Posted in Sports NewsSpherical Four hit us because the AFL does with highlights, drama, and controversy. Right here’s my speaking factors from the spherical. Three groups stand head and shoulders above the remaining 4 rounds and in and simply sufficient time has handed for us to have the ability to say with some confidence that there are three groups standing head and shoulders above the remaining. Geelong, GWS and West Coast have been the best-performed groups of 2019 thus far – none of them excellent, however every has performed like a premiership contender through the opening 4 rounds. 5 sides are Three-1 within the league in the mean time. Brisbane have been mightily spectacular however Spherical Four was a actuality test for them, whereas the Saints have confirmed adept at changing possibilities to win however actually aren’t among the many league’s prime groups. West Coast have picked up kind of proper the place they left off in 2018. If something, profitable the flag has made them a greater crew, because it so typically does. Andrew Gaff and Brad Sheppard have seamlessly reintegrated into the crew after lacking final 12 months’s grand closing and Jack Petrucelle has taken out a mortgage on the spot vacated by Mark LeCras. Tom Hickey has proved a serviceable substitute for Scott Lycett, with Nic Naitanui nonetheless to return. Simply what impression his eventual return has on this crew could possibly be one of many huge 2019 storylines. Geelong’s 2019 could possibly be finest summed up by the truth that, contemporary off dismantling Dustin Martin only a week in the past, GWS tagger Matt De Boer was despatched to not Patrick Dangerfield or Joel Selwood, however to Tim Kelly. That’s symbolic of how efficient it has been for Geelong to shift the load in the midst of the bottom this 12 months – they’ve discovered improved efficiency each from the gamers taking extra accountability in addition to these taking much less. Nonetheless no reward of the Cats’ elite skills could be full with out mentioning simply how masterfully GWS saved them contained on Saturday afternoon. De Boer held Kelly to only 9 disposals, and Dangerfield and Selwood had been restricted to 17 and 19 touches every. It’s solely the second time in 50 video games for Geelong that Dangerfield has been held to lower than 20 disposals, and the primary time each he and Selwood have copped that in the identical match. In the meantime the Giants dominated possession whereas additionally out-tackling their opponents. Though they led for almost all of the match, shedding by solely 4 factors was if something flattering to the Cats. Every of those groups has a loss on their ledger and for the Cats and Giants that loss is to one of many different groups on this trio. In two weeks’ time the Cats will play the Eagles and have an opportunity to make it an ideal rock-paper-scissors state of affairs. Although there’s loads of footy nonetheless to return, it’s honest to say these three sides are our early front-runners. Past that… (Photograph by Michael Dodge/Getty Pictures) The competitors continues to be very even Because the ladder stands after 4 rounds, 13 of the AFL’s 18 groups – greater than two-thirds of the league – have gained not less than two of their 4 video games thus far this season. Over the previous few years I reckon it could be honest to say that two broad developments have made the competitors extra equal. Firstly, as increasingly more time has handed because the introduction of Gold Coast and GWS into the competitors, we’ve seen much less uncompetitive sides linger close to the underside of the ladder. Each of these groups had been understandably poor of their early years however their domination of drafts had a knock-on impact of additionally slowing the rise of sides who had been struggling on the time. There are nonetheless poor sides within the league, certain, however not many. On the similar time, the period of ‘superteams’ – like these fielded by Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney – appears to have handed us by, for now not less than. This, too, might arguably be thought of an impression of growth, which made it tougher for decrease groups to catch this trio by going to the draft, and made the super-sides extra prepared to spend first-round picks on huge trades. Nonetheless you resolve to elucidate it, there’s no doubting that the league is about as aggressive because it’s ever been, a paradigm which continues to ship outcomes each pleasant and surprising. In January I wrote (to a refrain of downward thumbs) that this could immediate the league to increase a ten-team finals collection. Disagree with me if you'll, however some good groups will miss out this 12 months. Even relating to the 5 groups not making that 2-2 benchmark, there are some fairly helpful sides. Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide are all groups that might simply flip it round from a 1-Three begin to make finals – certain, they don’t seem like it proper now, however we all know the expertise is there. (Photograph by Matt King/Getty Pictures) Bowes brilliance denies Blues The Gold Coast Suns have performed 4 consecutive video games of soccer determined by lower than a objective, and gained all however one in every of them. Is it good luck or is it psychological toughness? I’ve truthfully acquired no clue, however both approach it’s bloody exceptional. Sunday’s end may be one of many extra dramatic we’ll see all 12 months. After Peter Wright practically blew it by dropping a mark within the goalsquare early within the fourth quarter, Patrick Cripps put the Blues forward. Cripps was as Cripps at all times is on Sunday, completely all the pieces. He belted out 30 disposals and two targets for the Blues together with eight clearances, nevertheless it simply wasn’t sufficient. With simply seconds left on the clock it was Jack Bowes who discovered simply the barest period of time to get boot to ball and roll one over the Carlton defenders to dribble by a match-winner. Bowes, last-minute heroics apart, has had a remarkably spectacular begin to 2019. Turning into an actual breakout season for him. The 6-6-6 rule did Steven Hocking proud because the ball bounced with ten seconds left on the clock – the Blues gained the clearance and drove ahead, giving Marc Murphy the prospect to have a shot on the run earlier than a Gold Coast defender wrapped him up in a deal with that prevented him getting a shot off. Thrilling stuff! The top consequence? Gold Coast are in some way, miraculously, a Three-1 aspect. With an additional Spherical 1 objective they could possibly be the one Four-Zero aspect within the league – in fact, it wouldn’t take a lot unhealthy luck for them to be Zero-Four as an alternative. As for Carlton, properly, that is about as unhealthy as unhealthy will get. They're the one winless crew left within the comp and Adelaide are measuring up potential No.1 choose Noah Anderson’s guernsey measurement. (Photograph by Chris Hyde/Getty Pictures) Tom Lynch’s bag of six says it’s a giant 5 now The dialog through the lead as much as Richmond’s match towards Port Adelaide was how the Tigers would fare with out their ‘huge 4’ of Alex Rance, Jack Riewoldt, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin within the aspect. Tom Lynch clearly took offense to that, and in simply his third sport as a Tiger, booted six targets to remind us that the massive 4 discuss is outdated – it’s a giant 5 now. Lynch’s wonderful type has till this week gone virtually untalked about, drowned out by the Tigers’ turbulent begin to the season, however he’ll get due credit score now. His bag of six – which included the ultimate, victory-sealing objective of the sport – has put him into clear second place within the Coleman Medal race, only one behind Jeremy Cameron on 17. Arguably probably the most underrated facet of Lynch’s type thus far is his exceptional accuracy. He has kicked 16 targets for the season, however simply 5 behinds. General it was a win for the ages from Richmond who had each good cause to lose this match and but merely refused to take action. Other than the ‘huge 4’ they had been additionally lacking Bachar Houli, Jayden Quick and Shaun Grigg, a trio with high quality sufficient that their absence alone would often be troublesome to cowl. Some pundits put it ahead through the offseason that, having dealt a lot of depth gamers to different golf equipment on the finish of final 12 months, the Tigers could also be discovered wanting if accidents struck. That logic took a physique blow on Saturday – if something, the absence of these go-to depth gamers allowed the Tigers to go straight to choosing youthful skills who supplied the drive and optimistic power needed to grab a win. Jack Ross with 25 touches on debut is the plain instance right here however Liam Baker together with Sydney Stack and Connor Menadue all did their half. (Photograph by Dylan Burns/AFL Images/Getty Pictures) Don Pyke’s huge Bryce Gibbs name doesn’t pay dividends Don Pyke’s resolution to drop Bryce Gibbs from his aspect this week was simply the boldest choice name we’ve seen in 2019 thus far and may not be pushed off the rostrum earlier than 12 months’s finish. Gibbs had 27 disposals in Spherical Three which could make Pyke look a bit of daft at first, however a deeper dig lends weight to the choice. 11 of Gibbs’ Spherical Three disposals had been turnovers and he had just one rating involvement, suggesting that regardless of getting his fingers on the ball he significantly struggled for impression. Maybe most concerningly, he recorded solely 9 strain acts for the match – woefully under par for a midfielder, and seemingly not an outlier for Gibbs (who recorded 11 and eight within the first two rounds). If Pyke hoped that his huge name would encourage a carry in depth from those that did make the lower for his 22, it didn’t – North introduced the warmth, and solely their early inaccuracy delayed the Crows being conquered. Cam Ellis-Yolmen delivered the strain across the contest that Gibbs had been letting slip however the Crows had been nonetheless -12 within the clearances, -21 in inside 50s and a bit fortunate to solely wind up -12 on the scoreboard. After wanting within the preseason like they might get again to their 2017 type this 12 months, Adelaide’s opening 4 rounds haven’t been fairly to look at. Leaving apart Gibbs for a second, their ahead line nonetheless appears to be like like the best space of concern. Other than Eddie Betts’ three this week, their goalkickers are all struggling to, properly, kick targets. Gibbs is much from being the one out-of-form Crow and if he wasn’t ok over the primary three weeks to maintain his spot within the crew I think Adelaide followers will likely be completely satisfied to enterprise just a few extra names that aren’t fairly measuring up thus far both. (Photograph by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Pictures) Seventh heaven for Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti It’s unusual that taking the scalp of a aspect who gained solely 5 video games final 12 months has seemingly performed extra to persuade us that the Bombers may be again heading in the right direction than beating one in every of 2018’s preliminary finalists final week did. Nonetheless, whereas final week’s encounter was one the place we threw our fingers up and requested which aspect might presumably out-awful the opposite, over a brief three-week span of the time we’ve come to count on good footy from the Brisbane Lions and knew they might take some beating. The MCG isn’t a floor the Lions get to play on too typically they usually actually appeared to battle with it significantly early. The groups kicked six targets apiece within the second half – it was the uncompetitive begin to the sport which price them. Lachie Neale had one other 40 touches and never too many Brisbane gamers disgraced themselves however they only couldn’t hold to the tempo of the blitzkrieg Bombers who performed with precisely the type of depth and velocity they so desperately lacked within the opening rounds. Then in fact there was Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, who booted seven targets in a exceptional best-on-ground efficiency. After going goalless within the first two weeks he’s now kicked eleven prior to now fortnight. Is it that begin of huge issues for the Bombers? Watch this house. (Photograph by Dylan Burns/AFL Images/Getty Pictures) Gaff again, and to nice applause Andrew Gaff’s return to the soccer discipline was at all times going to be a narrative to look at in 2019 after he was suspended for eight matches, together with final 12 months’s premiership win, for placing Andrew Brayshaw. Whereas Gaff made his AFL return final week towards Collingwood, Spherical Four’s derby was the primary match he has performed in entrance of the Perth crowd because the corresponding fixture final season. A intelligent little bit of fixturing by the AFL? Maybe so, and possibly extra intelligent nonetheless to verify West Coast had been the house crowd on this derby, permitting Gaff to return to thunderous applause quite than a refrain of boos. Prior to now fortnight I’ve seen a lot of individuals specific concern on social media on the parade-like welcome Gaff has acquired as he returns to the sport. It's, in any case, not as if he’s been absent due to harm or another unlucky circumstance – he was banned for breaking an opponent’s jaw. How we react to that is affected by a large variety of elements and I think that delving deep into the advanced forces at play could be a sociologist’s dream. I gained’t try to take action right here and suffice to say that I actually give a thumbs all the way down to any incidences of appearing like Gaff is the sufferer on this story, as I think the person himself would additionally do. Actually there seems to be no unhealthy blood between Gaff and Brayshaw at this level, so right here’s hoping (considerably naively I think) that the respective fanbases can enable each gamers to maneuver on. It’s additionally price remembering that this was additionally the primary probability for West Coast followers to point out their appreciation for Gaff knocking again a big-money provide on the finish of final 12 months to re-sign with the membership. That if nothing else is honest cause for some applause. (Photograph by Paul Kane/Getty Pictures) Everyone will get a flip Adelaide Crows (1-Three) – Sam Jacobs lacking the previous two matches has given Reilly O’Brien an opportunity to point out his wares at AFL stage and whereas hardly dominant, I’d say he’s been a strong performer, and looms as their go-to choice when Jacobs hangs up the boots. Brisbane Lions (Three-1) – It was an in depth name, however Geelong’s loss early on Saturday gave Brisbane the title of final crew left undefeated in 2019, one thing they had been in a position to delight themselves on for a quick 25 minutes. Carlton Blues (Zero-Four) – Sam Walsh undoubtedly getting that Rising Star nomination this week. 28 touches and a objective in simply his fourth AFL sport. However is that sill sufficient to console Carlton followers? Collingwood Magpies (2-2) – Nobody will likely be shopping for the name-a-game of this one (not that you possibly can should you needed to), however to get the 4 factors after shedding Dayne Beams earlier than the bounce and Chris Mayne shortly after it isn't so unhealthy a consequence. Take the 4 factors and transfer on. Essendon Bombers (2-2) – Essendon’s Tom Bellchambers-Zac Clarke ruck duo had simply seven kicks and three tackles between them on Saturday. Didn’t price the Dons the sport, clearly, however you need to assume a ruckman with higher around-the-ground contribution could be helpful to this crew. Fremantle Dockers (2-2) – After final week discovering a technique to win regardless of shedding Nat Fyfe mid-match, this week I used to be impressed by the aggressive effort Fremantle put in regardless of their skipper being dominated out. Seemed prefer it could possibly be a ten-goal loss on paper. Geelong Cats (Three-1) – The comfort for the Cats is that regardless of being outplayed they nonetheless lead for the a lot of the match. Hawthorn and West Coast within the subsequent two weeks each wanting like promising contests. Gold Coast Suns (Three-1) – As spectacular because the Suns have been, it’s price noting that the AFL dealt them a pleasant hand taking part in 4 of 2018’s backside six sides to begin the 12 months. Issues are about to get a bit more durable – in the event that they hold including to the win tally, that’ll impress all of the extra. GWS Giants (Three-1) – Callan Ward’s ACL harm was devastating to look at and instantly prompted questions asking whether or not or not the Giants can win the flag this 12 months with out him. Absolutely the final the three years have taught us that the reply is sure. Get properly Callan. Hawthorn Hawks (2-2) – No Tom Mitchell (clearly), no Liam Shiels, and Jaeger O’Meara a late out… that’s mainly half the Hawks’ midfield. Disappointing however I’m giving them a move on this one. Melbourne Demons (1-Three) – Nathan Jones’ early type has drawn just a few raised eyebrows after showing to battle at instances in September final 12 months, however his three targets this week was a welcome contribution, and getting within the face of brother Zak gave us all a chuckle too. North Melbourne Kangaroos (1-Three) – Nice to get a win however… I miss Braydon Preuss. Hopefully these attempting to pin North’s poor begin to the season on Ben Brown for some cause collectively shut their traps. Port Adelaide Energy (2-2) – Port are fortunate that the principle narrative to return out of Saturday’s sport will likely be that of celebration for the Tigers quite than asking how on earth they didn't capitalise on such a golden alternative. Richmond Tigers (2-2) – Amidst all of the pats on the again that numerous Richmond gamers will rightfully obtain this week, it’d be a mistake to not point out stand-in captain Shane Edwards whose management was absolutely essential to the consequence. St Kilda Saints (Three-1) – What completely marvelous type Jack Billings has been in thus far this 12 months. Actually making good on his potential and a key cause why the Saints are Three-1 as an alternative of one thing a lot much less good wanting. Precedence re-signing. Sydney Swans (1-Three) – Though many will level out that Sydney discovered their approach into the finals after an Zero-6 begin simply two years in the past, honest to say 2019’s poor type feels totally different. In ’17 they had been clearly underperforming, this time round they might simply be not that good. West Coast Eagles (Three-1) – Josh Rotham impressed final week and although somebody needed to come out for Liam Duggan it did really feel like he was a bit of onerous performed by to be dropped. That being the case, nice to see him get a last-minute reprieve (albeit on the expense of Lewis Jetta) and put in one other robust displaying. Western Bulldogs (2-2) – After wanting so promising only a fortnight in the past, the Bulldogs’ tall trio was an actual fear on Friday evening. Josh Schache and Billy Gowers might have spent the entire sport watching from the stands and their impression wouldn’t have been any much less.