AFL round 18 key takeouts and match review news

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AFL round 18 key takeouts and match review news

By Peter Ryan, Steve Barrett, Jon Pierik, Andrew Wu, Roy Ward, Marnie Vinall and Russell Bennett

Our reporters give you the lowdown on all the action from round 18 of the AFL season.

Western Bulldogs v St Kilda, Marvel Stadium

Richmond’s loss on Saturday was a good result for both clubs but the Western Bulldogs look a more genuine finals team than St Kilda. The Saints lack on-field leadership and too many players in their team pick and choose – Callum Wilkie, Jack Steele and Tim Membrey are the notable exceptions. The pressure they need to apply to force turnovers to score has been missing since the bye and 12 tackles in a half in such a big game was embarrassing. Jack Higgins and Brad Hill need to review the way they are playing if they want to be genuine contributors, while it’s hard to win when losing the clearance count 21-41. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ ball use was still below where they want it to be. Luke Beveridge is aware they may not get away with conceding so many intercept marks against the better teams. But they look a scarier proposition when their midfield general Marcus Bontempelli is firing. They have the tools in the midfield and attack now, but their defence remains a worry with three huge games ahead against Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle.
- Peter Ryan

Nick Daicos hit new heights in Collingwood’s win over the Crows.

Nick Daicos hit new heights in Collingwood’s win over the Crows.Credit:AFL Photos

Adelaide v Collingwood, Adelaide Oval

Collingwood validated their burgeoning reputation as the AFL’s cardiac kids with yet another heart-stopping victory. Saturday’s pulsating five-point win over Adelaide was the Magpies’ eighth in succession, the last three of those and five of the past seven decided by seven points or less. Craig McRae’s charges haven’t done it the easy way – but they continue to find a way. Collingwood’s ability to repeatedly stand tall in the fourth-quarter crunch has given them a genuine shot at a top-four berth, an improbable proposition at the season’s outset. The Magpies’ oldest and youngest players were pivotal in Saturday’s success. The marvellous debut season of 19-year-old sensation Nick Daicos hit new heights as he led the Crows a merry dance, racking up 40 disposals and kicking three goals. This kid is something else. Two of his majors were set up by 34-year-old Scott Pendlebury, who slotted one of his own in typically stylish, unhurried fashion to make his milestone 350th game one to savour. Adelaide were by no means disgraced and charged powerfully towards the finish line in those frenetic, dying minutes. After recently re-signing with the club for another year, Taylor Walker (five goals) proved a constant thorn in the Magpies’ backline, while midfield workhorse Rory Laird established a new VFL/AFL record by laying an astonishing 20 tackles, moving past the old benchmark of 19 held jointly by Tom Liberatore, Jude Bolton and Jack Ziebell.
- Steve Barrett

GWS v Brisbane Lions, Manuka Oval

It was Brisbane’s first trip to Canberra and they got the four points in their push for a top-four berth with a comfortable win over GWS. With Fremantle’s loss to Sydney, they stay third on percentage. The Lions have been unsettled in recent weeks, as they deal with COVID-19 and injuries to key players, and Chris Fagan said the victory was crucial after the loss to the Bombers a week earlier. The Lions had a number of key players back in the line-up, but others were still missing through injury, including Jarrod Berry, Dayne Zorko and Daniel Rich. In their absence Rhys Mathieson stood up in his first AFL appearance of the year, racking up 10 clearances among his 23 touches. Fagan said that would give Brisbane the best kind of problems at selection going forward. Four goals from Hugh McCluggage, along with 30 disposals, were vital in the win. The Giants stayed in the contest in the first half, largely thanks to four goals from Toby Greene. But they were blown away after that, conceding nine of the next 10 goals. Outside of Greene’s goals, 30 disposals for Harry Himmelberg and a gutsy defensive display from Sam Taylor, the Giants were soundly beaten, smashed by 25 extra clearances and 25 extra inside 50s. The Giants lost the contested possession count by 17, which Mark McVeigh described as an “alarming trend” and with the club now firmly out of contention for finals he worried the losses would start piling up. The Giants face the Blues next weekend.
- AAP

Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood celebrate against the Giants.

Cam Rayner and Eric Hipwood celebrate against the Giants.Credit:Getty Images

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North Melbourne v Richmond, Marvel Stadium

This was arguably the upset of the season, leaving Richmond coach Damien Hardwick understandably frustrated and lamenting his team’s poor kicking for goal. While Hardwick praised North Melbourne’s toughness and commitment, he was right to say “Richmond is killing Richmond”. The Tigers dominated the inside-50 count 67-46 but their inability to convert (Jack Riewoldt managed 2.6) was the pivotal reason behind a second straight defeat that may not only have ended their top-four hopes but has them battling to remain in the top eight.

Jake Aarts will have had nightmares about his decision to play on with under a minute remaining. Had he taken the set shot on offer, the Tigers may have conjured a great escape. Expect a confronting week at Punt Road. A huge fortnight now awaits, against Fremantle (Marvel Stadium) and the Brisbane Lions (MCG). For the Kangaroos, there was no better way to end a tumultuous week than by posting their second win of the season, snapping a 14-game losing streak that led to the departure of David Noble. They attacked with a freedom unseen for most of the season. Jy Simpkin was excellent, Luke Davies-Uniacke continued to emerge, while Jaidyn Stephenson prospered at half-back. Cam Zurhaar is an excitement machine up forward when the supply is strong. Caretaker coach Leigh Adams joked this win was even better than the premiership he enjoyed with South Croydon. It’s now up to the Kangaroos to build on this momentum.
- Jon Pierik

Carlton v Geelong, MCG

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Under Michael Voss, the Blues have shown the admirable trait of being quick learners – and they need this to continue if they are to challenge the best in September. The Blues’ lack of exposure to high-pressure games such as this showed against a well-drilled and experienced Cats team. Even stars such as Patrick Cripps, Harry McKay and Adam Saad struggled on the big stage, while youngsters Corey Durdin, Liam Stocker and Matthew Cottrell should learn plenty from the game. Where else will the gains come from in the next few weeks? Mitch McGovern will add an extra dimension to the Blues’ defence with his intercept marking and precise kicking, and Marc Pittonet’s deft tapwork will strengthen the midfield. But most of the improvement will likely come from the parts they already have. The finals cannot come quick enough for the Cats, whose form profile is bearing a strong resemblance to that of recent premiers. Richmond (2017, 2019-20), West Coast (2018) and Melbourne (2021) all hit their straps at the back end of the year, and the Cats are no different with eight wins on the trot. No one needs to remind Chris Scott that flags are not won in July, but they are well-placed to maintain this form for another two months, having carefully managed their players’ workloads. Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Stewart, Gary Rohan and Jack Henry have all missed plenty of football, yet it has not cost the Cats. Instead, they have unearthed some gems in Sam De Koning and Max Holmes, and given a new role to Tom Atkins, which may prove the missing piece of their premiership puzzle.
- Andrew Wu

Fremantle v Sydney, Optus Stadium

Sydney’s win over Fremantle on Saturday night was not only a vital one in their quest for the top four. It also shows they can change tactics and embrace bigger grounds – two traits that are crucial to any run to the grand final. The Swans face the Crows, Giants and Kangaroos in the coming weeks so could be entrenched in the four should their form hold up. Chad Warner (35 disposals) showed his credentials as a budding superstar while the poise of Luke Parker, Jake Lloyd and Callum Mills stood out. The Dockers are still a dangerous combination, but they didn’t adjust to the Swans’ move to a possession-dominant style after quarter-time on Saturday. It is a lesson both the players and coaches will need to learn from if they want to make a run at the premiership. They are clearly good enough to go deep, but with a growing field of contenders, a game like this in the finals could end their campaign. Nat Fyfe assisted in two goals but faded after a promising start; his role, whatever it is, will be crucial to Fremantle’s hopes.
- Roy Ward

Hawthorn v West Coast, MCG

While their future will be determined by their younger brigade, the Hawks’ veterans again proved their worth on Sunday in an impressive performance against the Eagles at the MCG.
Adam Simpson‘s men clearly had no answer down back for one of the great opportunists of the modern era, Luke Breust. He’s long been the kind of player who can have maximum impact with a minimal number of possessions, and he proved that in round 18 with six goals from just 15 touches.
The constant talk around the Hawks each off-season surrounds where they’ll offload some of their more experienced players for the final seasons of their careers, but Sam Mitchell is managing the balancing act between pumping games into Hawthorn’s youngsters, and surrounding them with just enough experience to help teach them on the fly.
James Sicily, at 27, is hardly an old-timer, but with another starring role he again showed why he’s considered by most to be the heir to Ben McEvoy’s captaincy title, while Dylan Moore and Josh Ward also shone.
- Russell Bennett

Melbourne v Port Adelaide, Traeger Park

The Demons’ form line hadn’t exactly been the most convincing of the premiership contenders leading into their clash with the Power in the Alice.
And a 14-point win over the desperately inconsistent Port would do nothing to disprove that, on paper at least.
But those who were lucky enough to witness ‘the Kysaiah Pickett show’ in-person at Traeger Park would come away with a first-hand reminder of what yet another Melbourne match-winner is capable of.

Melbourne doesn’t need to be playing their best footy of the year at this stage, and they’re not, but they can build from here over the next five weeks off the back of the spark provided by Pickett and fellow danger man Bayley Fritsch, and the continued form of the ever-consistent Christian Petracca and Jack Viney.
The reigning premiers aren’t going anywhere in a hurry - even if they’re a thumping V8 operating on just six cylinders right now.
Meanwhile, it’s been a season full of frustration for Port but Connor Rozee again stamped his future superstar credentials with another impressive showing.
- Russell Bennett

Essendon v Gold Coast, Marvel Stadium

Essendon’s revival continues with their third win on the trot and, despite a dismal start to the year, they now pose a serious challenge to opposition sides going into the pointy end of the season. They outplayed and outclassed Gold Coast for the duration of the four quarters on Sunday at Marvel Stadium, locking the ball in their forward 50 and cutting off any supply for the away side. The Bombers won the ball more - including contested and uncontested possessions - and applied more pressure and intensity, denying the Suns any avenues to goal. Mason Redman continues to impress, finishing with 34 disposals with 76 per cent efficiency, supported by an ever-developing backline alongside Nick Hind, who registered 26 disposals. The Essendon midfield also seems to be playing with a lot more confidence than in the first half of the season, particularly Zach Merrett, who had 36 disposals and 14 score involvements, and Dylan Shiel, who had 29 disposals, including 14 contested. They’re also finding more creative avenues to goal, resulting in more contributors to the scoreboard. Sam Draper‘s astonishing solo effort from Sunday’s game is just one such example of this.
Gold Coast are now nudged further away from finals and - while it’s not impossible for them to make it to September - are four points behind Richmond, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda, who are all battling for the eighth spot. While Noah Anderson and Touk Miller fought hard for the Suns, it was too little for their lacklustre side, who were dominated by the up-and-coming Dons. In Stuart Dew’s 100th game in charge of the Suns, he registered his 72nd loss with them, to just 27 wins and one draw.
- Marnie Vinall

Match review news

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Carlton’s Will Hayes will miss two games for his tackle on Geelong’s Sam Menegola on Saturday night. Hayes was charged with rough conduct for what was deemed a “dangerous tackle” assessed as careless conduct, high impact, and high contact. Menegola was subbed out of the game with a concussion.

St Kilda’s Jack Steele was fined $2000 for engaging in rough conduct with Alex Keath in his side’s loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night. Collingwood’s Beau McCreery was fined $2000 for striking Adelaide’s Patrick Parnell, while Jeremy Cameron was fined $1000 for careless contact with an umpire.

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