A review of all the action from Round 11 of the 2023 Smithy’s VFL season.

The Queensland clubs opened a two-game break at the top of the Smithy’s VFL ladder after a mostly thrilling Round 11 of action saw five games decided by 15 points or less.

One club continued its charge up the ladder, another said don’t forget about us and Richmond continued a remarkable run of after-the-siren results with a birthday boy emerging as the hero.

SOUTHPORT SHARKS vs CASEY DEMONS

SOUTHPORT SHARKS 3.0, 4.5, 8.7, 11.9 (75)
CASEY DEMONS
1.2, 6.6, 9.9, 11.10 (76)

CASEY Demons inflicted more heartbreak on Southport as Josh Schache booted a late goal to snatch a thrilling one-point win in the Grand Final rematch at Fankhauser Reserve on Saturday.

In a see-sawing affair, the Sharks saw a 10-point quarter-time lead evaporate on the back of the Demons kicking five second-quarter goals to one. However, they responded to take the lead when Jed Foggo kicked truly entering time-on of the last quarter, only for Schache to come up with a 24th-minute response for his fourth major in a match-winning display.

Schache had started things off inside two minutes and added another just before half-time, but it was his two goals in the last 15 minutes that bookended goals to Fraser Thurlow and Foggo and proved crucial in keeping the reigning premiers within percentage of the top four.

Southport will be thinking it was another one that got away though, with the Sharks having 397 disposals to 328, 141 marks to 82 and 59 hitouts to 12.

Boyd Woodcock (37 possessions, eight marks, eight clearances) and Jacob Dawson (30 disposals, 11 clearances, five entries) had their usual cricket score numbers, while Jesse Joyce (25 disposals, eight marks, six clearances), Jackson Edwards (23 disposals, eight marks, seven rebounds), Matt Gahan (19 disposals, 10 marks, six rebounds) and Max Spencer (19 disposals, 11 marks) also fired for the home team.

But they couldn’t find a way to silence AFL omission James Jordon (32 disposals, five clearances, one goal), Roan Steele (24 disposals, 11 marks, five entries), Blake Howes (23 disposals, eight marks, five rebounds), Taj Woewodin (24 disposals, seven tackles), Bailey Laurie (22 disposals, seven tackles, six entries) or Mitch White (21 disposals, seven tackles).

They ensured plenty of quality was delivery into Schache (15 disposals, seven marks, 4.0) and George Grey (18 disposals, five marks, eight tackles, 3.1).

COBURG vs WERRIBEE

COBURG 0.3, 2.5, 4.6, 5.7 (37)
WERRIBEE
4.7, 8.12, 10.15, 13.19 (97)

WERRIBEE eased to its sixth successive victory to retain its top-four position with a 60-point victory over Coburg at Piranha Park.

The Tigers dominated from the first bounce and should have led by more than 28 points at quarter-time, although they did try to turn coach Michael Barlow’s hair grey with a series of skill errors coming out of defence that they were lucky the Lions couldn’t capitalise on.

The home team stuck at its task in true Coburg style and never let Werribee have things all its own way – as displayed by the 13.19 scoreline that included five rushed behinds, but there was never any doubt over who would take the points, with the visitors finishing +106 in disposals, +30 in marks and +22 in clearances.

Tom Gribble was a general for the Tigers across the middle and half-back, again stuffing the stats sheet with 39 disposals, 11 marks, 10 clearances and six inside-50s.

Kye Declase (29 disposals, nine marks, six entries, one goal) worked tirelessly up and down the outer wing and Dom Brew (32 disposals, five clearances, 11 tackles, seven entries) relished getting down and dirty to release the likes of Jack Henderson (33 disposals, seven clearances, seven tackles) and Shaun Mannagh (25 disposals, five marks, five tackles, eight entries, one goal).

Josh Porter impressed as a makeshift ruckman with 21 possessions, six marks, 23 hitouts, seven clearances, and five entries, especially after Jack Boyd suffered an early leg injury. Louis Pinnuck (21 disposals, 13 marks) enjoyed the freedom to get up the ground and Michael Sodomaco linked up well out of defence on his 32nd birthday with 21 touches and five rebounds.

Luke Nelson was sensational in a losing cause for Coburg, bobbing up all over the ground to record 27 possessions, five inside-50s and so many one-percenters off the ball.

Support came from backline leader Mitch Podhajski (26 disposals, six marks, eight rebounds), while Ben Jepson (21 disposals, five marks, six rebounds), Josh D’Intinosante (20 disposals, five clearances, one goal) and Braedyn Gillard (19 disposals) gave everything they had and Aaron Clarke didn’t give up, finishing with six marks and two goals after being held statless by Nathan Cooper in the first half.

10:50

PORT MELBOURNE vs GOLD COAST SUNS

PORT MELBOURNE 3.3, 4.5, 6.9, 7.9 (51)
GOLD COAST SUNS
5.1, 10.7, 13.10, 17.13 (115)

GOLD COAST simply had too many guns over the ground as it accounted for a gallant but undermanned Port Melbourne by 64 points at ETU Stadium.

The Suns are averaging 17 goals a game this season and extended their lead at every change to hit that threshold, but the Borough did have periods where they were right in the contest but couldn’t capitalise.

The home side had 2.1 on the board before the visitors scored and then a chance to pull within four goals midway through the third term despite having already lost Fraser Rosman to concussion and Sam Naismith to groin soreness.

But the star-studded visitors had 20 AFL-listed players on the park and it showed as they retained control and ran away with the victory, highlighted by winning the tackle count 60-42 despite also having 66 more disposals.

Sam Flanders (34 disposals, six clearances, eight tackles, five entries, one goal), Jeremy Sharp (27 disposals, six marks, five tackles, one goal), Charlie Constable (29 disposals, seven marks, 10 rebounds), James Tsitas (27 disposals, six marks) and Ned Moyle (35 hitouts, five clearances, one goal) would fit comfortably into a lot of AFL teams.

Caleb Graham and Mac Andrew combined for 33 disposals and 23 marks to make things impossible for Port’s forwards and Mabior Chol (four goals), Brodie McLaughlin (three), Alex Sexton (two) and Sam Day (two) gave the Borough backline nightmares.

Tom Cameron did his best to turn back the tide for Port Melbourne with 20 disposals and 13 rebounds, Dylan Clarke was busy under the packs with 25 touches and Josh Green (17 disposals, seven clearances, five inside-50s), Nash Holmes (17 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles), captain Harvey Hooper (19, disposals five marks), and Tom Hird (19 disposals, one goal) made their presence felt.

13:17

BOX HILL HAWKS vs WILLIAMSTOWN

BOX HILL HAWKS 4.0, 7.3, 9.4, 9.7 (61)
WILLIAMSTOWN
5.3, 5.6, 7.8, 11.10 (76)

WILLIAMSTOWN gave another example of its claim to premiership contention by coming from behind to upset Box Hill Hawks by 15 points in a gritty performance at Box Hill City Oval.

The Seagulls flew out of the blocks to lead by 15 late in the first term but went goalless in the second as the Hawks grabbed the initiative with late majors to Cooper Stephens and the otherwise quiet Fergus Greene.

The visitors hit the lead with two goals early in the third but Box Hill shut them down again, taking an eight-point lead turning for home. The home team then controlled the first 10 minutes of the last but failed to put one of their archrivals away, scoring just two behinds.

Williamstown captain Cam Polson brought his team back within range and Corey Ellison booted two terrific goals in the space of four minutes before Corey Preston sealed a crucial win in the 27th minute to inflict only the Hawks’ second loss of the year.

Box Hill will rue wasting the ball as it turned advantages of +76 in disposals and +32 in marks into just 35 inside-50s to Williamstown’s 48.

The Seagulls were remarkably even, with no player reaching 20 disposals but 16 having at least 10, led by best-on-ground Tom Downie (19 disposals, 42 hitouts, nine clearances, one goal), with Harry Jones (19 disposals, eight clearances, five entries), Mitch Cox (17 disposals, six entries, one goal) and Preston (16 disposals, five clearances, nine tackles, six entries) good at his feet.

Ellison took nine marks and kicked three goals in attack while Toby Triffett and Darby Henderson kept the heat on with nine tackles and a goal each.

Harry Morrison put his hand up for an AFL recall with 31 possessions and 13 marks for Box Hill after being quiet last week, Cooper Stephens was brilliant with 25 touches, six clearances, eight tackles and two goals and Denver Grainger-Barras dominated down back with 23 touches, 11 marks and eight rebounds.

With Damian Mascitti (22 disposals, six marks, six rebounds), Josh Ward (21 disposals, five marks, six tackles), Hugh Beasley (21 disposals, 11 marks, five rebounds), Cal Porter (20 disposals, seven clearances, 15 tackles), Ed Phillips (20 disposals, nine marks, five entries), Callum Brown (27 disposals) and Finn Maginness (25 disposals) all more prolific than the top Seagulls, Hawks fans will be wondering how they lost the game.

CARLTON vs FRANKSTON

CARLTON 2.4, 6.8, 7.10, 10.16 (76)
FRANKSTON
6.3, 6.9, 9.10, 10.13 (73)

IF YOU were a Carlton supporter looking for a hero to kick a potentially season-saving goal, you’d go through quite a few players before you settled on Lachie Plowman.

But it was the Blues’ full-back who covered himself in glory with a terrific strike from 50m out on the boundary to break Frankston’s hearts in a pulsating three-point result after the Dolphins had led for all but the opening two minutes.

The visitors had seized control with four goals in time-on of the opening quarter, getting out by as much as 26 points at the 10-minute mark of the second term before the Blues hit back to get within a point at half-time.

The game swung back and forth throughout the second half, all the while with Frankston in the ascendancy but the Blues had the last eight scores of the game with Plowman’s long bomb grabbing the lead in the 23rd minute.

Jaxon Binns is surely closing in on an AFL debut for Carlton after another brilliant display all over the ground, with the No. 32 draft pick having 35 disposals, nine marks, nine inside-50s and seven rebounds, with VFL-listed Archie Stevens continuing his strong touch with 28 touches.

Lachie Fogarty (22 disposals, five marks, eight tackles, five entries) and the luckless David Cuningham (21 disposals, seven clearances) also played well in the absence of Paddy Dow, while Lachie Cowan (21 disposals, eight rebounds) impressed and took a crucial contested mark late to see off a Dolphin challenge and captain Ben Crocker had 20 touches and 14 marks but kicked 1.3.

Kai Owens’ breakout season continued with another 27 touches, eight clearances, five inside-50s and even eight hitouts for Frankston, with Mitch Szybowski (25 disposals, five marks) having his best game at VFL level.

Ryley Stoddart (24 disposals, seven marks, five rebounds), Colby Nayna (23 disposals, eight marks, five tackles, five rebounds), Will Fordham (25 disposals, six marks), Taine Barlow (20 disposals, eight rebounds) and Connor Riley (20 disposals, one goal) were also good.

11:57

FOOTSCRAY BULLDOGS vs GEELONG CATS

FOOTSCRAY BULLDOGS 5.7, 9.12, 12.15, 15.18 (108)
GEELONG CATS
0.3, 0.4, 5.5, 7.8 (50)

FOOTSCRAY has endured a nightmare start to the season, playing almost all the premiership contenders in the first 10 rounds and slumping to 2-6, but the Bulldogs gave a reminder of just how dangerous they can be with a 58-point spanking of Geelong at Avalon Airport Oval.

The Bulldogs came out snarling, banging on 5.7 to 0.3 in the first quarter and backing it up with 4.5 to 0.1 in the second to lead by 62 points at half-time and hold the Cats goalless in the first half for the first time since managing just five behinds against Collingwood at Victoria Park in 2016.

Their half-time score of 0.4, however, was their lowest in the VFL era and their lowest since Fitzroy held them to 0.1 at Brunswick St Oval in 1895 – only eight times have they scored less in their VFA/VFL history.

Geelong did fight back with five goals to three in the third quarter, but Footscray was able to reassert control in the last to remain within two wins of a Wildcard place with a friendlier fixture to come.

Captain Lachie Sullivan was on fire for the Bulldogs with 36 disposals, eight clearances, seven tackles and five inside-50s, but he had plenty of mates.

Luke Cleary (26 disposals, 11 mark, six rebounds) was dominant down back, Robbie McComb (24 disposals, five clearances, one goal) played well in the middle, while Hayden Crozier (21 disposals, nine marks, one goal), Ewan Macpherson (25 disposals, five marks), Alex Keath (21 disposals, six marks) doing well around the ground.

Jordon Sweet (40 hitouts, five clearances, nine tackles, five entries) was the star big man in the game and Mitch Hannan and Josh Chatfield kicked three goals each, the latter after being a surprise omission on Friday following a four-goal haul last week.

Captain Jye Chalcraft (26 disposals, eight marks, five clearances, six tackles, two goals) was Geelong’s best, while Jack Bowes (28 disposals, five marks, five rebounds) fired in his first VFL game for his new club, Marcus Herbert (26 disposals, nine rebounds) starred in defence, Brandan Parfitt (24 disposals, five clearances, six tackles) staked his claim for an AFL recall and Bailey van de Heuvel took 11 marks.

11:58

GWS GIANTS vs RICHMOND

GWS GIANTS 3.1, 6.3, 10.6, 12.8 (80)
RICHMOND
2.4, 5.11, 6.16, 10.22 (82)

JACOB Bauer gave himself a 21st birthday present he will never forget by kicking a goal after the siren to save his team’s blushes and steal a thrilling two-point win over GWS at Giants Stadium on Sunday.

After Mykelti Lefau provided the early feelgood moment with a goal on his return from a knee injury, the Tigers did everything in their power to lose the game, recording 32 scores to the Giants’ 20, and they had kicked a woeful 9.22 before Bauer flew in to take a towering contested mark at the top of the goal square, with the siren sounding as he went back to take his kick.

With the entire stadium, including his whole immediately family watching on nervously, Bauer drilled his only goal of the game to spark pandemonium on the field and in the stands.

It was remarkably Richmond’s third match in a row decided by a kick after the siren, with long-range efforts by Geelong’s Ben Lloyd and Essendon’s Tom Phillips failing to score in Rounds 8 and 9 as the Tigers held on for a draw and another two-point win before Sunday’s drama.

The most relieved Tiger of all was Bigoa Nyuon, who could have had a career game but recorded 2.7 to go with his 15 disposals, five marks and 10 hitouts, while Steely Green (2.3) was another rescued culprit as Richmond moved a game clear inside the top 10.

At one stage the Tigers scored eight consecutive behinds from the 29-minute mark of the second quarter until mid-season draft pick Matt Coulthard booted his first goal for his new club at the 23-minute mark of the third.

But they stayed in the contest through the agency of captain Lachlan Street (31 disposals, 10 clearances, seven entries), Angus Hicks (24 disposals, five tackles) and Tyler Sonsie (23 disposals, seven entries), while Austin Johnson (18 disposals, five clearances, five tackles, eight entries) and Cam Olden (17 disposals, five clearances, seven tackles) also had their moments.

Cam Fleeton was huge in defence for the Giants with 32 possessions, eight marks and 12 rebound-50s, alongside young backman Jakob Anderson (23 disposals, nine marks) and skipper Ryan Hebron (20 disposals, eight marks, nine rebounds).

No.16 pick Harry Rowston (26 disposals, eight marks, seven clearances, seven entries) starred in the middle with Jaelen Pavlidis (22 disposals, five tackles, five entries) and Matt Flynn led the ruck with 28 hitouts, five marks and two goals.

12:20

ESSENDON vs NORTH MELBOURNE

ESSENDON 4.4, 5.6, 7.7, 10.9 (69)
NORTH MELBOURNE
1.2, 5.4, 9.5, 12.8 (80)

NORTH Melbourne banked its fourth win in five matches, but it needed to pull out all the stops before finally edging out a gallant Essendon by 11 points at NEC Hangar.

The Bombers jumped out of the blocks with four goals to one in the first term, highlighted by No. 5 draft selection Elijah Tsatas booting a set shot major from 50 with his first kick for the club after losing the first half of the season to injury.

The Kangaroos fought back to take a 10-point lead into the final change, but the battle was far from over as mid-season draftee Jaiden Hunter, Patrick Voss and then the mercurial Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti gave the Bombers a seven-point break entering time-on.

But the visitors had one more rally in them and goals to Charlie Lazzaro, Connor Downie and Tyler Sellers (nine marks, two goals) sealed their sixth win of the year to lift them to seventh on the ladder.

Dan Howe was the standout for North Melbourne after losing his AFL spot, picking up 30 disposals, five marks, nine clearances and six tackles.

Downie (25 disposals, five marks, two goals), Lazzaro (25 disposals, seven tackles, one goal), Flynn Perez (23 disposals, six rebounds, one goal) and Ben Cunnington (23, six clearances, seven tackles, five entries) were not far behind, while second-gamer Cooper Keogh (17 disposals, seven clearances, 26 hitouts, six tackles) did well in the ruck against Nick Bryan.

Tex Wanganeen was the Bombers’ best with 20 touches, five marks, five tackles and two goals, while Jake Kelly (24 disposals, 10 marks) and Nik Cox (21 disposals, nine marks) continued to walk the comeback trail alongside fellow backmen Kaine Baldwin (21 disposals, 12 marks, eight rebounds) and Joel Fitzgerald (24 disposals, seven marks), while Bryan (19 disposals, 32 hitouts, five clearances, five entries) still ended up as the winner of his contest.

NORTHERN BULLANTS vs COLLINGWOOD

COLLINGWOOD 4.6, 8.9, 12.17, 16.19 (115)
NORTHERN BULLANTS
0.2, 3.5, 3.8, 9.10 (64)

LEGENDARY former captain Tom Wilson and club-saving coach Josh Fraser marked a successful return to Genis Steel Oval as Collingwood got itself back on the winner’s list with a 51-point victory over Northern Bullants.

The Magpies always had the game in their keeping from the outset, booting 4.6 to 0.2 in the opening term and pushing out to a 63-point lead at the final change that could have been higher.

But the Bullants are another team that doesn’t have quit in their DNA and they lifted with six goals in the last quarter to win the term and give coach Brodie Holland, himself a highly-respected former Magpie, plenty to work with for future weeks.

Wilson was Collingwood’s best in his first game back at his old stomping ground since following Fraser to Victoria Park in the off-season and 148th VFL appearance overall, winning 26 touches, five tackles and six inside-50s while his namesake, the former basketballer Tom G. Wilson, took seven marks and kicked four goals.

Fin Macrae (25 dispsoals, eight entries), Trey Ruscoe (23 dispsoals, eight marks, eight rebounds) and Will Kelly (23 dispsoals, 10 marks, six entries) were also good for the Magpies, with Sam Glover also kicked four goals and Nathan Kreuger added three.

Jean-Luc Velissaris showed just how far he has come with an outstanding 36 touches, seven marks, nine entries and a goal, and in-form Cam Wild asked Collingwood why he didn’t get a game for them last year with another 23 disposals, six clearances, six tackles and two goals.

West Adelaide recruit Patrick Fairlie (33 disposals, eight marks), third gamer Max Tessari (29 disposals, seven marks, six clearances), co-captain Matt King (24 disposals, six marks) and Spencer Johnson (23 disposals, 12 rebounds) also shone for the Bullants in a game that had plenty of positives for both teams.

14:54

BYE: Brisbane Lions, Sandringham, Sydney

ROUND 12 FIXTURE

Friday, June 9: Sydney Swans vs Sandringham (1:05pm, Tramway Oval). Saturday, June 10: Southport Sharks vs Port Melbourne (12:05pm, Fankhauser Reserve); Box Hill Hawks vs Brisbane Lions (12:05pm, Box Hill City Oval); Frankston vs Footscray Bulldogs (1:05pm, Kinetic Stadium); Williamstown vs Northern Bullants (2:05pm, DSV Stadium). Sunday, June 11: North Melbourne vs GWS Giants (12:05pm, Arden Street Oval); Casey Demons vs Collingwood (1:05pm, Casey Fields); Richmond vs Werribee (1:05pm, Swinburne Centre); Carlton vs Essendon (2:05pm, IKON Park). Bye: Coburg, Geelong Cats, Gold Coast Suns.

Click here to view full fixture and ladder.

Broadcast and streaming: All matches in the 2023 Smithy’s VFL and rebel VFLW seasons will be live streamed free via the AFL website (AFL.com.au) and AFL Live Official App. Smithy’s VFL broadcast partner, the Seven Network, will continue to show one weekly game live and free on the Seven Network in Victoria and on 7Plus nationally. Casey Radio 97.7FM and 3WBC 94.1FM are also broadcasting matches.

Live scoring and stats: Live scoring and stats will be available via both the AFL Live Official App and VFL App. Download the VFL App from the Apple or Google Play stores.

Ticketing: Where Smithy’s VFL matches are ticketed, entry is $10 for adults, $5 for concession holders and kids under 15 are free. Some venues don't charge for entry. AFL ticketing prices will apply for VFL matches played as curtain-raisers and curtain-closers to AFL matches at AFL venues.