AFL H&V Round 6: Heart attack Hawks, wayward Dogs

It was a week for the cult heroes and under-pressure coaches to stand up, but the Bulldogs continued a worrying trend. Here are this week's Heroes & Villains.


Richmond's new cult hero: Despite last year being labelled by WA coach Peter Sumich as the most talented player in his Under-18 squad, and rated No. 15 in Chris Doerre's September Power Rankings, Richmond's Sydney Stack was overlooked for last year's draft due to queries about his work ethic and ability to adapt to a professional environment.

After all 18 clubs overlooked Stack, the Tigers invited him to train over summer and then signed him during the pre-season supplemental selection period.

The 18-year-old lived with Damien Hardwick during the preseason and the Richmond coach was quick to liken him to a former teammate who displayed similar qualities: Byron Pickett. And that comparison doesn't look too out of place four games into his career.

Stack's hardness, footskills and X-factor on full display against the Demons on Wednesday night.

In the fourth quarter alone, with the Demons still a small chance of snatching the game, Stack flattened Melbourne tough nut and co-captain Jack Viney with a ferocious bump, before minutes later launching a massive torpedo punt out of the Richmond back line to repel a Demons' attack.

Kudos to Stack for grasping his opportunity but Richmond's off-field staff also deserve enormous credit for the courage punt on the previously wayward talent, and then backing their culture to get the best out of him.

It's early days in Stack's career but Richmond's risk looks set to pay off big time.

Courageous Crows coach: Pressure was rising rapidly on Don Pyke when his side -- expected by many to make finals, if not seriously challenge for the flag -- spluttered to a listless 1-3 start after a month of football.

But after back-to-back wins including an impressive come-from-behind victory against the Saints at Marvel Stadium, it seems the Crows are starting to gain belief and momentum.

It may be a simple conclusion to make, but it appears Pyke's courageous decision to drop two senior players -- star midfielder Bryce Gibbs and important forward Josh Jenkins -- after the slow start has sparked his side into action.

Against the Saints, it was co-captain Taylor Walker who stood tall, revelling in being the go-to man without Jenkins beside him; he booted four goals from seven marks and offered an imposing presence in the Crows' forward line.

Adelaide's midfield also shone, getting on top of the Saints in winning the disposal count (400-353), contested possessions (152-131) clearances (40-28) and inside 50s (52-45).

Perhaps such a talent-laden squad was always going to click at one point, but maybe Pyke's bold selection calls ruffled a few of the Crows' feathers in the manner needed.

Heart attack Hawks: Halfway through the second quarter of their side's five-point win over Carlton, Hawthorn fans might have been excused from turning off the telly, or making an early exit from UTAS Stadium, but they would have missed one of the best comebacks seen since... well, since the Dogs did a number on the Hawks in Round 2.

In fact, Hawthorn have been the victim of two fine comebacks this season - against the Dogs and in their loss to the Saints in Round 4. But on Sunday against an admittedly injury-hit Carlton (who finished with just one fit player on the bench), the tables were turned.

Jaeger O'Meara was far and above the best player on the ground, amassing 43 touches (23 contested), nine clearances, six inside 50s and a goal, while Liam Shiels' return from a month-long break injury was one to remember; he kicked three clutch goals from 23 touches (at 81 percent), eight tackles and five inside 50s.

With the win, the Hawks move to parity at 3-3 and within striking distance of the top eight. Never write off Clarko...


Port's late fade out: You're up by six goals at three-quarter time, at home, and playing a legitimate bottom four side. What do you do? Let them right back into the contest, of course...

Port Adelaide really should have crushed North Melbourne on Friday night, a win which would have boosted their percentage and seen them climb to second on the AFL ladder after six rounds.

But a final quarter collapse saw Brad Scott's side come from 41 points down, closing to 14 with four minutes left on the clock. Their shock run saw them kick five unanswered goals in the final term as Port simply took their foot off the gas.

It was the third straight unconvincing home performance by the Power. In Round 2 they only just got the job done against the lowly Blues, while in Round 4 they fell to an under strength Richmond outfit.

Luckily for Port they hung on to win this one, but it was far from ideal preparation for a game against Collingwood on Friday night. Nathan Buckley and his team of assistants will be analysing exactly what the Power did wrong in the final 30 minutes at Adelaide Oval and it could cost them more than just percentage in the long run.

Inaccurate Dogs:

It seems like so long ago the Dogs came from nowhere to secure a barnstorming victory over the Hawks in Round 2. In the last quarter of that match, Luke Beveridge's men kicked a stunning 9.3 to move to 2-0 on the season.

But since then, something has been desperately wrong with the Dogs - their kicking for goal. In the last month of footy, the boys from Whitten Oval have kicked 7.26, 9.10, 7.15 and now 9.15, and haven't won any of those matches. Their most recent outing -- a 19-point loss to the Dockers -- was plagued by poor kicking and forward 50 entries.

In fact, the Dogs' overall goal kicking accuracy of 37.7 percent is the league's worst, and is 3.1 percent lower than the AFL's second worst team (Fremantle). Glaringly, the league's most accurate team is almost 20 percent better off in front of the big sticks; prior to their loss to Geelong, West Coast kicked for goal at 54.8 percent.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, however, considering one club insider revealed goal kicking is no longer a priority at training at AFL clubs. We also discussed the issue in Episode 5 of the ESPNfootytips AFL podcast.

Slow-starting Eagles: On the road against one of the form teams of the competition, the last thing you want to do is allow seven of the first nine goals of the match, but that's exactly what the reigning premiers did against the Cats on Sunday evening.

Josh Kennedy kicked the opener for West Coast within the first 20 seconds, but the Eagles then allowed the Cats to kick seven of the next eight to trail by 30 points at quarter time. By then, the Cats just had to manage the score.

In fact, the Eagles allowed the Cats to have their best first quarter return (45 points) since Round 22, 2016. Gary Rohan -- who is quietly putting his hand up for recruit of the year -- kicked three, while the little master Gary Ablett notched four direct goal assists in the first term alone. Playing at the Cattery is tough at the best of times, but the West Coast Eagles were beaten before the floodlights had even turned on.