Our AFL experts tackle some of the burning questions ahead of Round 16.
Are you prepared to put a line through the Tigers for 2021?
Rohan Connolly: No. I accept that their task is going to be mighty difficult from here, particularly given the latest crop of injuries. But the bottom line for me is this ... they're still in the eight, their draw has only two of eight games against top eight teams, and they'll have the likes of Balta and Broad back for finals, Lynch and Nankervis well before that. Last year they played four finals to win the flag. This time, they'll have to WIN four, but I still think their best is better than anyone else's and that they can produce it at the right time.
Jake Michaels: You know what, for the first time in about four seasons I think I'm saying it: 'the Tigers won't win the flag this year'. It's not a wild overreaction to the horror performance against the Saints, either. As Rohan mentioned above, they will now have to win four finals in succession (because they definitely aren't making the top four) and I can't see that happening. The odds are certainly not in their favour. But is the dynasty over? Absolutely not. They will rightly be one of the favourites again in 2022, and few would be surprised if they went all the way again.
Matt Walsh: Yes, I think there's a lot working against Richmond, and there are some hungry teams out there. As Christian Joly from Champion Data mentioned on the podcast this week, they've slipped in a number of key stats compared to their flag seasons, and as a result their defensive structure isn't at all holing up well (and Balta's injury won't help) and with little support from up the ground. They won't win it this year.
Jarryd Barca: If they win the flag from here, I'll tip my hat to them and personally give them the honour of best dynasty in the 21st century. A mounting injury list, obvious lack of youthful depth, stars out of form and top four out of reach... it's not happening. The line is thick.
Which broken rule needs fixing most?
RC: Holding the ball. I wouldn't have said that until this season, but the latitude now given the player in possession is in my view way too much. Players shouldn't be able to be swung around a couple of revolutions and still be able to dish off to a teammate, and there's too many examples of players who've had prior opportunity, are nailed in perfect tackles, dispose incorrectly and are somehow still given the benefit of the doubt. Yes, encourage players to win the ball, but giving them until next weekend to get rid of it is ridiculous.
JM: I'll give you two. Firstly, the 15m rule for kicks is so wildly inconsistent it ain't funny. I'm not saying I have the answer, but something has to be done in order to ensure 11m kicks aren't paid and 20m kicks are. Secondly, I'm sick to death of players knowingly taking advantage from a free kick, only to turn the ball over and then have the umpire call it back to the original place of the free kick. You can't get two cracks at it. If you take the advantage and blow it, tough luck!
MW: How about an easy one?! How was Patrick Cripps allowed to run 33 metres without bouncing the ball before kicking his goal on the weekend? It's not just him, defenders kicking out after a behind often run (objectively) at least 22-23 metres, and aren't penalised. It's such an easy rule to get right, players shouldn't be allowed to run literally double the legal distance. Change the rule - make it 20 metres instead, give players the two metre leeway because it's an imprecise measurement and be done with it ... 15 metres is too short anyway.
JB: Holding the ball. There's too much conjecture and guesswork that seems to be applied when it's being adjudicated. I'm sick of hearing "he tried to get rid of it" - scrap prior opportunity and pay the illegal disposal! This rule comes under scrutiny every single week and it's time we make life easier for umpires ... and fans to actually understand what's going on.
Do you take the good with that bad with hotheads like Brayden Maynard?
RC: Yes. The good far outweighs the bad with this bloke. OK, so it was a costly 50-metre penalty on Saturday, but there's several every week, and the fact is Maynard not only offers Collingwood great defensive qualities and rebound, but is a terrific spiritual barometer for the Pies as well. It's players who aren't contributing as much in other ways then fall into ill-discipline who are harder to tolerate. Essendon's Devon Smith has a few convictions of late in that regard.
JM: The problem is, if you try to temper the aggression of a Maynard, then you lose what you love most about his style of play. I say, let him be the combative, heart-on-the-sleeve type player who can inspire his teammates, even if that means he will occasionally give up a few frees and 50m penalties. Most sides would love to have a Maynard or Mitch Robinson type out there.
MW: Why not keep the good but eliminate the bad. Far out, Brayden, don't talk back to the umpires? When has that ever worked for anyone, ever, even if you are right? Channel it into your footy -- much like how Mitch Robinson has done in recent years -- and don't do stupid things.
JB: I love the way he goes about his footy, so I think you have to. For every goal a player like Maynard gives away from an ill-disciplined 50-metre penalty, he's creating one or two more from a desperate tackle, a 50/50 stoppage won at the other end of the field or elite offensive rebound - these types of players show a tenacity at the contest that is unmatched by others. While the free kick against him on the weekend was an appalling one -- the umpire would own he got that wrong -- you still have to learn how to keep your cool! He invested too much time in arguing his case which, on the footy field, has always been pointless.
The Dockers are currently placed ninth. Could they do finals damage?
RC: No. Happy to say I was impressed by the win over Collingwood on the road, but I just don't see the Dockers pull out those sorts of performances away nearly consistently enough. Even were they to make the eight and host a final in week one, they'd be playing every subsequent one on the road (bar a coincidental clash with West Coast). Three interstate wins against quality opposition in a row? Can't see it. Certainly, their history doesn't suggest they're capable of it, either.
JM: Probably not this year, as their road form still leaves a lot to be desired, but there's no doubt the Dockers are building something. 2022, anyone?
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MW: I don't think they'll make the finals this year, and they'd probably need to finish either fifth or sixth (and host a final) to 'do some damage'. They're building well, but they're still a while away!
JB: It depends on how you define 'damage'. If they edge their way in, I wouldn't be surprised to see them win a final as the underdogs, they're a fairly young but complete team that has been ravaged by injury this year - further emphasised with Matt Taberner now being ruled out for up to one month. The Dockers are 1-5 against top eight teams this season and opposition sides haven't had too much trouble scoring against a so-far undermanned defence. But if Alex Pearce, Luke Ryan and Griffin Logue stay on the park - and with Nat Fyfe coming back - I think they're a massive chance to feature in September, even if it's probably ahead of time.