Sunday 20 August 2017 / 03:53 PM

HANGERS & CLANGERS: AFL ROUND 6

After another intriguing weekend of AFL matches, here’s what left me gagging for more and shaking my head in frustration in Round 6.

HANGERS

The Gov back in Defence

West Coast must wish they had two Jeremy McGoverns. The All-Australian has become the best intercept mark in the league and is a prized counterattacking weapon from defence. With strong hands and an innate ability to read the play, McGovern is almost impassable and his booming kick provides continual drive for West Coast.

However, McGovern is far from a one-trick pony. When he debuted in 2014, West Coast coach Adam Simpson publically stated that McGovern was destined to become a key forward. Due to an injury scourge to their defence in 2015, McGovern was forced to go down back and has become West Coast’s best centre half back since club legend Glen Jakovich.

Still, despite that overwhelming success, there has always been an allure to McGovern, the forward version. Simpson, who preached flexibility on his arrival in 2013, sensed the Eagles had become too rigid and predictable decided to throw McGovern forward in the aftermath of West Coast’s loss to Richmond in round 3.

You can understand the reasoning: McGovern has the skillset to become a dominant key forward and would take a considerable load off spearhead Josh Kennedy while making Jack Darling, an undersized centre half forward, a more dangerous fit as the third tall.

McGovern performed well against Sydney in round 4 but West Coast’s pummelling to Hawthorn the following week forced Simpson to revert back to his trusted formula. Against Fremantle in a crux match for West Coast’s fortunes, McGovern was clearly the best player to half-time with seven intercept marks to provide the type of wall Donald Trump coverts along the Mexico border.

Despite the allure, McGovern is almost certain to stay down back although don’t be surprised to see him pinch hit up forward much like former premiership troubleshooter Adam Hunter.

GWS-Bulldogs Rivalry

Thankfully, Carlton weren’t part of the Friday night lineup. The coveted timeslot fizzled in round 5 as the Blues floundered but bounced back spectacularly with an epic match between GWS and the Bulldogs, a burgeoning rivalry that is developing into the very best in the league.

Of course, the teams played a classic preliminary final last year, in one of the greatest ever matches played in recent times. With the stakes considerably lower, Friday night’s game was never going to reach those heady heights but a nail biter nevertheless ensued.

Despite sporting a 4-1 record heading in, a lethargic Bulldogs had been underwhelming but a marquee matchup with their newfound nemesis provided the tonic they needed. The Bulldogs played their best match of the season and should have won if not for poor goal kicking in the first half.

The Giants extracted a little revenge but it basically means nothing until September with both teams poised to finish in the top 4. It’s easy to look ahead and fantasise over another mouthwatering finals encounter but before then the rivalry continues in round 21 at Etihad Stadium. It’s a fixture the entirety of the AFL fraternity will circle.

Vintage Ablett

There has been plenty of egg on face for pundits questioning Gary Ablett after a sluggish opening couple of matches. Since then, the 32-year-old has turned back the clock which hit a crescendo with a 45-disposal masterclass on Saturday night against North Melbourne, his long-time whipping boys.

The performance, which included a career high 18 clearances and nine tackles, proved it was folly to write off Ablett, the best player of the past decade. Injuries have cruelled Ablett during the past couple of years but he remains the most complete player when in full flight.

Personally, I believe Chris Judd’s peak from 2004-11 was even more breathtaking and damaging than Ablett’s zenith (2007-14) but the Gold Coast star’s longevity has him ahead bigger picture. If you’re debating the game’s greatest ever player, just be sure to include Ablett’s name alongside his dad’s, Wayne Carey, Leigh Matthews and all the usual suspects.

Ablett received a reverberating chorus of jeers during the match against North Melbourne, which is the right of paid spectators so long it doesn’t go overboard. Personally, I would much rather bask in Ablett’s greatness because he’s undoubtedly nearing the finishing line of an astonishing career.

CLANGERS

Dud Western Derby

There was much hype over the Western Derby fuelled by West Coast and Fremantle sporting identical records heading into the contest for the first time ever (excluding round 1 matchups). A struggling West Coast combined with a rejuvenated Fremantle suggested a more intriguing contest than anyone could have imagined just a few weeks back.

Unfortunately, a young Freo side, boasting eight Derby debutants, were eviscerated in the first quarter by a desperate Eagles side who had been battered all week after an inept performance against the lowly Hawks.

West Coast led by six goals at quarter time and eventually cruised to a fourth consecutive victory over their crosstown rivals. The once vaunted Western Derby has fizzled for some time now, with the last memorable match being West Coast’s thrilling one-point win in 2011 highlighted by Docker Hayden Ballantyne’s missed set shot after the siren.

The rivalry peaked from 2003-11, a stretch where there was a succession of epic matches; you could at least bank on one derby per season being an instant classic. Perhaps the next Western Derby slated for July 16 will provide a desperately needed throwback.

Back To Earth For Daniher

Joe Daniher had the most baffling turn of events during a five-day stretch. The Essendon key forward was named best afield on Anzac Day to spearhead his side to a stirring win over arch nemesis Collingwood. The left-footer made a mockery of the wet conditions – a performance so dazzling that Essendon star Brendon Goddard likened Daniher to Sydney champion Lance Franklin.

Perhaps predictably, the 23-year-old came back to earth with a thump after enduring the yips against the Demons on Sunday. Daniher kicked 0.6 – and one out on the full – during an abominable display in front of goal in the first half. Had he kicked straight, the Bombers would have enjoyed a handy buffer at the long break.

Instead, the Bombers only led by two points before fading away in the second half. Daniher performed well in other areas but his misfiring radar was inexcusable.

Winless Swans

Sydney are the only team to have not registered a victory after six rounds. It feels entirely weird and surreal writing that. The Swans were unable to break their duck against a previously inept Carlton on Saturday to continue a horror start to their season.

Unlike fellow fallen powerhouses Hawthorn, Sydney have not been awful but unlike the Hawks have been unable to produce a throwback four-quarter performance. However, this isn’t some old creaky team nosediving in front of us.

Contrary to perception, the Swans are in the midst of a renewal and were on average younger than the rebuilding Blues boasting 12 players with less than 50 games experience. They might be lurching at the bottom but one suspects it won’t be for long.

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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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