AFL: Five Things We Learned From Round 81. The Crow-bots are back.
Back in 2005-2006, Neil Craig had turned his Adelaide side into one of the most powerful and well-drilled units seen for many a year, a team nicknamed the Crow-bots. Strangely enough, Craig didn't enjoy premiership success with that team, despite taking it to preliminary finals in both those years and from then on the wheels gradually fell off, ultimately ending with Craig's resignation last year. But Brenton Sanderson has wound back the clock and got his side playing the type of powerful football that won Adelaide so many admirers seven years ago. Intense at the contest, the Crows applied so much pressure to Carlton during the first half on Sunday that in the second, the Blues appeared almost scared to go near the ball, lest a murderous Crow was lining him up with a big hit. Adelaide skipper Nathan van Berlo felt some of this increased pressure could be put down to building bigger bodies in the off-season, but questions have to be asked about the players' attitude under Craig last year as well, for the transformation this season has been very dramatic.2. AFL is adopting elements of NRL.
The games on the weekend showed that teams were throwing plenty of numbers at the ball to the extent many of these matches resembled something like NRL. The injury-hit Collingwood seem to have adopted several elements of NRL in their play as they continue dealing with their missing personnel. With Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy looking on from the Magpies' coaches box in their win over Geelong, the Pies were often seen sweeping along the wings in groups of three, handballing the pill laterally between those players as they look to take it forward. The main area where AFL seems to be looking more like the northern code, however, is in the sense that coaches are throwing plenty of players into congested situations. This is a response to some clubs having better midfields than others, according to Carlton skipper Chris Judd, as the teams with inferior on-ball divisions will congest the territory and try to cramp their opponent's style. He may have a point as games on the weekend showed, especially the contest between Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs.3. This season's pretenders have been revealed.
Fremantle and North Melbourne have all-but been exposed as pretenders this term. The Dockers have been chugging along out west, adapting to Ross Lyon's highly defensive style, something they've done to great effect. But this has come at the expense of their forward line and their wins haven't been particularly impressive. When those defensive structures were exposed by Hawthorn's midfield dominance in Launceston on Saturday the Dockers didn't have too many answers. They may be sitting eighth on the ladder at the moment but don't expect them to stay there after next week's Western Derby. As for North Melbourne, all that needs to be said is, 11 minutes to go, 32 points ahead of Port Adelaide! And, as for Carlton, they're not far off being added to this list.4. West Coast are more than just free kicks.
There's still a few people whinging about the amount of free kicks the West Coast duckers have been receiving over the first eight rounds. Sure, they've had the most of any side, with 201 after eight rounds and just 132 against. But there's plenty more to West Coast than just getting the rub of the green with the umps. The Eagles have the best percentage for effective kicks in the league with 69.9 percent and the best for effective disposals overall with 75.2. This level of effective disposal is complemented by West Coast also averaging the most contested marks for any side in the comp. All this adds up to the fact that the Eagles score a goal with 29.5 percent of their inside-50 entries, the best record in the league but only narrowly above Adelaide (28.8) and St Kilda (28.5). Despite missing three of their best forwards in Mark LeCras, Mark Nicoski and Josh Kennedy the club has managed a league-leading 132 goals for the season, a fair record, although West Coast have been helped by a softer draw over the first two months.5. Coke cans and coach's boxes don't mix
James Hird looked ready to let rip when a shaken Coke can exploded just behind him on Saturday night in the annual Dreamtime at the 'G match. That was until he realised it was Bomber Thompson who'd done the deed. Bomber should be wary about eating and drinking in the box though, especially after being caught lazily munching on a sandwich during the Cats' belting of West Coast back in 2008.