Heroes & Villains, Finals Week 1: Pies forwards stand tall; Tomahawk's Cat-astrophe

Week 1 of the AFL finals was an absolute cracker, with the Pies upsetting the Eagles, the Saints holding off the fast-finishing Dogs, the Lions shaking a Richmond hoodoo and the Power securing a prelim berth.

Here are your Heroes & Villains from the weekend.


The Pies' big men: As the Capital City Goofball famously said to "Dancing" Homer Simpson: "I'll set 'em up, you knock 'em down."

We can only imagine that's what big Mason Cox told Brody Mihocek before they kicked three goals apiece as the Pies pulled off a miraculous upset to beat the heavily-favoured Eagles in Perth on Saturday night.

Collingwood went into the clash by naming three mega talls in Brodie Grundy, Cox and Darcy Cameron, but it worked out for the visitors, with the lanky Yankee kicking his side's first three goals in a first quarter performance that would have been giving Tigers fans flashbacks to the 2018 preliminary final.

The Eagles, not to be outdone, rallied to lead halfway through the third term, but then Mihocek stood tall; he kicked the last goal of the third term to give the Pies a 10-point lead at the last break, and then two of the last three of the game after the Eagles got rolling hit the lead early in the fourth.

The 76 points kicked by the Pies was their highest score since Round 3, thanks in most part to the performances of Cox and Mihocek, with a sneaky two-goal cameo to Jordan De Goey.

The Pies move on to face the Cats. Is another straight sets exit on the cards for Geelong?

Steven Motlop: No doubt a few eyebrows were raised when Port fans spotted Motlop's name on the Power team sheet for the first qualifying final against Geelong.

The former Cat had played only 12 games during Port's run to the minor premiership, with patchy form frustrating the Power faithful, not to mention Ken Hinkley.

But Motlop showed his class around goal on Thursday night, booted three crafty majors, and setting up another, in a best-on-ground performance which lifted his side to a first preliminary final since 2013.

It was just the second time Motlop had kicked three goals in a Power jersey and the first time he had done so in any final, not bad against the old mob!

Port Adelaide will enjoy a week off before facing either Richmond or St Kilda, but you can be sure Motlop will feature again. This time to nobody's surprise.

St Kilda's backline: They're young, they're inexperienced but boy did they stand up and deliver in a big way on Saturday afternoon.

Brett Ratten's side produced an intercepting masterclass as the Saints edged out the highly fancied Bulldogs, booking a place in the last six.

The spark came from the backline, particularly in a tense second half. Time and time again the young St Kilda defenders repelled the Bulldogs' attack, intercepting just about everything which was sent inside their back 50.

Jake Carlisle, Dougal Howard, Nick Coffield, Ben Long and Callum Wilkie combined for 35 intercept possessions, while the Bulldogs as a team had just 59.

The Saints also finished the contest with 21 contested marks, the equal most for any side in 2020. Young forward Max King and skipper Jarryn Geary led the way with four apiece.

If St Kilda can repeat the dose, a win over the Tigers is certainly not out of the equation...


The Tomahawk: He's the 2020 Coleman Medal winner and full forward of the All-Australian team, but Tom Hawkins let Geelong down in the first qualifying final.

The big Cat looked ominous early, winning a battle of strength against Trent McKenzie in the opening seconds of the match and clunking a ball on his chest. He would go on to miss the set shot - a theme which continued throughout the game.

Hawkins finished the night with five behinds and one complete miss from his six shots on goal as the Power won by 16 points at Adelaide Oval to book a place in the last four and leave the Cats staring down the barrel of another finals straight sets elimination.

It might be harsh to blame one of the most dominant players of the year for the loss, but the accuracy (or lack of) was the difference. Port kicked 9.4 (58) to the Cats' 5.12 (42). Chris Scott's side had four extra scoring shots but still lost by almost three goals.

Don't forget, Hawkins booted six majors when he faced the Power earlier in the year. But his accuracy let him down when it mattered most.

Shai Bolton: He's had a remarkable breakout year to become a mainstay of Richmond's star-studded midfield, but Shai Bolton's ill-discipline was costly on more than one occasion.

In the early stages of Brisbane's breakthrough win over the Tigers on Friday night, Bolton was hunted down by Oscar McInerny in the middle of the ground, with the umpire deeming Bolton didn't get a legal disposal away.

'Big O' then gave Bolton a shove, to which the young Tiger responded with what can loosely be described as a headlock. The umpire paid a 50 metre penalty and McInerny converted to kickstart the Lions night.

Then, with just seconds on the clock until half time and after the Tigers had squandered a five-point lead with just three minutes remaining to trail by 7, Bolton was caught kicking the footy well after the umpire's whistle had blown to signal a holding the ball call against a teammate. Result? A 50 metre penalty, which turned into a 100 metre penalty, which resulted in Lachie Neale kicking a goal from the arc.

That 13-point half time margin remained for the rest of the evening, with Richmond eventually falling by 15.

To add insult to injury, Bolton had a moment to redeem himself with what would have been a goal of the year contender (had finals goal counted), but was cruelly denied by the ARC review system as his rolling shot from the boundary was found to have brushed the post.

It was a tough night for the 21-year-old, who might have found himself on the end of a Damien Hardwick spray after the match...

Josh Bruce: It's always difficult, and perhaps a little unfair, to say that one player cost his side a win, but did you see Bruce's horror play in the dying stages of Saturday afternoon's epic!?

The key forward recruit was playing against his old mob and had a point to prove after a, um, let's just call it a very underwhelming season.

The Dogs had rallied from 26 points down, closing the margin to three with a minute left on the clock when Taylor Duryea sent the ball inside 50m - a last gasp effort to win through to the semifinals.

Not only did Bruce fail to make a contest, but when the ball hit the ground he basically clotheslined Nick Coffield and forced the umpire to pay a free kick against. It turned out to be a decisive moment, with the Saints able to run the finals seconds off the clock.

It wasn't just that moment Bruce will want to forget, but rather the four quarters. He couldn't get near the pill all afternoon and finished his first final with just two kicks and one mark to his name.

Bruce kicked just 14 goals in 2020, six of which came in the game against stragglers North Melbourne, meaning he registered just eight in his other 17 outings. Perhaps Luke Beveridge should be keeping tabs on Joe Daniher or Ben Brown this offseason.