IT'S SOMEWHAT remarkable West Coast won last year's flag despite missing three of its best players, all of whom made the round 16 Team of the Week, brought to you by AccorHotels.
In a one-sided Western Derby, Brad Sheppard was supreme, Andrew Gaff ignored the boos to rack up a game-high 35 disposals and Nic Naitanui was dominant.
A left hamstring injury meant Sheppard missed last year's decider, Naitanui was recovering from a right knee reconstruction and Gaff was suspended for a punch that left Fremantle youngster Andrew Brayshaw with a broken jaw and five displaced teeth.
The Eagles were a scary outfit in 2018, but with that trio having returned, they might have another level to go to. Fremantle would certainly agree with that contention.
Sheppard is a flat-out jet. Tom Clurey did a fantastic job on Taylor Walker and Dane Rampe offered plenty of drive out of Sydney's backline. Zac Williams did similar for Greater Western Sydney in a losing side while James Sicily and Jarman Impey helped orchestrate a Hawthorn upset over Collingwood.
His disposal might have been wayward at times but Dylan Shiel was otherwise superb for Essendon. Lachie Neale has been outstanding all season while Gaff is racking up touches for fun. It's a task made easier when Naitanui is putting the footy on a platter for his teammates. Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli was superb again and Robbie Gray won the Showdown Medal, because that's just what he does. It was the fifth time he's taken that award home.
There were 29 goals booted by the forward line at the weekend. It seemed all too convenient Brisbane sought to recruit banged-up forward Lincoln McCarthy, while it was also pursuing his close mate Neale, but McCarthy's form has made that discussion disappear. Star Demon Tom McDonald booted six goals in just 67 per cent game time in Melbourne's win over Carlton after suffering a left knee injury that will likely rule him out of the season – imagine how many he would have kicked if he stayed on the park. Cameron Zurhaar's emergence continued with five goals against a hapless St Kilda, although Josh Bruce fought hard for his side, bagging six. For Richmond, Jason Castagna burst out of a quiet patch with five goals himself. Aaron Naughton tore Geelong apart – he's going to do that to plenty of sides throughout his career.
It's not long ago Jy Simpkin's ability was being questioned. Forget that. Another who has had his doubters is Jack Silvagni, but he's showing his versatility, both in the middle and up forward. The Tigers were well led by Trent Cotchin and Melbourne probably wouldn't have won without Clayton Oliver performing as he did.