William Rowlands attempts to break a tackle during the 2024 Smithy's VFL Round 9 match between Carlton and the Gold Coast Suns at IKON Park. Picture: Rob Lawson/AFL Photos

A review of all the action from Round 9 of the 2024 Smithy’s VFL season.


SYDNEY SWANS                     3.4        7.7        9.11     11.13 (79)
         3.1        5.1        6.4        9.4 (58)

SYDNEY’s marking forwards proved the difference as the Swans kept themselves in touch with the Smithy’s VFL top 10 with a hard-fought 21-point win over the Northern Bullants at Tramway Oval on Friday.

The Bullants went into the game with the confidence of a 2-0 win-loss record against the Swans and took early advantage of the home team losing inside-mid Angus Sheldrick to a knee injury in the first five minutes to kick three of the first four goals.

Two of those went to Saad El-Hawli, who showed he could still play the forward role where he started his VFL career at Werribee. El-Hawli produced another timely starring role that yielded 33 disposals, six marks, six inside-50s, seven rebounds and two goals ahead of Wednesday’s AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

His regular cohorts in leading the Ants – Jean-Luc Velissaris (33 disposals), Patrick Fairlie (32), Liam Mackie (26) and Caleb Franks (24) – were again good, but Sydney just had too much class for too long as it fought back to lead at quarter-time and grew the advantage as far as 38 points before the visitors kicked the last two goals.

Caiden Cleary was unstoppable with 39 disposals, six marks, five clearances, five tackles, seven entries and a goal for the Swans and Caleb Mitchell proved a valuable sidekick, but it was their tall timber in attack that caused all manner of headaches, with Joel Hamling (eight marks, three goals) leading the way and Phill Moi Moi (three goals) also hitting the scoreboard, while Jack Buller and Harry Morrison also got multiple set shots at goal.



CARLTON                      0.2        3.5        5.7        7.10 (52)
GOLD COAST SUNS 7.4        7.5        11.10   15.12 (102)

CARLTON would have been feeling a sense of déjà vu at quarter-time of its clash with Gold Coast at IKON Park on Saturday.

The Suns had piled on seven unanswered goals to lead by 44 points in scenes reminiscent of last year’s Round 22 rout that cost the Blues a finals berth.

But the home team showed plenty of character this time, holding their much higher credentialled opponents goalless in the second quarter and keeping them in check after that to restrict the final margin to 50 points.

But their efforts were mainly defensive as they struggled to stop the Gold Coast prime movers being struck down with leather poisoning as Brayden Fiorini (37 disposals, six clearances, seven entries, one goal) produced a best-afield display and Rory Atkins (40 disposals, 13 marks, seven entries, seven rebounds) roamed far and wide.

Brandon Ellis (28 disposals, nine marks, two goals), Will Graham and James Tsitas were also a class above, as was Ned Moyle in the ruck, giving a plethora of chances to tall forwards Sam Day (four goals), Levi Casboult (three) and Jy Farrar (three), who cashed in with 10 goals between them.

Debut season best-and-fairest Jaxon Binns continues to kick down the AFL door with another team-high effort of 26 disposals, eight marks and seven rebounds, while fellow youngsters Will White (three goals), Archie Stevens, Billy Wilson and Logan Prout also made their presence felt.



GEELONG CATS         5.2        7.4        11.11   16.14 (110)
GWS GIANTS               0.2        3.3        5.4        7.7 (49)

GEELONG maintained its spot in the top three with a dominant 61-point dismissal of an undermanned GWS at GMHBA Stadium.

The Cats put paid to any hopes of a Giant upset with five goals to none in the first quarter and saw off a GWS rally that brought the first three goals of the second quarter to slam on seven of the next nine before capping off a comprehensive display with four majors in time-on of the last term.

Mitch Hardie, like Carlton’s Jaxon Binns, is a player that is proving himself a class above VFL level week-by-week as he waits an AFL opportunity to open up.

He did it again for Geelong with 37 disposals, 10 marks, nine clearances and nine inside-50s – all except the marks were game-highs, and only captain Dan Capiron and Giant Ryan Hebron topped that number with 11.

Capiron was almost impassable in defence for the Cats alongside Emerson Jeka, while George Stevens (28 disposals) and Ted Clohesy (26 disposals, two goals) helped Hardie control the midfield and set up plenty of chances for James Willis and Shaun Mannagh (three goals each).

Hebron (28 disposals, 11 marks, 16 rebounds) and Wade Derksen (2 disposals 9, 10 marks, 10 rebounds) were amazing for the Giants, with their efforts rescuing what could certainly have been a heavier defeat, with Joe Fonti providing strong support.

Up the ground, it was the youngsters who fired with Harry Rowston, Phoenix Gothard and Max Gruzewski performing well, while Marc Sheather laid 11 tackles to go with 21 touches and a goal.



FOOTCRAY BULLDOGS        4.6        7.6        12.7     14.9 (93)
PORT MELBOURNE                0.3        5.9        8.13     11.15 (81)

A FOOT here, a metre there.

That was the only difference between Billy Gowers having a brilliant game or one of the modern-day match winning explosions as Port Melbourne fell 12 points short of an upset victory over undefeated Footscray at Mission Whitten Oval.

The records will state Gowers finished with 5.6 from 16 kicks and six marks against star Bulldog Buku Khamis, but two of those shots hit the post and there were three other punched through on the line, meaning it is not inconceivable that he could have finished with a bag of 10 if he had his usual kicking boots on (17.3 for the season previously).

But at the end of the day it was Bulldogs duo Cooper Craig-Peters and Trent Bianco who were the heroes as the Bulldogs built a handy lead in the first quarter and then answered every challenge to move to 8-0 for the season and record their 20th win from their past 21 matches.

Craig-Peters (12 disposals, two goals) and Bianco (12 disposals, one goal) were simply unstoppable in the first term as Footscray booted 4.6 to 0.3, a lead that should have been significantly bigger.

Gowers then unleashed his magic, having eight shots at goal in the second quarter alone for 2.4 and two rushed to pull back as close as four points before Jordan Croft booted a late goal.

The Bulldogs added 5.1 to 3.4 in the third term to lead by three goals turning for home and held on, with Croft taking a strong mark and kicking truly for a career-best third goal to finally see off the Borough challenge.

Craig-Peters finished with 28 touches, nine clearances, seven tackles, six entries and two goals to just pip Bianco (27 disposals, nine clearances, six entries, one goal) for best afield honours.

Oskar Baker was huge in the last quarter, Luke Cleary made his presence felt, young ruckman Lachlan Smith got the better of Felix Flockart and Jimmy Miller, Jedd Busslinger impressed in defence and Dom Bedendo added another highlight to the high-marking showreel as 2024 quickly becomes the year of the high flyer.

Robbie McComb was terrific for Port against his old team, with Josh Green gutsy under the packs and Harvey Hooper and Lachie Rankin using the ball well around the ground.



SOUTHPORT SHARKS           3.0        6.2        12.4     16.9     105
FRANKSTON  4.3        4.4        6.5        8.9        57

SOUTHPORT overcame a fast start from Frankston, overwhelming the in-form Dolphins by 48 points at Fankhauser Reserve to consolidate its spot in the top six.

The Dolphins kicked four of the first six goals to build a 15-point lead early, but the Sharks gradually gained control, keeping the visitors to just 0.1 in the second term during a run of 10 goals out of 11 from the 28-minute mark of the first term until the 23rd minute of the third to ensure the points would be staying in Queensland.

Noah Gown’s goal broke that run and Frankston also snagged the first two of the last term to close within 23 points, but missed three chances to close the gap further and the Sharks made them pay, slamming on the last four majors to blow the final margin out to a game-high number by the siren.

Southport enjoyed a huge discrepancy with the footy, racking up 446 disposals to 279, taking 119 marks to 65 and winning 49 clearances to 27 as ruckman Brayden Crossley monstered young Dolphin Angus Grant with 62 hitouts to 17.

It made the Sharks’ prolific midfield unstoppable with the top six and 12 of the top 14 ball winners on the ground.

Jacob Heron (31 disposals, 10 clearances, 14 inside-50s) was named best afield ahead of the dynamic duo of Boyd Woodcock (34 disposals, 11 clearances) and Jacob Dawson (32 disposals, 10 clearances, eight tackles), with Brock Aston (29 disposals, two goals), Ben Jepson and Zac Foot all having more than 25 touches and Hugh Dixon taking 10 marks and kicking five goals from 20 disposals.

Max Williams put in another lion-hearted effort to be the Dolphins’ best in his 50th game, with Seb Quirk (24 disposals) and Lachie Riley (20) being the pair to split the Shark dominance and Matt Johnson booting three goals in a solid effort up forward.



BOX HILL HAWKS     1.4        2.7        2.8        4.10 (34)
BRISBANE LIONS      3.3        5.4        9.7        15.12 (102)

BRISBANE Lions reminded everyone why they entered the season as one of the premiership favourites with a stunning 68-point dissection of flag fancies Box Hill Hawks at Fenjiu Stadium.

The Lions have been up and down through the first part of the season as injuries bit at the top level, but they were simply irresistible as they ground the Hawks down in the first half before blasting them with 10 goals to two in the second half.

The Lions kept Box Hill to its lowest score since Round 15, 2011, as well as its lowest score at Box Hill since kicking 1.15 (21) against Sunshine in Round 15, 1980.

Best-on-ground James Tunstill was the catalyst for the Lions, kicking two of his three goals in the opening three minutes of the third term to shut down any hope of a Hawk rally and going on to finish with 25 disposals, six marks, six tackles and 3.1.

Liston medallist Jarryd Lyons was also imperious with 22 touches, seven marks, eight tackles and 4.3 and Deven Robertson (32 disposals, 11 clearances, six tackles, 11 entries, one goal), Jaxon Prior (28 disposals, eight marks, five rebounds) and Kyle Dunkley (23 disposals, 11 marks) also dominated and Zac Derksen kicked three majors.

Harry Morrison (22 disposals, 10 marks) and Ed Phillips (20 disposals, 12 marks) won plenty of the ball on their respective wings, with Josh Ward and Henry Hustwaite strong through the middle, while Chad Wingard (two goals) played a lone hand up forward.



RICHMOND   6.0        8.2        13.6     20.7 (127)
ESSENDON    5.3        7.5        8.5        10.6 (66)

ANOTHER week, another devastating blow for Richmond, but also another against-the-odds win as the Tigers thumped Essendon by 61 points in their Dreamtime at the G curtain raiser.

The Tigers lost defender Tylar Young to a serious knee injury early in the contest, with the damage confirmed as yet another Tiger ACL the following day.

It means Richmond now has had an unbelievable seven players – Josh Gibcus, Joel Nathan, Judson Clarke, Will Bravo, Lachie Street, Sam Naismith and now Young – go down with ACL tears across its AFL and VFL lists before the season has even reached its halfway point.

But as they have done virtually week-in-week-out at VFL level, the Tigers simply went to work as they bounced back from last week’s 110-point annihilation to Sandringham to inflict a 171-point turnaround for themselves and a 112-point reverse for the Bombers after their big win over North Melbourne a week earlier.

Richmond led by just three points at half-time but cut loose with five goals to one in the third quarter and seven to two in the last to maintain its spot in the top 10.

It was the VFL youngsters who stood tallest, with teenage forward Archie May dragging in 11 marks and kicking four goals from 17 touches in a breakout display ahead of the Mid-Season Draft, while Sam Davidson had 20 touches for three goals, Cam Olden also snagged three and Lachlan Wilson one from 20 possessions.

Judged to have topped them, though, was one of the few experienced stars still in action, with Joel Garner winning the Sir Doug Nicholls Trophy for best on ground with 30 touches, seven marks, seven clearances, nine tackles and nine inside-50s.

He also had good support from Tom Brindley (24 disposals, 10 marks, five clearances, 10 hitouts) and Chad Harris (23 disposals, 10 marks, five rebounds).

Nick Bryan was the Bombers’ best for a second week in a row with 23 disposals, four marks, 46 hitouts, 10 clearances and a goal, while Jackson Hately (28 disposals), Xavier O’Neill, Archie Roberts and Matt Foley also tried hard.



WERRIBEE                                  3.5        5.11     11.16   13.21 (99)
NORTH MELBOURNE            0.2        1.4        4.4        4.6 (30)

WERRIBEE extended North Melbourne’s spiral to six-consecutive defeats with an untroubled 69-point victory over the fast-fading Kangaroos in Nick Hayes’ 200th State league game on at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.

With their club greats watching on during Past Players Day, including Grand Final coach Michael Barlow working the bench in his new assistant coaching role at the Kangaroos, the Tigers did as they pleased, with only wayward kicking for goal costing them a massive percentage booster.

At one stage Werribee had 3.10 to 0.4 on the board late in the second term before Riley Bice and Harry Grintell gave the home team a little more reward. Dylan Stephens finally slotted North’s first goal after the half-time siren.

The visitors had a brief rally with two of the first three goals of the third term but the Tigers quickly regained control and Sam Lowson’s second goal of the quarter at the 24-minute mark proved to be the Kangaroos’ last punch thrown for the day.

Nathan Cooper turned in one of the great full-back games for Werribee in his 50th VFL game, holding North trump card Tyler Sellers completely statless until he scrambled a kick from half-forward deep into time-on of the last quarter.

90+-gamers Jack Henderson (24 disposals, two goals) and Dom Brew (33 disposals, 13 clearances) led from the front and Hudson Garoni (17 disposals, nine marks, 3.4), Jay Dahlhaus (three goals) and Jack Riding (20 disposals, seven marks, 2.3) combined well in attack.

The only downside for Werribee was a hamstring injury to Matt Keast that saw him fail to return after half-time.

North had few winners, with 11 players recording 10 disposals or less, but Riley Hardeman (22 disposals, 10 marks, eight rebounds), Will Phillips (26 disposals, eight tackles) and Charlie Lazzaro – backing up after 35 per cent game time as the substitute for the AFL team in Hobart the day before did put their hands up.



CASEY DEMONS       4.4        6.10     8.12     14.14 (98)
SANDRINGHAM         5.0        7.2        14.4     17.9 (111)

SANDRINGHAM climbed to the edge of the top six with another impressive victory, this time holding off a fast-finishing Casey Demons by 13 points in a classic old-fashioned key-forward shootout at Casey Fields.

With Tim Membrey running riot on his path back into the St Kilda team in dragging down 10 marks and kicking six goals and Oili Hotton bobbing to also bag a handful in a breakout performance, the Zebras looked like they had the game well in hand after kicking seven goals to two in the third quarter.

They still led by 28 points when Membrey kicked his fifth in the ninth minute of the final term but Max Heath missed a chance to put the Demons away shortly after and the home team came to life, banging on five goals in 14 minutes.

The comeback included two goals to their superstar captain Mitch White, before getting back within a point when Matt Jefferson slammed through his fifth at the 25-minute mark.

Sandringham needed a hero, and it was their biggest one who stood up, with Membrey slotting his sixth before Heath redeemed himself to finally put the result to bed.

Aside from the goalfest by Membrey, Hotton and Jefferson, White could not have done any more get the Demons over the line with a stunning 38 disposals, eight marks, 10 clearances, five tackles, 13 inside-50s and those two late goals.

Andy Moniz-Wakefield (33 disposals, six marks, five rebounds) continued his fine form across half-back, Bailey Laurie (25, disposals six marks, two goals) starred through the middle and only Ben Brown’s kicking (nine marks, 3.3) stopped him from joining the party.

But the Zebras engine room was also on fire, with Hunter Clark (31 disposals, nine clearances, six tackles, seven entries), the returning Brad Crouch (33 disposals, seven marks, six clearances, five entries), Ben Paton and Zak Jones all enjoying terrific performances, while Heath was also terrific in gathering 19 touches, nine marks, 21 hitouts and that late goal.