Five things I learned from Round 3 of the AFL

This is what I learned from the weekend’s footy action.

1. The Blues are good, but top-four talk needs to settle
The Carlton faithful are rightfully excited after going 3-0 for the first time in a decade. However, they still aren’t anywhere near the top echelon of teams in the competition and have plenty to improve on.

The Blues’ best is incredibly good, which inspires confidence that they can match it with the best teams in the competition, but their fade-outs during games is something that needs to be addressed.

Carlton won five quarters out of a possible 12, which would read like a team that is 1-2 and not 3-0. But the fact is that they’ve been dominant during their winning quarters, winning by 40, 28, 24, and 34, which has won them games.

There are two problems with this. Against the best teams (Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney), you can’t only play a half of high-quality footy. If you do, you lose.

The other problem is that you give average teams a chance. Just like they did with Richmond when 20 points down in the final term, and like they did against Hawthorn when letting them hit the front in the final term after being the best part of five goals down.

They have the ability to be a premiership threat, but only if they address the issue over the coming months.

Patrick Cripps celebrates.

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

2. The Tigers’ season is hanging on by a thread after three weeks
Is it the end for the Tigers? You would be a brave person to suggest there is still a premiership threat going by what we’ve seen over the last three weeks.

The Tigers’ worst fears have become reality early in this season. Dion Prestia went out of the side with an injury. He is arguably the Tigers’ best clearance midfielder. And Dustin Martin has taken time away from the game for personal reasons.

In both losses against St Kilda and Carlton, the Tigers were beaten by 18 and 11 clearances respectively. They were also beaten by 26 in contested possessions, and 21 in contested possessions against the Blues.

Footy can be a simple game at times, and if the Tigers don’t start winning the hard ball, they won’t win many games in 2022.

With Prestia, Martin, and Kane Lambert all seemingly missing at least another month of footy, the Tigers are going to need something special from the likes of Trent Cotchin, Jack Graham, and Shai Bolton to beat the likes of the Dogs, Melbourne, and the West Coast in WA to resurrect their season.

3. Craig McRae is the man the Pies needed
The Magpies gave up a five-goal lead at the start of the last term to be beaten by the Cats in what was a bitter pill to swallow considering they should have won the game, especially if they kicked straight early.

The Magpies accounted for St Kilda and Adelaide in easy fashion in the opening two rounds, before facing a big task against a seasoned and hardened Geelong team.

Jack Ginnivan celebrates a goal.

(Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The footy the Pies played in quarters one and three in particular was fantastic. They played a ferocious style of footy, which didn’t allow Geelong any space and time on the ball and therefore created a lot of scoring opportunities, which ended up with them having more scoring shots than Geelong.

The Pies’ players have picked up the game plan very quickly, and McRae is the calm, mature presence this young group and rabid supporter base has been calling out for years.

If they continue playing in this vein, they’ll be very much in the frame for a finals berth, which will be a shock too many.

4. Let’s talk about the Dockers
I can’t understand the Dockers and I can’t really place them in any group of teams, which is probably the beauty of the first few rounds of the season.

They are 2-1 after an unconvincing win against the Crows, a terrible effort against the Saints, and a smacking of a very undermanned West Coast. The positive is that there is lots of upside to this team.

They have been without their champion Nathan Fyfe all season, Brennan Cox has been in and out of the side, Matt Taberner played his first game for the season with three goals, and Sean Darcy isn’t anywhere near fit.

If these four players can get healthy for the entirety of the season (or at least the majority of it) they become a finals threat.

The next three weeks will tell us where they are at with GWS at Optus Stadium, Essendon at Marvel Stadium, and Carlton at Optus Stadium waiting for them.

They are all winnable games and if they are 4-1 after five, they’ll probably play finals considering they should only improve throughout the season.

It’s a season-defining three weeks for young superstar Andrew Brayshaw, who needs to lead this team to the promised lands of September.

Andrew Brayshaw of the Dockers looks to pass the ball

(Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

5. Essendon need to find something quickly
Essendon are 0-3 and their season is on the line this week against Adelaide at Marvel Stadium in a game they simply must win.

The Bombers were diabolical against Geelong in Round 1, before having improved performances against both the Lions and Demons.

If they play in the manner they have for the last night, they’ll beat Adelaide and probably Fremantle the following week, but does anyone trust this club or playing group?

The excuse of youth is starting to become a myth. The Bombers’ best players – the likes of Jake Stringer (27), Dylan Shiel (29), Dyson Heppell (29), Zach Merrett (26), Peter Wright (25), Darcy Parish (24) and Andrew McGrath (23) are now seasoned AFL footballers.

This should be the nucleus that is winning Essendon games, but it isn’t, and therefore something is wrong, considering all these guys are very talented footballers.

If they lose this week, the season is over and big questions need to be asked about this playing group, the coaching staff, and list management.

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