Geelong and Collingwood appear to be on a collision course for a very late September match-up and the events on the weekend did little to change that line of thinking.
The Cats bullied Richmond at the MCG on Friday night and the Pies put a month of ordinary football behind them with a convincing display against Melbourne on Monday.
Geelong’s 15.6 to 1.5 in the middle two quarters was the best patch of football by any team this season. The Tigers are a bit short-handed, and the MCG is their fortress, but it was repeatedly breached by a side that is quick, tough and works just as hard without the footy as with it – a trait not always identifiable with the Cats in recent years.
A look at Geelong’s schedule from here suggests there aren’t too many defeats to come – Port Adelaide on the road after the bye will be tricky and the Swans at the SCG might give them trouble, but the difficult part of the schedule is done for Chris Scott’s men and he can now enjoy the luxury of selectively managing his players through to the pointy end of the season. That’s what you get when you’re two games and 24 per cent clear of the rest of the competition with 10 games to go.
Standby for the endless discussions on whether the Cats should play any home finals at GMHBA Stadium. Unless they’re playing Greater Western Sydney, the answer should be a resounding ‘no’.
With Richmond, Brisbane, GWS and West Coast all losing, it wasn't shaping as a great weekend for premiership aspirants. Thank heavens then, for the Pies.
It was a strange afternoon at the MCG. Collingwood was beaten 170-143 in contested possession and 46-29 in clearances, but never really looked like losing to Melbourne. When the Magpies got the footy, they were so much cleaner and in Jaidyn Stephenson and Jordan De Goey they had the two most dangerous forwards in the competition.
Nathan Buckley has been telling everyone that the Pies hadn’t played well for a month and it took the last-gasp loss to Fremantle last week for people to pay attention.
The Pies head into their bye with no clue as to what their best team looks like. Jamie Elliott and Taylor Adams are walk-up starts when they’re fit, Ben Reid is thereabouts and Dayne Beams might be in the frame for a finals return.
They also don't have the same luxury as the Cats when it comes to managing the health of the list through the second half of the season. But it has been a good campaign until now and they look the team best-equipped to meet Geelong when it counts later in the season.
WHAT ELSE I’M THINKING
1. We’re not expecting any more coach sackings this week, are we? But the intrigue is there all the same. John Longmire’s retool of the Swans continues at pace and they were super impressive against West Coast, particularly with their mesmerizing ball movement from one end of the ground to the other. Five goals from Tom Papley in his best game for the club, five to the Bud and three to Sam Reid made it a great afternoon at the SCG. To be fair, West Coast almost never wins at the SCG and with Shannon Hurn, Tom Barrass and Elliot Yeo missing, the defence was left floundering, but Longmire was unusually animated in the coaches box and the Fox Footy vision of him riding Franklin’s final goal home was terrific. ‘Horse’ Longmire is coaching well and the Swans need to get moving on that contract extension given Carlton and North Melbourne would snap him up in a heartbeat.
2. Add us to the long list of those praising Patrick Cripps for his phenomenal performance for Carlton against Brisbane on Saturday. 38 touches and four goals, it was a fair day’s work. But it was notable that stand-in coach David Teague moved Ed Curnow on to Lachie Neale at half-time and he kept the Brownlow fancy to just seven touches in the second half. Brendon Bolton was sometimes reluctant to make the same switch and on Saturday night, Carlton fans were pointing to the Hawthorn game in round six when Jaeger O’Meara ran wild in the second half without a hard tag and helped swing the game the way of the Hawks. Would things have played out differently for Bolton had he made the move that afternoon?
3. It won’t happen this week, but Adelaide coach Don Pyke might soon be faced with a tough selection call with his ruckmen. While Sam Jacobs has been out injured, Reilly O’Brien has stepped in and done a nice job. And on Saturday night, he bossed Shane Mumford around the Adelaide Oval and helped the Crows to a critical win. Jacobs is back from his knee injury and playing in the SANFL, with an AFL return imminent. But is he the walk-up start as the No.1 big man? Does the 23-year-old with form trump the 31-year-old with the runs on the board?
4. Nice bit of family history will be made at Blundstone Arena on Sunday afternoon when for just the 10th time, a League coach will have a brother playing for the other team. The Kangas have won two straight games under stand-in coach Rhyce Shaw, while Heath Shaw’s Giants stumbled in Adelaide and are in the midst of a tricky road trip. And the day before in Townsville we might see an event even more unusual - with St Kilda’s Max King a big chance to make his AFL debut against twin brother Ben, who is four games into his career at Gold Coast. Apart from the occasional trial game when they were playing representative junior footy, they’ve never been on opposing teams.
5. Count me in the ‘that wasn't a free kick against Jeremy Howe for the 'studs up' school. We’re heading down the slippery slope if those sorts of marks are going to be disallowed.
6. Nick Riewoldt (Freddie Mercury) got the three votes at the MCG on Monday afternoon. Two votes to Liam (The Joker) Picken and one to Bianca Chatfield as The Little Mermaid.