Our reporters give you the lowdown on all the action from round 22 of the AFL season.
St Kilda v Brisbane, Marvel Stadium
Cam Rayner has emerged as another potential match-winner for coach Chris Fagan‘s Brisbane side following their comeback win over St Kilda on Friday night. Rayner kicked three of his four goals in the last term to inspire a win which puts them in position for another top-four finish. St Kilda will need a miracle to make it and young forward Max King’s wayward goal-kicking came into focus again as he kicked 0.5 in a tight game. As the Lions look to the finals, their loss of momentum in the third quarter and their poor conversion rate early in the match will need some attention. Against a stronger side, it could well have cost them the game. Fagan has also drawn attention to blocking tactics used against superstar Lachie Neale, something else to watch for in September.
– Roy Ward
Brad Crouch collides heavily with Darcy Gardiner.Credit:Channel Seven / Twitter
Western Bulldogs v Greater Western Sydney, Marvel Stadium
The Bulldogs will head to Tasmania on Sunday with a chance to play finals if they can knock off Hawthorn and Collingwood beat Carlton. But Luke Beveridge is not getting too excited knowing the Hawks will be hard to beat, with Ben McEvoy retiring and uncertainty surrounding where Liam Shiels and Jack Gunston play next season. The Bulldogs are not playing that well either, and their captain and talisman Marcus Bontempelli is bravely battling an adductor issue. But they outlasted the Giants through sheer will and the efforts of Bailey Dale, their skipper and a patch of magical football that Tim English, Bailey Smith and Bailey Williams inspired. Their disappointing season may be salvaged, but they know they are off the pace when it comes to another premiership. The Giants, meanwhile are playing with heart, which is credit to Mark McVeigh, who has done a good job as interim coach in keeping the club pushing forward. His leaders clearly respect him and Josh Kelly reminded everyone why he was once considered among the elite midfielders. He needs to again be that player next season, while their backline led by the often forgotten but outstanding Sam Taylor and veteran Nick Haynes provide a great platform for a new coach to build upon. Jesse Hogan, who re-signed for two seasons, is once again a formidable presence up forward. Both sides should look to 2023 with some optimism.
– Peter Ryan
Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli.Credit:Getty Images
Adelaide v North Melbourne, Adelaide Oval
Captain Jack Ziebell suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, Jaidyn Stephenson hurt his back, Jed Anderson is finished for the year with concussion and Paul Curtis copped a stinger to his left AC joint. That all happened in one carnage-filled half of footy at Adelaide Oval. Adding insult to injury, North Melbourne remain anchored to the bottom of the ladder after a goalless final quarter capped their 29-point loss to Adelaide. But every one of those supposed hardships pale into insignificance when compared to the brave journey undertaken by Ben Cunnington, who played his first AFL game in 385 days, completing an emotional, heartwarming comeback following two bouts with testicular cancer. The two-time Syd Barker medallist’s eyes were filled with tears before the game and his grin spanned from ear to ear after it. Record books be damned, Cunnington was the real winner on Saturday. He held his own in North’s midfield, which was dominated by the centre-circle brilliance of Luke Davies-Uniacke and Jy Simpkin, whose 1-2 combo put the Crows to the sword before half-time. Adelaide made the necessary adjustments at the contest, raised their intensity and, progressively aided by the Roos’ injury woes, restored order after the main interval.
Rebounding half-back Jordan Dawson again showed why he has been the recruit of the year, while the Crows’ key forwards Darcy Fogarty (four goals) and Taylor Walker (three) had too much for North’s tall defenders to handle. Their at-times stuttering rebuild now seemingly motoring in the right direction, Adelaide fans would love nothing more than to finish 2022 with a real bang – and bragging rights – by making it four wins on the trot with a Showdown triumph over embattled arch rivals Port Adelaide.
– Steve Barrett
Gold Coast v Geelong, Metricon Stadium
The Cats sealed the minor premiership with victory over the Suns – that’s a dozen wins on the trot now – and the flag, from this point, looks theirs to lose. And that’s not to put undue pressure on them. Almost never out of the picture during Chris Scott’s tenure, they look completely assured, with Jeremy Cameron arguably the best player in the competition right now. Really, the Suns did well after half-time to keep a 10-goal loss from becoming 20 against the measuring stick of the competition. The Suns still have plenty of work to do moving forward, but they’ve also got plenty to work with.
– Andrew Stafford
Melbourne v Carlton, MCG
Michael Voss admitted to being “gutted” but did his best to steer the narrative into the positive on Saturday night. However, this five-point defeat could haunt the Blues for some time, and now likely leaves them needing to defeat Collingwood in a final-round showdown to rubber-stamp a finals berth. Charlie Curnow appeared to seal the deal with his first goal three minutes before the final siren, but the Demons showed why they are the reigning premiers. The Blues couldn’t hold on to the ball when it counted, and Jake Melksham and Kysaiah Pickett – his match-winning goal coming with 13 seconds remaining – made them pay. Melksham, embracing a new role at full-forward, has had a strong month and appears to have booked his spot in Melbourne’s finals side. This contest had finals-like intensity, so it was no surprise that Clayton Oliver, a Brownlow Medal favourite, and midfield counterpart Patrick Cripps stood up. The Blues, without three of their frontline mids (Adam Cerra may return this week), turned to Sam Docherty and Will Setterfield for help, and they were strong. Harry McKay, with three goals, hit back at those questioning his intensity, while defenders Lewis Young and Caleb Marchbank were superb. Now it all comes down to the final round. The Demons head to Brisbane, a result that will determine whether they host a home final, while the Blues are likely to need to beat the Magpies – particularly if the Western Bulldogs defeat Hawthorn, and by a good margin – to be alive in September for the first time since 2013.
– Jon Pierik
Fremantle v West Coast, Optus Stadium
The Dockers had the wobbles in front of goal but secured victory in the western derby anyway, securing a home final in the process. Fremantle can’t finish lower than sixth, and a top-four berth is still within their grasp. Dockers ruckman Sean Darcy won the Glendinning-Allan medal as best afield for his 16-disposal, 57 hit-out effort. His performance allowed Blake Acres (29 disposals, one goal), Will Brodie (28 possessions, seven clearances) and David Mundy (25 disposals, eight clearances) to dominate in the midfield. Rory Lobb was subbed out late in the match after aggravating his right shoulder injury in the third quarter, but coach Justin Longmuir backed him to play through the pain for the rest of the season. With Matt Taberner still nursing a calf injury, Lobb’s presence up forward is imperative. The Dockers will finish their home-and-away season against GWS in Canberra. West Coast made Caleb Serong target No.1 early on, with Jack Redden doing his best to ruffle the feathers of the young Fremantle star. The tactic worked a treat, with Serong the core culprit when Fremantle gave away a 50-metre penalty that led to a goal on the line to Redden. “They played the game the right way. It’s a derby,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said. “I thought they took it to a level that made Freo earn it. I wish we could play like that every week.” Defensive duo Tom Barrass and Shannon Hurn epitomised West Coast’s fighting spirit. Barrass (20 disposals, 12 marks) restricted Lobb to just 0.1 from seven disposals, while Hurn racked up 28 touches and nine rebound-50s. West Coast finish their season against the Cats in Geelong.
Tom Lynch and Denver Grainger-Barras have eyes only for the ball.Credit:AFL Photos
Richmond v Hawthorn, MCG
Richmond have qualified for the finals, snagging one of the last available places and leapfrogging Carlton for seventh spot, much to the credit of a showstopping Tom Lynch, who booted an equal career-high eight goals on Sunday afternoon. Richmond had a runaway game and put Hawthorn into damage control mode in their 61-point win, which showcased their exciting surge-style brand of footy. The Tigers beat the Hawks in all areas, winning the hitouts, clearances, inside-50s and possessions, and had nine different contributors to goal, showing off the potency of their forward line. Noah Cumberland, Dion Prestia, Maurice Rioli jnr and Shane Edwards all booted two, but the narrative of the game was: how many could Lynch finish with? This was helped by some poor defensive structures from Hawthorn, including not getting enough players behind the ball after turnover or being able to find a defender able to match with the Lynch’s size and height. James Sicily tried his hardest but was rotated through the midfield, which coach Sam Mitchell said post-game was to add another string in his bow. Jai Newcombe was another bright spot for the Hawks, finishing with 29 disposals and proving reliable, but the Tigers were too classy and imposing for the away side. Richmond next play Essendon before heading into September to match it with the best in their finals campaign.
– Marnie Vinall
Sydney v Collingwood, SCG
The Swans leapt from sixth to second on the ladder after beating Collingwood by 27 points at the SCG on Sunday and pushing the Magpies to fifth.
However, with the Swans and Magpies two of four teams on 60 points, and the other two, Melbourne and Brisbane, meeting each other in the last round, the battle for a top four place and the double finals chance is intense.
The Magpies will finish top four if they beat Carlton, which would force the Blues out of the top eight if the Western Bulldogs have a healthy win over Hawthorn in the earlier game on Sunday.
However, Collingwood may be forced to overcome the Blues without key playmaker Jordan De Goey, who was a late withdrawal on Sunday with a hip flexor injury and must prove his fitness at training this week, according to coach Craig McRae. McRae does not expect Jack Ginnivan to play.
Should the Swans beat 10th-placed St Kilda at Marvel Stadium next Sunday, percentage will decide whether the Swans finish in second spot to claim a home final at the SCG along with the double chance.
The Swans dominated the midfield against thanks to Callum Mills, Luke Parker, James Rowbottom and Chad Warner, while brothers Tom and Paddy McCartin were excellent in defence.
It remains a worry for Collingwood that their most productive player was the ageless Scott Pendlebury.
– Malcolm Conn
Ben Rutten and his Bombers leave the field at Marvel Stadium.Credit:AFL Photos
Essendon v Port Adelaide, Marvel Stadium
It’s one thing for Ben Rutten to say his side is “bitterly disappointed” with their showing against Port Adelaide at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
They have to show it.
The wildly-inconsistent Bombers showed their true colours when they put the cue in the rack against an almost as disappointing Port Adelaide – showing just how far they’ve got to go to match it with the competition’s stronger sides, week in, week out.
Rutten’s men are young, very young. In fact the group is the second youngest of any this year, with an average age of 24.1 years to Adelaide’s 24-even. But that’s no excuse for inconsistency of effort.
Effort has to be the first non-negotiable on the whiteboard each week, but at ‘The Hangar’ it seems that word can be too easily erased. It has to stay there. In permanent marker.
Jeremy Finlayson, while an important piece at Alberton, was made to look like a hall of famer on Sunday, as were Zak Butters, Ollie Wines, and Sam Powell-Pepper. Truth be told, the same could be said for most of their side, while the Bombers just looked like they were counting down the minutes until their end-of-season trip.
A success-starved Bombers fan.Credit:AFL Photos
There’s no shortage of talent at Essendon, nor signs for optimism for the long-term. But the fans have been left frustrated for too long now. They’ve seen too many false dawns – of talented groups that tease so much, but deliver so little when it matters. Next season that has to change, or the pressure that has been bubbling away will just boil over completely.
“It was the sort of game that our supporters, our members that came to the game tonight, [or were] watching on TV… it’s not the sort of thing they should have to watch,” Rutten said in the aftermath of his group’s 84-point mauling by the Power.
“It was an embarrassing effort and output from our guys, and it’s not something that we certainly want to stand for.“
But the problem is that they do.
Fans can handle watching their teams lose when they’ve been defeated by better, more experienced sides. But they can’t handle a lack of effort.
Essendon has to demand better.
– Russell Bennett
Match review news
All eyes will be on St Kilda’s Brad Crouch, who was handed a one-match ban after a review of Friday night’s clash between the Lions and the Saints. Crouch Lion Darcy Gardiner in the second quarter, with the incident assessed as careless conduct, medium impact, and high contact.
From Saturday’s games, Adelaide’s Tom Doedee, Western Bulldog Bailey Dale, and Gold Coast Sun Sean Lemmens were each handed $3000 fines for a first offence for charges of forceful front-on contact, striking, and rough conduct respectively.
Kysaiah Pickett was handed a $5000 sanction (for a second offence) for rough conduct for his tackle on Carlton opponent Liam Stocker.
A string of fines were handed out for melees in the western derby and the Melbourne and Carlton blockbuster, while the incident involving Bulldog Zaine Cordy and Giant Tanner Bruhn was sent straight to the tribunal. Cordy wasn’t offered an early plea.
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