Each week, ESPN.com.au's Jake Michaels looks at six talking points from the AFL world.
This week's Six Points feature the ladder-leading Saints and their master coach, the woeful Swans, and the sad realities of both the MRO and Goal of the Year award.
1. Take a bow, Ross Lyon. You are the real master coach
I've always been a coaching skeptic.
It's not that I don't think a top coach can make a major difference, it's that I've always been a firm believer in that you're only as good as the personnel you've got to work with. Great players can make any coach look like Jock McHale, but poor players lead to coach sackings. That's a fact. It's why I never felt Alastair Clarkson would make an immediate impact at the Kangaroos. It's also why I've never called for Adam Simpson's head (he is a premiership winning coach, after all) during the Eagles' recent health struggles.
But Ross Lyon's immediate transformation of the Saints has me questioning everything I've ever believed when it comes to coaches, their true value and influence. He's not only implemented a game style which is leading to success -- St Kilda sits top of the ladder after six rounds with a 5-1 record -- but done so while navigating one of the longest injury lists in the league (I can already hear Eagles fans scoffing).
The new-look Saints are perfectly happy to let their opposition control the Sherrin. They concede the most disposals and marks of any side in the competition, they just don't let you operate in damaging areas of the ground. Through six weeks, Lyon's men allow the lowest rate of possession inside forward 50, at just 11%.
In their most recent outing, St Kilda allowed the Blues 446 disposals, yet won the inside 50 battle and the game by 22 points. That disposal number was the most for a losing side in 2023. The next most was Fremantle in Round 1 (437) and then Essendon in Round 3 (420). The common denominator in all three games? The Saints on the winning end.
When the ball is inevitably turned over, they are easily the most efficient side at transitioning from back half to forward half, punishing teams with their run and precise ball use.
The scary part? They still have significant room to improve. Right now they rank second-last in scores per inside 50 and we all know there's several best 22 players to either return to the side or build back into peak form.
If there's one bad omen for St Kilda it has to be this: since 2004, no team sitting on top of the ladder after six rounds has won the premiership. But the flip side being every one of those teams has played finals, except the Bombers in 2013 who finished seventh but were subsequently disqualified.
2. The saddest, most embarrassing performance since ... the 2022 Grand Final
In the lead up to Saturday night's Grand Final replay between Geelong and Sydney at GMHBA Stadium, Swans co-captain Luke Parker insisted his side was carrying no mental scarring from last year's humiliating 81-point loss.
But as the Cats drove through goal after goal and the margin appeared destined to cross the three-figure mark, it became painfully clear this club is still haunted by what transpired last September.
The Swans were pathetic. They looked listless and were embarrassed.
There will be plenty who point to Sydney's injuries (particularly in the key position department) as the reason for its dismal showing. Of course, going into the game with such an undermanned side was far from ideal, but the performance dished up had little to do with available personnel and spoke more about the immaturity of this team. They lacked fight and hunger, put up almost no resistance and allowed the Cats to walk over them from the opening bounce to the final siren.
The playing group rightly copped the bulk of the criticism after last year's Grand Final, but a significant portion of this thrashing has to fall on John Longmire. It was clear his side was not ready to play and some of his coaching decisions were truly baffling.
If Callum Mills is the superstar midfielder everyone tells me he is, then why on earth did he play the majority of the game on Tom Hawkins? You bring Aaron Francis -- someone who played almost exclusively as a defender at the Bombers -- in for his first game at the club and let him play a basically anonymous role in the forward half, while Mills is taken out of the midfield, and forced to fight outside his weight division. And if defensive stocks were such an issue, why was Will Gould starting as the sub?
Longmire has only lost four games by 60+ points during his Swans tenure. Two of them have occurred in the last seven games, and both times against the Cats.
3. Nick Daicos is amazing but opposition coaches are making him look even better
Let me preface this by making it clear this is in no way a Nick Daicos bashing. The Collingwood youngster is simply unbelievable, was a worthy Anzac Day medallist and is making a claim to be the best second year player we've ever seen. No hyperbole.
My issue is with opposition coaches. Any chance one of you wants to put some time into him? The guy is averaging 37 touches per game!
I'm constantly amazed with how much space Daicos has to work in. Yes, he has great endurance and is able to spread to all parts of the ground, but why is nobody ever responsible for him? Don't tell me it was Will Snelling on Anzac Day. If that's the case he shouldn't play next week.
Daicos tallied 40 disposals for the second time in as many games yet only amassed seven contested possessions, meaning the vast majority of his ball was coming on the outside. For someone with so much talent, it's staggering how he continues to fly under the radar. Opposition coaches are basically telling us that they don't believe he's hurting them. But he is! It just wouldn't happen with any other star of the competition.
I felt it was premature when Daicos was installed as the Brownlow Medal favourite after Round 3. Fast forward three weeks, we're now a quarter of the way through the season, and he might well have 14 votes to his name. He's definitely the one to chase down.
4. Charlie Cameron just won Goal of the Year
Let me make a declaration: Charlie Cameron will take home the 2023 Goal of the Year award for this effort in the first quarter against the Giants in Canberra.
Now for my (almost certainly) unpopular opinion...
I guarantee at least 20 better goals will be kicked this season. So why will this one from Cameron get the nod? Because different is better when it comes to a fan vote and this wasn't exactly the stock standard great Aussie Rules goal.
People get bored of the same winners or, in this case, the same thing winning every time. It's why LeBron James only has four NBA regular season MVP awards. It's also why Matthew Lloyd won Goal of the Year in 2007 for a backheel two metres out from the goal line. No, I'll never get over that.
Remember what won the award last year? Sam Draper's little checkside from 25m out on a slight angle. A ruckman sporting the now in-vogue mullet hairstyle streaming through the 50m arc at pace and finishing is so rare (it just proves my point about ruckman, but we'll save that debate for another day) he won the award. Give me a break.
In my mind, Cameron is one of the 30 best players in the competition. He's box office entertainment and might be the most difficult match-up forward of centre. But come on, Goal of the Year!? Even he'd tell you that goal wouldn't crack his top 20.
5. Mitch Duncan should 100% have been suspended for his hit on Robbie Fox
When news filtered through that Robbie Fox would miss this week's clash against the Giants with concussion, I couldn't help but feel Mitch Duncan had dodged a massive bullet.
Had the Swans shared the disappointing diagnosis 48 hours earlier, I'm convinced Duncan would also be watching Round 7 from the sidelines. That in itself highlights the fundamental flaw in the AFL's judicial system, which puts far too much emphasis on outcome as opposed to action.
But even if we're looking at the action in isolation, Duncan can consider himself extremely fortunate to escape punishment.
There's no doubt Fox overran the ball and proceeded to lose his footing, but Duncan cocked his shoulder and was prepared to lay the hard hit. He really didn't make any effort to protect Fox's head, despite what the pro-Geelong Channel 7 commentary team would lead you to believe. And as such, a suspension should have been handed down by the MRO.
Instead, a statement claiming "it is the view of the MRO that Duncan's actions were not unreasonable in the circumstances," saw him exonerated.
There were two other incidents looked at from Saturday's slate of games. Both Tom Jonas and Callan Ward received one-game suspensions for rough conduct offences which were graded careless, medium impact and high contact. I'm amazed Duncan's didn't fall into that exact category.
I'm not saying he should have copped three or four weeks but to evade a ban and fine entirely is flatly a mistake by the AFL and MRO.
6. Jeremy Cameron CAN reach the magical 100-goal mark in 2023
He's becoming somewhat of a regular in this column, and for good reason. Another game, another five goals and probably two more Brownlow Medal votes (Patrick Dangerfield was very good) for Jeremy Cameron.
Geelong's spearhead extended his lead to six goals in the race for the Coleman Medal, his handful against the Swans taking his season tally to 27 majors from just six games. And not for the first time in Cameron's career, he's opened the door to the possibility of a rare 100-goal season. Let me tell you, it's certainly on the board.
Players six weeks into a V/@AFL season with hauls of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 goals (in any order)— Swamp (@sirswampthing) April 22, 2023
1930 - Gordon Coventry
1976 - Larry Donohue
2004 - Fraser Gehrig
2023 - JEREMY CAMERON
@GeelongCats #AFLCatsSwans @AFL
For context, here's how many goals each of the last 15 Coleman Medal winners had to their name at the same point of the season.
Not only has nobody had such a hot start since Lance Franklin hit the ton in 2008, but it's also worth remembering we've got the extra game in 2023, making the feat slightly more achievable this year.
Cameron is in career best form and continues to be one of the league's real sharpshooters. He's kicked 27.7 this season and 43.18 dating back to Round 19 last year.
In order to reach 100 in the home and away season, Cameron has to average 4.29 goals per game from here on out. That's certainly not out of the question for this guy. And even if he falls short, who's to say we won't witness it in September?