Monday 19 March 2018 / 11:47 AM


TRISTAN LAVALETTE reveals his likes and dislikes from Round 5 of the AFL.


Hawthorn’s Champs Stand Up

Hawthorn has endured a miserable season. They have become a punchline-copping, long-held mockery from envious rivals. Their iron clenched fist on the league is over; the champs have been knocked out.

After four dreadful losses essentially ended their finals hopes, the Hawks are almost certain to use the rest of the season as a rebuild in a desperate bid to quickly climb back to relevance. However, there are going to be moments when they show flashes of their old brilliance.

On Sunday, against a hapless West Coast, the Hawks utterly dominated in the same ruthless manner that marked their dominance over the past decade. Rewinding the clock were their veteran superstars – namely Cyril Rioli, Jarryd Roughead and Luke Hodge.

Rioli shrugged off a poor start to the season with a scintillating display highlighted by trademark ferociousness and nifty tricks to kick-start Hawthorn’s revival. Former captain Hodge continually outmuscled a meek Eagles outfit, while Roughead, his successor, memorably kicked his 500th career goal to cap off his first win as skipper.

For one day, anyway, Hawthorn enjoyed a renaissance.

Buddy’s Milestone

Similarly to their powerhouse comrades, Sydney are surprisingly mired in the mud languishing at the bottom without a win. Amid the doom and gloom, the Swans had a rare highlight on Saturday against GWS when Buddy Franklin bagged his 800th career goal.

In an era where teams favour a healthy spread of goalkickers, Franklin is a throwback to a bygone age where power forwards routinely dominated the scoreboard. Franklin has been a genuine drawcard and one of the most beguiling players ever; he’s in the rarefied realm of being able to change a match’s course through an act of brilliance.

In terms of most breathtaking players I’ve watched in person since I started following AFL 25 years ago, Franklin is on the shortlist along with Chris Judd and the Abletts (hint, not Nathan Ablett). Despite being contracted for an eternity – 2022! – no one should take Franklin’s greatness for granted.

Anzac Day

Despite some of the inevitable cringeworthy comparisons between war and football, the Anzac Day match between Collingwood and Essendon has become the most hallowed fixture in the AFL calendar bar the Grand Final.

It is always chilling hearing the Last Post played amid silence at an almost full MCG. There is a swirl of goodwill in the air, a rarity in sport contests where everyone – players, coaches and most definitely fans – takes themselves too seriously.

There have been many classic Anzac Day matches – but make no mistake, Tuesday’s match wasn’t was one of them. Clearly, both teams look middling; Collingwood might even be one of the dregs. Although at a respectable 3-2, the Bombers have the launching pad for a finals push in what has thus far been an admirable comeback season for the rejuvenated club.


West Coast’s Struggles  

The Eagles were once again thrashed at the MCG, pathetically losing to last-placed Hawthorn. West Coast’s ineptness at the home of football has made them the butt of rehashed jokes on social media.

Post-match, coach Adam Simpson said West Coast had “bigger problems than playing at the MCG at the moment.” Simpson is spot on – the Eagles’ woes aren’t merely a symptom of playing on an unfamiliar ground.

They were rudderless and showed a distinct lack of fight – not for the first time. For an experienced team, it is absolutely jarring how often the Eagles get outmuscled, highlighting the lack of grunt in the side. Showing up the team’s non-existent leadership, youngster Jackson Nelson played almost a lone hand and flew the flag. Unfortunately, Nelson has succumbed to injury and will be sidelined for a month in a body blow for the battered Eagles.

It very much feels like it is an important juncture of Simpson’s coaching career, a period where he has to accept some hard truths and make tough calls. Suddenly, the Western Derby against a rejuvenated Fremantle looms as a crux match for West Coast.

Another North Melbourne Fadeout

In a year of renewal, North Melbourne have been impressive – about as impressive as one can be without a win. They have shown trademark tenaciousness and fight, innate characteristics of the proud club.

However, despite those pleasing signs, the Kangaroos will be mightily annoyed by their continual botched opportunities. North have blown matches against Geelong, Western Bulldogs and, most recently, Fremantle to undo some of their encouraging development.

When the heat is on in the final stanza, the Kangaroos have crumbled under the intensity. Clearly, this fledgling team is starting afresh but coach Brad Scott would quickly want to eradicate this disturbing tendency before it erodes the club.

Buckley Under Pressure

It is always tricky when a club legend becomes coach. Sometimes it works seamlessly (insert John Worsfold). Often it doesn’t (Michael Voss, James Hird, Kevin Bartlett et al). Undoubtedly, it’s an awkward fit. No one wants to see things go badly.

Right now, Collingwood faces a major dilemma with favourite son Nathan Buckley. The Pies are languishing at 1-4 and have gradually gotten worse since he took over in 2012. President Eddie McGuire’s famous master succession plan hatched back in 2009 now feels infamous.

Then coach Mick Malthouse was forced to step aside in 2011 after arguably his best coaching stint having moulded the Pies into a powerhouse following a nadir in the mid-2000s. Despite his later travails at Carlton, Malthouse deserved the right to continue coaching a group that clearly relished playing under him.

Buckley had a few years under Malthouse to learn his coaching chops but perhaps a longer apprentice – preferably in a different environment – would undoubtedly have helped. McGuire’s unwavering kinship for Buckley is well known but that unrelenting faith threatens to derail the club.

It looms as a very messy season for Collingwood, both on and off the field.

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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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