It’s not often that the top four teams meet each other on the same weekend of the home and away season and even less common that both games are decided by a kick or less.
That’s what we got on the weekend, one in which the battles of the heavyweights were as good as advertised.
But they were different sort of matches. Saturday at the Gabba was a grind, with the 28-degree weather taking its toll. The Lions came back late to beat Geelong thanks to Lincoln McCarthy’s speccy and goal.
In terms of storylines, it doesn't get much better than the having a player delivering the win to his new club against his former team in such dramatic circumstances.
Don’t buy the line that the conditions suited the home team better. Brisbane players were really struggling by the end of the game as well. Queensland might be beautiful one day and perfect the next but even 28 degrees in mid-August can be a little too perfect.
Charlie Cameron was the difference between the teams and Chris Scott’s remarks post-match that he didn't have much of an impact looked and sounded snarky to this observer. A week out from the finals and the Cats still have issues, such as finding a ruckman. They’re robbing their backline of a major weapon without Mark Blicavs.
Sunday at the MCG was a pearler, the sort of game you’ll seek out and watch again in the middle of the summer when you’re craving a footy fix. Spotting West Coast a five-goal lead then coming back to win made this the best win of the season for the Tigers and if it's a wet September then they’re the red-hot flag fancies.
Dustin Martin willed Richmond home in this one. He had that look about him, Dusty, and it seems as though he has taken the sour finish to last season as a personal slight and is intent on rectifying things on his lonesome. He’s good enough to do just that.
West Coast’s first quarter was as good as we’ve seen footy played. They only need to tidy a few things up and they remain in the premiership race up to their necks. Mark Hutchings is now in a race to be fit for the finals, but the wildcard for West Coast remains Nic Naitanui. If he comes back that changes the equation enormously.
WHAT ELSE I’M THINKING
1. Very hard to that umpires have a complete feel for the game when they pay nonsense ‘studs-up’ free kicks as they did twice against Jack Riewoldt on Sunday. The Tiger spearhead might have over-done the theatrics, but he had every right to feel aggrieved. They were rubbish free kicks. Perhaps the rule needs to be amended so that only studs-up contact above the shoulder is deemed a free kick.
2. Remember Collingwood? All but written off a few weeks back? Didn't think so. Terrific win in Adelaide on the weekend, and while the Pies have a rough shot at a top four spot, the more likely outcome is a home MCG elimination final with Darcy Moore, Jaidyn Stephenson and Jordan de Goey back in the side. If they have to travel after that, then there’s no fear. They’ve won four from five outside Victoria this year. The reinforcements are coming back just in time. Importantly for the Pies, Jamie Elliott kicked five goals in a serious return to form. He’s Collingwood’s x-factor entering September.
3. The Western Bulldogs are coming hard and the late season form is sparking comparisons with the 2016 premiership campaign. Kicking 12 goals straight to finish off the Giants on the road was the sign of a team playing close to its best. The Dogs are still working out how best to structure up inside 50, but the midfield is in such great nick it doesn't really matter, and if results next weekend fall as they should, then the Dogs might well be heading back to Homebush for an elimination final. They won't be fazed one bit.
4. A Twitter question on the weekend about which South Australian team would lead the next day’s paper after such a horrible Saturday for both clubs was met with this reply: “The Ashes!”. It was that sort of day for the Crows and the Power and you could argue the toss as to which defeat was worse. It all looked a bit too hard for the Crows, while Port’s title as the flakiest team in the competition won’t be challenged again in 2019. We keep hearing whispers that coach Ken Hinkley has lost sections of the playing group and the sub-par effort against North Melbourne on Saturday only adds fuel to the fire.
5. How often does a 10-goal effort not automatically equate to three Brownlow votes? Ben Brown was the obvious man of the match for the Kangas after his brilliant outing in front of goal, but ruckman Todd Goldstein played his best game in years – a career-high 34 disposals (19 contested), 17 score involvements, nine clearances, six inside 50s and 28 hit-outs. Looking forward to seeing how that one plays out come Brownlow night.
6. It took six years and 100 games, but perhaps finally Carlton supporters don't think of Dale Thomas as the ‘bloke that Mick Malthouse brought with him from Collingwood’, such was the reception he received from Blues fans on Saturday. Daisy was very good in his last home game and while he hasn't formally stamped his retirement papers just yet, don't expect a stampede for his services in 2020. And the Patrick Cripps lore continues to grow, with the Blues skipper spending the morning in hospital with an ear infection and coming out and playing well that afternoon.
7. Ever since Brendon Goddard wrote that James Worpel’s progress had “stalled”, the second-year Hawk midfielder has averaged 32 possessions (15 contested) per game and there’s now every chance he wins the Hawks best and fairest come the end of the year. Alastair Clarkson and his midfield lieutenant Sam Mitchell will already be licking their lips with anticipation of what the Worpel-Tom Mitchell combination will be capable of in 2020.