Round 12 would mark the beginning of the AFL’s bye period, with Essendon, Fremantle, Hawthorn, St Kilda and Port Adelaide all enjoying a well-deserved weekend off.
As for the remaining 12 teams, competition was at an all-time high as they look to get in the best position possible heading into their byes and the back end of the season.
It all kicked off on Friday night at the MCG as two traditional Victorian clubs took centre stage for a star-studded top eight clash.
After producing some classic encounters of the late, this clash would be nothing of the sort as a dominant Geelong outfit proved their worth as ladder leaders with a comprehensive 67-point win over the injury-ravaged Tigers.
Taking his place on the half-back flank, veteran Cats defender Zach Tuohy continues to show improvement after his injury-interrupted start to the season.
An All-Australian candidate in peak form, Tuohy was superb on Friday night, giving the Cats incredible punch out of the back half and standing tall in what was an elite team defensive effort.
Finishing up with 18 disposals and five marks at an incredibly efficient 83%, it was a master class from the Irishmen as his ability to hit up teammates and make the correct decisions was pivotal in setting up Geelong’s massive win.
Tuohy wasn’t the only Irish defender to stand tall for the Cats on Friday night, as youngster Mark O’Connor was again brilliant as he looks to lock down his spot in the 22 come September.
Renowned for his defensive tenacity and ability to shut out the opposition’s most dangerous small forwards, O’Connor was faced with his toughest test yet in diminishing the influence of the Tigers mosquito fleet.
It’s safe to say he passed with flying colours, as he helped the Cats defence completely dominate Richmond’s forwards in an effort that saw them keep their opposition to a lowly 37 points.
Along with his work in shutting the likes of Daniel Rioli, Jason Castagna, Jack Higgins and Dan Butler down, O’Connor was also excellent in setting up the Cat’s ball movement from the defensive half.
He would end up with a solid 16 disposals, six marks and four tackles for the night while operating at an incredibly efficient 93%.
Along with his excellent work with ball in hand, he contributed with some crucial one percenters and was an unsung hero on a fantastic night for the Cats.
The only other Irishman to appear at AFL level last weekend was emerging Swans utility Colin O’Riordan, as Sydney upset West Coast with a monumental 43 point win.
After an impressive month in the side, O’Riordan, unfortunately, saw little action against the Eagles after an errant Willie Rioli sling tackle early in the second term left him concussed and unable to take any further part.
With the Swans beginning to regain some of their form from previous seasons, it was an impressive start for O’Riordan who contributed strongly with his hardness around the contest and ability to read the game.
As the Swans come into their bye, a week off has come at the right time for the Irishman as he hopes to be back for their next game against Hawthorn.
In the state leagues, GWS’s Callum Brown continued to impress in the NEAFL as the Giants grounded out a solid win against main rivals Sydney.
Playing in a new role in defence, coach Adam Schnieder was extremely impressed with the young Irishman saying that “when he has the ball in his hand he looks dangerous as he’s one of the quickest guys you’ll see on a footy field.”
He also added, “It was a good learning day with plenty of leading patterns and bodywork.”
Having 15 disposals and two tackles on the day, Brown continues to take great strides into becoming an AFL level footballer.
Zac Standish – AFL Europe