St Kilda and Essendon are a long way from playing in September.
St Kilda and Essendon are a long way from playing in September.

The Tackle: Are Victorian clubs in state of crisis?

Geelong is on top of the ladder and Collingwood is one win behind them but the remaining Victorian clubs are outside the top eight and that's a concern, writes Mark Robinson.

St Kilda and Essendon are best positioned to challenge for top eight but neither team looks capable of doing so.

Even second-placed Collingwood hasn't played convincing footy. but when is winning ugly such a bad thing?

Check out Mark Robinson's likes and dislikes from the weekend.

 

DISLIKES

 

1. COLD VICTORIAN TIMES

The ladder makes for worrying viewing. Only two Victorian clubs - Geelong (first) and Collingwood (second) - are in the top eight.

Eight of the bottom 10 slots are filled by Victorian clubs. State of crisis? That may be overstating it, yet it is a real concern. Of those eight teams, only injury-riddled Richmond appears to be legitimate finals contender. But that depends on the form of its returning stars, who have missed bulk matches.

Essendon and St Kilda, which both have six wins and are a game and percentage from eighth-placed Fremantle, look decent enough by the numbers, but their erratic performances give you little confidence.

Then there are the rest that won't play finals. It amounts to one sick state of football.

 

2. ST KILDA

It was a pitiful third quarter against Brisbane and if Alan Richardson does not coach in 2020, we may look back at Saturday's capitulation and say that's when it started to fall apart.

Saints footy boss Simon Lethlean told 3AW on Sunday Richardson needed constant improvement and competitive efforts to retain his position. Wins would help enormously.

But if there's any more of the spiritless and disconnected football that we saw against the Lions, then Richardson will be replaced.

That's harsh on the coach, who up until the weekend had been able to rally the troops, and probably not harsh enough on the players, who put up the white the flag in the third quarter.

Clearly, the club is having a close look at the coach, but the players need to have hard look at themselves.

 

 

Saints coach Alan Richardson is under pressure after Saturday’s loss to Brisbane. Picture: AAP
Saints coach Alan Richardson is under pressure after Saturday’s loss to Brisbane. Picture: AAP

 

3. BUDDY'S HAMSTRING

Got excited at halftime on Friday night when Dermott Brereton promoted a Lance Franklin special on Fox Footy on Wednesday night.

There are worse ways to spend an hour than watching Buddy kick goal after goal. But that hour has been postponed after Franklin tore his hamstring against Hawthorn.

Part of Derm's package was asking viewers to vote on the best Buddy moments.

Two stand out for me, both at the MCG: the running goal with a hapless Cale Hooker chasing and Buddy collecting the ball, jumping over a Collingwood player on the ground and kicking the goal from 70m.

 

4. BOMBERS

Often described as frustrating, it's apparent they aren't good enough to play in September. Whether that's acceptable will be a question for the Essendon board.

Essendon lost by 35 points to West Coast, which had 36 shots at goal to Essendon's 16. Michael Hurley had his worst game of the season and the Essendon midfield should shoulder a fair portion of the blame.

The Eagles took 22 marks inside 50, the second-most by any team for the season, and nine of those marks were conceded by Hurley, several of them on the lead to teammates who waltzed through the midfield.

Where was the pressure? The Bombers should apologise to the defensive teammates. Although the margin was 35 points, it felt like 75.

Luckily for the Bombers, the Eagles kicked 5.13 goals from 24 set shots (free kicks included).

 

The Bombers don’t appear to be good enought to play finals Picture: Getty Images
The Bombers don’t appear to be good enought to play finals Picture: Getty Images

 

 

5. WASTED DOGS

I feel like I've written this 30 times in the past 2½ seasons: They butchered the ball and their chances.

Against Collingwood, they had a kicking efficiency of just 56 per cent in the forward half of the ground. Early in the final quarter, with the game for the taking, their three consecutive entries were intercepted.

In the final 30 minutes it was 17 inside 50s to eight and they scored 3.2 to Collingwood's 3.0. They're untidy when they to try to be pinpoint with the delivery.

At one time in the final quarter, Jack Macrae ran through the 50m line and instead of having a shot at goal, he sought an across-the-body pass to teammate Bailey Williams and didn't hit the target.

The Bulldogs do a lot right, and when they do get the their connection more consistent, they will be back in town.

Until then, they will continue to cough up wins.

 

6. JAMES SICILY

"The Sicily experiment hasn't worked for us so far, so we need to decide what we do there," Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said. No one would disagree.

Sicily wasn't so much a failed forward first time round, but when he was pushed to defence, he was a bolt of lightning. He had forward's feel without a hard-pressing opponent and developed into one of the best interceptors in the game.

The move forward in the past two games seemingly was an act of desperation to give his mids a target.

Against Essendon in Round 15, he played the first half forward and second half in defence.

On Friday night, it was three quarters forward and the final quarter in defence. Sicily's game at the weekend was his lowest rated game in 44 matches and it was no coincidence with Sicily forward that the Hawks took a season low-eight intercept marks.

 

 

Michael Walters gets up close to Melbourne’s Jay Lockhart. Picture: Getty Images
Michael Walters gets up close to Melbourne’s Jay Lockhart. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

7. HEADBUTT

We'll call it the Richard Goyder Rule. He said last week football didn't like pinching - it shouldn't be seen at any level of the game, Goyder said.

He'd say the same thing about headbutting.

And if Stratton was suspended for pinching, then Walters should be suspended for head-butting. It was at pretty hostile period in the game and was preceded by a tangle involving Jack Viney and Walters.

 

 

LIKES

 

1. EAGLES MIDFIELD

It was said this year Collingwood could have the greatest midfield ever assembled, which bemused the Brisbane Lions of 2001-04 and shocked Jimmy Bartel, who was part of the great Geelong midfield during the premierships of 2007, '09 and '11.

The Eagles midfield, however, doesn't get the credit it deserves.

Elliot Yeo, Luke Shuey, Dom Sheed, Andrew Gaff, Jack Redden, tagger Mark Hutchings and returning ruckman Nic Naitanui are arguably better than the Collingwood midfield unit.

They destroyed Essendon's onballers on Thursday night.

Just look at the score involvements.

Redden had 13, Yeo, Sheed and Shuey nine and Gaff eight for a total of 48.

 

2. WHAT WAS DANIEL MCKENZIE THINKING?

The St Kilda backman probably slept fleetingly on Friday night, knowing he had the job on Brisbane's Charlie Cameron. He probably slept fleetingly on Saturday night, dissecting his job on Charlie Cameron.

What a bomb of a player Cameron is. He kicked three goals in the first quarter and another two early in the third quarter when the Lions broke the Saints' spirit.

The loneliest backman is the one playing one-on-one out of the goalsquare against Eddie Betts - and more recently Michael Walters and Jordan De Goey.

Cameron is on a par with those three. He's quick in the legs and in the brain and mostly always keeps his feet. If he does go ground, he bounces to his feet quicker than any player in the league. He's a jet.

 

Jack Viney gets his jumper ripped against the Dockers. Picture: Getty Images
Jack Viney gets his jumper ripped against the Dockers. Picture: Getty Images

 

3. JACK VINEY

This is what Melbourne and Viney have missed this season - a murderous and unrelenting attack on the ball and the man.

Disillusioned Melbourne fan Sam Daddo said: "Jack Viney was disgustingly sick for the football today and it was so arousing to watch."

That's a happy a Demons man.

When you see Viney perform like he did you admire it and wonder where it's been for most of the year. It's hardly a coincidence Melbourne won when Viney plays the most influential game of the year.

For Viney, it was certainly needed. Leading into the match, he was averaging his fewest disposals and clearances since 2014 and the fewest contested possessions of his entire career. On Saturday, he had season-highs for those categories.

 

 

4. WINNING UGLY

The Pies are making a habit of it, which is a concern and a luxury. Since Round 6, they have lost just one game - to Fremantle at the MCG - and it's why they are sitting in second position. But in that time, they've won 15 quarters and lost 14 quarters, including three quarters to the Bulldogs.

They belted Brisbane on Easter Thursday and that was clinical.

From then, they beat Essendon (four points), Port Adelaide (39 points after being up by 45 at quarter-time), Carlton (19 points and trailed in the last quarter), St Kilda (41 points after leading by five points at three-quarter time), Sydney (seven points), lost to the Dockers, beat Melbourne (41 points) and won against the Dogs by nine points.

They won, but coach Nathan Buckley was far from impressed. At the final siren, he frowned and shook his head.

 

5. LUKE PARKER

There's been plenty of change to the Swans midfield in the past six weeks, namely Zak Jones going inside and George Hewett not locking down but becoming a major ball-winner.

The return of Luke Parker full-time can't be ignored either. In Rounds 1-6, he played 72 per cent midfield and averaged 23 touches.

In Rounds 7-13, it has been 95 per cent midfield and an average of 28 disposals.

His past six weeks have returned 31, 30, 28, 28, 28 and 33 disposals. Of all the teams outside of the eight, the Swans suddenly look the most dangerous, not withstanding Franklin's injury.

 

 

Luke Parker barges through Hawthorn's Paul Puopolo. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Luke Parker barges through Hawthorn's Paul Puopolo. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

 

6. BRAD HILL

As reports swirl he wants to return to Hawthorn, Hill continues to play the most astonishing of football. The gut-running of Tom Scully was revered for so long, but we have a new clubhouse leader in Hill. He is averaging career-highs is disposals, metres gained, contested possessions and intercept possessions, all the while doing 200m shuttle runs from back pocket to the forward pocket.

Dockers coach Ross Lyon and chief executive Steve Rosich have dismissed chat about Hill leaving the club, both pointing out Hill has two years to run on a five-year deal.

 

7. RESPECT

Staggeringly, some Hawthorn fans disapproved of the players donning No.37 during their warm-up on Friday night in a show of respect and support of Adam Goodes. Why anyone would be angry about that gesture is mind-boggling.

It was an acknowledgment by the Hawks that Goodes didn't get the support he needed during a period that was, when you look back, one of the most embarrassing episodes in football. A man was booed and bullied out of the game and people, including newspaper columnists, continue to defend their stance. Just staggering.