Geelong and Collingwood keep their streaks alive, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan explodes and Richmond does that thing again — round 19 had it all.
Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that was.
A tale of two streaks
Incredibly, we have two teams currently on nine-game winning streaks.
Both took distinctly different paths to get there, and still have varying levels of expectation on the rest of their seasons, but neither can be dismissed.
Geelong have been beyond professional and as impressive as possible throughout their run.
Their last quarter against a rampaging Port Adelaide, who were meeting the moment of their latest “season on the line” game, was the most convincing statement they could have made.
That was as close to a final as you could manage in round 19, and at a hostile away ground with momentum against them they stood up to the physical challenge and turned to that fearsome forward line for the finishing touches.
The Cats are a complete team, more multi-dimensional than they have been in any of their previous near misses. 2022 represents their best chance of a premiership for the best part of a decade.
And then there’s Collingwood, defying all logic to take Pies fans on the ride of their lives.
All conventional wisdom about close games suggests this shouldn’t be happening, but we are so far past caring what conventional wisdom thinks. The Magpies are playing on heart and belief and a little bit of magic, and it’s creating something special.
The Magpies are in the top four and will rightfully have belief that anything is possible, but in a way it doesn’t really matter what happens for the rest of the year.
This is a season they’ll talk about in Collingwood forever. The year when Craig McRae’s boys came from the cellar to shock the world week after week after week.
There is nothing better in footy than a young player seizing their moment. You could see the weight of the past 18 months fall off Jamarra Ugle-Hagan’s shoulders in those climactic final seconds on Saturday night.
The pressure and criticism faced by Ugle-Hagan through his career thus far has been inevitable but obviously misplaced. Any number one draft pick who isn’t an instant superstar will face disproportionate heat — see Jason Horne-Francis — but in the case of a developing young tall, the panic was ridiculous.
The poor bloke had Lance Franklin comparisons thrust upon him before he was even drafted. It’s absolutely incredible that it’s only taken him 17 games to show why.
In truth Ugle-Hagan has been a strong contributor for the Bulldogs since the bye. That in itself has been cause for excitement at Whitten Oval, and perhaps all it took was that month of feeling at home at this level to unlock his potential.
If this is to be the emergence of JUH, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bulldogs. They have become the league’s great entertainers, running up scores on a weekly basis but proving just as susceptible to conceding them.
In a shootout against the reigning champs, the Dogs crossed the line in front. Defensive concerns notwithstanding, the Dogs are committed to throwing the kitchen sink at anyone in their way for the rest of the year. If they sneak into the eight, nobody will relish that match-up come finals time.
As for Melbourne, their margin for error is now razor thin.
All four of their closing games are against teams with realistic designs on a top four finish, making for a sequence of critical eight-pointers.
At present you would still say the Demons are the closest team to challenging the Cats, and very well placed for another finals push. But just ask Richmond how quickly equations can change with a few narrow and surprise losses.
You only hope Richmond fans have a good sense of humour, or else there would have been a lot of tears shed along Punt Road these past few weeks.
That’s 10 premiership points tossed away in three games now due to very specific errors, effectively the difference between fighting for top four and missing the eight entirely.
By percentage, Richmond are the seventh best team in the league. That feels almost representative of the team on the whole, and had they not completely self-immolated in critical moments over the past three weeks, that’s exactly where they would be placed.
Instead, the Tigers are facing the prospect of a second straight year without finals and a long off-season of Dustin Martin speculation. It’s remarkable how things have turned.
The “winners” of the draw were Fremantle, who are short of their best football at the moment.
You can bank on the Dockers’ defence, but as always their success and failure this year will be predicated on their ability to kick a winning score. Rory Lobb and Nat Fyfe’s fitness are critical to that equation.
Around the grounds
Quite the comedown for North Melbourne. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, but the gap between them and the likes of Hawthorn is far bigger than even the ladder suggests.
The Q-Clash is going to be must-watch viewing for the next few years. Two endlessly entertaining teams who will be in the finals picture for years to come. Queensland footy is as healthy as it’s been for a long time right now.
The fact the Swans only need a quarter to blow you away will concern any September opponent. But one big quarter is rarely enough to win finals. The Swans remain hard to call.
Sam Walsh certainly gave us all a hell of a fright. Anyone associated with Carlton would have held their breath for the entire time Walsh was in the rooms, and leapt to their feet when he returned. The Blues have a lot of footy still ahead of them this year.
That’s two from two in Perth for St Kilda this year, who somehow are still hanging in the fight. A lot will have to go right from here, but knocking off West Coast was the first non-negotiable task complete.
In the clubhouse
Here we take stock of who is leading the race for the season’s individual awards.
We’ve already called the race for the Rising Star in favour of Nick Daicos, but shoutout to Jai Newcombe, who was fantastic for the Hawks this weekend. It’s him or Sam De Koning for the runner-up spot, and that’s a tough one to call.
Now then. Mark of the year. A bit to chat about this week.
We had three big grabs this weekend, all of which are contenders for the main gong. So are we Toby Greene, Adam Saad or Mitch Georgiades?
We’re a sucker for a forward-50 pack mark I’m afraid, so it’s Georgiades this week. But! It’s not the best Mitch Georgiades forward-50 pack mark of the season! His grab against Fremantle a couple of weeks ago remains the overall leader.
Meanwhile, here at the Round-Up we spent the week mustering up the courage to spell out why we thought the Sam Draper goal was just a tiny bit overrated and not worthy of GOTY chat. But thanks to Josh Daicos, now we don’t need to.
That’s our goal of the year leader. And surely our winner. It’s just about the most Daicosian thing you could imagine.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC