AFL Round-Up: Essendon remains alive, but Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle were expelled

A few timely wins have shaken the race to the finals, but everyone is chasing the group of three in 2022.

Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that has gone.

The big three walk away

The top three teams in the league won again this weekend, with a combined average margin of just over 10 goals. At the moment, there is no doubt that there is a gap between Melbourne, Brisbane, Fremantle and the rest.

Brisbane and Fremantle’s victories were expected but very professional. Against the two worst teams in the league on the West Coast and North Melbourne, it was important that the job was done well and the percentage increase was claimed.

A Brisbane Lons AFL player scores the ball in front of West Coast Eagles opponents.
Brisbane was not expected to be challenged by the West Coast, and so it was.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)

But what is now routine for Brisbane is still utterly exciting for Fremantle. Dockers fans gearing up for a rare Friday night outing are still getting used to it and are perhaps a little afraid that it will all be over as quickly as it started.

They shouldn’t worry. Freo now has the best percentage in the AFL, thanks in large part to the league’s meanest defense. This is sustainable, and as the offense continues to improve, the mix gets even better.

Jye Amiss jumps and punches as teammates run towards him
Jye Amiss made a very promising debut on a big night for Fremantle.(Getty Images: Daniel Carson)

The story was a little different for Melbourne which, it must be emphasized, is another notch above Lions and Dockers again.

The Dees were pushed by a Saints team that brought impressive physicality and commitment in what was close to their most impressive performance of the year.

Kysaiah Pickett smiles and punches the air after a goal
Kysaiah Pickett played an outrageous first quarter to set the day for Melbourne.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

And yet Melbourne never seemed to lose the game at any point. Logic suggests that they will have to drop one at some point, but right now it’s really really hard to imagine how that could happen.

All smiles for Essendon

The heat at the Bombers ahead of Saturday night’s Hawthorn game was justified. For a team at this stage of its development, and with so much talent in such a good age group, keeping company with the likes of North and West Coast was unacceptable.

A win doesn’t undo everything that came before it, and the finals will likely remain out of reach in 2022, but for the Dons this game could mean a lot.

Zach Merrett bangs his fists as he celebrates an Essendon goal in the AFL.
Essendon caught fire in the last room to attack Hawthorn.(Getty Images/AFL Photos: Dylan Burns)

That last quarter attack was all that Essendon could be good at. When a little physicality was added to what is a very polished team, the sky became the limit.

Speaking of polish, what about Nic Martin? Even after his brilliant start in the league, he probably expected a regression at this stage. After all, why else would so many clubs ignore him?

A Hawthorn AFL player pushes an Essendon opponent while waiting to play for the ball.
Sam Draper led the way for Essendon in the physicality stakes.(Getty Images/AFL Photos: Dylan Burns)

The answer to that may be that your gifts aren’t immediately obvious in a training setting. It’s in the game, with the action whizzing around you, that your now obvious ability to read the game and make good decisions comes to the fore.

He is a natural footballer, who is suddenly the key to what remains a promising future for Essendon.

around the grounds

It was a week of victories that boosted morale in general. The Gold Coast Suns were closer than most would have realized this year, and outperformed Sydney from start to finish. Getting the arrogance back to Izak Rankine also played a big part in that realm.

Port Adelaide won the most important victory of the season so far. Reading the Bulldogs is an impossible task, but the Porto forwards certainly dominated. Charlie Dixon approaches.

A large group of Richmond players gather around Dustin Martin to congratulate him
The Tigers rushed to Dustin Martin’s side after he kicked his first on his return.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

How much does Dustin Martin’s return impact Richmond’s prospects in 2022? It was a solid return to action for Dusty, although in his “solid” terms it means 23 eliminations and two goals. Attacking is not Richmond’s problem, but conceding 86 points even in the win could be cause for concern.

Big problems abound for GWS. There was hope that Adelaide’s victory would be a turning point, but this display against Geelong was as disheartening as anything they’ve come up with this year.

Jeremy Cameron keeps his hand in the air as Nick Hayes puts his hands on his head
Jeremy Cameron added insult to injury by making light work of his former club.(Getty Images: Mark Metcalfe)

The The Blues are now alone in fourth place, and in the balance of the season so far this feels right.. Few teams in the league can match the power of Patrick Cripps and Charlie Curnow. Carlton are as fun as football comes now.

In the club

Here we take stock of who is leading the race for the season’s individual awards.

we talked about Nic Martin earlier, and at this stage it should be considered before Josh Rachele and Jai Newcombe like the Rising Star favorite.

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Interestingly, two of these names are late selections, forgotten in past drafts. Non-traditional paths have never been so fruitful.

Last week, we talked about Brodie Smith’s brand and the concussion he suffered as a result of it. Clearly the optics of this concerned the AFL, as somehow Smith was not included in the three official nominees for the brand of the week.

Fortunately for the league, Smith’s is now the second best achievement of the year so far. Cam Zurhaar Mark vs. Fremantle has a lot of what we’re looking for in a hanger, and it’s going to be hard to beat.

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Picking a goal of the week is difficult as there were no real highlights. we will give to Brennan Coxwhich put the finishing touches on a fantastic effort by the Freo team.

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Ed Langdon’s remains the goal to be surpassed by our measure.

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