30/11/2023
The A-Z of Round 21

There were stars, old and new on display this round. (Pictures: @sydneyswans; @WestCoastEagles; @CollingwoodFC)

Round 21 eliminated two more teams from the finals race, and finals remain no certainty for a few others, while a champion turned back the clock.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through Round 21, complete from A-Z. The defining highs, lows, and controversies surrounding Round 21 of the 2022 AFL Premiership season.

A is For A human highlight reel: Richmond’s Shai Bolton was full of tricks in the encounter against Port Adelaide. From his slick feet to taking a ‘specky’, Bolton stacked the highlight reel. He booted four goals and it could have been a hell of a lot more, kicking five behinds. 

B is For BZT the big improver: One of Essendon’s best over its late-season form revival, Brandon Zerk-Thatcher put up another strong performance in a losing effort against GWS. Zerk-Thatcher had 16 kicks and took nine marks in defence, one of a few Dons that could hold their head up high with their game.

C is For Can’t stop, won’t stop: Forget the stats, Collingwood just needs to believe. 11 wins in a row, second on the ladder. The Pies are the real deal, and after knocking off the Demons for the second time in 2022, look out.

D is For Dreamkillers: The Gold Coast needed to win its last three games to keep any slight hopes of a maiden finals berth alive. The defeat to Hawthorn in Launceston ended that dream, yet 2022 has seen major strides forward for Gold Coast. The Suns have won nine matches, been right in several more at the finish and might be a good bet for September action in 2023.

E is For Eat him alive: A key to the Lions’ victory over the Blues was the performance of ruckman Oscar McInerney. 19 disposals and 37 hit outs don’t truly reflect how dominant the big man was over his younger opponent Tom De Koning. The likes of Lachie Neale and Hugh Mcluggage fed off the silver service given in the middle.

F is For Finals bound: The Tigers stormed home to comfortably defeat the Power by 38 points on Saturday night. The four points move Richmond back into the top eight, only two points ahead of the Saints in ninth place. With only two games remaining against Hawthorn and Essendon, Richmond could make a strong case for an appearance in September.

G is For Giant haul: Jesse Hogan was key in the Giants’ win over Bombers with some of his best figures of the year so far. Hogan took 12 marks from 17 disposals and kicked an equal season-high four goals in the win.

H is For Hungry hungry Hollands: Elijah Hollands was drafted at the end of the 2020 season by the Gold Coast Suns, but an ACL injury has delayed his debut until Round 19, 2022. Straight away he showed why the Suns were so keen to get him to Carrara. Hollands registered 18 kicks, five handballs, and two goals to continue his development and show that he can be an integral part of the Suns’ push up the ladder.

I is For Is it becoming a pattern?: Two weeks in a row the Brisbane Lions have struggled to sustain big leads as they watch them slowly whittle away. Against Richmond last week, it cost them the game where this week it managed to escape against Carlton. It is something that Chris Fagan and his men need to arrest before September if they are to challenge the cream of the crop.

J is For Jack in the box: Jack Higgins provided some late theatrics in the Saints’ 45-point loss to the Cats. The small forward perfectly placed himself front and centre, before snapping around the body from just inside the arc. Higgins finished with two goals for the Saints, equal most for the team on the night.

K is For King Larkey: In a season lacking highlights, Nick Larkey has been great to watch. Against the top four-bound Swans, he was again a shining light, kicking seven goals straight. Clubs down the track will come hard for Larkey, but if he can stick fat and receive some help in the forward line, the sky is the limit.

L is For Luck of the Irish: Zach Tuohy got the Cats running in slick fashion. After conceding the first goal, Geelong made an instant reply. Tyson Stengle’s wayward shot landed in the lap of Tom Atkins who handed it to Tuohy. The Irishman proceeded to sell some foot candy before converting a neat snap around the body.

M is For Macca and Moorey’s 300th: Hawthorn captain Ben McEvoy brought up 250 AFL games, and in his typical understated style he wanted to share the occasion with Dylan Moore, who was playing his 50th game for Hawthorn. These are two of the most popular amongst the playing group, and they were determined not to let their lead slip as the Suns launched waves of attack in the fourth quarter.

N is For Nearly nine for JK: West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy said farewell to the Eagles faithful at Optus Stadium on Sunday Afternoon. He delivered a truly memorable performance with an eight-goal haul which was not enough to overcome a newly invigorated Crows outfit. The eight goals could have been nine when he missed a close-range effort, arguably one of the easiest of the day.

O is For One fifty: A career that’s had its fair share of setbacks, Jamie Elliott notched up game 150 in style against the Demons, with four goals from 13 touches including one in the last quarter to get the Pies within a goal.

P is for Point to prove: It was a giant turnaround for GWS, following a poor performance in last week’s Sydney Derby. The Giants snapped a four-game losing streak, taking the victory over the Bombers by 27 points, on the back of strong performances from Lachie Whitfield with 29 disposals, and Harry Himmelberg with 11 marks.

Q is For Quintessential Swan: No one typifies the ‘Bloods’ like Luke Parker. Hard, uncompromising, and vital to their premiership push. Parker was again close to best on ground against the Kangaroos, notching up 29 disposals and a game-high nine tackles. Parker’s form has been great all season, and he would be a smoky come Brownlow Medal night.

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R is For Racking up the numbers: Melbourne had more than its fair share of disposals against Collingwood, with five players having over 30 disposals to Collingwood’s one. The amount of ball won by the Dees ensured they had plenty of opportunities throughout the night.

S is For Second half romping: Following a tightly contested battle between the Cats and the Saints within the first half, Geelong had other ideas for the second phase. The Cats piled on the pressure, scoring nine goals to three in the second half – even holding the Saints to just three points in the third quarter. Geelong ran away to win by 45 points and stay a game clear on the top of the ladder.

T is For The climb of his life: Connor Rozee gave the home fans something to cheer about, late in the Power’s loss to the Tigers. A deep ball by Kane Farrell to the top of the square was met by Rozee, who sat on the head of Daniel Rioli. Commentator Anthony Hudson described it as “the climb of his life”.

U is For Under the radar no more: The Swans have been going along nicely, largely under the radar, as the focus rightly has been on the winning streaks of the Cats and Pies, as well as the stumbling reigning premiers the Demons. But with two rounds to go, the Swans will no longer fly under the radar. They are now entrenched in the top four and have a huge game against the Pies next week. A win against the Pies and a final-round matchup against the Saints could see the Swans snag a coveted top two spot.

V is For Very big occasion: The former small defender turned star Crows midfielder Rory Laird celebrated his 200th game with a win against the Eagles at Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon. He was a standout performer for the Crows with 36 disposals, 10 clearances, and two goals, one of which was the first of the game.

W is For Waiting too long: Carlton fans will be left scratching their heads as their team managed to make the game interesting in the last quarter after being down by as much as fifty-seven points in the third quarter. The game was over by the time Carlton really clicked into gear, which will raise questions as to why it was unable to compete when the heat was on during the first half. Things may become even more difficult for the Blues’ finals aspirations if their inspirational skipper Patrick Cripps is cited by the MRO.

X is For Xtra Dollars on the contract? With Fremantle keen on Luke Jackson, Rory Lobb seems destined to be out the door, and with performances like this weekend’s against the Western Bulldogs, he may be in a position to ask for a bit more from whoever ends up taking him. Lobb was dominant, kicking 4.2 and taking seven marks to get Fremantle over the line in a crucial win away from home.

Y is For Yo-Yo season amounting to nothing?: Halfway through the third quarter of last year’s Grand Final, the Dogs were flying and looking like premiers. Fast forward to 2022 and the team has never been really able to get going. Just when we thought the Dogs were back in contention with a great win over the Demons, they lose to the Cats, and then with the season on the line, are beaten by a far more determined Dockers side. A game and percentage out of the eight with two games to go, their destiny is now out of their control. The up-and-down season, when all said and done, might leave the Bulldogs wondering what might have been.

Z Is For Zoned in defender: Luke Ryan is not talked about a lot outside of Western Australia but to Fremantle supporters, the defender is a critical component of its success. Against the Bulldogs, Ryan was best afield, collecting 32 disposals and taking 15 marks, as well as claiming seven intercepts. If Ryan can continue at this high level, Fremantle will be very hard to score against come finals time.

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