The Tackle: ‘How could umps not see it?’
It was a weekend of upsets, horror injuries and patches of individual brilliance.
Herald Sun chief football writer Mark Robinson lists his likes and dislikes from a massive round of footy.
1. Rhyce Shaw
The search for the next North Melbourne coach is over. Shaw, 37, will be announced as the full-time coach in the coming weeks. It's understood club powerbrokers will, if they haven't already, abandon plans to run a thorough process to find the replacement for Brad Scott.
The Kangas believe it would be detrimental to the players to introduce a third coach in the space of 13 weeks, if they were to pass on Shaw. That and the fact the players and key football club staff are totally convinced Shaw is the man for the job. It makes sense. Shaw wants the job.
"I want to coach this team, would love to,'' he said on Saturday.
2. John Worsfold
Three weeks ago Worsfold was on the brink. His papers weren't stamped, but unless there was a decent push for a finals spot, the probability was Worsfold was unlikely to coach next year. Since then Essendon has beaten GWS Giants, Sydney and North Melbourne to make it five wins from its past six matches.
They matched the Kangas on the inside and beat them on the outside on Saturday. The key move this year under Worsfold has been the introduction of tagger Dylan Clarke.
Despite injuries, since the youngster was thrown into the middle to combat the likes of Ben Cunnington, Patrick Cripps and Jaeger O'Meara the Bombers are 5-1.
Taking out the opposition's best mid has created depth and flexibility for the other mids and given the Bombers a harder edge at the contest. Kudos to Worsfold.
3. David Teague
If Teague is not going to coach Carlton, who will? Brad Scott, Michael Voss, Paul Roos with Voss? There are no guarantees with any of them. But one thing we know is that Teague can coach a football team.
Whether he has the bigger-picture experience to coach a club is the risk. Colleague David King was at Saturday's game.
"We've seen Teague, he's calm, proactive, positive. He drives the group, he's put the right pegs in the right holes,'' King said.
They include taking Sam Petrevski-Seton, Paddy Dow, Zac Fisher and Will Setterfield out of the middle and putting in Ed Curnow and Marc Murphy.
He has organised the forward 50m so Levi Casboult, Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow are the targets and not Micky Gibbons - and dumped Mitch McGovern.
Will the Blues have the courage to appoint a "small brand'' like Teague or opt for the messiah-type like Roos or Voss? Roos is angling for a role, you can hear it in his voice, but just maybe the Blues, like the Kangaroos, have stumbled across the right man.
4. Nathan Buckley
If it was the game of the season between North Melbourne and Essendon on Saturday, it was the upset of the season on Friday night. Kudos to Buckley. Every man and his dog ripped the Pies apart in the lead-up and then Buckley arguably masterminded one of the best wins of his career. Emotionally, he had the players up for the fight.
Tactically, the levers he pulled worked a treat, namely with Jack Crisp. Only twice this year has Crisp played 100 per cent midfield - Round 11 v Fremantle and Round 17 v Eagles.
Crisp is vital across half-back as an interceptor with Tom Langdon and now Darcy Moore missing, but Buckley used him in the middle. Probably best afield on Friday night.
5. Al Carkson
Has somewhat rescued a season that was slipping into the abyss. Hawthorn lost four in succession through Rounds 11-15 and has now won the past two against Collingwood and Fremantle. They are an interesting mob, the Hawks.
When they are winning their future looks all right. Chad Wingard played midfield and had his best game for the club, James Worpel is unbelievable for pick No.45, Mitch Lewis kicked three and missed an easy one and Conor Nash has enough upside to be excited about.
It's nothing huge for Clarkson to win two games in a row, but at this stage of the season, the alternative would make it a horror show.
6. Fagan firing
Brisbane sits equal second with West Coast and Collingwood, and the manner in which it plays the game has to be admired. It's as if the Lions have mirrored Richmond. The style is based around winning the ball, surging forward and getting numbers at the contest.
They are exciting on the outside and tough on the inside, and defeated Port Adelaide without Luke Hodge, Eric Hipwood and Hugh McCluggage. Like Richmond, their pressure inside 50m is elite. What a story the Lions have become under Chris Fagan
7. Nathan Fyfe
If you're not Patrick Cripps it's rare to be best afield in a losing team. Nathan Fyfe was magnificent on Saturday. His second quarter performance was that of a supreme leader. He left the field with an injured shoulder and returned to playing forward where he kicked three goals.
He should be the Brownlow Medal favourite ahead of Patrick Dangerfield, Tim Kelly, Marcus Bontempelli, Brodie Grundy and Lachie Neale. It's an estimate, but Fyfe's votes this year would read something like this: 3, 1, 0, 0, 2, 2, 1, 3, 0, 1, 2, 0, 3, 0, 2, 0, 3 - that's 23 votes.
Compared to his Brownlow season, Fyfe is averaging more disposals, but fewer contested possessions, clearances, goals and tackles.
8. Yellow and back
DNA was the buzzword at the weekend and Richmond are well on their way to finding theirs There's been tweaks such as Shai Bolton having more midfield time and Shane Edwards resuming his role as one of the high half-forwards with Kane Lambert, but there's familiar look about the Tigers.
Lambert is a ripper. Commentator Jason Dunstall said yesterday Lambert was underrated. But he's not. He was runner-up in the B&F last year and third in the B&F in the premiership year.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti's finale was exquisite and his all-round game was one of his best for the club. It's little wonder rival clubs will sweat on him until he re-signs with the Bombers. Can't think of another player who is more a barometer for their club's performance than McDonald-Tipungwuti.
In wins he averages 93 ranking points. In losses he averages 52 points. The 41 drop off is the second biggest of any player this year behind Aaron Naughton. That said, his best is enthralling.
10. Josh Dunkley
It's time to recognise him for what he is - an elite, hardworking and two-way running midfielder. He's played 59 games and yesterday was his best. He finished with 39 disposals, 15 tackles, 24 contested possessions, nine clearances and 10 score involvements. And he's still 22-years-old.
The Dogs are a game outside of the eight and have St Kilda, Fremantle, Brisbane and Essendon in the next month. What an exciting run they are making.
1. Stephen Coniglio
Horrible day for the Giants made worse by the knee injury to Coniglio. The Giants have lost four of their past five and are two games off a top four spot. Now they are without Josh Kelly and Congilio. It's a huge story, Coniglio.
A free agent, his manager is understood to have recently presented him with offers from the Giants and rival clubs so he can make a decision about where he will play next year. If it's an ACL tear the rival offers will surely disappear as quickly as has the club's premiership credentials this year.
2. St Kilda
It's rare for coach Alan Richardson to comment about umpiring, so maybe the pressure is getting to him. Or maybe he truly thinks they were stiffed. Richardson is getting the most out of his team, which was the second youngest and least experienced fielded at the weekend. People say his papers are stamped yet his players are playing for him. Maybe the Saints are simply not good enough.
They pushed the Cats for three quarters before Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Ablett went silly and did it without captain Jarryn Geary, their best player Jack Steven and recruit Daniel Hannebery. Will the powerbrokers see the positives ahead of the win-loss record? It's looking unlikely.
3. Port Adelaide
Wanted to be tough and target Brisbane's Lachie Neale from the start, but lacked the discipline and smarts to do it. Gave away free-kick goals and trailed 7.1 to 2.1 in the wet at quarter-time. When it came to playing tough football it was the Lions who were supreme.
They were calm and efficient with the ball and their mental toughness beat Port's fake toughness, which consigned Port Adelaide to the tag of the most flaky team in the competition.
4. No Cunnington, North lose
A certain All-Australian selection three weeks ago, Cunnington has been given the tag and his numbers have dropped. When he is not tagged he is averaging 30 disposals, 18 contested possessions, eight clearances and six score involvements. And when tagged he's averaging 18 disposals, 12 contested possessions, five clearances and three score involvements. On Saturday Essendon's Dylan Clarke cleaned him up.
Cunnington has been tagged in his past three matches - by GWS's Matt De Boer (16 disposals) and St Kilda's Jack Steele (24 disposals) and now Clarke. Cunnington needs Shaun Higgins to return to create havoc.
5. What happened, West Coast?
What a desperately poor finish on Friday night from the Eagles. They kicked one behind in the final 45 minutes. At home. They didn't struggle to win the ball, but they struggled to move it.
They took 97 marks against Collingwood and lost. It was their first loss in 25 matches over the past two years when they have taken more than 90 marks in a match. Adding to the gloom is the groin injury to Jamie Cripps. He is massively important in forward line with his pressure and his almost two goals a game.
6 Blocks off the ball
Adam Simpson wasn't as forthright as Ross Lyon at the weekend when it came to blocking, but he has every right to contact the AFL today and ask about the treatment of his defenders against Collingwood's Mason Cox.
To their good fortune, Cox's teammates blocked for him as he presented for marks and the umpires allowed to happen. How could the umpires not see it? Less obvious, but clearly front-of-mind for Lyon was Hawthorn's alleged treatment of Nat Fyfe.
"He got checked off the ball heavily, I think he got a couple of free kicks but we'd like him to be looked after more," Lyon said.
"We'll probably have to take it into our own hands really if he doesn't start getting looked after - I don't say that lightly but I've probably had enough of it.''
You can guess where the spotlight will be this weekend.
7. There's more problems than that at Fremantle
They have injuries - as most clubs do - but scoring remains a problem. From the seventh minute of the final quarter in Round 15 until the 17th minute of the second quarter in Round 17, the Dockers kicked two goals from 28 shots at goal. That's more than six quarters of football for two goals.
The positive is the Dockers got the ball inside 50m. It's adds a unique chapter to Fremantle's scoring woes - or is that Lyon's scoring woes? The average score in Fremantle matches is 149.9 points - the lowest in the league. Lyon is a defence-first coach and every season Lyon has been a coach, his matches have been in the bottom five for scoring.
8. Gold Coast
In the space of two weeks the Suns have become irrelevant. Why would fans turn up when they lose by 95 points and 92 points? Interstate fans won't fly north to watch their team annihilate the opposition. The AFL would be very worried and need to devise a rescue package.
It's been suggested they need more money in the salary cap to ensure they keep players, or that they need draft assistance.
It's time the AFL revealed its plans. And you've got to feel for Fox Footy. It pays hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast games and it has all 23 Gold Coast games this year. How many people would tune in to watch this slaughterhouse?
9. Let's not get excited about the Crows
Adelaide has beaten the Suns by 73 points and now 95 points and their percentage would be under 100 without their two wins against the flailing expansion club. Eddie Betts kicked six, Josh Jenkins four and Tex Walker three, which aids their confidence, but the opposition was poor. Essendon next week at home will give us a clearer picture of where the Crows sit.