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The Buck Stops Here: Huge Heeney, Dimma's on the right track, the Demon who stood up and more


The 2024 edition of Gather Round has come and gone and many in the footy world are making their way back across the border.

Former Collingwood coach and superstar Nathan Buckley has put together his takeaways in The Buck Stops Here.

On his mind this week were Isaac Heeney, Gold Coast's list and the captaincy of Alex Pearce.

Read his thoughts below:

Is Heeney the best mid/forward in the comp?

“I’m not late to the party but the five weeks we’ve seen, has there been as good a five weeks from a mid/forward ever?" Buckley began on SEN Breakfast.

“He’s a forward that’s now gone into the midfield, he’s definitely now in the Christian Petracca and Marcus Bontempelli conversation. They’ve been doing it for longer but he’d definitely be up there.

“Top three clearance player, top 10 scores from clearance, scoreboard impact, he’s doing it all at the moment.

“You look at Errol Gulden, there was a lot of talk about him, a lot of talk about Chad Warner. Heeney has been a well-speculated player but in terms of impact… he only had 26 touches on the weekend, kicked a couple of goals and had four direct goal assists.

“Everything that he touches turns to gold. He runs hard, but he works up and down the centre corridor. It’s been a long time coming but he’s the number one score involvement player, kicked eight goals himself and set up seven others, I just think his impact right now is profound.”

Dimma’s ‘80 per cent of premiership team is already here’ statement is looking good

“I believe what Damien Hardwick said in August last year about his Gold Coast squad and I saw more evidence of it this week than any other.

“He made selection statements on the weekend and he dropped some players that had been mainstays.

“Three first gamers in Ethan Read, Sam Clohesy and Will Graham. Add that to Bodhi Uwland, who played three games the year before but has basically become a mainstay. (Sam) Flanders, who played 44 over four years, only 11 games on average in his first four years but became a mainstay after Stuart Dew stepped out late last year… Mac Andrew, who played 21 games over the first two years but will become a mainstay and played a breakout game.

“Bailey Humphrey of course is just in his second year, Brayden Fiorini, Malcolm Rosas and Thomas Berry were a couple of others who have been fringe players in the past. That’s half of your team that has been either fringe or not there in recent years that are now looking like established players in this team.

“Add to that Jack Lukosius, Sam Collins, Charlie Ballard, Ben Ainsworth, Matt Rowell, Touk Miller, Jarrod Witts, Noah Anderson, Nick Holman, Ben King, they’re the power, the established players who Hardwick is going to build around.

“The new dawn for the Suns has arrived, they’re a very different team, coached very differently, players that might have been on the outer are on the inside now and there are different attributes that are being rewarded by a different coach who is looking to play a different way.

“I think Gold Coast are going to be an altogether different challenge for teams as they go through their next couple of months and by the end of the year they’ll be almost unrecognisable, and that might be enough to get them to the finals.”

A dominant Port Adelaide midfield

“The individual brilliance of Connor Rozee and what he put together in the first half… 20 touches and three goals, this is the point, it’s the finishing and making the most of your work.

“He was apart of a Port Adelaide midfield that looked amazingly dominant on the weekend. Class is the word that came to mind for me… I’ve stood next to him… he’s slight, (he’s not a big-bodied midfielder).

“Zak Butters is a slight player. Jason Horne-Franics is not. That midfield was so impressive. I’m talking about Willem Drew as well… he’s the George Hewett, he’s the player that will go and be the cooler when he needs to be but will find the ball 20+ times, wins clearances, you don’t get an easy ball around him.

“I think Port’s inside centre bounce crew, there’s not many that have the speed, power and balance they have and the sharpness to get the loose balls.”

The McVee versus Rankine matchup

“The last two I’m going to go to are specific matchups.

“The first term of the Melbourne and Adelaide game, Adelaide had 19 inside 50s to eight and they had all of the play. A young Judd McVee was a player I thought stood up.

“He had Izak Rankine, so he had his hands full, but he stood up and he withstood the barrage that came their way and coach Simon Goodwin was pretty happy and understood what that meant in their win.

“Judd McVee had 11 touches in the first quarter, he only had nine for the rest of the night… but the work that he did, I was fascinated because Izak Rankine had three touches, kicked 1.2 and the goal he kicked as just brilliance.

“We know how easy it may be to get the ball in the back third at times, but I thought McVee’s defensive efforts were huge.

“Then you have a bloke like Tom Sparrow who throws his body across the boot to create a goal, chase down tackle when it matters, I think Melbourne’s middle crew seem to be really standing up at the moment, they’re getting a lot out of them.

“Sparrow, Trent Rivers, Alex Neal-Bullen, Kade Chandler, there’s not many who aren’t contributing and that makes them a very tough team to beat, but McVee stood out to me.

More praise for Dockers skipper

“I thought this was the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, the Fremantle and Carlton game.

“Freo would be disappointed… but they’ll take a bit out of that game. The guy I want to talk about here is Alex Pearce… he went to Harry Mckay and McKay had kicked 11 goals in the first three weeks of footy, he didn’t hit the scoreboard.

“But when he wasn’t on McKay he went onto Charlie Curnow. He basically had two jobs. Young Josh Draper had played three games and looked okay against Charlie Curnow, but as soon as Curnow took a mark inside 50 with about six minutes to go and then took that one-hander, Pearce went off McKay and onto Curnow.

“I think Draper looks okay, he looks athletic enough, I think he can be the next guy they can build around but he’s still only two or three games in.

“The fact Fremantle can defend that well… they kept Carlton to 25 points on turnover in the first three quarters of that game, and Carlton had been averaging 66.

“I think they’re both really good teams, I think they’ve been really well coached, it was a fascinating contest. We can spend as long as you like on the last two minutes because that was one out of the box, Fremantle wins that nine times out of 10 but Carlton are the new Collingwood, they keep finding a way to win the close ones and coming from behind if they need to.”

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