From the pure nature of Australia’s top end to the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, round eleven was a unique one in the AFL as the game was taken away from its usual venues in an effort to promote its value in different regions.
The weekend would also see a season-high six Irish players take the field, adding to the international flavour that centred around the round eleven action.
The major highlight of the round would be the annual China game at Jiangwan Stadium in Shanghai as Port Adelaide took on a new competitor this year in the 5-5 Saints in a ladder defining clash.
Originally named as an emergency, St Kilda key defender Darragh Joyce would be given a last-minute plane ticket to the world’s most populated country after a bout of illness struck down a number of the Saints players and coaches just hours out from the landmark clash.
In what was a rushed preparation, Joyce would adapt to the Chinese conditions better than most of his teammates, doing a commendable job in an under siege St Kilda defence.
Finishing up with 15 disposals, two marks and two tackles at a reasonable 67% efficiency, Joyce looked accomplished at the level and was far from the Saints worst.
On a grim day for the club, Joyce can without a doubt hold his head up high as he fought hard until the end and produced comfortably his best performance at AFL level.
Saturday afternoon would see three Irish players feature in a tense encounter at GMHBA Stadium, as the ladder leading Cats outlasted a gallant Sydney outfit.
Making a name for himself as a tough and gritty defender, Mark O’Connor’s excellent early season form continued against the Swans with an outstanding performance.
Now a key member of the competition’s premier defence, O’Connor was superb in curtailing the impact of Sydney’s dangerous small forwards whilst also getting involved in springboarding the Cats ball movement.
In what was arguably the best game of his career, O’Connor would collect 20 disposals, four marks and a tackle, just proving the improvement in his game over the past ten weeks and his ability to become a solid contributor.
Alongside O’Connor in defence, Tuohy would also impress as he continues to build up match fitness following the knee injury that interrupted his start to the season.
Playing a key role across half-back, Tuohy would have 20 disposals and two tackles, with his ability to find the ball and get into dangerous positions a particular feature to his game.
With the finals continuing to get closer, expect Tuohy’s role to increase over the coming weeks as he builds back into the All Australian calibre of defender he has proven to be over recent seasons.
On the other side of GMHBA Stadium, the incredible rise of Swans utility Colin O’Riordan produced another chapter as the 23-year-old produced another stand out performance across half back and the wing.
A shining light in the Swan’s loss, it seemed as if O’Riordan was everywhere for Sydney as he, along with the likes of Nick Blakey, Will Hayward, Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney and Tom Papley, proved the future is bright in the harbour city.
Remarkably, following the same tune as O’Connor and Tuohy, O’Riordan would also pick up 20 disposals at GMHBA Stadium.
Together with seven marks and two tackles, it was a breakout game for O’Riordan as he looks to lock down a spot in the best 22 heading into the back half of the season.
Sunday afternoon would prove to be fateful in the history of the Carlton Football Club, as a poor 41 point loss to the inconsistent Bombers would see Brendan Bolton’s tenure as senior coach come to a close.
While it was a dark day for the Blues, the clash would spring life back into Essendon’s season, with Irishman Conor McKenna, in particular, enjoying a day out at the MCG.
In wet and dreary conditions, the class and skills of McKenna were on show for all to see as he, along with the rest of the Essendon defence, were resolute in stopping Carlton’s ability to score and fearless in their ability to move the ball.
Playing in his usual role across the half-back line, McKenna would have 25 disposals and six marks at a superb efficiency of 80% given the nature of the conditions.
His ability to take the game on was also on display for all to see, as he constantly burnt off the Carlton forwards on multiple occasions and set up the Bombers impressive ball movement.
After sprinting out to a five-goal lead in the first term, Conor Glass’s Hawks couldn’t halt an impressive Brisbane fightback, going down by 19 points in a tight clash at the Gabba.
Glass would continue his solid form at AFL level with another solid performance in the back pocket as his defensive intensity at positioning stood out as particular highlights.
Despite only having eleven disposals, Glass would still have an impact on the game as he helped quell the influence of damaging forwards Charlie Cameron and Cam Rayner whilst also making smart decisions with the ball in hand going at 91% efficiency.