The West Australian chief football writer Mark Duffield gives his take on all the round 13 action.
Sydney v Geelong: Just when you think the Swans are about to stop over-achieving and take their place somewhere closer to the middle of the ladder, they pull a big win out and rise closer to the top. They jumped the Cats with their run and while their changed style leaves them more prone to run ons, they survived their second close one in as many matches. Adam Goodes will be better for the run and he would want to be after having little positive influence on the game and getting subbed out. Geelong’s flag hopes aren’t dead but they are on life support and it would only take one or two bad ones from here on in to leave them in danger of missing the eight.
Western Bulldogs v Brisbane: The Bulldogs got jumped in this one but you always thought they would steady and make a run at the Lions. It just never happened. Four goals down at quarter time they held ground in the second but gone blown off the park in a seven goal to zip third term. A huge game from Tom Rockliff who had 40 touches and kicked two goals while other youngsters Jack Redden, Pearfce Hanley, Mitch Golby and Dane Zorko all had big games. There is suddenly a bit to like about the young Lions. Where to for the Dogs? They need quality at either end and, right now they don’t have it. It certainly didn’t help that their engine room got clubbed as well on Saturday.
Collingwood v West Coast: Absolute clinker of a game at the MCG and solid evidence that these are two of the three teams to beat for the 2012 flag. Collingwood got the chocolates, and with it top spot on the ladder with a five goal burst in the third quarter that had to be chased down before West Coast could think of holding on for a big win. The Eagles did the chasing but couldn’t quite manage the holding. Dayne Beams kicked the winner and that was fitting – one of 34 touches and three goals that made him best afield with Dane Swan not far behind. The Eagles were lifted back into it by Daniel Kerr, then almost lifted to victory in the last term by Dean Cox, Beau Waters and Matt Priddis. What do we take out of it? Both teams are good and the Magpies probably slightly better at this stage – their win achieved without prime midfielder Scott Pendlebury.
Essendon v Fremantle: Massive stakes in their Patersons Stadium clash on Saturday night and for three quarters we got a game to reflect that. The Dockers sought to close down Jobe Watson and Brent Stanton and work the rest of the Bombers midfield over and they managed that until the last change, easing three goals clear in the third off Michael Barlow’s midfield influence and Matthew Pavlich’s brilliance in attack. But Watson lifted and Essendon came clear with him. The match turned on two Bomber goals just before three quarter time. Then Essendon’s skipper and Michael Hurley’s six goals got the visitors home and into the top four while Fremantle slipped a fraction further from the eight. Not too far away yet but with precious little wriggle room now.
Melbourne v GWS: No triumphant homecoming for Tom Scully who started well enough but, along with his team, got swamped after quarter time. The match turned on four early Mitch Clark goals and ended in a 78-point thumping of Kevin Sheedy’s team, probably lifting the Dees clear of wooden spoon territory. Clark was injured soon after his fourth but remained one of the more influential figures in this match. Jared Rivers (four) and Colin Garland (three) played support roles in attack. Jeremy Cameron kicked another three for the Giants and is looming as a lock in for the Rising Star award.
North Melbourne v Adelaide: The Crows could have taken top spot with a win here but they never looked likely, aside from a brief third quarter burst which breathed life into the match and false hope into their heads. North are technically close enough to make the eight, although they have now used three of the four softest legs in their soft draw with just one game against GWS to come now. They have West Coast, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond and Collingwood ahead in the run home. But they were great yesterday with Robbie Tarrant (four), Lindsay Thomas (three) and Leigh Adams (three) all among the goals for them while Daniel Wells led a winning midfield. The Crows were as flat as tacks and while Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Thompson worked hard midfield they were generally out run and out-worked. Tough performance to explain from a team with much to gain.