Having flown below the radar within the pre-season, a number one flag contender is now getting even higher.
Plus the huge warning indicators that threaten to wreck Carlton’s season.
Make amends for the massive tales out of the weekend in Foxfooty.com.au’s Spherical 2 Speaking Factors.
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A FLAG CONTENDER IS ‘ROLLING THE DICE’ – AND IT’S SCARY TO WATCH
All of us knew Port Adelaide entered 2021 as a premiership contender. However absolutely few anticipated the membership would push for a flag with such a drastic gameplan tweak.
The Energy final yr had been clearly one of the best forward-half group within the competitors. Their capability to lure the ball ahead of centre and generate repeat inside 50 entries was an enormous motive why they had been one kick away from making a Grand Remaining.
However in 2021, Ken Hinkley’s males are thriving as a group that generates scores predominantly from the back-half – one thing that’s derived from a change in guidelines and a change in mindset.
Final week 10 of Port Adelaide’s 17 targets towards North Melbourne had been launched from the defensive half.
That pattern continued towards Essendon on Saturday, with eight of Port Adelaide’s 11 first-half targets producing from the defensive half of the bottom. That’s in comparison with one in every of 11 from the forward-half, with the opposite two coming from centre bounce clearances.
Legendary Hawthorn goalkicker Jason Dunstall declared the brand new Energy method was “a extra enticing model of footy to look at”.
“We’re seeing the altering nature of the sport – and it’s by no means been extra evident within the fashion a number of the groups are taking part in,” Dunstall advised Fox Footy at half-time.
“Rapidly, Port Adelaide who’re nice at forward-half turnovers final yr, they’ve had no targets from forward-half turnovers within the first half. That by no means occurred in any half final yr. Unexpectedly, their targets are coming from defence.
“They weren’t a giant transition from one half to the opposite (group) final yr, (however) they had been No. 1 final week by way of transitioning from again to ahead – they usually’re doing it once more at the moment.”
St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt added the Energy had been making an attempt to grasp an artwork few had conquered in current occasions.
“Nobody has been good at taking the ball from one finish of the bottom to the opposite,” Riewoldt advised Fox Footy. “That’s been the toughest factor to do within the recreation.
“However a mixture, we expect, of the change in guidelines but additionally a change in mindset – groups are holding their gamers deeper within the ahead line, groups are taking off.
“Port Adelaide gamers are rolling the cube, getting ahead of the ball within the occasion they do win it.”
The Energy had a fairly simple first fortnight, knocking off North Melbourne and Essendon, however it means they’re nonetheless on prime of the ladder – simply as they had been by way of the complete 2020 season.
The distinction now’s they’ve multiple choice to attain. If a group stops their one-wood, they’ll pull the opposite membership out of the bag.
They’ve additionally regarded extra spectacular than fellow contenders Richmond to date. The Tigers had been challenged for 3 quarters towards Carlton, and for two-and-a-bit towards Hawthorn. Except the primary time period towards North, the Energy have had every little thing their method.
It’s like all of us forgot how good they’re.
WHAT IS GOING ON AT CARLTON?
We’re not going to overreact to the Blues’ Zero-2 document. You possibly can actually play finals from Zero-2, they usually’ve misplaced to a pair of 2020 finalists to date; neither recreation was one they completely had to win.
The issue is how they’re dropping.
Their defence is, to place it bluntly, poor. By means of two rounds, the Blues have conceded 211 factors; solely Adelaide (212) and North Melbourne (215) have conceded extra.
It’s not like all of their defenders are taking part in poorly although. Towards the Magpies, Jacob Weitering needed to defend 10 one-on-one contests – a ridiculously excessive single-game tally – and solely misplaced one in every of them. He’s extremely good.
However Lachie Plowman had a troublesome Friday night time, notably within the first half, and a number of the Blues backmen are a lot better attacking defenders than they’re defending defenders, if you recognize what we imply.
David Teague advised Fox Footy pre-game on Thursday night time he wished his defence to be extra “aggressive”; that didn’t work.
They’ve additionally allowed groups to maneuver the ball far too freely. Maybe Collingwood mounted each flaw that ailed it inside the area of per week; or maybe their 16-goal tally was extra in regards to the Blues letting them circulation ahead at will, and gifting the Pies forwards method an excessive amount of area.
That wide-open recreation fashion can also be negating Patrick Cripps’ nice power.
“I believe the way in which Carlton are taking part in in the meanwhile, they’re making the bottom very large offensively… (Cripps) is an actual in-tight participant and Carlton are widening the bottom,” former Richmond assistant Justin Leppitsch stated on SEN this weekend.
“Their recreation planning isn’t suiting a Patrick Cripps fashion of participant in the meanwhile.
“I believe they’ve obtained sufficient expertise, there’s little question. You’ve obtained to place a recreation fashion in that helps your gamers and in the meanwhile their recreation fashion doesn’t assist Cripps.
“All of the issues by making the bottom large shouldn’t be serving to them not simply of their full floor defence but additionally the stuff on the ball, it’s hurting them defensively as properly.
“Tidy just a few of these recreation plan issues up, make the bottom slightly smaller and I believe that may assist Patrick Cripps.”
Is their season over? Completely not. Carlton has an actual likelihood to go 2-2, as they subsequent host Fremantle after which journey to face Gold Coast.
However they’d higher begin successful, as a result of they face Port Adelaide and Brisbane in rounds 5 and 6. They wouldn’t wish to be 1-5 or Zero-6.
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BUDDY’S BATON HANDOVER WILL BE A SMOOTH ONE
It was as if Logan McDonald had been taking part in senior AFL footy alongside Lance Franklin for a number of years.
In actuality, it was the 18-year-old and 34-year-old’s first outing as a key ahead pairing inside Sydney’s ahead 50.
And when the time comes for Franklin to hold up the boots – and we hope it’s not for some time but – he’ll be handing the baton over to the secure fingers of McDonald, who’s already proven indicators he’s the person to steer the Swans’ ahead brigade for a few years.
Whereas Franklin stole the headlines with three targets towards Adelaide in his first AFL recreation since Spherical 23, 2019, McDonald was simply as spectacular, booting 2.1 from 11 disposals and eight marks (three inside 50).
Chatting with Fox Footy post-game, Franklin stated he “cherished each minute” of taking part in alongside McDonald, in addition to different Swans younger weapons like Errol Gulden, Braeden Campbell, Sam Wicks and Chad Warner.
4-time premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis stated McDonald was an “18-year-old child taking part in like a seasoned 200-game veteran”.
“He simply is aware of the place the area is,” Lewis advised Fox Footy’s Saturday Stretch.
“There was one play the place he was up on the wing after which kicked it inboard after which simply knew to get again and reset ahead, knew the gap from the kicker and the place the harmful area was.
“Even chatting with Bud about him, there’s little question when Buddy lastly finally ends up, he’s simply able to step up into that mould. He’s obtained some unbelievable expertise.”
However the noticeably leaner Franklin confirmed he may nonetheless have a major affect for the Swans this yr and past – particularly on this new gameplan that’s been unleashed by coach John Longmire in current months.
In truth, Western Bulldogs video games record-holder Brad Johnson predicted Franklin may very well be one of many greatest beneficiaries of the Swans’ new fashion.
“He’ll be loving the very fact they’re now an aggressive ball motion group unexpectedly,” Johnson advised Fox Footy’s Saturday Stretch.
“It’s modified with the fashion of the sport and John Longmire has freed them up. That fits a Buddy Franklin now taking part in ahead of the ball, not having to stand up the bottom as a lot with the damage’s he’s had. It fits him and it’s going to swimsuit the Sydney Swans.
“Watch him kick a bag, he’ll kick some large luggage this yr.”
Franklin stated post-game the person on the mark rule “has made a distinction”, declaring: “The main ahead is again, that’s for positive.”
THE ‘TRULY GREAT’ ASPECT BEHIND UNLIKELY COLEMAN SURGE
After averaging simply over one purpose per recreation as a 30-year-old in 2020, you’ll be able to perceive why Taylor Walker entered 2021 as a large, rank outsider to win the Coleman Medal.
However two rounds into the season and the Adelaide veteran has 11 targets to his identify and surged into the highest few favourites to take out the AFL’s prime goalkicker award.
Walker backed up his beautiful five-goal haul towards Geelong in Spherical 1 with a bag of six towards Sydney on Saturday – his greatest purpose haul since kicking seven in Spherical 21, 2015.
Essentially the most exceptional side of Walker’s recreation was his ahead 50 strain.
Final yr Walker laid simply seven tackles inside 50 for the entire yr. Towards the Swans, he utilized 4 within the arc, of which three led to holding the ball free kicks and set-shot targets.
“It’s a really nice effort,” triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown advised Fox Footy.
“You have a look at it and also you suppose ‘he’s kicked six, most likely had 5 from marks and possibly a Joe the Goose’ – however he’s had 4 from tackles.
“That’s an amazing instance for one of many oldest gamers within the group. Matthew Nicks might be highlighting that all through the week in a day the place they’ve been overwhelmed within the sort out depend.”
Nicks didn’t wait till throughout the week, as a substitute praising Walker in his post-match presser.
“I don’t wish to be disrespectful to Tex, however which will have damaged the quantity of tackles he’s had within the ahead 50 over the course of his profession. Unbelievable,” Nicks stated.
“He’s completed plenty of work on that.
“He’s been working with our youthful guys to make them higher footballers, it’s making him a greater footballer.”
Whereas Walker has benefited considerably from the ‘stand’ man on the mark rule, his disciplined and intense low season is paying the largest dividends.
“He seems to be vigorous … he’s leaping on the ball, he’s not giving up on performs,” four-time premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis advised Fox Footy.
“It reveals you ways proud he’s as an individual. He was closely criticised final yr and folks had been questioning whether or not he ought to’ve performed on. To go away over the pre-season and work on his recreation and health and to carry out the way in which he has is a credit score to him.”
INTERSTATE CLUBS WILL NEED MEGA OFFERS TO BREAK-UP GOLD COAST’S YOUNG STARS
There’s no doubting Gold Coast is constructing one thing particular below Stuart Dew after continued enchancment within the final 18 months.
The Suns may’ve solely received 5 video games final season however look set to stand up the ladder and might be eager to problem for finals.
It has been the elite expertise out there to the Suns that’s driving them for achievement, with rival golf equipment positive to be maintaining a tally of the younger weapons.
With out Matt Rowell, the Suns nonetheless handle to thump North Melbourne by xxx-points on Saturday, as different children stepped up with out the No.1 decide.
Their second choice Noah Anderson smashed his career-best disposal depend, ending with a whopping 35 touches to go together with 13 contested possessions, 10 rating involvements, 9 marks and 7 clearances.
Fellow top-10 picks Jack Lukosius (1 purpose, 22 disposals), Izak Rankine (three.2 from 16 disposals) and Ben King (three.1 from eight disposals) had been creating complications within the ahead line, whereas Jack Bowes, Ben Ainsworth and Will Brodie discovered loads of the footy.
King is certain to be focused by St Kilda in future years, given twin brother Max is making use of his commerce on the membership. Whereas each South Australian golf equipment are positive to be watching Lukosius and Rankine, urgent their case if the go-home issue turns into obvious.
Nonetheless, with the checklist construct below Dew based mostly off the youthful gamers starring, it won’t be as clear lower because it has been up to now for gamers to stroll out the door of the Suns.
“This elite expertise isn’t going wherever,” Alastair Lynch stated on Fox Footy. “This top-end expertise, they’re all invested within the membership as a lot as anybody’s been within the time the Suns have been up and going. They’re all in it for the lengthy haul.
Brereton added: “Whenever you get to a superb membership, you are feeling just like the checklist that has been put collectively is on the verge of one thing particular. So that you wish to dangle round, you’ll dangle round for slightly bit much less, you’ll dangle round for achievement as a result of you’ll be able to’t purchase that on the finish of your profession.
“You possibly can simply really feel it, they’re on the verge of one thing aren’t they? The expertise at their disposal now, you’ve obtained to maintain them collectively. And in the event that they imagine they usually wish to keep for achievement, it’s a very highly effective place to be.”
TIME FOR CRIPPS TO LEARN THE FORWARD CRAFT
Carlton is Zero-2 to start out the season and might want to discover a pulse with the intention to flip across the yr, with David Teague’s group extensively tipped to contend for finals.
Star Patrick Cripps is below fireplace for 2 common performances towards Richmond and Collingwood to start 2021.
The Blue has collected 28 and 21 disposals, struggling to hit the scoreboard, as Teague provides the strong-bodied midfielder additional time near purpose.
Legendary Western Bulldogs ahead Brad Johnson believed it was as much as the Blues to educate Cripps on learn how to play inside 50, given his struggles to affect the sport like different midfielders can once they look to assault.
“I believe it’s the dearth of affect Paddy Cripps is having as a ahead. I believe he must be coached as a ahead to be taught the craft of being there,” he stated on Fox Footy’s Saturday Countdown.
“You possibly can’t simply be one of the best participant and be anticipated to go ahead and have a pure affect on the sport. You may round stoppages within the ahead line however his common ahead play and his set photographs aren’t nice.
“I believe from that perspective in order for you a better affect from Paddy Cripps as a ahead, the teaching into that should go to a complete new degree for his or her star participant.”
Fellow retired ahead Nick Riewoldt believed his struggles had been evident within the membership’s loss to Collingwood on the MCG.
“The factor in regards to the different big-bodied mids within the competitors that we‘ve related to Patrick Cripps in the previous few years – Hazard, Fyfe, De Goey, Martin, these sorts – they’re all highly effective, identical to Cripps, however they’re explosive,” he stated on Fox Footy.
“And I believe that’s what’s stood out within the first two weeks, is Patrick Cripps’ lack of explosiveness, notably when he goes ahead. I believed it actually stood out tonight.
“He had some alternatives, particularly in that third quarter, and he simply wasn‘t capable of clunk them,” Brisbane nice Jonathan Brown added.
“He‘s obtained to have the ability to sharpen up with that. He was most likely BOG at halftime final week, he was monumental.
“However when the ball stays in movement for large durations, as we‘ve seen within the first two weeks, and across the floor stoppages are down, that doesn’t swimsuit Cripps if he’s taking part in within the midfield.“