AFL Saturday: Key takeaways as Bulldogs crash into impressive Adelaide, Fremantle conquer Carlton
There were three AFL action games on Saturday as a premiership candidate crashed and burned, while an early-season bolter suffered a reality check.
The Western Bulldogs were heavy favorites to go 3-3 against Adelaide in Ballarat but ran into a committed Crows who canceled out the win in windy conditions.
Port Adelaide picked up their first win of the season against a lackluster West Coast side, and Fremantle showcased their credentials as a top-four contender by knocking out Carlton.
What have we learned from the games?
1. Alarm bells ringing for Bulldogs as they advance 2-4
It’s not the time to dismiss the Bulldogs just yet, but a 2-4 start to the season isn’t usually the path taken by premiership contenders.
Luke Beveridge’s side emerged as the $1.30 favorites to beat Adelaide in tough and windy conditions at Ballarat.
It was a game that needed to suit the Bulldogs’ deep midfield, but it was the Crows who showed the courage and determination to cross the line by a single point.
There are also several worries for the Bulldogs, with the Crows racking up 15 more shots in the 50s and six more hits than their highly rated opponents.
A crucial game looms for the Bulldogs against a struggling Essendon next week.
2. Ben Keays: From radiation to bonafide superstar
At the end of the 2019 season, Ben Keays’ AFL career came to an end after he was dropped from Brisbane after four years and 30 games in the system.
However, Adelaide saw something in the young midfielder and choked him out in the rookie draft before exposing him to 16 games in 2020.
However, from 2021 Keays has become one of the Crows’ most important midfielders, finishing second best and fairest – his game reaching an even higher level in 2022.
Keays is averaging 32 takedowns and seven clearances per game as he played a pivotal role in helping Adelaide cross the line against the Bulldogs.
The 25-year-old had 33 possessions and eight clearances in a huge midfield display.
3. Port Adelaide does the job, but has it turned a corner?
Port Adelaide finally got their first win of the season, but we didn’t learn much about them against a mediocre West Coast side.
Ken Hinkley would have been heartened to see his forward line working effectively with Todd Marshall and Jeremy Finlayson scoring five goals.
There was also a career-best performance from Connor Rozee, who tallied 31 takedowns and eight clearances in a predominantly inside midfield role.
A date with a hot St Kilda side awaits Port Adelaide in Cairns next Saturday night, with the Power needing another win against a strong side to kick off a potential resurgence in 2022.
4. Carlton disappoints again in third quarter
The Blues played some good footy in 2022 but their inconsistency, particularly in the second half, cost them yet another disappointing loss to fellow countryman Fremantle.
With the game hanging in the balance before the second half, Carlton lost the third quarter by two goals, meaning they lost all three terms this season, by a combined margin of 19 goals in six games.
It’s a worrying trend that should separate Carlton’s ability to finish in the top four and compete for a spot in the bottom of the bottom eight.
After starting the game well and leading by a few kicks for much of the first quarter and early in the second, the Blues again struggled to maintain momentum.
Carlton fans must be tearing their hair out over the huge gap between the best and worst of the team, and it’s an issue that must be addressed if the Blues are to be a contender in 2022.