Wednesday 18 October 2017 / 07:22 AM

HANGERS & CLANGERS: AFL ROUND 14

In the first full round in what felt an eternity – after a mishmash of byes – the footy went full flown Boris Yeltsin. In what has been the drunkest season imaginable, round 14 went degenerate with four out of the first six games decided by less than a kick.

Nothing makes sense anymore. Quite clearly, we are experiencing the greatest AFL season on record. Just enjoy the ride while it lasts.

HANGERS 

Best round Ever?

Surely, this round is on the shortlist of greatest ever. It started with the Hawks’ major upset of the Crows in Adelaide followed by a trio of the craziest games imaginable. The Swans somehow came back from a 19-point deficit with four minutes left, the Demons ended a 15-year drought by beating the Eagles in Perth at the death and the brave undermanned Dockers somehow almost knocked off Geelong at Kardinya Park.

Remarkably, there is only two games separating seventh-placed West Coast and 16th ranked Hawthorn. You can almost throw away your tipping this year; it’s the kind of season where the person who knows nothing about footy is bound to win the office sweepstakes.

Marvellous Melbourne

Of course, it was almost inevitable that the Demons would end their long drought in the Wild West in the most insane fashion. The Demons looked the slicker team for much of the night but – evoking haunting apparitions – appeared to be stuttering when it mattered most as a surging Eagles led by 16 points with eight minutes left.

Led by inspirational hard nut midfielder Jack Viney, the Demons impressively wouldn’t go away and chipped away at West Coast’s lead. Tom McDonald, the former star defender turned key forward, capped off a terrific match with his fifth goal in the dying stages to trigger wild celebrations from the Demons.

Having not beaten West Coast at Subiaco Oval in 15 years, it was also the Demons’ first win against West Coast since 2009 and their first victory in Perth in 13 years. The Demons are now well perched at 8-5 and fifth on the ladder. In a season so intoxicated, it would be fitting if the tortured Demons – who have not won a flag since 1964 – somehow go all the way in 2017.

Don’t bet against it.

Happy Hawthorn

You knew mastermind tactician Alastair Clarkson would have been scheming endlessly during the Hawks’ bye. The hardnosed coach would obviously have been bitterly disappointed at the Hawks’ plight with the powerhouse reduced to being one of the dregs of the competition.

Thus, it was highly likely a well prepared Hawks were going to respond against the Crows in Adelaide. Still, it was unlikely the lowly Hawks could legitimately serve it up to a rested Crows, who were hoping to put their recent inconsistencies behind them.

Somehow, although becoming predictable amid this unpredictable season, the Hawks produced a major boil over in a throwback performance to defeat the stunned Crows by 13 points to trigger a remarkable round of AFL.

Hail Alastair Clarkson!

CLANGERS

Jettta’s Costly Miss

Lewis Jetta, West Coast’s maligned speedster, has been in the midst of clearly his best form since returning home at the end of 2015. In a period where the Eagles have lost 4 from 5 to tumble out of premiership contention, Jetta has been a rare shining light with his electrifying pace and sublime foot skills coming to the fore.

Jetta was one of West Coast’s best players against the Demons but his performance was tarnished by a costly missed set shot late in the match. The 27-year-old botched a straight forward chance from 40m with eight minutes left – had he converted the Eagles would have been 21 points ahead.

The errant kick undid his superb tackle to win the free kick and stymied West Coast’s burgeoning momentum. They appeared to have killed off the Demons’ spirit, only for Jetta’s miss to rekindle hope for the visitors.

And the rest is history. It almost surely spells the end of West Coast’s premiership aspirations and puts them in real danger of missing the finals.

Essendon’s Choke

Like so many teams, the Bombers have been hot and cold this season. After being outplayed by the rejuvenated Swans in the first-half, the blistering Bombers overwhelmed the home side booting seven goals in a row to lead by 19 points with just minutes left.

Of course, you can never write off the seasoned Swans but the match appeared to be a formality. Gamely, the Swans clawed back in trademark fashion but the ticking clock appeared their nemesis.

Bafflingly, the Bombers made numerous lapses in the dying moments, highlighted by veteran pair James Kelly’s contentious rushed behind and Brendon Goddard’s smothered kick after playing on. Moments after, Gary Rohan took a mark in the goal square and kicked the match-winning goal after the siren to send the SCG into delirium. It was the Bombers’ most painful loss at the venue since the famous 1996 preliminary final.

Somehow, Essendon botched the final minutes eerily reminiscent of Richmond, their bitter rivals.

Oliver’s Trash talk

As mentioned, the Demons enjoyed one of their finest victories of the past decade in round 14. However, some of the spotlight has been on young Demon Clayton Oliver, who allegedly staged a free kick after an attempted strike from West Coast’s Will Schofield.

Oliver was reprimanded on social media, including most notably from WA cricket legend Damien Martyn who wrote “Am I watching soccer???”

In a scathing rebuke, Oliver reminded Martyn about his soft dismissal as Australia collapsed chasing a small total against South Africa at the SCG in 1994. Martyn was made the scapegoat of Australia’s loss and banished into the Test wilderness for six years but did eventually carve out a successful rebirth comprising 13 Test centuries and being part of Australia’s 2003 World Cup winning team.

It was probably not the wisest retort from Oliver, who should have just owned it and moved on. Now, the slanging match is dominating headlines and taking some of the sheen away from Melbourne’s momentous victory.

He will also likely cop the wrath from coach Simon Goodwin, who said the club would adopt a “team-first” approach to social media after a recent controversy.

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About the author

Tristan Lavalette

Tristan is a freelance journalist based in Perth. He has written for The Guardian, ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Previously he was a newspaper journalist for almost a decade.

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