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by Tim Murphy

The real footy is still happening. I’m off to China on Sunday for a couple of weeks, by the way, so if anyone in Soochow (Suzhou) or Beijing wants a drink and talk footy, let me know.

St. Kilda 2.1  3.7  5.10  8.12.60 
Adelaide 5.3 10.7 13.12 18.15.123

History repeats . . . Last year the Camrys massacred the Stainers by 80-odd points at Docklands and this was much the same. Stainer fans will be hoping the repetition continues, as in September 2005 they put Addleaid out of the finals at Foopall Park. There’ll have to be a big turnaround. In selection the Saints lost Jason Blake with a hamstring injury and dropped wet-weather specialist Mark McGough, in came Xavier Clarke and Andrew McQualter. Sinkilda hope to have Aaron Hamill back after the break, Justin Koschitzke started training again last week but collapsed on live TV on Sunday, a worry. Aaron Fiora played his 100th game here, it ended unhappily as he was singled out afterwards by Thomas for displaying cowardice. The Camrys lost Nathan Van Berlo with a fractured collarbone and Brett Burton (hamstring soreness) was a late pull-out. Jason Torney and Bernie Vince were called up from the Snaffle.

The Camry’s chief advantage was their ability to exert extreme midfield and backline pressure on the Saints, who coughed the ball up regularly as they were gang-tackled. The Camrys dominated early possession, territory and scoring. Scrambling Saint defenders Max Hudghton and Sam Fisher just touched goal-bound Camry shots, either side of running Cow Scott Stevens booting the opening goal. Stevens was actually playing CHB, on Nick Riewoldt - with help from Nathan Bassett. Camry man Brent Reilly roved a throw-in, exchanged handpasses with Kris Massie and slotted a running major. Bassett initiated a rebound and kicked long, Trent Hentschel free-kicked a goal after being caught a little high by Sam Fisher. The Camrys quickly 20 points ahead, Sinkilda hadn’t scored and had barely been forward of the centre. Aaron Fiora missed a running shot for their opening score, as Leigh Matthews observed last week the Camrys are dangerous from a kick-in. This one moved rapidly and ended with Ken McGregor free-kicking a goal. A moment later Massie punted long and doubling-back Hentschel marked in the goal-square and tapped it through. The Cressidas led by 32 points. The Stainers began to work into it and stopped the scoring for a bit, eventually Robert Harvey passed for leading Stephen Milne to mark and convert. His first goal for three games. A bit later Camry winger Martin Mattner was caught in a good tackle from McQualter, the young Saint handballed for Brendon Goddard to boot a very good major. The Saints were in the game, 20 points behind at the first break. For the second stanza Sainter coach Thomas moved Riewoldt to full-forward and Fraser Gehrig out to CHF, aimed at reducing the double- and triple-teaming of Riewoldt. But it didn’t work as lumbering Gehrig was an ineffective CHF, the Saints were being hammered in midfield and as a result Riewoldt had very few opportunities. Things might’ve worked out better for the Saints if they’d kicked more accurately for goal, Harvey and Goddard missed shots early in the second term. The Camrys chipped the ball about the centre until Andrew McLeod sprinted through to receive a handpass, sold a noice dummy and booted a very classy goal. Simon Goodwin cleared the restart with a free-kick and Scott Thompson roved the pack to snap one. The Camrys were cruising now, Matthew Bode roved a throw-in and handballed for Mark Ricciuto to wallop a huge snap home from 45m. ‘Roo’ had almost been a late withdrawal with groin-soreness, we were told. McLeod punted the ball forward from the restart, leading to another rover’s goal for Thompson, at which stage the Camrys led by 42 points. Riewoldt free-kicked a goal for the Saints after being shoved in-the-back by Stevens, but a little later a hanging kick from Sainter Leigh Fisher allowed Stevens to out-mark Riewoldt and pass to McGregor, he converted. The Camrys led by 43 points at half-time.

The third term began without Robert Harvey for the Sainters, hamstring trouble ending his night. The Saints were caught over-handballing in their backline, a turnover occurred and Bode passed to Hentschel for a grab and major. “The Saints are fiddling around in defence because there’s no hard-leading half-forward,” observed Brereton. That’d be Riewoldt (or Hamill). The Saints continued to waste scoring opportunities, a very poor effort from Clarke followed by a behind from Nick Dal Santo, who was being thrashed by Goodwin. A bit later terrific roving from Thompson allowed him to find Ricciuto with a pass, Roo converted and the Camrys led by 54 points. The Saints managed a rare, rapid centre-clearance and Gehrig led, marked, but missed. But the Saints had a decent several minutes now, coinciding with Dal Santo winning a few kicks. Camry man Bassett kicked straight to Gehrig, G-Train ran ahead and stabbed a good pass for Riewoldt to mark and boot a sausage. From a ball-up in attack Stainer ruckman Michael Rix tapped perfectly for Milne to snap truly, the Saints reduced their deficit to 41 points. But soon enough another Sinkilda turnover gave the Corollas a chance, McLeod and McGregor combined to make an easy goal for Bode. The Stainers blazed away to the end of the term, Leigh Montagna kicked on-the-full following a three-bounce run. Early in the final term Sainter full-back Hudghton limped off with a leg injury, he’d done alright on Ricciuto. Some hard Camry tackling forced the ball loose for the prolific Goodwin to boot a goal. Goodwin leads the AFL in final-quarter disposals, apparently. The Cows led by 56 points and were going to win by at least that. Frustrated Gehrig was starting to throw his weight and arms around, sometimes to good effect. But I flicked over to SBS just in time to see that fantastic goal scored by Cambiasso for Argentina. A mate rang to discuss the goal and the World Cup in general and I kinda lost interest in the Saints and Camrys. I did return to see Gehrig kick a goal for the Saints but the Camrys got three in the last five minutes, two from strong-marking ruckman Rhett Biglands having a run at full-forward. There’s no doubt the Camrys are very good. Usual questions regarding the Saints.

As he is many times Simon Goodwin (34 disposals, a goal) was the Camrys’ chief, giving Dal Santo a bit of a hiding in the process. Goodwin’s lieutenants Tyson Edwards (25 touches) and muscular Scott Thompson (23 possessions, 2 goals) were also good, as were Neil Craig’s resurrected men Kris Massie (21 touches, 7 marks), playing as a half-forward I think, and Scott Stevens (8 marks, 17 touches, a goal) on Riewoldt. Andrew McLeod (22 possies, a goal) and Graham ‘Stiffy’ Johncock (19 handlings, 9 marks) cruised off half-back and winger Martin Mattner (27 disposals, 12 marks) showed some improved form. Trent Hentschel kicked 3 goals and there were 2 majors each for Mark Ricciuto, Ken McGregor, Brent Reilly and Rhett Biglands. Best Saint was probably the attacking half-back Brendon Goddard (33 disposals, 13 marks, a goal). Fellow defender Sam Fisher (21 touches, 10 marks) and feisty tagger Steven Baker (21 handlings) were alright, Luke Ball (25 possessions) was best of the struggling midfield. Justin Peckett (16 touches) played okay. Nick Riewoldt and Stephen Milne kicked 2 goals each. Thomas complimented the Camrys on the pressure they exerted. "I thought they hit us really hard and their tackling was superb and the pressure they put on us even made us compound a little bit when we didn't have any pressure on us. I think it was anticipated pressure from the pressure we had been getting so we told our players they are a very, very good pressure side and they work really hard. The way they tackled and the way they pressure at the contest was exemplary." Neil Craig tallied up the positives. "Considering the short break and the trip to Brisbane and injuries to Nathan van Berlo and Brett Burton, certainly our players need to be complimented on the way they performed - it was a very, very good win," he said. "To take away people's time and space is important because - as we all find in any walk of life - to make a decision when you've got minimal time is difficult and it's no different in sport. It's an important part of our game and we want to make sure that it becomes cemented in the way we play, so it's just another area where we keep working on."

At Subiaco:

Fremantle 3.6  5.8  5.13 6.16.52
Geelong 4.3 12.6 15.8 18.10.118

Terrific win for the Cats going into the break. Sweet too after they were beaten at Kardinia Park by the Dockers last year. Freo were very poor. Lacking intensity and displaying some farcically woeful goal-shooting, they dropped outta the eight here. By the final quarter the local Foxtel apologists were citing Freo’s injuries as an excuse. It’s true skipper Bell, Longmuir and some others were missing, from last week you could add Antoni Grover (dislocated shoulder), Daniel Gilmore (knee) and Graham Polak, who injured his groin against the Bulldogs when running past the ball to bump a bloke half his size. Sums up the club, really. By the end of this Luke McPharlin and luckless Robert Haddrill, playing his first game for year, had also hobbled off. But there’s no excuse for a weak effort and a non-functioning game plan. In selection Haddrill, Troy Cook and Ryan Crowley returned for the Dockers to replace the above-mentioned trio. The Cats had captain Steven King return along with Kane Tenace and enigmatic Kent Kingsley, they replaced the dropped Mark Blake, injured Andrew Mackie (groin) and Steve Johnson, who had surgery on damaged knee cartilage last week. Matthew Scarlett played his 150th.

The game got off to a messy, lethargic start. Perhaps it was the general atmosphere, a sparse (for Sooby) crowd had just suffered Perth’s coldest night on record. Both sides missed a string of kickable shots amongst some end-to-end rebound footy. Eventually Shocker Matthew Pavlich goaled after being paid a very dubious mark. A bit later Dokka Brett Peake sped forward and booted a grubbing, mongrel punt, well-gathered by McPharlin. He passed for Ryan Crowley to mark and boot a 50m goal. Crowley was wearing a padded helmet after being ‘Picketted’ a few weeks ago. Freo led by 14 points. Cat Cameron Mooney has proved a very useful CHF in recent weeks, Mooney booted the Cats’ first goal after marking strongly. The Cats soon had a second after Freo man David Mundy’s bizarre, floated handpass-to-nobody was collected gratefully and snapped through by Corey Enright. A Cat centre-clearance followed - they won most clearances, centre-bounce or otherwise - Mooney marked again and kicked for Matthew Stokes to mark and convert. Within 30 seconds Mooney clutched another grab and set up a chance for Shannon Byrnes, he missed. But Mooney was clearly troubling the Shockers and Michael Johnson was moved away from him, replaced by Parker. Freo’s Shaun McManus used a free-kick to find running Mundy, he passed for leading light-tower Aaron Sandilands to grab and convert. Freo led by a point but they’d already scored half their eventual goal-total. An early indication of their subsequent problems came as Des Headland missed a running shot after a terrific bump from Troy Cook won the ball, then Paul Medhurst kicked on-the-full from a set shot. The Cat free resulting was run afield by speedy Byrnes, he kicked for Stokes to hold a good contested grab against Byron Schammer in the battle of the midgets. Stokes passed for Gary Ablett Jnr to mark and convert after the siren. Cats by 3 points at the first break. The early second term was not great. McPharlin failed to make the distance from 45m, Cat captain Steven King kicked across-goal and saw Freo’s Jeff Farmer intercept, he postered from 20m. The Katz advanced smoothly from the kick-in, Mooney involved again as he dished off to James Kelly, his kick was marked strongly by Gary Ablett in front of Cook. Gablett majored. Cook had been deputized to stand G. Ablett, Cook is a rugged, hard nut but an aerialist he is not. Medhurst replied for Freo with a beautiful long set-shot from the flank, which appeared a complete fluke in context. The Katz led by 3 points and constructed a run-on. Joel Corey won the ball at the restart and Brad Ottens charged out to seize a big pack-grab, he goaled. Cameron Ling, tagging Paul Hasleby, slipped forward to grab a mark and boot a goal. The Cats were deriving much run from half-back, Enright cruised afield with a coupla bounces and kicked for Ottens to mark over the hapless Johnson, The Ott majored again. Shortly Stokes goaled from a soft free-kick and Geelong led by 28 points. Hopelessly biassed Foxtel men Jason Bennett and Peter Wilson suggested Geelong were certain to fade, based on events at Kardinia Park a fortnight back. In a twinkling Darren Milburn hammered a 50m set-shot for a Jeelong goal, Gary Ablett out-marked Cook again and booted another. Six consecutive Catter goals had sent them 40 points ahead. Freo broke the run as an unexpectedly direct move ended with a noice running goal from Des Headland. But the Cats had the last say of the half, Paul Chapman snapping a ripper after being set up by Kent Kingsley. The Handbaggers led by 40 points at the long break.

Ottens commenced the second half in the ruck, he was awarded a free-kick at the opening bounce of the third Mario and punted the Cats forward. Gary Ablett gathered the loose ball and snapped it through. A minute later Mooney bustled opponents aside for a tough grab, he majored and the Catters led by 52 points. The Shockers swung multiple changes, McPharlin went to Mooney, Michael Johnson went forward and Pavlich ran all over the place trying to lift his side. The Dockers began to win the ball and attack a bit. “The Dockers have the momentum,” proclaimed Wilson and Bennett. Freo wasted the alleged momentum. Matthew Carr hooked poorly with a set-shot, Headland missed a running kick and Johnson, having a ‘mare, behinded following a strong grab. My brother-in-law Stewie rang. “The local commentators reckon Freo can come back,” I said. “Fremantle are not West Coast,” he replied. A very good point. McPharlin was carried off with a leg injury, Farmer kicked on-the-full and galloping Parker booted a behind. Medhurst missed a long shot with his standard two-step approach before, late in the term, Ottens goaled for the Cats with a soft free-kick, after dropping a mark. Cats by 55 points at the last change. Poor ol’ Haddrill didn’t start the last quarter, early-on Medhurst led and marked and kicked for Farmer to take a good grab against Cat junior Tim Callan. Farmer goaled, ‘slashing’ the Cat lead to 49 points - or exactly double the Dokkas’ total. Freo’s McManus cleared the restart, Medhurst held a tough mark in front of Josh Hunt. And kicked on-the-full. Commentator Wilson criticized Medhurst, a personal turning point perhaps. Farmer kicked a point before the Cats ended the Dockulators’ misery. Gary Ablett gathered a low, bouncing kick, baulked smartly around Parker and slotted a goal with a low punt. Kingsley and yes, Medhurst booted behinds before Ottens marked and goaled with a great kick from 50m on-the-flank. Gary Ablett closed proceedings with his sixth goal, snapped through smartly after breaking a very weak tackling attempt from James Walker. The game in microcosm, that.

A personal best 6 goals for Gary Ablett Jnr, coming from 14 disposals and 4 marks. He was very good, as was Cameron Mooney (13 marks, 22 disposals, 2 goals) who must surely be allowed to stay at CHF for the foreseeable duration. Brad Ottens (7 marks, 20 disposals, 4 goals) reminded folks he can play, Joel Corey (22 touches) was prolific from clearances as Cameron Ling (23 possies, a goal) tagged Hasleby out of it. Corey Enright (20 disposals, a goal) had plenty of the pill rebounding and Matthew Scarlett (8 marks, 16 handlings) was solid on the milestone, Freo man McPharlin did nothing in attack. Matthew Stokes (7 marks, 12 disposals, 2 goals) proved useful. The Dockers’ best were probably hard-working Josh Carr (33 disposals, 10 marks) and running flankers Brett Peake (20 touches) and Des Headland (23 disposals, 1.3). David Mundy (22 possies, 7 marks) worked hard in defence and Matthew Carr (14 possies) was sort-of alright. The Shockers had six goal-kickers, Medhurst finished with 1.2 plus two on-the-full. "I don't want to witch-hunt, or name individual players. Obviously we had a lot of poor players today," battlin’ Chris Connolly said. "Everyone's got their things they have to deal with after a loss today, everyone in the club. We've got to get some things together quickly and move forward. We need to, as a group, really sort out what's acceptable and what's not with the way we go about our business, and make sure we are in the right frame of mind intensity-wise. Our intensity wasn't right today, and it should have been." Slightly more relaxed Cat coach Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson said "We haven't had too many times where we've come away (from Perth) with a win," he said. "It was a good result. We've played pretty well the last three weeks and we're playing longer in games, and today was probably the best we've played for a while. We know we're capable, we do know that, the players know that, the supporters basically know that . . . I was pretty confident that at some stage we'd get out of it (the form slump) and I'm pretty confident that that has arrived."

At Football Park:

Port Adelaide 2.4 5.11 10.15 13.19.97 
West Coast 3.2 4.6 6.7 8.12.60

Port are back, it would seem, with a new, young, fast midfield. Or West Coast’s erratic form finally caught up with them. No Great Escape III, in the end the scoreboard probably flattered the sandgropers. Danyle Pearce and Shaun Burgoyne have revitalised Port’s midfield, with youngsters like Jacob Surjan and Brad Symes providing some run from the back. Unfortunately. Oh, unfortunately Tredrea suffered a knee injury late in it, might be out for a few weeks. In selection the Power regained Dominic Cassisi and Damon White, they also picked Central District’s Elijah Ware for his AFL debut. He’s a speedy half-forward, sorta like Daniel Motlop but nowhere near as expensive. Outta the Flower side went injured Matthew Bishop (back-related hamstring) and Toby Thurstans (ankle) while James Ezard was dropped. The Eegs selected junior midfielders Shannon Hurn and Matthew Priddis to replace dropped forward Ashley Hansen and Matt Rosa, who’d been concussed by Ryan Houlihan last week. Surely a non-sequitir.

A very cold night in Adelaide. The TV folk discussed ‘the tortoise and the hare’. Port are the fastest-starting team in the last month and the Weegs, obviously, the best-finishing. Roles were reversed early as the Weegles started well. Rowan Jones free-kicked the opening goal after he was clouted in the face by Symes. Port pressed a bit but missed some gettable chances. A good combination between Weevils Jaymie Graham and Jones allowed Daniel Chick to mark on-the-lead, he converted. More sloppy Port attacking saw the Wiggles rebound, Mark Nicoski bombed long. Port ruckman Dean ‘Rocky’ Brogan spilled a mark and Quinten Lynch pounced to snap truly. The Eegs led by 17 points. Much rugged midfield play followed, the Weegs defended well. Port finally broke through late in the term, a rapid rebound saw first-gamer Elijah Ware mark on-the-lead, he dished off for Adam Thomson to boot a running major. A bit later Chad Cornes held a goal-square mark over opponent Tyson Stenglein, played-on and stabbed it through for a sausage - or did he? The umpires (field, goal and boundary) engaged in a lengthy discussion before awarding Cornes the goal, replays showed Stenglein’d knocked him off-balance and Cornes had missed the ball, dropping it over the line. Stu Dew thundered a long set-shot for a point before the first break. The locals had some momentum now, early in the second term Warren Tredrea free-kicked a major after being held back by his man, Adam Hunter. Port led by a point. Rugged play from Michael Wilson and Jacob Surjan won the ball for Port, sprinting Danyle Pearce passed for Brendon Lade on the 50m line. Lade hammered it through, Port led by 8 points having scored the previous four goals of the game. Another tough, scoreless spell ensued before Weegle rebound man Nicoksi booted long, Chad Fletcher was on-hand to collect pack-spillage and snap it through. Port nudged ahead again as a very good effort from Brett Ebert got the ball to Damon White, he dished off for Josh Mahoney to slot a goal. They led by 7 points and booted a stream of behinds to the end of the half, Cassisi’s poster and Thomson’s soccer effort the closest to goaling. The under-pressure Eegs rushed a couple.

Port’s committed effort saw them gradually move ahead after the long break. Wilson thumped a huge 60m kick for a bounce-through goal to extend their lead to 18 points. The Weegs managed a reply as Lynch collected Fletcher’s pass and booted truly. But the Power had the bit between the teeth now. Chadley Cornes missed following a strong grab but soon Thomson booted a running goal, Port led by 19 points. Weegle coach Worsfold had elected to isolate Brent Staker at full-forward, a Powerman fumble allowed Graham to boot forward and Staker plucked a good grab, he goaled. The Flowers responded, Lade tapped behind from a throw-in, Shaun Burgoyne weaved smartly and passed for Ware to mark and convert. Port by 20 points. They attacked from the restart and only a terrific mark from Darren Glass prevented another Pooey goal. One came eventually though, a Port man was slung over the boundary-line and the resulting free was marked and punted through by Tredrea. Another burst of speed from Pearce led to a terrific goal for Mahoney and Port led by 32 points. They played keepings-off to the end of the korter. The committed Powermen held on against the battling comeback kings in the last. The standard Weegle moves (Hunter, Wirrpanda forward) were made but amongst five consecutive Weeg behinds Wirrpanda missed woefully and Daniel Kerr’s great soccer effort just missed. A minute later Port’s Dom Cassisi gathered a ball-up, with help from Chad Cornes, and steered a terrific kick for a sausage roll. Port led by 33 points. No scoring for a while as the midfields hammered each other. Tredrea limped off with strained knee ligaments before Staker goaled for the Eegs with another good one-out grab. But the result was sealed by two terrific goals from Shaun Burgoyne. The first was snapped after S-Burg collected another throw-in tap from outstanding Lade and slipped classily from a coupla tackles before hooking it through, sending the freezing crowd into raptures. Pearce’s terrific intercept set up the next, goal-square finessing from Burgoyne leading to the snapped major. Port were 42 points ahead before Nicoski blasted a consolation major for the Weegs.

Port have been resuscitated by the skill of Shaun Burgoyne (34 disposals, 2 goals) and the outright speed of Danyle Pearce (31 disposals). Along with Kane Cornes (29 touches, 8 marks) beating Cousins and the continued top form of ruckman Brendon Lade (17 disposals, a goal), it’s a potent on-ball crew. Other up-and-comers like Adam Thomson (17 possies, 2 goals) and Steven Salopek (18 touches) played well, veteran full-back Darryl Wakelin (12 marks, 22 disposals) was very good. Josh Mahoney and Warren Tredrea, the latter generally held by Hunter, kicked 2 goals each. With Cousins battling against Kane Cornes and Dan Kerr tagged by Surjan, the Weegs relied on Chad Fletcher (26 disposals, a goal) to win most possession with Mark Nicoski (29 touches, a goal) very good off half-back. Michael Braun (23 touches) and mobile-for-a-big-man Jaymie Graham (10 marks, 16 possies) played well, rugged Beau Waters (21 possessions) did a bit. Adam Selwood (20 touches, 10 marks) played alright. Quinten Lynch and Brent Staker kicked 2 goals each. Had the Weegles diced with their form once too often John Worsfold? He thought maybe. “We got beaten across the field in the last three quarters," he said. "I thought we were very poor in our set-up (at the clearances) and our ability to at least make it tough for them to clear the ball. It wasn't just that we weren't clearing it, they just took it away way too easily too many times. We went in wide a lot, which was disappointing. Early on we were going in pretty quick and getting it into targets, and we looked dangerous. But I just felt we stopped running and that meant our forward 50s were a lot slower and gave Port plenty of time to get numbers back." Mark Williams attempted irony. "I suppose five or six weeks ago I was thinking there was every chance we'd get the priority (draft) picks. Unfortunately, that's gone bye the bye now so I suppose we'll have to keep working towards winning more games,” he chuckled. Then became serious. "The fact is we'll still be very much focused on developing our list so that we can win our next premiership. That might mean you don't win every game but we got a lot of confidence out of tonight and I'm sure our supporters sitting back there would see some real fantastic signs with a lot of the young players.

At the Gabba:

Brisbane  4.5  7.10 12.12 14.19.103 
Footscray 7.4 13.7 20.9 22.13.145

A sad tale of injuries overshadowed the result, the Bulldogs losing an unprecedented fifth player to a season-ending knee injury: tough ruck-rover Mitch Hahn. Lyin’ man Ashley McGrath tore his hamstring badly enough to end his season and team-mate Troy Selwood was stretchered off, concussed. Otherwise it was the Dogs’ traditional fast-running play which dictated the result, they managed an alleged ‘record’ 53 running bounces in overpowering the game Lyin’s. Still no Jonathan Brown for Brisbun and Mal Michael was a late withdrawal (bruised ribs). Juniors Rhan Hooper and Cameron Wood were dropped, the Brians did have Jamie Charman return from suspension while Scott Harding and Cheynee Stiller were recalled. Robert Copeland played his 100th game. Unsettled Lyin’ Jason Akermanis loosed his mouth again last week, announcing he was still angry about being dropped a month ago and refusing to commit to the Brians next year (he is contracted to them). Aker’s brother went on-line to call Lyin’ coach Leigh Matthews a ‘f-wit’. The Bullpup team was unchanged, incidentally.

The Lisbon Brians started well. Troy Selwood booted the opening goal following a great blind-turn. A minute later Dan Bradshaw spilled a mark on-the-lead - he’s got the marking ‘yips’ - but gathered and handpassed for Simon Black to boot a goal. Lyin’s by 12 points but as you can see, a lot of goals were kicked here. The Dogs cleared the restart, Brad Johnson exchanged foot-passes with Brett Montgomery and booted their first. At this stage Brisbun’s Selwood hurt himself, falling backwards and smacking his head nastily on the ground. Stretcher required, after which Bulldog Chris Grant free-kicked a goal to level the scores. Very poor decision it was, by-the-way. Classy play from Lyin’ Jared Brennan created a mark and major for Ash McGrath and the Lyin’s were a goal ahead, back came the Dogs as Lindsay Gilbee’s mongrelled kick was tapped-on smartly by Dan Cross for his mentor Scott West to boot low sausage. The Bullies went a goal ahead after lumbering Pete Street converted from a mark, but the Brians tied the scores again with a noice rover’s goal from Michael Rischitelli. The Dogs spurted prior to the break. A centre-clearance followed the Rischitelli six-pointer and Grant’s subtle tap-on saw Brad Johnson dob a running goal. Brisbun blazed a few shots before a Doggy rebound led to a major for Matthew Robbins. Street won a free at the restart and dished off to Mitch Hahn, he passed for Matthew Boyd to mark and major. Dogs by 17 points at the first break. They carried the momentum into the second quarter, Gilbee’s long kick picked out Montgomery, he handballed for Boyd to stab it through. Brad Johnson marked 50m out and lobbed a kick to the ‘square, roving Hahn snapped it home. Battlin’ Lyin’ Bradshaw failed to make the distance from 45m and the Puppies rebounded smartly, Ryan Griffen’s kick was a wobbly shocker but Johnson sped onto it and snapped it through. Six unanswered goals from the Dogs and they led by 35 points. The mercurial Jared Brennan inspired a Lyin’ resurgence. Brennan rode a Dog for a terrific speccie and lobbed a kick for leading Bradshaw to clutch, he converted. Huzzah! Typically, Brennan dropped a far easier mark a minute later but gathered the crumb, sped clear and speared it through. The Lyin’s were 24 points down as Hahn hurt his knee at this point, in a seemingly innocuous marking contest. Shocking luck for him and the cursed Bulldogs, five season-ending knees and we’re barely halfway through the year. After the delay Brisbun continued to surge, McGrath should’ve capped a great, speedy run with a goal but blasted a stoopid, low kick straight into two Bulldogs in the goal-square. A bit later Bulldog ruckman Wayde Skipper coughed up the ball in a good tackle from Harding and Black booted a major for the Lyin’s, they were 16 points down. Again the Bulldogs hurt ‘em late, Dale Morris’s long run from defence ended with a great snapped major from Ryan Hargrave. The Bulldogs cleared the restart and passes from Montgomery to Johnson to Grant saw another Bully major, Grant soon bagged his third goal with a strong grab over undersized Rischitelli. The Dogs had booted 33 points clear at the long break.

Didn’t see much of the second half but the same helter-skelter scoring pace kept up for the third term. The Lyin’s appeared in deep trouble as the Bullies banged through three goals in the first five minutes, including one for the fairly quiet Adam Cooney and a second for Street - at least one Bulldog who’s benefitted from all the injuries. A 50-point lead to the Dogs but the Lyin’s responded with the next three majors, from Black, Akermanis and second-gamer Martin Pask. The Bullies stretched the margin irretrievably though, with the next four majors. Veteran leaders Johnson and Grant booted the first three between them and then Matty Robbins got one, the Dogs were 54 points ahead. The Lyin’s got it back to 45 points by the final change, the last quarter was fairly lackluster as the players tired. McGrath tore his hamstring off-the-bone. Ow.

Brad Johnson never seems to be in bad form, he booted 6 goals here from 8 marks and 24 disposals. Scott West (36 touches, a goal) had plenty of it again, Adam Cooney (26 handlings, a goal) started slowly against Luke Power but finished well, Matty Boyd (29 possies, 10 marks, 2 goals) was good too. Chris Grant (10 touches, 4 goals), apparently not 100%, enjoyed a run up forward, full-back Brian Harris played well on Bradshaw. Big Pete Street (6 marks, 11 disposals, 2 goals) is lovin’ every opportunity. Matthew Robbins kicked 2 goals. The Lyin’s experienced midfielders Simon Black (26 disposals, 3 goals) and Luke Power (36 possies) played very well. There were handy efforts again from young runners Justin ‘The Shermanator’ Sherman (23 possies), Matthew Moody (15 touches, 2 goals) and Michael Rischitelli (10 disposals, 10 tackles, 2 goals). Jason Akermanis (21 handlings, a goal) played alright, took a nice grab over a pack. Jared Brennan (18 touches, 8 marks, a goal) fired ‘em for a bit. Their main trouble was in the key positions. “We’ve played alright the last five or six weeks, but we weren’t very good tonight, we were average,” began Matthews. "You have to be really careful about having shots at goal. And that's something Jared Brennan has to learn. A couple of his behinds were always going to be behinds. They were never going to be anything else other than behinds. He was in no position to kick a goal from the boundary line and then the opposition gets a chance to attack. We didn't take our chances and score and that was the same as last week." Rodney Eade professed some surprise to be 8-4 at the break. “Given our problems and the tough draw we’ve had, I’d have thought 7-5 or even 6-6 would’ve been great . . . tonight was a gutsy performance. I know they had a couple out, but with Mitch Hahn going down and 'Granty' (Chris Grant) not being 100 per cent, it was obviously a very courageous win. The last 15 minutes we were out on our feet a bit, but it was a fantastic win - we got the job done and I was certainly confident we could outrun them."

At York Park:

Hawthorn 2.3 7.6 12.7 16.9 .105 
Richmond 1.4 3.9 5.11 8.16.64

The completion of a good week for the Hawks as their run, desire and skill broke a lengthy 6-game losing streak. Last Tuesday the Hawks ended speculation over coach Alastair Clarkson by offering a him a new 2-year deal, with allowance for a ‘mentor’ to be appointed. Probably fair enough, as a number of folk pointed out the Horks are having a poor run with available senior players. Joining absentees Crawford, Jacobs and Croad (injured), Guerra and captain Vandenberg (suspended) was ruckman Peter ‘Spida’ Everitt (ankle). Josh Thurgood was dropped, incoming Horks were Clint Young, Tom Murphy and local Tasmanian Grant Birchall. The Tigers were unchanged following their win over the Kangas. As well as the game they lost form centreman Mark Coughlan for the remainder of the season, damaged knee ligament.

They’d spent 15K on a new siren at York Park, following the Fremantle/Sinkilda fiasco earlier in the season. As much as this was the Horks’ day, it wasn’t the Tiges’. They looked slow and half-interested from the start and their attitude was shown in some atrocious goal-shooting. Greg Tivendale kicked half of those 16 points, I think. Tiger centreman Mark Coughlan twanged a knee ligament in the first few minutes, not a good omen. Poor ol’ Cogs is out for the year, we’ve learned subsequently. Commentator ‘Dwaynepipe’ Russell commented on the opening minutes resembling circle-work as one side ran the ball easily down a flank, failed to manage a shot and the other team rebounded and followed suit. The Hawks booted the first goal eventually as Birchall gathered a low pass and booted truly. The Horkers attacked again thanks to a ridiculous free-kick, Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin was retarded. By Ray Hall and Franklin free-kicked a goal, Whorethorn led by 12 points. The Tiges had managed a few haphazard thrusts but were struggling inside the attacking 50m, it was hard to see in there as the shadow of the stand shrouded the Two Headed End, or whatever it’s called. Brett Deledio, busy early, embarked on a long run and drove it in, the ball bobbled around a bit until Richard Tambling snapped a goal. Nathan Brown missed a shot prior to the first break. Tivendale hooked a set-shot on-the-full to start the second stanza. Good battling from Hawk Franklin, playing well, allowed Ben Dixon to stab a major and they led by 11 points. The Big Pussies managed a decent spell, Greg Stafford kicked a long behind before Danny Meyer snapped a great goal following a skilful pick-up, Hawkies by 4 points. Hork spearhead Mark Williams postered after very good play from Franklin set him up, at the other end Tivendale missed for the third time. Despite the absence of tap expert Spida the Hawks were winning most clearances, rovers Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis played very well. Williams booted a goal for the Hoks with a great shot. Tim Clarke, winning plenty of the ball, passed for Dixon to lead, mark and convert. Big Tige junior Adam Pattison added to their mounting behind tally, the Hawks advanced swiftly from the kick-in and Franklin marked on the 50m line. He drove a low miskick which was marked easily by Lewis for a goal. Tige defender Chris Newman was caught in possession and Franklin snapped a great goal, four in-a-row for Horforn and they led by 29 points. The Toigers rallied a bit towards the end of the half, ruckman Troy Simmonds missed a shot but a moment later centered for Kayne Pettifer to mark, play-on and thump it through. The Hawks led by 21 points at half-time.

The Hawks went on to dominate the third term by dint of their ability to convert inside 50. Their running midfielders were far busier than the Tiger equivalents. Tigger men Pattison and Brown missed early shots, John Barker hooked on-the-full for Horforn. A wild handpass from Tige defender Andrew Raines was collected and snapped through by Franklin again, he had the Midas touch. Mitchell cleared the restart with a free-kick and Luke Brennan (I think I’ve called him Michael in the past) held a strong grab in front of his opponent, Joel Bowden. Brennan goaled and the Hawks led by 32 points. The teetering Tiges clung on, Tambling passed for Pettifer to mark on-the-lead and goal, a bit later Tivendale kicked smartly for Simmonds to mark over Jarryd Roughead and boot a major. The Tiges were 20 points behind. A quite comically bad miss from Hork Ben McGlynn matched anything the Tiges were producing but the Hawks soon steadied, Rick Ladson chipping a well-placed kick for steaming Robert Campbell to mark and stab through. Another Tivendale miss (!) was followed by another goal for ‘Buddy’ Franklin, collecting the ball after Tiger Hall dropped a straightforward mark. Dixon postered with a set shot but a minute later Dixon goaled, a free-kick against Raines. Horforn led by 38 points at the final change and although the TV people talked up Richmun’s chances there was less optimism in our lounge-room. Early in the final Mario Lanza Tige Tambling failed to make the distance from 40m, but a bit later Nathan Brown held a terrific with-the-flight mark in the goal-square and snapped it through with customary arrogance. The Tiges had a sniff, 31 points down. Yet the Hawks responded as Barker crashed a pack powerfully and handballed for Franklin to boot his fifth goal. Tige Chris Newman postered with a simple shot. TV hero Dennis Commetti noted John Barker’s resemblance to Vanderbilt from ‘F-Troop’. Raised a chuckle. Hawk Campbell Brown kicked cleverly for Brennan to take a very easy grab, he goaled and the Hawks were 42 points ahead. All over now. The Tiges’ first, clean centre-clearance of the day led to a goal for Pettifer, but it was answered by Franklin’s sixth goal, another handball-receive from Mark Williams this time. A successful but strange way to play CHF. Tim Clarke had a shot from 50m, it was short and wide and Campbell marked in the forward-pocket. He stood about until Clarke arrived in the goal-square and stabbed it back to him, Clarke popped it through. Simmonds kicked a consolation sausage for the Tiges as the game petered out.

Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, a kinda taller, skinnier Ronaldo, bagged 6 goals from 16 disposals and 2 marks. Never seen a key forward boot six all from handball-receives, but there you go. The Hawks’ on-ballers Sam Mitchell (31 disposals) and Jordan Lewis (24 touches, a goal) did very well around packs and the Hawks had the best runners in Tim Clarke (27 touches, 13 marks, a goal), Rick Ladson (23 kicks) and Clint Young (24 possies, 13 marks). Campbell Brown (18 possies, 11 marks) played well too and Ben Dixon (18 touches, 8 marks, 3 goals) was a useful forward. Luke Brennan (10 touches, 7 marks, 2 goals) effectively tagged Joel Bowden and did very well. The Tiges had three good players, ruckman Troy Simmonds (16 disposals, 26 hit-outs, 8 marks, 2 goals), half-forward Kayne Pettifer (11 marks, 21 disposals, 3 goals) who went all over the place in the end and Kane Johnson (19 disposals) beat Luke Hodge clearly, although Hodge has a damaged hand apparently. Tall junior Adam Pattison (10 marks, 16 disposals) did some handy things, mostly in defence. Brett Deledio (17 touches) had a bit of it early but disappeared. Greg Tivendale scored 0.2 and 2 on-the-full. "We had (almost) as many scoring shots as them, so from an opportunity point-of-view each of the two sides had the same opportunities - the difference was they kicked theirs and we didn't kick ours," Tige coach Terry Wallace said. "I just thought we were appalling in our ability to man up, I mean I thought we had some guys who were more worried about what their numbers read at the end of the day in relation to their own stats than what they were worried about playing two-way footy. You don't win any game of football unless you're prepared to do it both ways." A relieved Al Clarkson said "It was good to get on the winner's list finally because we've had a tough six weeks. We came down with a plan today to try and play with a bit more free spirit and run the ball and get back to, perhaps, the strengths that we have had over the last 18 months when we've been a really good running side. The last four to six weeks were probably self-inflicted really - we haven't gone out and run as much - and when we got out and ran today we were terrific, so that was the pleasing part of the game."

At Docklands:

Essendon  2.8 4.12 7.13 10.15.75 
Melbourne 2.3 5.7 12.10 16.15.111

Dee coach Neale Daniher was a relieved man after the Deez triumphed in what he regarded as a danger game. The Bommaz battled hard throughout the first half but their appalling inaccuracy in front of the sticks kept Melbun in it. The Dees awoke after half-time and booted away. Still, as we’ve mentioned and as Sheeds was at pains to point out afterwards, the Bombouts want to finish last (I’m paraphrasing Sheeds, possibly). They’re talking draft picks already and over the break this coming weekend Sheeds will, no doubt, keep a close eye on the National U18 Championships and croweater Bryce Gibbs, “the best kid to come out of SA in twenty years.” So they say. In selection Essington welcomed back James Hird (for a few minutes) and white elephant Scott Camporeale, Jobe Watson, Kepler Bradley, Henry Slattery and Paddy Ryder were also back. They replaced late withdrawal Dustin Fletcher and injured Jasons Winderlich (leg) and Laycock (knee) while Courtenay Dempsey, Ricky Dyson and Jay Nash were dropped. The Demuns had Matthew Whelan and Colin Sylvia return from injury, at the expense of Daniel Bell and Simon Godfrey.

With inspirational Hirdy barking the orders, the Dons started well. But of course Hirdy tweaked the hammy again early, stayed on but mostly gave handballs and encouragement. Camporeale fared better, he and Adam McPhee were influential early. Full-forward Joel Reynolds was busy for the Dons and snapped their opening goal, but he, Scotty Lucas, Brent Stanton and reclaimed Dee Chris Heffernan helped bundle their score along to 1.4 before the Dees got on the board, Ruus Bobertson bustled to snap it. The Dees got another from Colin Sylvia, thanks to a terrible turnover from the Dons, before good work from Mark Johnson set up a second goal for Reynolds amongst all the points. The second term continued in a similar vein, lots of midfield battle. Russ Robertson got another for the Dees. Scott Lucas put the Dons ahead with a goal thundered hugely from 55m but the Dees nurdled ahead Geoff Ogilvy style with four straight behinds to the end of the half. The Bommers’ defence had worked well in the first half, Dean Solomon stopped Neitz, Kepler Bradley kept Lynden Dunn out of it and McPhee was out-playing Travis Johnstone. The congested nature of the game allowed Aaron Davey little space. Ten minutes of slog opened the third term before the Dees cut loose. Don man Solomon had been moved forward after the Essadun doctor had a listen to his chest with a stethoscope, Courtney Johns switched to Neitz. The Dee skipper immediately bagged a goal and Cameron Bruce kicked two in succession, the first after intercepting McPhee’s misdirected punt. Phil Read roved a goal-mouth pack and dribbly-snapped a major as the Dees cleared out to a 21-point lead. The Bommaz clung on but late in the term Aaron Davey sped clear with the aid of a very late advantage call and dobbed a major, the Demuns led by 27 points at the last change. Hirdy tried to rally the Bommaz at the final change but to no avail, the Dees went home quite easily. Neitz thundered a huge goal from 55m, Johnstone and Bruce helped themselves to extra sausages. There were some good signs for the Dons, a strong mark and goal from Paddy Ryder and Stanton snaggled a noice one from a pack.

The Demun midfield took control in the end, led by James ‘Junior’ McDonald (29 disposals) with Travis Johnstone (24 touches, a goal) and Cameron Bruce (17 handlings, 2 goals) coming to the party eventually. Ruus Bobertson (6 marks, 18 touches, 4 goals) was very important up forward early in the piece, when the other Dee forwards were quiet. Melbun’s defence went well, led by big Ben Holland (14 disposals) and much-improved Nathan Carroll (19 handlings, 5 marks), ruckman Jeff White (13 marks, 19 disposals, 22 hit-outs) was good. David Neitz finished with 3 goals and Lynden Dunn improved after half-time to kick 2 second-half goals. The Dons had good service from Kepler Bradley (23 disposals, 11 marks) in defence and midfielder Brent Stanton (21 touches, 8 marks, a goal) is a reliable type. Adam McPhee (25 possies, 8 marks, a goal) fired them early although his disposal is still a worry. Youngsters Angus Monfries (17 touches, a goal) and Henry Slattery (16 disposals) give hope for the future while Andrew Welsh (26 handlings, 10 marks) played okay as an attacking half-back. Jim Hird (23 disposals inc. 15 handballs) and Scott Camporeale (24 touches) did a bit. Scott Lucas and Joel Reynolds kicked 2 goals each. "We needed to kick goals early and we had a great opportunity to have five or six goals on the board and we just didn't reward ourselves for our hard effort," Sheedy said. "Gradually, by the second half, we just probably carried too many to be honest and there were just not enough contributors in that second half. That was disappointing from that point of view because I thought we might have been able to be maybe two goals up at half-time. We just didn't get anything from our good players in our forward 50 really, which is disappointing." Neale Daniher said "We were lucky the Bombers couldn't put us away (early). They needed to put more scoreboard pressure on us. They dominated the start. You look at it as a coach and you say: 'We're in for a hard day today'. They were on and we were off. But I knew we’d switched on by half-way through the third quarter.” Going alright, they are. As Yoda would say. Time for the annual late-season slump after the break.

AFL Round 12 Part 2

At Docklands:

North Melbourne 4.2 8.6 12.8 18.13.121
Carlton 4.4 6.6 14.8 15.12.102

Good win for the Ruse in an entertaining game between these battlers. The Kangas' stronger group of midfield runners probably saw them home. The Bluesers will attend to that department during the draft at the end of the year. During the break-week formless Roo backman Jonathan Hay was spotted downing a few sherbets the night before his VFL game and sure enough, next day produced a fumbling, error-strewn effort for the Tassie Mariners. Hay was fined and suspended by the Kangas. In selection for this one the Roos regained Michael Firrito and called up Leigh Harding and Ben Schwarze. They replaced Jade Rawlings who was suspended for his head-high crunch on Tiger Tambling, Ed Sansbury and Cameron Thurley were dropped. The Bluies lost lethargic captain Anthony Koutoufides with a broken hand, Ian Prendergast with a stomach injury (insert joke about guts here) and tall young forward Josh Kennedy. Full-back Luke Livingston was dropped. Incoming Bluesers were Andrew Carrazzo, Luke Blackwell and ruck duo Adrian Deluca and Dylan McLaren. In Kouta's absence Lance Whitnall stood in as Carlton captain.

Roo coach Dean Laidley set the side up properly this week. David Hale was in the ruck, Drew Petrie at CHF and Shannon Grant up alongside big Nathan Thompson. Laidley did opt for one bit of innovation, forward Corey Jones started in defence on Matty Lappin. The Ruse goaled first, Thompson led long, marked and passed for leading Grant to grab and convert. The Bluies won the following centre-clearance, Brendan Fevola marked but missed. The Kangas messed up the kick-in though, Bloo Marc Murphy hooked a kick for Simon Wiggins to mark and slam through. Bloos Walker and Fevola missed shots during a decent spell for them, eventually Eddie Betts free-kicked a goal after he was flattened by Dan Harris. Busy Kade Simpson kicked long and Fevola soared for a big grab, he popped it through and the Bluebaggers led by 13 points. Several minutes of midfield battle followed before some more majors. Rooman Chad Jones passed for Thompson to mark and boot his first sausage. Blueser Murphy won the ball at the restart and passed for leading Fevola, who also had a 50m penalty after being shoved after marking by frustrated opponent Daniel Pratt. Pratt is a committed man but, as the commentators had noted, not so quick over the ground. Fev converted and the Bloos led by 13 points again. The Ruse got a coupla late ones, a slow build-up ended with Leigh Brown marking and thumping a 50m goal, a bit later Thompson marked on a long lead and set up Petrie for a mark and major. The Blooze lead cut to 2 points at the first break. The 'baggers managed the first goal of the second term, Fevola with another big grab in the goal-square. The Kangarse responded with a goal from Brown, tumbled through end-over-end after receiving Leigh Harding's handpass. The Bloos led by a point. The Ruse took control for a while through the agency of Grant, who was leading from deep. He sped out to collect Brady Rawlings's pass and boot a goal. The Kangas won the ball at the restart, Josh Gibson motored forward and kicked for leading Grant again, another goal. Within a minute Granty'd bagged his fourth goal and third in four minutes, the Ruse led by 17 points. And Shannon Grant should've had another within 30 seconds, but missed poorly from a mark on-the-lead. His opponent, Carrazzo, was belatedly replaced by Heath Scotland. The Blues broke the run as Luke Blackwell roved a throw-in to snap it through, but the Blueser fans were shocked as Fevola hyper-extended a knee during a marking attempt. They feared the worst. But . . .

. . . Fevola returned for the second half with his right knee heavily strapped. Norf scored the opener, Schwarze kicked high and Grant maneuvered to out-mark Andrew Walker, champion Granty booted his fifth and the Kangas led by 18 points. The Blues proceeded to take charge by dint of winning the midfield for a bit, Murphy, Kade Simpson and Nick Stevens important.
Stevens played as a CHF basically, he held a good mark and dished off to Simpson, who passed wide to Fevola. Bloo fans held their breath as Fev trotted in gingerly, but he thumped a terrific long goal from a tough angle and the Bluie fans roared in relief. Both sides missed a few shots before good work from Jordan Russell sent the Blooze forward, Fevola dropped a back-pedalling mark but Deluca collected the spillage and handballed back to Fev, he dribbly-snapped a great goal. A minute later Deluca booted a goal himself, courtesy a mysterious off-ball incident which led to a free-kick and 50m penalty for Deluca and a report for Roo Gibson. Norf's lead was cut to a point and soon Carton went ahead, handballs from Wiggins to Betts to Murphy ended with a running banana-major for Murph. On went the Blooze, Walker kicked long for Deluca to out-mark the hapless Gibson, the long-necked Bloo ruckman converted again. Running from defence, Roo defender Shannon Watt kicked directly to Kade Simpson, the ball went to Whitnall and on to unopposed ruckman Barnaby French for an easy mark and major. Six straight goals for the Bluesers and they led by 17 points. The run was broken by a goal for Roo Thompson, free-kicked after being shoved while leading by opponent Bret Thornton. The Kangas won a centre-clearance and Daniel Wells's super-slick handpass allowed Brent Harvey to find ruckman Hale unattended, Hale goaled and the Bloo lead was down to 6 points. They answered, directly from a centre-clearance Scotland's wobbly kick was marked by Carrazzo, he converted. Another Bloo centre-clearance followed and Lappin found leading Deluca, he thumped his third goal for the term from 50m and the Blues led by 18 points again. Norf got a very late major, Petrie found Corey Jones in space, he sold a noice dummy and hammered a long goal. Blues by 12 points at the final change.

The Bluesers looked the goods early in the final stanza. Stevens did very well to create two scoring chances, Deluca missed the first one but Simpson converted a free-kick from the next, Carlton led by 19 points. The Ruse steadied as their on-ballers, led by Brent Harvey and captain Adam Simpson, began to control the ball. Corey Jones returning to the forward-line helped, too. Jones snapped a great goal after the Kangas cleared the centre-bounce following the (Kade) Simpson score, reducing Carlton's lead to 13 points. There was some rugged midfield play for several minutes as both sides chased the win. Good on 'em. Norf broke the stalemate from a defensive rebound, Petrie kicked long and Leigh Brown floated in to hold a mark, he played-on and banged it through. Good, tough work at the restart saw the Ruse win the ball, Schwarze passed for Leigh Harding to mark on-the-lead. Commentator Brereton commented (accurately) on Harding's inaccuracy, of course Lethal Leigh split the middle and the Kangas led by a point. A minute later Jess Sinclair punted the Ruse forward, Harding collected pack-spillage, sped into space and snapped another sausage.  Match-winner! Momentum with the Ruse now, Adam Simpson missed a long shot but their Chad Jones marked the long Bloo kick-in and delivered to leading Thompson, he converted. Thompson sealed it with the final major, also from a mark-on-the-lead. Norf led by 23 points, Bloo men Fevola and Lappin kicked a coupla behinds in the final moments.

Shannon Grant responded to criticism of his recent, poor efforts with 5 goals from 9 marks and 13 kicks. Big forward Nathan Thompson (11 marks, 15 kicks, 4 goals) has been a model of consistency. The Roos received key midfield efforts from Brent Harvey (22 disposals), Adam Simpson (21 touches) and Brady Rawlings (22 possies), Troy Makepeace (21 touches) was good in the first half. Ruckman David Hale (12 disposals, 8 marks, a goal) helped Norf win centre-clearances, he's developing nicely. Leigh Brown wasn't so prominent but chipped in with 3 goals, Leigh Harding kicked them two handy late goals. The Bluies were led by excitement man Brendan Fevola (6 marks, 10 kicks, 5 goals) and they had very good midfield performances from Nick Stevens (23 touches, 8 marks), Kade Simpson (20 disposals, a goal) and Marc Murphy (25 handlings, 9 marks, a goal). Murph has apparently had more disposals to this point of his first season than any no. 1 draft pick. More than Judd, it was pointed out although they are very different players. Adrian Deluca (7 marks, 8 kicks, 3 goals) proved a useful tall forward and Heath Scotland (24 disposals) was busy, until rolling an ankle late. Instead of coaches, the paper's quoted some players. "We've had good periods in every game, or in the last four anyway and just haven't come out with the result. It's frustrating but there's good things from the young guys and hopefully we can get a win very soon," said Bloo ruckman Barnaby French. "We've got Essendon this Friday night and that's as far as I'm looking at the moment. If we'd lost tonight it probably would have been all over, but now it's given us a bit of hope. We just want to keep winning as many games as we can, basically. I can't give you a figure but I think eleven wins will get you into the finals. We've got a lot of work to do and it starts this Friday night." Thus spake optimistic Roo rover Daniel Harris.

At Stadium Australia:

Sydney 2.4 2.10 6.13 11.16.82
Collingwood 4.3 6.7 11.8 14.11.95

What a dilemma. Surrounded by Swan boofheads but hating the Poise, what does the neutral do? In the end it was difficult not to grudgingly respect the Pies, who produced a very good effort to triumph here. Credit to them and Malthouse for the disciplined manning-up and selections. Speaking of which, the Swans had very few changes again, just the one with Ben Mathews returning from injury at the expense of Sean Dempster. Last week Swan man Paul Williams announced he'd be retiring at the end of the season. No surprise, really. The Maggies dumped Adam Iacobucci and Julian Rowe for Harry O'Brien and Rhyce Shaw, Malthouse made one of his usual, late tactical switches as Chris Egan came in for Shane Wakelin.

A big crowd in (60,300) for one of the big events on the Siddey sporting calendar, it must be said. The Poise were away very quickly, the opening centre-clearance with a free-kick to Josh Fraser went wide to Alan Didak.  He evaded tacklers with a hip-shimmy and slotted it through from a tricky angle. Another centre-clearance from the Poise and Handball Receive King Ryan Lonie thumped it home. The Pies had picked the side with Egan to stop the Swans running from defence, whenever the Bloods won the ball in their backline Didak, Egan and Leon Davis pressed right forward to man-up tightly. Didak and Neon Leon missed easy shots before the Swans managed to get forward. Mick O'Loughlin missed a long shot before the Bloods found a way through their crowded forward-line, this time O'Loughlin marked 20m out and booted the simple goal. The Maggies continued to go well though, defending in numbers and rebounding quickly, Rhyce and Heath Shaw involved in it. Paul Licuria snapped a wobbly goal and Lonie bagged another as the Poise skipped 19 points clear. When they attacked the Swans hovered 'round the 60m-out area, eventually O'Loughlin's dish-off allowed Jarrad McVeigh to boot a long goal. The second term saw the Swans win more of the pill but continue to be confounded by the Maggies' heavily congested backline. Not all the points were from bad shooting, more hurried snaps from tough angles or long-range pot-shots. Hall was unlucky to have a snap ruled touched off-the-boot. Williams and Ryan O'Keefe did miss poorly, though. The Scraggies were attacking less but Anthony Rocca converted smartly from the pocket and, er, someone else got a goal too. Fraser I think. There was free grog at our function. Anyways, the Pies survived the storm and led by 15 points at half-time.

The Swans had sorted it out by the third quarter, Barry Hall had been roaming all over the place trying to get a kick but now he led from the goal-square against Prestigiacomo. Twice Big Bad Bazza accepted passes from Amon Buchanan and booted goals. Hall turned provider for O'Keefe to mark and convert, a minute later Hall bagged another and the Bloods had grabbed a 4-point lead. But the Maggies steadied. Ben Johnson collected pack-spillage to slot one and Didak goaled again, another speared left-footer. Rhyce Shaw, playing quite well, ran down to collect a centre-clearance and ram it home from 50m. Didak set up Chris Egan for a goal and Rocca converted from a free-kick against Leo Barry after the three-quarter siren, the Maggies had weathered the storm again and led by 25 points. O'Loughlin kicked the first major of the final Mario but Didak killed 'em off with the next two goals. The Swans got some cheap majors at the end.

Good old Dildok, er, Didak for ever, he certainly knows how to play the game. Alan Didak had 17 disposals and booted 4 goals. Heath Shaw (20 disposals, 8 marks) did lots of rebounding and a terrific job on O'Keefe.  Rhyce Shaw (24 touches, 13 marks, a goal) also played well, amazing. Scott Burns steadily amassed 28 possessions and ruckman Josh Fraser (15 touches, 7 marks, 25 hit-outs, a goal) galloped about. Jim Clement (20 possies, 6 marks) was steady at the back as ever. Ryan Lonie (23 disposals, 10 marks) received lots of handballs and booted 2 goals, Anthony Rocca kicked 2 goals. The Swan midfield struggled a bit with Amon Buchanan (28 disposals) the only prominent member, most of their attack came from defensive runners Tadhg Kennelly (19 disposals), Leo Barry (29 disposals, 10 marks) and Craig Bolton (26 possies, 10 marks). Lewis Roberts-Thomson did well on Tarrant, although Tazza went a long way up the ground. Michael O'Loughlin (15 touches, 6 marks, 2 goals) worked hard in attack. Adam Goodes (17 touches, 2 goals) ran around a lot, to modest effect. Barry Hall (11 marks, 15 handlings, 3 goals) fired for ten minutes, Ryan O'Keefe got 2 goals. Roosy blamed the six behinds in the second quarter. "Any time you lose a game the opposition plays well, but in the second quarter in terms of attack on the footy and the way we wanted to play, we just slaughtered the footy. You kick six points and under normal circumstances you win the quarter 8-2 but if you are kicking it to the opposition, dropping marks and hitting the posts 15-metres out, you are sitting up in the box and thinking this is going to be a struggle. The second quarter was a good summary of our game."   Mick Malthouse was pretty happy. "I thought it was probably close to our best win. Sydney in Sydney, Sydney after a loss, we'd had a bad loss but they'd had a loss . . . I thought at half-time we were pretty good, and then the next 8 or 10 minutes produced nothing, and to fight back after that I thought was a fantastic result for us."

Article last changed on Saturday, July 08, 2006 - 5:53 PM EDT

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