At the end of Round 17, three more players announced their retirements- Hawks Ben Stratton and Paul Puopolo and Carlton defender Kade Simpson. Both Stratton and "Poppy" were selected as mature-age recruits in the 2009 and 2010 drafts respectively. Both quickly cemented their positions in the side and were part of the club/s incredible run of success, Stratton as a tough and clever defender, Puopolo as a reliable forward who could apply plenty of pressure on opposition defenders. Stratton, 31, assumed the captaincy in 2019 when Jarryd Roughead retired at the end of 2019.
As the season winds down, it is that time of year when players decide to retire. Heading into the last weeks before finals, four announced they were hanging up the boots - Sun Pearce Hanley, Bomber Conor McKenna, Adelaide's Bryce Gibbs and Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer.
Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray sensationally kicked the game winning goal after the final siren to snatch victory from a gallant Carlton in Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. With a three-point deficit and time ticking down, Gray marked on a tight angle 40 meters out from goal with the final siren blaring before taking his kick. Having missed a much simpler attempt just minutes before (as did two of his teammates in Charlie Dixon and Kane Farrell), Gray showed no sign of nerves as he split the center with a magnificent drop punt to seal the 64-61 win and strengthen the Power’s grip on top spot of the AFL ladder.
The fact that Carlton led into the final minute of the game seemed most unlikely in the early going as Port notched the first three goals of the game with some early midfield dominance. Carlton hit back through some Eddie Betts magic who helped Michael Gibbons register the Blues first goal. That was followed by another from second year star Sam Walsh, en route to one of his most notable performances for some time. Jacob Weitering was holding down the fort in Carlton’s defense while Port appeared less organized in their usually well-structured back six, allowing the Blues to score through multiple turnovers which led to a one-point Carlton lead at quarter time.
After 23 rounds of sensational footy we now have our eight finalists ready to battle it out for the 2019 AFL premiership in a weeks time. The Western Bulldogs smashed their way into the last available finals spot by running out 34 point winners over a disappointing Adelaide Crows in Ballarat on Sunday. Just a couple of hours later, Richmond ended Brisbane’s nine-game winning streak with a 27 point win at the MCG, earning the Tigers a double-chance plus a road trip to Brisbane to once again face the Lions in week one of the finals.
Round 22 was full of stories. There was heartbreak in Adelaide as the Crows and Power likely blew their chance at playing finals, but there were also two of the season’s greatest games played between four of the league’s best teams. Both of those incredible games were physical, skillful contests that came down to one kick for goal that separated the winners from the losers. Brisbane’s last gasp win over Geelong in front of a rampant Lions home crowd came courtesy of a potential “Mark of the Year” by Lincoln McCarthy who goaled for a one point win, while it was Richmond’s favorite rascal in Jack Riewoldt who snapped truly to give his Richmond team a meritorious win against a gallant West Coast Eagles on Sunday at the MCG. All four teams will no doubt play a big part in September.
Other big winners in a stunning round of footy were the Western Bulldogs who followed up 21 consecutive goals the previous week against Essendon with a dozen in a row against a disappointing Greater Western Sydney who let their home fans down.
Carlton's Dale Thomas and Fremantle's Hayden Ballantyne were both informed by their respective clubs that they would not be offered contracts for 2020. Thomas, 32, announced his retirement at the time. However, after Carlton's win over the Saints, he said he would consider offers from other clubs. He played game 100 as a Blue in Round 22 after crossing from Collingwood where he played 156 games including the 2010 premiership. He was named All-Australian in 2011.
Thomas said he was content with his decision, “While this is something I didn’t want to hear, I was realistic that it was a chance ... I also understand the direction the club is going ... I have experienced so much in my career since walking in as a blond-haired kid ... in 2005. The opportunity to live out my boyhood dream ... I am proud of everything I’ve been able to achieve."
Caretaker Coach David Teague has been appointed senior coach at Carlton. Teague, 38, took over for Brendon Bolton and has won five of the past seven games through Round 21. Teague also had the support of several senior players, including co-captain Patrick Cripps. The club approached several candidates, including Hawthorn's Alistair Clarkson and Port assistant Michael Voss but opted for Teague.
Teague played 83 games for North Melbourne and Carlton between 2004 and 2007. After retiring as a player, he embarked on a successful career in coaching, serving as senior coach of the VFL side Northern Bullants from 2008 to 2010, then as an assistant at West Coast, St Kilda, and Adelaide, before returning to Carlton as the forward coach ahead of the 2018 season.
The Brisbane Lions claimed another victim, this time it was Hawthorn down in Tasmania to keep the Lions atop the AFANA AFL Power Poll and all but end the Hawks chances of finals football. Fellow pacesetter the West Coast Eagles, made light work of the Kangaroos at home. Geelong overcame a slow start to claim a win against Sydney on the road and Richmond proved too strong for an injury-hit Collingwood in the Friday night blockbuster at the MCG.
Essendon survived quite a scare at the hands of cellar dwelling Gold Coast before prevailing in what was their fifth win in a row, Greater Western Sydney found enough to scrape home against Port Adelaide by a solitary point in Heath Shaw’s 300th game. The Western Bulldogs kept their top eight chances alive with a big win over Fremantle and the Adelaide Crows left the gate open for another team to snatch 8th spot as they went down to an in-form Carlton at the MCG. Finally, Saint Kilda kept interim coach Brett Ratten’s record spotless by overcoming Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
A dramatic change has taken place on the AFANA AFL Power Poll over the past weekend with some big results that could have a significant effect on the race for the 2019 premiership. After finally reaching number one on the back of a string of brilliant performances, the West Coast Eagles came crashing down to earth and have dropped all the way to fourth on our Power Poll after an unexpected loss at home to its 2018 premiership victim in Collingwood.
The Cats move back into the number one spot after a hard fought win against Saint Kilda, while a red hot Brisbane Lions move up to second after a road win full of merit against a frustrating Port Adelaide. Essendon needed a last gasp goal from their barometer in Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti to down the Kangaroos, Richmond overpowered an undermanned Greater Western Sydney and the Adelaide Crows smashed the Gold Coast Suns up at Metricon Stadium.
by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Adelaide has appointed Port Adelaide midfield coach Phil Walsh as its new senior coach for the next three years. Walsh, a highly regarded tactician, joined Port in 2014, after five seasons with the West Coast Eagles as Strategy and Innovations Coach. He was also midfield coach for Port in 2004. Walsh, who played 122 games for Collingwood, Richmond and Brisbane, started his coaching journey overseeing strength and conditioning at Geelong in the 1990s. Club chairman Rob Chapman said Walsh would be a perfect fit for the club and could lead it to success.