Round 2 is complete and the season is already appearing to take shape. Only four sides remain undefeated, with the Suns and the Hawks potentially the two surprising clubs with an unblemished record. The Crows got small revenge for last years Grand Final, while the Kangaroos, Dockers and Suns all upset their more fancied opponents. The Giants broke their MCG hoodoo downing the Magpies and the Demons got an important win at the GABBA. The Dogs sunk lower against West Coast, the Power made it two wins at the SCG in consecutive years and the Easter Monday clash was one to remember, with the Hawks claiming a one point win over their fiercest rival.
With all that said, here is (a possibly exaggerated) reaction to what went on in Round 2:
Dangerwoodlett won’t win the Cats the flag
When Gary Ablett returned to the Cats ahead of the 2018 season, Geelong fans were salivating at the prospect of the ‘little master’ joining Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood in a superstar midfield. With Dangerfield missing Round 1 due to a hamstring, the AFL world had their first glimpse of “Dangerwoodlett” in the Easter Monday clash against the Hawks.
The trio certainly played their role, gathering 95 disposals (47 contested), 21 clearances and four goals, but the Cats went down to the Hawks by a point in one of the games of the year. While no one can dispute the top tier, the Cats fall away quickly and the deficiencies at both ends of the ground were found out. Geelong are particularly short in defence with the retirements of Tom Lonergan and Andrew Mackie compounded by the recent injuries to Harry Taylor and Lachie Henderson.
The profile of the side that played Hawthorn also doesn’t fit with a side ready for a premiership with 8 players under the age of 22, and 12 players with less than 50 games experience (and a 13th in Jed Bews playing his 52nd). That will change through the year as players return from injury, but the early feel is that too much will be left to too few to be a serious contender.
Sam Day is as important as Tom Lynch
For all the talk about the future of Tom Lynch – who no doubt added some increased some numbers in the six and seven column of his next contract following an eight goal demolition of Carlton – another key Sun has been overlooked. Sam Day missed the 2017 season after dislocating a hip but has returned in 2018 delivering the form that is expected of a number three draft pick.
Day may not have the game-changing ability of Lynch, but his role at Gold Coast this season has been vital. Playing across half-forward, Day has been the link up forward for the Suns as they come out of defence, which has allowed Lynch to play deeper forward. Last season, Lynch was left as the main focal point but with Day for support, opposition sides are now having to split their defences. Day has only had 22 disposals, 8 marks and booted 0.1 in the two wins thus far, but that shouldn’t undersell the important structural role he is playing and its impact on Tom Lynch.
Five teams are already done and dusted for finals in 2018
The season is only a fortnight old, but for some it may as well be over. Historically, teams struggle to make finals from even a 0-2 standing and with that four teams are already out of the hunt – Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs. It’s remarkable to think that in a 22 week competition, teams can be out of the running after just two rounds, but historically it’s the case. Sydney are the only team in the past decade to start with two losses but still make the finals, an incredibly poor strike rate.
While four clubs can start planning for September holidays, there is a fifth team that despite being 1-1 can also count themselves out of it: St.Kilda. The Saints were woeful against the Kangaroos and were fortunate to get over the line, at home, to Brisbane, with the inexperienced Lions giving up many goals on turnover and running out of steam late in the contest.
St Kilda have already hit their peak with this list
For the past two seasons the Saints have been thereabouts, narrowly missing top eight finishes despite recording positive win-loss records. Expectations from supporters and AFL watchers has been that their rise will continue in the coming years, despite the recent retirements of Nick Riewoldt and Leigh Montagna.
However, the opening two rounds have done little to excite fans that finals is the next step and the early indications are that this list just might not have enough A-grade to be a serious contender. Apart from reigning best and fairest winner Seb Ross and Jack Steven, the Saints look thin across the board and haven’t reaped the talent from early draft picks. Paddy McCartin and Jack Billings haven’t progressed as the club would like and while they could be solid 200 gamers, they may not reach the heights to match their lofty draft selections. McCartin, in particular, seems to be a real issue as the club try to juggle between their number one pick, ex-Swan Tim Membrey and former Giant Josh Bruce in finding a winning forward combination.
The younger players at the club haven’t come on, and while David Armitage is a good inclusion after a year on the sidelines, the midfield doesn’t have the talent to match the best sides. Continually compared with the Demons, the club hasn’t made the same strides and now look as though they will fall behind the likes of Brisbane, Gold Coast and Carlton as they naturally improve in years to come. St.Kilda have topped up from other clubs in recent years, but it might be time to hit the draft hard… again.
Two ruckmen will be back in fashion
The Tigers won the premiership on the back of a small fleet of players and one ruckman in Toby Nankervis, with many speculating that sides could no longer operate with two specialist rucks. However, while some teams are running with one ruck and a tall midfielder to operate around the ground, there is scope for these clubs to expose a possible weakness.
West Coast have one of the stronger ruck duos in the competition in Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett and for the second week in a row they monstered the opposition. The Eagles enjoyed a 54-13 advantage in the hit-outs (after a 64-17 advantage the week before), and while this didn’t necessarily translate to a clearances stoppage, the Eagles registered double-digit hit-outs to advantage which gave them important ground position forward of centre.
Richmond have continued with just Nankervis this season, but the Blues started to control the stoppages in orchestrating Matthew Kreuzer to ruck against Shaun Grigg. Sam Jacobs also dominated against the Tigers with Nankervis forced off the field a number of times due to the blood rule. The game has evolved where ruckman need to do more than just attend stoppages, but the trend of using shorter midfielders to take the hit-outs will be short-lived.
The Roof won’t be open for another game this year
Clubs and spectators have finally had enough of the AFL’s continual call to leave the roof open on fine days. In three instances over the weekend, the roof was left open and it severely detracted as a watching experience for both supporters inside the stadium and those at home watching.
Regardless of the scrappy nature of the game between the Saints and Kangaroos on Good Friday, the AFL should have managed their marquee game with greater care and played the game with the roof closed. The consistent changing between shade and sun in different areas of the ground makes it very distracting to watch, and it must be a strain for players on the ground as well.
The groundswell of support for the roof to remain closed is building and irrespective of the weather, the AFL won’t have the roof open for another AFL match this season.