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Undefeated Power Crunch Eagles

Port Adelaide Power continued their bright start to the season with a convincing win over the West Coast Eagles. Port Adelaide played rugged no-nonsense physical football, where they used their muscle to crunch the opposition in the packs; and then distribute the ball to their unheralded outside players, who moved the ball quickly to unsettle opposition defenses. West Coast were hoping the fine conditions would finally allow them to play their possession and clean delivery game; however, the Power rarely gave them space and dictated the game from within the packs.

Charlie Dixon marks as Robbie Tarrant reaches to tackle
Dixon against the Roos in 2019

Big forward, Charley Dixon, dominated the air in the Port forward line and finished with six goals. To the casual observer, it may seem that Dixon was a one-man band, but it was a team effort.

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AFL Hall Of Fame for 2020

Black playing against Essendon

The AFL began announcing its annual Hall of Fame inductions at the beginning of June. Due to the pandemic, the usual gala ceremony could not be held. The announcements were made gradually over a period of days and everything had to be done remotely. Brisbane premiership teammates Jonathan Brown and Simon Black were inducted, joining fellow teammates Michael Voss (2011), Jason Akermanis (2015), and Nigel Lappin (2016). Their admissions reinforce Brisbane's status as one of the most dominant teams of the early 2000s. Beloved St Kilda stalwart Lenny Hayes was another inductee. Also inducted were two greats of the Port Adelaide Magpies in the SANFL: John Albey and Greg Phillips; as well as former Eagle ruckman Dean Cox and beloved commentator Dennis Cometti. Coaching great John Kennedy Sr was elevated to legend status. Kennedy was one of the inaugural inductees as a coach in 1996. AFL boss Gil McLachlan visited Kennedy and his wife at their home to inform Kennedy of his elevation.

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AFL Season Returns June 11th

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has announced that the AFL season will resume on June 11th. Just prior to the announcement, teams were permitted to begin non-contact training in groups of no more than 10. Teams will now be allowed to begin full contact training on the 25th. However, training will be limited to two sessions per week. Players and officials from all clubs will be required to be tested 24 hours before each training session. When matches do resume, umpires will also be tested. Testing will continue for all for the duration of the season.

The league is still working on the schedule for the season but is expected to have that by the end of the month. In making the announcement, McLachlan said, "Today is a significant step in getting footy back ... as this situation continues to evolve, we have to remain agile and flexible to ... adapt ... while ... we continue to prioritize the health and welfare of our players, staff, and the wider community and ... don't place any burden on the public health system."

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AFL Moves Closer to Restart

Did you say Gold Coast Eagles?

On the day the AFL began COVID-19 testing of AFL players, its hopes of restarting the competition were rocked by a letter from the South Australian government. The AFL intended to have a three-week training period for all teams, in a lead-up to the first AFL game in mid-June. The league looked set to announce an opening game on June 11th, between Collingwood and Richmond, but those plans may now be derailed. The South Australian government has ruled-out an exemption for AFL teams entering its closed borders without a mandatory 14 day quarantine. The Crows and Power were planning to fly in and out of South Australia on a weekly basis, to play in Victoria. In a further blow, the South Australian Government has also stipulated that no football players in South Australia can train in groups of more than ten (and training must be non-contact) until June 8th. The Crows and the Power will now have to find a training base at an east coast location, as soon as possible, if the league is to meet its mid-June restart date.

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AFL Season Return

Gillon McLachlan (left) 2019 AFL GF

AFL boss Gil McLachlan has been in consultation with all state governments, premiers, and medical officers about a return date, which could be as early as mid-June with 16 rounds and the Grand Final at the end of October. The league wants to do everything possible to conclude the season before the horseracing season which commences soon after the Grand Final under normal circumstances.

The prospect of hubs in their full capacity is looking more unlikely. The season could resemble the traditional format with a few exceptions. Fremantle and West Coast, both of whom oppose hubs as an option, ironically could be forced to play "home" games in other states due to West Australia's strict border restrictions. So far, the clubs have not had success convincing the WA state government to ease those restrictions.

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Eagles’ Structure Burns Demons

Hurn Eyes on the Ball (file)

In the final game for round one of 2020, the West Coast Eagles showed why they would be considered one of the favorites to win the competition this year. (Ed. note: the AFL has suspended the season until at least May 31st.) The home team enjoyed the warm day (88º F. ), but it was their team structure and discipline which cooked the visitors.  Melbourne started the game determined to show they are a better team than results from last year suggested. However, it was their delivery into their attacking zone that demonstrated they had learned nothing over the summer break. By quarter time, the Eagles were up five-zero in goals and it was already clear that Melbourne lack the structure of the home side.

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Supplemental Signings

Mitch Brown's Strong Grab

The Supplemental Signing Period (SSP) ran from December 1 through March 13, allowing clubs to sign rookie players provided they had room on their lists and salary caps. A number of clubs took advantage of the period to round out their playing lists.

ESSENDON

Concerned with the poor depth in the ruck and up forward with Tom Bellchambers injured and the return of Joe Daniher (groin) still indefinite, the Bombers have signed former swimming champion Henry Crauford under the SSP rules. Crauford, 22 years old and 6'3", competed in swimming at state and national levels before returning to football in 2016. He played for Norwood in the SANFL in 2019 and played 19 games for Norwood's reserves side. Several clubs showed some interest in Crauford but he was overlooked in last year's draft. Athletic and with good endurance for his size, he can play both ruck and as a tall forward.

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Cats Bounce Back to Defeat Eagles

Blicavs and Naitanui Compete

In a Friday night (Melbourne time) Semi-Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Geelong Cats picked themselves up from their previous week's loss to the Collingwood Magpies, to keep their finals hopes alive and defeat the reigning Premiers, the West Coast Eagles. The Cats had been under intense media scrutiny all week, as many pundits predicted the Cats would again drop out of the finals series with two straight losses. The Eagles too had their own mid-week drama to deal with, as small forward Willie Rioli was handed a provisional suspension for interfering with a urine test administered by the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority.

The Cats opened the game with a burst of goals. Their plan was clear. Run the ball through the middle of the ground, using handpassing and accurate kicking to catch the Eagle intercept markers [mark = catch] out of position. After nine minutes of play the Cats had booted three goals, keeping West Coast scoreless. Geelong's Captain Joel Selwood continually put his body on the line and midfielders Tim Kelly and Cameron Guthrie used their pace and ball skills to break the Eagles defensive lines. The Eagles abandoned their zone defense structure and played a man-on-man defense,

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Don Pyke Quits Adelaide

Don Pyke Coaching

Adelaide Coach Don Pyke tendered his resignation with two years remaining on his contract. Once the season concluded, the club embarked on an extensive review of their on and off field operations, a review which is still ongoing. However, the club and Pyke both said his departure had nothing to do with the review and was his decision following talks with club officials and his family. He had been considering stepping down for a week.

Pyke, at a press conference said with a prepared statement, "When the side is performing as it is, I recognize that ... I'm part of the problem ... The real question I've grappled with in the last couple of weeks ... 'Am I also part of the solution?'

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Flying Eagles Knock Out Bombers

Naitanui Marks

The West Coast Eagles knocked the Essendon Bombers out of the finals series in an emphatic fashion. Having defeated the Fremantle Dockers at the same ground, and seen the Hawthorn Hawks defeat the Eagles at Optus, the Bombers gave themselves a real chance against the reigning Premiers. The Essendon game plan was simple. Run the ball through the middle of the ground to expose West Coast's lack of pace in that area; and then keep the ball low into attack to avoid high marking defenders, Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass.

Essendon's first goal, after two minutes of play, went to plan. Michael Hurley intercepted at half forward, a gather from Dyson Heppell and a measured handpass to Andrew McGrath who kicked truly from 48 meters.

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