Talking Points from Day 3 of the AAMI Community Series

The AAMI Community Series is wrapped and dusted, and the final six teams are going head-to-head to try to hit the right stuff with renewed confidence.

As with any pre-season, there were plenty of highlights, a talking point and a goal or two – and you’d be crazy to give most of them any meaning.

We learned that on Saturday.

Trent Cotchin should get a week

Will Trent Cotchin face a suspension for his clash with James Harmes in which he appears to have elbowed the Demons’ tagger?

Almost certainly not. And on the face of it, nothing he did was worth even a week.

But it’s also the kind of totally unnecessary dirty play that the AFL has been far too lax about trying to stamp out in recent years. Even if he doesn’t get a suspension, what Cotchin has done is, at best, an ordinary look for himself and the game as a whole.

I wrote last year after another incident where Cotchin smashed a boot into Taylor Walker’s leg that this kind of boss faux aggro stuff is under a guy who’s won three premierships and deserves it as a legend of the game to go under .

It’s one thing to play on the sidelines, but it means tough, but just for a reason, and dropping a forearm down the throat of an already pinned guy no matter what he does to incite it honestly sucks.

Ultimately, like in the real world, you punish things you want to stamp out with fines and jail time. I’d rather see incidents like Cotchin’s Cop in a Week than something like Braydon Preuss’ ugly attack on Tom Berry during the GWS Gold Coast game where the big ruckman got his timing terribly wrong trying to get at the young sun to impose, caught him too low as he jumped, and ended up with the kind of impact that was sure to be observed by the MRO.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Cotchin quits and Preuss goes to the police for a week about her incident. But if the AFL is serious about stopping unnecessary canine deeds, they will at least send the Tigers veteran a fine.

The Demons' James Harmes is being chased by the Tigers' Trent Cotchin.

The Demons’ James Harmes is being chased by the Tigers’ Trent Cotchin. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The dogs can ride out by losing Dunkley

Losing your reigning best and fairest winner to a rival club is never ideal, but if ever a team is capable of going through that, it’s the Western Bulldogs this year.

This is where having more midfielders than you really know what to do with helps. Josh Dunkley was outstanding for Brisbane on Friday night and will be one of this season’s recruits; but the hounds showed against North Melbourne that they have enough cattle to cover the hole he leaves.

Returning to a full-time role at ball after spending last year on a wing, Jack Macrae has been great. Tom Liberatore was bottom of each group, winning eight games and even scoring a few goals. Marcus Bontempelli made things for Marcus Bontempelli.

Importantly, all three are comfortably better kicks than Dunkley and therefore more confident with the ball as you move forward. Considering the size dogs are available these days, this is an important trait.

As for the next-ranked cabs, both Bailey Smith and Adam Treloar are more than capable of filling an on-ball brigade to add magic to any of these trios, offering pace and game-changing intent when they do are allowed to play more outwards. Smith in particular was at his best and his inside 50 kick was better than it had been in a while against the Roos. (Admittedly, that’s from a very low base.)

Yes it was just North but Jy Simpkin, Ben Cunnington and Luke Davies-Uniacke are a pretty decent midfield to go up against and the Hounds brutalized them all afternoon. Defense remains an issue but with midfield stepping up to a difficult to contain forward line, particularly under the Marvel Stadium roof, the 2016 2023 Premiers could see some cricket results in 2023.

The Giants have a secret weapon

If you’re looking for a Rising Star Award smoky this season, meet Finn Callaghan.

After just five games in his first year in the big time in 2022, I couldn’t have been more impressed with the young giant’s performance against Gold Coast. His punching power was more than his 22 departures, six marks or two goals, which really does justice: you just feel safer when you have the ball in your hands.

Callaghan is as classy a midfielder as the Giants have been since the 2017-2020 period when Josh Kelly was the smoothest player in the game. He never looks rushed, he performs beautifully and he does stuff like that.

The loss of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper will certainly mean Adam Kingsley will turn to youth in 2022 to form the core of his midfield: between Tom Green’s bullocking work on the coal mine and Callaghan’s class on the outside – not to mention Kelly, Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Whitfield, who I’m told are all going well – the new manager has plenty of toys to play with in his first season at the helm.

‘Gawdy’ is a go for launch

There are still a few mistakes to be made, but Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn proved against Richmond that their much-hyped combination has every chance of working.

It wasn’t so much their effort in the ruck, where the Dees didn’t achieve their usual dominance on the coal front against a charged Tigers midfield, that would have pleased Simon Goodwin’s heart; rather, it was their forward action.

You might not have noticed, it’s a pretty obscure detail, but both Gawn and Grundy are relatively large males. And whenever the ball went inside the 50, the Tigers’ back got seriously nervous.

Both ended in three goals and if Grundy keeps getting away with some pretty glaring smacks in the back – yes, just like Tom Hawkins has been doing for years – then he could definitely score 30+ goals this year. If Gawn can do the same, it’ll be a huge boost for a team that struggled to convert within the 50s in 2022.

It also has a tangible advantage for Tom McDonald, whose mix of size and mobility forced a number of mismatches on the Tigers. McDonald has also scored three in his first senior run since the start of last season – the Dees missed him tremendously late last year and his presence today immediately made them look more menacing.

Is Dylan Grimes… cooked?

Footy tends to catch up with you quickly, and it’s safe to say I’m concerned that Dylan Grimes did just that.

The Tigers co-captain seemed far from his best last year, spending the last few weeks on the touchline with a hamstring injury and the same troubles were evident in his game as they lost 121 points to a slippery Melbourne.

At his best, Grimes’ closing speed was among the best in the business, allowing him to shield direct opponents to position himself for intercept marks or as part of a zone defense, while never letting his opponent’s turrets drift far enough for him couldn’t do anything about it.

It earned him an All-Australian Blazer in 2019 when he was nearly the best defender in the game, as well as a crucial role in three Premierships at Richmond. But when the Demons found 50 acres to make mark galore, he always seemed a step or more out of sync with the game.

At his best, Grimes could play for young and old alike and was rarely beaten; The problem now is, with that closing speed gone, or at least hampered, he doesn’t really have another physical trait to fall back on. It’s not overly large or powerful, and it hasn’t been a strength since 2020 at least to hold its own one-on-one.

Tigers' Dylan Grimes is tackled

(Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

You can’t carry players to the finish line, especially on defense; For the sake of Grimes and the Tigers, I’m hoping it was just a normal preseason rust and he’ll be better for the run. Talking Points from Day 3 of the AAMI Community Series

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