04/03/2024

The AFL has taken action on players drawing high contact. (Image: AFL)

Five weeks remain in the 2022 AFL season, and there is still so much to play for. Teams dropping games means several others are still in the hunt for finals.

It’s been a week full of discussion surrounding several facets ahead of Round 19 as a number of teams are still vying for their place in September.

These are the five things to look out for this week.

Head-high rule clarification

This week the AFL cracked down on players drawing high contact free kicks following a jump in the number of players raising their shoulders or ducking into tackles.

From now, if the umpire deems that the player in possession of the ball initiates the high contact, its play on. The new interpretation has the potential to be beneficial for the game as it allows for it be more free flowing.

The AFL’s Head of Umpiring, Dan Richardson spoke to the media earlier this week regarding the rule change.

“This is something we prefer not to see in our game at any level,” Richardson said

“We want to be clear, if the umpire believes the ball carrier is responsible for the high contact, then they won’t be rewarded.”

Collingwood’s Jack Ginnivan has been at the centre of the drawing free kicks issue. (Image: AFL)

There is no doubt that it will cause speculation in the weeks to come about different umpires’ interpretation of whether a player drew the free kick or not, and whether or not it is applied consistently.

Season defining game for the underperforming Tigers

Last week saw a shock to the footy world, when bottom placed North Melbourne upset Richmond by four points for just its second win of the season. Still fighting for a finals spot, this has sent alarm bells ringing right around Punt Road.

This week the Tigers face the Dockers, who also put up a disappointing performance against the Swans in Perth. The question is, how does Richmond respond after last week’s humiliation?

Friday night’s contest looms as incredibly. pivotal for the Tigers. While they are currently in the top eight, they are only one win ahead of the 12th placed Suns and with five rounds remaining, anything could happen.

While it is less cruicial for the Dockers, it is still an important game for them to win. With results going against them, they could fall as low as seventh, with the remaining place in the top four right up for grabs.

This isn’t a ‘do or die’ game as such for Richmond but a loss this week will certainly place it under more pressure to reclaim eighth position come finals time.

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Biggest QClash to date

Brisbane and Gold Coast have never had a clash with as much anticipation as this one.

Both sides are still in top four and top eight contention respectively at this point of the season, making QClash 23 more important and probably the best we’ve seen yet.

In addition to the significance of Saturday night’s fixture, the Suns finally get to see highly touted prospect Elijah Hollands in action. Hollands was taken at pick 7 in the 2020 national draft and missed his 2021 season due to in ACL injury

This season he has had to do it the hard way, playing 14 games in the VFL side averaging 22 disposals, five marks and just under a goal per game, earning his place in the senior side.

Elijah Hollands finally gets his opportunity. (Image: Gold Coast Suns)

If the Suns can upset their rivals, they are every chance to claim the last position in the top eight. However, the Lions have won the last seven match-ups between the sides by an average margin of almost nine goals.

It will take some performance from the Suns.

Can the Bulldogs turn up in the Grand Final replay?

Of the two sides that faced off in last year’s Grand Final, one has continued their success while the other is only an outside chance to play in September.

Even though the Western Bulldogs are only percentage outside from eighth position, they have a difficult three weeks ahead of them facing Melbourne this week, followed by Geelong and Fremantle.

The Bulldogs will welcome back Aaron Naughton after missing a week due to the AFL’s Health and Safety Protocols. Naughton returning means that the Bulldogs finally have their three key forwards all in action together with Naughton joining Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Josh Bruce up forward

As for the Demons, Clayton Oliver makes his return after only a week on the sidelines following surgery on his thumb. He reunites with Jack Viney and Christian Petracca in what is arguably the game’s best midfield.

Can Marcus Bontempelli be the spark the Dogs need? (Image: Western Bulldogs)

Arch enemies, meeting at the perfect time

Collingwood and Essendon have a rich history dating back to the beginning of the sport itself and the matchup rarely dissapoints. Sunday is expected to be no exception.

Collingwood enters this contest looking for its ninth consecutive win to further assert its top four credentials. Meanwhile, Essendon has found some end of season form, seeking its fourth victory in as many weeks.

Can Jack Ginnivan dominate against the Bombers again? (Image: Collingwood FC)

Collingwood has made a name for itself this season with tense, narrow wins, just about doing enough each week to get the four points. In matches decided by 12 points or less, Collingwood has seven wins and just one loss. Of those seven wins, six have been in the last two months.

On the other hand, Essendon has just rallied a really strong performance against finals contender Gold Coast in an eight goal smashing. Prior to that, it posted positive wins against Sydney and Brisbane who are pushing for top four. These are remarkable wins for a bottom four side.

Essendon is all of a sudden proving to be a team that will shape the eight even without being amongst it itself.

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