Monday 18 December 2017 / 11:28 PM

HANGERS & CLANGERS: AFL ROUND 9

TRISTAN LAVALETTE pinpoints the AFL elements that gave him warm fuzzies and cold shivers in Round 9.

HANGERS

Speedy Bombers

The Bombers have endured a world of pain during the past five years. The proud club crumbled to such depths that even long-time hated rivals felt some pathos for them. However, the Bombers are starting to regain their swagger with a promise of good times ahead.

The Bombers’ ascension has been wobbly thus far this season but they were devastating against a rudderless West Coast on Sunday. The youthful Bombers overpowered an experienced but meek Eagles to dominate the contest and then punished their flat-footed opponents on the outside with sheer speed.

Something nice is percolating at Essendon and coach John Worsfold – who completely outfoxed opposite number Adam Simpson to put a dagger through his former side – is building a sustainable foundation. They have a nice blend of experience and youth, while possessing the mercurial Joe Daniher, who right now is one of the most talented key forwards in the game.

For the first time in about 15 years, the Bombers appear headed for relevancy.

Ross Lyon’s coaching

After a wretched opening couple of rounds, continuing on from a disastrous 2016, few could have predicted the Dockers would sit fifth on the AFL ladder after round 9 having won six of seven. Ross Lyon deserves a lion share of the credit in what is shaping as arguably his finest coaching season.

There was a loud chorus of cynics believing Lyon was not adept at building a list having arrived at both St Kilda and Fremantle during opportune junctures. Lyon spent the first nine seasons as a senior coach not having to worry about rejuvenating his team.

Lyon’s perception as a one-trick pony reminds me of legendary coach Mick Malthouse, who steered West Coast through 10 consecutive finals appearances in the 1990s. Malthouse took over a lurching but talented West Coast list and quickly moulded them into a powerhouse but critics were dismissive of the master coach’s role believing he had been gifted a “WA state” team.

However, Malthouse made a mockery of his critics when he rebuilt Collingwood twice in the 2000s during arguably his greatest coaching stint, as the Pies played in five grand finals and won the 2010 flag.

Don’t be surprised if Lyon replicates Malthouse and delivers a stunning rebuild at Fremantle. The signs are already highly encouraging of renewal at the Dockers.

Stars Shine for Cats

Geelong has had a strange old season. They’ve had a soft draw and promptly won the opening five matches before inexplicably losing three on the trot against inferior sides. A Friday night blockbuster against the reigning premiers Bulldogs – with both teams tentatively perched at 5-3 – was somewhat of a season defining affair.

Both erratic teams played true to form in a baffling match but the Cats grinded out an important victory playing a strong brand punctuated by ferocious tackling. Dynamic duo Patrick Dangerfield (36 disposals and four goals) and Joel Selwood (29 possessions) were inspirational but veteran defender Harry Taylor was the unlikely hero kicking five goals in a match-winning move from coach Chris Scott.

The Cats still jarringly rely on their top end far too much but that is a luxury most teams would like to have.

CLANGERS

Pitiful West Coast

After a diabolical thrashing to the Hawks in round 5 at the MCG, you would have thought West Coast would be fired up for their subsequent match in Melbourne. Shockingly, the Eagles were somehow even worse against the Bombers at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, fuelling more scorn their way.

We’ve heard it all before. They are “flat-track bullies”. “Mummy boys”. Unfortunately for them, they don’t seem to respond to the slander. Sure, they beat up on teams in their comfort of home but just can’t come to grips with playing in Melbourne, having lost three straight games.

Worryingly, West Coast don’t seem to have any ‘nasty’ players – the types who would be calling out teammates when it’s absolutely required. I’ve been fortunate to have watched several great Eagles teams over the years but this current side, albeit very good on paper, has never instilled me with much confidence.

They seem mentally shaky, which continually rears when under pressure in Melbourne. It is time that fingers start pointing at West Coast.

Erratic Premiers

It isn’t time for concern at the Bulldogs, who have played relatively well despite sporting a mediocre 5-4 record. However, they have had head-scratching stretches during matches that makes you wonder about their standing.

After controlling the first quarter, the Bulldogs were held scoreless in the second stanza as Geelong seized controlled kicking 5.5. To their credit and continuing a trend, the Bulldogs fought back gamely to take back the lead in the third quarter.

However, they ran out of gas to continue a long losing streak to Geelong. The Bulldogs deserve to be taken seriously after their heroics last season but it’s becoming hard to work them out. Is it possible they just got white hot last September but will be unable to replicate that?

It certainly isn’t time to panic but coach Luke Beveridge would be hoping for more consistency soon.

Tragic Tigers

If you care about preserving your sanity, don’t be a Tigers supporter. Somehow, the Tigers continually botch matches they just shouldn’t lose. For the second consecutive week, the Tigers were denied victory in the dying moments testament to their knack of losing in the most macabre fashion.

Truth be told, the Tigers deserved to beat the vaunted GWS after outplaying them for much of the match. Despite – almost predictably – stuttering in the backend it appeared the Tigers had sealed victory when Shai Bolton kicked a goal with 90 seconds left but – like a twist in a horror film– it was reversed. Promptly, the Giants stormed up field and kicked a goal within seconds to steal the game.

The Tigers continually stick the knife into their downtrodden supporters, who surely must be at breaking point. In a silver lining, somehow, the wretched Tigers are still in the top eight.

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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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