The West Australian chief football writer Mark Duffield gives his take on all the round 19 action.
Geelong v Hawthorn: The best game of 2012 so far. The best finish of 2012 so far and the best evidence we have had in 2012 that the Cats are not a spent force. Tom Hawkins dobbing one from fifty five metres to win it for Geelong on the siren all but guarantees they will play finals and they now loom as a threat to all around them, principally the battling Eagles who they face at Patersons Stadium this Friday. The Hawks had to chase down an eight goal lead and were unlucky when Sam Mitchell had to go off with the blood rule two minutes from the end when they led. They remain flag favourites. The Cats are back amongst the betting.
North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: This was far from the best football the Kangaroos have played in their climb up the ladder but their nine goal win did keep them ahead of Fremantle in the race for one of those last two spots in the eight. The Roos were ordinary for a half but did kick 11 goals after half time while containing the Dogs to two, Drew Petrie kicking five goals to maintain his excellent form. The Bulldogs aren’t going anywhere good quickly with no-one tall to aim at in attack and too many players handballing for no good reason midfield.
GWS v Port Adelaide: The game that looks like it has done for Power coach Matt Primus, who left the coaches box with minutes left, his team the best part of six goals down and his tenure doomed. The Giants have now matched the first up performance of the AFL’s other new franchise Gold Coast with their two wins. Jeremy Cameron continues to have a great first year and kicked three goals. Where to for the Power? Shaun Rehn shapes as the man to replace Primus should he exit early but Port’s problems run far deeper than one senior coach. Two of their best Travis Boak and Troy Chaplin are unsigned, their crowds are headed through the floor and their balance sheet with it. We often use the word crisis in football loosely. Here is a club in a genuine crisis with no clear way out.
Fremantle v West Coast: The 36th western derby was a Fremantle tour de force as skipper Matthew Pavlich led a 65 point demolition of the Eagles, the Dockers biggest win over the Eagles in their 18 seasons of AFL competition. Pavlich kicked eight, the Dockers remain very much in the finals mix and their form under coach Ross Lyon is improving steadily but they have anxious waits today on MRP rulings on Pavlich, Luke McPharlin and Matt de Boer. No shortage of anxiety in the Eagles camp either. They have won just six of their last 12 and three of their last seven with the resurgent Cats on the radar on Friday. They get skipper Darren Glass back and may recall veteran Andrew Embley but the top four looks only a slight hope and a home final no certainty.
Richmond v Brisbane: The Tigers finally got back onto the winners sheet after three weeks of near misses that cost them their finals hopes but the story of this match was the decision by Lions coach Michael Voss to plonk his champion midfielder Simon Black on the bench with the green subs jacket on. Not amused, Black helped trigger a mini Lions revival when he was injected into the game but the Tigers steadied for a 48 point win, their eighth of the season. Brett Deledio starred. Luke McGuane and Robin Nahas bobbed up for three goals. Jonathan Brown kicked four for the home team to show the oldies actually do have something to offer.
Collingwood v St Kilda: If this really is the game that has killed of St Kilda’s finals hopes then dean Margett’s late decision to pay a free kick against Stephen Milne for marking interference in the dying seconds will be long disputed. Milne appeared to make minimal contact on Magpie Harry O’Brien when O’Brien dropped a mark and then went to ground just 15 metres from goal with his team six points in front. Replays showed the kick was soft and the ball had found its way to David Armitage with a clear shot on goal. The Magpies are in nothing approaching their best form at the moment and they were lucky to crawl out of this one to retain a berth in the top four. The Saints are now two wins from 8th. They might need to win four from four to make it and two of the four are Geelong and Carlton.
Melbourne v Gold Coast: The Demons finally snared their third win of the season under new coach Mark Neeld – even if it was at home against the AFL’s bottom team. It finished as a seven goal win with veteran Brad Green kicking five goals to keep his team in command with Brent Moloney, Nathan Jones and Jeremy Howe all playing solid games midfield. As usual Gary Ablett and Harley Bennell ran up big numbers for the Suns, Bennell’s 38 touches and four goals a highlight. But, as usual, the Suns couldn’t find tall targets to aim at and managed just nine for the game, four of them ina rapid fire second quarter burst.
Sydney v Carlton: Like the Saints, the Blues are probably dead and buried as far as this season goes after coming up 22 points short against the swans, who kept themselves three to five goals clear for much of the game and were never seriously threatened. Sydney’s major concern will be the damage done to veteran Jude Bolton’s knee after he hyper-extended it during the game. Ben McGlynn (three), Lewis Roberts-Thomsen (two) and Dan Hanneberry (two) led the scorers as the Swans clung to top spot. Jarrad Waite made a good return for the Blues, kicking three but Eddie Betts was well held. Brett Ratten’s tenure is very shaky now.
Adelaide v Essendon: The Bombers started to get some stars back with forward Michael Hurley returning but their soft tissue curse continued with Jason Winderlich out with hamstring problems. But this game unfolded as an epic nonetheless with Essendon jumping the Crows early, then being pegged back and passed but hanging tough and nearly snatching it at the end. Taylor Walker kicked the goal at one end that put his team back in front with a couple of minutes left, then followed that with a saving mark at the other end a minute later and one on the wing with under a minute to go. The Crows have second spot on the ladder with the Dockers to come on Saturday. The Bombers are clinging to 8th by the smallest of margins and have a crunch game against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.