AFL Heroes & Villains Round 14: Amateur hour in 'The Alice'

Round 14 saw the return of one of the league's most exciting key forwards and the 'Orange Tsunami' gather some pace, but the Blues, and the AFL's tech heads, blew it.

Here are this week's Heroes & Villains.


Joe Daniher: It was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait - and we got the full Joe Daniher experience on Thursday.

Essendon's mercurial key forward laced up the boots for the first time since Round 9 last year -- almost 18 months ago -- but looked as though he'd been playing all season.

In typical Daniher fashion he flew beautifully for marks, his 200cm frame showing no signs of discomfort due to the persistent osteitis pubis and calf concerns, and kicked 3.3 in the Bombers' outrageous 16-point win over the Hawks.

It's almost hard to remember just how good Daniher was back at his best in 2017. That year, he kicked 65 goals for the Dons - booting at least one goal in every game he played that year. He was a constant threat from the arc, and extremely accurate. Realistically, he was about to become the league's premier big man.

No doubt Bombers fans will be glad to see the No. 6 back in action, but Daniher himself will no doubt be content with his return to footy; if he wants to leave at the end of the season as a restricted free agent, this performance alone will remind potential suitors he won't be cheap. If he decides to stay, you suspect the Bombers, too, will require a pretty penny.

A fit and firing Daniher is good for footy, and watching him slot his way back into some decent form right away was fantastic to see.

Cardiac Cats: Six majors down and goalless at quarter time and you'd be forgiven for thinking the Cats had wasted their chance to shore up a top-four spot. But given what happened with the Bombers and Hawks on Thursday, writing them off would have been foolish.

Led incredibly by a desperate and courageous Patrick Dangerfield -- who deserves all six Brownlow votes for his 32-disposal, six-clearance game -- the Cats clawed back the 37-point deficit over the finals three terms, hitting the lead for just the first time as match ticked into red time.

Gary Rohan sealed the impressive win with a loose ball get in space and a right foot banana under pressure with a minute left. His run, carry and hard-at-it attitude was notable, while strong cameos from Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie and Gryan Miers also helped the Cats get over the line.

But let's not lambast the Dogs too much - for most of the game they had just two on the bench, with impressive youngster Laitham Vandermeer and defensive stalwart Easton Wood sitting on the pine with injuries.

However good teams find a way to win when given a sniff, and using the extra rotations and the class of Dangerfield and co. to their advantage, Geelong showed the competition they're fair dinkum about winning the flag this season.

They sat, if only briefly, at the top of the ladder on Friday night, and looked every part a premiership outfit - at least for three quarters. It's making it a four-quarter performance that's the next step for Chris Scott's men, and if they regain Gary Ablett in addition to Joel Selwood, then, well watch out.

GWS leaders: It took a handful of minutes to realise the Giants were 'on' against Fremantle in a must-win clash for Leon Cameron's men.

The Giants entered the game against Freo in woeful form, with their bravado and dash apparently disappearing for most of 2020 and a loss against the miserly Dockers would have almost dashed GWS' finals hopes.

But from the first bounce, the Giants were bolder, braver and more ballistic than they have been in months, swarming all over the Dockers and moving the ball at breakneck speed. And it started with their leaders - Stephen Coniglio, Jeremy Cameron, Lachie Whitfield, Nick Haynes and Zac Williams all setting the tone in a first quarter that just about put the game to bed.

The end result was a comfortable win but even more importantly, a performance that would have given the Giants a huge confidence boost. The 'Orange Tsunami' may not be at full steam, but Saturday's dominant victory showed the Giants still might make some waves in the run-in to the finals.


Second half Blues: For the first time in many years, Carlton had their finals aspirations in their own control. But in squandering a golden opportunity to a weakened Collingwood outfit on Sunday, the Blues might as well have opened the door and offered to take the coats of Essendon, GWS and the Western Bulldogs, who remain in the hunt as a result of their bitterly disappointing outing.

After an encouraging first-half display, in which they kicked seven goals to lead by eight points at the main break, Carlton capitulated, going goalless after half time to all but end their hopes of making finals. It was the first time the Blues have gone goalless in a half against the Pies in 111 years.

Their inside-50 entries were low IQ, popping the ball into the path of Collingwood interceptors Darcy Moore, Jack Crisp and Brayden Maynard at almost any and every opportunity, while exiting defensive 50 was equally as grim. Their short, West Coast-style kicks to a teammate sometimes missed the targets, resulting in turnovers or stoppages that Magpie mids Taylor Adams and Scott Pendlebury relished.

Carlton have had chances to secure a top eight spot this season, but too often they've fallen to teams vying for the same last two finals spots. They've now lost to Melbourne, St Kilda and Collingwood, who all remain in the hunt.

Make no mistake, this is a massive missed opportunity for David Teague's man, given the Pies were without Steele Sidebottom, Jordan De Goey, Jeremy Howe and Adam Treloar.

AFL's tech heads: Given it's 2020, when 4K video is king and footy fans have 65 inch OLED TVs in their living room, you'd expect a professional sporting league to have all bases covered when it comes to the humble score review.

But the AFL, even with its fancy-named ARC video review system, failed fans again on Saturday night. In the dying minutes of Melbourne's nail-biting win over St Kilda, Christian Petracca got a miraculous kick away towards goal that St Kilda's Dougal Howard hunted down at the line. At least, that's what Howard thought had happened.

The goal umpire called for a review - his on-field call was a goal. But what ensued was embarrassing given the AFL only has a handful of grounds available to broadcast from.

Not one angle of Howard's attempt to touch the footy gave a definitive answer as to whether the defender got to the ball on time. As rudimentary as the current standard is, it's unbelievable there was no GoPro stuck to the goal post, as we've seen at almost every other venue.

There was no way it could have been overturned, even if Howard had touched the footy.

It may have been inconsequential - the Dees may well have won anyway without that goal, but when a match is decided by under a kick these things rightfully come under scrutiny. The AFL hastily put together a statement on Sunday saying all remaining venues will have the right technology on the goal line, but surely this should have been a forethought and not an afterthought.

The Dees and Saints are both battling for a finals spot, and this sort of amateur approach to video review is simply not good enough. Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin summed it up: "If we can't get the technology to the point where you can make accurate calls, it's better off not having it."

Nathan Jones: It was a mistake that almost wrecked the Demons' finals chances and was made by a man who has poured so much blood, sweat and tears into his club.

Late in the second quarter after the Dees controlled much of the first half against St Kilda, Nathan Jones, in his 293rd game, received a free kick with about two minutes left to play in the term.

Inexplicably, the veteran Demon decided to chip across goal, with his lack of awareness and execution proving costly as Jack Steele was gifted a shot 20m out on a slight angle. His shot never looked like missing.

To rub salt into the wounds, St Kilda then stormed clear from the resulting centre bounce and Rowan Marshall dribbled a clever goal from the back of a pack. Incredibly Melbourne were only two points ahead and the Saints had all the momentum heading into the long break.

Unfortunately for Jones, his howler wasn't the only mistake he made - he notched 10 first-half possessions but committed an incredible five turnovers, two of which resulted in goals.

Jones would have been breathing a massive sigh of relief as the Demons found a way to hang on in a victory that pushed them into the top eight.

But the 32-year-old, who has been in and out of the Dees' best 22 this season, will need to eradicate those mistakes if he is any chance of reaching his 300th game.