Dogs bark on Joe’s dirty night, Crows win SA bragging rights, and Cats fall to bottom of ladder

All the fallout from round three, including injury carnage, MRO news and expert analysis.

Western Bulldogs d Brisbane Lions

The scrappy nature of the Dogs’ win is exactly what they needed to turn their season around. The club was built on blue-collar workers, and this is how they must play to maximise their potential. Coach Luke Beveridge recognised as much by selecting a team to exert pressure. The “Manhattan” forward line was worth a try but should be shelved. Though they never had all four towers – Aaron Naughton, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Rory Lobb and Sam Darcy – in there together, Darcy’s omission enabled them to pick an extra small forward, Arthur Jones, who set the tone with his speed and energy. There is a Simpsons meme where Lenny tells Homer’s co-workers at the nuclear power plant: “Get ready, everybody, he’s about to do something stupid”. There must be plenty of Lions fans who feel the same way about Joe Daniher. Unlike Homer, Daniher is prodigiously talented, but he is prone to too many moments of madness for a player of his ability and experience. Teammates can sympathise with a bout of yips in front of goal, but they are less forgiving when, with the game on the line, they make position and are torched by a turn-and-burn Hail Mary from outside 50. Coach Chris Fagan has foreshadowed an uncomfortable review on Daniher’s game. – Andrew Wu

Chris Fagan flagged a tough review for Joe Daniher after the loss to the Bulldogs.Credit:Getty Images

Collingwood d Richmond

Big crowd, big occasion, and it was the Magpies who again proved they are made of the right stuff. Forget the final margin because Collingwood were clearly the better side. There is probably still a slight query on their no-frills forward line, with recruit Dan McStay yet to take a match by the scruff of the neck. But they will have no shortage of supply if Jordan De Goey, Tom Mitchell, Steele Sidebottom and Jack Crisp keep playing the way they are. Billy Frampton’s arrival also gives coach Craig McRae options for the opposition’s best key forward, too, after a superb shutdown job on usual Pies nemesis Tom Lynch. As for the Tigers, there must be some concern despite them having a genuine excuse with a lengthy injury list. The cavalry – Dustin Martin, Jayden Short and Jacob Hopper – is on its way for Saturday’s clash with a Western Bulldogs team just as desperate for a win. It’s far too early to panic, but Richmond haven’t shown the same high gear as other top sides so far this year. They need more from players outside of Liam Baker and Daniel Rioli. – Marc McGowan

Hawthorn d North Melbourne

This was billed as a grudge match between master coach Alastair Clarkson and his one-time protege Sam Mitchell. And the smile on Mitchell’s face once this clash in Launceston was done indicated yes, he was happy to have banked the Hawks’ first four points of the season, but also relieved that his first head-to-head meeting against Clarkson had gone his way. Mitchell tactically had the better of Clarkson. The latter opted to have his men defend space, rather than a player, through the midfield. Mitchell counter-attacked by instructing his team to chip its way through the zone and hold possession. It worked a treat, for Jai Newcombe, Will Day, Dylan Moore and, particularly in the first half, Changkouth Jiath, used their skills well. The Hawks led by 31 points early in the third term. The Kangaroos rallied late, but the Hawks – with three goals by Tyler Brockman in his first senior game since 2021 – hung tough. The Roos clearly missed two of their prime midfielders, skipper Jy Simpkin (suspended) and Luke Davies-Uniacke (tight calf), who withdrew in the warm-up. Rookie standout Harry Sheezel was superb, and did his best to drag the Roos to what would have been a third straight win. The Hawks remain a major work in progress, and desperately need a marking tall up forward, but this win eases what had been a burning spotlight on a rebuild in its infancy. – Jon Pierik

Carlton d GWS

Like many other teams, the Blues are making an effort to keep intensity high in their midfield and rest their guns, so Patrick Cripps, despite his 42-possession masterclass, spent time “resting” in the forward line late in Saturday’s win over the Giants. “We have to get intensity around the ball for four quarters so when he came on the field, he ended up going deep forward, but that was more to do with giving him a rest. He was pretty handy across the day, wasn’t he?” Blues coach Michael Voss said. The Blues also have a very impressive defensive stopper in Nic Newman, who kept GWS skipper Toby Greene to one of the quietest days of his career. Voss praised Newman’s first month of 2023. Speaking of intensity, Matt Owies (hamstring) and Blake Acres (shoulder) have played important roles up forward and in the midfield this season, but both are under clouds with Owies subbed out with a “minor hamstring” while Acres was clearly hurting but played out the game. He has also been given a one-game ban by the match review officer. – Roy Ward

Patrick Cripps picked up 42 touches in the win over GWS.Credit:Getty Images

St Kilda d Essendon

It is no mean feat to win the first three games of the season, and St Kilda’s improvement under Ross Lyon is evident already. They kicked 71 points on turnover and responded twice when challenged by the Bombers after making a great start when all eyes were on the group leading into the 150th anniversary game. Callum Wilkie has now reeled off 88 games in a row since St Kilda gave him a chance, and his match against Essendon was one of his best, standing tall as captain on a huge night for the club. He took seven intercept marks and made it impossible for the Bombers to score in the first 20 minutes. Up the other end of the ground the two smalls – Jack Higgins and Dan Butler – are getting the job done, bringing pressure and experience to support their young teammates inside 50. As for Mason Wood, he is a revitalised player at the Saints, with his talent shining through on a consistent basis, even though he may be in doubt for next week with a shoulder injury. Essendon showed grit and fight and belief in what coach Brad Scott is doing when they came back from five goals down to draw level in the final quarter. They did not deserve to win, but they provided a contest, which is an improvement on recent seasons. – Peter Ryan

Adelaide d Port Adelaide

Riley Thilthorpe kicked five in the Showdown.Credit:Getty Images

By shelving their tired Jekyll-and-Hyde act, Adelaide showcased what their A-grade best looks like for decent stretches in their impressive Showdown win over Port Adelaide. Little separated the two teams across the first three engrossing quarters – typical of what is arguably the AFL’s finest modern-day rivalry – before the Crows turned on the afterburners with six unanswered goals in the last 20 minutes. Pivotal to Adelaide’s victory were the performances of new captain and Showdown medallist Jordan Dawson, Riley Thilthorpe (five goals) and Izak Rankine (four). By design, the Crows – by trade and draft – have heavily leant towards acquiring and enticing homegrown stars like Dawson (Sturt), Thilthorpe and Rankine (both West Adelaide), as well as the injured Darcy Fogarty (Glenelg). Badly and regularly burnt by the defection of several homesick draftees from interstate, Adelaide now boasts a number of emerging stars who will be Crows lifers. Making the Showdown victory even sweeter, Adelaide (11th) leapt ahead of the Power (12th) on percentage in the process.
When the floodgates opened down the stretch, Port were powerless to quell the Crows’ rampant forward forays. The Power’s defence, so often the calling card of the Ken Hinkley era, has bled badly over the past fortnight. The once laughable suggestion that Port could finish below Adelaide on the ladder now looms a genuine possibility. – Steve Barrett

Gold Coast d Geelong

This was an important win for the Suns, relieving some pressure on coach Stuart Dew after a poor start to the season. It was also a fitting tribute to the brave and selfless David Swallow in his 200th game. But perhaps most of all it was the moment that Jack Lukosius truly arrived as a footballer of substance. The No.2 draft pick of 2018 was the match-winner, his 65-metre drop punt in the last quarter a moment to remember. Questions will inevitably be asked about the Cats’ premiership defence, particularly now they find themselves on the bottom of the ladder as the league’s only winless team. But they have got the unfancied Hawthorn and the West Coast Eagles to come, and don’t forget; they did string 16 unbroken wins together on their way to last year’s flag. – Andrew Stafford

Melbourne d Sydney

September is when the Dees would like to see the real value of the Brodie Grundy trade come through, but there are already dividends in the first week of April. Playing in just his third game since being injured on Anzac Day last year, Grundy looked every bit the player who had been the competition’s premier ruckman before Max Gawn’s rise. He can still break his rivals’ hearts with his endurance, and his work below his knees means he effectively is an extra midfielder once the ball hits the ground. The true test of Grundy’s recruitment will come when Gawn returns, and we have a better guide as to how well the dream combination on paper functions on the field. As well as Sydney fared last year, there is a considerable gap between the Swans’ midfield and that of the competition’s heavyweights. Their onball brigade is vulnerable against the bigger bodies of the established teams. The Demons tore them apart in the hunt for contested ball; an area they were brutally exposed in last year’s grand final. Luke Parker has a decade of credits to forgive a rare bad day, but if the Swans are to threaten then next-generation midfielders Chad Warner and James Rowbottom, who have developed quickly for their age, can’t go missing as they did against the Dees. Road trips to Geelong (round six) and Collingwood (round eight) are their next big tests. – Andrew Wu

Fremantle-West Coast

What do you do with Luke Jackson when Sean Darcy is dominating in the ruck? Jackson is a premiership player and game-changing big man, but he is still finding his place at his new club. He made a good fist of his time forward in Sunday’s derby, kicking two goals, taking a big mark. Seven tackles for the match was also a highlight. Darcy had 52 hit outs, 20 touches and a goal, which was impressive, even with the Eagles decimated by injuries. When Darcy is dominating, Freo will need to find ways to get Jackson into the play as well. The queue outside the Eagles medical room just got longer, with Luke Shuey, Jeremy McGovern, Jamie Cripps and Alex Witherden all going down, leaving Adam Simpson with no bench for the final term. Hopefully, Shuey didn’t damage his hand when he punched the wall in frustration. On a final topic, Dockers flyer Michael Frederick and his backflip celebration needs to be encouraged at all costs, such acrobatics and unbridled joy is a great advertisement for the AFL. – Roy Ward

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