Kicking rethink required, Richmond back in the hunt, salt in the wounds for Swans: Key takeouts from round nine

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Richmond d Geelong

Damien Hardwick and Chris Scott agreed on Friday night that the Tigers looked far more like the team that dominated the AFL between 2017-20. They played fast, hectic football and, as Hardwick noted, threw themselves into contests. So, what exactly does it all mean? One win should not change the narrative, but Richmond are back in the hunt for eighth spot, at least. There is a ladder logjam for that spot, and we will learn plenty about the Tigers and Bombers when they meet in their annual Dreamtime showdown on Saturday night. Until then, it is hard to draw too many conclusions. Defenders Nathan Broad and Noah Balta were excellent on Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins, respectively, and can solve many problems if they play to that standard more regularly. As for the Cats, perhaps none of us looked at their line-up closely enough beforehand. They were missing eight premiership players (nine, if you count the retired Joel Selwood), as well as Jack Bowes. Geelong picked seven players with fewer than 40 games’ experience: debutant Jhye Clark, Oliver Dempsey (four), Sam Simpson (23), Mitch Knevitt (six), Max Holmes (39), Tanner Bruhn (36) and Ollie Henry (34). It’s no wonder Scott was unfussed post-match about the result. Reinforcements are on the way, with Brad Close and possibly Tyson Stengle and Jack Henry back next week. – Marc McGowan

Jack Riewoldt and Tom Hawkins swap jumpers after Richmond’s win.Credit: AFL Photos

Gold Coast d West Coast

Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew has drawn the distinction between his players gaining individual experience and his young defence gaining experience together following their 70-point win over West Coast on Friday night. When asked about key defender Charlie Ballard’s record-equalling 10 intercept marks plus nine spoils, he praised the team’s defence. Ballard’s star turn came just a week after he was caught high by Jacob van Rooyen, leading to a series of appeals. “Charlie just kept marking it didn’t he?” Dew said. “There is some good synergy down back from those guys who have played a fair amount of footy together. There are games played and then there are games played together – getting that consistency is important to any defence.” The Eagles are injury hit and lost Jamaine Jones (broken nose) and Jack Darling (fractured arm), while first-year star Reuben Ginbey chased Matt Rowell (29 disposals) for much of the night and had 16 tackles. Liam Duggan impressed as captain with 32 disposals. Eagles coach Adam Simpson knows his side has to wear the criticism, but he objected to the claim the crowd of 36,219 was a sign members were staying at home. “I’d like to know what our average crowd against Gold Coast is?” Simpson responded. – Roy Ward

Port Adelaide d North Melbourne

North Melbourne fans are a resilient lot – and they will need to be as their club fights to break out of the Kangaroos’ darkest period in more than half a century. After 11 wins in 70 games, there remains plenty of pain ahead. Todd Goldstein, Jack Ziebell, Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke are fighting the fight, but where are the kids? With the exception of Harry Sheezel, who of North’s youngsters can you be confident of becoming top-quality players? Can Will Phillips and Tom Powell match their high draft tag and support Simpkin and Davies-Uniacke in the middle? Injuries have cost Charlie Comben, a potential foil for Nick Larkey, precious developmental games. Tarryn Thomas’ woes are well-documented. The best player they have drafted in their rebuild, Jason Horne-Francis, is at another club. Get more games into Charlie Lazzaro, Phoenix Spicer, Flynn Perez and Jack Mahony (the latter two injured in this game) to find out what they’re made of. The good news is No. 4 pick George Wardlaw is getting very close to an eagerly awaited debut. With six wins in a row, Port are ready for their first big test since Warren Tredrea jumped the gun on Ken Hinkley. Their game is in good order, but Melbourne at home on Friday night will provide the true examination. That they booted 20 goals with Charlie Dixon injured, Junior Rioli suspended and Todd Marshall playing little part is a sign of their potency. The midfield baton has well and truly been passed to Zak Butters and Connor Rozee, who are taking the load off Ollie Wines. It has allowed Travis Boak to prosper in a new role. If they can knock off the Dees, we may have a new fourth seed. – Andrew Wu

Alastair Clarkson’s Roos are struggling.Credit: AFL Photos

Fremantle d Sydney

Sydney’s injury crisis isn’t quite at West Coast levels, but it’s getting there. Losing at home to Fremantle for the first time in over a decade was bad enough, but also losing Callum Mills (calf) and Logan McDonald (ankle) rubbed salt into the wounds. There is no firm diagnosis yet on the pair but coach John Longmire expects they’ll miss some footy, at least. Already they’re without Dane Rampe, Paddy and Tom McCartin, Sam Reid, Peter Ladhams and Joel Amartey, with no guarantee that any of them will be back next week – and with so many key forward options out, it’s asking an awful lot of Lance Franklin, who went goalless for the second week in a row, the first time he’s done that since joining the Swans. Fortunately, their next opponents are North Melbourne, so it could be a lot worse. As for the Dockers, who face Geelong at Optus Stadium on Saturday afternoon, they came through this match unscathed, and played their best footy of the year at the SCG. Luke Jackson looked terrific again, and by stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time in 2023, they have a chance to properly kick-start their season over the coming weeks, although the spectre of the reigning premiers – who are coming off a shock loss to Richmond – looms large. –Vince Rugari

Melbourne d Hawthorn

Saturday’s twilight game at the MCG ended how most had predicted: in flag fancies Melbourne blitzing bottom-rung Hawthorn to give their percentage a boost as they jostle Collingwood and Port Adelaide for top positioning. Demons coach Simon Goodwin said he was really pleased with how disciplined his side was at making every possession tough for its opponent and reaping rewards on the scoreboard. While they came into the match the bigger, stronger and more experienced side, they also displayed a harder workrate, seen in their tackles, spoils and second efforts. In short, all their lines were firing, making them a very dangerous-looking outfit. The Hawks did put up a good fight in the third quarter, opening the term with three quick goals. The first from veteran Luke Bruest – who headlined a return of five players for the Hawks, including defender Changkuoth Jiath – and then back-to-back first career goals from youngsters Cam Mackenzie and Josh Weddle, which injected some enthusiasm and pride into the side after an extremely meek first half. It took 18 minutes for Hawthorn’s first inside-50 entry and attempt on goal, but Jacob Koschitzke’s shot registered as a behind and was their only score for the term. We all know it’s a building year for the Hawks and Sam Mitchell is remaining steadfast in his optimism for the future. Facing a much tougher and experienced opponent was undoubtably a daunting ask for the youngsters, but their coach said they approached it from: “What can we learn from this side?“. Hopefully, a bit out of the 54-point defeat. –Marnie Vinall

Western Bulldogs d Carlton

Michael Voss says the Blues are beginning to morph into the team he wants them to be, but is that a good enough response for a list built to win now? This has been a highly disappointing season to date, and four losses from their past five matches leaves the Blues on the edge, heading into next Sunday’s blockbuster against Collingwood. The Blues’ game style remains questionable. They lacked flair in the first half against the Western Bulldogs, too often kicking long to a contest, and managed only 10 points to half-time – their lowest score to that point of a game in the Voss era. However, a more attacking second half, led by Adam Saad and Matthew Cottrell, and better entries inside 50, meant they clawed their way back from a 31-point deficit, and almost did enough to win. Regardless, Sam Walsh was impressive, and now has miles on his legs in a campaign derailed by a serious back injury. Voss says he won’t outlaw set-shot snaps after three of his men wasted precious goal-scoring opportunities, but the high-priced Harry McKay – in particular – needs to have a rethink. Surely, it’s ridiculous to snap when 35 metres out almost directly in front of goal? As for the Bulldogs, it was business as usual. They have won four straight, and their proud warriors stood strong when it counted. Hard nut extractor Tom Liberatore willed his men over the line, while Bailey Smith’s dash and class were evident. Marcus Bontempelli, who was shadowed by Matthew Kennedy, had several key touches. Ed Richards is enjoying a career year at half-back, while Arthur Jones proved he is a game breaker. The first-half move of tall Rory Lobb to a wing was also a success. – Jon Pierik

Brisbane Lions d Essendon

The scoreboard didn’t entirely reflect the tone of the Brisbane Lions’ victory over Essendon – it was a tough and hard-fought match, and Bombers coach Brad Scott was justifiably pleased with how his undermanned defence stood up. In particular, Andrew McGrath was brilliant at covering Charlie Cameron, and Kaine Baldwin and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher did their best before the flood of inside-50s became too much. For the Lions, it was one of those mid-season wins they just had to bank, and for Chris Fagan, that was enough, but it was especially pleasing to see Joe Daniher cash in against his old side with six goals. Daniher was a constant aerial threat and his kicking was on song, too. It was a confident and mature performance from a player who had copped so much criticism earlier in the season. – Andrew Stafford

Adelaide d St Kilda

Boasting line-breaking flair on every line, a midfield that uses the footy better than previous incarnations and a forward line brimming with game-busting potential, there was always going to be a match where Adelaide put all the pieces together. Mother’s Day was the perfect time for it, St Kilda their unlikely victim. So many times this season the Crows have let slip positions of strength through errant finishing and untimely lapses. Not on Sunday, Adelaide’s laser-like precision on the outside matched by clinical goalkicking for all four quarters. The Saints’ normally impenetrable defence had no answers for Taylor Walker (five goals), who feasted on the repeated stylish counterpunches of captain Jordan Dawson, Brodie Smith and a host of others. Whether the Crows’ masterclass will prove the template to barging through the St Kilda wall remains to be seen. The Saints have done too much right this year to push the panic button just yet, though. Max King is expected to return to the goalsquare for next Sunday’s clash with GWS, replacing concussed teammate Tim Membrey. It can also be expected that St Kilda’s hard-nosed defensive edge will make a quick return after a week off. – Steve Barrett

Collingwood d GWS

There is something special brewing at the Pies, and Jordan De Goey is a massive reason why. Nick Daicos’ stunning second season is grabbing all the headlines, while De Goey – after struggling to stay out of them for the wrong reasons before this year – is putting together a superb campaign. The 27-year-old, who was brilliant again in Sunday’s win, is averaging career-best numbers in disposals, inside-50s, contested possessions, ground-ball gets, and clearances, while still kicking more than a goal per game. Coach Craig McRae will be thrilled if the Daicos brothers, Mason Cox and co. keep distracting everyone from what De Goey is doing. As for the Giants, we received an insight into first-year coach Adam Kingsley’s expectations for his team when he admitted he was disappointed in the performance against Collingwood – but not the season in totality. GWS were mightily competitive until running into the Magpies, but are still in the bottom four. Asked why he wasn’t disappointed to be in the AFL cellar, Kingsley said: “When you look at the [in]experience of our list, let alone the team that we put out today and previous weeks – people underrate experience. I think when you’re a more experienced team; there are a few different things you’re able to cope with: opposition pressure … and [you] make better decisions … we’re learning a different way to play, with a new group of players, and we’re having some challenges along the way.” – Marc McGowan

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