Let the madness begin. In 20 days we’ll likely have a clear view of what separates the top four from the top eight, and the race for the eight from the also-rans.
It’ll bring into focus what teams need to focus on while playing out the string and during the summer, and who our premiership fancies are. Along with probably some further debate on where the Grand Final should be played.
But before that all gets underway, first a look at some key points from Round 8 with a couple being held back for future standalone pieces.
The last month on the Notebook: Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7
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What does Hawthorn do next?
From a pure list management perspective, what Hawthorn opt to do as its next step will be intriguing.
Alastair Clarkson was recently adamant about how the draft isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all to solve list issues, and to that end he’s indisputably right.
The issue now is whether Hawthorn believes the players currently on the list 27 and under – the likes of Tom Mitchell, Chad Wingard, Jaeger O’Meara, James Sicily, Jarman Impey and co – are enough to form a long-term core on their own, or if they need significant help.
If it’s the former, then it’ll be relatively easy to add around the edges as the older players are phased out. But if it’s not enough suddenly a team can be in dire straits for 3-4+ years with minimal ways out except for a long-term rebuild.
If it’s the latter, then all signs point to Hawthorn going shopping for marquee free agents or potentially using draft capital in a trade. But does the club have enough allure now with nearly five years since its last finals win and a negative media perception of the list – which undoubtedly influences players when making decisions – to lure those top calibre players in the competition?
Tough decisions. No wonder Clarkson has taken a page out of the Jose Mourinho book in recent weeks. As long as he’s not Mourinho 2020 there’ll be no worries.
Port Adelaide’s two lost quarters
For the most part, Port Adelaide has been fantastic this season at minimising damage when behind in general play.
Of the Power’s 10 lost quarters – fewest in the league – eight have been by single figures, which makes the margin of the remaining two even more surprising.
34 points against Brisbane in Round 5 – 6.5 to 1.1 – and 28 points to St Kilda – 5.0 to 0.2, and it all stemmed from a massacre around the contest.
Drawing a conclusive sample size from two quarters would be foolish, but there are some signs to keep an eye on just in case it develops into something more worrying.
If this is a thing, it’s something Max Gawn and Melbourne could exploit, especially given what they should have learned from Brisbane’s midfield group on Sunday night at Metricon Stadium.
A housekeeping note on how these Notebook pieces will work for the next few rounds. They’ll be posted the morning after each round finishes, so ideally there’ll be a nice routine which shouldn’t be affected by games flying at us left, right and centre. It’ll look as so:
Round 9: Monday 3 August
Round 10: Saturday 8 August
Round 11: Thursday 13 August
Round 12: Tuesday 18 August
West Coast finding its ball movement
Back in home comforts and favoured conditions, West Coast’s performance against Collingwood was the closest it had looked to West Coast since the mid-to-late stages of 2019.
With the caveat Collingwood was missing a significant chunk of its best personnel, including Scott Pendlebury withdrawing minutes before the bounce, the Eagles’ ball movement was exactly how they like it to be.
Of the multiple clips which could have been plucked out to illustrate, this one is the best of the lot.
It’s patient when needed, quick where there’s an opportunity, playing to everyone’s strengths and ends with a one-on-one contest in a dangerous position, Josh Kennedy drawing a free kick and converting the set shot.
For West Coast to be truly back and not just making the most of a depleted Collingwood which it already matches up well against – five wins from the last six – Saturday night’s clash against Geelong will tell us a lot more.