Round 8 talking points: Footy's best weekend of 2020, West Coast's statement game, Papley's trade worth and more
Round 8 saw close finishes, the best performance of any side in 2020 and collectively produced the most exciting round of footy so far.
Ahead of footy's monster marathon which kicks off on Wednesday night, here's some of the biggest talking points from the weekend.
The best round of footy so far?
The state of the game debate is never far away from being dug up on a moment’s notice but as Round 8 proved, footy is still in a good spot.
Collectively, the nine games of this round provided a mixture of close finishes, exhilarating performances and countless talking points.
Gold Coast’s performance even in defeat against Western Bulldogs set to the tone for the weekend and it continued on Saturday, when two of the three matches ended in seven-point margins.
Sunday’s clash between West Coast between Collingwood may not have been close but it did produce the most dominant performance of the season so far, with the day bookended by heart-stopping finishes as Essendon and Brisbane fell over the line despite looking nowhere near their best against their respective opponents.
Round 8 proved a worthy entrée for the footy marathon that’s to come, even if Monday night's low-scoring clash between Fremantle and Geelong in the wet was anything but pretty.
St Kilda make big Saturday night statement
It’s easy to focus on St Kilda’s performances in their losses to Fremantle and North Melbourne, both after they held big leads throughout the match.
After two wins in a week against Adelaide and then ladder-leaders Port Adelaide, Brett Ratten’s side have proven themselves as not just finals contenders but maybe something more than that.
The manner in which they blanketed the Power in front of their home fans was an ominous sign – when the Saints get up and going this year there’s scarcely a better side to watch in the competition.
It’s time to take St Kilda very seriously in 2020.
Clarkson’s Papley dig misses the mark
These are challenging times for Alastair Clarkson and his Hawks after another round where they lost amid more questions about the club’s direction and where they're heading.
As has been the case in previous weeks, Clarkson’s post-match press conferences have produced almost as many headlines as the games themselves and the aftermath of Saturday’s loss against Sydney was no difference as the four-time premiership coach took aim at Tom Papley amid his stoush with Tom Mitchell during the match.
"There will be games when we're in front in the free-kick count, it didn't work out for us this game," Clarkson told reporters after the match.
"He (Papley) milks a free kick as good as anyone in the competition and he did so again on this occasion. You just wish they were consistently paid to everyone who is knocked off the ball like that. There were five on either side tonight and they paid one."
Hawthorn face another week of soul-searching and Clarkson too, who should be prepared to answer questions about where this side is going.
What is Tom Papley worth?
Speaking of Tom Papley, talk around his future beyond 2020 is set to ramp up following a Channel 7 report this week which revealed Carlton will once again prepare an “all-out assault” for the 24-year-old small forward.
He may still have a contract until the end of 2023 but that didn’t stop the Blues' pursuit last year when they narrowly missed out on prising the current Coleman Medal leader out of the Swans.
Pick nine was seen as key last year but he’s only improved since that offer was made.
What is he worth now? It has to be in the region of two first round draft picks. If Carlton want him, they’re going to have to pay up.
And just one more thing
Port Adelaide has largely escaped the blowtorch after their 29-point loss to St Kilda on Saturday, but Ken Hinkley would be fuming after a third quarter where they owned the territory battle before they completely collapsed in the final term.
They remain one of the feel-good stories of the 2020 season so far but still have to do a lot right in order to cement a top four spot by the end of the season.
The Saints were magnificent but it was an opportunity lost for the Power, especially considering they were one Robbie Gray clutch kick away from losing to Carlton last week.