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.
Jake Stringer’s brilliant and then calamitous Luis Suarez impression
Jay Croucher: A few years ago I was at a bar in Dublin watching the soccer and Luis Suarez did the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. He was running down the left flank, near midfield, and with the outside of his right boot, he smacked a thirty-metre pass airborne curling inwards to the right edge of the penalty box. The pass exploded past the Arsenal defender closest to him, and then floated effortlessly, but with clear purpose, and coiled past the outstretched foot of the defender nearest his target, hugging the inside of the box, and found, without making him break stride, a fellow Liverpool body.
Last Friday night, Stringer took me back to Ireland. In the first quarter, going inside 50, wrong-footed, he opted for the check-side, and timed it perfectly, its path scything through the air, past defenders and leading Jack Redpath into the perfect space. There is something so bizarre, so magnificent, about an outside of the boot pass that tells a player where he needs to be and takes him there safely.
But Stringer tried to touch God twice. In the second quarter, he tried the same check-side kick coming out of defence. Bad Jake. He clumsily kicked it into the crowded corridor straight to an Adelaide chest, and Dublin suddenly felt like it was on the other side of the world again.
It was Ny-house
Ryan Nyhuis is a mid sized defender, who Fremantle drafted with pick 34 in the 2015 rookie draft. Ryan Nyhuis wasn’t supposed to play this weekend; he was a late in following the withdrawal of David Mundy due to illness.
Ryan Nyhuis played his first senior game for the Fremantle Dockers this weekend. Ryan Nyhuis played as a key forward in his first senior game for the Fremantle Dockers this weekend. Ryan Nyhuis kicked a goal with his first kick playing as a key forward in his first senior game for the Fremantle Dockers this weekend. Ryan Nyhuis kicked three more goals after kicking his first goal with his first kick playing as a key forward in his first senior game for the Fremantle Dockers this weekend.
Nat Fyfe was pretty good too: 33 disposals, 18 contested possessions, 12 clearances and ten score involvements. But Etihad Stadium was Ny-house.
The Day of the Dead
Ryan Buckland: Tasmania cops a lot of flack for being Australia’s retirement village. With the median age of their citizenry about four years older than the country at large, well, the flack is well directed. On Saturday, the Apple Isle hosted a game between two reanimated corpses: the Hawthorn Hawks and GWS Giants.
The Hawks are the team their coach refuses to let die, the rotting corpse of premiership’s past death-rattling its way to solid performance after solid performance. The Giants are riddled with injury, unable to field their best team at any point this year, and are still second on the ladder.
Together they played one of the more enthralling games we’ve witnessed this year, a see-sawing encounter belying the teams’ positions on the ladder. Hawthorn, long the contested football zealots, controlled the clinches (+26 on contested possessions) and cut off GWS’ favoured scoring lanes from stoppages. By contrast, the Giants controlled the aerial battle, with 120 marks to 81 and had an extra 51 uncontested possessions. This time last year, one would have expected the exact opposite.
It came down to the last ten or so minutes, the Hawks down by two goals after a blistering patch of football to start the fourth from the Giants. With three minutes on the clock, the Hawks moved within six points on the back of two set shot opportunities from Luke Breust (1.1). After the penultimate goal, the Hawks managed to secure the centre clearance and entry kick into their forward 50, where a mass of players scrambled and scraped their way through the next minute of game time.
On the fourth repeat stoppage and with 30 seconds of time on the clock, a lonesome Will Langford got a clean enough look at the big sticks and snapped truly. The game was tied with 12 seconds on the clock, leaving both Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson and GWS coach Leon Cameron with an interesting dilemma: save the draw or go for the kill and risk coming away with nothing.
The ball is bounced, the ruck tap is neutral, Tom Mitchell wins the ground ball and dishes to Liam Shiels who kicks forward immediately, Rory Lobb can’t snuff the scrambling ground ball, Langford gathers and kicks forward, it’s touched, Taylor Durea taps the ball on towards goal, Ryan Burton leads a chasing pack and spikes it through the goal. Hawks win.
Except the siren had sounded before Burton made contact. The teams draw on 97 points, the Hawks well on top in scoring shots (27 to 22) but not hitting the board where it counts most. For the second week running, GWS drew with their opponent, reportedly the first time a team has drawn in consecutive weeks since 1921.
It was another remarkable coaching performance by Clarkson, who has now taken the scalps of Sydney, Adelaide and GWS (more or less) in five weeks with drastically different methods. The Giants have once again escaped with premiership points, salvaging a game they had no right to salvage. Hawthorn, the team that cannot die so long as the genius at its heart is still beating; GWS, the team no one can kill no matter the flesh wounds inflicted upon it.
GWS have drawn twice, and won four games by less than two goals. Remember that when they stomp all over whoever finishes in third in a Friday night qualifying final. You had your chance, other 17 AFL clubs. You blew it.
Taylor Walker Remembers He Is A Large Human
22 Nick Riewoldts Are Better Than Anyone
Ken Sakata: There are many ways to conceptualise the best player argument.
You can use Brownlow votes. But then the old question of midfielder bias comes up. There’s counting flags, but then you run into the problem of using team success to define an individual’s value.
Next, you consider timelines. Is the sample size over a season (Dangerfield)? Three seasons (Fyfe)? A career (Gary Ablett)? Five games (Liam Jones)?
Eventually, you’ll encounter a discussion about positional impact. Alex Rance is the most dominant centre half-back, but I doubt he goes number one in a complete re-draft. If player salaries are anything to go by, the most valued players are forwards and midfielders. If Buddy kicks 5, is that preferable to 40 touches and 3 goal assists from Paddy Dangerfield?
The question is perhaps best phrased as which player gives you the best chance of victory in any one given game. But then there’s the question of ceilings and consistency. Eddie could feasibly kick eight, but he doesn’t do that every game. Is an occasional eight more lethal than a consistent three goals from Tom Lynch?
My favourite version of the question goes like this: if you had 22 clones of Player X, which team wins? Sure, this question has flaws. (It values versatility over everything. Aerobic capacity is ignored: a small tank is irrelevant when there are always 18 fresh copies on the field.) But it’s also the most fun way to consider the question. Whatever you’re best/worst at? Multiply that by twenty-two.
The answer to that particular pickle is 22 Nick Riewoldts. Yes, current-day Nick; 73 years-old, platelet rich plasma running through his veins. Nick Riewoldt is tall, fast, skilful and smart. He is built to pick up and play most positions on the ground. 22 Nick Riewoldts are better than anyone.
Somehow I’ve convinced myself that post-prime Nick Riewoldt is the best player in football, which is insane. I would like to take the opportunity to tell my family not to worry.
I imagine they’ll find a copy of this chart next to my body.
But we’re not done. A team of St. Nicks only works in the right system. What if they’re coached by Carlton-era Mick Malthouse? Team Dangerfield crush them if coached by transition-heavy Luke Beveridge.
You can go round and round with this shit.
Formulating the correct question is probably the hardest part of finding our arbitrary answer. And even when we get there, it takes more than one excellent player (of any definition) to secure victory. This is why a dominant Dangerfield doesn’t guarantee a dominant Geelong. This is why tanking doesn’t quite work in the AFL.
There are many ways to conceptualise the best player argument. The only thing you’ll be convinced of is the endless complexity it takes to win.
Iceman Neville Jetta
The Hamish I always wanted you to be
Jay Croucher: When a website runs the headline, ‘Port Adelaide star a late omission’, the following players might have been ruled out of the upcoming game: Robbie Gray, Chad Wingard, Ollie Wines, Paddy Ryder, Charlie Dixon or Travis Boak.
When you click on the link and see that Hamish Hartlett is the player who will not take the field, confusion reigns.
Hartlett is not a star. His past two years have been woefully underwhelming. He has been in danger of being dropped.
Hartlett’s problem has always been anonymity. He’s a midfielder in a team loaded with them, and has been sentenced to half-back, a position that does not come naturally to him. He wanders and gets lost. It is as though he speaks fluent French but has been asked to teach Danish classes.
But still, Hartlett has the skill and capability of a star even if that capability has been submerged by cascading context. On Sunday, though, capability floated above the surface.
Hartlett only had 16 touches, but they were damaging. His third quarter was brilliant, with a ferocious, courageous mark running back with the flight across half-back, and a thunderous goal from outside 50. He is a pristine kick – short, intermediate, and long – and he might have the prettiest booming kick in the game. His deep ball is Joe Flacco leaning back and unloading.
Hartlett’s shot at real prominence has probably passed him by. But he plays in a star-studded team, and his own moments of fleeting stardom can make them transcendent, which the Power were in conquering the Eagles.
Hype doom: Essendon can win the 2017 premiership
June 13: Essendon can win the flag
June 23 (their next game post-bye): Essendon pull out a choke job after being 19 points up with four minutes left.
July 2: The Bombers fall in a season-threatening capitulation to Brisbane.
June 25: Melbourne can win the flag
June 30: An insipid display punctuated by a Tomas Bugg brainfade and a medium term Jack Viney injury threaten Melbourne’s top 8 chances, though they do scrape home against Carlton the following week.
July 2: Richmond can win the flag
July 6: Richmond have their souls devoured by St Kilda to the tune of about a thousand goals.
Who will be this week’s hype-doomed premiership contender?
Oh. Load up on Essendon then I guess.