With all still to play for this season, some made their moves up the ladder, while others fumbled golden opportunities.
The Inner Sanctum takes you through Round 18, complete from A-Z. The defining highs, lows, and controversies surrounding Round 18 of the 2022 AFL Premiership season.
A is For A Rolls Royce: Scott Pendlebury played his 350th career game on Saturday afternoon and didn’t disappoint. Pendlebury notched up 29 disposals, highlighted by a goal and 12 tackles. It was all topped off as the Magpies won by five points, after trailing for most of the match.
B is For Bragging rights: It was a battle of the brothers when Sam and Tom De Koning took to the field for their respective teams. Whilst Tom had 14 disposals and a goal, Sam kept reigning Coleman medalist Harry McKay goalless, as the Cats got the win against the Blues.
C is For Curnow and Cameron’s chase for the Coleman: With only a few goals separating Charlie Curnow and Jeremy Cameron at the top, the race for the Coleman is heating up. Both kicked three goals each, with Curnow maintaining his lead with 53 goals for the season to date.
D is For Dockers leave the door ajar: Fremantle succumbed to its third home loss of the season on Saturday night and in doing so, left the race for the top four wide open. A 17-point defeat at the hands of the Swans means that the Dockers now find themselves positioned in fourth spot on the ladder, only by percentage. Fixtures against Richmond, Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs, and West Coast across the next month will be decisive as to where Justin Longmuir’s side finishes up at the conclusion of the home-and-away season.
E is For Extra intensity: The Crows, despite being underdogs, brought the heat against the Magpies. The Crows had more centre clearances (14-9) and contested possessions (159-149), making it difficult for the Magpies out of the middle. The pressure helped Adelaide lead for the majority of the game until Collingwood made a gracious comeback.
F is For Familiar foe: Dogs star forward Josh Bruce returned this week from an ACL injury to face his former side the Saints. After 342 days, Bruce was understandably rusty with just three kicks, three tackles and a mark. However, it was more about the comeback than his output, with his team winning comprehensively anyway.
G is For Goal of the year (for theatrics): With Essendon unable to land the knockout blow, ruckman Sam Draper took it upon himself to get the job done almost singlehandedly, first winning the tap, then running through, getting the receive and darting around to land the final blow in the Dons win over the Suns.
H is For Held goalless: It has been a difficult year for the young West Coast Eagles side, but one of the experienced members of their embattled defence has enhanced his reputation and continued to do so against Hawthorn. Not only did Tom Barrass hold Hawthorn spearhead Mitchell Lewis goalless, but he accumulated 30 possessions of his own, including 24 kicks, to be easily West Coast’s best. These possession statistics, along with his haul of 18 marks, were career-best figures for the reliable defender.
I is For Inaccuracy cuts deep: 11 goals and 22 behinds. Two goals and six behinds from your key forward. It is not pretty reading if you are a Tigers supporter. Richmond butchered its chances against the dead-last North Melbourne and it seemed to be contagious with youngster Noah Cumberland kicking three goals and four behinds as well, in what was a very promising yet wayward second game. Richmond now sits eighth with a nervous five rounds left before finals.
J is Joy of six: Luke Breust has a set of career highlights that would be the envy of many a footballer. Since he started his AFL journey in 2011 he has collected three premiership medals, two All-Australian blazers and three club-leading goalkicker awards. This week against the West Coast Eagles, Breust played a lone hand early in the Hawthorn forward line, being its sole winner up front in the first term. He did not rest on his laurels, finishing with an equal personal best of six goals on the day and moving into equal seventh on the all-time Hawthorn goal kicking list, level with John Peck on 475. A fine career indeed, and it ain’t over yet.
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K is For Keepings off: Trailing by 14 points at quarter time, Sydney needed to make some adjustments in order to get itself back into the contest. A coaching masterclass followed, with the Swans reverting to a chip-mark style of game that denied the Dockers possession of the footy. John Longmire’s side finished the night with plus 21 uncontested possessions and 59 more marks than Fremantle, using precise foot skills and patient ball movement to run away with a crucial victory on the road.
L is For Life without Clarry: The loss of Clayton Oliver wouldn’t have been helpful in Melbourne’s preparations last week. However, it would come as no surprise that, in hindsight, the Demons’ premiership midfield did not struggle to adapt to life without him. Christian Petracca, Jack Viney, and Ed Langdon were all standouts in the middle, while James Jordon and Tom Sparrow also had solid performances. With ‘Clarry’ likely to return next week, Melbourne’s midfield unit will surely be primed for the run into finals.
M is For Marra means business: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was at his best on the Friday night stage, kicking a bag of three goals from only six disposals. Without Josh Schache and Aaron Naughton, he was the man up forward, bringing the Dogs fans all the highlights.
N is For Nuclear Newcombe: Just over a year ago Jai Newcombe still considered AFL football a dream. Fast forward to July 2022 and he is one of the favourites to win the Peter Crimmins Medal for Hawthorn’s Best and Fairest. On Sunday, he registered another 28 possession performance, which is certain to register more points towards the cause. He has rarely played a poor game in a season marked for its consistency.
O is For Oh my, the Beast is back: He has had to bide his time, but Rhys Matheson finally was given his chance, and boy did he take it. He was instrumental in the middle of the ground in the absence of key players, laying six tackles and collecting 23 disposals, to the delight of his coach.
P is for Put pen to paper NOW: Alongside the race for a new coach’s signature, North Melbourne will be desperate to re-sign out-of-contract mercurial forward Cameron Zurhaar. ‘The Bull’ was at his best against Richmond with six goals, including the match winner and plenty of hard hits and pressure acts he has become known for. By halftime, he had five disposals for five goals and made premier defender Dylan Grimes look silly on numerous occasions. Zurhaar is a clear barometer for the Roos and they will be hoping he remains a key cog in the forward line alongside Nick Larkey and Paul Curtis for years to come.
Q is For Qantas can’t lose this (McC)Luggage!: In a must-win for the Lions and with several key midfielders missing, it was Hugh McCluggage who stepped up against the Giants. The normally inaccurate McCluggage kicked four goals, to go along with a game-high 29 disposals and eight marks. Qantas may be having issues of late with lost luggage, but there’s no missing this performance!
R is For Rising Star: Collingwood’s Nick Daicos may have one hand on the Rising Star Award after having a day out against Adelaide. Daicos collected 40 disposals at 83 per cent efficiency and kicked three goals as the Magpies held on in a thriller at the Adelaide Oval.
S is For Saints play sinful footy: The Saints were in deplorable form against the rampaging Bulldogs on Friday night. Getting off to a poor start, they were goalless (kicked two points) at the quarter-time break to the 32 points kicked by the Dogs. They were down by six goals at half-time, with a burst in the final quarter lessening the damage to 28 points. Missing gettable scoring shots, getting dominated in clearances (centre and stoppage) as well as their low tackle count were the reasons for the poor performance.
T is For Taylor made defender: If it wasn’t for Sam Taylor’s efforts, the result for the Giants may have been much worse. Taylor had a staggering 12 intercept possessions in the first half, keeping his side in the game, and ended up with 15 intercept possessions for the game. His form this season has been exceptional in what has been an up-and-down year for the Giants.
U is For Under pressure: With an opportunity to catch up to the pack, a loss has unfortunately kept the Power a win behind, with five games to go in the season. Outings against Geelong, Richmond, and Collingwood in the next three weeks will be crucial games in keeping its finals hopes alive. If the Power wants to sneak their way in, they need to get something out of those games, especially their meeting with the Tigers, given they sit in eighth position just one win ahead of them.
V is For Victory is the best medicine: You just had to watch the pure elation on the faces of the players, fans, coaches and alike on Saturday at Marvel Stadium to know that victory is a great tonic for a struggling footy club. Following the departure of senior coach David Noble this week, the Roos broke a 14-game losing streak in what was a thrilling contest. North Melbourne hung on thanks to a sublime set play between Todd Goldstein and six-goal hero Cam Zurhaar, breaking Richmond’s heart for the second week running.
W is For Warner dominates in the West: Hailing from Western Australia, emerging Swans midfielder Chad Warner enjoyed a brilliant return to his home state against the Dockers. The 21-year-old gathered a match-high 35 disposals, along with seven clearances, 11 score involvements, and a goal to boot. Warner hurt the Dockers on both the inside and outside and is fast becoming a vital cog in the Swans’ premiership pursuit.
X is For X-Factor: It was an outstanding performance from Kozzy Pickett in Alice Springs on Sunday afternoon, but is there any reason we should be surprised about it? With a career-high six goals, Pickett was vital to the team’s victory. His showing gave them some much-needed momentum, particularly in the latter stages of the game, and it was easily one of the best of his career so far.
Y is For Yeah Nah, not quite there yet: Carlton has made a radical rise to become a finals contender, but they were well off the pace against the current benchmark in Geelong. Despite a game-high 33 touches from Sam Walsh, the Blues were held to their lowest score of the year so far against the Cats.
Z Is For Zero room to move: Having made massive in-roads in 2022, Gold Coast will be disappointed with its performance against Essendon, well beaten under the Marvel roof. It’s not over yet for the Suns’ maiden finals appearance, but they’re firmly in the mathematical territory now.
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