AFL: Five Things We Learned From Round 12

Sportal June 18, 2012, 4:35 pm

'''1. Jonathon Patton can play'''

The Giants' prized No.1 pick made his long-awaited debut against Richmond at Skoda Stadium on Saturday as GWS went down by two goals. Despite the defeat, the former Eastern Ranges skipper made the most of the slippery conditions up forward with seven touches, four marks - three contested - and a goal. Though he didn't set the world alight, one passage of play in the first quarter would have excited GWS fans. Patton led hard to the wing under heavy pressure and clunked a contested mark at full stretch. Less than a minute later, he led back to the forward 50 and took another contested mark, this time on the chest, before goaling from 20 metres to give the football world a glimpse of what's to come.

'''2. The bye could be the antidote'''

Four of the six sides that enjoyed a bye during Round 11 bounced back with wins in Round 12. GWS and Brisbane were the only sides to suffer defeat after freshening up for an extra week with the Giants putting up a good fist of it before a narrow defeat to Richmond. The Lions were less convincing and after competing with Hawthorn in the first half, were eventually blown away by 65 points at the MCG on Sunday. On the other hand, West Coast, Adelaide, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, it could be argued, benefited from the week off as they all picked up four points. There has been plenty of talk about whether it helps or hinders but the initial evidence would suggest the latter. We'll wait and see how the likes of Collingwood, Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong, Melbourne and Sydney fare this week after the added rest.

'''3. Nic Naitanui's best point in history?'''

There are many in the football world mesmerised by Naitanui's freakish capabilities and he showed why on Friday night against the Blues with what could go down as the best point in the history of the game. The Eagles ruckman showcased all his breath-taking athletic traits in one freakish play as he gathered his own ball in the ruck while hurtling towards goal from the centre square. The 22-year-old swooped on the bouncing ball then breezed past two flailing opponents; first with a handball to himself to evade Brock McLean before a deft tap over the top of an outstretched Heath Scotland. Clear of the congestions, Naitanui set sail from 50m but pulled his shot to the left with the entirety of Patersons Stadium ready to lift the roof off. Exciting as it was, a point is little consolation for a play that surely would have warranted goal of the year.

'''4. Gary Ablett can't do any more'''

You have to feel sorry for the little fella; he was lambasted by many for his move north but has given everything he possibly can for the Gold Coast Suns. Saturday's defeat to North Melbourne was perhaps the team's best effort this season and one of Ablett's best for club and career. The Suns skipper had it 42 times and kicked four goals, including one of the best this season with a left-foot gem while tucked up against the boundary. Ablett did all he could to will his side over the line and you felt on Saturday the Suns were going to salute for the first time this season after pulling the margin back to four points late in the final term. But it wasn't to be and Gold Coast and Ablett will have to find another way as their winless start to the season stretched to 12 matches heading into their bye this weekend.

'''5. Cyril Rioli's pressure is the best in the league'''
Some have questioned Rioli's ability to influence games on a consistent basis, but few could question his mantle as the best pressure player in the competition. Rioli was at his feverish best on Sunday against the Lions, harrying and hassling any player that came anywhere near him. He laid nine tackles in the wet conditions and proved a constant nightmare for Brisbane players trying to find their way out of defence. Rioli's tackle count in the past two weeks is 23 with the 14 he laid against Port Adelaide the week before, but it is his all-round pressure and a number of desperate acts that often go unnoticed in the stats. Key to Hawthorn's forward line functioning is the tireless work of Rioli and the ability of the likes of Luke Breust to mop up at ground level when the ball is turned over, often due to the work of the former.

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