Home Australia AFL Round-Up — Yze’s Tigers arrive, Bombers find their spirit and Crows hit early crisis

AFL Round-Up — Yze’s Tigers arrive, Bombers find their spirit and Crows hit early crisis

by Elijah
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A Collingwood player raises his fist to celebrate a goal.

The Tigers and Bombers achieve inspiring victories, the Demons show their strength in Adelaide while the Ravens face an early season crisis.

Here are the biggest talking points from each game in the third round.

1. Magpies try to regain their shape

Craig McRae said Collingwood had spent the last week facing the local truth that the Pies were no longer among the best pressing teams in the league. In fact, the statistics said they were closer to the bottom than the top.

That simple fact seemed to refocus Collingwood and give them a clear point of emphasis against Brisbane: they were going to attack hard, often and in numbers.

The Magpies picked up a much-needed win in Brisbane.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Matt Roberts)

And they didn’t comply with that? The Pies racked up a mad 85 tackles to pressure the Lions into oblivion, backing up that work by matching them in winning the contested ball too.

The Lions will point to missed chances inside the 50 as the reason for their loss, but there was more to it than that. They lacked Collingwood’s commitment to the contest, and it showed in the end.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. Nick Daicos (Magpies)

2. Dayne Zorko (Lions)

1. Tom Mitchell (Magpies)

2. North Melbourne’s defensive dilemma

Based on evidence from the first three weeks of the season, Northball’s key tenet is aggressive, ballistic ball movement off the defense. Sometimes it worked and was sensational.

The key to this is largely the staff there. Harry Sheezel, Colby McKercher and Zac Fisher are naturally attacking players who have spent their junior or early AFL careers as primarily midfielders and forwards.

A Kangaroos AFL player runs and kicks the ball downfield with his right foot.

Harry Sheezel is an important attacking weapon for North Melbourne, who are still looking for balance in defence.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Michael Willson)

As means of counterattack, they can be unstoppable. Like true defenders, they drip like sieves.

A lot of defensive work is being left to Aidan Corr and Toby Pink, and they are not equipped to handle it. The benefits of playing with such offensive players on defense are outweighed by the massive scores North sends up each week.

Maybe that’s not important to Alastair Clarkson at this stage of the rebuild? But no matter how attractive the Roos are, they will win many more games this year if they score 20 goals a game.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. Harry McKay (blues)

2. George Hewett (Blues)

1. Patrick Cripps (blues)

3. The Ravens could be broken

Surveillance in the west was very tough on Friday night. There was no questioning the effort of the Dockers or the Crows, but the quality of football was as poor as we have seen this year.

Fremantle ultimately took the win, as they should have always done with their dominance in the game. But Adelaide leaves Perth with huge questions surrounding them and the feeling that they are miles away from being final contenders.

The midfield wins enough, but it is difficult to do damage with those touches, the synergy with the attack line has completely disappeared and the back line is exhausted with almost no possibility of salvation. It is disjointed, fragmentary and completely lacking in trust.

To think Adelaide was the highest scoring team in the league in 2023. Nothing is working at the moment, and in a season this tight, the horse may have already bolted.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. Hayden Young (dockers)

2. Alex Pearce (dockers)

1. Jordan Clark (dockers)

4. The Essendon Edge: with a different touch

After a week of talk about the new Essendon, one with a physical advantage that will occasionally collide with the limits of justice, there were expectations of fireworks against the Saints.

But if you showed up wanting to see some fights, you would have been disappointed. The off-ball stuff was nowhere to be seen, replaced by a Bombers team that played with the kind of edge that would actually win games.

An Essendon player raised his clenched fist in celebration as a St Kilda defender looked on.

The Bombers looked overcooked on numerous occasions, but were very tough in their victory over St Kilda.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Dylan Burns)

A total commitment to the contest was the backbone that allowed Essendon to weather periods of St Kilda dominance, but stay in the fight and ultimately overwhelm the Saints once the game reached its climax.

There are still structural flaws in this Essendon team, but the spirit with which they play can make up for many of them. This was a significant victory.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. Nic Martin (Bombers)

2. Jake Stringer (Bombers)

1. Zach Merrett (Bombers)

5. The demons take risks and take the points.

Simon Goodwin and Ken Hinkley will no doubt analyze the excellent Melbourne-Port Adelaide match in more detail, but we can all safely assume that this match was won and lost by kicks on goal.

It was an arm wrestle from start to finish, but if either side had the better of the overall game it was Port Adelaide. The Power dominated the inside 50 and had many more shots on goal than their opponents, but left the door ajar.

Melbourne's Max Gawn hugs in the air with a teammate as his team runs to congratulate him after a goal.

The Demons were ruthlessly efficient in front of goal against Port Adelaide.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/James Elsby)

Melbourne, on the other hand, was attracting them from all over. Alex Neal-Bullen, Ben Brown, Max Gawn, Caleb Windsor and Bayley Fritsch all scored notable goals at times when the Power’s opponents were missing much simpler looks.

Melbourne have lost finals in recent years due to forward line inefficiency. It’s probably time they flipped the script.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. Max Gawn (Demons)

2. Trent Rivers (Demons)

1. Clayton Oliver (Demons)

6. Are we supposed to be cool with the West Coast?

No one expected the Eagles to win any of their first games. Or many of their upcoming games. Or many games throughout the year, to be honest.

Adam Simpson says he’s moving away from wins and losses to looking at “small victories” throughout the year, presumably meaning better team clearance and numbers in the 50s. But that alone doesn’t tell the story of a equipment that is miles away, miles! – far from AFL standard in terms of skill, frame, strength or fitness.

A smiling Western Bulldogs AFL player runs away from the goal waving his fists as a West Coast Eagles defender looks on.

The Bulldogs swept the Eagles in a big win on Easter Sunday.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Dylan Burns)

But the scariest thing about the West Coast is that its lack of ability to compete is severely hindering the growth of its young players. The future is in the hands of players like Reuben Ginbey, Campbell Chesser, Noah Long and Brady Hough, and it may be difficult for these kids to improve while playing in weekly 10-goal belts.

As for Harley Reid, how he must wish he could have entered the football league like many of his contemporaries have, given handball and kicks in space with the chance to show off his skills. Instead, he’s at the back of the groups, fighting for scraps, not getting an easy ball, and running out of gas early.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. Tim English (Bulldogs)

2. Adam Treloar (Bulldogs)

1. Laitham Vandermeer (Bulldogs)

7. The next generation of Tigers

In direct contrast to the West Coast, Richmond on Sunday showed the value of inserting young talent into structures equipped to support them.

Against the Swans, players such as Tyler Sonsie, Seth Campbell, Rhyan Mansell and Thomson Dow had clearly defined roles and were able to showcase their talents within them.

A Richmond player smiles triumphantly as he hangs in the arms of a teammate after a goal in a big game.

The Tigers were relentless with their pressure against Sydney.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Michael Willson)

And they prospered. In a game of fierce pressure from start to finish, no Tiger seemed intimidated and, if anything, were emboldened by the occasion. The MCG rose with them, creating what looked like an important day for Adem Yze’s team.

That’s all you need from a rebuilding team: bright signs from young people, a clear game plan and structure, good skills and unwavering effort. Those ingredients sometimes lead to surprising results.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. Nick Vlastuin (Tigers)

2. Tim Taranto (Tigers)

1. Shai Bolton (Tigers)

8. Geelong continues incredibly fast start

Geelong maintained their perfect start to the season by prevailing in a heated Easter Monday clash against arch-rivals Hawthorn in a contest briefly halted by nearby lightning at the MCG.

While the Cats ended up winning comfortably in the end, the game was not without some scares against a feisty Hawks team that briefly threatened an upset.

Geelong Cats' Tom Hawkins smiles in the rain during an AFL game.

Tom Hawkins was all smiles in his important game.(Getty Images: Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

The evergreen Tom Hawkins celebrated his 350th cap with four goals, but Chris Scott will be encouraged by the performances of some of his younger players, such as Tanner Bruhn, who racked up 15 of his 27 disposals in a blistering first quarter, and Ollie Henry, who also won four majors.

Hawthorn coach Sam Mitchell is yet to taste victory this season and will rue a couple of missed chances that could have left his team leading at half-time. Young Nick Watson’s miss, where he inexplicably kicked one from almost inside the square, is one that would have made Mitchell tear his hair out.

Mitchell will also be frustrated by the officiating against polarizing recruit Jack Ginnivan throughout the game. Ginnivan appeared to be caught out by Geelong tacklers on numerous occasions, but referees continued to turn a blind eye to the 21-year-old.

ABC Player of the Year Votes:

3. James Worpel (Hawks)

2. Mitch Duncan (Cats)

1. Tanner Bruhn (Cats)

ABC Sport Player of the Year top 10

1. Tom Green (Giants) – 8

=2. Isaac Heeney (Swans) – 6

=2. Christian Petracca (Demons) — 6

=2. Matt Rowell (Suns) – 6

=5. Jesse Hogan (Giants) – 5

=5. Caleb Serong (dockers) – 5

=7. Patrick Cripps (blues) – 4

=7. Max Gawn (Demons) – 4

=7. Harry McKay (blue) – 4

=7. Nick Vlastuin (Tigers) – 4

(Votes are compiled by ABC Sport’s commentary team after each match)

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