It was another big weekend for our Irish stars in the AFL, with a number of marquee matchups and close games highlighting an unforgettable round 16.
We would again see seven Irish players suit up across the league this weekend, with a number of players looking to cement their spots in the run to finals football over the coming weeks.
Despite their unexpected loss to the Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, it was an emphatic performance from Geelong’s Irish duo Zach Tuohy and Mark O’Connor who were among the very few shining lights for the Cats on Saturday night.
Finally back to his very best after an injury interrupted start to the year, Tuohy was everywhere across half back in what can only be described as a dominant performance.
Critical in both his work winning the ball and receiving handballs coming out of defence, he was without a doubt Geelong’s most damaging player on the night and really kept them in the contest at times.
Finishing with a season high 30 disposals, six marks and a tackle, it was as complete performance you’ll see from a running defender and puts the Cats in good stead as they prepare for a tilt at another premiership.
His use of the ball was also superb all night, using at 77% with an excellent kick to handball ratio of 25-5, further heightening his influence on the game.
O’Connor would also continue to show himself as an AFL standard player with another very impressive performance in an under pressure backline.
Renowned for his work in stopping the competition’s most dangerous small forwards, O’Connor was again superb in curving the influence of a fast and tricky Bulldogs forward line with a number of spoils and hard tackles being highlights to his game.
He would also chip in on the offensive side of the Cats ball movement more than usual by claiming 19 disposals, eight marks and two tackles.
Like Tuohy he would be damaging with ball in hand, using the ball at 63% with an excellent kick to handball ratio of 15-4.
It would be an Irish affair at the MCG on Saturday afternoon, as speedsters Conor McKenna and Colin O’Riordan met for the second time this season as the Bombers took on the Swans in a crucial top eight shaping encounter.
In what was a tight contest for the majority of the afternoon, a late flurry from the improved Bombers saw them claim an invaluable 10 point win to help solidify their claims at playing finals football.
McKenna would continue to be a crucial aspect of the Bombers ball movement, as he had another fine day at the home of football.
His ability to break the lines and find teammates in damaging positions was simply superb all day, with many commentating on his extreme worth to the overall success of the team.
Finishing up with 21 disposals, two marks and a tackle, it was a complete performance as any off the half back line for McKenna as he continues to show All-Australian like potential for future seasons.
Along with his ability to find the ball, he would also use it superbly going at a very impressive 81% to make him one of the most damaging players on the field.
O’Riordan on the other hand would continue his development into an AFL calibre player with another solid performance for the up and coming Swans.
Playing mainly across half back, O’Riordan was hard at the ball all day and really made it hard for the Essendon forwards to get any separation and freedom inside 50.
He would also use his height and athleticism to take a number of key intercept marks and produce some outstanding spoils to halt the face paced ball movement of the Bombers.
Despite only picking up 14 disposals on the day, his work defensively was some of the best he’s shown in his AFL career to date with his tackling pressure a particular highlight.
He also used the ball at an extremely efficient 79%, further proving him to be a valuable piece to Sydney’s backline for years to come.
Friday night saw two of the competitions biggest clubs do battle at the MCG as the lowly Hawks looked to cause an upset against the out of form Magpies.
In his second game after being recalled to the senior side, Conor Nash would again impress with his forward pressure and ability to make a contest in Hawthorn’s forward half.
Although he didn’t manage to trouble to scorers, his presence was instrumental to Hawthorn’s ability to upset the top four fancied Magpies as he brought and excellent balance to the Hawks forwards alongside the likes of Mitch Lewis and Ollie Hanrahan.
Nash would finish with nine disposals, four contested and five tackles, as he hopes to cement his spot in the side for the remainder of the season.
By Zac Standish