Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 21.
Should the Tigers rush back Alex Rance?
NS: No, no no! Why would you risk the career of one of the game's greatest defenders who still has many good years to come? In early September, it will only be six months after he went down in Round 1 and he'd have to be super human to be fully healed by then, not to mention having to get match-fit and overcome the mental hurdles of such a significant injury. It's not as if the Tigers need him, either, with Dylan Grimes, David Asbury and Co stepping up so brilliantly this year. Rance should get fully fit and get ready to chase more flags from 2020 onwards.
JM: Rush is a strong word, but if the Tigers are in the Grand Final and Rance is 80 percent fit or better, he has to play. With equalisation, clubs have such minimal premiership windows and must do everything they can to maximise theirs. No doubt the Tigers are flying and some would say they don't need him to land a flag, but who knows what happens next year. They could fall out of the top four, or maybe even the top eight. Take advantage now and bring him in, but only for the big dance!
MW: Dale Morris' heartbreaking ACL tear after coming back within six months of last doing his knee should be enough to caution the Tigers against bringing Rance back for finals, but the lure of another flag will be strong. If I'm part of the Richmond hierarchy, I'm telling him to rest up - he has his premiership medallion from 2017, so it's not going to be another Bob Murphy tearjerker should the Tigers get up.
Should clubs be allowed to talk to contracted players from rival teams?
NS: They already do -- as we've seen in the case of Joe Daniher and the Swans and Lin Jong and the Magpies a few years ago -- and there's nothing wrong with that. How are clubs and players supposed to do their due diligence about potential moves without actually meeting face-to-face? It was probably unlucky their chat became public news but there would be similar meetings taking place between players and rival clubs across Australia every week.
JM: Of course they should. Fans might not like it, but at the end of the day these players -- who usually only have five or six peak years to earn top dollar -- need to look out for themselves and maximise the opportunity. I have no issue with Daniher chatting with the Swans, whether it's in season or during the off-season, what I have an issue with is players breaking contracts early. If you sign a contract you should have to honour it, unless both parties agree to break it. Otherwise, what's the point of having any contract?
MW: In the offseason? Go for your life. In season? Why the need? I think the sour taste for Bombers fans about the Daniher situation is that the side is in a battle for a spot in the eight and their injured key forward is potentially (despite Sydney and Essendon's attempts to quell any fears) seeking a new home elsewhere. As soon as they're out of the finals race, fair play. Daniher being injured does help with the optics, but it doesn't sit right with me in any case.
🎙️ Should Tom Hawkins have been given a BIGGER suspension? 🤔— footytips (@footytips) September 17, 2019
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Ep. 27 of the @ESPNAusNZ #AFL podcast.
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Who finishes second and third in the Rising Star Award?
NS: Sam Walsh has it in the bag and it's lineball between Connor Rozee and Sydney Stack on the podium. I have Rozee narrowly ahead because I think it's harder impact games as a forward than a defender (fully realising Stack has spent some time in attack). Rozee's cleanness at ground level and in the air, goal sense and willingness to be 'the man' when games are on the line have been so impressive, and most other years he'd win the award!
JM: I love Rozee, but I think Stack (who I also love) just edges him out for second place. Rozee has probably had the better overall year, but everyone has fallen in love with the Stack story and how such a talented 19-year-old went undrafted, and that might influence the voting panel. There's 18 club recruiters who need to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves what on earth they were thinking.
MW: I think we're all in agreement Walsh will win the award, but the race for the podium spots is wide open. You could throw a blanket over any number of young stars - Bailey Smith, Nick Blakey, Tarryn Thomas, Jordan Clark, Jack Petrucelle and even Gryan Miers make strong cases to be in contention, but it has to be Rozee followed by Stack. Speaking of Stack, how stacked is this draft class?
Which NAB Mini Legend do we want to see next?
NS: After it was revealed Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Justin Westhoff, Bachar Houli and AFLW players Tayla Harris and Richelle Cranston were set to feature in the NAB's upcoming Mini Legends campaign, I think Xavier Duursma should be next. He's only played 21 games but what an impact he's already made, dividing public opinion with his brazen bow-and-arrow celebration. I'd love to see a 'mini' Duursma lookalike taunting his rivals in a similar fashion on our TV screens!
JM: I'd love to see a mini Patrick Dangerfield, arms out, chest out even further and strutting towards full forward with the Cats jersey as tight as tight can be. If not Danger, why not find a young Mitch Robinson? He might just be the biggest character in the game right now and who wouldn't want to see a tattooed, angry little man throwing his weight around at the other mini legends?
MW: I'm going to cheat and nominate two Mini Legends. Seeing a young kid parading around on telly with Michael Walters' tattoos and haircut is must-see television, while recreating Charlie Curnow's bouncing locks and iconic arms-out goal celebration would also be very cute if done by a little tacker.