Round 4 Review
Updated: Apr 12
The first few rounds had everyone talking about the "new" style of footy - high-scoring, free-flowing contests where anything was possible. In reality, scoring had only gone up marginally. To the eye at least, the game definitely looked better. Thirteen teams broke the 100-point mark in Rounds 1-3 and the big forwards were back in vogue.
Round 4 was the perfect recipe for scoring to regress slightly - wintery conditions at Ballarat and the MCG, a little bit more time for coaches to adjust their defensive structures, and some very evenly matched sides across most of the weekend. Only two teams broke 100 points - the Saints (5 goals in the final term) and the Crows (8 goals) had to storm home to do it.
A reasonable week for our picks and margins, even though West Coast blew a 33-point lead and the Pies failed to deliver. Our two best underdogs performed well, with Melbourne winning (who were outsiders at the time, then weren't, then were back to being outsiders just before the bounce) and the Tigers falling just short.
Let's take a look at the weekend that was...
Last year we wrote about the Race To The Bottom, with club budget cutbacks creating a mass exodus of quality people and stretching those who stick around to breaking point. It's a shame it has taken senior coaches making comment for the industry to take notice, but it's a start. A year-end review once we might be finally at the tail end of the pandemic could come at a good time
Should Tom Hickey have been penalised for holding the ball? Probably. Even though many forgot that you're allowed to take the ball out of the ruck and be tackled these days
The other rule everyone forgets is that you're allowed to rush the ball through the behinds if you're within the line of goalsquare and there is immediate pressure on the player with the ball. Even though there is a little bit of grey as to what constitutes "pressure" (and the fact that the rule is different for the boundary line on the other side of the point post), Robbie Gray was still OK to rush the ball through on Friday night without punishment
Who Won The Round?
Melbourne - After facing Fremantle, St Kilda and GWS at arguably the best time possible, the Dees found themselves up against a genuine contender on their home deck and got the job done. In challenging conditions that probably suited their style more than Geelong, Melbourne dominated the first half and survived a third quarter challenge to win pretty comfortably.
With the vulnerable Hawks up next, they could be 5-0 before facing Richmond on Anzac Eve at the MCG. What a game that should be.
Who Lost The Round?
West Coast. We asked last week why the Eagles weren't second favourites for the flag. We probably got our answer in the second half on Saturday - West Coast don't seem to have a Plan B or a way to turn things around if the game isn't on their terms. We saw the Bulldogs reel them in after being 13 points down half way through the final quarter in Round 2, and they blew a 33-point lead against the Saints this weekend, conceding the last eight goals of the match.
The Eagles will be fine in the long run with so many home games and a chance to bounce back against a potentially depleted Collingwood in Round 5, but it does put a question mark over their ability to stop goal streaks or dig in when things are against them.
Sydney 83 def Essendon 80
Expected score: 94 v 79
After being the expected score darlings over the first few rounds, it was the Swans turn to be on the wrong side of it on Thursday night. To the eye it looked like the expected score could've been even higher. Some dubious shot selections and a 2.6 final term certainly helped keep the Bombers in the game.
This game was a great example of what can happen if you bring a certain level of intensity. The way the game is going, a match pressure rating of 190+ could become the new benchmark standard outside of finals. Essendon notched up 191 for the match and a massive 235 in the final quarter when the game was on the line.
As we said in the preview, a fast start was crucial - Essendon managed to lead at quarter time and were up by a point at the last change but just couldn't land enough blows on the counter-attack in the final term. The Swans lifted and just won a few more contests (+21 contested possession in Q4) to get them over the line.
Good signs for Sydney to win under that sort of pressure. Great signs for Essendon with the likes of Cox, Ridley, Hind and Parish coming through.
Port Adelaide 79 def Richmond 77
Expected score: 98 v 71
What a game. The numbers point to a much more comfortable Port Adelaide win, but they don't take into account the absolute injury carnage for the Power that could easily have ripped away the four points.
In the final term it just looked like Richmond would be able to hit the front and hold their lead. Everything was going their way so it was just a matter of hitting the scoreboard to make it very tough for Port to come back. Somehow Port Adelaide won a series of absolutely critical contests to hang in there. To hang on after hitting the front with four minutes left on the clock (no goals were scored after Robbie Gray put them back into the lead) was remarkable.
Richmond were super brave themselves, and probably should have trailed by a lot more at half time. Only six marks inside 50 just wasn't enough to really challenge Port. Riewoldt and Lynch managed eight shots at goal between them for only 3 goals. What might have been.
Blues fans would have enjoyed the game as well, watching Port Adelaide drop like flies ahead of their Round 5 match at the MCG.
Western Bulldogs 73 def Brisbane 54
Expected score: 84 v 52
Workmanlike performance from the Dogs. Lions going bloody well for a 1-3 side.
Are Brisbane an in-form Charlie Cameron and Joe Daniher away from winning at least two more? They will be desperately trying to figure out how to get both of them back to their best before they lose sight of the top eight.
The Dogs had gone +151, +94 and +98 in the disposal count for the first three rounds. The Lions kept them to -14 and took away the influence of Caleb Daniel (just 8 touches) and Tom Liberatore (17).
Arguably the most pivotal part of the game was the contribution from Naughton and English up forward when compared to the Lions key forwards up the other end. The two Dogs managed 13 shots between them. Daniher and Hipwood? Just five.
Brisbane will be pleased to head home finally but won't find a matchup with the Bombers a breeze at all. The Dogs get back to Marvel Stadium against a disappointing Suns to aim at a 5-0 start to the season.
St Kilda 102 def West Coast 82
Expected score: 106 v 71
No idea what to make of this game. The Eagles had St Kilda's measure on paper, their key forwards managed six goals between them and they built a 33-point lead before completely stopping. A 53-point turnaround from the 16 minute mark of the third term is absolutely extraordinary.
The Saints have gifted the rest of the competition a way to really challenge the Eagles. A pressure factor of 222 like St Kilda put up in Q4 will trouble any side, but even more so a West Coast team who may still have the "flat track bully" tag lingering for a little while longer.
It was the first time West Coast had been held to a single-figure mark inside 50 total. Given the key defensive challenges for St Kilda that's a huge surprise. They can thank their midfield for that number though - much easier to defend 36 inside 50s as they did on the weekend. With the Saints enjoying 61% of the game in their forward half, the defenders weren't under siege like they had been over the first few rounds.
Where to for both teams? The Eagles should get a great learning opportunity out of this but it's super disappointing to see them lack a lot of backbone when challenged away from home. The Saints bounced back well after that dismal performance against Essendon, even though they can't expect to reel in a 30+ point lead against most sides, especially Richmond this Thursday night.
Carlton 70 def Gold Coast 59
Expected score: 104 v 70
A huge expected score discrepancy for the Blues. The final margin probably masks just how badly the Suns are travelling. If Carlton kicks straight this isn't even in doubt over the final quarter.
With Ben King well held, the Suns just didn't have many other dangerous options up forward - what has happened to Rankine's scoring ability? Where are the mids chipping in with a few?
The scrappy nature of the game didn't suit either side really, with both preferring a more open style of game. Carlton just did it better when it mattered in a pretty unremarkable match overall.
GWS 90 def Collingwood 60
Expected score: 66 v 61
We mentioned the Giants' window of opportunity to pinch this one was a low-scoring slog. Definitely didn't expect it to turn into a 30-point win for GWS, even if the expected score did suggest the margin was a little flattering.
Collingwood picked up a few fresh injuries (one of them to Adams, arguably their best player), had their usual challenges hitting the scoreboard, and were only kept in the game by their gallant defence once again.
The Giants won every quarter and knew they were in it early on. Super important for the underdog to build belief early on at the moment, and Collingwood let them get a sniff of an upset with a low-pressure first term overall.
Collingwood continue to disappoint. The Giants are just a side at the moment and carried by the likes of Greene and Taranto. They have to head over to Perth and tackle a fuming Eagles side who can definitely put up the sort of total they can only dream of.
GWS get to play their cross-town rival in the Battle of the Bridge, where the Swans and Giants usually end up beating the living hell out of each other. Should be an interesting one to preview.
Melbourne 85 def Geelong 60
Expected score: 90 v 61
The wet weather provided an interesting look at how both teams handled things. Melbourne, not traditionally a great side in slippery conditions, managed to get hold of Geelong early. The Cats have a lot of very good wet weather players, but is their game style built too much on the kick-mark game to adjust to a change in conditions?
Clearly this was Melbourne's biggest test so far this season and they saluted comfortable despite being challenged in the third term. They look far more mature than previous years and have the confidence to halt a bit of momentum and regroup.
There is a hint of Richmond about Melbourne's side - serious talent at the top end with the likes of Gawn, Oliver, Petracca who keep delivering every week, and then a whole heap of soldiers who just play their role but are super important to the team's fortunes. Clearly they are a long way off Richmond's achievements, but the signs are good they are built the right way to win finals if they can make it.
The Cats could arguably be 0-4 with a bit of bad luck (and a holding the ball decision against Mark Blicavs). They won't panic but they would want to find their rhythm pretty soon because they aren't challenging sides like we might have expected at the start of the season.
Adelaide 109 def North Melbourne 68
Expected score: 98 v 71
We gave the Roos a slight chance in this one and they somehow took a four-point lead into three quarter time. From there it was all Adelaide though, with an 8 goal to 1 final quarter.
The Crows still have their defensive issues. Against nearly any other side they would have dropped this game. North just couldn't sustain it for four quarters, perhaps a little unlucky to be down to three on the bench when McDonald and Zurhaar both left the game in the first half, two of their better players.
Tex would've kicked six if his teammates didn't completely miss him by foot a number of times - quite funny to watch Tex try to get back onto the ball when it misses him - it's like watching a cruise ship turn around.
The Crows get another winnable game against Fremantle back at home next week. The Roos face a Geelong side ready to welcome back Jeremy Cameron. Oh dear.
Fremantle 96 def Hawthorn 81
Expected score: 116 v 96
Somehow the Hawks were still in this game for a long period despite a 34-point quarter time margin. Again we saw Fremantle grow a leg at home. They really should have been the third team this week to post a 100-plus scoreline had it not been for their inaccuracy in front of goal.
The Hawks were average defensively (gee their defenders give away a lot of free kicks) and offensively they just don't have any dangerous forwards to challenge even Fremantle's defence. Jack Gunston's return might help, but until then the likes of Lewis and O'Brien just don't do enough.
The best part of the whole match was probably Nat Fyfe venturing out onto the field after the game to work on his goalkicking after kicking 0.6 for the day. Other than that this was pretty dour stuff on a wintery Sunday afternoon.
Looking forward to getting stuck into a big Round 5 preview. Pretty much every contest looks incredibly one-sided. Might be tough to come up with our best underdog for Round 5 but we will give it our best shot.
Preview to land Thursday. Check back then.