Why Melbourne are more terrifying than ever

Kysaiah Pickett sticks his tongue out and points his index finger

There may still be a game to come, but round five has already been loaded with enough drama and talking points to get us through a Monday review.

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

Manic, measured, marvellous Melbourne

Melbourne will lose a game at some point this year. They’ll get tired or hurt or bored at some point and get caught by an opponent at the top of their game on the day.

But watching that third quarter at the MCG on Saturday night, that concept was just about unfathomable. As the rest of the league settles into position for the campaign ahead, it’s as clear now as it ever has been that the Demons are a level or two clear of the competition.

And they know it too.

Kysaiah Pickett sticks his tongue out and points his index finger
Kysaiah Pickett personifies Melbourne’s mix of discipline, hard work and improvisation.(Getty Images: Dylan Burns)

That confidence doesn’t manifest in arrogance or complacency but in a willingness to try things, to experiment and show off just to see what they as a collective are capable of.

The Demons exist in a sort of predictable spontaneity. We’ve seen enough of them now to know what to expect in any given game situation.

Quick clearance from the forward line? Steven May will lock down a forward, Jake Lever will try to float in and intercept, Jake Bowey will be waiting at their feet and Ed Langdon only a handball away on the wing to send it forward again.

Centre bouncedown? Max Gawn or Luke Jackson will get first hand on it, Jack Viney will block off any attacking lane for opposition midfielders while Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver look to take it out the front by any means neccessary.

Rebound from defensive 50? Angus Brayshaw will start the chain floating back from the defensive wing, Charlie Spargo will run and carry, Bayley Fritsch and Sam Weideman will split their leads and Kysaiah Pickett will lurk and linger.


But inside that highly-predictable, highly-repeatable framework is the ability to improvise.

Maybe there will be an overhead handball here, a Petracca sidestep there, or an ambitious Langdon kick that splits a defence through the centre.

All up it makes for a devastating combo. Complete structural security and deadly offensive unpredictability.

How do you stop it? That’s a good question, one that has thus far proven unanswerable. All the best to the Tigers, Hawks and Saints, who get the next chances to solve that puzzle.

The (big) boys are back in town

With a game still to play, two moustachioed beanpoles sit atop the league’s goal-kicking charts with Joe Daniher and Max King in an early shootout.

Watching the pair of them this year has been a treat, and their aerial presence and versatility are big reasons why their sides find themselves in the top four.

Joe Daniher is highest at the front of a big pack of Lions and Pies players and has the ball in his handsJoe Daniher is highest at the front of a big pack of Lions and Pies players and has the ball in his hands
Joe Daniher is close to career best form.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)

But Coleman-watchers will know they aren’t alone. It’s been a big year so far for the big forwards.

All of Harry McKay, Charlie Curnow, Aaron Naughton, Nick Larkey, Peter Wright, Matt Taberner and Tom Lynch have impressed at various levels of consistency. Meanwhile Tom Hawkins and Mitch Lewis will have the opportunity to close the gap on Daniher and King in their Easter Monday meeting.

There are a lot of young key forwards in that group, all who are coming of age at the same time.

Charlie Curnow yells and punches the air in celebrationCharlie Curnow yells and punches the air in celebration
Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay have been a killer duo in 2022.(Getty Images: Michael Willson)

At current pace, the Coleman winner in 2022 will finish with somewhere just above 70 goals. No Coleman winner has topped that mark since Josh Kennedy’s 80 in 2016.

Could worries about low-scoring footy be quelled by a new generation of key forwards all capable of kicking 65 goals a year? It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Around the grounds

The next step in Adelaide’s development was simply becoming the sort of team that wins most of their home games. On current evidence, they’ve taken that step. The Crows are not a fun prospect to face at a frothing Adelaide Oval.

We got Schrödinger’s footy game at the MCG on Sunday, in which both teams won and lost simultaneously. Carlton won, but that second half implosion was beyond concerning. Port Adelaide lost yet again, but seemed to find themselves in a fearless dice-roll of a finish.


Jack Higgins is one of the most joyous players in the comp, and is proving to be one of the best small forwards of 2022 as well. He and the Saints are incredibly watchable, and couldn’t have responded to their round one defeat better.

Collingwood gave a good account of themselves on Thursday but ran into a very familiar problem. What would the Pies’ last five years have looked like with a genuinely elite key forward on the books?

Cody Weightman holds his hand up and smiles while Aaron Naughton chases after himCody Weightman holds his hand up and smiles while Aaron Naughton chases after him
The Bulldogs ran straight through North Melbourne for most of Friday’s game.(AAP: Hamish Blair)

Alright, onto the floggings. Purely looking at the margin, North Melbourne have improved by about 10 goals since last Good Friday, but you’d be doing well to find too many positives for the Roos from this year’s effort. At least they have identified ground zero and are starting again…

… unlike West Coast, who seem to be in denial about the position they are in. Their loss to Sydney was horrific, but not out of character for the last three years. Worse still, this was not a team full of youth who will be better for the experience. This team is in no man’s land.

Fair play to Fremantle for tightening things up dramatically at half-time, but that third quarter from Essendon was as bad as anything seen over the weekend. The Bombers absolutely had to make hay in this run of games, but are too dramatically hot and cold to be taken seriously for now.

In the clubhouse

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

And boy have we been struggling in this section so far this year.

Josh Rachele points skyward and smiles as Crows teammates run to join himJosh Rachele points skyward and smiles as Crows teammates run to join him
Josh Rachele has been magnificent in his first five games of AFL footy.(Getty Images: James Elsby)

As we have been rightly reminded by many, Josh Rachele’s name has not been present enough in our Rising Star discussions. That ends now.

Not one week after declaring that the two-horse race between Nick Daicos and Jason Horne-Francis had officially begun, we are formally adding Rachele into that bracket. His first five weeks have been remarkable, and he is very much the current frontrunner the other two need to catch.

Barring anything special from the Easter Monday game, we’ve got Callum Ah Chee’s as the best mark of the week.


Fair mark, but Mitch Lewis’s round four grab remains our current MOTY leader.

And we’re going to give Kozzy Pickett goal of the week for his repeat efforts against the Giants.


As for the current GOTY leader? Right now we have Ed Langdon ahead of Shai Bolton. That is subject to change at any time.



Author: Ivan Robinson