The free agency and trade periods commenced in late September with the trade period following the free agency. The trade period ended October 12 and there was plenty of activity. Port Adelaide's Karl Amon officially became a Hawk on a four year deal. Port will receive a second round draft selection as compensation.
The Hawthorn Hawks came to Optus Stadium as the underdogs but their game plan pushed the home team for most of the match. The Dockers had to work hard for the win as the Hawks applied heat around the ball and almost beat the Dockers at their own game. Fremantle welcomed back captain Nat Fyfe after a ten-month absence due to injury.
Fyfe was in the action at the first bounce down, knocking the ball from the Hawk's Sam Mitchell, which was gathered by Caleb Serong who kicked long to tall forward Rory Lobb, who marked (caught the ball) and booted the opening goal for the Dockers after just thirty seconds of play. Despite Dockers' ruckman, Sean Darcy, having the better of Hawthorn's ruckman Ned Reeves, the Hawks were able to get movement away from stoppages through solid clearance work by Conor Nash and Jaeger O'Meara.
With a rare tropical cyclone approaching Perth’s inland areas, the Fremantle Dockers withstood a stormy challenge from the Hawthorn Hawks to win a second home game. The Hawks were again slow to start, allowing Fremantle to dominate in the first term. If the Dockers had kicked accurately for a goal in the blustery conditions, the game would have been over at quarter time.
Returning from a forced layoff due to concussion, Nat Fyfe began in the center of the ground for the Dockers and the home team dominated clearances in the first quarter. When Fyfe was not winning clearances, it was veteran David Mundy or Caleb Serong. Sean Darcy and Matt Taberner were active in the forward line and Taberner finished with two goals for the quarter. The Hawks had scored only two behinds (worth a point each).
The West Coast Eagles cruised to victory over a dispirited Hawthorn Hawks in a game where the Hawks never threatened one of the premiership favorites. The game started in dry conditions which suited the West Coast high leaping markers (catchers) and the Hawks were held scoreless in the opening quarter, as West Coast dominated. If the Eagles' goal shooting had been straight the match would have been over at quarter time. When the Hawks did attack, they were stopped in the air by Jeremy McGovern, who was returning from injury, and Tom Barrass, who together formed a defensive block taking 17 marks and 19 intercept possessions between them for the game.
The Fremantle Dockers "out-hawked" the Hawthorn Hawks at Optus Stadium in a game that signaled the turning fortunes of the two teams. The young Dockers played a traditional Hawthorn game plan, hard at the contest when the ball was in dispute but controlling the tempo of the game when they had the ball in hand. The Dockers were patient in setting their attacks and used their plan of retaining possession and moving the ball across the ground, until an avenue of attack opened. It was a dour struggle between the backlines as the defenses for both teams held firm for most of the game. The difference between the two teams was the tenacity of the young Dockers' attack on the ball supported by their ferocious tackling.
Richmond Tigers vs Hawthorn Hawks (MCG)
State of Play:
This game has all the makings of an absolute classic. On one hand you have Richmond, the reigning premier coming into the game riding a 21-game winning streak at the MCG. On the other you have Hawthorn, the form team of the competition boasting a massive total of 265 games of finals experience (the Tigers have just 114).
With just one round to be played before the finals series begins, the top eight is finally taking shape, but there is still plenty to be decided with some big match-ups in the final round. The big winner out of round 22 was Melbourne, which finished strongly against the West Coast Eagles in Perth to book their first finals appearance in 12 seasons, much to the relief of Coach Simon Goodwin. Last year the Demons crashed out of the race late in 2017. Collingwood strengthened its hold on a top four finish with a big win over Port Adelaide at the MCG, effectively ending Port’s finals campaign in the process.
Outside it was cold and wintry (by Melbourne standards) but good conditions under the roof at Etihad on Saturday night shielded fans. Inside, it was the Hawks who nearly got the chill. Despite the indoor game, the crowd numbers were down on recent clashes between these two teams.
Early it was Gunston who opened the scoring for the Hawks. The Saints worked hard around the contests to shut down Hawthorn's run and delivery into the forward link. Burgoyne finally managed to eke out a second for the Hawks. St Kilda had plenty of the ball, but not a lot of it in their forward 50.
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.
With the byes behind us, the first full slate of AFL games in a month gave us an absolutely sensational round of football with upsets, tight finishes and a brand new AFANA Power Poll leader!
Round fifteen highlights included a win for the Tigers over the second placed Swans, upset wins by Saint Kilda, the Western Bulldogs, Essendon and Brisbane and a big win by the Giants over the Hawks that has really opened up the competition for the final eight as we head into the last two months of the minor round.