Our AFL experts tackle some of the burning questions ahead of Round 14.
How many weeks does David Mackay deserve for his hit on Hunter Clark?
Rohan Connolly: None. There's been other incidents this season where one player in a collision arrived too late to realistically argue the ball was their intent. That clearly wasn't the case in this one, in fact, slowed down, you can see Mackay actually reaching for the ball before in the last split second turning to brace for the now inevitable and inescapable contact. Protecting your own body isn't choosing to bump. He literally had no other choice. That should never be penalised.
Jake Michaels: If Patrick Dangerfield was handed three weeks for his bump (which was worse but still not that bad) it would be an utter disgrace if Mackay was to receive anything more than a week, purely for leaving the ground and bumping. Once again we're putting too much emphasis on the outcome rather than the action itself. Can we please just sort this out, it's getting ridiculous...
Matt Walsh: Mackay had his eyes on the football and turned his body to protect the ball (and probably himself, which is reasonable). What was unfortunate was that Clark was injured. We always bang on about punishing the action and not the outcome ... this time, the outcome was ugly and unfortunate, but the action was not dirty. I'm all about protecting the head (and precedent has been set with other cases this season) but I'm not even conflicted on this one. The AFL wants three weeks and that's entirely unreasonable. He should get off.
Jesse Robinson: It may seem harsh, but the AFL needs to stamp this stuff out. Three or four weeks to show the players that a duty of care is required around the head. I appreciate that this may alter the way footy is played, but perhaps this is the catalyst we need to finally redefine what a "football action" is.
What will be the main storyline to come out of the Cats-Dogs game on Friday night?
RC: I suspect it will probably be something to the effect of "questions raised about the Bulldogs' credentials" after Geelong wins. I don't think that would be particularly fair, either. It would be only a third loss for the Dogs, all against top teams. And assignments don't come any tougher than the Cats at their own GMHBA Stadium, where they've won 21 of their last 23 games, and where the Dogs haven't tasted victory since 2003. I certainly won't be dismissing their chances should they lose this one.
JM: Move over Dogs and Dees, the Cats are clear flag favourites. Cam Guthrie returns to the Geelong side, and Patrick Dangerfield will be better for last week's run, but it's the dynamic forward line of Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Gary Rohan which will break this game apart and see Chris Scott's team take up premiership favouritism.
MW: We're always so quick to bounce between premiership favourites aren't we? I think the game will be a tussle between two different gamestyles, and while I think the Bulldogs would be favourites on a neutral ground, GMHBA is a tough ask. I think the storyline will be that the game is in good shape, and the year's premiership race is wide open.
JR: The Cats are very serious contenders and the Dogs need help in defence.
What should Collingwood's list management approach be at the end of the year?
RC: Continue developing young talent. What alternative is there? It doesn't mean they can't trade for as well as draft it. But the Pies have some ageing warriors getting towards the end, and the likes of Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom won't be around when Collingwood is next in position to challenge for the top. There's also a few too many "plodders" for my liking. It may mean they have to get bold and sacrifice one or two more decent players for a clutch of picks. But we're seeing even now via the likes of Trent Bianco and Caleb Poulter the benefits of youth.
JM: I think the Pies know they must embrace the full blown rebuild and they'd be setting themselves back years if they don't go hard at the draft over the next two to three seasons. Collingwood needs a real injection of youth and talent, it's almost certain they will secure Nick Daicos, but who else can they bring in? There's several players currently on the list, who are closing in on 30 years of age, who should also be offered up for trade.
The best and worst AFL guernseys of all time
With the 'prison bars' debate dominating last week, the ESPN Footy Podcast team think back to some of the AFL's worst (and best) guernseys of all time.
MW: They're still in a salary cap squeeze as they've admitted, so let's look at trading currency out to get draft picks (and lower expenditure in). Sidebottom would be worth something (especially to a side like Geelong, who love bringing in players with a '3' at the start of their age!), half backs are easy enough to find, so put Jack Crisp on the table, and Brody Mihocek would be a great pickup for another side. Build around Brodie Grundy, Darcy Moore and the Daicos boys.
JR: I think they need to hold course, they are rebuilding and have done pretty well out of the recent drafts with Poulter, Beau McCeery and some key position players in development like Liam McMahon. With the potential to steal the number one pick in Daicos, they'd be silly to try and win now. Also, if the right offer comes for Jordan De Goey, I say jump at it.
What's the one thing you'd change about AFL broadcasting?
RC: Just the one? Because I have several dozen. But right now, it would be simply ensuring that commentators are actually at the games they're describing. Radical idea, I know! Both Channel 7 and Fox Footy have got away with hiding behind COVID protocols simply to save money, and it's treating viewers with contempt. Apart from a token boundary rider on location or one caller at most, the rest are not seeing anything more than we are. In Australian football especially, you need to see ahead of and behind the ball to analyse it properly. They really are playing us for mugs on this one.
JM: Having spent the last week watching the NBA playoffs, I can safely say the Americans have us well and truly covered when it comes to sports commentary. The AFL's boys club needs a serious overhaul. Most of our play-by-play callers are trying to steal the show, while our 'expert comments' folk are anything but expert. If you're not providing insight, please give up the gig.
MW: For goodness sake, ZOOM OUT. The reason I like watching games at stadiums is because you can see the action unfolding in front of you. You can tell when the defensive side is pressing up or backing off, where the pressure on the ball carrier is coming from, what options are ahead ... when broadcasters stay zoomed in on players, you get absolutely no context of what's happening around them - in a 360 degree game!
JR: Football fans demand so much of our players, coaches, umpires and administrators but the thing that gets a free pass and needs to change is our standards in the commentary box. We continue to celebrate the greats such as Dennis Cometti and Bruce McAvaney and yet we continue to replace them with ex-players who seem to only be there to complain about the umpiring and seem to avoid any research further than a players parents and what high school they went to. It was a breath of fresh air to hear Jason Bennett in the commentary box, and if you put the right supporting cast around him with the likes of Daisy Pearce, Luke Hodge and Abbey Holmes, football will be much more enjoyable to watch.