Connect with us

Talking Points

Smalls stand tall

Points 0.2: Saints v Dons, Sydney v Carlton, Eagles v Crows

Friday saw another three games played and it was small forwards who were the stars of the shows, on a day with some sunny but blustery weather common to early March in Australia – apart from Sydney where it always seems to be raining, about to rain or having just rained.


It was a bit cruel to ask two teams whose games have evolved to suit the sterile laboratory conditions under the roof at Docklands to play in a gale at Moorabbin, not just a wind favouring one end but a diagonal wind that saw all 36 players in one quarter of the ground at some points. In thsoe conditions you need good small forwards, and the Dons have Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti rejoining the game after a sabbatical plus Alwyn Davey jnr who is just starting, and they looked rusty. On the other side the Saints may have a lot of flaws in their list but they are strong in crumbers, with Jack Higgins getting them started with a hard ball get to set up the first goal and enjoying himself in receiving for three others. He wasn’t mentioned much in the comms but I thought Higgins was best on ground as everything he did was very good. He and Dan Butler are A-graders, and with assistance by Mitch Owens and Mattaes Phillipou they made life hell for the Bomber defenders in blustery conditions.

Ross the Boss III: The Bossening.

Essendon has a footy list with a lot of good players on it, especially tall ones, but it lacks cohesion. In particular, it has a preponderance of ruck-forward types but nobody who can hit the logos and bust packs consistently to give them a viable outlet when their half backs are under pressure on the rebound and have to dump long bombs out of the danger zone, as they were on Friday. This is a flaw that opposition clubs have exploited ruthlessly in recent years, and the new regime don’t seem to have shored it up in the off season as Sam Weideman is not likely to be the solution. It’s all very well to have a forest of two-metre Toms, Dicks and Harrys, but if your tall forwards are all the same type then you are going to struggle to fill different roles in your front six. It also doesn’t help if Sam Draper wins the hit outs handily but it has no noticeable effect on your clearance rate, especially if the opposition ruck is dominant around the ground as Rowan Marshall was at times.

With new coaches at both clubs, I don’t expect either to seriously challenge for September action. This can tend to be a problem with Docklands teams, which is a subject for another day.


Just one Swan needed on the night.

Another Docklands home team in Carlton travelled to Blacktown to face Sydney in what became slippery conditions in the omnipresent NSW rain, and they got belted. It was the Errol Gulden show, the kid looking like a cross between Toby Greene and Gary Ablett jnr to the tune of 45 touches and three goals. While it is true that Callum Mills was not playing, that was not the reason that Gulden racked up nine clearances and 17 contested possessions with 887 metres gained. An analogy with Christian Petracca’s breakout preseason game with a similar stat line is not out of place here. This is a new ceiling for Gulden; the question remains whether he will also lift his floor this year, as HFFs can tend to go missing.

Blake Acres looked like the best player on Fremantle’s list at times last season, and he joins Carlton to fill what has been a big need of theirs at outside midfield. Like Karl Amon on the previous day he must have wondered at times what he was walking into in this game, as he had to do a fair bit of whack-a-mole work to prevent the Blues midfield getting blown away sans Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh. Carlton still have a few holes, most notably at key defender outside Jacob Weitering, but their depth players are even more poor than the fairly poor league average so they need their best 22 fit to be a chance to live up to the hype. It would not surprise me if they missed the finals again this year, as all they need is one long-term injury to their first-choice spine to leave the rest of the team tiptoeing through broken plates.

Simpson TreK: the finals frontier

Adam Simpson: “Why is God angry?”

The team that West Coast put out on the park last year was its worst in living memory, the kind of performance that leaves you in mind of late-era Fitzroy. The lack of pressure on Adam Simpson’s job is a measure of the small-town nature of Perth and its fanatical devotion to the Pope its home town team. I have often felt about the Eagles that they always have the cattle to win the flag, and every year they don’t they are just not trying hard enough – I didn’t feel that way in 2022. There was more than a little of old, tired Captain Kirk about the team.

This year we at least get the old gang back together, minus Josh J. Kennedy. It’s like Star Trek Generations, with the old buggers from the previous edition of the popular franchise sharing screen time with fresh-faced newcomers. Elliott Yeo, Dom Sheed and DeForest Kelley (or maybe it’s Tim) are all turning out again despite the audience probably having moved on to wanting to see The Next Generation.

The result so far carries the same name as the famous (home and) away teams of yesteryear but the chemistry is nowhere near the historical standard quite yet. They are going to be an also-ran conveyance this year, which is not the sort of thing that befits the West Coast brand. It is very much on brand for Adelaide, however, who apart from two Darren Jarman superquarters last millennium have always been bridesmaids at best. The two midfields in this one cancelled each other out, both in the bottom six in the league if you treat this one seriously – which I don’t think either did really. They had better hope that Matt Crouch returns to his best because Rory Laird really, really needs the help – especially if Ben Keays is kept forward.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Talking Points