Main content

Nine things we learned: 'Walla' must get better against the best

The 10: round 10's best moments Sir Doug Nicholls Round thrilled us with some fantastic highlights across the weekend
1. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti needs to be better against the best

What started off as something of a statistical quirk is now a trend that should be a concern for the Bombers. McDonald-Tipungwuti has become a barometer for the Bombers, but his inability to score against the competition’s top teams is a worry. The small forward has not kicked a goal in all of Essendon’s losses this season (0.1 overall in six defeats). In its wins he has booted 16.1. When asked about this gap after Saturday night’s loss to Richmond, when McDonald-Tipungwuti managed just six disposals, coach John Worsfold said it was "ridiculous" to suggest the livewire was the difference between Essendon winning and losing. But that is not the issue nor has anyone suggested its fortunes depend solely on McDonald-Tipungwuti kicking a goal. The point is that against the best sides - among them Collingwood, GWS, Geelong and on the weekend Richmond - McDonald-Tipungwuti has not contributed to the scoreboard. As their best small forward, that needs to change. - Callum Twomey

 

AROUND THE STATE LEAGUES Dons mid fires, Harley roars on return

2. Greater Western Sydney is the flag favourite

Geelong is 9-1. Collingwood has won seven straight. Richmond is on a roll. All that without mentioning West Coast, which finds itself 7-3 despite topsy-turvy form. The Giants are the team to beat though. Perhaps the only real critique anyone could mount was they couldn't play at the MCG. Well, a dominant victory over Melbourne, as lacklustre as the Dees were, surely buries that notion. This season is incredibly even but no side can match the firepower Leon Cameron's outfit has. Josh Kelly is among the best midfielders in the competition when he's fit, Lachie Whitfield might be the most lethal with ball in hand, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper are bulls on the inside and Stephen Coniglio is the complete package. The goals could come from anywhere, whether it be from Jeremy Cameron, Harry Himmelberg or Jeremy Finlayson. That's without mentioning Toby Greene, who is just going by his high standards. Down back, Phil Davis has been brilliant for a long time, Sam Taylor is an emerging star, Heath Shaw hasn't dropped off and Nick Haynes is simply outstanding. After coming close to making the decider the past three years, GWS is ready to win it all. - Dinny Navaratnam

 
3. Brad Scott has played his situation perfectly

Coaches at the helm for almost 10 years who don't win a flag, or even make a Grand Final, inevitably come under immense scrutiny. So to see how Scott managed his scenario, leaving before the heat really started coming for him, has been utterly brilliant. The Roos languished in second-last heading into the win over the Western Bulldogs, and even if the season ended and the club chose to allow Scott to stay in charge for 2020, as he was contracted to do, the pressure would have become unbearable if he couldn't take a transitioning list back into finals contention. Instead, Scott initiated discussions with the club weeks ago that have resulted in an earlier-than-expected exit, without even including his manager in the discussions, and has set himself up for another crack elsewhere. There's an unfair stigma around sacked coaches and they're often dismissed as candidates for future openings, so by avoiding the unsavoury departure almost every coach experiences, Scott's reputation remains largely intact. - Dinny Navaratnam  

 
4. John Longmire was right to laugh off calls to give Buddy wings

If you have the greatest forward of the modern era in your team, you don't try and turn him into a midfielder. Some media reports in the lead-up to Friday night's clash with Collingwood suggested Sydney should push Lance Franklin up the ground to 'benefit' the Swans' other forwards. A player with 930 goals, four Coleman medals, eight All Australian selections and 11 club goalkicking gongs on his resume. Forget the fact that playing alongside Franklin is an enormous psychological boost for youngsters like Nick Blakey, Tom McCartin and Jordan Dawson, but we saw the real-time benefits of his presence against the Magpies. He attracted the opposition's best tall defender, Jordan Roughead, which left Sam Reid to take advantage of a size mismatch on Jack Madgen and Jeremy Howe. Reid took nine marks, six of those contested, and booted a career-high six goals. There's little doubt the Swans are too Franklin-focused at times, why wouldn't they be? But taking him away from what he does best isn't going to help them win games, or his teammates develop. - Adam Curley

 

Find Trends on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify

5. Reigning premiers put competition on notice after gutsy victory

West Coast's title defence started slowly with three wins from their first six games, but the Eagles are now building nicely after their season-defining 12-point win against Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. It was their fourth straight victory, but the first major scalp after beating Gold Coast, St Kilda and Melbourne. Suddenly, the Eagles are 7-3 with winnable games against the Western Bulldogs (home), Sydney (away) and Essendon (home) in the next month, followed by a tricky MCG clash with Hawthorn and a Western Derby with arch-rival Fremantle. The resilience the Eagles showed in coming back from 33 points down early in the third quarter to overhaul the Crows is an ominous sign of what is to come. - Lee Gaskin

 
6. Gold Coast keeps defying the odds

Now 10 rounds in, the sample is big enough to say the Suns are collectively outplaying the individual talent on their list. Against red-hot Geelong, they again competed manfully, trailing the Cats by just two points at the final change before tiring in the last quarter. Stuart Dew, his coaching staff and the players should be commended - you know exactly what you're getting when watching Gold Coast. They play a tough, contested brand of footy that is difficult to score against, and that's despite missing a stack of injured personnel from an already inexperienced team. They have three wins, two losses by a point and have now given both West Coast and Geelong a genuine scare. There's still more than half a season to go, but Gold Coast is a far cry from the team labelled as one of the worst in recent memory during the pre-season. - Michael Whiting

 
7. Forget Jaeger – Henderson has been Hawthorn's best midfielder this season

He might be nearing 31 and boast prematurely greying hair, but Ricky Henderson is in his prime. The big-bodied former Crow is among the relatively few players in the modern era to achieve career-best form past the age of 30. Indeed, this season alone he has lifted his rating from good to very good and he has been Hawthorn's best and most consistent midfielder. It has been a welcome development for the Hawks, who were reeling from the loss of reigning Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell. Henderson has gathered 277 possessions at an average of 27.7 a game – both club-high figures – and in the past three weeks has surpassed the output of gun onballer Jaeger O'Meara, amassing 36 touches in the win over Greater Western Sydney, 30 in the loss to Richmond and a personal best and game-high 37 against Port Adelaide. - Ben Collins

8. The Saints could still march into September

Premiership coach Adam Simpson described St Kilda as one of the most difficult teams in the AFL to break down. They proved that again in round 10. Despite four straight losses prior to Sunday's 13-point victory over Carlton, Alan Richardson's side has given itself the very best chance of breaking its September drought. Now out of the top eight on percentage only, the Saints can start dreaming of finals footy once again. With star quality still to return from injury – including Dan Hannebery, Max King, Jake Carlisle and captain Jarryn Geary – St Kilda's fantastic start to the year has ensured it is at least in the frame at the halfway point of the campaign. Richardson has said he won't use the 'F-word' as a carrot to incentivise his time throughout the remainder of the season. But make no mistake, his players will be well aware that this is a golden opportunity – one that no one thought was possible prior to a ball being kicked this year. - Riley Beveridge

 
9. Bradley Hill might not be Fremantle's best, but he could be the most important

He is the Dockers' running man and with the game on the line against Brisbane on Sunday it was Hill who they turned to inspire a thrilling come-from-behind victory. You could mount a case that Hill is only Fremantle's fourth-best midfielder behind Nat Fyfe, Michael Walters and David Mundy, but the speedster holds the key to Fremantle's ball movement. His ability to break through the first barrier of a zone defence and change direction with his raking right boot was pivotal on Sunday and his nine-disposal final quarter was instrumental as the Dockers fought back to beat the Lions. Hill finished with 31 disposals and more teams might follow Richmond's lead after the Tigers targeted the three-time premiership Hawk in round eight, holding him to 15 touches. - Travis King

 

Find In the Game on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs