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Quicker, cleaner and a few surprises

Geelong's James Podsiadly celebrates a goal against Hawthorn on Easter Monday.

Geelong's James Podsiadly celebrates a goal against Hawthorn on Easter Monday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

It seems 24 hours can be a long time in football these days, let alone a month. But that's how long the 2013 AFL season has been in progress, a whirlwind of news, crises and controversies.

Plenty of those have been founded in club boardrooms, medical departments and, apparently, chemical laboratories. But while without a degree in science one struggles to get their head around a catalogue of proteins, powders, extracts and supplements, we can at least all agree there has been some pretty compelling football played, too.

Already this season, the game has looked quicker and cleaner, and certainly higher-scoring. Some teams have disappointed, a few more have surprised. A few stars have hit their very best form, others have had careers seemingly revived.

There is still a long, long way to go in season 2013. But here is what we have already learnt:


THE CATS ARE COMING ... AGAIN

Just when you thought it was safe to ... Yes, these are Cats, not sharks, but Geelong 2013 seems no less ominous-looking than those three flag-winning versions of recent years. Much was supposed to revolve around the returns of Travis Varcoe and Daniel Menzel, one now gone for three months, the other perhaps forever, yet still Geelong looks a slicker, zippier outfit through names like Steven Motlop, Allen Christensen, Jordan Murdoch, George Horlin-Smith and Joel Selwood, a peerless leader. Be very afraid, rest of the AFL. And remember, this is an odd-numbered year.


COONEY BACK WITH A BANG

It could be another long year for the Western Bulldogs. But one clear ray of light has been Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney's return to his 2008 best. After several years marred by a degenerative knee complaint, Cooney in 2013 is averaging 25 disposals, five clearances and three tackles a game, consistent with his Brownlow-year returns, and has booted six goals besides. A real injection of class into a line-up that needs every bit it can get.


MEDALS BECOMING A MILLSTONE?

Case No.1: Sydney speedster Lewis Jetta was a key to Sydney's 2012 premiership success. His form, or lack of it, this season is the Swans' biggest concern. Averaging just more than nine disposals, Jetta has kicked just two goals in four games, compared with 11.2 to the same stage in 2012.

Case No.2: Brisbane Lion Daniel Rich was a deserved Michael Tuck Medal winner in the Lions' pre-season success. Like his team, the returns have been scant since, career-lows for disposals and disposal efficiency, and now a shoulder injury set to keep him out for two months.

Of course, Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson may be the exception.


DIFFERENT PORT IN A STORM

Ken Hinkley could not have asked for a better start to his senior coaching career. The unbeaten Power is being given every chance of knocking over pre-season flag fancy West Coast, unthinkable a month ago. Ascore of players have lifted for the new master's voice, most notably new skipper Travis Boak, averaging career highs for disposals, contested possessions, clearances, inside 50s and goals, while enigmatic Justin Westhoff has become the ultimate utility, but still ranking equal second in the league for scoreboard impact.


QUICKER UMPS MEAN CLEANER FOOTBALL

While contested possessions are at an all-time high, with an accompanying drop in disposal efficiency, throw-ups replacing bounce downs and quicker ball-ups are helping clean up congestion. Long kicking is at its highest since 2005, and scores are creeping up, the current average of 14.4 goals a game is the highest since 2000. Coaches aside, no one who saw last week's 15-goal first term at the SCG will argue these are not positives.


IF THE CAP FITS, WEAR IT

And just on that congestion being cleared, we have not been hearing much debate about the proposed cap on interchanges these past few weeks. Why aren't the AFL and rules people banging the drum quite so loudly? Perhaps because to date in 2013, interchange numbers have remained almost identical to last season, indeed a fraction lower at 130.9 per game compared with 131.3 in 2012, appearing to have found their maximum level. Other, more direct measures taken by the umpires have helped clear the clutter. Are we really going to need this bigger step as well?


THOMAS MAKES A POINT WITH GOALS

After being plagued by the kicking yips like few other forwards before him (21.36 in 2011), North Melbourne's Lindsay Thomas has got his radar going beautifully this season. Equal AFL goalkicking leader after four rounds with 16, Thomas has a career-high scoring accuracy of 77per cent. He has been equally lethal from the set shot and at ground level, seven of those 16 majors coming from general play.


THEY MIGHT NOT BE GIANTS

They said it would take the expansion teams a while to get there, and they were not wrong. Gold Coast is stringing its form together at least for a few weeks on end. For GWS, meanwhile, it is still a quarter here and there, last Sunday's last-quarter capitulation a good example. The loss of Jonathon Patton really hurts, but others need to show a bit more resilience. Needless to say, this week's clash with the Suns is a crucial test.

27 comments

  • Collingwood hasnt recruited enough bulk, height is ok, not bulk. For the last 3 years, players with the build of Watson, Goddard, Hodge, selwood, chapman have just bumped us off the ball, no one could tackle hodge a fortnigh ago or watson yesterday.
    And we still cant kick well enough, and not just at goals
    Having said that with a good run of injuries near the finals and we may outrun sides and arent that far off the hawks, dons and cats

    Commenter
    Genghis
    Location
    Lounge
    Date and time
    April 26, 2013, 3:50PM
    • Ah, who cares. It's Colllingwood - who have been smashed when up against quality opposition.

      Commenter
      Wes Mantooth
      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 5:55PM
  • And so Essendon top of the ladder with a huge percentage, with 2 interstate wins and a mauling of Collingwood doesn't bear a mention as something we have learnt? That Essendon could actually be the REAL DEAL! Very odd, Rohan.

    Commenter
    jaybax
    Date and time
    April 26, 2013, 4:40PM
    • Jaybax, we don't know if they are the real deal until the investigation is over and they are either cleared or penalised.

      Commenter
      z
      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 5:19PM
    • Essendon have yet to play last years top 4. After you have beaten all four. Bang your drum as loud as possible

      Commenter
      footynutter
      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 7:07PM
    • Hey 'z' are Melbourne the real deal? Same innuendo.

      Commenter
      JIM
      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 7:19PM
  • Collingwood have the biggest bodies in the forward line and the best midfield in the competition, yet you are still complaining? Pendlebury has it right, the on-ballers get ahead of themselves. Saying that, Collingwood should be favourites to win the flag.

    Commenter
    jj
    Location
    perth
    Date and time
    April 26, 2013, 4:56PM
    • I have learnt that there are still many "footballers" running around that just cannot kick.

      I forgive disposals under pressure but when half the people on AFL lists are completely in the clear and still can't manage to kick the ball to their team's advantage then it highlights a problem with the skills that are (or aren't) required to play at the top level.

      Commenter
      DC
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 5:09PM
      • Port Adelaide has proven nothing yet. Who did they beat ? Melbourne, GWS, GC-Suns, Adelaide (these showdowns can always go either way). Not convinced just yet.

        Commenter
        Leora
        Date and time
        April 26, 2013, 5:12PM
        • Agree with jaybax, Bombers may in fact be the real deal. That journos find it difficult to even hint at tells a lot about the quality of our media. In general, if it's not out of the gutter journos won't report it!!

          Commenter
          dajoha
          Date and time
          April 26, 2013, 5:23PM

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