IF THE Blues used the football as carefully as they use words, they'd be top of the ladder.
Everything's positive, no matter the result. Carlton lost another match in round five, to a vulnerable Port Adelaide at the MCG. It never mounted a realistic chance to win, three very late goals in junk time somehow reducing the margin to 28 points.
Of course coach David Teague highlighted the supposed good in his post-match address. That's what he does after a loss. "The positive was we broke even in some of (the key measurements), even in more scoring shots and inside 50s," he said. Please. It's not in Teague's nature to be critical publicly, but his cumulative positivity is becoming mind-numbing, and clearly not evidence-based.
In yet another season in which Carlton has promised to head up the ladder, it sits 2-3, with Brisbane at Marvel Stadium, Essendon (MCG), Western Bulldogs (Marvel) and Melbourne (MCG) the next four assignments. With the wins in 2021 coming against Fremantle and Gold Coast, and the losses to Richmond, Collingwood and Port Adelaide, the now long-exposed form of this club suggests it won’t win more than one of those immediate assignments.
Yes, the Blues have injury issues – Jack Martin, Zac Fisher, Jack Silvagni, Tom De Koning and Charlie Curnow currently unavailable – but all clubs have injury issues. Port was without Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma, then lost Dan Houston in the game against the Blues, and Hamish Hartlett could barely walk.
Sorry, Pies. Integrity must come first
It was only two years ago that a Collingwood player was so blasé about the AFL's integrity measures that he placed bets involving not just his team but his own ability to kick a certain amount of goals within a match.
In round five 2021, two more Collingwood players, Jordan De Goey and Jeremy Howe, clearly breached the sport's match-day rules when they accessed and used phones after suffering game-ending injuries in Friday night's loss to West Coast in Perth.
Many people will ask: so what? The AFL itself will be asking of Collingwood: How could you as a club possibly allow this to happen? And of the players themselves: Why, for surely by now you know that such activity is as frowned upon as an on-field king hit?
De Goey and Howe used their phones to inform family and friends of their injuries. While that may seem acceptable behaviour to some, sharing in-match injury information in this manner is Exhibit A when it comes to the type of behaviour which is banned under integrity requirements.
With integrity in sport, 'i's must be dotted and 't's crossed. When they're not, situations like Jaidyn Stephenson's wagering of 2019 occur, not to mention the Essendon Football Club's brazen injections program in 2012.
Clubs are given permission for 10 staff to be "authorised device users" on match days. Players are never granted access to their phones.
The AFL cannot wet-lettuce-leaf its sanctions here on Collingwood as a club, and De Goey and Howe as individuals. It is answerable to Sports Integrity Australia, which is watching.
A Lions great's glorious farewell
There have been bigger names in the five seasons of AFLW than Emma Zielke. But there have been few more influential.
Ask anyone who has had anything to do with the Lions, and they will tell you that in Zielke, they have had one of football's great leaders.
2021 AFLW GRAND FINAL Full match coverage and stats
That Zielke was provided with a dream exit as an AFLW player on Saturday, when she captained her Lions to an inaugural premiership against the mighty Adelaide Crows, was one of the many heart-warming outcomes from this match. Made even more so when, after damaging her hamstring in the third quarter, she was forced to watch from the sidelines in the tense final quarter.
Another was the success which came coach Craig Starcevich's way. Starcevich had been crucial in rebuilding his team after player raids. In Saturday's match, he found ways to nullify Crows stars Erin Phillips and Ebony Marinoff. Post-game, he raised a fantastic idea – to name the medal for best player afield in the AFLW Grand Final (won by his star Kate Lutkins on Saturday) after Phillips.
Revived Giants, unbeaten Dogs, Friday night lights
Leon Cameron and his Giants won finals in four consecutive seasons form 2016. They've played in three preliminary finals, one Grand Final. They've shared and succeeded in significant footy moments.
A win in a round five home-and-away season match would normally pale in comparison with such achievements, but not when it's the Giants in 2021. Saturday night's victory against hated crosstown rival Sydney, in the weird way footy can create the most powerful of emotions, will go down as one of Cameron's finest coaching moments.
Buddy kicked five for the Swans, his team couldn't kick straight, the match looked gone inside the final 90 seconds. But then Josh Kelly, seemingly returning to his extraordinary form of 2017, kicked a great goal to secure four premiership points.
The win against the Swans followed an equally courageous MCG win against Collingwood in round four. Next up, the Bulldogs on Friday night. There's already a headline-full Giants-Dogs history. Can't wait to see the next instalment.
Saints' issues run deeper than their running man
They're a mess, the Saints, and in danger of being out of the finals race before the halfway point of the season.
Teams with real character don't lose twice in three weeks in the manner this team now has, Thursday's surrender against Richmond following round three's capitulation to Essendon. That a solid win against West Coast fell in between those games it even more frustrating for those in charge.
THINGS WE LEARNED Saints look shot, Port's new All-Australian contender
There are many problems with St Kilda, but I really hope the pile-on on Bradley Hill stops immediately. Yes, he's been bad, but attacking him has become blood sport. Please everyone, move on and look deeper at this club's issues. The overall picking and choosing of so many players would be a good starting point.