The A-Z of round 12: The Sir Doug Nicholls Round celebrations continue

Bye Round
The photos that captured round 12 (Source: @Melbournefc/Twitter @OptusStadium/Twitter @WestCoastEagles/Twitter)

As Sir Doug Nicholls round celebrations continued across the country in round 12, as the Dreamtime match was moved across the country, our indigenous stars soared and COVID continued to throw a spanner in the works.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through the A-Z of round 12 – the defining highs, lows, and controversies surrounding round 12 of the 2021 AFL Premiership season.

A is for All too familiar: Another week, another all too familiar performance for Carlton against a top 8 side. Coming this week against an undermanned West Coast Eagles side, it was an all too familiar tale for Blues fans to watch. Not getting blown away, but not getting near enough again to show any signs of improvement this season.

The Blues’ are now 0-7 against the top 8 teams this year. At 4-8, unless something drastic happens, Carlton’s finals chances are all but over.

B is for Beware the Sherrin: After Collingwood was granted a travel exemption, South Australian Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier gave some questionable but well-meaning advice to fans attending Saturday’s match. She advised them to “duck and do not touch [the] ball” if it comes into the crowd, which some fans ignored, but others followed. 

C is for Curse over. For 22 years, the West Coast has failed to win a single game at the SCG, but their round 12 victory over Carlton broke that streak. The Eagles took the field with eight of their best 22 out and lost Brad Sheppard. Throughout the day players, both young and old stood up and delivered a gutsy performance to secure a 22 point victory on the road despite the odds stacked against them.

D is for Dirty Pies 2.0: Twice the Pies have been labelled a “Dirty Team” from other state’s jurisdictions, twice the Pies have gone on to defy all the pre-game obstacles thrown their way to record memorable victories.

E is for Elliott’s electrifying return. He is one of the competition’s brightest players and it’s a great shame that injuries have continued to hamper his career. Jamie Elliott returned to the Collingwood side for the first time since Round 2 and did so with a bang. Kicking four first-quarter goals on the way to six for the match. 

F is for Flyin’ Ryan. Liam Ryan spread his wings in the third quarter and soared over Liam Stocker to take yet another hanger. The spectacular grab was one of his nine marks for the day, also booting four goals, had 17 touches, and eight score involvements.

G is for Going coast to coast. Tim Membrey played an important role for the Saints as he was used in both 50m arcs. Like a yoyo, the tall player went up and down the ground, leaving whichever end he was not covering vulnerable. The swingman took eight crucial marks, four of which were intercept marks, and kicked two goals when up forward. 

H is for Head knocks galore. Both Carlton and West Coast were a man down early after gun players were subbed off with concussion in their first quarter. For the visitors, All Australian defender Brad Sheppard came off second best after clashing head with Adam Saad, while Carlton’s gun key forward Harry McKay’s head hit the turf after a marking contest against Harry Edwards. Joining McKay in the third quarter was Nic Newman after awkwardly landing on his head in a marking contest.

More AFL News:

Clipped Wings: what has plagued the West Coast Eagles in 2021?

‘I do it for our people’: Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls reflects on Dreamtime debut, fifteen years on

The Inner Sanctum’s mid-season All Australian team

I is for Injury Carnage at Freo. When the momentum looked like it was going Fremantle’s way, injury struck all at once. By the time the game came to a close, the Dockers were left with no fit players on the bench. Griffin Louge was subbed out with a concussion in the third quarter, while skipper Nat Fyfe went down with a shoulder injury and Brennan Cox went down with a knee injury, all within minutes of each other at the final term. The consequences of round 12’s carnage will raise huge questions for the Dockers, as they already have an extensive injury list.

J is for Joel Amartey. Could this be another Kinnear Beatson rookie special? The Swans youngster Amartey returned to the side after a 2020 debut and showed plenty of strong signs in game two. As the second ruck supporting Tom Hickey, Amartey had 14 disposals (nine contested) six marks (three contested) and registered nine hit-outs to go with Hickey’s 16. 

K is for Kozzy: Not since Cyril Rioli have we seen a player have 9 possessions and still be in one of the best handful of players on the ground. The things that Kysaiah Pickett is doing this season continue to amaze us all and was scintillating in the second half against Brisbane on Friday night. 3.3 on the night, he is morphing into something very special.

L is for Liam Henry launches one. The young Fremantle forward kicked a beautiful goal in the first quarter after outrunning Caleb Daniel and picking up the ball which he soccered along the ground before he snapped it around the body. It was a silky smooth piece of play, and one of the best goals of round 12.

M is for Misfiring Higgins: Poor Jack Higgins. The young Saint did just about everything on the day for St Kilda, winning heaps of the ball and keeping the Saints in the contest for most of the day. Higgins collected 23 disposals and took 9 marks. Unfortunately, he just didn’t bring his kicking boots, kicking 1.6 on the day including two very gettable chances late in the game to give St Kilda the lead.

N is for Neale’s back. Lachie Neale graced the field after spending five weeks on the sideline following ankle surgery. In his return, the Brownlow Medalist gathered 25 disposals, 14 contested possessions, and 9 clearances and was one of Brisbane’s better performers in the final quarter as their lead slipped away. 

O is for Oh My Bont. Marcus Bontempelli set the tone for his game after launching two goals from outside 50 in the first quarter. From there, he went on to dominate the game despite receiving attention from Caleb Serong for a short period. In the end, he amassed 27 disposals, five tackles, 12 score involvements, and seven clearances as the Bulldogs dominated the Dockers. 

P is for Parish. This season, we’ve seen this bomber fly up, up, as Darcy Parish has reached new heights with every passing week. In Essendon’s round 12, 39 point loss, the 23-year-old took charge as Andrew McGrath was subbed out, leaving the midfield a man down. For the fifth consecutive game, he gathered over 35 disposals, registering a club record-breaking 44 touches. To complement, he also had five tackles, 11 clearances, 16 contested possessions, and gained 737 metres. 

Experts awarded Darcy Parish the Yiooken Award which will find a home next to his ANZAC Medal earned earlier this year. 

Q is for Questionable 50 metre penalties. Umpiring rarely escapes scrutiny, and the jungle drums were beating with controversial 50 metre penalties handed out at crucial periods of the last quarter of the round 12 Sydney/St Kilda match. Max King and Nick Coffield directly benefited from the 50s, the first of which directly led to a St Kilda goal. Having such divisive decisions dealt severe penalties would have dominated discussion further if the Saints had gotten over the line, and they will no doubt continue to garner discussion throughout the week. 

R is for Richmond’s ruck dilemma. Mabior Chol had a superb game as the number one ruck position in Toby Nankervis’ absence, however, with his return on the horizon, Dimma has a massive dilemma on hand. He looked settled and confident against Essendon and will be hard to leave out one of the playing 22 when he performs like that. On Saturday, he played a career-best game, winning 19 hit outs, gathering 19 disposals, six inside 50s, and 10 contested possessions. Upon Nankervis’ return could they share the ruck duty? 

S is for Shai’s Sensational Snaps. After an Essendon surge that saw the Bombers kick four unanswered goals to take the lead early in the final term, Shai Bolton took control of the game and would prove to be the difference. With the result in the balance, the 22-year-old Noongar man almost floated above his home Country, leaving would-be tacklers in his wake on two occasions to kick telling goals for his side. None of which was more impressive than his third for the match, in which he glided past Essendon leaders Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish with incredible balance and composure. 

T is for a Tale of two halves. At halftime, the Brisbane Lions had a 20 point lead and many thought their winning momentum would continue in the second half. However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Melbourne this year, it’s not to doubt them. In the second half, 42 point turnaround, Melbourne outscored Brisbane 9.9.63 to 3.3.21, won contested possessions by 16, clearances by 10, and inside 50s by 17.

U is for Unselfish Buddy: With the game in the balance and St Kilda mounting a final charge late in the final quarter, Lance Franklin won the ball and had the opportunity to run in a vintage goal and add another one on the quest to 1000 goals. Instead, he looked for a teammate in the better position and hit up James Rowbottom at the top of the goal square to ice the game for the home side.

V is for Veteran Bulldogs. No need to show some of the old dogs new tricks when they keep putting on great performances. Lachie Hunter was prolific racking up 27 disposals and getting the dogs on the board early.  While Tom Liberatore played a crucial role in stopping a late Fremantle surge kicking two goals at a crucial point in the third quarter.  Liberatore finished the game with 20 disposals but was faced with the task of fighting off a tag from Fremantle’s young gun Adam Cerra. While Alex Keath once again was a rock down in defence playing a crucial role in getting the ball out of the dogs defensive 50.

W is for Walker’s range goes wild. Taylor Walker’s career renaissance has been one of the best things in the first half of the  2021 season. But he endured a forgettable day in front of goal against Collingwood, with four straight behinds in the second quarter. Walker was one of the Crows best again, with 22 touches and six marks, but 2.6 suggests goalkicking practice is in order this week. 

X is for Xavier, Luke, Luke, Harry, and Bailey. With five players with under 10 games under their belt named in the round 12 playing 22, many people wrote the Eagles off due to a lack of experience. However, these so-called “WAFL Eagles” stood up and showed they belonged at AFL level, playing their roles well. 

On debut Luke Edwards, looked composed and read play well, Luke Foley kicked his first goal and was strong down back with fellow defender Harry Edwards who hit each contest hard as did Xavier O’Neill, and Bailey Williams continues to develop his ruck craft.

Y is for Yokayi! It’s fitting a word of Noongar origin is used to discuss the Sir Doug Nicholls round celebrations in WA. Yokayi, meaning ‘shout of victory’ perfectly summarises Saturday night. It was a victory for the Indigenous community as their culture was on display, the WA football community as they sold out, and embraced a spectacular event, and a victory for the AFL to get the Dreamtime match underway in light of events in Victoria. 

The Long Walk opened the day as thousands of fans walked from the WACA, across the Matagarup Bridge to Nicky Winmar statue at Optus Stadium before pregame proceedings began. Local Indigenous musicians, traditional dancers, and greetings from the Whadjuk Noongar elders opened the game before Essendon and Richmond battled it out by the Swan River. Among the best on ground was Richmond’s Shai Bolton, a proud Noongar man.


Z is for Zorko’s brain snap: The Lions skipper is having another fantastic season but had a little brain snap in the 3rd quarter when he struck Tom McDonald off the ball. McDonald bounced straight up but Zorko was reported on the spot and handed a 1 game suspension by the MRO.

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