The A-Z of Round 21: Who made or broke their finals dreams?

Round 21 A-Z
The images that captured Round 21. Photos: Sydney Swans - Twitter, Optus Stadium - Twitter, Port Adelaide - Twitter

Pride, a Showdown and Lightning all featured in Round 21 which made and broke a lot of team’s finals chances, as the battle for the top eight begins to heat up.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through the defining highs, lows, and controversies surrounding Round 21 of the 2021 AFL Premiership season, complete from A-Z.

A is for A highlight in losing effort. In a game where Fremantle Dockers had very little to celebrate about, Caleb Serong was a standout. He finished the game with 30 disposals, along with seven marks, five clearances, five tackles, and 460 meters gained. A fine performance from the youngster.

B is for Bad luck, Brandon! Returning from a hamstring injury, Brandon Ellis started the game against Carlton strongly, with seven disposals and a goal in the first quarter. But unfortunately for Ellis, that’s where his day would come to an end, sustaining another hamstring injury in the second quarter, forcing him to be subbed out of the game. 

C is for Cats Casualties. When Patrick Dangerfield and Gary Rohan left the ground, they added to a concerning, growing injury list for Geelong. They join Mitch Duncan, Lachie Henderson, Jeremy Cameron, and Gryan Miers in the treatment room. When Luke Dahlhaus and Mark Blicavs momentarily hobbled, it made Friday night look like a costly loss for the Cats in more ways than one.

D is for Draw a line through it. A big, red line, with a thick marker. That’s what the Gold Coast Suns did to Carlton’s season in Round 21, a 19-point win ending Carlton’s faint but lingering finals hopes. It was a crushing performance for Blues fans, after the Blues’ strong win over St. Kilda in round 20 – and the Suns’ 98-point loss to Melbourne – looked promising heading into the game for the home side. With the loss to the Suns, a line can be drawn through Carlton’s season, with little else to salvage from the remaining two games of 2021.

E is for Eager young Pies, up for the fight. Despite a rollercoaster few weeks that has seen a huge 45-point win against West Coast and most recently a 19-point loss to Hawthorn, the Magpies can have confidence in their future. John Noble and Isaac Quaynor are beginning to present some consistent form down back. Finlay Macrae racked up 20 disposals and goal and Oliver Henry is showing early signs of what is expected from a number 20 draft pick. This young core’s recent form can give Pies fans hope that 2022 will be their chance to rise up the ladder. 

F is for Fremantle pressured into defeat. Though the stats were somewhat even across the board, one statline the Fremantle Dockers lost made all the difference in their Round 21 loss to the Lions. In the modern game where pressure is key, the Dockers lost the tackle count 66 to 34, in addition to losing the tackle count inside 50 22 to 6. 

G is for Get the stretcher. The troops kept on falling for Adelaide on Saturday night. Brodie Smith came off the ground late in the third quarter with blood trickling from his head after a heavy collision with Port ruckman Scott Lycett. He was quickly substituted out of the game before the final term. Not long after, youngsters Will Hamill and Nick Murray collided. Hamill had to be stretchered off the ground.

H is for Hitout high for Don Draper. Essendon’s number one ruckman Sam Draper hasn’t missed a beat this year, forced to take the mantle as the team’s main big man as far back as Round 9 2020. Suffering a syndesmosis injury earlier in the year, since returning in Round 14, the now 18-gamer Draper has been the Don’s first-choice and today he enjoyed a career-high 39 hit-outs against Bulldog Tim English. It beat his previous best of 34 hit outs from six weeks ago against Geelong. 

I is for Ice cold ‘Gin’. After a sensational underdog victory against West Coast in Round 20, Pies fans are yet again in an emotional dip after a 19-point loss to a fledgling Hawks side in Round 21. Despite this, there were some positive takeaways. Mainly 18-year old Jack “Tonic” Ginnivan impressed with three goals. Ginnivan has given the Pies forward line a timely lift, teaming up with the now seasoned small forward, Jamie Elliott, the duo combined for five goals. 

J is for Jack’s on Target. The last time the Saints came up against the Swans, St Kilda recruit Jack Higgins kicked one goal six, which included a missed shot on goal that would have put the saints in front but this time around he didn’t make the same mistakes. Higgins kicked two goals in the first quarter and finished the match with a career-high four goals. 

K is for Kolodjashnij finally gets his goal. Jake Kolodjashnij kicked the first goal of Friday night’s game between Geelong and GWS, and after 126 games he finally had his first in the AFL. Only five players in the history of the game have waited longer to register their first major. The whole team got around him to celebrate his milestone, and the always-demonstrative head coach Chris Scott punched the air to celebrate one of the few highlights of the Cats’ evening.

L is for Late in and Looking Good. Thomson Dow was a late substitute for Kamdyn McIntosh before Richmond’s match against North Melbourne and grabbed his unexpected opportunity with both hands. Dow had 22 touches, four marks, and two clearances, and also kicked two behinds. His performance, given his late inclusion, should fill him with a world of confidence going into the future, and Richmond may have a selection headache for next week.

M is for Magnificent Miller. It’s almost disappointing that Touk Miller is ineligible for the Brownlow Medal through suspension because he’d be right in the centre of discussion at this point in the season. Against Carlton on Saturday afternoon, Miller added a 34-disposal, two-goal game to his already brilliant season, which has seen him gather 30 disposals or more in all bar four games – and 27 or more in all bar two. Remarkably, it was also his fourteenth consecutive game gathering 30 or more disposals, leading the Suns with infallible consistency in what’s been a season of ups and downs. 

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N is for Never fear, Aliir Aliir. In his first year in teal, ever-reliable defender Aliir Aliir earned his first Showdown Medal as the best player on the ground. He finished the game with 21 disposals, 11 marks (five contested), 16 intercept possessions, and six rebound 50s. A defensive rock aerially, Aliir was a major contributor to weathering Adelaide’s 48 inside 50s.

O is for Opening term blitz. After being criticised for being slow starters in recent weeks, the Lions got off to a hot start in Round 21. Away from home, the Lions kicked six goals in the opening quarter to lead by 27 points at the first quarter time. Their equal highest first-quarter score of the season would help set up a 64-point victory.

P is for Pride Game. Saturday night’s match between St Kilda and Sydney was the sixth consecutive pride match, celebrating that anybody is welcome into the Football Community. The game went to another level this year with both sides having pride jumpers and umpires wearing rainbow wristbands. 

Q is for Quick out of the blocks in game 150. Western Bulldogs forward Josh Bruce celebrated AFL game 150 in Round 21, the three-club player a commanding presence in the first quarter. The former Giant and Saint snagged two goals in the opening term, including the first of the game to contribute to a 13-point Dogs lead after 20 minutes. Unfortunately for the milestone man, on the stroke of full-time, he went down with a suspected ACL, devastating the Bulldogs camp on the eve of finals.

R is for Rioli’s First Run. A son of a gun made his debut for Richmond against North Melbourne – the same opponent his Dad debuted against back in 1982, in Round 21. Maurice Rioli Jr provided an early highlight with a brilliant run-down tackle on Jack Mahony, and then followed it up with his first goal in the third term. Rioli Jr may not have had the biggest game on the stat sheet, but his presence alone, and the way he grew into the match should have Tiger fans excited for the future.

S is for Showdown to the wire. It was a contested, aggressive and tense Showdown 50 to remember on Saturday night. After only kicking a single goal to halftime, Port Adelaide stormed home to keep the Showdown ledger in its favour 26-24. It was a night both teams might like to forget, Port for its shocking accuracy and the Crows for letting a major upset – which would have squared the ledger – slip.

T is for Technically, not a fend-off. The broadcasters called it a “fend-off,” the umpire called it “high contact,” but Patrick Dangerfield would have called it as it felt: an elbow to the throat from Toby Greene. Because that’s what it was. A traditional fend-off (or ‘don’t argue’) is done with an open palm. After the incident, the Giants kicked the next five goals. Dangerfield was on his way to hospital while Greene was on his way to kicking four. It was a moment that swung the match. Greene was ultimately suspended for two matches for the incident.

U is for Unorthodox science experiment. West Coast Fans have been crying out for Adam Simpson to experiment with the team and game plan for weeks, and it’s safe to say his latest, most insane trial worked. Imagine a lifeless body made of mismatched parts laying quiet and unmoving on the ground at Optus Stadium – that’s the West Coast Eagles playing 22. Then along came the lightning and much like Frankenstein’s monster, life was breathed into them, kicking 4.2 to Melbourne’s three behinds. Had Oscar Allen and Jack Darling converted, the result may have changed entirely. 

V is for Vs a childhood hero. Luke Jackson came up against Nic Naitanui, his childhood idol in his hometown for the first time in Round 21. One of these moments was in the third quarter as they contested a boundary throw-in, which the young ruck won and hit the ball out to advantage. This led to the James Harmes goal, which broke the floodgates and got Melbourne’s ball rolling. Jackson has come along in leaps and bounds this season, with many considering him a frontrunner for Rising Star, tonight’s match was no exception, with 21 touches, six marks, and six hit-outs to show.

W is for Wright time to step up. If Essendon wanted to mount a strong finish to 2021 and gain a few more wins to lock in a finals spot, then someone needed to perform out of their skins and rally the team with belief. First-year Don Peter Wright was that man. After not recording a touch in the first 20 minutes, Wright became troubling for the Dogs defence, especially Zaine Cordy, kicking a career-high seven straight goals in a dominant display that included seven marks (three contested) as he got airborne and crashed packs, as well as needing to attend stoppages in the ruck.

X is for X-Factor coach. Another win added more salt to the wound that is the dramatic departure of Alastair Clarkson. The all-time great has yet again proven that he still has plenty of first-class coaching ahead of him. Clarkson galvanised his players last week to overcome Brisbane down in Launceston, and has now led a 19 point victory against Collingwood. It was an all-around performance from a pumped-up Hawks side. There were the likely ball-winners such as Tom Mitchell with 44 disposals, but the smaller names including Blake Hardwick and Lachie Bramble looked inspired to give Clarko the send-off he deserves. 

Y is for Yet another missed opportunity. The Swans’ loss against St Kilda all but shatters their chances of securing the all-important double chance. With Port Adelaide winning its match against Adelaide, it leaves Sydney two games outside of the top four, with two games to go.

Z is for Zur-Star’s return. North Melbourne may have faded in the second half, but a successful return for Cameron Zurhaar would have pleased the Shinboner faithful. Zurhaar finished with four goals from his four marks and was the top scorer for the Roos for the match. It was a welcome return and a good sign that he can continue to finish the year on a high note, much like North itself.

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