Heroes & Villains, Round 4: Hot Pies can start trusting 'the process'

Just when we thought we were getting our heads around the new season, new twists and turns arise.

The Crows were flying and the Pies were battling, right? Wrong.

The Power were surging and the Bombers bumbling, right? Wrong.

The Eagles set to struggle and the Suns rising? Wrong.

The Demons ready to climb towards finals and the Hawks only so-so? Wrong again.

Welcome to the AFL, where nothing should really surprise us.

HEROES

Magpies trusting the process: NBA fans will be well aware of the Philadelphia 76ers' plea to 'trust the process' after years of shocking results, with their patience now being rewarded with a team rising fast on the back of rookie sensation Ben Simmons.

While Nathan Buckley may not boast a once-in-a-generation-talent like Simmons at his disposal, he has similarly preached patience as the Magpies have tumbled down the ladder since he took over in 2012.

Buckley was given a two-year contract at the end of 2017 with Pies president Eddie McGuire saying at the time: "As a club we instigated a list rebuild following our 2013 campaign and Nathan has been exemplary in his commitment to developing the young talent."

The patience of Collingwood fans has been severely tested along the way but Friday night's thumping win against Adelaide could be a watershed moment for a club desperate to return to the finals.

The Magpies simply hammered the Crows on their home deck, dominating contested possessions (198-165) and running harder on the outside to surge to a 106-58 victory.

There were winners everywhere for the Magpies: Fourth-gamer Jaidyn Stephenson was electric up forward with five goals, Brodie Grundy dismantled Sam Jacobs to again push his claims as the league's No. 1 big man, while Steele Sidebottom (43 touches in a semi-runwith role on Rory Sloane), Adam Treloar (36 disposals), Scott Pendlebury, Lynden Dunn and Sam Murray all excelled.

It was their first win in five attempts at Adelaide Oval and their biggest victory against the Crows sine late 1996. More importantly, it was a sign that 'the process' under Buckley may finally be about to bear fruit, especially with Darcy Moore, Daniel Wells, Jamie Elliott and Taylor Adams still to return.

Giant veterans: Ryan Griffen and Brett Deledio have almost become forgotten men at the Giants after lengthy stints on the sidelines, but on Saturday afternoon against the Dockers the duo asserted themselves and reminded the competition of their class.

Deledio, the two-time All Australian, finished with 28 disposals at 86 percent efficiency in what coach Leon Cameron described as his best game for the club.

Griffen, having missed more than a year due to persistent ankle injuries, kicked the first goal of the game, which inspired emotional celebrations among his teammates. He added another goal to go with three marks inside 50, 11 touches and two tackles.

"It's pleasing because he's had such a wretched run, not just last year but the year before as well," Cameron said of Griffen. "He's had some ups and downs and he's probably two or three weeks away from getting back to his very best."

In a team laden with precocious talent, these two veterans could prove invaluable as the Giants look to go one better than their previous two preliminary finals exits.

Jake Stringer and the Dons: Sometimes you've got to know when to swallow your pride and accept something isn't working, and kudos for the Essendon brains trust to at least temporarily abandon the Jake Stringer-as-a-midfielder experiment for Sunday's clash against Port Adelaide.

The former Bulldog's first three games for the Bombers have been nothing short of woeful but he was back to his bullocking, barnstorming and belligerent best when stationed largely forward against the Power.

Stringer played a key role as Essendon rebounded from last weekend's insipid loss to his former team, booting four majors and providing plenty of spark as the Bombers handed Port their first defeat of the year.

It was a brave coaching move from John Worsfold, but it needed to be done, and he admitted he needed to mix things up after the Round 3 loss.

"We showed that we learn," Worsfold said.

"We responded well to playing below our best last week and we were back a lot closer to our best today."

VILLAINS

Carlton FC: Dire. The only way to sum up the Blues' awful 86-point loss to the Kangaroos on Saturday evening.

The Blues, who lost skipper Marc Murphy to a foot injury before the first bounce, managed just 30 points for the game -- the lowest ever total by a team at Blundstone Arena.

It's been an amazing fall for the Blues after they pushed reigning premier Richmond all the way in Round 1, with expectations raised that Carlton would finally push up the ladder. But shockers against the Suns, Collingwood and now North Melbourne appear to have them battling Brisbane in the race to avoid the wooden spoon.

"It's not what we stand for," coach Brendon Bolton said of the loss to North Melbourne. "We need far more contributors, particularly in and around the contested ball and ground-ball gets. We've got to roll our sleeves up."

But Bolton's words are starting to fall on deaf ears among frustrated Carlton supporters, with the pressure sure to mount with the Blues facing West Coast, Western Bulldogs, Adelaide and Essendon in the next four weeks.

Max Gawn and the Demons: Nearly everyone loves big Maxy. The beard, the towering presence, the affable and engaging personality, the quality tap work and the big pack marks. But seriously, Max, if you take a contested grab 15m out directly in front of goal, you have to finish.

In an almost exact replica of his last-minute miss against Geelong in Round 1, which cost Melbourne victory, Gawn took a strong one-on-one mark against Ben McEvoy just outside of the goalsquare late in the first quarter as the Demons started on fire against Hawthorn at the MCG. Gawn's resultant kick hooked to the left, robbing the Demons of further momentum as the Hawks steadied to reduce the quarter-time margin to just two goals.

Of course, one missed chance wouldn't have stemmed the tide once the Hawthorn machine rolled into gear, with the Hawks completely decimating Melbourne from the first break in booting 15 goals to one for the remainder of the match. But who knows what may have transpired had the Dees been up by three goals rather than two at the first break.

As it was, Sunday's win was a masterclass from the Hawks, with Liam Shiels, Jaeger O'Meara, Luke Breust and Jack Gunston all superb on a slippery day, although the 67-point victory was soured by injuries to Cyril Rioli (knee) and Paul Puopolo (hamstring).

And while Gawn was still one of his team's best, with 66 hitouts and 16 possessions, you'd think the Melbourne coaching staff will be putting the big man through extra goalkicking practice ahead of the Anzac Eve blockbuster against Richmond in Round 5.

AFL list bosses: What on earth were 17 AFL list bosses thinking last year when Daniel Menzel was up for grabs at minimal cost?

Cast your mind back to last off-season when the Cats were happy to let free agent Menzel walk after offering the electric forward a minimal one-year deal.

Despite booting 40 goals in 2017, the offers didn't come for Menzel, who signed for 2018 after failing to find a new home.

Now, after Round 4, Menzel sits equal third on this year's goalkicking table with 14 majors and he was one of Geelong's best in their massive win against St Kilda on Sunday with five goals from 15 electric touches.

While his injury history -- four knee reconstructions -- and a perceived lack of forward pressure are well documented, Menzel is proof that those shortfalls can be outweighed by a nose for goal, clean skills, forward craft and ability to hit the scoreboard.