Thursday night football returned in round 13 of the AFL, with Hawthorn and Sydney Swans media adverse superstar Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin playing his landmark 350th game in the opener against St Kilda.
Franklin became the 22nd VFL/AFL player to reach 350 games and equalled Eddie Betts, playing the third-most games by an Indigenous player. He also became the fifth player to kick 1000 goals and kicked two goals in the match to pass Doug Wade and move into fourth place on the goal-kicking list.
St Kilda ruined Buddy’s party, running over the top of the Swans and winning by 14 points. With his trademark mullet, Jack Sinclair was the visitor’s best, while Indigenous young gun Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera had a career high 30 disposals and a goal. Max King was a presence in attack with three of the Saints goals.
Port Adelaide travelled across to Marvel Stadium and grew their current record to 10 straight victories and are now seen as a true contender for the flag, defeating the Western Bulldogs by 22 points on Friday night.
Zak Butters continued his outstanding season for the Power, while Charlie Dixon was a great avenue to goal with four majors, while the boy from Bute, Lachie Jones, is starting to find his feet at this level, producing one of his best games.
The Doggies had seven of the eight leading possession winners, headed by Adam Treloar and the tenacious Tom Liberatore with 34 and 33 respectively.
After trailing by 17 points at half-time, Hawthorn created the upset of the round, defeating the Brisbane Lions by 25 points.
The Hawks took control of the contest at the MCG with a dominant six-goal third quarter and collected an impressive 15.8 (98) to 11.7 (73) win.
James Worpel, skipper James Sicily and the hard working Jai Newcombe were keys around the ball for the Hawks, while Mitch Lewis was important up forward with four goals.
Josh Dunkley, Eric Hipwood with four majors, and Lachie Neale, were better performers for the Lions.
In the late afternoon game, Adelaide destroyed the expected wooden spooners, West Coast Eagles, enjoying a massive 122-point triumph to celebrate Taylor Walker’s milestone.
Along with Walker’s showcase 10-goal effort, midfielders Jordan Dawson, Rorys Laird and Sloane, and the mercurial Izak Rankine were all impressive. And Tim Kelly stood out against the odds for the injury ravaged Eagles.
Richmond reignited its major round aspirations with a gutsy win at Optus Stadium in Perth on Saturday evening, getting up by 15 points in tough conditions. Shai Bolton was the star for the Tigers, along with recruit Tim Taranto, having 68 disposals and kicking three goals between them.
Toby Nankervis with a massive 49 hit outs, Dusty Martin and Jayden Short with three majors were pivotal.
Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw fought gallantly for the hosts.
In the first of two Sunday games, Greater Western Sydney collected a valuable 28-point win over a plucky North Melbourne in Hobart. Toby Greene was the game breaker with a couple of telling efforts at critical times, amongst his three goals. Stephen Coniglio, forward Jesse Hogan and veteran Callan Ward all were strong contributors in the win as well.
For the Roos, Nick Larkey was among the game’s best with four goals, while rookie George Wardlaw had some more eye-catching moments.
Essendon, looking to consolidate their position in the top eight, achieved a 34-point win in front of a huge Sunday evening crowd of 83,638 against the inaccurate and unconnected Carlton outfit.
Winning 13.8 (86) to 6.16 (52), best on ground, Peter Wright, snaffled five majors, with Nic Martin, Jake Stringer, the dashing Mason Redman, and Jordan Ridley all being strong.
The sad tale for the Blues is many top end players are out of form and their confidence is low. Sam Walsh still racked up 35 touches, while Sam Docherty kept competing.
The weekend culminated on King’s Birthday Monday with a fantastic celebration to acknowledge the wonderful achievements of Neale Daniher.
Along with the Big Freeze 9 sliders to help fight MND, both clubs made an emotive tribute to Daniher, lining up before the match.
The game itself was fitting of its blockbuster status, with Melbourne ending the Magpies eight-game winning streak, despite being inaccurate by four points, getting up 8.18 (66) to 9.8 (62).
The tenacious Jack Viney (32 possessions and 11 tackles) was best on ground, followed by key defender Steven May and three-goal half forward Bailey Fritsch.
Brodie Grundy was also important against his former club, finishing with 13 disposals, 26 hit outs and a goal for the Dees.
Sam Mitchell and the evergreen Scott Pendlebery led the way for the Magpies.
The Gold Coast Suns and Geelong Cats enjoyed a bye in round 13.