Heroes & Villains, R8: Ronke's night out and the problem with Showdown 44

Round 8 was all about the individual efforts and there were plenty of them.

We saw Swans third-gamer Ben Ronke kick a remarkable seven goals against Hawthorn to earn his second appearance in Heroes & Villains, Jack Macrae record a career-high 47 disposals against the Lions, and Nat Fyfe once again drag the Dockers over the line with another herculean performance in the west.

Eagle Jack Darling was in rare marking form at Spotless Stadium, while Steven Motlop became an instant hero with a last-gasp goal to seal an epic Showdown 44 for the Power.

However, the individual efforts weren't all of a positive nature. Brendon Goddard had a horror showing against the Blues, while Tim Membrey suffered a major case of the yips in front of the big sticks.

All of this and much, much more in what was a not-to-be-missed Round 8 of the AFL.


Ben Ronke: If we could name a hero of the heroes this young man would be a shoe-in after a breathtaking performance in what was just his third game of senior football.

Ronke single-handedly dragged Sydney over the line against Hawthorn on Friday night with seven goals; the greatest goal haul in a Melbourne Cricket Ground debut since Scott Cummings in 1994.

The 20-year-old started the game in emphatic fashion with Sydney's first five majors, and at one point midway through the second quarter he alone had outscored Hawthorn.

A sixth goal was added to his tally midway through the final term after he spun out of traffic and snapped truly before he went on to boot the final goal of the game -- one that would guarantee four points for the Swans.

On top of his scoreboard impact, Ronke also had a game-high 10 tackles in a performance more than worthy of the Round 8 nomination for the NAB Rising Star.

Baby Blues: It's been a long time coming for Carlton's patient fans, but the Blues are finally on the board in 2018 after they downed the Bombers by 13 points on Saturday afternoon.

The most pleasing thing for coach Brendon Bolton was the fact it was Carlton's youngsters who were all pivotal at different moments in the drought-breaking win.

Forward phenom Charlie Curnow snagged four contested marks and kicked three goals after quarter time to remind the competition that he is one of the AFL's most exciting prospects. Attacking partner Harry McKay also continued his strong start to his career with another two goals, taking his 2018 tally to nine majors from four games.

In the middle, 2017's No. 3 draft pick Paddy Dow showed strength and balance in the contest, while No. 10 pick Lochie O'Brien used his pinpoint left foot with precision... although the Blues might want to steer him towards Sav Rocca's office for some tips on kicking at goal.

Of course, the Blues were led ably by stand-in captain Patrick Cripps, stalwart ruckman Matthew Kreuzer and underrated stopper Ed Curnow, but the younger contributors were all instrumental in Carlton's victory.

Robbie's third quarter: It would have been easy to simply laud the incredible Showdown 44 as this week's final hero, but without Robbie Gray's stunning six-goal performance, the Power would not have won the five-point thriller.

Down by four goals at half time and with the entire Port Adelaide side playing with a serious case of the yips in front of the big sticks, Gray stamped his authority on the game in the third term with one of the season's best quarters of footy.

Put simply, Port's three-time All-Australian single-handedly clawed the Power back into the game. Of his seven third-term touches, four of them were contested, three were clearances, and five of them were goals. In the third quarter, Gray went at 100 percent disposal efficiency.

His first two of the the term were crucial in giving the Power hope, while his third and fourth regained the momentum and gave Port the lead.

Oh, did we mention his final haul for the game was an arrow-straight 6.0?


Brendon Goddard: The blueprint has been laid out for all to see. If you want to beat Essendon, frustrate and nullify Brendon Goddard.

The 320-gamer had an afternoon to forget against the Blues as Jed Lamb antagonised him at every opportunity. Goddard gave away three free kicks, took just two marks and finished the game with a season-low 16 touches -- his fewest in a full game (without injury) since 2015.

At no point in the game was Goddard able to have any meaningful positive impact, as the Bombers lost their sixth game of the season and fourth in succession.

Tellingly, as Essendon's oldest player on the day and one of the club's leaders, Goddard also failed to lay a single tackle for the second straight week.

The last time he had two consecutive weeks without a tackle was in 2012... funnily enough, those games were also against Hawthorn and Carlton. Déjà vu?

Wayward Pies: Heading into Sunday's important Round 8 clash with Geelong, Collingwood were the league's most accurate team in front of the big sticks.

But on what was a perfect afternoon for football at the MCG, the Magpies threw up one of the year's worst performances in front of goal, allowing Geelong to escape with a scrappy 21-point victory.

The Pies kicked a woeful 5.15 (45) for the day, including 1.4 in the last quarter to starve themselves of any chance of a victory, and it was some of the side's prime movers who were the biggest culprits.

Midfield marvel Adam Treloar kicked 0.3 from three pretty gettable shots, while returning utility Daniel Wells also kicked 0.3 on the day.

While Geelong's return of 9.12 (66) wasn't much better, it was the timing of Collingwood's inaccuracy which was the biggest factor in their loss.

Surging at the Cats in the finals minutes of the third quarter, the Magpies could only manage four behinds in red time to trail by 17 points at the last change -- a lead big enough for the Cats to protect in the final quarter.

AFL's scheduling (again): Admittedly, it is one of the hardest jobs in footy, but how on earth did Showdown 44 not get a prime time slot on Saturday night?

Instead of putting the undisputed match of the round in the marquee, free-to-air TV slot, the AFL bizarrely opted to start Port Adelaide vs. Adelaide at 4:40pm.

What's worse? The Saturday night action that followed featured two uninspiring clashes; Western Bulldogs overpowered Brisbane and Fremantle eased past a woeful St Kilda. Meanwhile, Robbie Gray and the Power stole four points from the Crows in a heart-thumping final two minutes at Adelaide Oval.

Even without the epic finish, this clash was surely worthy of a greater (and free-to-air) television audience. Both the Crows and the Power finished in the top eight last season, while Fremantle and St Kilda (and the Dogs and Lions, for that matter) all languished in the bottom ten in 2017.

Come on Gillon, you're better than that.