AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (2024)

The Swans keep winning, the Dockers snatch a draw against the Magpies, the Cats slump to another loss and the Eagles come crashing back to earth.

We wrap up round 11 in the AFL.

1. History says Swans will be grand finalists

Thursday night was not Sydney's best performance of 2024, but it was good enough to get the win over an injury-ravaged Western Bulldogs.

The Swans have seven wins in a row heading into next weekend's bye and sit alone on top of the ladder.

The win means the Swans have started the season with 10 wins and one loss for just the fifth time in their history.

This is the first time they have done it as the Sydney Swans, while it was achieved four times while based in South Melbourne.

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (1)

And when the Swans start 10-1, they make a deep run in the final.

The Swans won the premiership in 1918, were semifinalists in 1932, and were beaten by Collingwood in the 1935 and 1936 grand finals.

If history is anything to go by, Swans players will be drinking water on Brownlow Medal night with a grand final in the back of their minds.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Chad Warner (Sydney)

2.Brodie Grundy (Sydney)

1.Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

(Votes are compiled by the ABC Sport radio commentary team after each match)

2. Pulsating draw another case of 'What if?' for Dockers

Fremantle's style of play has been a polarising topic for the majority of this season, with Justin Longmuir's side continuing to blow hot and cold.

Friday night's thrilling draw against Collingwood was Fremantle's season in a microcosm— some dominant play mixed in with patches of errant goal kicking and uninspiring ball movement.

The Dockers looked headed towards another disappointing loss against a vastly undermanned Collingwood side until they clicked into gear when they had no other option.

After spending the majority of the night either kicking sideways or backwards when in possession, Fremantle took the game on after falling behind by 25 points midway through the final quarter, and the results were instant.

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (2)

Fremantle began playing on and all costs, handballing and running in waves at a Collingwood defence that looked a little rattled when they did not have enough time to set up their zones behind the football.

It's often difficult to determine which team looks at a draw as two points lost or two points gained. On one hand, the Dockers have a right to believe they've stolen two points having been second-best for the majority of the night.

However, on the other hand, Longmuir must wonder if his side played with the reckless abandon they did in the final quarter if the result would've been a comfortable victory.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Nick Daicos (Collingwood)

2.Jeremy Sharp (Fremantle)

1.Josh Daicos (Collingwood)

3. Curnow, Andrew throw down in a old-fashioned duel

One of the main reasons AFL fans often reminisce over the 90s as the golden era of football is due to the classic one-on-one contests between forwards and defenders.

Wayne Carey and Glen Jakovich's duels became legendary, as did the likes of Jason Dunstall, Tony Lockett, Tony Modra and Gary Ablett tussling with some of the best defenders of their time such as Stephen Silvagni and Dustin Fletcher.

Game planning has become far more sophisticated in the decades that have passed, with zonal-style defences rarely allowing for isolated contests, but that briefly changed on Saturday afternoon.

Carlton's clash against the Gold Coast saw reigning Coleman Medal winner Charlie Curnow manned by Suns young gun Mac Andrew, and the contest within the contest was one to behold.

Andrew dominated the first half, keeping Curnow goalless while inhaling intercept mark after intercept mark.

However, as champion players do, Curnow responded in kind in the second half, assisted by the Suns briefly taking Andrew off him, as he kicked four goals to take his run of kicking at least one goal in a game to 58.

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (3)

At just 20 years of age, there is no telling just how dominant a defender Andrew could be when his body eventually fills out. He is blessed with a rare blend of size and speed that allows him to guard almost any type of player in the Gold Coast's defensive 50, but marries up his athletic gifts with a level of football nous that is rarely seen in young players.

While the Suns succumbed to a 29-point loss, thanks largely to Curnow's second-half explosion, Andrew finished with 17 touches and 11 marks and left fans yearning for his next match-up with the AFL's top dog.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Sam Walsh (Carlton)

2.Tom De Koning (Carlton)

1.Zac Williams (Carlton)

4. Horne-Francis reminds Roos what could've been

There was a cruel twist of irony for the Kangaroos on Saturday afternoon when they were pitted against Jason Horne-Francis for his 50th career game.

After a scratchy 17 games with North in his first season at the AFL level, Horne-Francis has begun to realise the potential that made him one of the most hyped No.1 picks in the last few seasons with Port Adelaide.

The 20-year-old midfield dynamo finished with 24 disposals, 10 clearances and a goal in his milestone match, and wasn't afraid to get in the faces of some of his old teammates as Port ran out with a comfortable 59-point win in Hobart.

North's players gave a good account of themselves for a half, but as they have tended to do, they couldn't put four good quarters of football together.

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (4)

The loss against Port Adelaide made it 11 straight for Alastair Clarkson's men, and it's hard to see where the light at the end of the tunnel is right now for the AFL's perennial strugglers.

As they watched Horne-Francis rack up clearance after clearance on Saturday, Kangaroos fans had to be wondering where this was when he was in the blue and white.

West Coast's Harley Reid has been touted by some experts as the best No.1 pick of all-time after a scintillating start to his own AFL career, but it's easy to forget that Horne-Francis entered the league with the same amount of hype.

This won't make any Roos fans feel better, but there is an alternate universe where both are running around dominating games for North Melbourne together.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Jason Horne-Francis (Port Adelaide)

2.Ollie Wines (Port Adelaide)

1.Todd Marshall (Port Adelaide)

5. Leek Aleer has his Leo Barry moment

It was in the grand final 19 years ago when Swans defender Leo Barry etched his name into AFL folklore with an incredible intercept mark to seal Sydney's premiership win over West Coast.

On Saturday, it was another defender from Sydney wearing No.21 who rose above a pack to take a towering mark as his opponents pressed late - GWS Giants youngster Leek Aleer.

The Giants, aiming to snap a three-game losing streak, found themselves in a finals-like contest against Geelong, which was hell-bent of breaking out of its own three-game slump.

Kardinia Park has been a graveyard for several clubs, but the Giants have weirdly enjoyed success there of late, winning their last three contests in Geelong heading into this one.

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Midway through the third quarter, when Jesse Hogan goaled to put the Giants up by 31 points, it looked like a routine win was on the cards, but the Cats have made a habit of falling down big at home before clawing their way back.

It looked like Geelong was going to steal the game during a furious run between Hogan's goal at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter and Toby Greene's eventual game winner at the 23-minute mark of the fourth, as the Cats stormed back, spurred on by a heaving crowd in attendance.

With the Cats trailing by four points inside a minute left, there was one last foray forward, only for Aleer to sky above the pack to take the eventual match-sealing grab.

GWS' win made it the first time in the Chris Scott era that the Cats have lost four games on the trot, and while three of the losses have been by single digits, the alarm bells will be ringing at the Cattery.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Leek Aleer (GWS)

2.Sam Taylor (GWS)

1.Max Holmes (Geelong)

6. Returning Ridley helps Essendon survive massive scare

It is easy to forget that Essendon's surprising rise up the ladder has come with two of its most important players having largely interrupted seasons so far this year.

Peter Wright and Jordan Ridley are the only non-Zach Merrett players to win the club's best and fairest award in the last five seasons. Wright is back after serving a four-game suspension and Ridley made his long-awaited return from repeated quad injuries on Saturday night against Richmond with aplomb.

The classy defender racked up 31 touches, 14 intercepts, 12 marks and a goal to be named the best on ground and fortified what is suddenly looking like a very formidable back six for the Bombers.

With off-season recruit Ben McKay taking the opposition's best forward, Ridley and Jayden Laverde have been able to take on less-imposing assignments, something they didn't have the luxury of doing in years past.

Many saw the clash against Richmond as a major percentage-boosting opportunity for the Bombers, but what no one accounted for was the fact that the Tigers stars would get up for a fixture that is now the highlight of their season with no finals on the horizon.

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (5)

It's no surprise that Dustin Martin (23 touches and three goals) looked as energised as ever, while premiership stars Shai Bolton, Dion Prestia and Toby Nankervis were all excellent.

Despite being second on the ladder, Essendon is still very much a work in progress, particularly in the middle of the ground and going forward where there is still a disconnect at times between its midfielders and forwards.

However, a key component to teams that win and win big in the finals is the ability to build a reliable back six, and Ridley's return is another step towards Essendon having a defence it can bank on at the business end of the season.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Jordan Ridley (Essendon)

2.Nic Martin (Essendon)

1.Zach Merrett (Essendon)

7. Hawks show spine to bounce back from agonising loss

Hawthorn's 25-point win over the Brisbane Lions may not end up helping them return to the finals, but it did show Sam Mitchell's troops have a steely resolve.

They could have licked their wounds and felt sorry for themselves after giving up a comfortable lead against Port Adelaide in last week's harrowing one-point defeat.

But against the Lions, the Hawks overcame an early onslaught to lead at half-time, before doing enough to keep their noses in front at the final change after the visitors made a charge in the third term.

When it appeared fatigue might play a factor, the Hawks lifted with a 5.2 to 2.3 final quarter to claim their fourth win of the season.

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (6)

Among the many reasons for Mitchell to feel pleased was the fact the win was built on the performances of experienced campaigners, such as Jack Gunston (four goals), and the younger brigade, highlighted by Will Day (one goal, 26 disposals).

Finals may be a bridge too far for the Hawks in 2024, but there is enough to suggest they are moving in the right direction under Mitchell.

Where does the result leave the Lions?

They are 10 points adrift of the top eight in 13th place on the ladder, with a 4-6-1 record through 11 rounds.

The Lions were made to pay for inaccuracy against the Hawks and it will be an uphill battle for last year's runner-up to continue their run of finals appearances.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Will Day (Hawthorn)

2.Karl Amon (Hawthorn)

1.Jack Gunston (Hawthorn)

8. Saints' woes continue as Demons dominate

St Kilda could take few positives away from its 38-point loss to Melbourne, its third defeat in a row.

The Saints couldn't build on a promising second quarter, in which they outscored the Demons 3.3 to 1.2, as they fell away after half-time.

Their 3-8 return through 11 rounds doesn't inspire confidence among Saints fans, a point not lost on coach Ross Lyon.

"I feel for our fans and our members, and I just said to our players we need to stick together," Lyon said after the match.

"We've really fallen away a bit, so we've got to go away and assess, keep a cool head, take the heat that comes and stay true to working hard and keeping a safe environment for the players."

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (7)

For the Demons, it was important they bounced back after last week's shock 35-point loss to West Coast in Perth and the win over the Saints lifts them to fourth spot on the ladder.

Max Gawn, who was under an injury cloud before the match with a calf complaint, was immense for the Demons with a goal, 27 disposals, 10 clearances and seven marks.

The goal-kicking duties were shared around, with Jacob van Rooyen grabbing three, and Bayley Fritsch Christian Petracca, Jack Viney each claiming doubles.

The Demons won't have it easy next weekend when they travel to Alice Springs to face a talented Fremantle squad.

Meanwhile, the Saints will need to regroup ahead of their road trip to face fellow strugglers West Coast in Perth.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Max Gawn (Melbourne)

2.Steven May (Melbourne)

1.Christian Salem (Melbourne)

9. Reality bites for Eagles as Crows dish out thrashing

The word "revival" was bandied around in media circles when the Eagles took down the Demons in a massive upset last weekend.

The Eagles' win over one of the premiership contenders was impressive but it proved to be a false dawn in the wake of the 99-point hammering they received from Adelaide in the final match of Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

The Crows blew the Eagles off Adelaide Oval in the first quarter when they established a 7.5 (46) to 0.2 (2) lead and they stretched their advantage to 61 points by half-time.

The Eagles made little impression in the final two quarters when they were again outscored by their opponents who were riding a wave of confidence.

AFL Round-Up: Swans show no signs of slowing down, Cats stumble again and Eagles cop reality check (8)

Harley Reid provided some flashes of brilliance, such as a spectacular mark late in the fourth term, but the damage on the scoreboard meant there was little for Eagles supporters to take away from the match.

The Crows, coming off their narrow four-point loss to the Magpies at the MCG, were happy to dine out against the Eagles and record their fourth win of the season.

Their best form suggests a finals berth is a possibility but their poor start to the season – highlighted by fourth consecutive defeats – is set to come back to bite them at the business-end of the home-and-away campaign.

ABC player of the year votes:

3.Jordan Dawson (Adelaide)

2.Darcy Fogarty (Adelaide)

1.Lachy Sholl (Adelaide)


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