Dour Swans under fire for 'horrible' contest

Swans coach John Longmire talks to his team during the match against Richmond at The Gabba on Sunday. Photo: Jono Searle/Getty Images
Swans coach John Longmire talks to his team during the match against Richmond at The Gabba on Sunday. Photo: Jono Searle/Getty Images

If you were disappointed by the quality of most games last weekend, be prepared for an even worse standard in the next month.

As the AFL places demands on players, coaches and officials to cram the next five rounds into a 32-day window, it is inevitable the football on display, already an issue in this compromised season, will suffer.

There have been several good games this year but more than a fair share of the 53 played so far have been ordinary and none has been outstanding.

The weekend ended with an attractive encounter in slippery conditions between Carlton and the Western Bulldogs, but the previous game between Richmond and Sydney was a shocker.

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick described the Gabba contest as farcical and horrible and laid the blame squarely on his Swans counterpart John Longmire for placing too many players behind the ball in an undersized backline.

For a long time Sydney under Longmire and his predecessor Paul Roos have made it a habit of winning ugly and the dour, defensive tactics employed on Sunday would not have pleased the heavyweights at AFL House who are conscious of improving the game's appeal in the nation's biggest city.

With players in hubs around the country, clubs will be forced to manage their squads carefully in this hectic upcoming schedule.

Hawthorn rested Shaun Burgoyne last Friday night and other clubs will do likewise with their veterans and stars.

Soft-tissue problems have ballooned dramatically since the season resumed and players who tend to be injury-prone will not be risked off four or five-day breaks.

Hawks the AFL's Jekyll and Hyde

Hawthorn are the Jekyll and Hyde of the AFL this year - the Hawks have been either brilliant or woeful with nothing in between.

Despite finishing last season strongly, this Hawthorn outfit is a shadow of the group that captured three consecutive premierships between 2013-15.

Last Friday night's display against Collingwood was a season nadir, the Hawks kicking their lowest score since Alastair Clarkson took over as coach in 2005.

Clarkson's scathing comments recently about the state of the game and specifically the way it is umpired might have been a distraction to his team's deficiencies.

Paul Puopolo, a long-time favourite of the coach, is well past his use-by date and should retire. He is slow and is caught with the ball far too often.

In the glory days the Hawks were renowned for their elite kicking skills, particularly off the backline from former skipper Luke Hodge and Grant Birchall. But in the past two games their ball movement has been static and predictable, often preferring to kick the ball backwards rather than go forward.

Their defence is lumbering and full of blokes whose disposal is terrible, notably captain Ben Stratton, James Frawley and Sam Frost.

Compounding the Hawks' lack of leg speed in the back half has been the decision to play Ben McEvoy as a key defender, with Clarkson preferring to go with Jonathon Ceglar in the ruck.

While McEvoy has played some reasonable games in defence, he remains the club's premier ruckman as he showed when he was moved there in the second half against the Magpies. Ceglar gives away too many free kicks and has yet to develop the right synergy with his midfielders.

Chad Wingard is Hawthorn's barometer this season - he has starred in the Hawks' three wins and been subdued in their losses. It hasn't helped that he has been wasted at half-forward for too long when the team desperately needed his class in the midfield.

Debutant Will Day was most impressive against Collingwood and maybe it's time to blood a few more youngsters.

Rankine makes stunning debut

The Gold Coast Suns' Izak Rankine kicks his first AFL goal during the Round 6 match against the Melbourne Demons at Giants Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The Gold Coast Suns' Izak Rankine kicks his first AFL goal during the Round 6 match against the Melbourne Demons at Giants Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

It was worth the wait to watch Izak Rankine make his AFL debut at Giants Stadium on Saturday night.

After hamstring and hip injuries restricted him to a few NEAFL games in his debut season last year, the highly touted South Australian showcased his sublime skills against Melbourne, finishing with 12 disposals, eight score involvements and three goals from six scoring shots.

His Gold Coast teammate Matt Rowell stole the limelight in his first four games and was on track for this year's Rising Star award before dislocating his right shoulder against Geelong in round five.

If Rankine, the No.3 pick in the 2018 national draft, stays fit and can continue the form he showed against the Demons, he will be one of the leading Rising Star contenders along with St Kilda key forward Max King.

Readers' Question of the Week

John Miller, of Barton, ACT, asks: Do ex-players have too much power and influence at the Adelaide Crows?

I presume you are referring to Adelaide football director Mark Ricciuto, who somehow has survived the cull and external review conducted at the end of last season. Ricciuto is a high-profile powerbroker who should take some responsibility for his club's dramatic slide since the disastrous 2017 Grand Final. The effects from the ill-fated 2018 preseason camp have been seismic, with coaches, star players and staff leaving the Crows.

Maybe it would be best for Adelaide if Ricciuto was to resign from the board.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com

Twitter: @hpkotton59

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Dour Swans under fire for 'horrible' contest first appeared on The Canberra Times.