The Tackle: The day AFL integrity died
There were huge upsets, heart-stopping finishes and unlikely heroes in an often incredible Round 8 of the 2019 season.
But the shadow of what happened as Essendon's David Myers tried to kick a matchwinning after-the-siren goal against Sydney on Friday night - and the AFL's stunning response - overshadowed it all.
Scroll down for Mark Robinson's likes and dislikes of the weekend.
WHAT I DISLIKE
1. Never wrong
Surprise, surprise, the AFL ticked off the decision not to pay a free kick against Sydney's Dane Rampe for climbing and thus rocking the goalpost. The rule says "deliberately'' rocking the post and Rampe's deliberate action rocked the post while the ball was in the air. How can it be decided by umpire discretion? The rule was ignored. A game was decided by the non-free kick and the AFL had the audacity on Saturday to say play on. We will look back on Friday night and remember it as the night the AFL failed the competition. The AFL talks about integrity as being the most important pillar in the sport, yet it ignores the integrity of its own rules. "Yes, technically (it was a free kick), but .. I think like all things it's context where and when,'' AFL boss Gil McLachlan said on Saturday. If it's technically a free kick, then surely it's a free kick. Why it wasn't in the MRO's report of the game was also curious.
2. Dane Rampe
Who does he think he is? His climbing of the goalpost was unsporting and his commentary to the umpire was disrespectful. The chit chat with the umpire after Rampe was tackled by Essendon's Jake Stringer and went as follows:
Rampe: "What? I can't hear that."
Umpire: "I called it (play on) three times."
Rampe: "You talk like a little girl."
Umpire: "You stepped off your line - that's your line."
The AFL recently called for an industry attitude change towards umpires, yet players are allowed to disrespect an umpire without recourse. Letting Rampe get away with that sort of talk is half the problem.
3. Talking of integrity
The Herald Sun's front page on Saturday revealed a senior AFL official gave a "glowing reference'' to a 57-year-old pervert who is now umpiring junior footy matches. Usually this kind of stuff is not the domain of The Tackle, but this man has a long history of offending and a senior unnamed AFL official has given him his support. Former prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard were widely criticised for supporting George Pell, but the AFL official escapes the same scrutiny. When the AFL said the game was "inclusive'' of everyone, that clearly includes sexual predators. It hasn't been the AFL's finest weekend.
4. Dons winning would have been robbery
At 3-5 there is little left to say about Essendon - the Bombers are an inadequate team. They play Fremantle (home), Richmond (MCG) and Carlton (MCG) over the next three weeks and they'd want to win two of those matches. If they don't, playing finals is a long shot and it will be another mediocre season. They had a propensity to bomb the ball long into the forward 50m against the Swans and it didn't work. That's OK, that happens. So why not change it up and go short? In the final quarter Essendon had 20 inside-50s and took only two marks.
5. Zac Clarke
What is John Worsfold to do with his relief ruckman? With Joe Daniher, Shaun McKernan and Mitch Brown injured, Clarke had to play. If none of the other three are available this week Clarke might get another game. Clarke, at this time, doesn't deserve a game. He missed two shots at goal and helped hand another to the Swans when he was in the defensive 20m. The welcoming news is, if he does play against his former team this week, he won't be as ineffective again - surely. If Daniher is over his soreness the selection will be easy: In Daniher. Out Clarke.
6. Eric Hipwood
Five behinds in the first half is a nightmare performance. Coach Chris Fagan can either be a glass half-full or half-empty guy. If Hipwood is having that many shots at goal he's playing pretty good footy. But when you have that many shots at goal, on the back of a dominating first quarter-and-a-half by the Lions, goals have to be kicked. He's 21 and still has fundamental problems with his ball drop. We can make excuses because he's young and only played only 60 games - or bluntly lay blame on him for squandering the good work his teammates did up the ground. This time the blame is on him.
7. Gazza's forearms
The quality of his football can't be questioned, his ability to bump not so. That's twice in two weeks Gary Ablett has raised his arm to bump. Commentators say he is only trying to protect himself, but that excuse can't continue to offered up. If you're going to bump or block, use your body and keep the arms down. Imagine if Sam Wright, after having got rid of the ball, raised his forearm into the head of an oncoming Ablett. Today Ablett deliberately raised his arm and hit Wright in the head. Forget Ablett protecting himself, what about the protection for Wright?
8. Giant disappointment
Just 38 points at the MCG highlights the Giants' one great concern - they can't win at the MCG. They now have a 2-14 record there. Several of losses came when they were young and developing. But they are 1-9 since 2015 when the boys became men and the team was competitive. It was all ball and no influence today. Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly and Tim Taranto had 25-plus disposals but couldn't make an impact as the Hawks denied their flow from half-back. They kicked only two goals from the back half when their average is 39 points. And the Giants started 71 chains in defence for those two goals. The MCG largely, and the Hawks today, made the orange tsunami look like an orange creek which is a major concern.
9. MCG violence
Children shouldn't have to go to the footy and be terrified by the violence which erupts in the stands. There was a caller to 3AW who said a man and his children were spat on by another man. Ban alcohol? Segregate the fans? Improve security and police numbers? There's an issue and the AFL and the MCC will put their heads together this week to address it. Life bans have been offered as a solution and it's a suggestion which is growing in support.
WHAT I LIKE
1. Ben McEvoy
This bloke never lets his team down. Never. He may be beaten sometimes, but it's rarely comprehensive, and when the Hawks win his performances are often overlooked. Today he was a tower in defence and attack. He goes behind the ball and takes intercept marks and can play deep forward. He led all ruckmen with nine hitsout to advantage. He also had seven score involvements, the second-most on the ground. This was a team performance from the Hawks. It was a brilliant response to last week, led by Big Boy and the rejuvenated Ricky Henderson, who almost needs a tag these days.
2. Winning ugly
In recent years Geelong would beat the best sides and then succumb to the lower-ranked teams, raising questions about the Cats' mentality. Today was potentially one of those games. Last year they lost to Essendon (Round 9), the Bulldogs (Round 15) and Adelaide (Round 17). The year before it was Collingwood (Round 6) when the Pies had won one game, Gold Coast the week after and then to Essendon when the Bombers were battling. This time they slugged it out against the Kangas, led by Tim Kelly in the middle and Tom Hawkins' two goals in the third quarter and Gazza's two goals at the death. Talent won them this game.
3. Dogs find their bark
Attitude underpins everything in football and the Bulldogs are finding theirs. It was high-pressure game in Ballarat and the Dogs didn't go missing. Their 212 pressure rating was the second-highest recorded this year. That's intense football. While Josh Dunkley has been highlighted for his stunning output as an onballer in his past two matches, it has forced Tom Liberatore to become a midfielder/forward. From Rounds 1-6 he had 78 per cent playing time in the midfield and in Rounds 7-8 it has been 57 per cent. The centre-bounce attendances for the Dogs against the Lions were ruckman Jackson Trengove 22, Marcus Bontempelli 17, Dunkley 16, Libba and Jack Macrae 13, Mitch Wallis nine and Bailey Smith six. Could Libba be destined for a forward role in the second half of his career?
4. Cliffhanger on the Gold Coast
It was a hold-your-breath-moment at the end, which was a positive for the 6-6-6 set-up. Under the old rules Gold Coast would have put 12 players inside its defensive 50 and stopped any Melbourne revival. Kudos to Marty Hore, Jayden Hunt and James Harmes for their last 60 seconds. But it wouldn't have happened unless Max Gawn took control in the ruck. He sat on the interchange for seven of the final 12 minutes because he couldn't get a rotation and then won the two crucial final clearances. The last sequence was a Gawn hitout to advantage, Jack Viney wins it and handballs to Gawn, Gawn kicks it forward where Hunt contests, Harmes kicks it and Tom McDonald becomes the hero.
For the first time in a long time the Swans were unpredictable in their forward line. With Lance Franklin there it's a no-brainer to go to the game's best forward since Wayne Carey. Despite Franklin's success that can make the forward line one-dimensional. Against the Bombers the Swans had 10 goalkickers - their most in a match since Round 2, 2018. When Franklin returns, possibly this week, he will return to the forward line. Perhaps coach John Longmire might shift him to high half-forward or wing as Alastair Clarkson did in Franklin's final year-and-a-half at Hawthorn to give his young forwards greater opportunity to grow.
6. A Brownlow ruckman?
Brodie Grundy dominated the ruck battle on Saturday and his 25 disposals and two goals were both season-highs. He was even better than that. Stats guru @sirswampthing posted after the game there has been two players with 25-plus disposals, 45-plus hitouts and two-plus goals in a game. One was Grundy on Saturday, the other was Carlton legend and AFL Team of the Century member John Nicholls in 1966. Grundy could have votes in five of his eight games and if umpires recognise him as much as rest of the football world does, he should be a strong contender for the game's most prestigious award.
7. Cripps and Swallow
Compare their games on Saturday. David Swallow had 35 disposals and Patrick Cripps 35. The contested possession was Swallow 22 and Cripps 19. Clearances were Swallow 12 and Cripps 13. Metres gained was Swallow 624 and Cripps 349. Cripps was widely acknowledged as best on ground and had praise rightfully heaped on him. Swallow is off broadway and all the talk was about McDonald's point on the siren. Swallow has been a terrific leader of the kids this year and, dare I say it, if he played for a Melbourne-based team, he'd be lavished for the player he is.
8. Pillars in defence
Alex Keath and Daniel Talia are forming a formidable key-back duo. Talia took the resting ruckmen, Scott Lycett and Ryder, and Keith had Aidyn Johnson, Justin Westhoff and Todd Marshall and won the Showdown medal for best afield. The 6-6-6 formation has put greater responsibility on the defenders and the AFL is littered with outstanding key defensive pairs. Fremantle has Joel Hamling and Alex Pearce, Geelong has Harry Taylor and Mark Blicavs, Essendon Michael Hurley and Cale Hooker, Collingwood Darcy Moore and Jordan Roughead, Port Adelaide has Dougal Howard and Tom Clurey and the Giants Phil Davis and Sam Taylor. If you had to pick two for All-Australian, Keath and Pearce would under strong consideration.
9. North Melbourne
The Roos lost the game but it was arguably their best performance of the season. Poor skills killed them, but the effort was sensational. Before today Geelong was the No.1 pressure team in the competition and North easily out-pressured the Cats, 182 to 175. It was Geelong's second-lowest pressure rating this year. Since the Good Friday debacle the Kangas lost to Port by three goals, thrashed Carlton and then ran with Geelong until Gazza iced the game. The main difference today was talent and skill execution. The great news is the Kangas have found one in Nick Larkey. He had 13 score involvements, the next best was Geelong's Tim Kelly with 10. That is unbelievable for a 198cm player in just his fifth game.