AFL Talking Points: Round Ten – What I’m Excited To See with Braden Smith

1. Players Supporting Their Coaches

I’ve got to admit, I’m not a fan of the public bashing of senior coaches. It doesn’t sit comfortably with me and it never really has. I think it makes the players’ and coaches’ jobs 10x harder on a week-to-week basis as they repetitively try to deal with the proverbial shit storm that comes at them from the media.

That said, I’m looking forward to the Saints players repaying the faith of their coach this weekend, by putting in a really strong performance against the reigning premiers. Now, I’m not expecting them to beat the Tiges, but I think if you look beyond the surface you’ll notice that the Saint’s effort and intensity is there, (a vital component of performance) it’s just that their skill level is not. Fix that, or incrementally build it week-to-week, and they’ll start winning more games than they lose.

Similarly, and to extend on my comments from last week, the Giants are a much better team than they’re currently showing and somehow, despite back-to-back prelims and an injury list of key players longer than the line for the train to Optus Stadium, the coach is on the hot seat. Similar to St Kilda, the Giant’s skill level is what’s letting them down at the moment, but some cavalry, in the form of the super silky Josh Kelly, should arrive this week and add some much needed class to their lineup. I’m not wavering, the Giants will loom large for the remainder of the season and teams would be wise to be wary of them in the run home to the finals.

2. The Eagles in Melbourne

Albeit not at the home of football, playing the Hawks in Melbourne this week will be a massive test for the Eagles, against what I consider to be a dark horse team so far this season. Win this game and they’re premiership credentials take another significant step forward. Lose badly and the questions will continue to be asked about whether the Eagles can compete in Melbourne. A loss in a tight contest feels like a par-performance in this context, especially considering Alistair Clarkson and his men will be seething this week after losing to the last-placed Brisbane Lions last week.

3. Collingwood on Friday Night Footy

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Maggies on the big stage of Friday night football and there’s no better time to showcase their improvement this season than against a solid-if-not-spectacular opponent in the Western Bulldogs. The time has come for Jordan De Goey and Co. to live up to their contractual hype in a big game like this one. I’m yet to be convinced of Collingwood’s consistency as a team or at an individual level, however tomorrow night should go a long way to solving that riddle. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, a screaming magpie army of 80,000+ led by Joffer is just awesome to watch.

4. How Fremantle Handle the Roos

At the start of this season you probably would’ve been forgiven for not circling this fixture in your diary as one to watch and if you did, you’d probably have been tipping the Dockers. It’ll be interesting to see how Ross Lyon and his men handle this current North Melbourne revolution. For what it’s worth, I expect Fremantle to win and North Melbourne to come back down to earth ever so slightly, but I have to say I’m liking what I see from the Roos nonetheless. Jack Ziebell is a star in the forward line and MUST stay there moving forward. Anyone who recalls his finals series from several years ago will remember he took massive marks and kicked huge goals based out of Centre Half Forward. It was a beautiful thing to watch and the Roos would be foolish not to milk this move for all that it’s worth.

5. Gary Ablett’s Response

Finally this week, I’d be worried if I was Carlton. I haven’t been convinced at all about Gary Ablett’s form this year and have even wondered about whether he hurts Geelong’s structure, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about Gary over the years, it’s to never write him off. Expect to see a hard-working Ablett this week breaking into space at speed and kicking long goals like we’ve seen in the past. Aside from that, I hope the Blues get up!


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