The Tigers held onto top spot for a fifth consecutive week, but they were made to work for it on Mothers Day with a gritty ten point win over North Melbourne. Richmond stayed ahead of West Coast by percentage, with the Eagles making it seven wins on the trot as they accounted for the Giants. West Coast and Richmond found themselves two games clear in the top two, ahead of their top-of-the-table clash next weekend, courtesy of the Hawks and Crows both going down in nailbiters.
Hawthorn lost to their nemesis, the Swans, on Friday night largely due to the seven goal haul by third gamer Ben Ronke. The Crows thought they had snatched the four points in the Showdown when Mitch McGovern put them in front with 40 seconds remaining, only for the Power to steal the lead back 20 seconds later through Steven Motlop. Geelong climbed to third with their win over Collingwood, leading a pack of six teams on 20 points, which also included the Demons in fifth who thumped Gold Coast.
Fremantle got the win over St.Kilda despite a late scare, the Lions were once again competitive but couldn’t get across the line against the Bulldogs who won their third in a row, while the Blues broke their duck for the year when they beat rivals Essendon, heaping more pressure on coach John Worsfold.
Here are some (possibly outlandish) observations from Round 8:
Rory Sloane’s injury could be the best thing for the Adelaide Crows
The Crows have been rocked with the news that midfielder Rory Sloane has suffered the dreaded Lisfranc injury in his foot, which is set to keep their star player on the sidelines. The Crows have set a two week timeline but it could be a longer stint if the history of other players is to be considered. Dane Swan retired from the injury, Marcus Adams has suffered the problem in both feet and hasn’t been seen since mid-2017 and numerous other players have missed large chunks of the season.
However, there could be a silver lining with Sloane unable to get on the park. At the beginning of the season Sloane was one of the most sought-after free agents for 2018, with strong rumours that he would consider a move back to his home state of Victoria. The Saints were leading the charge but other clubs would have been sure to put in their bids to lure the inside midfielder to their club.
But there is bound to be doubt starting to creep in at other clubs, who may no longer be willing to commit a long term deal to a player with a potentially troublesome injury. The longer that Sloane sits on the sidelines, the less his value to opposition clubs becomes and the Crows may find they are able to match any offers that are made to Sloane. Adelaide have been pillaged in years gone by through free agency, losing the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Phil Davis and Nathan Bock, and would be desperate to keep Sloane on the books.
St.Kilda missed a golden chance to get their season back on track
The Saints were faced with a daunting trip to take on the Dockers in Perth, but Fremantle would have been ripe for the picking after a horrid week off-field. The antics of Ross Lyon dominated the headlines, with the coach holding a press conference just over 24 hours before his team hit the park to address the issues.
On top of that, reigning Doig Medallist Bradley Hill was denied entry to a pub, whilst on rehabilitation, with a further investigation pending after he gave police a false name. The Saints have been the focus for many after their poor start to the season and with all of the off-field distractions at the Dockers, this could have been a team-building win on the road that may have finally got their stalled season going.
Instead they delivered a pitiful first half that delivered just one goal, slumping to a 43 point deficit shortly after half-time. The Saints did put forward some of their best football when the closed to 13 points during the final term, but a slew of missed chances – Tim Membrey finished the night with 1.5 – would prove costly as the Dockers steadied for a five goal win.
Alan Richardson will be fortunate to see the season out.
The Lions Are Looking Better Than Some Other Sides Around Them
Brisbane might be sitting at the foot of the ladder without a win in 2018, but there is plenty to like about what the young Lions side is building towards. 0-8 could easily have been 4-4 or even 5-3 with a lack of experience and star quality preventing them from getting over the line in a number of close contests.
The Lions took it right up to the Bulldogs in Round 8, with only a few costly errors at critical moments denying them a stirring victory on the road. This performance comes after they pushed the Magpies all afternoon in a seven point loss last week, as well as five point defeats to the Gold Coast and Port Adelaide in Adelaide. Even in losses to St Kilda and Melbourne during the year, they showed they could compete for large portions of the game, with only the shellacking to Richmond a performance they’ll be quick to forget.
The Lions have a strong spine growing together with the likes of Eric Hipwood, Harris Andrews, Daniel McStay and Darcy Gardiner, while there is plenty of star power through the middle in Dayne Beams, Dayne Zorko, Stefan Martin, Daniel Rich and Lewis Taylor, who has started to recapture his debut season form. The Lions have recruited well in recent years, bringing in Allan Christensen, Charlie Cameron and Mitch Robinson and will continue to reap the rewards of recent drafts as Jarrod Berry, Hugh McCluggage, Cameron Rayner, Alex Witherden and Zac Bailey.
Compared to the Blues, Saints, Bombers and even the Suns, there is a lot to like about the Brisbane Lions and they could be the fast riser of the competition in the next 12-24 months.
Ben Jacobs is the most important player at North Melbourne
The Kangaroos have stunned the experts in 2018 having won four games from eight so far this season. Many predicted they would struggle to win one game and a wooden spoon seemed a near certainty. North Melbourne have enjoyed an even output from many of their unheralded players.
Ben Brown currently leads the Coleman, Ben Cunnington and Jack Ziebell lead from the front in the middle of the ground, and their defence is the second-stingiest in the league, behind only ladder leaders Richmond. The one player that has added the most this season to North Melbourne has been stopper Ben Jacobs.
Jacobs has effectively missed the past two seasons of football, returning to the side at the start of the year, having not played since Round 8, 2016. Jacobs was building a reputation as a run-with player before injury struck, but has wasted no time in picking up where he left off this season.
Jacobs had an impressive group of scalps so far in 2018, including the likes of Tom Mitchell, Patrick Cripps, Clayton Oliver and Seb Ross, and now he has added reigning Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin, who was virtually considered un-tagable in 2017. Jacobs held Martin to just 16 disposals for the game and is now clearly the most accomplished tagger currently in the game.
Jacobs’ ability to shut out the oppositions prime mover has contributed to North’s impressive team defence this season and has also provided the midfield of North Melbourne and important advantage. Importantly, Jacobs is also a ball-winner, averaging 17 disposals across the opening eight games of the season, meaning he gives the side an important two-way operator.
The ‘Fairest’ Component will soon be removed from the Brownlow criteria
The most prestigious award of the competition has long been built on the two notions of being the ‘best’ and the ‘fairest’ player in the league, but one of these criteria could be removed for future voting. Rewarding the fairest player across the home-and-away season has often created undue focus on minor incidents involving players that are considered favourites for the award, particularly towards the end of the season.
Already this year Tom Mitchell was fortunate to escape suspension after raising an elbow to the face of Todd Goldstein, in a behind the play incident. As such, Mitchell remains in Brownlow contention, which he is currently second favourite in the betting. The AFL prefer to avoid controversy over the highest individual award, which they have narrowly avoided on the night with Patrick Dangerfield last year, and again with Nat Fyfe in 2014 when Matthew Priddis claimed the top honour.
The idea of being the ‘fairest’ player is also outdated, with many of the acts that drew bans in years gone by generally eradicated from the modern game. Most suspensions are handed out for errors in legal techniques, such as a poor tackle that results in a concussion, instead of the thuggish and violent acts that proliferated much of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Ineligibility for the Brownlow could still exist if a matter is sent directly to the tribunal, but the ambiguity over whether a player should miss a game because they happen to be a chance to win the Brownlow could be removed if the ‘fairest’ element was done away with.
The Rising Star Award Needs To Be Changed
And while on the subject of changing award critiera, the rising star needs to be re-considered and ultimately adjusted. Currently the award goes to the best young player in the competition, with the requirements being that they are under 21 years of age and have played less than 10 games when the season starts.
With the evolution of AFL drafting and more players entering the system at an older age, the award needs to be changed to the best ‘first year’ player. This will obviously bring about a change in the actual name of the award, but like most other sports in the world, recognition of the ‘Rookie of the Year’ wouldn’t be that far of an adjustment.
Tim Kelly has been clearly the standout draftee of the year, but at age 23 is ineligible to be nominated or win the award. Ultimately the award should be given to the best first year player in the competition, which are the parameters of the players association award. While there was plenty of discussion about last year’s crop of top draftees, not many have set the world on fire, with second year player Alex Witherden the pre-season favourite for the award. He still sits second in the line of betting behind Adelaide defender Tom Doedee.
Willie Rioli is another who will miss out on a nomination, despite showing improvement at West Coast every week, as he was 22 when the season started. If the AFL preferred to keep an age and games limit on this award, then it should at least be upped to 22 as a maximum age, seeing as the AFL have an Under-22 All-Australian team at the end of the year. To have a one year disparity between the two ‘youth’ based awards seems plain silly.