AFL H&V Round 8: Death-defying Dees, free kick drama

Round 8 saw Melbourne pull one out of the fire, Collingwood hang on against a much-improved Carlton outfit, Gary Ablett land in hot water (again) and one coach tightrope the line between what's fair and what's cheating.

Here are this week's Heroes & Villains.

HEROES

Never-say-die Dees: In a week that had plenty of drama in the Champions League, the most stunning sporting comeback might just have occurred at Metricon Stadium.

After a see-sawing battle between Gold Coast and Melbourne, scores were locked up at 54-54, but the game looked to be over when Nick Holman kicked truly to give the Suns a six-point lead with just 49 seconds remaining on the clock.

But there was a big twist in store.

The Demons willed the ball forward at the next centre bounce before it eventually squirted out to defender Marty Hore on the 50m arc. The sixth gamer bombed long to tie the scores up again with the clock down to 20 seconds.

Melbourne weren't about to settle for a draw and won the next clearance, sent the ball forward through James Harmes who wobbled a kick to Tom McDonald at the top of the square, only for it to be dropped with four seconds left in the game. But he buttered up and kicked off the ground, hitting the post and earning a stunning come-from-behind win to keep the Dees' season alive.

Truly amazing scenes!

Saturday afternoon footy at the 'G: Traditional timeslot, traditional rivals, a stunning (if chilly) late-autumn day, and a contest befitting of the occasion. Carlton and Collingwood dished up one of the best games of the round despite being poles apart on the ladder.

The Blues, stinging from their shock 10-goal spanking at the hands of North Melbourne, came out with a point to prove against one of the red-hot flag favourites. Patrick Cripps led the way for Carlton, amassing 35 touches and a goal as his side all but had Collingwood on the ropes when they went up by 11 points late in the final term.

But, not wanting to be outdone, the Magpies put on a spectacle of their own, kicking five rapid-fire goals late in the last quarter to ultimately win by 19 points and keep themselves just one game shy of ladder leaders Geelong.

It was an engrossing, pulsating affair between two teams who, while traditional rivals, have not had much upon which to build a rivalry for some time. Saturday went a little way in making sure that legendary old flame still flickers.

Unheralded Hawks: If you were told Hawthorn would hold the dynamic GWS Giants to just five goals and win the game by 33 points, you'd think it must have been done on the back of their leaders, but think again.

This win was made possible by some lesser known names. Ricky Henderson continued his charge towards an All-Australian berth with another 36 disposals, while James Cousins had 25 and a goal in support. James Worpel (22 touches), Blake Hardwick (19 and 11 marks) and Harry Morrison were also prominent, while a number of big Giants were blanketed.

Importantly for Hawthorn, Jaeger O'Meara managed just 15 touches on the day, but unlike last week against Melbourne, his lack of impact didn't cost them a victory.

And while it might have been a win for the ages, it's just a shame that just 14,636 people turned up at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.

VILLAINS

Friday night free kick controversy: It was the discussion that dominated Friday night and most of Saturday; should Dane Rampe have given away a free kick in the goal square -- after the siren -- against the Bombers?

The Sydney defender jumped up the goalpost, shaking it, as David Myers lined up for an after-the-siren shot from 60 metres out. One can only assume it was in case Myers got a decent piece of the Sherrin, and Rampe could leap across and touch the ball before it crossed the line.

The ball fell short, but commentators and experts were quick to point out that -- to the letter of law 17.11 -- the Bombers should have been awarded a free kick which would have gifted them a one-point win.

Even more baffling was the response the next day from AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan who said it was "pretty practical umpiring". "It's about having a feel for the game - that's what good umpiring is," he told 3AW radio.

Rules are rules, Gil. You can't umpire 'on feel' if there are laws and rules in place.

Chris Scott: He has to be taking the mickey, doesn't he?

When Geelong initially named its Round 8 side to take on North Melbourne, skipper Joel Selwood was absent for the second straight week through "general soreness".

However, on game day, Scott and the Cats named Selwood in the final team, replacing the injured Sam Menegola. But less than an hour before the first bounce, Scott changed his mind yet again and brought in Charlie Constable for the three-time premiership star.

All of these eleventh hour changes would have left twin brother Brad Scott with no idea what to prepare for and you can't blame him for being annoyed at Chris, who has a track record of making last-minute adjustments to his team.

Last year, Geelong made late changes a weekly occurrence, sometimes brazenly bringing in a small for a tall or vice versa. Clubs should not be able to get away with changes like the one Scott pulled, but until the AFL clamps down, coaches are going to continue to tinker with their team up until the final minutes. Get it sorted!

Ben Long: When you're a 21-year-old trying to find your way in the AFL, you simply cannot afford to have back-to-back shockers. Unfortunately for young Saint Ben Long that's been the story of his past fortnight.

After a career-low five disposals and zero tackles in a loss to the Giants, Long was kept even quieter on Saturday night against the Eagles at Marvel Stadium. The nephew of former Essendon champion Michael Long found the footy just three times for the entire game as St Kilda went down for the third straight week and slipped outside the top eight.

Long, who has now played 20 games, has been able to hit the scoreboard in the early part of his career, but in his last two outings he's been held goalless and offered almost nothing in the forward line.

Getting games into youngsters is highly necessary for developing sides, but maybe sending Long back to the VFL for a couple of weeks wouldn't be the worst move for Alan Richardson.