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Thursday, January 21, 2021

AFL round 4 review: Close encounters

Well, given the uncertainty around the Victorian teams after the extraordinary new regulations by the Queensland government due to the spike of COVID-19 in Victoria, this may be the last somewhat normal round of footy we see for a while.

Whether the Victorian clubs are forced into hubs remains to be seen, but for now let’s just talk about the weekend’s games because there were some tight finishes. This past weekend was the first time in V/AFL history that there have been games decided by 1 ,2, 3 and 4 points.

Sydney Swans 5.9 (39) lost to Western Bulldogs 10.7 (67)

What a horror day for the Sydney Swans

The Swans were wearing two black armbands for the game, one for Josh Kennedy’s grandfather, AFL legend John Kennedy Snr, and the other for the sister of Sam Naismith, who lost her battle with cancer.

Kennedy was playing match 250 and his teammates would be disappointed with the performance they dished up for a champion of the club while Naismith unfortunately tore his ACL for the second time in his career, effectively ending his season.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, look back to some of their best form, with skipper Marcus Bontempelli leading the way.

The Swans inexplicably chose not to tag Bontempelli in the first half and he made them pay.

Bontempelli kicked two goals and dominated the clash until Callum Mills was moved onto him in the second half but the damage was already done.

The Dogs had a 30-point lead at half-time and were never seriously troubled.

GWS Giants 10.6 (66) defeated Collingwood Magpies 9.10 (64)

Nick Haynes is the best defender in the comp right now

Th Giants got their season back on track with a much-needed victory over the Magpies.

Toby Greene was a huge inclusion for the Giants booting three goals, while Nick Haynes continues his hot start to the year with a stellar display down back.

The Magpies had their chances to win but some inaccurate kicking cost them in the end and an injury to star defender Jeremy Howe rubbed salt into the wounds.

There was reason to celebrate for the Giants with an impressive 2-point win over the Magpies. Getty

Port Adelaide Power 13.11 (89) defeated West Coast Eagles 6.5 (41)

Charlie Dixon could be the key for the Power

The Power continue their surge to start the season with yet another dominant win against lowly opposition.

Charlie Dixon was the star for the Power, booting six goals in a dominant display up forward, while Brad Ebert had 16 disposals and two goals as he celebrated game 250 in style.

They face the Lions and Giants in the next two weeks which will give us an indication of just how good the Power side truly are.

The Eagles can’t get out of the Gold Coast hub quickly enough with three losses in a row.

They look far from the premiership contenders many expected before the season and if they can’t turn it around quickly, they may be out of the race very soon.

St Kilda Saints 15.3 (93) defeated Richmond Tigers 10.7 (67)

The Tigers’ run could be over

The Saints have announced themselves as finals contenders with a resounding 26-point win that has them in 7th spot on the ladder.

Dan Butler was great against his old side kicking three goals, while Brett Ratten’s decision to replace Paddy Ryder with another small forward paid dividends with their pressure becoming too much for the Tigers.

The Tigers’ premiership defence is starting to look a little shaky and after consecutive losses, they find themselves 14th on the ladder.

The Richmond pressure we’ve become so accustomed to over the past three years just isn’t there right now.

Despite the poor start to the year, I wouldn’t be writing off the Tigers just yet.

Bradley Hill has added great run to the Saints side this season.

Essendon Bombers 8.3 (51) lost to Carlton Blues 7.10 (52)

Blues fans need to see their doctors

The Blues just love a close game at the moment with their last three games decided by 1 point, 2 points and then 1 point again.

Blues co-captain Sam Docherty continues his impressive return to football with a best on ground performance while Levi Casboult was outstanding up forward, booting 3 goals and taking 9 marks.

The Blues were the far better side in this match and dominated the key stats. They won the disposals 332-267 and inside 50s 49-34 but only just scraped past a gallant Bombers side.

The Bombers were playing their first game in two weeks after their match against Melbourne was postponed.

They were outmatched for much of the night by the Blues but stayed in the contest with some accurate kicking and had a chance to win the match in the dying seconds.

Jacob Townsend had a shot from just outside 50 metres and it looked like sailing straight through the goals, but it landed agonisingly short and the Bombers were resigned to their first loss of the season.

Gold Coast Suns 10.4 (64) defeated Fremantle Dockers 8.3 (51)

Matt Rowell is a Brownlow chance

The Suns showed they can tough out a win against the Dockers and earned their third straight victory since the season restarted.

Matt Rowell was again the standout for the Suns, finishing with 20 disposals and 2 goals with another best-on-ground performance making him a genuine chance to be the early Brownlow Medal leader.

The Dockers haven’t played a game at home this season and must be desperate to get out of the hub and back across to Perth.

Things got even worse for them with their captain and best player Nat Fyfe suffering a hamstring injury which could see him miss the next few weeks.

Matthew Rowell may be the best 4-game player in AFL history.

Brisbane Lions 10.23 (83) defeated Adelaide Crows 7.4 (46)

The Lions’ midfield is looking scary

Well the Lions absolutely dominated this clash and if they kicked straight, they could’ve won by 80 points.

Despite kicking 1 goal and 11 behinds between them, Lachie Neale and Hugh McCluggage starred yet again with the entire Lions midfield starting to look like an imposing combination.

Unfortunately for the Lions, they lost their skipper Dayne Zorko to a calf injury in the first half so he may miss some football.

The Crows’ season just keeps on getting worse with yet another demoralising loss.

Coach Matthew Nicks would be losing his hair at a rapid rate if he had any, with his side unable to string four quarters together.

They looked good in the third quarter and got within three goals of the Lions but couldn’t go on with it in the last. Tough times for the Crows.

Melbourne Demons 6.8 (44) defeated Geelong Cats 7.5 (47)

Even close games can be boring

The only thing that kept this game interesting was the close score-line because the football played was incredibly dour.

The poor quality of game saw Cats coach Chris Scott say that one way to create a more attractive game would be to reduce the number of players on the field to 16 a side instead of 18.

It would be a drastic change and with everything else going on around the game probably not the best time to have that debate, but it could be something to consider in the future.

The Cats did well to hang on to their lead late but wouldn’t take much out of the match other than the 4 points.

The Demons had their chances to win but just couldn’t connect with their forward line.

Young Kysaiah Pickett looked electrifying in his AFL debut and is certainly someone to keep an eye on in the next few years.

These two sides played out one of the more boring games you’ll ever see.

Hawthorn Hawks 8.10 (58) defeated North Melbourne 8.6 (54)

The Roos never say die

Another close encounter to round out the match with the Hawks desperately clinging on against a fast finishing Kangaroos.

The Hawks looked in cruise control leading by 31 points with just under 7 minutes to go, but the Roos finally started to take some risks and came home with a soaking wet sail.

The Kangaroos kicked 4 unanswered goals in quick time and found themselves down just 6 points with 3 minutes to go but ultimately couldn’t get over the line.

The Kangaroos played a more aggressive style of footy as they came storming back, so it makes you wonder what took them so long to start playing that way.

The Hawks won the inside 50s 45-33 and looked solid as they built their lead, but you could see coach Alistair Clarkson was filthy with his side’s final 7 minutes.

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