Richmond v Port Adelaide
It’s a big fortnight ahead for Robbie Tarrant. As well as young gun Josh Gibcus has fared in his first season, it’s time for Tarrant to repay the faith the club has shown in him as David Astbury’s replacement. After a shaky start in the yellow and black, the former North defender has looked more comfortable since his recall in round 10, keeping Peter Wright goalless and Charlie Dixon to just the one goal, though he two-grabbed a few high balls. A tinker to Richmond’s system has helped, so too getting used to being around new teammates. He’ll have the job next week on reigning Coleman medallist Harry McKay followed by Geelong’s Tom Hawkins. Both games are crucial for the Tigers, who have beaten no team higher than Collingwood.
Robbie Tarrant, left, and Charlie Dixon in action during round 13. Credit:Getty Images
In cricket, the downside to being a good in close fielder is the captain keeps putting you in harm’s way. The equivalent in football must be the forward who steps up as the frontline ruck. Charlie Dixon and Jeremy Finlayson have played their best footy inside the forward 50 but did well enough against Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo to warrant Ken Hinkley persisting with the tactic, even if its long-term sustainability is questionable. Though beaten in the hit outs, Port won the clearances, and both men kicked goals and found enough of the ball to pay their way, though Richmond would also have been pleased with their rucks’ work around the ground. With Scott Lycett still sidelined, Hinkley’s other ruck options are unproven. There’s a kicker this week to Power’s ruck shortage when they come up against Peter Ladhams, the former Port big man who moved to Sydney for more opportunities. – Andrew Wu
Carlton v Essendon
For all that was on the line for Essendon in their celebration of 150 years as a football club, there was very little on the field to celebrate. So, where to here for the Bombers? For starters, they have to play with more dare. Their brand on-field resembles the Giants under Leon Cameron and the Magpies under Nathan Buckley. They possessed the footy in an attempt to limit the damage the Blues could inflict, but their classier opponents made it look way too easy to move the footy from their defensive-50 to their forward-50. Coach Ben Rutten put Jake Stringer on notice post-match after a “poor game” in his return to the side, and a corked calf to Darcy Parish only adds to their woes.
The Blues were just happy to walk away with the four points, despite missing out on the chance for a percentage-boosting win. Harry McKay did not appear to miss a beat after four weeks out with a knee concern, kicking three goals, but the one area for concern out of the game was Essendon’s dominance at the centre bounces. The Blues have been strong in that area this season, but Adam Cerra was subbed out very early with a tight hamstring and that may have allowed the Bombers to take ascendancy in that area. Their rucks, Sam Draper and Andrew Phillips, also worked over Tom De Koning. The Blues’ ruck stocks remain thin while Marc Pittonet remains on the injury list, and Richmond will look to exploit that with Ivan Soldo and Toby Nankervis this week.
– Damien Ractliffe
Fremantle v Hawthorn
The idea that Freo are better off without Nat Fyfe, a view held by Mick Malthouse, is folly. Yes, Will Brodie had a quieter game with Fyfe back, but perhaps he just had an off day. Even if the two are linked, there is ample time between now and September for Fyfe to adjust to no longer being the main midfield man.
Judging by his post-match comments, he’s certainly willing to take a back seat. Playing what the Dockers aimed to be a near 50-50 midfield/forward split, Fyfe’s 21 disposals, 10 score involvements, one goal assist and 1.2 is proof he can play a key role in powering the club to a historic flag. He will only improve after his first senior game in nearly 11 months. At the very least, he will bolster a forward line that has been the Dockers’ weakest area of the ground.
Jai Newcombe still has plenty of work to do if he is to cap a stunning rise from mid-season draft obscurity to Rising Star winner. The Hawks midfielder was far from the worst for his team in their 13-point loss but is not having the same impact with the ball as he did earlier in the year. Will the judges reward him for his tackling pressure over some big numbers from Nick Daicos, or Sam De Koning’s marquee jobs in defence? Both are moving quickly, and have the advantage of playing for clubs still in finals contention. Newcombe has been a key contributor in some of the Hawks’ upset wins. He will need another two or three big games in the run home to maintain his top billing. – Andrew Wu
Brisbane v St Kilda
The bye couldn’t come at a better time for the Lions, who looked badly out of sorts for much of the night, despite entering the match against St Kilda at full strength. The match committee might need to take a breath, too, after picking ruckman Darcy Fort as the medical substitute. Fort was unlucky to be dropped, but after making way for Joe Daniher, it left the Lions too tall when an extra runner was required. They face the premiers next; for now, they’ll be very happy to escape with the four points against a top eight contender. St Kilda was very unlucky, and may well have won with a full complement on the bench. – Andrew Stafford
North Melbourne v Greater Western Sydney
Things can hardly get worse for the Kangaroos, but a suspension to Jason Horne-Francis would certainly add to North Melbourne’s woes. The 18-year-old is sure to be cited for a swinging arm to Josh Kelly early in the third term of Sunday’s loss. The frustrated midfielder had just eight touches, after the Roos slumped to 47 points in deficit at half-time, only to lose by 49 points. Jaidyn Stephenson had no impact in his return to the side, Hugh Greenwood and Jack Ziebell were also awfully quiet, as the Roos failed to capitalise on the hit out dominance of Todd Goldstein and Tristian Xerri.
The Giants enjoyed a field day from a possession perspective. They had 128 more disposals and 80 more marks, with Harry Himmelberg having a prolific game in defence with 37 disposals, 16 marks and a goal. Stephen Coniglio looks rejuvenated, Tanner Bruhn reeled off his best game, and Lachie Whitfield played with the run and dash that makes him one of the competition’s most dangerous players at his best. The only genuine injury concern was to Harry Perryman, who was rushed to hospital with suspected rib damage. The Giants have won two of their three games under Mark McVeigh, albeit against the Roos and Eagles. – Damien Ractliffe
Melbourne v Collingwood
Key takeout to come after match on Monday.
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