After seven rounds of the home and away season, the ladder is beginning to take some shape. The premiership race is still wide open – possibly the widest it’s been since the AFL was formed, but there are now several teams that we can completely discount from September action, and every few weeks will now see another added to the list.
This is why, for the 14 or so teams still in finals contention, mistakes must be eradicated. The blowtorch will be turned up on errors as they are now not only changing the course of a game, but of the season itself.
And as we saw on the weekend, these errors can be very, very costly.
Jake Batchelor, Richmond
It was early in the second quarter and Richmond were absolutely dominating Sydney. They had held the Swans to two points whilst amassing 11 scoring shots to lead by 34.
Not only did Richmond look fluent in attack, but it appeared as though Sydney would struggle to score at all.
Enter Jake Batchelor.
Batchelor earned himself a free kick on the half-back flank, and then attempted to centre the ball – to whom, we’re not sure – but it split two Tigers and hit Daniel Hannebery on the chest, who promptly kicked the Swans’ first of the game.
Sydney then had eight more shots on goal for the quarter, and Richmond can be thankful that the majority of them missed.
Turnovers are costly, even more so when they are in your defensive half, so next time Batchelor would be wise to play it safe when attempting to centre it.
Todd Goldstein, North Melbourne
Out of all the fortunate events which occurred over the past weekend, no one got as lucky as Todd Goldstein in North Melbourne’s match against the Western Bulldogs.
Goldstein took an uncontested mark 12 metres out from the Kangaroo goal, looked around, and decided to play on. We’ve already touched upon the basic error of a ruckman playing on when he could instead be converting the simplest of set shots, so we’re staggered that we’re seeing it again.
Goldstein was tackled by Dylan Addison in a brilliant run down, and dropped the ball cold to the turf as he came crashing back down to reality. The luck for Goldstein comes from the fact that the umpire deemed that he did not receive ‘prior opportunity’, and Lindsay Thomas quickly took advantage to secure six points for the Kangaroos.
We’re not sure how taking a mark uncontested, looking around and deciding to play on isn’t an opportunity to dispose of the ball, but that is besides the point, there is absolutely no reason why ruckmen – or anyone for that matter – should be playing on in that situation.
Is taking a set shot from 10 metres out directly in front really that difficult?
Jared Brennan, Gold Coast
Greater Western Sydney’s first ever AFL victory was built on the back of dominant first and last quarters, and it was these periods that certain Gold Coast players would be particularly ashamed of.
Specifically, Jared Brennan’s efforts deep in GWS attack.
Brennan is quite talented and can be close to unstoppable when he’s switched on, but when he’s not, his laconic manner can be frustrating to watch for fans and neutrals alike.
Saturday was no exception, with the Suns’ utility attempting several times to get around the Giants’ Liam Sumner despite having options around him for an easy handball which would have instantly relinquished the pressure on the Suns’ defence.
Eventually Sumner caught his man, and received a free kick in the goal square for an easy major as compensation.
As always, a quick start is vitally important, and it was mistakes like Brennan’s which ultimately allowed GWS to run away with their first ever four points.
Lachie Henderson, Carlton
As mentioned earlier, centring the ball to a team mate is a move fraught with danger, but unlike Batchelor, Lachie Henderson was inside the attacking half and was trying to set up a goal.
Unfortunately for Henderson, the result of his blunder was the exact same.
The first quarter was coming to a close, and Carlton were on top of St Kilda, Jarrad Waite had just missed a snap and the Saints were desperate to defend, pumping the ball out of the defensive 50 in an attempt to gain some time to resettle the defensive matchups.
The ball came to Henderson, who quickly tried to centre the ball to two teammates in space.
Henderson had the right idea, just unfortunately for him, his kick completely missed both the Carlton players in the centre.
The mistake was severely punished with the ball quickly moving into an open St Kilda forward line, where Terry Milera strolled in for the easiest of goals. Two minutes later and St Kilda had stolen the first-quarter lead and continued to control the game throughout.
A costly result for a basic skill error.
Hero of the Week
It is hard to go past GWS in winning their first ever match in the AFL, but we’ll make specific mention of the young fan who was so overcome with jubilation he just had to celebrate with the players.
Such a special occasion required a special celebration, and so GWS were taking their lap of honour when the young kid decided to join them on the ground. Obviously simply watching the Giants storm away in the last quarter didn’t provide enough satisfaction for the boy as he jumped the fence to hug Tomas Bugg and join him in the festivities.
It was a wonderful sight which only added to the occasion, but more importantly, shows how well the Giants are going in winning over the public in the battle for support in the NRL heartland.
Seriously, when was the last time one of the established AFL sides has done so much for a fan that they forced them to jump onto the field and celebrate with them, and in round seven no less?
Kevin Sheedy may be misunderstood, but there can be no doubt that he’s doing a great job.