The Cats are among the pigeons now as week of upsets and drama set up thrilling finale

A man celebrates a goal in an AFL match

It was a week that had it all — top of the table showdowns, thrilling upsets and after-the-siren drama but, at the end of it, the race for the finals and the flag has never been more open.

Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that was.

Returning superstars enliven premiership race

They’ve been there all along, hiding in plain sight.

Geelong’s annually predicted drop-off has been officially postponed for at least another year and, now, with only six home and away rounds remaining, the Cats find themselves on top of the AFL ladder.

A man celebrates a goal in an AFL match
With six games to play, the Cats are on top of the ladder.(Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

It’s been a wonderfully timed run from a team that have been making tangible changes to the way they play on the fly, while still retaining the fundamental identity that has made them a perennially good-but-maybe-not-great side.

Seven wins in a row — the latest coming in eye-catching fashion over Melbourne, no less — and an encouraging run home, that features only one member from the current top eight, is the reward for successfully grinding out the first half of the season.

The Cats are perfectly poised for a September assault, not least due to the way they have managed the recovery and return of Patrick Dangerfield.

It speaks to the confidence in the collective that Chris Scott felt comfortable allowing Dangerfield time for a full and proper recovery from injury, and the strategy is paying off.

Dangefield was electric against Melbourne and, having seen how solid the foundations are around him, he is now free to be the icing on Geelong’s cake.

Patrick Dangerfield concentrates as he kicks the footballPatrick Dangerfield concentrates as he kicks the football
Patrick Dangerfield looked like his old explosive self against the Demons.(Getty Images: Dylan Burns)

We said similar for Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe a few weeks ago, suggesting that the two-time Brownlow Medallist ought to be allowed the positional freedom to impact wherever he is most needed.

That’s what played out against St Kilda on Saturday night, as Justin Longmuir swiftly realised this was not going to be a Forward Fyfe night, and promptly engaged Midfield Fyfe.

The result was a vintage performance that helped drag the Dockers to a critical win in their battle for a top four — or maybe even a top two — finish.

Nat Fyfe holds his finger up in celebration of a goalNat Fyfe holds his finger up in celebration of a goal
Nat Fyfe is a dangerous forward option, but clearly still has a midfield role to play this season.(Getty Images: Michael Willson)

Between Dangerfield and Fyfe there are three Brownlows, countless All Australians and some of the finest individual performances of the modern era — but no flags.

With the individual burden lifted from them by their improved teams, that may be about to change.

Navigating the banana peels

After 17 rounds, Collingwood and Brisbane have won the same amount of games. Imagine predicting that back in March.

In a season that will be decided by some increasingly fine margins, the Magpies’ and Lions’ respective results this weekend may prove significant.

Both were seriously challenged by strugglers they were expected to comfortably beat. Only one snuck away unscathed.

A Collingwood AFL player kicks the ball while being tackled by a North Melbourne opponent.A Collingwood AFL player kicks the ball while being tackled by a North Melbourne opponent.
Collingwood found an extra gear in the last quarter to blow past North Melbourne.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

North Melbourne’s Icarus moment at the MCG may have been somewhat predictable, but it didn’t make Collingwood’s fourth-quarter turning of the screw any more impressive.

The Pies behaved like a good team should, playing with power and confidence and bravery to run down a 26-point deficit in the last term.

No matter the opposition, standing up to that sort of challenge is a test and the Pies passed, emphatically.

The Lions, on the other hand. Yikes.

It is completely fair to point to the list of absentees for this game, most of them due to COVID-19, as a justification for the loss.

However, when big players are missing, you hope that provokes others to step up, at least in energy and intent if not class.

A Brisbane Lions AFL player attempts to handball while being tackled by an Essendon opponent.A Brisbane Lions AFL player attempts to handball while being tackled by an Essendon opponent.
Essendon brought heat Brisbane couldn’t match.(AAP: Darren England)

The stunned faces on the Lions players after the final siren suggested they thought this one against Essendon was a banker, a nailed-on four points ahead of a challenging run to finals.

Now they’re deep in the dog fight for a top-four spot, scrambling for the likely one remaining spot with a number of teams, including a resurgent and dangerous Collingwood.

Around the grounds

Last week, we gave the Suns some love and bemoaned their costly misfortune in some close ones. Footy has a funny way of evening itself out, doesn’t it? They are still probably too far back for finals, but this after-the-siren win was a deserved reward for a year of clear and encouraging progress.

Noah Anderson celebrates kicking the winning goal for SunsNoah Anderson celebrates kicking the winning goal for Suns
The trusty right boot of Noah Anderson sent the Suns wild.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

The headline from Carlton’s comfy-then-tough-then-comfy-again win over West Coast was Tom De Koning. While Sam in Geelong has won most of the plaudits, the Blues’ brother has quietly been becoming a significant ruck presence. He beat Nic Naitanui at his own game on Sunday.

It’s a little known fact that swans are actually nocturnal. Well, the ones from Sydney anyway. Let them out at night and they’re full of beans, as entertaining and devastating as any team going. But it’s a completely different story in the afternoon sun where, coincidentally, at least four of their last six games will be played.

Three Sydney Swans AFL players congratulate each other after kicking a goal.Three Sydney Swans AFL players congratulate each other after kicking a goal.
The Swans delight at night again.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

However, Port Adelaide’s season finishes, it’s been a treat watching Connor Rozee blossom this season. As much as anyone on that team, he seized the moment after the 0-5 start and dragged the Power back to respectability. Sky’s the limit for an incredibly watchable footballer.

There have been a few Mitch Lewis games this year which sent the imagination running wild. Just how good could this young Hawk be? Had he played every game this season, he’d be on Coleman Medal pace. He might be a bit special.

In the clubhouse

Here we take stock of who is leading the race for the season’s individual awards.

Look out, Nick Daicos is getting #MidfieldMinutes. It wasn’t his most prolific game, but we have started getting a taste of what the next evolution of Daicos will look like — that classy, clutch goal late against the Roos being a good example.


He remains our Rising Star pick for now.

Having lost his grip on the mark of the year last week, Cam Zurhaar immediately tried to make amends all up and down Nick Larkey’s back for our mark of the week.


Sadly for Cam, we’ve still got Mitch Georgiades in front for now.

And goal of the week was a battle between skill and significance. Do we go Cam Guthrie or Noah Anderson? Well…


We just wanted to watch it one more time. What a mega last quarter that was from Noah Anderson, too, by the way. Oh, and Ed Langdon remains our leader for GOTY.



Author: Ivan Robinson