Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 18.
Was Alan Richardson hard done by?
NS: No. Coaching is a win-loss industry and Richardson's time was up after a winning percentage of just 34 percent (43 wins and 81 losses) over six years. He has had enough time to prove himself after replacing Scott Watters in 2014 and unfortunately for him, the Saints are again mired near the bottom of the ladder. Strangely, I think he's coached reasonably well in 2019 considering the state of the list and the injuries at St Kilda, but Tuesday's tough call was a necessary one.
JM: Hard done by? Are you kidding? Richardson has the sixth worst coaching record in history (of coaches that have coached at least 100 games) and his time at St Kilda has been up for quite a while. It's time to give Brett Ratten a chance to show what he can do and try to establish a winning culture. I would say a lot of people had given up on Richardson before the year had even started, so maybe that's what's unfair.
MW: Looking back at his overall tenure at the Saints, then the decision for Richo and the Saints to part ways makes sense, but looking at this season in isolation and maybe he was a bit stiff. The injuries to Dan Hannebery, Jake Carlisle, Paddy McCartin, Dylan Roberton and the circumstances surrounding Jack Steven's absence are hard cracks to cover, and the Saints probably did well to start the year the way they did. Overall, a fresh start probably suits both parties.
Should the Bombers trade Joe Daniher?
NS: Pushing aside the emotions involved, considering the Daniher family's links at Essendon, it does make sense. Since his breathtaking All-Australian season in 2017 when he kicked 65 goals, the 25-year-old has only managed 11 games in the past two seasons due to to a series of leg injuries. He may want a fresh start and the Bombers would likely net a first and second round draft pick in return. Interestingly, he's a restricted free agent at the end of 2020.
JM: The Bombers should definitely hold onto Daniher. Why? Because he can be a generational forward and as frustrating as he's been, they need to persist with him. The club should be doing everything it can to get him healthy so they can reap the benefits in the second half of his career. Let's be honest, they aren't getting much in return for him right now, so what's the point?
MW: The Bombers have been notorious in recent years for trading high draft picks for established players, but in this case, it might work out to go the other way. Daniher might benefit from a fresh start and a new medical team, while the Bombers -- who are more than capable up forward without Joe -- could surely net a first-rounder for the prodigious talent. While it's never ideal to part ways with a player from Essendon royalty, it might be the best move for both parties.
Which injury from Round 17 hurts their team the most?
NS: West Coast won last year's flag without Nic Naitanui but I just get the feeling he was going to be the X-factor that inspired back-to-back flags. The emotional blow of the big ruckman again succumbing to a serious injury -- this time a syndesmosis injury -- would be crushing, and means West Coast will need to rely on the workmanlike Tom Hickey to lead the way in the ruck. That hurts.
JM: Considering Stephen Coniglio was being talked about as a potential Brownlow Medal winner, I think the answer is pretty obvious. The Giants were already struggling for form and missing the likes of Josh Kelly and Callan Ward in the midfield, so things are going to get even tougher with their general going down with an eight-week knee injury. Draw a line through them, they're done in 2019.
MW: There were a few really heartbreaking moments during Round 17, but don't underestimate Michael Hurley's injury and how it affects the Bombers' structures going forward. It might mean Cale Hooker no longer embarks on a late jaunt forward, meaning Shaun McKernan stays as a deep threat with Zac Clarke in the ruck. Between the loss of Hurley and Tom Bellchambers, Essendon really need their lesser lights (Clarke, McKernan, and now probably Michael Hartley) to step up during the run home.
Where do you draw the line on niggle?
NS: I'm all for using taggers but Port's attempt to intimidate Lachie Neale at the weekend backfired spectacularly and was an embarrassment. The umpires should have stepped in earlier to settle things down like they did earlier this year (remember James Sicily's punch in Round 2 that pretty much cost Hawthorn victory against the Bulldogs?) but of course, consistency and the AFL don't go hand-in-hand.
JM: Seeing Cameron Sutcliffe hassle and harass Neale for four quarters absolutely infuriated me. I'm all for taggers and I think they have a real place in the game, but don't go around constantly whacking players off the ball. It's just so unnecessary and umpires should be giving free kicks for it. Instead, use your body at stoppages or even double team a player. That's football.
MW: I actually don't mind what Port Adelaide did to Neale, but for goodness sake, go as hard at the footy as you do at the man. Coach Ken Hinkley will no doubt regret his pre-game interaction with Fox Footy, during which he grinned and said they'd target Neale, but if the umpires aren't willing to pay a free kick for the niggle, so be it. The line, for what it's worth? Ben Stratton and the childish pinching.