Carlton’s costly defeat, Bombers look finals bound: Key takeouts from round 11

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Sydney d Carlton

This was a costly defeat for Carlton, and not just because of what it does to their finals ambitions. George Hewett came off with a nasty concussion after a friendly fire hit from Nic Newman, who also hurt his hamstring. Ollie Hollands sat out the final term with a shoulder injury. And Patrick Cripps came off late with an ankle problem, but came back on and tried to play through it. That’s just the physical damage – the mental scars, particularly when it comes to goalkicking, will prove just as troubling. Harry McKay had a torrid night, kicking 0.3 and another out on the full, while Charlie Curnow was aerially dominant but converted only 1.3. Between them, they could have won the game for Carlton, who will front up again on Friday night to face Melbourne. The Demons will be smarting after a shock loss at home to Fremantle – and the Blues might be without Adam Cerra, who has been offered a one-match ban for rough conduct. As for Sydney, there was a lot to like, particularly with how their undersized defence stood up and their ball movement, a return to their best from last season. Dane Rampe (neck) is the most likely player to return from injury when the Swans return from the bye next weekend for a Thursday night home clash with St Kilda to open round 13, but Luke Parker has been hit with a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle on Sam Walsh. Callum Mills, Paddy and Tom McCartin, Peter Ladhams, Joel Amartey and Logan McDonald are still all sidelined. – Vince Rugari

Carlton’s Patrick Cripps limped off the field on Friday night.Credit: AFL Photos

Hawthorn d St Kilda

Sam Mitchell’s building blocks are starting to take shape as Hawthorn notched their third win of the season by knocking over top eight team St Kilda. The Hawks were inspired against the Saints, potentially buoyed by their 116-point demolition win over West Coast last week, as they played with more freedom and with a more solidified style. When the game was on their terms, they moved it quickly by hand and shared the load around. They easily won the handball count 214-131 and had far more uncontested possessions (294-220). This linking style of play could work in their favour as their midfield develops. Mitchell said his key defender James Sicily had the best individual game he’s coached a player in. Sicily finished with 42 touches, 17 contested and 21 intercept possessions – but has been offered a one-match ban for rough conduct. For St Kilda, victory would have had them challenging for a top-four spot midway through the season, but now they will need to dig deeper if they want to stay in contention for finals. Luckily, they have Max King back; he bagged another four goals in his second game back from shoulder surgery. – Marnie Vinall

Walyalup d Naarm

After running out of puff in September, the Demons were keen to spread their midfield load to ease the burden on Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver. Now is the time for the Dees’ next-tier onballers to show they can also drive the team rather than just ride in the gun pair’s slipstream. Can Tom Sparrow become more than just a role-playing footsoldier? What’s James Harmes got left? Does Alex Neal-Bullen have polish to go with his big tank? The Dees are yet to strike the sweet spot with Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy. Gawn, on the comeback trail from a knee injury, is the better ruckman and also the more accomplished forward, but Grundy is yet to show he can be a weapon inside 50 so needs to spend more time rucking. Time is on the Dees’ side, but they have hit a rocky mid-season patch. In a big tick for Justin Longmuir’s coaching, the Dockers have made the in-season changes required to resurrect a once spluttering campaign. As Longmuir said, they are no longer playing not to win. Nat Fyfe’s return to the midfield has given them another inside ball-winner to support Caleb Serong in the guts. Hayden Young is a weapon off half-back. Jye Amiss is only young but looms as their most promising tall forward since Matthew Pavlich. They are well and truly back in the finals hunt. – Andrew Wu

Luke Jackson came up against his former skipper Max Gawn.Credit: Getty Images

GWS d Geelong

Geelong have hit a bit of a rough patch, in large part due to an onslaught of injuries, yet still, the reigning premiers falling to GWS took many by surprise over the weekend. The Giants have a good record against the Cats and had the extra inspiration of captain Toby Greene’s 200th game, which helped spur them to the seven-point win. Greene laid the foundations for victory on Saturday with four first-half goals, and teammates Jake Riccardi and Brent Daniels combined to build on it with four final-quarter majors. Chris Scott admits to frustration as the Cats have now endured three straight losses for the second time this season and have an uphill battle ahead of them. Not helping the situation is defender Esava Ratugolea’s name added to the injury list after he was substituted off with a hamstring concern. The Cats may find themselves in an unusual position of going in an underdogs next week against the Western Bulldogs, while GWS will have an arm wrestle with the Tigers. – Marnie Vinall

Gold Coast d Western Bulldogs

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge likes what he has seen from his side’s defence in recent games, led by Liam Jones – the key defender starred again with 13 intercept possessions. While the likes of Bailey Dale and Ed Richards offer plenty of run and rebound, Jones was an important play-making option against the Suns. “It’s just another incredible game from him, he makes us look better and gives us a chance,” Beveridge said. “I thought he kicked the ball extraordinarily well coming out of our back third.” Beveridge added that the team would hopefully return to Whitten Oval to train in the coming weeks after groundwork left them training at Skinner Reserve in Braybrook. While Matt Rowell, Charlie Ballard and first-year midfielder Bailey Humphrey all impressed, Suns coach Stuart Dew loved the five goals from Jack Lukosius, whose gut running led to four of those goals coming from the goal square in humid, slippery Darwin conditions. “His workrate has gone through the roof this season and I think he now understands what he needs to do to be a top-line player,” Dew said. “I’m sure some people would have thought these wouldn’t have been his conditions but I felt he played with desperation tonight.” – Roy Ward

Essendon d West Coast

With six wins at the halfway point of the season – and with North Melbourne and Carlton in the next two weeks before their bye, plus a return bout against the Eagles in round 21 – Essendon look finals-bound. Whatever favour the draw has shown them, they’ll deserve it: Brad Scott has the Bombers playing disciplined, defence-first football, and the move of Kyle Langford into attack has been a masterstroke. For the Eagles, and Adam Simpson, this game was just about regaining some respectability after the previous week’s shocker against Hawthorn. They showed spirit, but that a 50-point loss could and perhaps should have been worse only shows again what a dire state they’re in. – Andrew Stafford

Jake Stringer celebrates after scoring a goal against the Eagles.Credit: AFL Photos

Yartapuulti d Richmond

Richmond fought hard to salute their outgoing three-time premiership coach Damien Hardwick but needed to put on their very best against a rampaging Yartapuulti, which they didn’t manage. Interim coach Andrew McQualter said his first game at the helm was fun after an emotional and challenging week, and gave credit to the club’s leaders and players for getting on with the job. The Tigers, however, have endured their seventh loss of the season and are a long way from challenging for finals. However, Tim Taranto will seemingly do everything in his power to get there. He had four goals and a high-game disposal count of 33 on Sunday. The Power have now notched their eighth victory in a row and taken a firm grip on a top-four spot heading into the midway point of the season. Their midfield is something to envy, led by Zak Butters, Ollie Wines and Connor Rozee, who all had good games despite as a group being less clinical than in recent weeks. And key defender Aliir Aliir is proving a stalwart in defence. – Marnie Vinall

Collingwood d North Melbourne

Imagine if we suggested this time last year that there was a possibility Jordan De Goey might be forgotten in the headlines? Collingwood’s match-winner was embroiled in several controversies last year – including one that went to an American court – before inking a five-year deal in September to remain in black and white. De Goey has responded with the best season of his career, even if he is somehow playing in the shadow of wunderkind Nick Daicos. De Goey was comfortably the best player afield in Sunday’s win over North Melbourne and could be a Brownlow medallist by year’s end, given the Pies might win 20 games. The Daicos brothers and Darcy Moore will pinch plenty of votes, but it is impossible to miss De Goey when he is “on” – and there will be enough to go around. On the Kangaroos’ side, they remain some way off the best teams, but Will Phillips’ breakout game served as another reminder of the talent they are assembling. It is anyone’s guess what will eventuate with Tarryn Thomas, but with him, Phillips, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Jy Simpkin, Tom Powell, Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw, they can look forward to brighter days. Nick Larkey is one of the game’s best key forwards, too. – Marc McGowan

Adelaide d Brisbane Lions

The Crows enjoy Josh Rachele’s wonder goals and Kylian Mbappe-inspired celebrations but what really had coach Matthew Nicks feeling good was when his young forward turned down a boundary snap and made a centring pass for a certain Jake Soligo goal early in the last term. Rachele and play-making forward Izak Rakine can conjure goals from any angle and Nicks doesn’t want to take that dare away from them, but he was punching the air to see Rachele set up his teammate during what would become a matchwinning run. “It’s nice to have those guys there for when you need that little bit of talent to knock the ball through,” Nicks said.“Josh is starting to see the things I like too. That is even more pleasing than his snap on goal and I’m sure our supporters notice this too. For a young kid to learn so quickly that it is about team and he loves to celebrate but he loves team too. Him and Izak have worked a lot on bringing others into the game. I thought that was outstanding.” Nicks also praised the grit of his side in repeatedly denying the Lions, praising the desperation of Max Michalanney and Riley O’Brien along with the last term running of former skipper Rory Sloane. “We showed grit, we showed resilience – we had 30 defensive 50m stoppages and were one goal, three behinds against. That shows the group just hung in,” Nicks said. “That’s what we believe, as a coaching group, gets it done in finals footy. The ability to defend under pressure.” –Roy Ward

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