There were many talking points at the conclusion of the fifth round of the 2016 AFL campaign, with contenders old and new showing early promise.
Experienced Hawks still the team to beat
The weekend taught us that back-to-back-to-back premiers Hawthorn still stand tall as the competition’s top side, using their experience to clinch a three-point victory at the death against a gallant Adelaide Crows.
While many feel that this will be the year the Hawks finally get knocked off their perch, Alastair Clarkson’s side showed their experience when their backs were against the wall, coming back from 15 points down with just seven minutes on the clock.
Despite the Kangaroos winning five from five and emerging sides such as Western Bulldogs, Sydney, Geelong, Adelaide and last year’s finalists West Coast all showing immense potential, the superstars at Hawthorn have no intention to step aside and let these teams take their crown.
Yes, their win against the Crows was riddled with poor umpiring, but Adelaide boy Paul Puopolo’s match winner – one of his five goals on the night – indicates that the premiers are filled with experienced campaigners capable of standing up in desperate moments.
Things just keep getting worse for Freo
At this point last season, Fremantle was five games into a nine-match consecutive win streak on route to becoming the 2015 minor premiers.
Despite being tumbled out in the preliminary finals by eventual champions Hawthorn, the Dockers looked set to build on their positive 2015 season, maintaining their key players while adding gun midfielder Harley Bennell to their ranks.
However, fast forward to five games into the 2016 season and Ross Lyon’s side is sensationally rock bottom on the ladder with zero wins from five, while Bennell is still yet to feature for his new team.
If their four-point loss against Carlton was not hard enough to take, it has been confirmed that 2015 Brownlow Medallist Nat Fyfe will have surgery on the same leg he fractured last season, potentially putting an end to his campaign.
Jeremy Cameron back with a bang
After serving a four-match ban for an illegal bump during a pre-season match, 2015 Coleman Medal runner-up Jeremy Cameron made an impressive return for the Greater Western Sydney Giants, kicking five goals against St. Kilda.
With just 10 disposals to his name, Cameron displayed great efficiency and effectiveness, making his presence felt by kicking all his goals from set-shots inside 50.
Coach Leon Cameron was excited to field his all-star forward line for the very first time – Cameron and Devon Smith returned to play alongside Jonathon Patton, Rory Lobb and Steve Johnson – and it proved to be extremely potent in their 47-point win over the Saints.
The Giants have a genuine superstar in their ranks in Cameron, and if the 23-year-old and his fellow forwards can continue to work on the same wavelength then expect to see AFL’s newest club feature in their first finals series come September.
Demons making strides forward
For years, Melbourne Football Club has continued to be the laughing stock of the AFL, but Paul Roos and his team seem to have left the embarrassment in the past, beating Richmond by 33 points to clinch consecutive wins for the first time since 2011.
With key midfielders Bernie Vince, Jack Viney and Dom Tyson all finding form, forwards Jeff Garlett and Jesse Hogan causing trouble for defenders, not to mention ruckman Max Gawn dominating with a massive 47 hit-outs, the Demons have finally put together a competitive outfit.
It is important to note that the Demons will not make finals this season and most probably not even in 2017, but supporters should be encouraged that their club is making positive strides forward for the first time in a long time.
Collingwood cruise to victory in a dull ANZAC Day clash
With both sides heading into this classic match with just one win in the first four rounds, the AFL world braced itself as two of the poorest Collingwood and Essendon sides in history collided for this season’s ANZAC Day clash.
In a showdown that is usually fierce and tightly-contested, Collingwood crushed rivals Essendon by 69 points – the second biggest margin in the match’s history – to make it three ANZAC Day wins in a row.
Steele Sidebottom bossed the match with 33 disposals and four goals to claim the ANZAC Medal, but his performance could not save one of the biggest days on the AFL calendar from being what can only be described as anti-climactic.
Written by Marco Balsamo