Irish Watch: AFL Round 4 Review
It was a big weekend of action in the AFL, with a number of close encounters and standout performances highlighting a nail-biting round four.
This weekend would see the same four Irish players from round three retain their spots, with Conor Nash, Conor McKenna, Mark O’Connor and Pearce Hanley being rewarded for solid starts to their seasons.
We would also see more Irish athletes compete in state leagues around the country, as AFL club’s look to develop these Gaelic footballers into solid AFL players.
With his side bouncing back after a lacklustre start to the year, McKenna was superb off halfback on Saturday afternoon as the Bombers destroyed the in-form Lions.
Using his trademark run and dash from defence, McKenna was pivotal in setting up Essendon’s attack all afternoon as he constantly took on the Lions forwards and made bold decisions with his ball use.
Having 20 disposals for the third straight week, McKenna would also end up with three marks and two inside 50’s while using the ball at an incredibly efficient 85%.
A critical clog in Essendon’s rapid turn around in the last two weeks, McKenna is continuing to develop his game in the Bomber’s back six as he looks to become one of the league’s most damaging defenders.
Hawthorn’s Conor Nash had some important moments in the Hawks narrow loss to St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Playing as a pressure forward, Nash would use his size and speed on a number of occasions to get into dangerous positions and damage the Saints defenders.
Despite leaving the field for a significant period of time in the second quarter due to a hamstring injury, Nash would still manage nine disposals, seven contested possessions and a goal in what was a brave performance.
Special comments commentator Luke Hodge would sing Nash’s praises on a number of occasions throughout the afternoon, as he made a number of winning plays and used his natural athletic strengths to great effect.
This would be on display through his goal, as he managed to get out the back of the St Kilda defence and take an easy mark in the goal square to set the Hawks alight in the first term.
Pearce Hanley’s Gold Coast Suns continued their remarkable start to the season with another close win over Carlton at Metricon Stadium.
One of the few experienced heads in the Suns team, Hanley was again crucial in the dying stages of the match as he constantly made the right decisions and guided his young teammates to a famous win.
Although it wasn’t his most prolific performance from a statistics point of view, 14 disposals, three marks and three tackles, he certainly made all his touches count going at 79% whilst also providing that trademark dash off the half-back line.
With the Sun’s young players continuing to develop, Hanley’s presence will be critical to the overall success of this team as he leads their extremely young back six.
Mark O’Connor would experience his first loss of the 2019 season as the Cats went down in a thriller to the Giants at GMHBA Stadium.
Playing as a small defender, O’Connor was as solid as ever in a relatively successful Cat’s back six as they constantly repelled the pressure being placed on them by the success of the GWS midfield.
Despite only having 13 touches, O’Connor used the ball brilliantly at an impressive 92% efficiency as he was excellent in kick-starting the Cats offensively from the defensive 50.
His work as a defender was also excellent as he rarely lost a one on one contest and kept the dangerous Giants small forwards under control.
Although going down on Saturday, the Cats look set for a deep finals run in 2019 with Mark O’Connor a key pillar to their league-best defensive structures.
In the state leagues, Collingwood youngster Mark Keane was the standout for this round as a solid performance all day would see him earn a spot in the Magpies best players.
Conor Glass was also very impressive for Hawthorn’s VFL affiliate Box Hill on Sunday at Marvel Stadium, as he claimed 23 disposals in three quarters before a leg injury prematurely ended his afternoon.
With the season now a month old, the Irish influence continues to grow as a number of players push for AFL selection in the coming weeks.