AFL round 20 key takeouts and match review news

Our reporters give you the lowdown on all the action from round 20 of the AFL season.

Fremantle v Melbourne, Optus Stadium

The reigning premiers fired a big shot across the bows of the rest of the competition with a defensive masterclass in Perth, keeping a genuine contender to just five goals. Round 20 was where the Demons kicked off their final flag push last year, and they could do it again — especially if they can get over Collingwood, the league’s great escapists, next week in a battle for second spot. Fremantle were made to look bereft, especially inside 50, but it was Melbourne’s system that made it so hard for them to score. Sixth on the ladder, the Dockers have the Bulldogs, Eagles and Giants to come, and might need to knock over all three to claim a top four berth.
– Andrew Stafford

The Demons got the win in Perth.Credit:Getty Images

Collingwood v Port Adelaide, MCG

Collingwood have now won 10 in a row with another close victory and are guaranteed a finals spot. The hard-fought win makes them the first side to win nine games by 12 points or fewer in a VFL/AFL season. It also puts them well into the fight for a top-four finish despite a tough run home, in which they face fellow top-eight opponents Melbourne, Sydney and Carlton, while Port Adelaide now sit firmly outside finals contention. Developing young star Jack Ginnivan was once again the subject of some dubious umpiring decisions, but nevertheless booted three goals by half-time and assisted in another from teammate Darcy Cameron. After the game, Ginnivan said the spotlight has “taken a toll” on his mental health, but the Magpies’ winning streak is keeping him smiling and happy. Jordan De Goey was back from a quad injury and got busy, gathering 23 disposals and finishing second in contested possessions on 13, behind Port’s Darcy Byrne-Jones, and booting two majors. Connor Rozee, Ollie Wines, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters all had good games, working hard to win the ball and drive it forward, but the Power’s poor defensive positioning let them down against an attacking Collingwood side focused on territory and pressure. Taylor Adams was subbed off with a groin injury and Jeremy Howe went down to the rooms during the final quarter and didn’t return to the park. The Pies said on Sunday that Howe would be available for selection next weekend, but Adams remains in doubt and will have scans in the coming days to determine the extent of the injury. After the game Craig McRae said he was happy with Brodie Grundy’s return to the VFL on Saturday and expects to see him back in the side in the coming weeks. This creates an interesting dilemma for McRae, with Mason Cox and Cameron both playing well and the coach admitting he’d be surprised to see all three make the team.
Marnie Vinall

The Pies have won 10 straight.Credit:Getty Images

Sydney v GWS, SCG

The Swans had it pretty much all their own way at the SCG on Saturday, with a run of 10 unanswered goals between the dying stages of the opening term and the 25-minute mark of the third showing just what they’re capable of when they’re let off the leash. Luke Parker was everywhere, amassing 34 touches in a best-on-ground performance. Sydney have won four straight, with North Melbourne to come next week, and regardless of whether they can secure a top four spot and a double chance, it is clear no team will want to face the Swans in September if they’re playing this way. On the other hand, there was nothing good to take from this match for the Giants. The result left interim coach Mark McVeigh furious and questioning whether his players had “checked out” mentally. Aside from the opening seven or so minutes, when they looked up for the fight, GWS struggled to contain the Swans. At times, their lack of pressure or defensive integrity was diabolical. Before the game even started, they lost co-captain Stephen Coniglio to “soreness”. It ended in their fourth defeat in a row by 30 points or more, which should be fatal to McVeigh’s chances of going from caretaker coach to permanent. On paper, the talent is there, particularly in midfield – but on grass, it’s much harder to see.
– Vince Rugari

The Swans are playing scintillating football.Credit:Getty Images

St Kilda v Hawthorn, Marvel Stadium

This was a contest that even the most ardent St Kilda fan is unlikely to revisit. However, the bottom line is this – the Saints took care of business, and are back in the top eight after a 12-point win at Marvel Stadium. Now come the defining three weeks of their season, beginning against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium. They need two, if not three, more wins to secure eighth spot. The Cats appear unbeatable but don’t forget the Saints won by 10 points when they met in May at Marvel Stadium. Ruckman Rowan Marshall will have a huge role to play. He was arguably best afield against the Hawks, and there’s no reason why he cannot replicate this against Jon Ceglar and, if he returns, Rhys Stanley. It was good to see the return of Dan Hannebery, who has endured so much injury frustration. His class around the ball is still needed. Skipper Jack Steele and fellow midfielder Brad Crouch were superb, while forward Tim Membrey was excellent, whether that be when he pushed back to be the bailout kick, or when the Saints looked to attack. For the Hawks, the late flurry warmed hearts but, overall, it was a reality check of how much work they still have to do before they re-emerge as a finals contender. Three wins on the bounce against struggling teams had buoyed spirits but their game plan, built on rebound from half-back, was shut down. This made life tough, and for a cold afternoon for forwards Jack Gunston and Luke Breust. Injuries also did not help. Midfielder Jai Newcombe was a threat inside 50, while veterans Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara battled hard, but it’s still hard not to think the Hawks should look at trading the pair.
– Jon Pierik

Geelong v Western Bulldogs, GMHBA Stadium

All the big questions out of the game surround the Western Bulldogs as they face up to the reality that it will take plenty of work for them to make the finals and a miracle for them to again move from an elimination final to a grand final. Their midfield was beaten up at clearances in the second half; their stars were not getting it done when the opposition lifted their intensity in that part of the ground. The Bulldogs have a good list – Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was good again while Sam Darcy will be a player next season – but the holes at either end of the ground remain obvious. Josh Bruce has found the return from a knee reconstruction challenging while Aaron Naughton is a level below the best forwards, although he could be an All-Australian defender. It took time for Collingwood to recognise Darcy Moore was a defender and it feels as though a Darcy and Naughton combination could stiffen the Bulldogs in the future as Steven May and Jake Lever did at Melbourne. Geelong are purring along and Patrick Dangerfield’s form is ominous, while they have the perfect mix up forward. The biggest headache facing the Cats will be selection with Zach Tuohy, Rhys Stanley, Sam Menegola and Brandan Parfitt to return.
– Peter Ryan

Adelaide v Carlton, Adelaide Oval

Carlton’s seemingly tranquil bid to break a nine-year finals drought is suddenly on shaky ground and their bid for a top-four berth certainly dashed after being overwhelmed by Adelaide. After edging their noses in front at quarter-time, the Blues were outworked, out-hustled and clearly outplayed across the next three terms. Their cause was hampered by injuries to small forward Corey Durdin (shoulder) and backman Nic Newman (knee) in the second stanza and midfielder Matthew Kennedy (concussion) in the fourth. Patrick Cripps (career-best 41 disposals, 13 clearances) was as brilliant as ever; so too was Sam Walsh (equal career-high 40 touches), but not enough teammates went with the pair. Despite the latest defeat, the manner of it and the trifecta of injuries, it isn’t exactly panic stations for Carlton (12-7). But an unfriendly home stretch of fixtures – Brisbane at the Gabba next Sunday followed by MCG tilts with reigning premiers Melbourne and red-hot rivals Collingwood – leaves Carlton vulnerable to limping into September, or missing out altogether.
Adelaide’s brutal assault of the Blues was the blueprint of the way coach Matthew Nicks wants his team to compete weekly. Seldom can the Crows be accused of lacking effort, but on Saturday night they augmented it with composure and slickness of ball movement. Their repeated forward forays were set off by the brilliance of Brodie Smith, described by Nicks as being “in a rare zone” on Saturday night, while the decision to move Ben Keays (three goals, four score assists) out of the centre square and into attack on Adam Saad proved an inventive masterstroke.
– Steve Barrett

The Blues have 12 wins for the season but a finals berth is no guarantee.Credit:AFL Photos

Gold Coast v West Coast, Metricon Stadium

Touk Miller is leading The Age’s Footballer of the Year voting – ahead of the likes of Clayton Oliver, Andrew Brayshaw, Christian Petracca, and Callum Mills – and is among the handful of favourites for this season’s Brownlow Medal, and yet he’s somehow still massively underrated in many circles. Perhaps it’s because he’s the star of a side so far away from AFL heartland – one that just doesn’t capture the attention of its rivals from the southern and western states.
But with every passing game, his reputation just soars higher.
The hometown Suns held off the fast-finishing West Coast at Metricon Stadium on Sunday to keep their slim finals hopes alive, Malcolm Rosas jnr’s sealer with 15 seconds to play securing the 16.11 (107) to 16.8 (104) win.
The Eagles kicked seven goals to three in the final term to nearly pinch the win, having trailed by 31 points early in the fourth quarter.

Mabior Chol shone for the Suns against West Coast.Credit:AFL Photos

Former Richmond big man Mabior Chol booted a career-high five goals in his 50th AFL game, while livewire small forward Izak Rankine slotted three, with Rosas and Jeremy Sharp kicking two each for the Suns.
Jack Darling kicked an equal career-best six majors for the Eagles, with Jack Petruccelle ending with three and Liam Ryan and Jack Redden two apiece.
But Miller, the Suns’ co-captain, was again the best performer for the hosts with 31 disposals, a whopping 16 clearances, and 10 tackles.
West Coast rookie Jai Culley, meanwhile, had a day to forget, elbowing Suns midfielder Noah Anderson in the head in the second quarter and then limping off in the fourth with a hamstring injury.
– Russell Bennett and AAP

Richmond v Brisbane Lions, MCG

After barely touching the ball in the first quarter and being completely outplayed for the entirety of the first half, Richmond somehow found a way. Damien Hardwick said after the match that the comeback was inspired by the significance of Shane Edwards′ 300th game. If that’s the case, Edwards might be one of the most loved players of the modern era. The Tigers were supreme in the second half and they were led by an unlikely hero in fifth gamer Noah Cumberland, who kicked five and gave Richmond’s forward line a totally new look. Tom Lynch was excellent with four goals and Jack Riewoldt continues to be a presence in the twilight of his career, but Cumberland brings athleticism and tenacity. Chris Fagan said after the game that he doesn’t believe in the MCG hoodoo – for those not aware, Brisbane just lost its 10th game in a row at the ground. And while he might be right in saying they played a lot better than they usually do at the ’G, the result surely continues to place doubt in the Lions as they approach September. His side has been close to grand final appearances in recent seasons, but they are ultimately going to need to win on that ground to lift the premiership cup.
– Sam McClure

Essendon v North Melbourne, Marvel Stadium

The Bombers’ 2022 campaign can largely be boiled down to one of missed opportunities – one of promising so much, but often delivering so little aside from inconsistency.
Now, that’s not to say the positives haven’t been there – such as the impressive play up forward of bargain big man Peter Wright, through the middle of star on-baller Zach Merrett and up-and-coming ruckman Sam Draper, or down back of the likes of Mason Redman. Of course, Nic Martin, Archie Perkins, Ben Hobbs, Massimo D’Ambrosio, Harry Jones, Zach Reid, Nik Cox and Sam Durham all have plenty to offer for the future, but it’s the group’s stars of today who have frustrated most – the likes of Dylan Shiel and Jake Stringer in particular.
Shiel has rebounded brilliantly from his early-season form slump and displayed the kind of output all too rarely seen of many of his teammates, while Stringer’s body has all too often let him down. Describing Stringer as Essendon’s most influential player is not just a throwaway line – when he’s fit and firing, he provides the kind of dimension to the group that so few others across the competition can for their own sides.
His performance on Sunday was testament to that – when he booted 5.3 from just 14 disposals against a downtrodden North outfit that was just powerless to stop him, and Merrett and Redman alike.
If the Bombers are to take significant strides forward next season, it won’t just be off the back of the development of their youngsters. It’ll again be off the back of a fit, focussed Stringer.
For North, Jaidyn Stephenson produced the kind of game his new side would have been hoping to see far more of when he came across from Collingwood, while Jy Simpkin and Cam Zurhaar again put in a mountain of work from an individual standpoint.
– Russell Bennett

Match review news

Fremantle’s Sean Darcy was fined $2000 for striking Christian Petracca on Friday night, while Melbourne’s Kysaiah Pickett was fined $1000 for staging during the second quarter.

From Saturday’s action, Hawthorn star Changkuoth Jiath was charged with rough conduct for a dangerous tackle on St Kilda skipper Jack Steele during their clash at Marvel Stadium. He was handed a one-match suspension – with an early plea – for the incident that as classed as careless conduct, medium impact, and high contact.

Nick Daicos (striking), Taylor Adams (engaging in a melee), Jeremy Finlayson (engaging in a melee), Jack Ginnivan (engaging in a melee), Zak Butters (engaging in a melee), Scott Pendlebury (rough conduct), Dane Rampe (rough conduct), and Braydon Preuss (rough conduct) were all handed fines.

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