The three games on Sunday including the traditional Anzac Day Eve game saw Melbourne start 6-0 while contenders Geelong and Brisbane continue to strive for top four finishes.
Geelong were able to take care of North Melbourne as Jeremy Cameron led the Cats to their fourth win while Zac Bailey’s six-goal effort in the QClash resulted in a 52-point win for the Lions over the Suns.
The Demons were challenged by the Tigers in Sunday night’s game but ultimately fell short to the reigning premiers as Clayton Oliver was awarded with the Checker Hughes medal for best afield.
What did we takeaway from the games?
North Melbourne vs Geelong
1. Jeremy Cameron puts his hand up for best forward
Jeremy Cameron has left onlookers with another impressive performance as the ex-Giant kicked seven goals against an undermanned North Melbourne. This is the star forward’s second bag of goals as he joins his teammate, Tom Hawkins, at the top of the Coleman with 19 goals. Cameron continues to trouble his opposition as he looks to match his best year (2019) where he kicked 67 goals for the season. The number 5 was also awarded with the RSL Tasmania Anzac Medal for player best afield.
2. Does North Melbourne deserve a priority pick?
After another smashing at the hands of contenders Geelong, North Melbourne may start to consider whether or not they ask the AFL for a priority pick. In a clash that saw them score 16 times compared to an inaccurate Cats 17.19, the Kangaroos look well below the AFL standard and are putting a lot of reliance on their young talent. The AFL has dealt out high draft picks to other teams and we think it may be time for North Melbourne to be added to that list.
3. Hawkins/Cameron the best forward duo in the comp?
Once again, the twin towers in the Geelong forward line proved to be a handful, with the pair combining for 11 goals as they smashed North Melbourne by 60 points. Hawkins finished the game with four goals and 10 score involvements while Cameron exited Blundestone Arena with seven goals and 13 score involvements. The cohesion and connection Hawkins-Cameron has, only continues to get stronger and it may be a reason why they will be still playing in September.
4. There’s going to be more pain but there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Kangaroos
It is no surprise that North Melbourne are expected to be a bottom-four side in 2022 as they boast one of the youngest lists in the AFL. David Noble unveiled another debutant, Paul Curtis, who showed his goal sense and class in his first game at the level. The 19-year-old finished with 1.3 and 11 touches but showed enough to indicate a lot of growth and development that will come with experience and time. Players like Curtis such as Flynn Perez (20), Jason Horne-Francis (18) and Jack Mahony (20) will all benefit from games under their belt and consistent pre-seasons at Arden St. Although there will be growing pains to begin with, North Melbourne could be building a powerhouse for the future.
5. Geelong’s age not a worry
Coming into 2022, critics believed Geelong would struggle to compete again toward the pointy end of the season due to their ageing list. However, the likes of Tom Hawkins, Joel Selwood, Isaac Smith and Zach Tuohy who are all over 30 years old, continue to defy their age and play at high levels. Hawkins leads the Coleman, Smith still is able to run all day and break lines, Selwood’s toughness is second to none and Tuohy’s lethal kick continues to damage opposition. Coach Chris Scott would be pleased with his veterans but is also looking to the next wave of Cats that will carry the side once these stars have left.
Gold Coast vs Brisbane Lions
1. Zac Bailey deserves more recognition
Starting his career in the backline, Chris Fagan’s decision to swing Zac Bailey forward has been a stroke of genius, as he kicked six goals in another edition of the QClash. The smart forward kicked four first-half goals and set up the match, as the Lions ran away as 52-point victors. Bailey matched three others for most goals in a QClash, but he ultimately fell short of a seven-goal haul. The 22-year-old has a knack for finding the goals, kicking 16 majors so far but also has the ability to find others. Bailey has become an important cog up forward for Fagan and could be a reason they go deep into finals.
2. Jarryd Lyons continues to be an unsung hero for the Lions
The ex-Sun and Crow has flourished in his four seasons for Brisbane and continues to impress as he flies under the radar in a star-studded team. Lyons collected 30 disposals and a goal in the QClash to go along with his 10 tackles and game-high 13 clearances. The 29-year-old goes from strength to strength and gets off the leash as opposition sides put time into Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale and forward duo Charlie Cameron and Joe Daniher. Luckily for Fagan, Lyons is able to hide in plain sight but be just as damaging as his skilful teammates.
3. Stuart Dew has enough to work with but needs more help
Aside from the QClash, the Suns have competed hard and been in games long enough to give themselves a chance at victory. Against the Lions, they had two less scoring shots but lost by 52 points. Up forward they are starting to look more and more dangerous, with Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult providing good options. The Suns’ small fleet in Ben Ainsworth and Nick Holman also impressed in Sunday’s game, as the pair was able to make an impact around the ground and on the scoreboard. Dew’s backline looks sturdy in the likes of Sam Collins, Chris Burgess and Charlie Ballard who are all improving as the weeks go on. The Suns just need a consistent performance throughout the starting 22 and not rely on their key players.
4. Lions’ incredible accuracy a talking point
The Lions kicked 21.6 against the Suns as they made it back-to-back wins and sit 5-1. Zac Bailey, Charlie Cameron and Joe Daniher combined for 13 goals and one behind, helping Chris Fagan’s side set up a comprehensive win against their rivals. Despite having less inside 50s, Brisbane made most of their chances, scoring at 51% efficiency and turning most of those opportunities into goals. As the season goes on, the better teams are those who kick truly and punish their opposition and the Lions are finding plenty of ways to do that. Could this be the year of the Lion?
5. Noah Anderson a smoky for an AA jacket
The highly talented number two draft pick in 2019 has had a great start to 2022. Anderson is averaging 27 touches a game along with six clearances and four score involvements. The youngster’s ability to read the play and get onto the outside from stoppage has opposition putting work into him in the match previews, as he is starting to become damaging for the Suns. Against the Lions, Anderson collected 33 touches and was the Suns best in their loss. The 21-year-old is matching it with the game’s best in the midfield but needs help around him if the Suns are going to compete.
Richmond vs Melbourne
1. Melbourne remain unbeaten, even if it didn’t look pretty
Melbourne start 2022 6-0 after they took care of business in the traditional Anzac Day Eve clash against Richmond. The reigning premiers were challenged by a desperate Tigers outfit but ultimately ran away as 22-point victors. As we all know, it doesn’t matter how you win, just as long as you secure the four points. This was the case on Sunday night as the Demons did what they had to, kicking nine goals and 22 behinds in a sloppy affair at the MCG. Melbourne were able to set up their win in the third term with 5.7 to two goals as their defence was able to hold off any advances from Richmond.
2. ‘Clarry’ for Brownlow?
Clayton Oliver continues his impressive form in season 2022, with a brilliant performance against the Tigers. The midfielder collected 41 disposals along with game-high 13 clearances and 684m gained. Oliver also had the most inside 50s (9) on the ground as well as 10 score involvements. The 24-year-old was rewarded with his output as the player judged best afield and awarded the Checker Hughes Medal. This performance is just one of many that Oliver has put together this season, with the number 13 averaging 33 touches a game along with nine clearances. Despite many of his teammates stealing some votes come the famous Monday night before the Grand Final, ‘Clarry’ has improved on his season last year, where he came third in the Brownlow and was awarded his second All-Australian nod. Oliver currently sits at $10 to win but this dollar value will drop in the coming weeks, so get on him fast.
3. Don’t count the Tigers out yet
Despite sitting 2-4 after losing to Melbourne, the Tigers are showing enough that they aren’t done with yet. Damien Hardwick is slowly but surely able to regain some of his premiership stars, as the likes of Nick Vlastuin and Dion Prestia have returned in recent weeks. The Tigers are also happy to welcome back Brownlow Medallist Dustin Martin back to Punt Rd after he took some personal time away from the club. Although there is no return date, Richmond should expect key defender Dylan Grimes to be ready in the next few weeks as Hardwick tinkers with his best 22. Aside for 10 minutes in the third term, the Tigers matched it with the reigning premiers and even led at half time before losing by 22 points. However, a lot of positives can be taken out of Sunday night and games against West Coast, Collingwood, Hawthorn and Essendon to round out the first 10 games could see Richmond get their season going.
4. Ed Langdon deserves an AA nod at this rate
Being one of very few traditional wingers in the AFL, Ed Langdon continues to be a damaging player for the Demons. So far this season, Langdon has averaged 26 touches and has managed to get on the end of a few goals. Known for his elite endurance and speed, the winger has been discovered as an important cog to Melbourne’s game with his ability to stretch the ground. Against the Tigers, Langdon did not come off the ground, playing 100% game time and notching up around 17km. The 26-year-old also carried the ball 600m and collected 30 touches as he proves to be a weapon for the reigning premiers. In years gone by, we have seen midfielders put on the wing in the All-Australian side. However, there is a feeling that this might change in the form of Ed Langdon as he plays the winger-role better than anyone in the competition and should be recognised for that.
5. Josh Gibcus is going to be something special
The pick 9 in last year’s draft did himself no harm in receiving a Rising Star nomination for his efforts against Melbourne. Josh Gibcus collected 18 touches and 12 marks as he battled against the formidable Demon forward line. In only his fifth game, Gibcus’ ability to read the ball coming into the backline as well as put himself in the right position was a talking point. The 19-year-old looks right at home and he’s able to free up teammate Noah Balta to play as a swingman where he can spend most of his time in the forward half. Gibcus has slotted in effectively in ‘Dimma’ Hardwick’s line-up as veterans Nick Vlastuin, Dylan Grimes and Robbie Tarrant continue to work with the young and up-and-coming defender.