The West Australian chief football writer Mark Duffield gives his take on all the round 12 action.
West Coast v Carlton: The Blues are out of the eight with their bye ahead next week and Hawthorn and Collingwood to come in the fortnight after that. They keep telling us they are coming but they might have been and gone in the space of half-a-season. Their best player Marc Murphy won’t be back for weeks. Their superstar Chris Judd looks to be suffering battle fatigue. Meanwhile West Coast got it done again, albeit with some anxious moments caused by poor kicking. Nic Naitanui, Matt Priddis and Scott Selwood, who blanketed Judd, were stand-outs. We will get a clearer picture of where the Eagles sit in the greater scheme of things when they take on Collingwood in a blockbuster at the MCG this weekend.
Adelaide v St Kilda: The Saints might be playing a prettier brand of football under Scott Watters but they are also developing an alarming habit of losing the close ones. Four of their six losses for the season have been by 13 points or less and so it was at AAMI Stadium on Friday night when they surged back at Adelaide only to come up a kick short. The problem lay in a five-goal-to-two third term which left the Crows 31 points clear at the last change and the Saints always likely to struggle from there. The Crows are back in the top four and a four-game stretch against North Melbourne, Richmond, Port and GWS gives them the chance to solidify that ranking. The Saints get the bye and then back to back Etihad Stadium clashes against North Melbourne and Essendon will be crucial to their finals prospects.
Richmond v GWS: You wouldn’t have given much for the prospects of the Giants stretching the Tigers, or for Dan Connors being the bloke who stepped up to ice the game for Richmond, but those two things occurred at Skoda Stadium on Saturday in the wet. Connors kicked three priceless goals to help his inaccurate team home by two goals. You won’t get too much sadness in the Giants camp though. They unveiled number one draft pick Jon Patton and while he faded badly after half-time he took a couple of contested marks in the first half that suggest that he will live up to the billing. Jeremy Cameron continued to star for the Giants and kicked three while Trent Cotchin’s 25 touches kept the Tigers steady. Richmond remain at the door to the eight and have a friendly draw on the way home.
North Melbourne v Gold Coast: Two significant things out of this one - North won and kept themselves in touch with the top eight; Gold Coast are now favourites to collect the wooden spoon. The Suns were better than in their horrible effort last time out against St Kilda and they were brilliantly led by Gary Ablett Jr. But they still lost, are still winless and they face West Coast, Geelong and Richmond after the bye. North still trade very heavily on the class of veteran Brent Harvey and his four goals kept their noses in front but the next month will decide where they are headed this year with Adelaide, St Kilda, West Coast and Carlton on the horizon.
Hawthorn v Brisbane: It shaped as a routine day at the MCG for the Hawks but it took them the best part of three quarters to make it so. The Lions clung on for over a half but the Hawks split it open with 4.7 to one goal in the third, turning for home with a 41-point lead and the game in their keeping. They made things very routine in the last by piling on seven goals to three to make this one a 65-point whacking. The Hawks have the bye now but they can set up a run at the top four against Carlton in a fortnight. The Blues have the staggers and if the Hawks take care of them they have the Giants and Bulldogs in the fortnight after. It is just about finding talent now for the Lions and Tom Rockliff, Jack Redden and the beautifully named Dayne Zorko all did their reputations no harm with strong efforts.
Western Bulldogs v Port Adelaide: Playing to honour the recently-deceased Charlie Sutton, the club’s only premiership coach, the Bulldogs got the jump but left the door ajar for Port until well into this one, their 25 scoring shots to 13 at three-quarter time adding up to only a 22-point lead and a few nerves for coach Brendan McCartney. They did it comfortably enough in the end and they remain in touch with the eight, while Port are now too far back to be any threat. The Dogs got huge games from their runners with Matthew Boyd, Robert Murphy, Daniel Cross, Daniel Giansiracusa, Ryan Griffen and Mitch Wallis all running up big numbers on the way to a 38-point win. Port got three goals from Jay Schulz but they lost the midfield battle badly and the four points went with it.