IF you barrack for Carlton or Collingwood, then no excuses – get to the MCG next Sunday, by 3.20pm.
This will be biiiiigg.
A round 11 match between these two former football giants, currently in varying throes of trying to re-establish the beautiful days of a glorious past, presents as a must-witness occasion for anyone attached to the Blues and Pies.
Bring it on. Bring on a crowd of 80,000-plus. Bring on Charlie Curnow, Jack Ginnivan, Patrick Cripps, Scott Pendlebury, Tom De Koning, Jordan De Goey. Bring on Michael Voss versus Craig McRae, two mates who shared three premierships as players 20 years ago.
The Magpies were superb at Optus Stadium against the Dockers. Jack Crisp, as usual, was fantastic. Recruit Patty Lipinski was solid, as always Taylor Adams very important. Loved that Ollie Henry bagged four goals of the 12 his side kicked, given he had the yips the previous week.
The win squared Collingwood’s 2022 ledger. Its form has been good – wins in the first two rounds (Saints, Crows), wins in rounds 6-7 (Bombers, Suns), and against the Dockers on Sunday – but hasn’t been as impressive as the 8-2 Blues. It will be a massive underdog. But just as Voss has instilled at Carlton, McRae at Collingwood has adopted a no-limits outlook.
One way to find out where it truly sits in the 2022 field. MCG, 3.20pm next Sunday, against the team equal-second on the ladder. Hoping it’s one of the games of the season. The season needs it.
No ceiling on high-flying Blues
NO Coleman Medallist, Harry McKay, and no first-choice ruck, Marc Pittonet. No preferred centre half-back, Mitch McGovern, and also no Zac Williams and no Jack Martin.
In 2022 for Carlton, it’s no worries, for there is no ceiling on what a selected 22 can do in each and every match.
Friday night’s win over Sydney was as impressive as any in this exciting first season with Michael Voss as coach. The Blues give every contest everything. They leave themselves vulnerable at times but keep finding a way. Yes, they have been fortunate. They fell in by a point against Hawthorn in round three, by three points against Port in round five and were exposed a long way from the finish against the Swans.
For opposition teams, it is scary how good Charlie Curnow has been this year, after missing most of the previous two years. There is something all-time special about this guy. We knew that before he started blowing knees in 2019, we’re seeing it weekly now, his five first-half goals, and six for the game, the match-winning element for his team on Friday night.
Speaking of special. Hello Tom De Koning.
Football is full of what-ifs. What if the Blues get all of McKay, Pittonet, McGovern, Williams and Martin back into the same team, with all other resident stars fit? At 8-2 already, enough wins have been banked for a finals appearance. There is no ceiling on their hopes.
Ruthless Demons are on another level
THERE is a brutal, unstoppable ruthlessness to Melbourne.
It is evidenced in every moment in every match, where every contest is treated as character defining. Complacency isn’t tolerated, even when matches could be won at 50 per cent capacity.
Max Gawn was badly banged up before a round nine game against the demoralised West Coast. It may have actually been a good time to take a break. But there was no way the five-time Therabody AFL All-Australian was missing the flight to Perth.
Clayton Oliver had long established himself among the best midfielders in the competition. In the eyes of a less-driven footballer, a match in front of a low crowd against the equally demoralised North Melbourne on Saturday night might have presented as one to go through the motions. Not Oliver – he dominated with 45 disposals, surely securing another three Brownlow Medal votes to go with his 31 (and third place) last year.
Like Oliver, Christian Petracca wasn’t allowing himself to take the match easily. He had his standard 30 disposals. Gawn, Oliver and Petracca have shared the past five Demons’ best-and-fairest awards, and one of that trio seems certain to win it again in 2022.
They set the standard, and it is a standard which is raised every weekend. Melbourne’s winning streak is now 17 – seven wins to cap off the 2021 premiership, 10 more to open the flag defence, the latest by 47 points against North.
In establishing the accepted Melbourne benchmark, along with Steven May, Jake Lever, Angus Brayshaw, Jack Viney and Ed Langdon, it creates an environment where nothing is taken for granted. Sam Weideman is forced to regularly play in the VFL. Tom McDonald, even after reaching the 200-match milestone, plays in the knowledge there is no guarantee of the next game.
It also establishes a workplace where organic growth flourishes. Tom Sparrow has gone from a nice forward to a hard-running midfield bull who will make the right team decision with every single disposal.
History says a team won’t complete a home-and-away season without a loss. The Demons changed the course of their own history in a rampaging finals series in 2021, and with a minimum of fuss are simply continuing that form this year.
And Christian Salem is to return very soon.
Committed Saints can go a fair way
TAKE out their first game of the season, a lethargic loss to Collingwood. In the ensuing nine matches, St Kilda has established itself as a team prepared to have a genuine crack.
There are limitations to the Saints’ list, and captain Jack Steele's long injury will probably prove problematic. But commitment cannot be questioned, and matches like Saturday night’s hard slog against Adelaide are always within reach.
Max King's six-goal performance was arguably the most mature performance of his short career. He’s only 48 matches into his AFL life. With 89 goals to his name, 29 this year, his future could be anything, for his "now" is extraordinarily good.
His work with Tim Membrey is the key component to St Kilda operations.
For the sake of this exercise, I’m already giving the Saints the win in their next game – North Melbourne in round 11. That will give them an 8-3 scoreline going into the bye, a very impressive first half-season.
High-end quality may be a downfall as the back half unfolds, but this club’s mix of solid, team-focused talent will take it a fair way.
Future is bright for Mitchell's Hawks
THIS was a deserved win. Hawthorn’s victory over Brisbane in Launceston on Sunday was reward for an impressive start to 2022 where losses had mounted but hope had been sustained.
The new wave of Hawk stars - Mitch Lewis, Jai Newcombe, Dylan Moore among them – were prominent, so too the older brigade of Tom Mitchell, James Sicily and Jaeger O’Meara against the Lions.
Under new coach Sam Mitchell this year, Hawthorn has been blown away only once, against St Kilda in round four by 69 points. The Hawks have been competitive in every other game, including the 41-point loss to Sydney in round six where they actually lead midway through the final term.
Beating Brisbane is something that won’t happen a lot in 2022. The Lions are clearly Melbourne’s greatest threat, and they are suffering at the moment without key forwards Joe Daniher and Daniel McStay.