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Gunston Kicks Four as Hawks Upset Brisbane

Jack Gunston (file photo/AFANA)

Hawthorn playing one of their occasional home game at Marvel Stadium hosted the Brisbane Lions. The past few seasons the Hawks have maintained a 4-0 winning record against the Lions and come into this game having lost last week giving up a strong three-quarter time lead. The Lions were injury ravaged and looking vulnerable against the Hawks. The Hawks had plenty of the ball early under the Marvel roof, but their kicking options and disposal let them down. The taller Lions players giving them some trouble. On the first turnover, Lachie Neale, Charlie Cameron, and Eric Hipwood made the Hawks look unaccountable and slow, with Hipwood kicking an easy goal after getting out the back. The Hawks were lucky Brisbane missed two easy goals, and they were able to get things close to parity when Day hit Gunston on a fast lead in the pocket.  The veteran Hawk kicking his first goal against the side he played with in 2023.

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Dockers and Magpies in a Thriller

Drawn game (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

The Fremantle Dockers and the Collingwood Magpies played out a dramatic draw in front of a heaving crowd of 54,035 at Optus Stadium. The contest wasn't spectacular but was a dour struggle of tough contested football where neither team was prepared to give an inch. The undermanned Magpies picked up two more injuries during the match (Mason Cox and Brody Mihocek), but the team fought to the very end against a desperate home side. The Dockers jumped the Magpies early, locking the ball in their forward half with the assistance strong defensive marks (catches) by their captain Alex Pearce. After three minutes of play, Fremantle forward Josh Treacy received a free kick for a high tackle and threaded the needle from the boundary, to give the home team a positive start. Two minutes later the Magpies transitioned the ball from defense finishes with slick handpasses from Bobby Hill and Patrick Lipinski which resulted in a clever goal by youngster Harvey Harrison. Three minutes later the Dockers pushed forward to a marking contest in their goal square, where wingman Jeremy Sharp swooped in for an opportunistic soccer-style goal when the ball came off hands. Three minutes later the Dockers brought the ball from defense with Andrew Brayshaw on the end of a chain of possessions and he finished with a polished a running goal from forty meters.

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Bombers Cruise to Big Win Over Roos

Zach Merrett (file photo/AFANA)

Essendon went into this Sir Doug Nicholls Round match against the bottom team on the ladder in 4th place. It should be noted though, that if they had lost the Anzac Day match against Collingwood a few weeks back and not received 2 points for the draw that day, they would be sitting 10th on the ladder. Therefore, it was important they keep winning to hold their spot near the top of the ladder. The Roo's, on the other hand, could theoretically have moved out of last place and overtake Richmond if they win this match against their Marvel Stadium co-tenant. A quirk of Australian football is that so many teams share the same venues in Melbourne which reduces any "home" advantage. 

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Eagles Ambush Demons

Williams marks (Dave Woodley/AFANA)

The West Coast Eagles launched a surprise attack on the Melbourne Demons to win convincingly by thirty-five points. The Demons were overwhelmed by the Eagles' attack on the ball and the pressure applied in the midfield. The Demons' defense has been the best in the league, but with linchpin defender Jake Lever injured early in the first quarter, the visitors were unable to withstand the repeated entries of the Eagles.

Teams that have defeated Melbourne recently have concentrated on nullifying the influence of Lever, Max Gawn, and Christian Petracca. With Lever out of the equation the Eagles physically targeted Gawn but he was equal to the challenge. He dominated the hitouts and won six clearances, but the physical buffeting he received in packs reduced his marks (catches) tally to just three. When the ball hit the ground the Eagles' Tim Kelly, Harley Reid, Liam Duggan and Reuben Ginbey swooped to initiate Eagle attacks. Clayton Oliver (nine clearances) and Christian Salem were good for the Demons but were outpointed by the combined Eagles midfield who won more contested possessions, particularly in the first half. Jake Waterman and Jack Darling were the Eagles' main targets up forward with Waterman taking thirteen marks and booting five goals. Darling only took four marks but with thirteen tackles, he kept the Melbourne defenders under constant pressure.

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AFANA's Who's Hot and Who's Not #2

Nick Daicos (file photo/AFANA)

In our second review of the season, we are approaching the halfway mark. AFANA crunches the numbers to bring you the hottest and coldest players in the league.

HOT:

NICK DAICOS (Collingwood Magpies):

After a patch of indifferent form starting in round two, this budding superstar has absolutely torn the competition apart in recent weeks.

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Accurate Swans Punish Offline Dockers

Florent kicks (file photo/AFANA)

The Sydney Swans strengthened their position at the top of the ladder with an eight-goal victory over the inaccurate Fremantle Dockers. The Dockers matched Sydney in the midfield with good clearance work but were inefficient in attack. At the other end Sydney were ruthless and kicked accurately to punish any Docker turnovers. The pressure applied by both teams was strong with tackling from both sides a feature of the match. Sydney's Brodie Grundy dominated in the ruck, but the Dockers got first use of the ball through the strong clearance work of Andrew Brayshaw, Luke Jackson, and Caleb Sorong. As the game progressed Chad Warner, Errol Gulden, and James Rowbottom became more involved in play to cement the early good work of the Sydney forwards.

The game started with four forward entries by the Dockers for just two behinds (worth a point each).  After ten minutes of the Dockers dominating the midfield, Sydney broke through to launch an attack through with a snapped goal by Logan McDonald. Five minutes later Will Hayward booted the Swans second goal when the Docker defenders were caught out of position. Sydney's pressure on the ball then generated a forward-half intercept and Jake Lloyd goaled. The Dockers booted their first goal after an intercept in their own forward half and some fancy footwork by defender Brandon Walker, who kicked truly.

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Blues Hold Off Fast Finishing Demons

Petracca Goals (file photo/AFANA)

A cool drizzly night made it easy for fans to watch from home but the match saw a good crowd of 58,472 turn up to the MCG. The drizzle was falling early but not enough to make it too slippery at the start. After an early arm wrestle the Blues struck first after six minutes of play, where each team worked cautiously to feel each other out. Walsh broke the shackles, snapping around the body from 35 meters out, straight in front, for the Blues. 

While the Blues midfielders were looking for Harry and Charlie, it was the big man from the middle in Pittonet who marked and goaled at the top of the 50. Martin made it three goals in 5 minutes for the Blues when he marked at the top of the goal square. The rain grew heavier halfway through the quarter. Neither team could score again for another seven or eight minutes, but Harry McKay was able to get a better read on a bad kick to evade the defending Lever and mark and goal from 20 meters out.  

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Bombers Survive Late Eagle Challenge

Kyle Langford (file photo/AFANA)

The Essendon Bombers survived a late challenge by a determined West Coast Eagles to win by one goal in a thriller at Optus Stadium. The Bombers had more of the play for three quarters but couldn't finish scoring opportunities off the strong work of their midfield. Whereas the Eagles launched less attacks but were more efficient in attack. The Bombers used handball to break out of packs but the Eagles' players were more inclined to "roll the dice" and take on the tackler to get out of tight situations. Veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein, was dominant in for Essendon and for three quarters the Bombers won more clearances through his combination with Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett at ground level. Goldstein tired in the last stanza and an improved second half by Tim Kelly of the Eagles in the packs brought the hosts back into the game.

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Adelaide Star Sloane Retires

Rory Sloane (file photo/AFANA)

In late April, Adelaide star Rory Sloane announced his immediate retirement from football due to ongoing issues with an eye injury. Sloane, 34, made the decision after consulting eye specialists. He required surgery for a detached retina in 2021 and required a second surgery this past January after suffering the same injury during preseason training. He also suffered a torn retina in 2013 and a fractured eye socket in 2017.

He said he did everything he could to return to playing, including exploring goggles options, but felt the risk to his health was just too great. In making the announcement he said, ... I really wanted to make sure I'd left nothing in the tank. And I tried absolutely everything to get back. And yeah, I was close ... "I love my job. I've loved being a part of this for 16 years. And it's probably the realization that you've got to let that go ... for the betterment of my future health was just pretty tough for me ... ". He also said he was "spooked" by stories of detached retinas. He said in the end, goggles would not have worked as detached retinas are caused by head knocks rather than pokes in the eye.

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Dockers Even Hotter Than Hot Dogs

Fyfe Weaves (file photo/AFANA)

The Western Bulldogs have been hot and cold this year. At Optus Stadium they were hot, but they met a group of Dockers who were stinging from a loss to West Coast the week before. The two desperate teams, with three wins each, put on a thrilling display of everything that Australian football should be. Kicking skills came to the fore as players passed with precision. High marking contests thrilled at each end of the ground and play transitioned with lighting speed from defense into attack. The tackling from both sides was brutal and the pressure on the ball carriers was relentless.

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