AFL 2020: Learned, Liked and Disliked – Round 12

Contenders making their moves and controversial finishes headlined Round 12 of the 2020 AFL Season but what did we Learn, Like and Dislike?

It is time to put the line through the GWS Giants in 2020 is what The Pinch Hitters leaned in Round 12 of the 2020 AFL Season.

It’s time to put the line through the Giants.

Like they do to many pundits, the GWS continue to confound us. On paper, the quality at their disposal suggests they should be up at the pointy end of the ladder. At the risk of putting the commentators hex on the West Coast, who GWS play next round, their onfield performances suggest a completely different story altogether.

With due respect to the Swans, the 19th ‘Battle of the Bridge’ was the perfect example of this. If GWS was the genuine premiership contender we have thought they were, this was a game they should have won. If they were any kind of premiership contender at all, there was no circumstance that saw them struggle to kick three goals and lose comfortably.

Even allowing for the shortened match time, a team that can be held to 25 points in a game is not good enough to win the flag. While it has happened before, three times in the last 50 years, this side is no match for the 1970 Blues, 1992 Eagles or 1995 Blues. We’re not yet prepared to rule out the possibility of them causing some chaos in October, but they aren’t running away with the cup.

The Geelong Cats are purring is what The Pinch Hitters learned during Round 12 of the 2020 AFL Season.

The Cats are Purring

For the second time in a week the Cats made short work of a team in good form and above them on the ladder. To bookend their week, like they had against the Saints on Monday, the Cats had over 100 marks and 200 uncontested possessions on Friday night.

This determination to hold on to the ball at all costs had a twofold effect. In refusing to take risks with their time in possession it drew Port outside of their defensive structures allowing them better looks going forward. It also meant that they were better set up themselves behind the ball on the occasions that they did turn the ball over.

In doing so Port’s greatest attacking weapons were almost completely blunted. The number one team in the competition for long kicks, contested marks and inside 50s they were below the competition average in three against the Cats. Unable to attack on their terms they were a shadow of the team that overcame the Tigers a week earlier.

On the other hand, or at the other end, the Cats scored almost at will whenever they ventured forward. With Tom Hawkins taking more marks inside 50 than the entire Port Adelaide team, their efficiency inside 50 was well above season averages for the club and competition.

The Eagles are soaring is what The Pinch Hitters learned

The Eagles are Soaring.

They rarely got out of second gear but it was more than enough for the Eagles to record their seventh straight victory. Hub life nearly broke them the first time around but they are perfectly placed to take it on again when the return to the Gold Coast in a fortnight.

After a nightmare restart to the season, the Eagles might be on track for a fairytale ending. With WA Premier Marc McGowan seemingly warming to the idea of the state hosting the Grand Final, they may well be playing off for the premiership in front of a home crowd.

Tom Hawkins.

Like a fine wine, Tom Hawkins is only getting better with age. The 32-year-old continued his fine run of form with a best on ground performance against the Power at Metricon Stadium. His six goals against Port Adelaide meant he remained at the top of the Coleman Medal standings but his importance to the Cats extends beyond the goals he kicks himself.

Remarkably, despite kicking more goals than any other player in 2020, he is also the competition leader in goal assists. Almost unbeatable in the air this year, he leads all comers for marks inside 50, he provides the kind of target that helps keep the Cats crumbers well fed.

The Brisbane Lions found a way to win ugly is what The Pinch Hitters liked during Round 12 of the 2020 AFL season.

Lions win ugly.

The Lions have finished their four games in 16 days with three wins and a loss. After beginning the stretch with a demolition of Essendon, they have finished it off with defeat against Richmond and two less than impressive victories over the Bulldogs and Kangaroos.

The old adage goes that champion teams find a way to win even when they aren’t playing well but does that apply in this case? Should the Lions bank the points and file the performances in the ‘winning ugly file’ or should they be more concerned?

Content to put the results down to fatigue, Chris Fagan seems less concerned than others about the Lions form. “We have just come off playing four games in 13 days. We did actually look a bit flat, we didn’t have our usual zip or energy … but (we were) not complacent,” Fagan said.

We are inclined to agree with him. With a big game against the Saints coming up in Round 13 though, they will need to be much better next week if they are to avoid this question rearing its head once again.

Aaron Naughton's six goal bag is what The Pinch Hitters liked during Round 12 of the 2020 AFL season.

Aaron Naughton.

In his second game back from a syndesmosis injury, Aaron Naughton reminded the football world what the Bulldogs had been missing with him on the sidelines. He had four goals to his name before the half-time interval and finished with a career high six in a devastating performance up forward.

The 20-year-old key forward is one of the most exciting prospects in the competition and the Bulldogs are a different team with him prowling their attacking 50. While we know this performance was against the winless Crows, and the Bulldogs always look impressive against the bottom teams, we couldn’t help but wonder if Naughton is the missing piece of their jigsaw in 2020?

Unlike many questions we ponder, we won’t have long to get our answer on this one. With matches against Melbourne, Geelong and West Coast next up we will quickly find out if the Doggies remain flat track bullies or are a genuine contender again with Naughton up front.

Jack Newnes winner for Carlton over Fremantle was what The Pinch Hitters liked during Round 12 of the 2020 AFL season.

Jack Newnes Wins It.

There is nothing more exhilarating in football than the after the siren kick with the game on the line. This round we were treated to it for the second time this year and what a kick it was from Jack Newnes.

We know he shouldn’t have had the kick, Michael Gibbons should have had the game on his boot, but even Newnes would have doubted his chances of capitalising on the opportunity. But capitalise he did and his place in football folklore was well earned with one of the best after the siren winners we’ve seen.

Essendon's boring approach to their clash with St Kilda was

Were the Bombers trying to bore the Saints to death?

What exactly was the Bombers strategy for beating St Kilda on Sunday? From where we were watching it, outscoring them wasn’t a part of the plan. In fact, apart from a five minute period at the start of the second half, scoring seemed to be the furthest thing from the Bombers minds.

Just how differently both teams approached the game was on show in a passage of play late in the first quarter. Rowan Marshall intercepted the ball on the half forward flank and the Saints immediately looked to take the ball down the corridor towards goal. In their attempts they turned the ball over in the dead centre of the ground.

What did the Bombers do after winning the ball in the most dangerous position of the ground with their opposition defence out of position? Did they look to take advantage of a gilt edged scoring opportunity and quickly move the ball forward? Ofcourse not, they took the ball wide and waited for the Saints to regroup.

While the list of players missing from their forward line is well publicised, and no doubt would make scoring difficult, refusing to attack makes it impossible. What exactly were they waiting for? Their opposition to drop dead from boredom? The sun passing through the third quadrant? Your guess is as good as ours because whatever it was, it didn’t present itself at any stage on Sunday.

Elijah Taylor's COVID breach

Another Covid Breach.

Swans CEO Tom Harley described Elijah Taylor’s decision to sneak his girlfriend into the club’s Joondalup hub, in breach of COVID regulations, as naive. In fact it was an action of an entitled individual who believes that the rules don’t apply to them.

Just two weeks after the spotlight was once again shone on this behaviour, it defies belief that somebody would so brazenly ignore the rules. Yes he is young and yes he has paid a heavy price but so he should.

We have run out of sympathy for players and officials who don’t want to follow the rules. While State Governments make amendments to allow them to continue to earn their lucrative wages, ever increasing regulations are being endured by their fellow Australians.

Before you suggest that the regulation he was breaking his harsh there is something you need to keep in mind. When he was bristling at temporarily not being able to see his partner, four families in Victoria were denied the opportunity to be by the bedside of dying relatives. Four Victorians died without the comfort of having their family beside them.

While he was refusing to obey guidelines that allowed him to continue in employment, over 200,000 of his fellow Australians were required to abide by tougher restrictions despite having lost their jobs. Yes AFL footballers have it tougher than they would like it but they are the lucky ones. The sooner they actually understand that the sooner we see the end of entitled acts like that of Elijah Taylor.

Incorrect descriptions of the down the field free kick rule being shared was what The Pinch Hitters disliked after Carlton's after the siren win over Fremantle in Round 12 of the 2020 season.

Fake News Saturday.

Social Media was abuzz with rumour and incorrect depictions of the AFL Rule Book on Saturday night. The absence of a certain player from the Collingwood team that faced Melbourne saw a salacious explanation circulated throughout footy chat groups. While Carlton’s after the siren victory over Fremantle saw a Wikipedia error circulated among Dockers fans as proof that their team was dudded.

The first piece of fake news doesn’t deserve further explanation other than to say that there are some grubby minds with too much spare time. As the second is far less likely to have us found guilty of slander we are far happier to discuss it in greater detail.

As can be expected after their controversial defeat against Carlton, Fremantle fans were particularly angry and disappointed on Saturday night. While they quite rightly had reason to question how it was that the ball came to be in the hands of Jack Newnes another grievance shared has a lot less basis and Wikipedia is to blame.

Amid the anger and hurt, many Dockers fans shared their version of a smoking gun that proved their team was dudded – Wikipedia’s description of the down the field free kick. With due respect to the great resource that is Wikipedia, this was another example of it being incorrect. While the AFL laws quite clearly say that a down the field free kick can be awarded where the ball crosses the boundary, Wikipedia’s version suggested the ball goes back to where it was kicked. This is wrong.

Whether where it was taken was where it crossed the boundary line or whether the down the field free should have been awarded in the first place is a little more open to interpretation.

Tom Lynch and the continued mistaking of cheap shots for toughness is what The Pinch Hitters disliked in Round 12 of the 2020 AFL Season.

Tom Lynch and the continued mistaking of cheap shots for toughness.

Richmond’s Tom Lynch had a big impact against the team he used to captain in Round 12. His two second half goals going a long way to sink the Suns and continue the Tigers surge for a top four finish in 2020. But it will be his performance without the ball that will be most heavily scrutinised post match.

His fellow forward Jack Riewoldt lauded Lynch for his approach, suggesting he played best when angry. “I think that is by design. I feel he plays his best footy when he is on the edge. He is pretty scary … we know he plays his best footy when he is aggressive in the contest and sometimes there has to be a little bit of this to get him up and going,” he said.

“You give some, you take some. It’s a reality of the nature of the game. It’s a competitive sport. We want our guys to play aggressive, assertive footy, that’s how they play,” is how Damien Hardwick answered questions regarding his key forward’s night against the Suns.

“We don’t want them to go over the line, but sometimes they will, which is unfortunate. I like our guys to play assertive, aggressive footy. If the backs (defenders) are there around them, they will go through them.”

It is hard to fault either Riewoldt or Hardwick at face value because we all would like our football played assertively and aggressively. The problem is though that Lynch was actually sneaky and cowardly in his approach on Monday night.

His highlight moment, kicking the sealing goal, came about after sucker punching his opponent Sam Collins. Not content with getting away with a cheap shot he then committed the next most fake piece of toughness on a football field and proceeded to taunt Collins about having punched him.

As much as these actions have no place on the football field, the AFL has close to zero compulsion to do anything to stamp them out. So expect to see Lynch fined this week for his actions and for him to continue thinking his sneaky and cowardly acts somehow make him assertive and aggressive.

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