AFL Heroes & Villains Round 16: Crouch brothers stand tall, Bombers fall

Round 16 saw a sharpshooter, Rising Star and pair of brother deliver in a big way, while the Bombers sunk to a new low.

Here are this week's Heroes & Villains.


Michael Walters: Need a goal? Just call Sonny. The Dockers have been one of 2020's more impressive -- and importantly, consistent -- sides, and while youngsters like Adam Cerra, Andrew Brayshaw have been getting many of the plaudits this season, Walters showed on Monday he's still an A-grade player.

In at times torrential conditions in Cairns, Walters kicked three of the Dockers' six goals on the evening - the game's first as well as two crucial snags in the third term which lifted Freo's lead from six points to 18, a lead which inevitably proved too much for Melbourne to overcome.

Walters' two third term goals were also critical in that the Dockers had kicked 1.9 (15) to half time. By three-quarter time that had improved to 4.9 (33), and the lead was 17 points. They weren't easy efforts, either, with Sonny having to handle a wet footy and snap on both occasions.

While perhaps not in the form we saw at times in 2019, Walters has shown he'll still bob up when needed to help the Dockers pull out a clutch win - and perhaps help sink the Dees' season, too.

The Crouch brothers: They're two of the competition's most maligned players -- almost to the point where some believe the Crows would be better off without them -- but Matt and Brad Crouch proved they can be a midfield duo to build around during Adelaide's stunning upset of GWS on Tuesday night.

Both brothers always find ways to win the ball, but it was their impact with it (and without it) that inspired the Crows. Matt's 27-disposal, 12-tackle, 1-goal performance was top shelf, while Brad secured 31 touches (13 contested) and four clearances as Adelaide's midfield brigade outshone their more celebrated opponents.

GWS coach Leon Cameron admitted his high-profile mids were "obliterated", and he wasn't wrong: the Crows smashed the Giants in inside-50s (49-26), clearances (34-24) and contested possessions (138-110) to prove the future may be brighter than expected under Matthew Nicks.

Nicks paid tribute to his entire team, but made note of praising Matt Crouch, who was dropped in Round 3.

On the verge of a winless season two rounds ago, the Crows can now look a head with much greater confidence and the Crouch brothers might just play a major role in their rebuild.

Sam Walsh: You'd forgive Blues fans for reaching for the remote when the Swans went seven goals up on their side midway through the second term on Tuesday night.

In wet conditions, the game seemed over. It looked as though it was going to be another winnable match the Blues would squander.

But as we've seen quite a bit since David Teague has taken over the top job, Carlton wasn't going to give up. Led by second year star Sam Walsh, they came storming back into the contest, overruning the Swans to win by five points.

Walsh starred in the second half, finishing with a game-high 25 disposals and 600m gained. He also kicked an important goal at the beginning of Carlton's run. Last year's Rising Star winner also proved he's not just an outside player, winning plenty of ball in tight.

Remember when there was debate surrounding whether the Blues made a mistake in picking Walsh? Yeah, that has fizzled put pretty quickly...

While we're praising young Carlton players, how about a special shoutout to Matthew Cottrell who slotted the match-winner in the dying stages before showing us his best Giannis Antetokounmpo impersonation.


Essendon: It was like watching men against boys on Sunday afternoon.

Any slim chance Essendon had of making the finals is now all but extinguished after suffering a humiliating 66-point loss at the hands of premiership-fancy Geelong at the Gabba.

The Cats showed a ruthless tenacity that should have been at least matched by a Bombers side still well and truly in the hunt for a finals berth.

But with the stakes incredibly high, John Worsfold's side conceded the highest score (75) in a half of footy this season, Geelong becoming the first team to record six or more goals in multiple quarters in a 2020 match.

With the margin sitting at 59 points at the main break, it seemed only a magic wand could save the Bombers from inevitable embarrassment. They did stop the bleeding, but the damage was already done.

This all came just 10 days after the Bombers put 11.5 on the board themselves in a second-half onslaught against the Hawks in Round 14, portraying an alarming, stark contrast between their best and their worst that has cruelled their fans for too long.

Now it must be said, Essendon arrived at the ground less than hour before the first bounce after taking a long bus route from their Maroochydore hub to the Gabba due to Queensland traffic, but this is season 2020 and you have to dodge its many curveballs.

The Bombers are still mathematically a chance at the top eight, but the red and black army are now likely have to wait at least another year before witnessing their side claim that elusive first finals win since 2004.

Eagles midfield: The West Coast midfield simply had to be better on Sunday night against the Bulldogs.

We'll preface this by saying they were understrength -- missing Nic Naitanui, Luke Shuey and Elliott Yeo -- but it was a disappointing effort from those who were on the park.

By fulltime, the top eight ball-winners were all Dogs players. Luke Beveridge's side dominated the midfield battle, finishing +19 in contested possessions, +4 in clearances and +18 in inside 50s.

Star recruit Tim Kelly lacked his usual spark but perhaps the biggest disappointment from an Eagles perspective was Andrew Gaff, who amassed just 15 touches and had almost no impact on the game.

West Coast is still one of the teams to beat in 2020 but Adam Simpson better hope injuries to midfield personnel don't come at the wrong time, because it's not pretty when they are undermanned.

Setting Suns: Gold Coast have notoriously been poor at finishing off seasons strongly, and even though 2020 is an abbreviated year, it seems they're doing it again.

On Wednesday night, the Suns had arguably their best chance at claiming a big scalp with just three outings left; they were coming off a 10-day break while the Lions were without star defender Harris Andrews, and at times found themselves with just one fit player on the bench.

But the Suns were blown away early, trailing by 28 points at the first break, and were unable to catch up, going down by 45 points in a limp display. Brisbane's clean use with the ball and pressure without it made it seem like they had enjoyed a 10-day break before running out onto the Gabba.

Gold Coast were unable to generate any meaningful momentum, clean passages of play or place kicks to advantage inside 50. Defensively, too, they were poor. Despite finishing -26 in disposals, Gold Coast were also -14 in tackles. Eight Suns finished without a tackle to Brisbane's three, and two of those were injured duo Jarrod Berry and Brandon Starcevich who both played just more than a quarter of footy.

The Suns have plenty of promise, but need to deliver results -- even if they're losses -- on par with their ability, and a 45-point drubbing to an injury-smashed Brisbane was pretty poor to say the least.