AFL 2020: Monday’s Experts – Round 16 v Hawthorn

If not for a Four-Time Premiership Coach trying to divert attention away from his team’s 10th loss from 11 games, the Saints win over Hawthorn may not have received any attention at all on Monday night. There was a fair bit about West Coast, St Kilda’s Round 17 opponent, that was of some interest.

Being smack bang in the middle of top eight calculations did mean the Saints featured in discussions regarding the run home to the finals. There was little consensus about who will make the eight but it was generally agreed that we will feature heavily in a thrilling end to the home and away season.

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Learning from his team mates mistake, Jack Billings kicks an important goal right on the three quarter time siren.

Monday Encore

Jack Billings curling goal on the three quarter time siren was highlighted by AFL 360 in their Monday Encore package. It also drew comment from Nick Riewoldt in On The Couch’s The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

“I love when players go to school and learn from others mistakes and we saw a good example on the weekend,” Riewoldt told his fellow panellists. “Josh Battle has a shot. Is going to go around the corner. Hurries himself. Puts himself under pressure and misses. Jack Billings a few minutes later has the same opportunity on the oppositie side and takes his time.

“You’ve got 10 metres. You’ve got 30 seconds. Use it up. Be deliberate and you are going to give yourself the best opportunity to actually execute. Now he doesn’t hit this one flush but he gives himself the best opportunity to do it and puts it through right on the three quarter time siren.”

We’ll focus on what we can do and maybe they could too.

Alastair Clarkson’s observations about St Kilda’s game plan post game was the subject of conversation on Footy Classifield. “They were playing an interesting game, where it’s a game of keepings-off,” Clarkson said. “Especially in the second quarter, I think they took 42 marks and kicked one goal. They might be able to get away with that against us, but I don’t think the method itself is going to lend itself to kicking a lot of goals,” is what Clarkson said on Sunday and it was met with a short response from Brett Ratten.

“Well, that’s his comment,” a clearly surprised Ratten responded. “We’ll focus on what we can do and maybe they could to,” he said.

On Monday, Hawthorn Premiership skipper Luke Hodge shared his view on the matter. I’ve been around Clarko enough, he’s smart enough that when things aren’t going well on field and we will try and cause enough angst off field so that people focus on him and not his players,’ he said on radio. “You look through his history and whenever Hawthorn are playing well, little things wont phase Clarko. When they are struggling he’ll throw out bombs either to bring the attention off the players off the game style or to bring it on to him. It’s happened to many times to be a coincidence. It’s happened to consistently in my book to be an accident.”

“I just don’t think he’s good at it, Clarko,” Kane Cornes opinioned. “Clearly Kevin Sheedy was the best that I’ve ever seen at it but he was charasmatic. He did it with a cheeky smile, he was endearing, he was a great promoter for the game. I think Clarko is doing it more for selfish reasons while Sheeds could see the bigger picture. And to have a crack at Brett Ratten, I mean they had 25 scoring shots and kicked 80 points in a shortened game. So I just didn’t get where the criticism was coming from.”

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“Selfish reasons? What do you mean by that?” Matthew Lloyd asked. “Selfish in what regard?”

“I just think he’s acting like a sook because he’s not coping with losing. It’s not the first time. He’s had a crack at Papley for staging. He’s had a crack at the AFL for holding the ball and changing the rules there to suit Hawthorn on the back of them not getting a free kick in a quarter of footy. He’s also had a crack at salary cap and the lack of information about list sizes last week and now he’s had a crack at the opposition. Again. I just think he is acting like a sook and is not handling being outcoached by a side that was able to get 25 scoring shots against him.”

Good Call. Bad Call? The ongoing war between players and camera operators stepped up on the weekend?

“Have we only taken that media conference in isolation?” asked Tony Jones. “Was there a qualification at any stage?”

“At the end of the press conference Alastair praised the work that Brett [sic], he’s clearly proud of Brett Ratten and he made that point and Alastair loves his assistants doing well,” Caroline Wilson answered. Remember he pushed into the Richmond change rooms and almost shared the Premiership Cup with Damien Hardwick back in 2017. I reckon he went and saw Craig Bellamy as well a few weeks later. He did the rounds in fact,” she said.

“That wasn’t as bad, the Ratten one, but there is an element of poor sportsmanship in it for mine and I don’t like it. I think Luke Hodge pointed to the reasons but you could almost put the tables back on him and say ‘Alastair did you hurt that club’s culture irreparably when you got rid of Sam Mitchell, and Jordan Lewis, and maybe in the mind of Luke Hodge retired him a season too early. Because none of it worked in the end did it?” Wilson said.

“I’m with Kane, I think its more his frustration with how his team’s going than deflection and trying to take it off the players,” said Lloyd.

“He’s a bad sport,” Wilson concluded.

Good Call. Bad Call? Clarko wasn’t the only Hawks coach in the spotlight yesterday?

“I’m not sure how well Sam coached yesterday in the loss but they’ve given Sam Mitchell one vote instead of poor Tom Mitchell. He’s a good coach I know but not that good,” Matthew Lloyd said in response to the Herald Sun incorrectly awarding one vote in their players votes to Sam Mitchell.

Homesick Eagles.

After famously declaring that West Coast would be wasting a Grand Final spot if they made it in 2018, Tony Jones raised the subject of their record away from Perth this year. While Jones stopped short of declaring them incapable of winning the premiership, Matthew Lloyd had serious question marks. “I think on neutral territory, against anyone in the eight, they are 50-50 maybe even less than 50-50.,” Lloyd said. “No wonder the tried to sell [sic] a game late.”

Are the Eagles ripe for the picking this Thursday night?

It was an opinion shared by Gerard Whateley and Mark Robinson on AFL 360. “They are a vastly different team away from Optus Stadium than they are there,” Whateley said. “For eight weeks they looked like the best team in it. Now they look like they are in the pack and they are in the pack.

“They are in the pack Gerard,” Robinson agreed. “They are not kicking a lot of scores. When Willie Rioli went out at the start of the season with the drugs stuff, you thought ‘god they’ll miss him’. Suddenly Cripps is not playing. Geez, they’re going to miss him. Suddenly Ryan, he’s a hybrid he’s not a small and he’s not a tall he likes going for marks he’s not always on the deck. I think there’s an issue up forward in the smalls.”

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Injury Concerns.

“No Shuey, no Yeo, I think there two best midfielders, Nic Naitanui didn’t play last night that’s a big excuse,” Mark Robinson explained. “But hey everybody’s got excuses at the moment. They’re not getting it done.”

“They are in an incredibly tough stretch,” Gerard Whateley responded. “They have the equivalent of the Collingwood draw just with a little less travel and we saw that it virtually broke Collingwood across that stretch of five and four day breaks on repeat. They had to give Nic Naitanui the breather to get him back for the St Kilda game where they have two ruckmen, the margins are incredibly fine for them.”

Whateley asked Adam Simpson his thoughts on his teams short breaks.”It’s interesting, I think we’d rather the shorter breaks when we are here in this hub. It’s just prepare, recover, train,” Simpson said. “But we’ve got several scans waiting for this week so we’ve just got to cross our fingers that we get our best players available, we hang in there and try and scrape through a couple more wins. I think top four is still an opportunity for us and missing the eight is still an opportunity so it’s exciting in a way.”

He admitted that Jeremy McGovern was one of the scans but he expected him, Nic Naitanui and Shannon Hurn to be fit to face the Saints. “From all reports I think the scan was a different part of his thumb. He had a previous injury,” Simpson said. “That thumbs copped it a bit over the last couple of years so i think there’s a different part of his thumb which seems to be not as bad as what he has been dealing with. If that is the case he’ll be fine to play.”

West Coast Scoring Woes

The Eagles scoring woes were also flagged by the On The Couch team. “For six weeks they’ve been flag favourites, a couple of weeks before they entered the hub the numbers started to go south,” Gerard Healy said. “To a position where I don’t think Adam Simpson would be comfortable and on the weekend we saw them incapable of kicking a big enough score. They’ve got some serious injuries but its the way they’re playing, that I think would be of most concern to Adam Simpson.”

“They only seem to play well when opposition sides bomb it long and allow their defenders and their players to take intercept marks,” Johnathan Brown thought. “Then the opposition corrects themselves and they don’t allow them, then West Coast look pedestrian,” he said.

While acknowledging their injury list, Gary Lyon agreed it was a concern. “The ground ball stuff continues to be a bit of an issue for them. Again the numbers showed up on the weekend that they’ve got a real job. Adam Simpson spoke about winning enough games to make finals. He’s not worried about top four at the moment. They’ve got some issues. Eleven inside 50s in a half. They went inside fifty 11 times in the first half against the Bulldogs.”

“Their scoring has in fact dried up. They’ve been around the 60 [points] mark for four weeks in a row and thats not going to get it done against the Tigers and the Cats,” Healy declared.

This all adds up for an intriguing clash between them and the Saints this Thursday.

The most important stat in football? The Saints are ranked fifth. 13 of the last 14 Premiers were ranked in the Top Three.

“Huge game isn’t it,” Mark Robinson asked Gerard Whateley on AFL 360.

“Oh it is,” Whateley wholeheartedly agreed. So too Nick Riewoldt on On The Couch.

“Big game Thursday,” Riewoldt said. “The Saints have struggled against teams that have wanted to control the footy. Melbourne did it to them. Geelong did it to them. It looks like it shapes up in West Coast’s favour.”

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“So you bring King in?” Lyon asked him.

“Yeah I do. I bring him in,” he responded before Brown brought some levity to the conversation.

“Ofcourse he does, he’s wearing his old number,” he said.

“Stupid question,” Lyon agreed.

“The kids have got to have something to cheer about Gaz,” Riewoldt joked.

“Liam Ryan reminded me of Darren Jarman last night,” Garry Lyon. He will be one Eagle the Saints will need to watch out for on Thursday.

Who is going to make the eight?

The Western Bulldogs victory over West Coast threw a spanner in the works when it came to the race for the finals. “With Hawthorn and Fremantle to finish, the Bulldogs give themselves a chance at those 10 wins and if you miss with 10 wins you go ‘tick’ you’ve done everything that you could,” he told Robinson on AFL360. “So it’s a more exciting race for the Bulldogs being there and it does put everybody else on edge – St Kilda, Collingwood, Giants and indeed Melbourne. (AFL 360 was recorded prior to the Demons loss to Fremantle).”

“Who’s on edge in your mind?” Robinson asked

“Suddenly Collingwood’s on edge and so’s St Kilda. So St Kilda have got two tough games to finish of which they are going to have to win one and Collingwood have got the Suns, who are no pushovers, and they might have to beat Port Adelaide in the last game to make it. It recasts the scenario around Collingwood who are more vulnerable than I had imagined they were.”

Matthew Lloyd was even more bullish about the possibility of the Magpies missing the finals, even if his maths might be a little out. “The bottom part [of the eight] is fascinating and that is what I have loved about this season and only playing everybody once. I have taken a look at it and I think that the Western Bulldogs, with this win over West Coast, they win their next two games and get up to 40 points.”

“Collingwood are currently are on 34. So they will need to win two themselves so I think if Port beat Collingwood the Western Bulldogs will replace them. St Kilda are already on 40 [sic] with a good percentage, the Giants I think they can win those games ( v Ade, Melb & SK). So I think the Collingwood Footy Club are very vulnerable. Melbourne aren’t playing well enough. They’re gone. The Doggies could well replace Collingwood.”

Ed Phillips was in Gerard Healy’s cross hairs on Monday night, this shot for goal earning him ‘Ugly’ status in On The Couch’s The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

Like most St Kilda fans, Nick Riewoldt was crunching the numbers after Melbourne’s loss to Fremantle on AFL 360. “I’ve just done the predictor,” he told Gerard Healy. “About five minutes ago. It’s going to come down, so I think the Bulldogs get in, I think Collingwood get in, then the winner in Round 18, the winner of GWS and St Kilda will be playing finals.”

“So let’s talk through it Rooey,” Healy responded “The Saints are in sixth position on 36 they’ve got West Coast Eagles and the Giants.”

“They win one, they win one of those two and they’re in,” said Riewoldt.

“Which one are they going to win?”

“I think they’ll win Round 18.”

“So you’ve got West Coast beating them this week coming up on Thursday night,” Gary Lyon interrupted.

“Yep,” Riewoldt responded.

“They could win that,” Lyon suggested.

“They could win that. Yeah they could win that,” Riewoldt excitedly agreed.

“They’ve got a really good chance of getting through,” said Lyon.

“They win one of those two and they’re in,” Riewoldt concluded.

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