Chook’s Rooks – Round 22
Western Bulldogs rookie Jason Tutt joined an exclusive club with his three goals in three kicks to start his AFL career. Normally we’d be salivating over his 122-point debut explosion, but in round 22 all we want is for our tried-and-tested kids to cover our byes. You listening, Ben Jacobs?
In the AFL, as in life, there are certain clubs that are more appealing than others. The millionaire’s club, for example, has a little more allure than the “accidentally went to work/school wearing your undies on the outside” club. On a more literal level, places like New York music club The Bowery Ballroom are infinitely more enticing than ones like the filthy dance dungeon in Amsterdam my then-boss dragged me to where the top of my head scraped on the concrete ceiling and I swear I sore all three of blood, crap and spit on the walls. There was probably piss and sweat pooling on the floor too, but I wasn’t about to hang around and find out. Apologies for the graphic example, but I’m trying to emphasise that there are clubs you’d be more than happy to join and others that you’d really rather avoid. In round 22, our AFL debutants were admitted to “clubs” on opposite ends of the spectrum. In an undies-on-the-outside moment, Collingwood first-gamer Tom Young joined countless others whose first touch in AFL footy resulted in a free-kick against when, caught in a tackle by his Brisbane opponent, he threw the ball out to a Magpie teammate on Saturday night. The flame-haired Young soon had the chance to make amends with the opportunity to join the goal-with-their-first-kick club, but his shot sailed wide. Western Bulldogs 20-year-old Jason Tutt certainly wasn’t going to pass up that chance, nailing a six-pointer with his first kick against Port on Sunday. Not content with that, he proceeded to boot goals with his second and third kicks, too, becoming just the seventh player in AFL/VFL history to do so. That’s Bowery Ballroom stuff, that is. What does it mean for your Dream Team? Not much, unfortunately. Tutt and his flat-track Bulldog mates don’t get to play Port every week, regrettably, instead facing up to top-four Hawthorn in the next round. A repeat of his 122-point performance is unlikely, then, although I’ve heard some coaches say they’re going to cover their Carlton backline byes by bringing in Tutt this week. Braver men than me, they are, but where would the DT finals be without a little bit of risk-taking. Best of luck to them. Here’s hoping they don’t join the “knocked out of the DT finals because a ballsy trade backfired” club – it’s a pretty chockers group as it is.
With few-to-no DT relevant forwards in the Carlton line-up, most DT coaches would’ve been licking their lips at fielding a full-strength forward line during the Blues’ bye this semi-final week. A handful of (potential) injuries or bans to popular picks like Colin Sylvia, Matthew Pavlich and Nick Riewoldt, however, means trading or bench cover is required yet again. Those going down the latter route can at least take some confidence from the outstanding form of Fremantle mid-fwd Tendai Mzungu, whose increased opportunities in the Docker midfield has resulted in some tasty scores of late, including a 92 last week following back-to-back hundreds. Hawthorn mid-fwd Isaac Smith dipped a little last week, suffering through a stagnant third term to post 75 points, but averaged slightly better than Bradman in the three before that, and will take the field for many a depleted forward line in round 23, I’m sure. The opposite is true of Melbourne flyer Jeremy Howe, who’s likely earned lifetime bans from many a DT coach after his measly 2-point effort in last week’s preliminary finals. The Blues’ bye is going to hurt most teams in defence, where Bryce Gibbs and Heath Scotland – both on track to finish the season as top-seven backs – are understandably popular picks. With teammate Nick Duigan also sidelined following his impressive 75 on Friday night, our rookie hopes rest with Nick Lower earning a recall, Paul Puoplo and Ben Jacobs boosting their round 22 scores by about 50 points or repeat performances from Cam Pederson, Danny Stanley and Dyson Heppell. While Essendon’s Heppell fell just a kick short of his fifth hundred this season, North’s Pederson and Gold Coast’s Stanley both broke through the three-figure barrier last week, no doubt tempting coaches to include them in place of Gibbs/Scotland in round 23. More could be expected of Puopolo and Jacobs, who boast respective highs of 99 and 96 this season, but it’ll take some courage to play them this week after both scored poorly last round despite avoiding the subs’ vest.
Let’s face it, sideways is going to be the trade of choice for just about every coach on the planet this week, but if you’ve somehow got enough trades/cover to downgrade, then the two gamers who, importantly, have yet to have been hit with a price hike are: Collingwood youngster Ben Sinclair, whose quiet third term restricted him to 68 points; Port Adelaide forward John Butcher, who should’ve pushed closer to a DT tonne with six goals but only managed 67; and Power teammate Tom Jonas, a defender, who also had just six possessions in his 26-point game.
The AFL coaches believe they’re doing the right thing by blooding the youngsters but, at this stage of the season, us DT coaches would rather they kept them on the shelf until 2012. Another seven players had their prices next year inflated by earning selection in round 22, including the aforementioned Tutt and Young. North Melbourne midfielder Aaron Mullett played well, scored 60 points and, probably most importantly for those looking to free up cash, comes in at just $80k. The Suns introduced another three players in ruckman Tom Hickey, fwd-ruck Joel Tippett and former Geelong forward Nathan Ablett, although none of them are likely to be introduced to our DTs, while another ruckman, Ayce Cordy, found himself in the Western Bulldogs team following the coaching change there last week.