Irish Watch – AFL Round 21 Review

It was a tough weekend for two of our more high profile Irishman, as Conor McKenna’s Bombers and Pearce Hanley’s Suns suffered crushing defeats to the tune of 104 and 91 points respectively.

The Bombers, in particular, were the subject of much criticism following their embarrassing performance against the Western Bulldogs, as they let their opposition pile on 21 consecutive goals to put their finals hopes at serious risk.  

With many Bombers players targeted for their lacklustre efforts, you certainly can’t put McKenna in that category as the lightning-fast defender showed off his new bright blonde haircut with a spirited performance on an otherwise dirty night for his team.

In what was an incredibly lopsided affair, McKenna would do all he could to help stop the dominance of the Dogs and generate some pace and energy off the Essendon half backline.

Picking up a respectable 19 disposals, three marks and four tackles, you couldn’t fault the Irishman’s efforts as he gave 100% until the final siren.

His willingness to take the game on in spite of the situation his side found itself in was a particular highlight of his game as he always looked for an attacking option.

He also used the ball going at 69%, serving as a shining light on the otherwise dour night for his struggling team.

Similarly to McKenna, Hanley pushed hard all day for the Gold Coast who were simply overawed by what can only be described as a Brisbane Lions juggernaut at the GABBA.

Having not registered a win since round four, it was a daunting task for the Suns who are looking to close what has been a disastrous season on a positive note.

However, after a tight start, they were no match for second-placed Lions who, led by a six goal haul by Charlie Cameron, flexed their muscles over their cross town rivals.

As for Hanley he would again play a crucial role for his team patrolling the defence whilst also getting involved through the middle of the ground.

One of the few experienced heads in the Suns lineup, Hanley did all he could to spark his team as he looked to use his trademark run and dash to make things happen.

Collecting a reasonable 17 disposals, five tackles and a mark, he certainly battled hard till the end and tried to lift his younger teammates.

His use of the ball was again superb, going at 76% as he constantly looked to take aggressive options and put the Lions on the back foot.

It wouldn’t be all doom and gloom for our Irishman however, with Hawthorn forward Conor Nash being a late inclusion into his sides dominant 56 point win over the Giants with Canberra.

In unique snowy conditions in the nations capital, the Hawks would brave the cold beautifully to dismantle a Giants side who struggled to get going from the outset.

Replacing Jack Gunston less than an hour before the first bounce, Nash would come in and produce a career best performance in a forward line that functioned beautifully in trying conditions.

With the game plan simply being kick it forward, Nash’s pressure was excellent in helping the Hawks lock the ball inside their attacking half and dictate the game.

His ability to get up the ground was also outstanding as he picked up a career high 16 disposals as he ventured up across half forward and up to the wing at times.

He also showed his presence around the goals, hitting the scoreboard once and having five score involvements.

Along with his ability to find the ball and convert, Nash would commit 18 pressure acts and have two tackles in what was an outstanding display from the big forward.

Zach Tuohy’s Cats would enjoy a return to form on Saturday night as they kept North Melbourne to the lowest score in the club’s history on their way to securing a much needed 55 point win at GMHBA Stadium.

Tuohy would produce another clinical performance across half back and on the wing, proving to be a vital part of what was an exceptional defensive performance from the Cats.

Along with his ability to curb the influence of North Melbourne’s forwards, Tuohy was creative with ball in hand and helped springboard a number of Geelong attacks from the back half.

Picking up a solid 22 disposals and four marks, Tuohy added much needed speed to the game with his ability to break the lines proving crucial on a number of occasions.

In the VFL, Geelong’s Stefan Okunbor experienced a major milestone in the Cats win over North Melbourne as he kicked his first ever goal. 

A natural athlete, the 21 year old showed flashes of brilliance and courage as he continues to adapt to Australian Rules Football.

Zac Standish – AFL Europe