DISREGARD the final-quarter comeback. Instead, focus on the lethargy and risk aversion of Collingwood in the first three quarters of its round 16 loss to St Kilda.
Robert Harvey's one hope of coming from nowhere to properly enter the race to become Nathan Buckley's official replacement as Magpies coach was to employ a vastly different game style to the one which suffocated the team, and ultimately Buckley, in the first 13 matches of the season.
The five goals, to St Kilda's none, kicked in the final quarter – when finally the instructions and intent were based around desperation and fast ball movement – meant nothing, given one goal only was scored to half-time, and three to three-quarter time.
Long before Sunday's loss to the Saints, Collingwood's 2021 was a disaster, and it could still get worse. The Magpies won't start favourite in any of their remaining seven matches, even the one against one of only two teams below them on the ladder, Hawthorn, in round 21.
And yet the club's biggest problems remain those off-field. The board is in a state of delusion, arrogantly believing that playing politics and removing Buckley was going to make everything OK. The infighting which saw, incredibly, nearly three months elapse before Mark Korda was announced as Eddie McGuire's official replacement as president is still at play. And more pain is to come at the next Trade Period, with an admitted "hangover" still to play out in 2021 even after last year's debacle.
While the club continues its search for a new coach, any candidate, including the man I believe to be the frontrunner, Sam Mitchell, would be entitled to return fire with his own questions of the club. Starting with: why would I want to enter this rabble?
Where's the pride, Eagles?
And then there is West Coast.
This club has reached an embarrassing juncture. It simply doesn't seem to want to fight through any form of adversity. Clearly, it likes dealing only with situations on favourable terms.
Playing matches in Geelong is clearly way too difficult, evidenced in 2021 not just by Sunday's 92-point loss to Sydney but also by round six's 97-point drubbing by the Cats.
The Eagles have long bristled at flat-track bully allegations, but since the start of 2020, they rarely if ever, actually act in a way to counter the claims. A reliable team, an outfit with genuine pride, would not have capitulated in the manner which unfolded on Sunday. They incredibly still sit seventh on the ladder after round 16, but are a world away from returning to 2018 highs.
NINE THINGS WE LEARNED Road nightmare brings Eagles back to earth
I made the mistake of believing West Coast was about to mount a meaningful assault on the 2021 premiership when, while extremely undermanned, it defeated Carlton at the SCG in round 12, and the following week kicked the final four goals of a game against Richmond to secure a thrilling win. But, reality has revealed the Blues launched a full-scale review into their football operations the next week, and the Tigers are in a downward spiral which sees them outside the top eight.
Just asking about Jezza's hamstring…
Footy clubs hate it when outsiders question decisions made by their medicos. What would you know, they ask. How dare you doubt us, they state.
Geelong acted as per normal when defending its decision to play Jeremy Cameron – after a vigorous fitness test pre-match – on Friday night against Essendon. Cameron helped set up the Cats' 11th win of the season before being subbed out with a hamstring problem.
Since transferring from GWS, Cameron has now "done" three hamstrings since January, under Geelong watch. Given the Cats' premiership chances revolve around him, it is a genuine issue, which requires scrutiny of medical decisions that cleared him to play.
If I'm Chris Scott, I'm doing as he always does, and aggressively dismissing all the outside queries.
But I’m not Chris Scott, and this is not directed at Geelong medicos; instead, at all club medicos. Club doctors in the AFL probably get nine out of 10 decisions right. But they clearly don't get every decision right. It is only right that that group of people, as per every single group in this industry, has questions asked of it when things go wrong. Premierships can depend on their decisions.
Credit where credit is due, Blues
I have been critical of David Teague, and before that his appointment as official Carlton coach after a period as caretaker in 2019, so it is only fair that I acknowledge his ability to produce gritty wins in the two matches played after his club's board launched a full-scale review into the Blues' entire football operations.
In some ways, Saturday night's victory against Fremantle was as meritorious as any under Teague. It wasn't pretty, it was a hard-to-watch slog, but it was a win based on heart, and secured when the side's best player, Sam Walsh, kicked a late goal.
Jack Silvagni was tireless, Paddy Dow continued his progress, so too Liam Stocker. And of course Jacob Weitering and Liam Jones stood up. Those two nearly always do, these days.
Teague is still not safe. But early evidence for the review would clearly reveal he is backing his players, and they are backing him.
Time for another red and blue reinvention
Seven, nine, seven. That's the Melbourne goal tally in its past three matches – a loss to GWS on Saturday, a win against Essendon in round 15 and a defeat by Collingwood in round 13 – and while it is not yet cause for panic, it is nevertheless reason for alarm.
The Demons lost top place on the ladder after round 16, their unexpected loss and Western Bulldogs' expected win against North Melbourne seeing a swap of positions one and two.
THE RUN HOME Could shaky Demons fall out of the top four?
And now they have to head to Adelaide for a Thursday night match against Port Adelaide.
Surely Ben Brown returns, and surely, the team now devises a game plan which has him as its forward focus. It has been a fantastic storyline to this point, the manner in which Melbourne has conjured ways to win without a traditional forward structure. But opponents have now woken up to its machinations.
Coach Simon Goodwin has reinvented himself and his team this season to extraordinarily place the Demons in premiership calculations. He is going to have to do it all again in the closing weeks of the season if the ultimate is to be achieved. Brown now looms as his key weapon.