Stephen Coniglio tackles Dylan Shiel during the Bombers’ horror Sunday. Pic: AAP
Stephen Coniglio tackles Dylan Shiel during the Bombers’ horror Sunday. Pic: AAP

The Tackle: Bombers lack character, commitment

It was a weekend of upsets, of horror injuries - and of horror performances.

Each week MARK ROBINSON looks at all nine matches and rates his likes and dislikes.

And after a Sunday shellacking, Essendon is front and centre.




1. Essendon

The Bombers tease again at the start of the season - and they disappoint again. There's no doubting the talent at the Bombers, but there is doubt about the character and commitment from the players with that talent. Lacked cohesion and heart against the Giants, which is why they only kicked five goals for the game. After a summer of preparation they dished up this demolition which was more than disappointing. Can't help think of Devon Smith's comments earlier this month about recruit Dylan Shiel playing against his old club. "Poor Dyl, he wanted a blockbuster crowd and he's got the Giants up there on a Sunday arvo in the graveyard.'' The only people filling the graveyard was 22 Bombers.

Essendon's Dylan Shiel after the game in a big loss to his former side the GWS Giants in their AFL match at Giants Stadium. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Essendon's Dylan Shiel after the game in a big loss to his former side the GWS Giants in their AFL match at Giants Stadium. Picture. Phil Hillyard

2. What happened to the midfield?

There was salvation about Shiel, Dyson Heppell, Andrew McGrath, David Myers, David Zaharakis, Kyle Langford, Smith and Zach Merrett filling their boots in the midfield and they failed the first test. That failure also meant the forwards didn't get an even sniff. They were -41 in contested ball which was their worst differential under coach John Worsfold. The players have to take responsibility and so, too, does the coaching department because the players lacked the necessary fight against a midfield missing Josh Kelly and Callan Ward.


3. Rance and Doedee

What perspective after both had their seasons cut down with ACL injuries. They alleviated the sadness by reassuring everyone it was only an injury and life would go on. Richmond plays a system and hopes the system will stand up without Rance. Doedee was the interceptor the Crows brought in to replace Jake Lever and was a contender for the Rising Star last year. Both will be desperately missed. If anyone was to say that Rance missing won't hurt Richmond's premiership chances, well, that would be foolish.


Alex Rance’s season looks over. Pic: Michael Klein
Alex Rance’s season looks over. Pic: Michael Klein


Tom Doedee has a confirmed ACL injury. Pic: Sarah Reed
Tom Doedee has a confirmed ACL injury. Pic: Sarah Reed


3(b) And another one

An appalling performance on the road for North Melbourne was punctuated by a knee injury to Ed Vickers Willis. The club says it will do scans, but the early forecast was yet another ACL - the third of the weekend. Overall, the Kangas were desperately disappointing. There was plenty of handball without creativity for the Kangas, the midfield was obliterated and the forward line was non-functioning. All the while, their defence was under siege. By the end it was party time for the Dockers and, to be honest, it was the equal of Essendon's poor performance against the Giants. They had 391 disposals to Fremantle's 379 and lost by 82 points. Headaches galore at Arden St.


4. What professionalism?

The AFL spruiks from the highest building about it's professionalism, on and off the ground, yet talk's cheap this time. It owns Marvel Stadium so you'd think it would provide a professional and presentable surface. Not so. The potential danger of having shifting and lifting turf is unthinkable in the most elite competition in the country and the AFL is lucky a player didn't do a knee at the ground. More bad news is that people in the know say the SCG is worse.


5. Melbourne demon-ed

Did the Dees get ahead of themselves? Did they relax after kicking the opening goals and controlling the contest? Were they exposed by outside run? Or did they expose themselves by playing too many players underdone? Questions aplenty after losing at home. Probably made a mistake going head-to-head with Tom Rockliff and Travis Boak in the midfield. They combined for 78 disposals, nine clearances, 16 tackles and 14 score involvements. Melbourne tagger James Harmes got the job on Boak for about 30 minutes while Rockliff was allowed to enjoy finding those short kicks he loves. The much-hyped Demons midfield was disappointing, especially defensively.


6. Lapsing Liam Ryan

Fifteen seconds to play in a demoralising performance and Ryan is reported for striking Darcy Gardiner. He will get a clip from coach Adam Simpson for retaliating when he had won the free kick 35m from goal. Gardiner should expect a two-minute conversation with coach Chris Fagan as well. Gardiner dropped his knee into Ryan who was on the ground. He should be charged for misconduct or rough play. It didn't hurt Ryan, but surely we have moved on from the days of kneeing a player, especially when he's looking the other way.


Teammates Liam Ryan retaliated — and was booked. Pic: AAP
Teammates Liam Ryan retaliated — and was booked. Pic: AAP


7. That's not West Coast's major problem

Started menacingly in the first quarter and then surrendered the contest under pressure from Brisbane. Colleague David King warned the Eagles would struggle early because of a shorter pre-season and injuries, but this was white flag stuff. It was 14.7 to 2.8 after the first break and it appeared the Eagles weren't up for the fight. There's no shame in losing to an improved Brisbane in heavy dew, but there is when you lose like that. The Eagles took 31 marks in the first quarter and had just 37 after that.


8. Swans game-style

Almost stole the unwinnable game from the Dogs, but kicking eight goals in two quarters and only one goal in the first half will not get it done. Agreed, it's a bugger to play against the high possession Bulldogs, but the Swans weren't threatening until after halftime when they had the ball. The Swans had the worst inside-50 differential of any finalist since 2001 last year and on Saturday night lost the inside 50 count by 21. It's going to be sluggish season if they continue to lose the territory game like that.


9. Alarm bells

The 6-6-6 ruling has stretched the ground but didn't stretch the scoreboard as was hoped. Channel 7 boss Tim Worner said last June he wanted more goals, almost certainly to gain more advertising money, so he might be disappointed in the first round returns. Last year there were six teams in Round 1 to score 100 points. and the average scoring in first month was 89 points. After the first eight games this weekend, there was three 100-point plus scores and the average was only 78 points. Time will tell if the rules help scoring.


10. Crowd behaviour

Fights and beer throwing were the low points on a cracking first round of 2019. Segregation of fans won't happen, and nor it should, but what happened on Thursday night at the MCG was too much. That bloke in the yellow jumper needs to be identified and banned from footy this season. He should also be charged with assault.




1. Jack Watts

When Fox Footy's Cameron Mooney sidled up to Jack Watts after the siren, he didn't know what he was going to get. What Watts delivered was a raw and emotional account of the difficulties of the past four months. There was perhaps even a tinge of the scarring from his first game when he compared the importance of earning your first game, such as Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, Willem Drew and Xavier Duursma did, to his own first outing for Melbourne 10 years earlier. There was plenty to like about Watts on a back flank, not least that he can use the ball. But it was the winning effort in the third quarter against Christian Petracca, Tom McDonald and Sam Weideman which was the most pleasing. In his debut he was bashed by three Magpies when he first touched the ball. This time he kept his feet and won the ball with smarts and awareness.


2. Kids reign (I)

Little wonder coach Ken Hinkley said it was his best win at Port Adelaide. They did it with attitude, speed, help from the oldies and invigoration from the kids. What a performance against the contested-ball bullies from Melbourne. Port beat the Dees with speed and space - the first-gamers didn't disappoint. Drew had 21 disposals and a match-high four assists, Rozee had 18 disposals and seven score involvements, Duursma had 16 disposals, two assists and a goal and Zak Butters had 13 disposals and kicked two goals. I liked Drew most. He was a composed young man on the big stage.


3. James Worpel

The intrigue at Hawthorn was who was going to replace Tom Mitchell. It will take a team effort, but there is one name who seems prepared to strongly shoulder the load. Without trying to make a huge statement after one game, Worpel looks like he will be Hawthorn's third-best mid this year behind Jaeger O'Meara and Liam Shiels. The 20-year-old, in just his 12th game, had 27 disposals (team high), 12 contested possessions (team high), six clearances (team high), six score involvements and kicked two goals against Adelaide. He was a winner and so was Hawthorn's ability to close down Adelaide's attack. Can't recall too many plays where the Crows got the ball out the back for an easy goal, which is in their DNA.


James Worpel starred in the Hawks’ Adelaide job. Pic: Getty Images
James Worpel starred in the Hawks’ Adelaide job. Pic: Getty Images


4. Kids reign (II)

It is brave coaching picking so many first-gamers - the Cats also had four - and while coach Chris Scott won't say it was the best win of his coaching career, clearly it would be one of his most satisfying. The Cats hung in when Collingwood had control and then stood up in the big moments in the final 10 minutes. The debutants played their role. Charlie Constable had 21 disposals, three tackles and kicked a goal, Jordan Clark had 17 disposals and 486m gained, Tom Atkins had nine disposals, five tackles and three assists and Gryan Miers 11 disposals and three tackles. The forward half pressure from the Cats was a standout.


5. Lions prowling

It is probably not good to have too many night games at the Gabba as the dew on the ground looks more like the result of a thunderstorm than the setting sun. Still, it's about adapting to the conditions. After quarter time the Lions kicked 14 goals to two. They were ferocious in their hunt for the ball and man. In the first term they had just five tackles and a pressure factor of 158. In the next three quarters it was 16 and 193, 16 and 197 and 19 and 197. Three quarters of a 190-plus pressure rating is phenomenal. We can talk about the improvement in Cameron Raynor, Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry and the injection of Charles Cameron, Lachie Neale and Lincoln McCarthy, but it was their pressure and winning the groundball that shook the life out of the Eagles.


6. Welcome back Bont and Libba

Marcus Bontempelli will tell us one day how much he laboured last year, but it appeared he was under duress from a hip injury. It looks like he's over it. Team-high 21 uncontested possessions, team-high 634m gained, team-high nine score involvements, seven tackles and the match-winning goal. Libba's spirit within this team cannot be underestimated. He had 28 disposals and a team-high eight clearances. It's been said the Dogs went back to the future with their swarming and high-possession game plan, but that re-emerged in the last month of last season when they won three of their last four games and should have beaten Richmond in Round 23.


Port got into Max Gawn — with some success. Pic: Getty Images
Port got into Max Gawn — with some success. Pic: Getty Images


7. Max bashing

It's a physical game and Max Gawn admitted on Channel 7 that Port Adelaide's tactics put him off his game. That's a huge win for Port. But there should be consequences. A Port player checked Gawn off the ball, at least 50m from play as he was running to present down the line, which was similar to what Carlton's Liam Jones did to Jack Riewoldt on Thursday night. Commentators screamed for Jones to be suspended at the time for his cheap shot, but he was only fined. So should the Port player. The message is clear - try the mental intimidation but no cheap shots.


8. Ugly wins

St Kilda was on a hiding to nothing against the Gold Coast Suns, but all you can do is win. With injuries and suspensions against them, and let's be honest, some pretty poor footy on the day as well, the Saints squeaked home by a point. It saved the Saints from feverish headlines today and coach Alan Richardson would have sighed with relief. He would be pleased with Josh Bruce's three goal and 19 touches and more so his pack mark deep in time-on and deep in Gold Coasts's forward 50m in the final quarter. Tick also to Matt Parker who kicked two goals on debut.


The Giants were a class above Essendon. Pic: Phil Hillyard
The Giants were a class above Essendon. Pic: Phil Hillyard


9. Giants rolling

A 72-point win over a finals fancy, without Josh Kelly, Callan Ward, Shane Mumford and Nick Haynes, four players who would be in their starting 18. Their depth was queried over the pre-season and, yes, it's only one game, but there's enough evidence to suggest the list is far deeper than thought. Hopper, Taranto, Sam Taylor and Dawson Simpson lead that front. Who got on Jeremy Cameron for the Coleman Medal? He was $21 before Round 1 and will soon be half that.


10. Front-on contact on the agenda

The below-the-knees and front-on contact ruling was introduced to stop players sliding into the contest. Now it's asking players to abandon their instincts to go for the ball. There were countless examples at the weekend where players were penalised. One of them was Adelaide's Chayce Jones for lunging at the ball and winning it, only to have a free kick paid against him. Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury said it best among a host of complaints. "The sliding rule should be if your second into the contest and take the legs of the guy over the ball out ... then a free kick,'' Pendlebury said on twitter. Added Patrick Dangerfield: "Players are very good at manipulating rules.'' And former Blue Matty Lappin joined in. "Contact below the knees is a joke rule created by muppets. Players are abusing it, as they should.''


11. High-scoring Dockers

This was frightening from the Dockers: Slick, high pressure footy and plenty of goals. Ross Lyon's men might've turned the corner from being a stagnant ball-moving team to one of the most exciting teams in the competition. They kicked only four 100-plus scores in the past two years but against North slotted home 141 points. Winners were everywhere, led by three key defenders in Ryan, Hamlin and Pearce, and Cam McCarthy's five goals up the other end. The ball movement was stunning from the Dockers and was the contributor to them having 68 inside 50s. "Full credit to Ross Lyon and the coaching staff for adjusting to the modern game,'' captain Nathan Fyfe said in the post-match.