It was a special weekend in the AFL, as teams around the league came together to celebrate the contributions of its Indigenous players for Sir Doug Nicholls Round.
Often producing pieces of magic, the game’s indigenous stars came out to play in their special round producing a number of special highlights that will be talked about for weeks to come.
On a weekend dedicated to the first Australians, it was also great to see another string of strong performances by our Irish cohort in round 10.
With it being Sir Doug Nicholls Round there is no better place to start than the annual Dreamtime at the G contest which featured Conor McKenna’s Bombers and the in-form Tigers.
On a wet and dreary night in Melbourne, it was a relatively dull match for the majority at the MCG with the poor weather and dominant Tigers resulting in a rather boring affair.
It would take a last quarter fightback from the Bombers to breath some life back into the match, as they began to utilize their trademark run and dash style of play to almost pinch an unlikely victory.
At the forefront of the Essendon fightback was McKenna, who after a quiet start to the match, roared to life in the latter stages to help get the Bombers back on track.
On a night not made for slick running defenders, his numbers were down a bit from the early part of the season only collecting 16 disposals and two marks.
He still managed to have a large impact on the game though, featuring in a number of Essendon’s exciting plays from the back half and really becoming a general across the half-back line.
His disposal efficiency was particularly impressive on Saturday night, as he went at a very solid 81% in what can only be described as trying conditions.
Elsewhere on Saturday night, the ladder leading Cats would take a trip up north the face the battling Suns at Metricon Stadium.
Flying the Irish flag for Geelong would again be stout defenders Mark O’Connor and Zach Tuohy, who throughout the first half of the season have become integral parts to the competition’s premier back six.
In what was surprisingly a tight tussle for three quarters, Tuohy would take another step forward in his return to top form following an injury-interrupted start to the season.
Slotting in beautifully across half-back, the experienced campaigner would rack up an impressive 19 disposals, four marks and four tackles in the Cats 27 point win.
His ability to read the play was a particular highlight of his game, as he took a number of strong intercept marks and came through with some clutch defensive spoils in a well-rounded display.
O’Connor would also continue to stake his claim on a spot in the Cats best 22 come the pointy end of the season with another superb defensive performance.
Despite not doing much on the offensive end with just the eight touches on the night, his stout defence was critical for the Cats throughout the night as he was rarely beaten one on one, and allowed the likes of Tuohy, Tom Stewart and Harry Taylor to play with more freedom.
Sydney’s Colin O’Riordan would again find himself on the Friday night stage, as the Swans took on powerhouses Collingwood at the SCG to kick off Indigenous round.
Coming in as heavy underdogs, Sydney battled hard from start to finish to give the Magpies a major scare for the majority of the evening.
Led by Sam Reid’s six goals, the Swans truly tested the reigning grand finalists all night with the class of the Magpies eventually seeing them claim a tough seven-point win.
After garnering some success upon his return to the AFL side, O’Riordan was again solid for the Swans across half back and the wing, matching up with a number of the talented Magpies forwards and midfielders.
Renowned for his hard approach to the game and excellent work at the contest, O’Riordan would claim 12 disposals and two tackles on Friday night in more of a shutdown role across the half-back line.
This would see him have some big defensive moments especially late, as he constantly went hard when the ball was there and got things going positively for his team.
On a slippery night, he would also use the ball at a crisp 75% as he continues to develop into a highly skilled player.
Saturday afternoon would see Indigenous round move to Tasmania with the Hawks taking on Port Adelaide in a ladder shaping encounter.
On a cold day in Launceston, the Hawks would return to their very best as some excellent team defence and slick ball movement saw them claim a healthy 31 point victory.
After returning to the side last week, Conor Glass was again solid in the back half helping keep the likes of talented youngsters Connor Rozee and Karl Amon very quiet for the majority of the afternoon.
He would also do some nice things with the ball in hand, going at 75% disposals efficiency from his 12 disposals.