So much incredible stuff happens across an AFL weekend. It’s impossible to keep up with it all. The Onballers crew are here to bring you a view on the stuff you saw and other gear you might have missed. This is the Onballers Quick Hands, our round in review.
Tom Bugg punched us all in the jaw
Ken Sakata: Inuits may have 50 words to describe snow. In the same way, I have built up a vocabulary to describe pests. I appreciate their moronic acts. This is done with love. Pests are my people.
Melbourne’s Tom Bugg punched Callum Mills Friday night. Punching is not unusual for a troublemaker, but this is very off-brand for Bugg. He is simply not that sort of pest. (Yes, there are different types. The AFL is a safari of pests.)
Tom Bugg is a cerebral terrorist. He taunts the opposition with words, not violence. His main mode of warfare is (1) verbal and (2) social media. This is the same guy who started a melee with Richmond and ran away when it kicked off. Throwing big dirty punches isn’t really his M.O.
Before Friday, Tom Bugg was infinitely more likely to Instagram a bitmoji of himself punching an opponent than actually doing it. This is what happens when the inexperienced dabble in physical violence. People get hurt.
Much has been made of the remorse shown by Bugg after the incident. The performative apology to Mills post-game was about many things. It was about Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin addressing questions about team culture. It was about the optics to young children watching the game. It was about the length of suspension at an upcoming tribunal hearing. It was about Tom Bugg trying to control a rapidly shifting public persona. It’s impossible to know if the apology was at all about Tom Bugg punching Callum Mills.
Get off my lawn
Saturday night’s 1-all drawEmbed from Getty Images
Ryan Buckland: You might think you saw the Richmond Tigers defeat the Port Adelaide Power by 13 points at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday night. I’m telling you now what you really saw was a 1-all draw between two of the most fearsome beasts in the game: Dustin Martin and Sam Powell-Pepper.
Richmond’s Martin is the master of aggression, a combination of foolhardy endeavour and the physical chops to make good on his delusions of grandeur. Powell-Pepper is his apprentice, a 19 year old hulking man-child built in an underground bunker with the sole purpose of shredding his way through opposition midfielders.
Some say tapes of Powell-Pepper from last year’s under 18s carnival have been destroyed, for fear that watching them literally rip the spines out of weedy teenagers caused a recruiter’s retinas to detach. It’s almost impossible that Powell-Pepper (whose name I continuously mistype as “Power” and I’m not even trying to be funny now) is 19 years old.
The two shared the same field for the first time, and folks it was glorious. Martin did his usual thing, traipsing across the field and dishing the ball to advantage; Powell-Pepper also noticeable for much of the game but front and centre late in the match with two great, dare I say, Martin-like long goals.
As best as I can tell they were never direct opponents, but that did not preclude plenty of interaction and altercations. In the space of a minute in the last quarter, Martin and Powell-Pepper traded fends. The earth briefly stopped spinning, twice.
You thought you were watching Richmond come from behind to beat Port Adelaide. Nah. You were watching two of the most entertaining footballers in the league collide like intergalactic objects lighting up the cosmos.
The Kangaroos are the worst team in footballEmbed from Getty Images
Jay Croucher: Mediocrity has finally had one too many drinks.
After years of teetering on the verge of meaning but never truly threatening to take the deep dive into it (not all preliminary final appearances are created equal, my friends), the Kangaroos have quietly fallen backwards into the hell-pit of Marley Williams being an important cog.
They are a terrible football team. Their badness is proud and unyielding. They have young talent, in the sense that they have young players talented enough to get drafted to play professional football. But the talent is not of the saviour variety. It’s of the ‘maybe one day they’ll be solid’ variety. There’s no Christian Petracca or Eric Hipwood. There’s a lot of Brayden Maynard.
On Saturday night, North gave up eight goals in a row to the Gold Coast, who are not good. North went 25 minutes in the first half without scoring a point (against the Gold Coast, who are not good).
North’s last month has seen a blowout loss to Richmond, a pair of three goal losses to St. Kilda and the Gold Coast that should have been eight goal losses, and a one-point defeat to the Bulldogs, who have run second only to North over the past four weeks in existential suckdom.
The Kangaroos are not the worst side in the competition in the loud way that the Lions of recent years have been. They have brushes with competence. Amid the comical skill errors, the kicks inside 50 pinpointed to an even contest when two free men stream open to the goal square, the deluge of opposition goals kicked from the goal square, and the sad sense of being totally overwhelmed, physically and spiritually, at the stoppages, there is some respite.
Ben Brown, Ben Cunnington, Jack Ziebell, Robbie Tarrant, Jarrad Waite, Shaun Higgins, the Artist Formerly Known as Todd Goldstein … these are AFL players. And North is still an AFL team. They’re just the worst AFL team.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the most gaudy of them all?
Buckland: These are some abhorrent totals folks.
- Dangerfield, P: 45 disposals, 25 contested possessions, 13 clearances, six inside 50s, two turkey struts, one goal straight
- Franklin, L: 19 disposals, 11 marks, 12 score involvements, eight inside 50s, four goals, three behinds, zero Lance Franklin goals
- Gaff, A: 42 disposals, 688 metres gained, 12 contested possessions (no, really), 10 inside 50s, two white as fuck boots
- Lyons, J: 39 disposals, 23 contested possessions, 10 clearances, six tackles, none of this for the Adelaide Crows
- Wingard, C: 39 disposals, 1,000 metres gained, 10 clearances, 14 inside 50s, 17 contested possessions, 19 angry stares
- Martin, D: 36 disposals, eight marks, eight inside 50s, four centre clearances, 11 score involvements, an AFL record eight broken tackles, a made up AFL record 19 successful fends
- Burton, R: 29 disposals, 90% efficiency, seven intercept possessions, one five year five million dollar contract
- Walters, M: 32 disposals, six goals, two behinds, 558 metres gained, 12 score involvements, 18 contested possessions, one hundred flame emojis
What a weekend of boot-filling for the league’s best and brightest.