AFL Heroes & Villains Round 9: Deadly Dusty, magic Maj and Jake the snake

Round 9 of the 2020 AFL season saw Dusty hit top gear, Majak return in a big way and the Blues capitulate (seriously, what on earth happened!) against Hawks.


Dustin Martin: Bruce McAvaney said it best on Wednesday night: "Dusty is in Brownlow Medal form."

Just like in previous years, the Richmond superstar has had a relatively slow start to the season, but he came to life in a big way against the Bulldogs to begin the 20-day Footy Frenzy.

Martin was lethal in midfield with his 26 disposals, orchestrating a massive Tigers win which has put the reigning premier back into the top four.

But as good as he was in the middle of the ground, it was his work inside forward 50m which was most valuable. Martin kicked three brilliant goals, saving the best for last.

With five minutes left in the game, Martin muscled his way inside the 50m arc and after looking inboard for an option, slotted the kick from the tightest of angles.

He's given Lachie Neale a fair head start, but don't count Martin out of the Brownlow race just yet.

Majak Daw: Ahhh, who doesn't love a feel-good footy story!?

It didn't matter whether you were a North fan, a Crows fan or a supporter of any other club, seeing Majak Daw back on the field was a great sight.

It had been over 700 days since Daw last played an AFL game. The 29-year-old has endured a difficult run, suffering serious injuries to his hips and pelvis when he fell from Melbourne's Bolte Bridge in December 2018.

But he was back in blue and white on Saturday afternoon and the moment of the game (and one of the great moments of the season) came early in the final term when Daw slotted a major from a set shot which was pretty popular with his North Melbourne teammates.

What a sight it was to see every single one of Daw's teammates get around him after the goal.

It's good to have you back, Majak.

Space Giants: GWS' season is beginning to take shape. Their fifth win in 2020 - and ninth in a row over the Gold Coast Suns - was built on the back of control.

It was a low scoring and at times dour affair, but the class of the Giants and their mids proved too much for the falling Suns to handle once the ball hit the outside.

Criticism surrounding their 2020 campaign has focussed on forward 50 opportunity. They've been able to win games despite recording less inside 50s because their efficiency upon entry is the envy of teams who try -- and get -- much more supply to their forwards.

So they shouldn't be trusted until they maximise their rebound 50s with the sort of end-to-end transition that has epitomised the way they've played over the past four years, right?

Well perhaps we should start trusting them. And with the return of Zac Williams, this is a trend we should start to expect on a regular basis.

The Giants are ranked 18th in the competition for inside 50s with an average of 34.8 per game, but shot past 40 for the first time this season on Sunday.

Sure, the Suns have fallen and were flat on the day, but the Giants dominated the midfield; Lachie Whitfield (29 disposals), Josh Kelly (28), Jacob Hopper (27) and Williams (26) were nothing short of clinical.

Whitfield was the best of the lot, going at 82 percent disposal efficiency and looking a tier above when able to burn his opponents in wide open spaces. A great example came in the final stanza when the Suns were trying to mount a comeback, Whitfield pounced on a loose ball in the middle and delivered a perfectly executed pass to the chest of Harry Himmelberg. It was marvellous to watch.

Williams was equally as impressive and is a timely, dynamic addition the the side, linking up with players and adding another rebound 50 string to a bow that has needed to be complemented by his characteristic run and carry game.

If the Giants can continue to flourish on the outside and ensure their inside mids can win -- or at least neutralise -- the stoppage battles, then this is a side that we will yet again see when the whips are cracking at the pointy end.


Jake Carlisle: An endless number of ex-players and so-called experts are calling for the AFL to come down hard on fake 'macho' bumping and niggling the players seem to partake in, but it's a genuine shame Carlisle was only offered a fine for his brainless, boneheaded act on Sydney's Dane Rampe.

Rampe had been recovering from a broken hand and was wearing a glove as he continues to regain strength, and after a scuffle broke out during the Saints' monster win over the Swans, Carlisle thought it would be a smart idea to start targeting said gloved hand by punching it repeatedly.

The act was the opposite of sportsmanship, and Carlisle has a track record of being involved in controversy, with a notable incident involving a sledge against ex-Carlton skipper Marc Murphy.

Here's a tip, Jake. Your side is playing well. Enjoy the football and avoid doing stupid, unsportsmanlike acts -- you're 28 for goodness sake.

Simon Goodwin: It's hard to pin the Dees' horrific loss to Port Adelaide on Thursday night all on Goodwin, but the buck does stop with the coach after one of the worst performances -- from any side -- this season.

After showing some signs of promise with wins against the Suns and Hawks and a narrow loss to the Lions, the Demons fell apart in the face of some fierce pressure from Port. From the first minute it was apparent Goodwin's team had no answers, with a goalless first term an insipid reflection of the Dees' lack of intensity.

Melbourne's much-lauded midfield quartet of Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Jack Viney put up decent enough numbers, but none were able to step up to halt Port's momentum at any stage. The Dees were smashed in possessions and inside 50s (47-31) and their disposal efficiency (66 percent) was woeful. Up forward, it wasn't much better, with the Demons managing only four goals in their lowest score of the season.

Worryingly, the pattern of defeat replicated so many losses under Goodwin, with the Demons destroyed on the spread, unable to capitalise on Gawn's ruck dominance and incapable of hitting simple targets by foot.

Goodwin's selections appear to be ignoring the problem, too. Angus Brayshaw, James Harmes and Nathan Jones have regularly been pushed out to the wing, a position to which they are totally unsuited, with another inside midfielder, Tom Sparrow added to the team against Port. Yet Adam Tomlinson -- a winger the Dees targeted in 2019 as a free agent and who played every game in a Grand Final-bound GWS team -- remains on the sidelines. Puzzling to say the least.

Carlton's capitulation: It's almost hard to believe just how good Carlton was in the first quarter of their match against the Hawks, and then how bad they were from then on. The gap between the Blues' best and their worst might just be the widest in the league.

Fans and commentators alike had just about handed the four points to David Teague's men after they rapidly kicked the first five goals of the match. They looked irresistible. There was no way they could lose to the lowly Hawks, who, for the record, had been the talk of the town for being a 'comfortable' bottom four side throughout the week.

But Hawthorn shut down Carlton's run, clamped down on Blues skipper Patrick Cripps and forced a multitude of forward half turnovers in what was a 10-goal swing. The Hawks ended up winning by a staggering 31 points.

This isn't a unique result for the Blues, who almost bottled a similar five-goal lead to battlers North Melbourne last week. Carlton managed to hold on by seven points on that occasion.

If they're to be taken seriously in 2020, Carlton need to play more than one quarter of good footy. We've seen what they're capable of when they're on for four quarters -- they made the Bulldogs look like chumps in Round 5 -- but extracting the best has been a massive challenge for Teague, and his side failed miserably on Friday afternoon.