AFL Round-Up: Melbourne defeated again, Fremantle impossible to ignore as the season turns into a classic

We are in the second half of the 2022 season and things are starting to get seriously interesting. With Melbourne’s resurgence, the Freo hype can no longer be ignored.

Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that was.

Melbourne’s demons cause for concern?

Two weeks ago here at the Round-Up, we pitched ahead to Melbourne’s next four games and suggested that the biggest test of the season for the Demons yet was about to come.

In fact, we said the coming month would “provide a final judgment on how far Melbourne is ahead of the pack”.

The Dees are only halfway through that run, but an early judgment has already been made. They’re probably not as far ahead as we thought.

The ball falls loose when Max Gawn is tackled by two Swans players
Max Gawn almost single-handedly took Melbourne across the finish line.Getty Images: Quinn Rooney

And maybe it’s not so much a matter of the demons falling back into the pack, though they certainly seemed a different beast without Steven May’s cool hand steering the ship at the back.

The big difference could be the strides made by teams like Fremantle and Sydney, who have now both taken decisive victories over Melbourne at the MCG.

In early 2021, the Swans recorded a striking victory over reigning champions Richmond, showing the full capacity of their young attacking arsenal. This felt similar, only the execution needed to be more complete and mature.

It was difficult to split the teams with a look at the stats, but what did stand out was Sydney’s big win in the tackle count, which ended at 75-53.

Tom Papley holds out his arms to celebrate
Sydney at their best is just as fun to watch as any team in the league.Getty Images: Michael Willson

There was a commitment to rival Melbourne in the game – not an easy feat, especially as Max Gawn played the most dominant game of his season so far.

Sydney’s ability to attack and move the ball through open space has not been discussed. But it was this paved ridge that raises the ceiling of the Swans for the second half of the year.

As for Melbourne? No need to panic. But having now competed for two weeks in a row against teams that can match them in the game and attack with speed and flair, they should quickly find improvement for games against Collingwood and Brisbane.

Flag cloak, baby

If you had to identify two characteristics of this Fremantle team – the one that has fans who dare to dream and load themselves with thousands of preemptive Flagmantle tattoos – it would be defensive structure and complete, unwavering ruthlessness.

You don’t get any free time against Fremantle. They are not going to doze off for fifteen minutes to let you catch your breath. They come with the same heat, the same miserly defense, for four full quarters.

Bailey Banfield screams with delight as disappointed Lions players surround him
Bailey Banfield kicked four in Fremantle’s win over Brisbane.AAP: Richard Wainwright

They played rope-a-dope footy for the first half against Brisbane. The Dockers didn’t put in much offensive play, and the Lions certainly held the ball and field possession.