Dave Cardamone takes a look at what to expect around the league on the eve of Round 9.
It’s time to breathe, reflect and reset as we look forward to what will be another competition milestone when Eleni Glouftsis becomes the AFL’s first female field umpire of a H&A match this weekend. She will officiate the Essendon v West Coast game on Sunday afternoon and will no doubt receive an almighty reception as she enters the ground for the first time. But once the first ball is bounced, it’ll be business as usual. Good Luck Eleni!
Breaking New Ground
No matter what way you look at it, the AFL has made history heading into Round 9 and looks set to continue creating history as for the first time in the competition’s 121-year existence – and since the introduction of the 16 team system in 1995 – after Round 8 there has never been just the one game separating 1st and 9th position on the ladder. Kudos to them as they make a mockery of the media in their endeavour to even up the league, creating nine genuine matches every week. It’s slowly but steadily coming to fruition, with nobody willing to settle on even one lock-in Grand Final side as matches week in and week out continue to turn the competition on its head.
It’s very difficult to pick apart the tactics implemented by sides on match day to combat the opposition’s effectiveness and ability to perform, but there is no doubt upon quick inspection that sides have a simple Plan A against the Swans. It started with Carlton three weeks ago when they targeted Callum Mills to great effect. Brisbane saw the tactic and despite failing to execute, Nick Robertson continued to persist in getting Lance Franklin on edge and in danger of suspension. Then again on the weekend, North challenged the physicality of the Swans off-ball, which lead to both clubs receiving a “please explain” from AFL headquarters. With the events of the weekend, it’ll be interesting to see what approach the Saints adopt. But one thing is for sure, the competition sees a potential weakness in the Swans “mongrel ability” and if they combine it with contested ball toughness, it becomes a quick fire way to put a dent in their confidence.
Time to perform
It’s always the way: as sides that have languished on the bottom of the ladder for a number of years begin to take big scalps, they become expected to perform to that level week in week out. Three weeks ago, Melbourne dominated against Essendon, then under performed against the Hawks with the heaviness of expectation, but then delivered what some have called their best performance in the last 10 years on the weekend in defeating the Crows. There are no excuses this week and its time to deliver. North are there for the taking and will stay with Melbourne all day. The margin is irrelevant, the Dees just need to win.
The Western Bulldogs can raise serious alarm bells if they can do a number on Geelong Friday night. Geelong’s inability to find adequate and consistent support for Selwood, Dangerfield and Hawkins up front has become clear to the competition. Every club has injuries but the Dogs are missing their best defender in Morris, however he could be back this week; as well as Stringer and Cloke up front and premiership youngster Josh Dunkley. Not a bad set of ins to add to their 22-man lineup.
Side note: Notice how Gilligan “Gillon McLachlan” went no tie and open shirt for his press conference earlier in the week? Maybe nobody really does know how to tie a Windsor Knot at AFL headquarters.