Our AFL experts tackle some of the burning questions ahead of Round 20.
How many weeks would you have handed Lance Franklin for his hit on Luke Ryan?
Rohan Connolly: I think one match was probably about right. I understand the "what abouts?" in relation to other similar incidents this season involving David Astbury, Joe Daniher and Luke Shuey, but those three were all graded as low impact and this one medium. I feel like there was a little more intent about Franklin's, so that grading is OK with me. Bottom line is it was unnecessary and potentially really dangerous.
Jake Michaels: It has to be multiple weeks, doesn't it? It's a shocking look for the game when a player throws an elbow like that. It could have done some serious damage and there's no doubt Buddy knew what he was doing. Call me harsh, but I'd be going with three weeks for an action like that. There's absolutely no place in the game for it and a superstar player should be setting a far better example.
Matt Walsh: He's probably a bit lucky. It's not a football act, and the MRO/tribunal system needs a bit of an overhaul to come down harder on intent rather than outcome. I'd be comfortable with that being a couple of weeks off, but the grading system needs changing to reflect that.
Jarryd Barca: There have been many similar incidents this season where the perpetrator actually avoided suspension due to a 'low impact' grading, so I can see the Swans challenging this based on that precedent. That's being technical. On face value, it's a shocking look for the game; Buddy clearly transitions the ball from his left hand to his right to swing his elbow with more purposeful leverage and force - he knew what he was doing. I believe two or three weeks would suffice for that action.
Which team will claim the 2021 wooden spoon?
RC: Looks like a race in three to me, North Melbourne, Hawthorn and Collingwood. They've all got tough runs home. The Pies have got a half-game break on the other two, though, which might save them. I'm still sticking with the Roos, sadly, because their improvement has been laudable. Geelong, Richmond, Sydney and Adelaide seems like a tougher ask than Hawthorn's schedule of Brisbane, Collingwood, Bulldogs and Richmond. They'd be one of the better "spooners" we'd seen, though.
JM: I know they just won against the Blues, but I still think North will be finishing the season on the bottom of the ladder. Having said that, they are looking a much better side than the one we saw in the first half of the year, so some credit has to go to David Noble. In a slightly controversial take, I'll say Collingwood won't win another game this year and will finish second last.
MW: Hawthorn probably have a better chance at snagging a late win than North Melbourne, but as Rohan said, all clubs in 'the race' have been a lot better than some of the poor teams that have 'won' the spoon in past seasons.
JB: Looking at the current bottom four, they each have one realistically winnable game each - against each other. It really is a win and avoid the spoon situation. Collingwood without Scott Pendlebury doesn't bode well but their superior percentage could clear them of bottom spot. North's opportunity comes against the Crows, in a game currently slated for the final round - a win could send the spoon to the loser of the Pies-Hawks clash next week. I'm liking what the Kangas are building but I still think they're the worst team in it.
Who is winning Mark of the Year?
RC: Someone who's thoroughly deserving! What an amazing year for nominations. Of the five everyone's talking about, I think Shai Bolton's remains the most visually spectacular from a still photograph point of view (look at the sheer height) but I think if you throw in degree of difficulty, it's probably Jack Riewoldt. You've got the courage factor of running the same way as the ball into a pack, plus a great leap in its own right with that extra elevation. Hard to beat that.
JM: Given it's a popularity contest, I'm guessing Richmond's fanbase will be getting behind Bolton's effort. But if I was picking the winner, I reckon I'm giving it to Isaac Heeney for his incredible ride over Luke Ryan last weekend. It's not the first time we've seen a player rise high off the ground and clunk the ball, but how many have done it while intercepting in the forward 50m!? Incredible.
MW: How good has this year's crop of marks been?! This weekend alone we had a couple of marks that would be worthy overall winners, but my vote goes to Cody Weightman. Getting that high on Max Gawn (208cm) -- as a guy who is only 178 centimetres -- is wildly impressive, especially given the greasy conditions!
JB: Firstly, it's the mark of the year not the how high can you jump of the year, so that rules out Bolton - I much prefer a traditional, majestic above-the-head grab. In saying that, I still believe with the way he was able to run courageously back with the flight and still somehow manage to get genuine spring and collect it -- albeit in the chest -- Riewoldt's is the best so far. Heeney and Weightman have my silver and bronze, with Tim O'Brien's stunner in Round 15 a very stiff fourth.
Should floating fixtures remain in a post-pandemic footy landscape?
RC: I've softened on this one. I think you need at least a month's notice for people, but it certainly allows you to better ensure the showpiece timeslots are actually populated by the showpiece games. My only real reservation is the extent to which supporters are impacted. For example, those who want to watch their team play interstate and make it part of a long weekend. If they can make sure that issue is dealt with satisfactorily, I'd say why not?
JM: I'm really torn here. On one hand, I like the fact we can ensure better primetime games by adjusting and adding to the fixture on the run but it makes it tough to plan for fans wanting to go to games. But broadcast trumps everything and I expect it to become permanent.
Dunkley details cafe COVID scare
Western Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley tells the ESPN Footy Podcast that bad luck is to blame for having to isolate for 14 days due to coming into contact with a COVID-positive case.
MW: Jake's right in that broadcasters (well, the host broadcaster at the very least) will dictate this decision, and they'll want the best games on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday 3.20pm (despite it being a terrible timeslot). I like it, personally, but do feel for fans wanting to plan travel to road games.
JB: It's a necessity right now, absolutely, but it cannot be everlasting. I understand how this helps with broadcast and eyeballs, but there's no doubting players, coaches and clubs in general prefer to know their upcoming opponents. Plus there's the issue with fans planning in advance to attend matches and the coordination of match day corporate events if and when they return. Let's stick to locking in the full fixture during pre-season and save the hassle.