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Round 9 talking points: Holding the ball in the spotlight, St Kilda's most underrated player, worrying Dees comments and more


There were plenty of blowouts across a round which started back on Wednesday night and only ended on Sunday night but it did provide the game of the season.

There were also strong comments from a club president, a season-worst performance from the Crows and a strange holding the ball decision which divided the footy world.

But the round ended with a thriller as the Dockers pulled off an upset win over the Pies in Perth.

Here's some of what we took out of Round 9:

AFL must clear up holding the ball interpretation

It seems the wider footy world still isn’t completely sure what or what doesn’t constitute holding the ball and that was evident even more so on Friday night after a bizarre incident involving Essendon's Andrew McGrath.

McGrath was battling against Brisbane’s Jarryd Lyons, took possession of the ball in the air but the umpire judged he dived on the ball and paid a free kick against him.

Speaking on Channel 7 during the match, Hawthorn champion Luke Hodge was left mystified by the decision.

“This is not what this rule is brought in for. He dives in, but he gets up and is trying to fight it out,” Hodge said in commentary.

“Jarryd Lyons is doing just as much as he is about holding the ball in. That’s not what that rule is brought in for, he’s trying to fight.”

It’s not about blaming the umpires in this instance as they’re only officiating the current interpretation, but it’s clear there’s confusion across the board and it has to be cleared up.

St Kilda’s most underrated player deserves more plaudits

After yet another weekend where the Saints impressed, it’s time to start recognising the efforts of Ben Paton, who is the side’s most underrated player.

Fellow young defenders Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield have received plenty of praise this season but it’s Paton who is flying under the radar despite performing a number of lockdown defensive roles this year to perfection.

While he didn’t spend all of the game on dangerous Sydney forward Tom Papley on Saturday, Paton’s role in curbing him to just a single goal was crucial in their 53-point win over the Swans.

He’s also won plenty of his own ball this year, averaging 14 touches and nine marks across nine games so far in 2020.

Adelaide slump to a new low

Think Adelaide had hit rock bottom? Think again.

Sunday’s 69-point loss to fellow strugglers North Melbourne was shocking because after two weeks of progress at the Crows despite still losing matches, this performance was unquestionably their worst of the season.

It’s never a good sign when the senior coach opens a post-match press conference with an apology but that’s exactly what Matthew Nicks did in the immediate aftermath of the game.

With eight more matches of the home and away season to come, Adelaide need to dig in before attacking the draft at the end of the year.

Most explosive comments of 2020 put Simon Goodwin on notice

The manner in which Melbourne played on Wednesday night was worrying but what really stole the headlines were club chairman Glen Bartlett’s comments in a Herald Sun interview, labelling the loss to Port Adelaide “insipid” and "disgraceful".

“It was disgraceful. When you pull on a Melbourne jumper, we don’t give them out in Weeties packets,” Bartlett said.

“You have to show respect for the jumper and the fans, and apart from a few blokes last night, it was an insipid performance. It wasn’t Melbourne-like and it won’t be tolerated going forward.”

Simon Goodwin was cut some slack last year after their run to a preliminary final in 2018 but as another season slowly slips away, comments as strong as those from a club chairman highlight just how urgent the current situation is at the Dees.

They wouldn’t want to lose to Adelaide on Wednesday night.

And a couple more things

Make no mistake, Carlton missed a massive opportunity to consolidate their recent good form after losing to Hawthorn on Friday.

They could’ve hardly dreamt of getting off to a better start, racing away to a 31-point lead before going down by 31 points, with Blues coach David Teague conceding post-match they lost control of the match after their bright start.

They are still only a game outside the top eight and not without an outside chance of playing finals but they’ve got to fix their in-game form fluctuations which are proving their undoing.

It would also be remiss of us not to mention what was without doubt the best game of 2020 on Saturday night, as West Coast snuck over the line against an impressive Geelong outfit.

Nic Naitanui and Josh Kennedy were the difference in the end but in a year where everything has been turned on its head, it was great to see over 26,000 fans at the footy in Perth providing an atmosphere befitting of a final.

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