Heroes & Villains, R10: Is Angus Brayshaw the Dees' best?

This wasn't a round featuring thrilling finishes -- the closest margin was West Coast's 15-point victory over Hawthorn -- but there several telling performances, both individually and team-wise, from the weekend.

It started with Collingwood continuing their momentum towards September with a come-from-behind victory against the wobbly Western Bulldogs, and finished wth North Melbourne again proving their finals bonafides with a strong win in the west against Fremantle.

In between, the Tigers, Swans and Cats survived scares against lowly opponents, the Bombers' resurgence continued against the flatlining Giants, and the Demons claimed a massive scalp in impressive fashion with a near triple-figure flogging of Adelaide.


Josh Caddy: If you're talking about Richmond's household names, there are a fair few you'd list in front of Caddy -- Martin, Cotchin, Rance, Riewoldt, Houli to name a few -- but the forward/mid hybrid is quickly becoming an elite player.

The 25-year-old took another giant step forward during Saturday' 28-point win over St Kilda, when he was forced to play a deeper forward role after Jack Riewoldt left the ground early with concussion.

Kicking six goals straight among 24 disposals, six marks and seven tackles, Caddy's three-vote performance is one which is sure to prick the ears of opposition coaches (intent on stopping him) and list managers alike.

Prior to 2018, Caddy's season-best haul was 21 majors in both the premiership year in 2017 and in 2016, but through eight matches in 2018 (he missed rounds three and five), he's already kicked 23 goals while averaging just shy of 20 touches per game. In fact, Caddy has kicked at least one goal in his last 14 outings dating back to Round 18 last year.

If there's talk of Collingwood hybrid Jordan de Goey commanding serious dollars in his next contract, the Tigers might want to get proactive in talking to Caddy's manager before he comes out of contract at the end of next year. It's also fair to say the Tigers won the trade which netted the young star; Richmond parted with pick 24 and 64 in return for Geelong's pick 54 and Caddy.

Ed Curnow: If taggers rarely get the respect and attention they deserve, taggers in a losing team go virtually untalked about, but Carlton stopper Ed Curnow might just be the best two-way player in the AFL.

Fresh off a short holiday for making contact with an umpire against Essendon in Round 8, Curnow and the Blues made the trek down the Cattery with the mammoth task of stopping Geelong's "big three".

Given the role of clamping down on Joel Selwood, Curnow was a monster in the trenches, quelling Selwood's overall influence on the game and keeping him just 20 touches while gathering 30 of his own in the Blues' gallant 28-point loss.

But winning the midfield battle hasn't been a rarity for the Blues' tagger in 2018; this season Curnow -- known around the club as an endurance beast -- has an impressive list of scalps.

He has kept Bryce Gibbs to 21 touches, Zach Merrett to 16 and Luke Shuey 24, all while himself averaging 27 disposals per game (including 10 contested and five clearances) as a vital midfield cog. He's also No. 2 in the league for tackles (77) despite having missed one match through suspension.

With the spotlight having been on a resurgent and surprising North Melbourne in 2018, it's little wonder Ben Jacobs has won the plaudits of the media, but Ed Curnow is piecing together another impressive season.

Maybe deciding who the "best Curnow in the league" is isn't as clear-cut a decision as it first might have seemed?

Angus Brayshaw: Many queried the sanity of Paul Roos when he predicted Angus Brayshaw would prove to the the best of the Demons' impressive batch of youngsters, especially as the former No.3 draft pick battled concussion and form issues following a promising debut season in 2015.

The concussion issues forced Melbourne into trying to shape the natural midfielder into either a forward or back flanker, to shield him from the crash and bash of the midfield. It didn't work.

Such were Brayshaw's battles that he began this season languishing in the VFL, with the Demons making him earn his spot in their best 22. But since returning in Round 4 and thrown back into the midfield, he's reminded everyone of his incredible talent, with his ball-winning ability, hardness at the contest, skills on both feet and ability to spread adding another dangerous weapon in the Dees' midfield mix.

During Melbourne's astounding smashing of Adelaide in Alice Springs, Brayshaw was everywhere. He racked up 37 disposals at 81 percent efficiency, 14 marks, three clearances, two tackles, a whopping 791 metres gained and three goals as the Dees made a massive statement in the Red Centre.

Across the AFL, he is now ranked fourth in inside 50s per game and seventh in metres gained per game.

Maybe Roos was right?


Dogs' inability to score: It seems like just yesterday the Bulldogs -- with their run, spread and hunger -- were almost impossible to beat at Etihad Stadium. Their record from the midpoint of 2015 through to the middle of 2017 was a mightily impressive 24-4 but since then, Luke Beveridge's side is only 5-7 when playing at their home ground.

For all the areas of the game that the Bulldogs are struggling with at the moment it's their lack of scoring options which is hurting them most. The Bulldogs are averaging just 70 points per game in 2018 and at this rate are on target to match their lowest season points average since 1967.

Despite booting five first-quarter goals against Collingwood on Friday night, the Dogs could only muster a total of 55 points for the game in what became a 35 point loss. The Bulldogs scored just four behinds in the second half.

Tom Boyd continues to play uninspiring football, Tory Dickson may be a sharpshooter but goes missing for long periods and Josh Schache is going to require plenty more game time before he begins to gel with his new teammates.

At the moment the Dogs simply have no answers to their forward line woes.

Lacklustre Giants: It's just about time to hit the big red panic button down at Spotless Stadium. Not just because of the thick layer of smoke which descended on Sydney's west on Saturday night, but for the string of on-field performances which have led to four straight losses for the GWS Giants.

Leon Cameron's outfit had plenty to play for against Essendon; not only were the Giants faced with falling further behind the pack in the race for a third-straight finals berth, but star midfielder Josh Kelly returned to a side which was desperately crying out for some more class.

But what ensued was AFL House's worst nightmare. Just 10,000 people showed up to watch a very winnable prime time match, and what the punters saw would not have left them wanting to return.

The Giants' fourth quarter effort -- which they lost six goals to one -- was summed up by a lazy 50 metre penalty given away by Adam Tomlinson just five minutes into the term. It gifted Essendon's James Stewart a goal from point blank range and kick-started the Bombers' final quarter procession.

Don Pyke's silent treatment: When your team is down by 80 points at the last break, there's not much a coach can do. But Crows coach Don Pyke tried something new with a bizarre 'tactic' (if we can call it that) at Alice Springs with his side copping a huge pasting from Melbourne.

After coughing up a six-goals-to-one third quarter, he eyeballed his shellshocked playing group, one by one, without uttering a word for some time. Most of his players were unable or unwilling to match his manic stare, instead nervously looking at the ground.

We're not sure it worked -- the Crows eventually copped a 91-point hammering.

"I was trying to engage them and just bring them back to the present and try to actually get them to feel what was going on," Pyke said after the game.

"I don't think there was any point at that point in ranting and raving at them."