being replaced with inexperience. The Dockers are on the up, but they are unlikely to win it this season.
– Peter Ryan
Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston, who recently lost his father Ray, kisses his black armbands after a goal against North.Credit:AFL Photos
North Melbourne v Hawthorn, Blundstone Arena
The Hawks may be out of finals contention but they have progressed well this season, ensuring Sam Mitchell’s rookie campaign as coach will be deemed a success. We said in our mid-season review they were travelling better than their record suggested, and three-straight wins has now provided ladder reward.
Jai Newcombe, last year’s mid-season recruit, continues to elevate his game, and he was brilliant against the Kangaroos, with an equal game-high 30 touches, including two goals and nine clearances. He has added outside polish, and will go close to winning the Peter Crimmins Medal. Tom Mitchell has added more outside drive to his game, while James Sicily was composed across half-back. Mitch Lewis was quiet for the third time in four weeks but it was great to see Jack Gunston back, having missed the past fortnight while grieving the passing of his father, long-time AFL administrator, Ray Gunston. That he booted five goals on a day the Hawks wore black armbands in his father’s honour was fitting. Gunston must remain a Hawk next season.
For the Kangaroos, it was back to normal service. How any team can concede eight-straight goals in the first term is mind-boggling. They needed to take the sting out of the play but continued to attack – exposing their one-on-one defence on the rebound. Jy Simpkin was a frustrated man, having been tagged out of the game by Finn Maginness, while Jason Horne-Francis had a disappointing afternoon. Given the chance to start in the centre-square, he had only two touches in the first term. He needs a fresh reset over summer. The Kangaroos have some good, young pieces – Paul Curtis and Flynn Perez fall into this category – but the Kangaroos are a major work in progress, regardless of who wins the coaching role.
– Jon Pierik
Sydney v Adelaide, SCG
The Swans are on course for another finals campaign after a 33-point victory over Adelaide on Saturday at the SCG left Sydney with the chance of a top four finish
Of the Swans’ remaining four home and away matches, the only team they play in the final eight is Collingwood, with the sides appearing to be evenly matched.
A model of inconsistency during the season, with some strong wins against top sides and bad losses against also-rans, a question mark remains over the relatively young Swans about what they will bring on any given day. They began brilliantly against Adelaide, having kicked 10 goals to two 30 seconds into the second quarter to lead by 48 points, before the Crows played the better football for much of the remaining three terms.
– Malcolm Conn
Adelaide’s Patrick Parnell and Swan Tom Papley battle for the ball at the SCG.Credit:Getty Images
Port Adelaide v Geelong, Adelaide Oval
Geelong ratified their burgeoning premiership bona fides on Saturday by gleefully accepting the stiffest challenge of their nine-match winning streak.
The Cats’ second-quarter dream was followed by a third-quarter nightmare and the prospect of frittering away a 34-point half-time lead to a suddenly rampant Port Adelaide loomed ominously. Compounding Geelong’s predicament, ruckman Rhys Stanley, arguably best-on-ground in the first half, had substituted out of the match with a knee injury.
But the Cats responded to coach Chris Scott’s exhortations to “embrace the moment and go for it” and execute a “reframing of the situation”, pulling off the last and most important momentum swing with a strong fourth quarter.
That they fashioned such a fine rally with Stanley sidelined – the “medium term” injury is expected to keep him out for some weeks – and without big performances from captain Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield only adds to the positives. The role reversals between the two sides either side of half-time was stark, the Power’s error-riddled second term followed by an utterly dominant third stanza, piloted by powerhouse Charlie Dixon, who pieced together perhaps the finest quarter of his career. Across the past fortnight, Port have proved more than competitive against the competition’s two best sides, and can be expected to be so again on Saturday against Collingwood at the MCG. But in the last quarter at Adelaide Oval – and it has been the story of their campaign – their inability to sustain it for long enough led to their downfall.
– Steve Barrett
Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast, Gabba
The Gold Coast are now into strictly mathematical territory in terms of their finals prospects, but at least they’re not going to die wondering if their performance against the Lions is any guide. The Lions have owned their local rivals for years now, but survived a serious scare on their home turf against the rising Suns.
Following the clash, Suns coach Stuart Dew refused to concede his team’s chances of making finals were gone, despite the narrow loss.
The Suns are now 12th on the ladder, two games and percentage outside the eight with four games to play.
But Dew insisted there was still a chance, and plenty to play for. “The aim is to win next week,” he said. “If we worry about next week, playing well and winning well, that’s all we can do.
“There’ll be lots of teams getting written off, but the reality is different things can happen. We’ll try to make sure we get our backyard sorted … On to next week.”
With Melbourne’s loss to the Western Bulldogs and Fremantle’s draw with a wobbling Richmond, the Lions are now a real chance to overtake the Demons in second place – which would lock up a home final at the Gabba. Next week’s game against the Tigers at the MCG is a must-win.
– Andrew Stafford
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan starred for the Bulldogs in their win over the Demons.Credit:Getty Images
Western Bulldogs v Melbourne, Marvel Stadium
This was the kind of high-quality game that reaffirmed the notion that both clubs can be contenders this season and for the next few years. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan had a breakout game but the mid-game fightback of Jack Macrae and the mid-season fightback from Marcus Bontempelli over the past fortnight has put the Bulldogs back in the eight. There were highlights galore for the Bulldogs in the final minutes including Bailey Dale‘s miracle spoil and Riley Garcia’s cool finish on the run that was made to look easier than it was the most obvious while Tom Liberatore was too deeply in and under packs to be noticed. The Demons missed Jake Lever but their forward line is not as imposing as their challengers with their heavy reliance on centre square and stoppage scores evident. The issue Simon Goodwin was most concerned about however was the number of points they conceded with their opposition scoring more than 100 points for the first time since 2019. That means they could not get the game on their terms with the ball moving from end to end too quickly for a team that excels in the contest. Melbourne have now lost to Geelong, the Bulldogs, Fremantle, Sydney and Collingwood in the past eight weeks. That is not premiership winning form.
– Peter Ryan
Carlton v Greater Western Sydney, Marvel Stadium
Carlton put themselves in the fight for a top-four finish after beating a high-pressure Greater Western Sydney. After being handed a reality check by the top-placed Geelong last week, who methodically outclassed them, the Blues redeemed themselves with a well-rounded team effort.
Toby Greene pulled in this absolute screamer against the Blues.Credit:AFL Photos
Adam Saad was particularly impressive, steadying the ship down back when moments got out of the Blues’ hands, and he used his lightning pace and run and carry to set up the forward line. Charlie Curnow (four goals) and Harry McKay (two goals) put GWS’s Harry Himmelberg and Lachlan Keefe to the test, while the Carlton midfield took control at the source. Toby Greene took a high-flying mark, booted three majors, and did a lot of groundwork to help his side out, but it wasn’t enough for the visiting team up against a finals-fit Carlton. The home side did have a moment of concern when Sam Walsh was helped off the ground in the third by trainers, seeming to wince and not able to put any weight on his ankle. But he was back on within the quarter to the relief of many, including coach Michael Voss, who admitted post-game it was a concern seeing his star midfielder assisted off. The Blues next play Adelaide at Adelaide Oval before facing off with two top-four sides, Melbourne and Brisbane, in a challenging run home to September.
– Marnie Vinall
Collingwood v Essendon, MCG
The first thing Collingwood have to do is to stop hyperventilating and still their pulses after their latest and greatest escape. Having already exceeded wildest expectations this year, and now installed in the top four, notionally the Magpies’ fate is in their own hands. After playing Port Adelaide on a six-day break next Saturday, they face a reality check with successive games against certain finalists Melbourne, Sydney and Carlton. But Collingwood’s reality this year is unreality. They are certain to get back Jordan De Goey and probably Brodie Grundy for their finishing burst, but will sweat on the integrity of Brayden Maynard‘s shoulder. Coach Craig McRae will urge them to stay in the moment, and why not, when the moment keeps delivering. For the Pies, the magic carpet ride goes on. Essendon’s whole season can be summed up by the last play of the match. They were good enough to put Harry Jones in a position to put the match out of Collingwood’s reach, but utterly helpless to prevent the Magpies from running the ball the length of the field to Jamie Elliott for a memorable winner. Permeability has been their season-long failing. The Bombers’ last four games are all against bottom half teams, so they can still finish with a flourish.
– Greg Baum
West Coast v St Kilda, Optus Stadium
St Kilda and West Coast fans – along with the Essendon faithful – would have to be just about the most frustrated of any this season. While the Eagles have never left first gear, the Saints – and Bombers for that matter – have shown moments, even stretches of exhilaration among their inconsistency that have had their fans constantly wondering ‘what if’.
This clash on an Optus Stadium surface that had been unusually smashed by recent wet weather didn’t live up to any great heights. But St Kilda remain within just mere percentage of the top eight after shutting down two of the Eagles’ midfield stars in eye-catching fashion. Tim Kelly and Luke Shuey were restricted to just five touches and three clearances between them in the first half, with Saints young gun Marcus Windhager particularly impressive in his shutdown role on Kelly.
The former Geelong star couldn’t find a way to break free of the Windhager tag – ultimately kept to just four disposals for the match despite spending more than 80 per cent of the game on the ground. Following the clash Eagles coach Adam Simpson admitted Kelly, who had been battling a corked thigh in the lead-up to the game, “had a quiet day”, adding “he would say he got beaten on the day”. As far as understatements go, that’s right up there.
On the plus side for the home team, Tom Barrass continued his strong season, while top mid-season draft pick Jai Culley showed plenty in just his second game in the top flight and Josh Rotham showcased his versatility.
After a week of soul searching, St Kilda simply had to win, and win they did – despite their slow start. Good finals teams aren’t full of flighty, unreliable performers. They’re made up of dependable, hard-nosed stars and few players in the competition fit that bill more than Jack Steele, who showed his class with 40 touches. Brad Crouch also stood strong, while the dangerous Dan Butler booted five majors. All three will be vital in their side’s push to September.
– Russell Bennett
Hawthorn and North Melbourne players wrestle during their round 19 clash.Credit:AFL Photos
Match review news
After Saturday’s action-packed slate of games, no less than 17 charges were laid, but only one player is facing a stint on the sidelines – North Melbourne youngster Flynn Perez, who was offered one match with an early plea for rough conduct against Hawk Jaeger O’Meara. The incident was classed as careless conduct, medium impact, and high contact. Jy Simpkin, meanwhile, was fined for striking Hawk Tom Mitchell, and for engaging in a melee along with the likes of Denver Grainger-Barrass, Blake Hardwick, Jack Ziebell, Finn Maginness, Cameron Zurhaar, Paul Curtis, Callum Coleman-Jones, and James Blanck.
Gold Coast key forward Levi Casboult was cleared for his role in an incident that led to Brisbane opponent Daniel Rich (concussion) being subbed off. According to the AFL, “Casboult tracks the football and collides with Daniel Rich as he dives forward to punch the football. High contact is made. It was the view of the MRO that Casboult’s actions were not unreasonable in the circumstances. No further action was taken.”
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