Hawks and Swans in Crisis, Crows best in SA and More Lessons from AFL Round 3

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AFL Round 3 is in the books for 2017 and a host of upsets saw presumed strugglers Fremantle, Carlton, and the Gold Coast Suns claim wins, while recent powerhouses the Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn, and the Sydney Swans were sent down the ladder with defeats. Here is what we learned from round 3.

Friday at the SCG saw the Collingwood Magpies dominate proceedings against the Sydney Swans, despite winning by just one point, Collingwood was in control of the match through three quarter time, and in particular was able to keep the ball in their forward 50, pressing Sydney, through most of the first quarter. After losing in round 2 to Richmond because of poor goal kicking, Alex Fasolo and Will Hoskin-Elliot answered the call for the Pies, while Sydney’s young side was lacking aggression and forward spark for most of the contest. Their primary offense threat Buddy Franklin was limited to just a goal, and they lacked the class needed in attack, despite a solid start from young gun Will Hayward, who kicked three goals. The Magpies are far from being out of the woods, but they continue to have one of the best midfields in the competition and their defensive problems from round 1 seem solved for now. They did a great job holding off the Swans, who made a furious push to win in the final 2 minutes after Collingwood sneaked ahead by 1.

NSW Teams Headed in Opposite Directions

Sydney is staring at an 0-3 disaster, and with so many young players in their best 22 right now, they could be looking a a rebuilding year, rather than challenging for a premiership after falling in the final last year. They’ll need to improve their on-ball control and get much better performances from their veteran leaders if they’re going to recover from their current position.

Cross-town rivals the GWS Giants played it close for a half against North Melbourne, but their attacking pressure and class in the midfield was simply too much for the Roos, as they ended up winners 106-67, with the bulk of their margin coming from the final term. Stevie J got his 500th goal on the day as well. The Giants appear back in the top four hunt after a slow start in round 1, while North Melbourne’s rebuild looks to be going alright, highlighted by strong play once again from ruckman Braydon Preuss.

Richmond is for Real, Hawthorn is in Crisis

The Richmond Tigers got off to a slow start the MCG on Saturday, but in the end the West Coast Eagles again struggled at Melbourne’s marquee venue, and it was the Tigers who came out 11 point winners in a game that was hampered by rain. Despite a facial injury Dustin Martin scored two goals, and the two young Daniel’s for Richmond, Rioli and (Dan) Butler were huge, Rioli notching two goals, with Jason Castagna adding another. West Coast looked slow in the second half, as they surrendered the lead and couldn’t get it back, in large part due to an over reliance on Josh Kennedy to score goals. Mark LeCras ended up their leading goal scorer and they’ll need more from him in the games to come. Now 3-0, the Tigers are far from perfect, but they are certainly for real, in particularly posting a strong defensive showing, clearing the footy well against West Coast.

The Hawthorn Hawks are meanwhile in crisis, a relatively veteran side was walloped by what was supposed to be a hapless Gold Coast Suns side 139-53. Hawthorn was slow getting forward and never lead, by contrast the Suns top guns responded well to the lashing they were getting from members and the media after the drubbing in round 2. Gary Ablett performed above expectations, while younger players such as David Swallow, Tom Lynch, Aaron Hall, Touk Miller, Sean Lemmens, and Brayden Fiorini were great for the Suns, Brandon Matera adding six goals in his own right, as the Suns pulled away in the second half. The Hawks have been looking for a list reboot, but their trades for Tom Mitchell and former Sun Jaeger O’Meara haven’t paid immediate dividends, while Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis have clearly been missed in a side that has simply looked aged through three rounds. At the start of the season I didn’t think the Hawks would make the top eight, and that’s looking more and more likely at 0-3. The Suns at 1-2 are far from out of the clear.

Trouble ahead for Melbourne

The Melbourne Demons collapsed against potential top 4 side Geelong. The Dees were ahead through three quarter time, but then allowed the Cats to kick six goals to one over the final term to give the Cats a 126-97 victory. Geelong continues to live on the edge, while Melbourne was missing Jesse Hogan and Jordan Lewis, suffering an additional massive blow when star ruckman Max Gawn went down with an injury in the second quarter, and now will miss the next three months. Melbourne is in danger of struggling during the period where Gawn is injured and as a result missing out on top 8 standing. Daniel Menzel, Patrick Dangerfield, and a young Brandan Parfitt were among best on ground for the Cats, while the Dees will be leaning on Jack Watts among others to lead them through a troubled period ahead.

The Crows are Elite

Despite losing by 17, the Port Adelaide Power have nothing to be ashamed of, as the Adelaide Crows showed themselves as elite, controlling the contest after a slow first quarter start to beat their rivals. Chad Wingard was great for a Power side that still looks top 8 quality, while the Crows got great showings from Rory Sloane, Charlie Cameron, Eddie Betts and Tex Walker, plus they were able to mix Andy Otten into the forward mix, as he came forward and kicked two goals. As of right now, the Crows look to be the strongest team in the AFL, having performed well under pressure.

Even Bottom of the Ladder Sides Are a Threat

Carlton, Fremantle, and Brisbane aren’t likely to even finish inside the top 12 but they still performed well on the weekend. The Blues won a grinder against the Essendon Bombers in the rain, 57-42, and they only needed seven goals to do it. They would have won by more against the Bombers, who struggled to generate inside 50s (37 compared to 60 for the Blues) if they had simply kicked better. Offense remains an issue for Carlton, but they seem solid enough in the backline, while a rejuvenated Marc Murphy and new fan favorite Sam Petrevski-Seton were key goalscorers. Essendon, having gained a ton of momentum with a 2-0 start, now is under the pump to not repeat the poor showing they had at the MCG this past weekend.

Fremantle responded well to Ross Lyon axing six from their list stunning the defending premiers Western Bulldogs 89-73. The Dockers added pace and aggression to their attack, rather than plodding along, which allowed Michael Walters and Cam McCarthy to score goals, combining for five, and the Hill Brothers and Nat Fyfe to move possession through the midfield. When Liam Picken was knocked out, the Bulldogs missed a key leader, and then collapsed over the final term giving up the lead and letting the Dockers dominate play. The Bulldogs should be able to recover in the weeks to come, but the Dockers showed they can catch better sides, particularly at home.

The Brisbane Lions competed once again against a better side, despite losing to St. Kilda 107-76, they were nearly tied in the third quarter and showed their improved form under Chris Fagan for the third straight game, in large part due to a defence that is no longer in shambles. There will come a time when the Lions will catch a top 8 side, something St. Kilda would love to be, but still has a ways to go to get there. The Saints were led by Leigh Montagna, while the return of Nick Riewoldt from a knee injury boosted their attack with three goals.

Thursday night footy returns for round 4, so keep your eye out for a preview of the Round 4 action soon.

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