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AFL Round 8: Young Docker shines; What is happening at the Kennel?

In Round 8 of the 2024 AFL season, a bevy of young guns shone on the big stage, the Bevo and Bulldogs debacle worsened, and although a Demon may have secured goal of the year, it’s fair to say it wasn’t the best week for small forwards…

Our footy experts cast their eye over the week’s action to find out whose stocks are up — whether it’s a coaching masterstroke or a player having a blinder — and whose are down.

Adelaide

Stocks up: Jake Soligo‘s stocks have been soaring over the last month and this week was no different. The young Crow won the Showdown Medal with a 28-disposals, 15-contested possession, 10-tackle game. Heading into Round 3, Soligo had never recorded 27 disposals in a game. He’s now done it four times in five weeks!

Stocks down: Speaking of Adelaide midfielders … he’s been a gun player for a long time (and still is) but what’s going on with Rory Laird’s game time in 2024? Laird played just 69% of the Showdown which continued a strange and worrying trend of fewer minutes this season. The most game time he has played this year is 78%, while last year he was at or above that figure 15 times, including the last 10 games of the season.

Brisbane

Stocks up: Seven years after making his first All-Australian team, is Dayne Zorko on his way to a second blazer? The four-time best and fairest winner and former captain has been excellent for the up-and-down Lions this season and couldn’t be stopped at half back on Sunday night, picking up a whopping 40 disposals, 16 marks, eight score involvements and 852 metres gained on his way to the Marcus Ashcroft Medal.

Stocks down: But the injury carnage, on the other hand… It’s fair to say this was a bittersweet win for last year’s grand finalists, with both Darcy Gardiner and Lincoln McCarthy going down with knee injuries — likely to be ACLs according to coach Chris Fagan — in the win over the Suns. That’s just rotten luck for a side already without Will Ashcroft, Tom Doedee and Keidean Coleman for the same reason. Ouch.

Carlton

Stocks up: Nic Newman played an outstanding game coming off the half-back flank on Friday night. Already one of the game’s most underrated players, the former Swan racked up 26 kicks from 32 disposals (84% efficiency), 10 marks, and 783 metres gained, always in the right spot at the right time and constantly repelling Collingwood attacks.

Stocks down: Orazio Fantasia found his way back into the starting lineup after a week on the sidelines, but the small forward had absolutely no impact on the game against the Pies, recording just 0.1 from his one kick — from a free kick — and five disposals.

Collingwood

Stocks up: Has Nick Daicos (32 disposals, seven clearances, and seven inside 50s) actually improved? It sounds ridiculous to say since you could mount the argument he ‘should’ve’ won a Brownlow Medal last season, but he was clearly the best player on the ground on Friday night, and kicked a stunning winning goal. Big ups to debutant Lachie Sullivan, too, who had 10 disposals, five clearances, joined the first kick, first goal club and didn’t seem overawed by the occasion.

Stocks down: Steele Sidebottom‘s stocks have fallen — again — after another quiet game. He’s been an outstanding servant of Collingwood for a long time, but his 15 disposals (53% efficiency) and lack of impact was evident, far below what we’ve come to expect from the veteran in recent seasons. Is the end coming?

Essendon

Stocks up: Zach Merrett continues to lead from the front and has not put a foot wrong this season, helping himself to another 29 disposals and six score involvements against the Eagles. He also finished with three goals — just the third time in his career he has scored three or more in a single game. Partner in crime Darcy Parish (36 disposals, six clearances and five tackles) also put together his best game of the season.

Stocks down: Alwyn Davey Jr didn’t touch the footy in two of the four quarters against the Eagles and struggled to impact the game, finishing with just three possessions — all uncontested — and one clanger. Only Essendon’s subs had less time on ground and, yes, he plays in a tough position, but he needs to find ways to get involved and do more when the ball is in his vicinity.

Fremantle

Stocks up: How good was Hayden Young on Sunday afternoon!? The answer for those who missed the game: extremely good! The young Docker put on a masterclass in the midfield as Fremantle brushed aside Richmond at the MCG, finishing with 30 disposals, 14 contested possessions, eight clearances, and two goals. He’s still just 23 and going to be an absolute gun!

Stocks down: You know what? This side should be in the top four. Are they top four quality on paper? Probably not, but they’re playing some good footy and are going to be tough to beat on their day. We’re not getting carried away with a win over the lowly Tigers, but losses from winning positions against both Port Adelaide and Carlton this season — matches they simply should have won — has denied them a 7-1 record.

Geelong

Stocks up: Fresh off a contract extension, Max Holmes‘ stocks have risen again after his 31 disposals, nine marks, and 695 metres gained against the Demons. He has turned into a serious weapon for the Cats, who are starting to utilise their outside players more with an undermanned midfield, and players such as Holmes are thriving.

Stocks down: So, what on earth happened to Jeremy Cameron’s goal kicking? The Geelong superstar booted 0.3 — two of them horrendous misses from easy spots in the last term — in what ended up being an eight-point loss. They’re well-served by Cameron and his usual dead-eye accuracy, but Saturday night is proof again how important kicking accurately is in a game of footy. Yep, it cost them the game.

Gold Coast

Stocks up: Touk Miller, Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson… Sam Flanders — don’t forget to include that name! Flanders is putting together a terrific season for Damien Hardwick’s side and had another 30 disposals, five marks, and 495 metres gained against the Lions, switching between half back and midfield. He’s already a gun, but he’s going to be a serious weapon for a long time.

Stocks down: David Swallow is right on track to reach an unwanted VFL/AFL record in three weeks’ time when he equals Trevor Barker’s ‘most games played without finals’ record. He’ll be 230 matches into his career at that stage. Let’s hope, for his sake, he can experience September football in 2024.

GWS

Stocks up: There’s a lot to like about 21-year-old Giant Finn Callaghan, and for the second week in succession, his stocks are heading in the right direction. Callaghan had 23 disposals, 13 contested possessions, six score involvements and laid 11 tackles in a losing effort against the Swans on Saturday afternoon. Injuries (more on that) will mean he only gets more opportunity to show what he can do at senior level.

Stocks down: It was a shame to see rising midfield star Tom Green subbed out early in the Battle of the Bridge. Green had just three touches before turning his ankle after contact with Sydney’s Hayden McLean. A heartbreaker for the Giants and all of those AFL Fantasy managers who selected him as captain for Round 8!

Hawthorn

Stocks up: It doesn’t matter if he’s in the back or forward line, James Sicily just knows how to be a match winner. Sam Mitchell swung his captain forward against the Bulldogs and Sicily delivered the knockout blow, taking a contested mark and snapping truly to sink the Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium.

Stocks down: We had to wait a while to see Will Day in action this year, and while you never want to crush a player working their way back into the side from injury, it’s fair to say his first two games back have been a little underwhelming. Day backed up his 11-disposal effort against the Swans in Round 8 with just 12 touches this week. Needs to take a leaf out of the Sam Walsh playbook.

Melbourne

Stocks up: If Melbourne is to challenge in season 2024 — which it appears they will — then that Steven May-Jake Lever combination has got to stay fit. If it does, they’re incredibly difficult to defeat. May and Lever combined for 50 disposals, 21 marks, 16 intercepts, 1054 metres gained, and 11 spoils at the MCG, Cameron and Hawkins held to just 0.4 for the game. It’s a serious win. Also, Bayley Fritsch, just wow…

Stocks down: Is it time to worry about a tagged Christian Petracca? For the second successive week, the opposition has looked to put time into the star onballer, and for the second successive week they’ve won the battle. The Cats held Petracca to 21 disposals and three clearances. Alarm bells shouldn’t be ringing, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

North Melbourne

Stocks up: He’s hardly a household name, but Tristan Xerri is quietly producing a season in the ruck that just about anyone who plays the position would be happy with. Xerri finished with 19 disposals, 16 contested possessions, and eight clearances against the Saints. Imagine how much credit this guy would be getting if the Roos were winning…

Stocks down: Saturday night’s loss to the Saints wasn’t a great endorsement for the highly touted Zane Duursma. The 18-year-old was held to just nine touches, two contested possessions, and failed to lay a tackle. Sure, it’s still early days, but you’d have hoped to have seen more from him thus far.

Port Adelaide

Stocks up: With running mate Connor Rozee having to spend much of the night on the pine, Zak Butters stepped up — as expected — and showed why he is now widely considered one the best players in the competition. Another 33 disposals, seven clearances, nine inside 50s, and over 600m gained for Butters should ensure his name is read out on Brownlow Medal night when Andrew Dillon gets to Round 8.

Stocks down: Bad kicking is bad footy and Port Adelaide had one of those nights where nothing would go through the big sticks. Wayward accuracy ultimately cost them in the Showdown, and while Travis Boak (0.3) might have been the biggest culprit, there were 10 Power players who registered a behind on the night.

Richmond

Stocks up: Well, they only need to wait six weeks until facing a side also in the bottom four… so there’s that?

Stocks down: If Richmond want to be winning games this season, especially whilst undermanned, then they need to find a way to get Shai Bolton involved more. The star Tiger was well held by Fremantle’s Heath Chapman before moving into the middle to try and get his hands on the footy, but 13 touches, four clangers, and no scoreboard impact isn’t gonna help their cause.

St Kilda

Stocks up: For the second time in three weeks, Jack Sinclair reminded the footy world why he’s been an All-Australian and why he’s one of the premier attacking-minded midfielders in the game. Sinclair dominated against the Kangaroos, kicking two goals from his 33 disposals. He also had 13 contested possessions, eight clearances, seven inside 50s, seven tackles, and eight score involvements.

Stocks down: Saints fans, are you sold on Mattaes Phillipou? Yeah, same here. It was another underwhelming game from the 19-year-old St Kilda forward, who recorded just one kick and zero tackles. He’s had some shockers this year, but this one takes the cake.

Sydney

Stocks up: We’ve heaped endless praise on Isaac Heeney this year, but the entire Sydney midfield unit deserves its plaudits after thoroughly outplaying the Giants on Saturday afternoon. Heeney once again starred (26 disposals and a goal), but Errol Gulden (29 disposals and a goal), Chad Warner (28 disposals and a goal), and James Rowbottom (21 disposals and two goals) all showed why this side is one that has to be feared in 2024.

Stocks down: Sadly, not for the first time in his young footy career, Tom McCartin was subbed out of a game after suffering a concussion. McCartin was involved in a brutal collision with Giants forward Callum Brown, and was left dazed on the SCG turf. He will miss next week’s game against the Dockers and maybe more…

West Coast

Stocks up: Can Tim Kelly slowly rediscover his best form and remind us all why the Eagles paid a big price to get him in the club? The former Cat was outstanding on Saturday night, picking up 29 disposals, 14 contested possessions (the most on the ground), nine clearances and 548 metres gained. He had an underrated season in a struggling team last year, but he is one of the best players to watch when in full flight and hopefully Round 8 is the start of a consistent run.

Stocks down: The Eagles look a far more competitive team which is a great sign, but when you’re on the verge of causing an upset in a season where you’re not expected to win many games, you cannot afford any dumb slip ups. Jamie Cripps denied Jake Waterman his fourth goal at a crucial stage in the last quarter, the reversal for unnecessary shoving a costly moment and disappointing for such an experienced player.

Western Bulldogs

Stocks up: He started slow but finished like a steam train and Marcus Bontempelli once again proved the club is wasting his prime. Bontempelli had 26 disposals, two goals, a game-high 11 score involvements, seven clearances, and seven inside 50s in what was a disappointing loss to the Hawks.

Stocks down: Is the writing on the wall for Bulldogs premiership coach Luke Beveridge after that shock loss on Sunday afternoon? Quite possibly. Bevo has made some head scratching coaching decisions this season and now, with the Bulldogs at 3-5, urgency for a win has never been greater. Lucky for him they play the Tigers next week…