The festival of footy continued into round six of the 2019 AFL season, as just two days after Geelong and Hawthorn squared off in an Easter Monday classic, the Tigers and Demons met for the traditional ANZAC Day Eve clash.
This would of course be followed by the biggest day of the home and away season being Essendon’s traditional clash with Collingwood before the weekend arrived with another slate of mouthwatering games.
Lining up on the special day in the red and black would be Irish star Conor McKenna, who continues to improve with each and every game.
With 92,000 people watching on anxiously, the young Irishman certainly wasn’t blinded by the spotlight, with his run and dash off half back critical to the play of the Bombers all day.
In what was instantly revered as an ANZAC classic, it was a tail of two halves on Thursday afternoon as the Pies came out hot early to open up a significant five goal buffer towards half time.
An inspired Essendon team came out swinging after half time, with their attacking style of play almost seeing them pinch a famous victory off last year’s grand finalists.
McKenna would be crucial to Essendon’s second half fight back, with the dynamic defender going over the 20-disposal mark for the fifth straight week, with 21 touches to go along with five intercept possessions.
He also wasn’t afraid to take risks with the ball on football’s biggest stage, which is a testament to the composure of the man.
After a five week stint on the sidelines to begin the 2019 season, damaging Geelong defender Zach Tuohy finally made his return to the Cats AFL side in their big win over reigning premiers West Coast at GMHBA Stadium.
Tasked with reintegrating himself into the competitions best defence, Tuohy wouldn’t miss a beat on Sunday afternoon as he immediately came on and made an impact with his excellent reading of the play, silky skills and raw pace across half back.
Alongside the likes of Tom Stewart and Mark Blicavs, Tuohy played his role to perfection in the Cats big win collecting 18 disposals, five marks and two tackles at a solid 78% efficiency.
With the Cats already sitting pretty at the top of the ladder, you could still see Tuohy’s importance to the team, as he provided more spark from their back half and gave them another excellent ball user to rely on in critical periods.
As Tuohy returned to the Geelong side, fellow Irishmen Mark O’Connor further locked himself into the best 22 after having his best game for the season against West Coast.
As competition for spots intensifies at the Cattery, O’Connor certainly rose to the pressure as he stood tall in the Cats defence with 21 disposals, nine marks and two tackles while using the ball at an impressive 81%.
Marveled by the commentators all day for his composure with the ball and defensive tenacity, it was a perfect back pocket’s game from the Irishmen who was also central to stopping the Eagle’s dangerous small forward lineup of Liam Ryan, Jamie Cripps and Jack Petruccelle.
It was a big Saturday afternoon up on the Gold Coast as Pearce Hanley’s Gold Coast Suns looked to bounce back from their poor performance last week with a win over cross town rivals Brisbane in the Q Clash.
Although they brought the heat around the contest and intensity early, the young Suns would eventually fail to keep up with the class of the Lions, who bounced back from their recent troubles to secure a comfortable 49 point win.
After having a brilliant 150th game last week against the Crows, Hanley was again excellent for the Gold Coast as he led an inexperienced backline with 19 disposals at a remarkable 95% efficiency.
Relishing being able to finally enjoy strong games together at his second club, it seems as if Hanley has a new lease on life at the moment, with that trademark dash and boldness returning to his game on a more frequent basis.
It was also a big weekend around the state leagues over the ANZAC period with a number of solid performances from the Irish players.
Collingwood’s Anton Tohill was excellent up forward in the Magpies loss to the undefeated Bombers as he presented hard all day and ended up being rewarded with two goals.
Meanwhile in the NEAFL, young GWS forward Callum Brown showed signs of development in their 45 point loss to Sydney.
Constantly crashing packs and trying to get involved, the Giant’s coaches were buoyed by the competitiveness of the young key forward as he continues to try and develop the intricacies of Australian football.
With the festival of footy now completed, the AFL returns to normality for a big round seven this weekend, as teams look to build on their early season form and make a push for September action.