Six Points: Bevo’s Bulldogs reach breaking point, dangerous tackle loophole must be closed, and 2024’s worst coach-killer


Round 8 is finally over – and with thrilling finishes, epic goals and some supremely gutsy performances, what a weekend it was!

Collingwood continued their charge back into contention with a nail-biting win over archrivals Carlton, Brisbane took the first step towards doing the same with a supremely gutsy QClash win amid a spate of injuries; while Hawthorn proved they can’t be trifled with by dealing Luke Beveridge’s Bulldogs their latest hammer blow – and ensuring the Whitten Oval will once again be in the gun this week.

It was also a big week for the AFL as a whole, with the league launching its campaign against gender-based violence and attempting to walk the walk by knocking back Wayne Carey’s impending NSW Hall of Fame Legend nod.

A lot has happened over the past few days, and there’s plenty as always to dissect. Let’s begin.

1. What the AFL must do next in anti-domestic violence campaign

If you’re being generous, you could say the AFL’s league wide pre-match tribute to victims of gendered violence this weekend was a powerful show of leadership in addressing a major societal issue.

If you’re being harsh, you could say it was a meaningless gesture and nothing more, does nothing to address the issues at the heart of the crisis and is inconsistent with the league’s wider approach towards employees, especially players, who find themselves facing violence charges.

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle: while a competition as big and as influential as the AFL taking such a public stand is a step in the right direction, it will be shown up as performative and nothing more unless the league implements several key changes to show how seriously it takes eradicating gendered violence.

The first step is to follow the NRL’s lead and establish a no fault stand-down policy, where players facing charges are unable to play at any level until they have their day in court.

If found guilty, they are permanently deregistered: if not, the ban lifts and they are free to play. The most prominent NRL example of this is Jack de Belin, who was ineligible to play for the Dragons for more than two years before being found not guilty of one of the six charges against him, with the remaining ones dropped.

So yes, that would mean that if a player is charged for indecent assault like Jordan De Goey was in July 2020, they would not be permitted to play until the case is resolved, which for the Magpie was in August 2021.

It’s not a catch-all – Tarryn Thomas, for example, is yet to be charged with assault. But it is at the very least something concrete to match up the talk, and of course, more stringent policies, such as being stood down over even allegations of domestic violence or of a more broader range of crimes including Thomas’ threatening to distribute an intimate image, could well be implemented if there really was a push to be no-nonsense about it.

Until the AFL can say it has an iron-clad policy to deal with such cases, they’re not doing their bit to stamp out this major problem. Linking arms around the centre circle just ain’t going to cut it in the long run.

2. Bevo’s Bulldogs reach breaking point

Hoo, boy.

If Luke Beveridge thought things were hot after the Bulldogs’ loss to Essendon a few weeks ago, this week the furnace is about to become a bushfire.

The Dogs’ loss to a younger, far less credentialled but infinitely more ferocious Hawthorn on Sunday afternoon was as horrific as a defeat could possibly be for a team already under the pump. It epitomised everything that has gone so, so wrong for this team and this club since leading a grand final by 19 points only 31 months ago.

I hope this time, the criticism goes beyond questioning why Caleb Daniel or Ryley Sanders weren’t playing, or another first-gamer, this time Charlie Clarke, being subbed out of the game. None of those things cost the Bulldogs did against the Hawks.

What did was all the things we knew were wrong about them: a lack of leg speed when running defensively, a tendency at stoppages to get sucked up en masse and leave space galore out the back, the complete lack of cohesion between Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan that sees them frequently spoil one another flying for the same ball, the lack of any pressure at ground level in their forward line that lets the opposition waltz the footy out at will, and most of all, a defence that is every bit as pitiful as North Melbourne’s.

Josh Weddle’s hit that one so sweet ????‍????#AFLDogsHawks

— AFL (@AFL) May 5, 2024

To let a Hawthorn team without Mitch Lewis and Luke Breust, with a cooked Jack Gunston and first-gamer Calsher Dear as its talls, have 28 scoring shots from 49 inside 50s is the most disgraceful defensive performance I have seen all year.

The structure is a shambles: as poor as James O’Donnell and Buku Khamis were in conceding two crucial one-on-ones in defensive 50 in the last quarter which led to two Hawks goals, neither should be put in that position in the first place. It’s not Luke Beveridge’s fault that Jason Johannisen missed a 25-metre pass from a kick-out that handed the Hawks a momentum-killing goal a few minutes earlier, but why it was him and not Bailey Dale taking those duties escapes me.

In nine years at the Bulldogs, for all he has achieved, Beveridge is yet to develop an AFL-standard defender – the closest he’s come, Ed Richards, has mystifyingly been moved to a mid-forward role, which would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul if Peter was already destitute and Paul had literally nowhere to put the money he already had. That’s a significant flaw, especially when you see Geelong turning rookies into All-Australian contenders down back on virtually a yearly basis.

Readers of this column already know my stance on Beveridge, and to lay all the blame at his feet ignores more widespread issues at the Kennel – for one thing, the Dogs’ midfield has gone from arguably the league’s best to mid-table in stoppage strength since Brendon Lade took over as midfield coach.

But there comes a point where there is simply no alternative but to realise a coach has taken a team as far as he can, and it’s pretty clear now that this is a team on the way down that would benefit from a fresh voice.

It’s unlikely the Bulldogs will sack Beveridge – they’ve held firm until now, and with still 15 rounds to go, it would be a bold call to move him on, something this club isn’t really known for doing.

But another loss to a Richmond outfit next week with similarly thin forward stocks to Hawthorn who will undoubtedly be sensing a vulnerable opposition ripe for the kill, and the noise from outside the four walls will probably be too loud to ignore. If indeed it isn’t already.

Marcus Bontempelli looks dejected after the Bulldogs’ loss to Hawthorn. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

3. The Lions have ticker to spare

For a minute or two in the last quarter at the Gabba, Gold Coast looked like they were going to run over the top of Brisbane.

Two men down on the bench from early in the second term, having lost three key figures in Lincoln McCarthy, Noah Answerth and Darcy Gardiner to injury, the former and the latter major ones, the Suns were throwing the kitchen sink at a team clearly all but spent.

That the Lions not only held on, but extended the margin to 34 by the final siren, will do wonders to rebuild the confidence of a team which has had a supremely rough start to the season. This was a terrific, gutsy win, borne of the collective willpower of their senior players to refuse to lose another match – a stance the Suns’ stars would do well to learn from.

Charlie gets the Gabba crowd up and about!#AFLLionsSuns

— AFL (@AFL) May 5, 2024

Dayne Zorko has his critics, but with 35 kicks and 16 marks, his work rate to push into space and create outlet options for his teammates put the Suns to shame. At the coalface, Lachie Neale had his best game since the 2022 elimination final – and he’s won a Brownlow in that time. Hugh McCluggage spent 96 per cent of the time on the ground and hardly even rested forward, such is his supreme fitness. And Josh Dunkley clamped Matt Rowell so spectacularly he might need to check his pockets for a red-headed grass-muncher on his way back home tonight.

It was only worth four points, but in rebuilding the psyche of a fallen giant, this QClash win is worth so much more. With the draw beginning to open up in the next few weeks, we could be about to see a sleeping Lion emerge and roar once more.

4. Maynard free kick disgrace exposes dangerous tackle loophole

Debate erupted around the footy world when Brayden Maynard was pinged for a highly contentious dangerous tackle on Matthew Owies during Collingwood’s win over Carlton on Friday night.

Actually, you really couldn’t call it much of a debate – aside from the occasional hold-out, such as the ‘Has the umpire made a bad decision?’ X account, pretty much everyone was united in condemning the decision.

The responsibility is always on the tackler to ensure it’s a safe one.

With Owies head hitting the ground like that, it’s always going to be a dangerous tackle. Even if he does create some of the momentum himself.

Correct decision #AFLBluesPies

— Has the umpire made A Bad decision? (@hasumpstuffedup) May 3, 2024

I’m certainly in that camp – this was either a shocker from the umpire, or more likely (and more concerningly) the most damning example yet of the dangerous tackle loophole the AFL have created for itself.

Either deliberately to win a free kick, or more likely to try and wrestle clear of the tackle, it is Owies who pulls Maynard off his feet in the first place, which is what causes the Blue to topple forwards under the weight of both players and hit his head on the ground.

We saw a few similar incidents in 2023, but nothing quite so obvious as this one: it’s Owies and not Maynard that makes this tackle a dangerous one. The Magpies defender, actually, does everything right in his tackle technique: he stays on his feet, doesn’t sling Owies to ground, and doesn’t even pin his left arm to give him the chance to brace for impact with the turf.

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Put simply, this was a perfect tackle punished because the rules are unjust – that it led to a Blues goal is just the cherry on top.

Like what it did two years ago with the interpretation around high tackles, the AFL must step in, immediately if necessary, to close this loophole and ensure players aren’t rewarded at all for contributing to dangerous tackles.

As it stands, the tackler is only given leeway if it is seen as entirely the fault of the player being tackled – though Maynard’s case exposes the issues with that, given the only reason the Pie contributes to it being dangerous is because of Owies’ action.

If what the Blues forward did is the standard going forward, then eventually we are going to see a player get concussed by throwing themselves forward in a tackle trying to win themselves a free kick.

That’s something the league simply can’t afford to encourage.

Matthew Owies was awarded a free kick for a dangerous tackle against Brayden Maynard. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

5. 2024’s costliest brain snap

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that West Coast would have been favourites to run over the top of Essendon on Saturday night had Jake Waterman gone back and put through the goal denied him by a Jamie Cripps moment of madness.

With the Eagles forward lining up to reduce the deficit to just four points having taken a superb contested mark close to goal, the home side had all the momentum, the crowd was at fever pitch, and the Bombers were looking decidedly rattled.

But apparently taking umbrage with something said by Nic Martin, Cripps produced the biggest coach-killer of 2024 so far: he grabbed the Bomber by the shirt, shook him, then shoved him backwards.

Martin’s fall has led to accusations of diving, but that’s a) slightly ridiculous, because it was a pretty forceful shove from Cripps, and b) beside the point. It would have been a free kick for prohibited contact regardless of whether Martin had kept his feet, and if any player in the competition were given the chance to deny the opposition a shot at goal, they’d take it every day of the week.

You could actually feel the life sucked out of everyone in the stadium as the free was reversed: Waterman, currently in the form of his life, looked agonised at having the ball taken off him, and the Bombers were able to steady and dominated the next ten minutes, though were unable to kick the goal that would have put the match to bed.

There have been some calls for Cripps to be dropped for that moment of madness, but I’m not in that camp: it was a huge, potentially game-deciding error inexcusable from anyone, never mind such a senior player, but he has enough credits in the bank, and the Eagles few enough viable replacements for a small forward of his quality, that to send him back to the WAFL would be a mistake.

Still, I’d be shocked if Adam Simpson hasn’t already read Cripps the riot act. It was a horrendous brain snap, and he now owes his team big time.

6. Why so bored, BT?

I wrote at length last week about the issues with Channel 7’s footy broadcast, and particularly its commentary team: but nothing bugged me about it last week quite as much as the final minutes of the Magpies’ Friday night win did.

With momentum swinging rapidly back and forth, in front of an 88-thousand strong crowd at fever pitch, the atmosphere was palpable and the drama at its highest.

Yet Brian Taylor and James Brayshaw, Taylor especially, seemed… subdued at best.


— AFL (@AFL) May 3, 2024

You’d think an outrageously good winning goal from the most talked-about star in the game, with a minute to go in Victoria’s biggest rivalry, would have been enough for a little more excitement from Taylor, especially given he’s made a career out of his bombastic, often over-the-top commentary.

Instead, he sounded about half as excited about this as he was for, say, this ho-hum Dan Butler goal during a St Kilda game four years ago during COVID, to put them six goals up.



— AFL (@AFL) July 2, 2020

I don’t know whether this was a reaction to some of the criticism directed his way last week, or if Taylor just wasn’t feeling it on the night, but the final quarter at the MCG should have been perfect for his style of commentary – it would have been nigh on impossible to overhype what was happening.

Yet have a listen to the broadcast of the last two minutes, and in particular post-Daicos’ goal, and tell me the commentary doesn’t suck some of the life out of it.

You can of course dispute whether it’s a commentator’s job to bring that excitement, but a few years ago I listened to the great Martin Tyler wreck a number of iconic FIFA World Cup moments with his monotone delivery – I even wrote about it.

If Taylor is going to turn down the excitement meter when it’s most warranted, then one of his biggest strengths as a commentator is nullified. And if he loses that, it’s honestly hard to say what else he brings to the table.

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Random thoughts

– Jake Waterman’s 18 goals in the last four weeks has equalled his previous best in a full year. Righto.

– You can tell the VFL players who can make it by how they adjust to the pace of the top level. Lachie Sullivan is a player.

An incredible way to start your AFL career ????

First kick, first goal! After being overlooked in countless drafts and plying his trade in the VFL, Lachie Sullivan HAS ARRIVED!

— Collingwood FC (@CollingwoodFC) May 3, 2024

– Will Hayward is going full Jake Stringer with his efforts in a contract year this year.

– I was clearly watching a different Sydney Derby to the three Brett Kirk Medal voters who gave Chad Warner two votes between them.

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