The GWS Giants have awoken from a form slump to stamp themselves as genuine contenders. After consecutive losses to Sydney and West Coast, the Giants finished their three match tour of the Western Australian hub with a thumping victory over the Fremantle Dockers. The Giants were too big and too strong around the ball for the Dockers and up forward Jeremy Cameron shook off his indifferent form to boot four majors.
The Fremantle Dockers survived a third-quarter attack from the Adelaide Crows to break through for their first win of the season. The more experienced Adelaide players controlled the ball in the midfield for long periods of the game, but the Crow forwards were wasteful in front of goals and delivered spirit-sapping misses. The once-mighty Crows, who were Grand Finalists in 2017, now sit at the bottom of the AFL table with little to suggest they have the players, or the desire, to challenge other teams. The young Dockers played without their captain and dual Brownlow medallist, Nat Fyfe, were missing their three biggest defenders; and yet ran out comfortable winners against the physically stronger Adelaide team.
Round nine was conspicuous in that the result of almost every game went as expected, an occurrence which has been extremely rare so far in 2019. Top teams Collingwood, Geelong, West Coast and Greater Western Sydney all had wins to solidify their spots atop the AFANA AFL Power Poll, while Adelaide pushed Brisbane away from home but ultimately fell by a solitary point.
Richmond proved too strong for an injury hit Hawthorn, Port Adelaide stormed home for a big win over the Gold Coast and Essendon scrapped out an untidy win against Fremantle at Marvel Stadium. The Sydney Swans produced the weekends only true upset, amassing a handy lead early before holding on by just five points over the Kangaroos at Blundstone Arena in Tasmania.
The big three in Collingwood, Geelong and Greater Western Sydney all had wins over the weekend to strengthen their positions on the AFANA AFL Power Poll and put themselves in great shape as the season moves into round eight. The Magpies dominated Port Adelaide early in the Friday night game to cruise to victory, while Geelong was never threatened by a disappointing Essendon at the MCG on Sunday.
An extended round six kicked off with the unusual Wednesday night game that saw Richmond victorious by 43 points over the struggling Melbourne Demons. The Anzac Day battle between Collingwood and Essendon was a classic that ended with the Magpies hanging on to win by four points in controversial circumstances as the Bombers fell just short of pulling off a great comeback. Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Fremantle and the Giants took care of business as expected while Carlton almost pulled off back to back victories before succumbing by just five points to a frantic Hawthorn down in Tasmania.
When two sides that have a history of strong contested possessions meet, you are going to have fireworks. The Dockers were ranked fifth for winning contested possessions and the Bulldogs were ranked sixth. Throw in the significance of the Len Hall match (in honor of the last Western Australian World War One Veteran); and Docker stalwart David Mundy’s 300th game and you have something special. The Bulldogs didn’t travel to Perth to lose and when the ball was up for grabs no player gave an inch.
In a game that lacked highlights but offered plenty of interest, the West Coast Eagles withstood a determined Fremantle Dockers to win by 13 points. The depleted Dockers threw everything they had at the reigning premiers, but in the end were defeated by their own inaccuracy in front of goal.
In mid-January, the AFL presented their annual life memberships to eight recipients. Five players and umpires were automatic recipients for having reached 300 games during the 2018 season: Ray Chamberlain, Lance Franklin, David Mundy, Scott Pendlebury and Heath Shaw. The other three were North Melbourne Team of the Century member and former North Melbourne CEO John Dugdale for Special Service to the Game, Richmond Team of the Century member and long-time Essendon Recruiting Manager Merv Keane, and SANFL Hall of Fame Inductee and Life Member Wally Miller.
Bill Hector was awarded the Jack Titus Service Award for outstanding service to football, for his 50 years’ service to the Western Bulldogs in various roles starting as a Timekeeper in 1969 to most recently being the Club’s Senior Doorman.
The Hawthorn Hawks boosted their campaign to make the 2018 finals by convincingly defeating the Fremantle Dockers. In a one-sided game the Hawks picked up valuable percentage points (based on scores kicked for and against) that could prove vital at the end of the season. The Dockers, who were already out of finals calculations, had a game where little worked for them and as they repeatedly butchered forays into their attacking zone. In contrast, the Hawks were brutal when required to contest the ball, swooped on any errors made by the rattled Dockers and clinical in their forward thrusts.
In the absence of Aaron Sandilands, Fremantle’s Luke Darcy competed well in the ruck with The Hawk’s big man, Jonathan Ceglar. Hit-out honors were even, which resulted in Lachie Neale and David Mundy matching Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell and Jaegar O’Meara with center clearances. However, once the Dockers cleared the ball from packs, they lacked the purpose and pure intent of Hawthorn. Hawthorn would routinely work the ball wide and then make a direct assault on the full-forward zone. If Jarryd Roughead was covered, Luke Breust was available for a chip pass, Ryan Schoenmakers was setting himself to fly, or Jack Gunston was lurking at the back of a pack. The Hawks simply had too many forward weapons for the Dockers to cover.
The Fremantle Dockers took advantage of the wet and slippery conditions at Optus Stadium to defeat Port Adelaide Power by nine points. The win meant little but pride for the Dockers, but it cost the Power a potential second spot on the ladder. As a result of the shock loss, the stunned Power have plummeted to fifth place on the ladder. The game was not pretty and was made difficult by the combination of rain and swirling winds. With their bigger and more mature bodies the visitors won more contested possessions; but the Dockers had raw hunger and pushed more players to the ball. Port could not initiate their running game as their playmakers were cramped and chased by desperate Docker tacklers.