Friday 20 October 2017 / 12:26 PM

HANGERS & CLANGERS: AFL ROUND 7

After another intriguing weekend of AFL matches, here’s what left me gagging for more and shaking my head in frustration in Round 7.

HANGERS

Long live the Egalitarian AFL

Usually a couple of months into the season, things start to settle. The top 8 is generally set with the rest of the season about jockeying for positions. That predictability has not eventuated this season. As has been repeatedly stated on Twitter, the 2017 AFL season is drunk.

There has been upsets galore, which hit a crescendo in round 7 with the lower-ranked team winning every match – a historical quirk that had never happened before in the AFL era.

GWS and Adelaide appear the most talented teams but are far from impregnable, as was stunningly proven on the weekend. The AFL has long coveted an egalitarian system and it appears the fruits of its equalisation policies are bearing fruit.

Unlike the NBA, for instance, which has become a two-team league and the season up to the Finals feels almost pointless, a number of AFL teams can genuinely feel optimistic about premiership glory. The AFL is far from perfect – 10 teams from Victoria ensures it is skewed – but you’re hard-pressed to find a more intriguing league anywhere in the world.

West Coast’s Adelaide Love Affair

Can the grand final be played at the Adelaide Oval? That’s what baffled West Coast fans were thinking in the aftermath of their team’s stirring victory over Port Adelaide on Saturday.

Astoundingly, West Coast has won 5 from 6 – their only loss was with a second-string side against the Crows in late-2015 – at the hotbed venue, the envy of all travelling teams.

The Eagles’ struggles at the MCG have been well-documented – and unfortunately for the club, that’s where the grand final is permanently played. Thus, West Coast will unlikely be taken as a serious flag contender until they can win at the hallowed venue.

Still, their unwanted ‘flat-track’ moniker is slightly unfair considering West Coast’s ability to beat good teams away from home – so long as it’s not at the ’G.

Dale Thomas’ Moment of Magic

Dale Thomas has had a wretched time of it in recent years. He was once a premiership star at Collingwood during a period where Thomas routinely dazzled. During his peak years, Thomas could tap into his bag of tricks and turn a match through a moment of magic.

Ever beguiling, Thomas was even able to unshackle Mick Malthouse, the famed pugnacious Collingwood premiership coach, who lured his former pupil to Carlton in 2013. Unfortunately for Carlton and Thomas, his recruitment has been an utter disaster.

His later years at Collingwood were besieged by ankle injuries yet the Blues still signed Thomas to a lucrative four-year deal reportedly worth $3 million. Thomas has struggled with injuries and inconsistencies at Carlton and been a shadow of the livewire who once so thrillingly captivated footy fans.

The 29-year-old’s career is hanging by a thread amid Carlton’s renewal but he is still capable of turning back the clock occasionally. Against his former side, Thomas sealed a memorable Blues upset victory after he marked, sold a dummy to trick Tyson Goldsack, bounced twice and kicked a running banana goal. His emotionally charged fist pump was essentially a middle finger to Collingwood’s 125-year celebrations.

Thomas’ tenure at Carlton has been miserable but for solace he can always remember fondly the day his old magic memorably returned at the most opportune moment.

CLANGERS

Wasteful Port Adelaide

The match between Port Adelaide and West Coast was baffling. The Power controlled play, which was confirmed by a thorough domination of the statistics. However, West Coast always held a handy buffer and eventually conjured a crucial victory.

The result broke a deadlock between the teams and ensured West Coast moved into the top 4 while Port slipped to seventh just percentage ahead of ninth-placed Fremantle. Port rued continual misses in front of goal – they had 27 scoring shots to 22 yet lost by 10 points.

The Power still look the real deal and may be in the premiership hunt at season’s end. However, this grasped opportunity could very well haunt them.

Buckley in the hot seat, again

Frustratingly, Collingwood take one step forward then two steps back. They followed a rousing victory against the odds versus a fancied Geelong with a rudderless defeat against a lowly Carlton. It was a horrendous performance in front of a slew of club legends to mark Collingwood’s 125th anniversary.

It all means embattled coach Nathan Buckley is back in the hot seat, a familiar position for the club legend. At 2-5, the Pies’ season is lurching and could quickly spiral. They face a hurt GWS on the rebound, which spells trouble for Collingwood and Buckley’s future.

Although even Nostradamus would have trouble predicting an erratic Collingwood.

Cold Crows

Adelaide must have been drinking their own bath water. After a stunning opening six weeks, the Crows were being compared to great teams of yesteryear and propelled into premiership favouritism.

Their firepower seemed unwavering and perhaps the best we’ve seen since those freewheeling Geelong teams of the early 1990s. Seemingly defying logic, incredibly, the Crows were held scoreless in the first quarter by a rampant North Melbourne, who piled on 10 of their own before Adelaide hit the scoreboard.

It was hard to believe what was unfolding; quite clearly, the Crows had gotten ahead of themselves. Due to other upsets, the Crows still sit pretty a game clear on the ladder but have lost a sheen of their invincibility.

However, it is now a chance for them to refocus and get back to the basics. In the long run, that brain fade against the Kangaroos may prove a blessing in disguise.

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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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