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Four Points: Tigers three-peat dusted; Dees’ disturbing trend, AFL’s integrity issue

That quintet makes Richmond better on paper than they were against the Lions, although Noah Balta might take longer as he battles syndesmosis and Kamdyn McIntosh will be out with a hamstring injury, but at least some key troops are back.

However, for the first time in the past four seasons the man who has won three of the past four Norm Smith medals, a Brownlow Medal and four All-Australian selections on his way to becoming one of the best players the game has ever witnessed, will not be there to greet the returnees.

That’s going to be hard to get used to given that Martin has played at least 20 games in each of his 11 seasons before 2021 and seemed a player impervious to pain.

But as he staggered to find his feet like Superman being confronted with kryptonite after he copped the accidental body blow from the Lions’ Mitch Robinson it was clear the Tigers’ premiership chances had plummeted.

They still defeated Brisbane on the back of Jack Riewoldt and Toby Nankervis to show how good they are but luck forced them to pay too high a price for the four points.

In 2021, the Tigers are now chasing a miracle.

Melbourne evaporating

The draw with Hawthorn means Melbourne have managed two wins and tie in their past five games, a recent formline that is identical to the bottom-placed Hawks.

Bayley Fritsch of the Demons.

Bayley Fritsch of the Demons.Credit:Getty Images

With a top-four finish almost certain that run of bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-par in the past five weeks would not be a major cause for concern except there were signs against the Hawks that this team remains capable of making poor decisions when the pressure is on, as it will be in finals.

With the Demons leading and just minutes remaining, Bayley Fritsch, Clayton Oliver, Jake Lever and Trent Rivers kicked to contests rather than finding free teammates to wind down the clock.

Such things can be fixed and are part of the journey for any team on the up, but it shows the leadership in tight contests remains a work in progress, with the egos that have got them into trouble in the past again being challenged.

The biggest worry, however, are the trends emerging during this period as the Demons have dropped from the fourth highest-scoring team in the first 12 rounds to 12th between rounds 13-18, averaging 20 points fewer per game.

Inaccuracy is hurting – it was costly in the final five minutes against the Hawks when Angus Brayshaw and Kysaiah Pickett missed set shots to win the game – with the team failing to kick more goals than behinds in its past four games.

The Demons are also back to the problem that had bedevilled them in recent seasons as they fail to get reward for their inside 50s, kicking a goal just 17.8 per cent of the time they enter the forward 50.

Their decision-making also let them down against the Hawks as they were again outscored on turnover, a consistent theme in their losses which gives heart to teams willing to apply pressure on the Demons’ midfield.

The Demons are like a golfer stepping up to the tee on the final day of a tournament with a handy lead despite a rough third day. If they are good enough they will turn it around.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan showed his ability against the Suns.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan showed his ability against the Suns. Credit:Getty Images

Be patient, be rewarded

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan looked promising in his second game, repaying the faith the Bulldogs’ match committee led by Luke Beveridge showed in giving him another shot, with Aaron Naughton and the experience of one game for company.

Collingwood’s Ollie Henry then kicked three first-half goals against Carlton to remind everyone that making the leap from junior football to the AFL takes time, particularly for young Victorians such as Ugle-Hagan and Henry who hardly played football in 2020.

Integrity of the competition

Addressing the fixture issues in such a rapidly changing environment would be a nightmare – and hats off to those keeping the game going – so sadly discussions about player availability (after the drama ahead of the Sydney derby), home games and travel and when games are being played needs to continue to be absorbed in stoic fashion, with a play anywhere, anytime philosophy.

As Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said post-game on Saturday, the new cliche needs to be that we’re taking it day by day rather than week by week.

However the AFL must keep integrity of the competition high on the agenda and discuss where the tipping point sits when players are declared unavailable due to COVID. It also needs to have a policy in place for finals otherwise the whole show moves towards being a farce.

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