After making the finals in 2021, Essendon’s fall continues to shock fans as they experience more pain.
The Lions make it three wins in a row and look to be Melbourne’s greatest hurdle ahead of September, while an unheralded star for the Suns impresses again.
The Sporting News analyses the hot topics coming out of Sunday’s games.
Brisbane could be Melbourne’s biggest threat
Sitting 6-1 and just under ladder leaders Melbourne, the Lions pose as the biggest threat to the Demons’ chance of winning back-to-back flags.
Taking care of the Swans in Sydney by 24 points, coach Chris Fagan and his men have barely put a foot wrong, with their only loss coming against Geelong in round 4 by 10 points.
Each week the Lions are going from strength to strength, led by Brownlow Medalist Lachie Neale, who’s putting together another impressive season.
However, the shoulder injury to star forward Joe Daniher does sour the feeling amongst the Brisbane club rooms at the moment and could be a huge factor in the rest of the season.
Melbourne and Brisbane face off in round 15, after the Lions have their week off in the bye.
Lachie Neale has his sight set on Charlie
2020 Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale could be toward the top of the leaderboard come the most decorated and exciting night on the AFL calendar.
The former Docker has been brilliant in 2022, averaging 32 touches and eight clearances per game, as the Lions vie for a spot in the top two.
Neale is predicted to be on 12 votes after round 7, with perfect games against Sydney (Round 7), Collingwood (Round 5) and Essendon (Round 2) expecting full reward from the umpires.
Despite the obvious challenge from Carlton skipper Patrick Cripps, Neale looks poised to be in amongst the top come season’s end and wouldn’t be a surprise if he becomes a dual Brownlow Medallist.
Touk Miller deserves more recognition
Co-captain Touk Miller continues to fly under the radar with the star on-baller playing out of his skin against Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday.
In a best-on-ground performance, Miller collected 36 touches and kicked two goals as the Suns went down by 25 points.
Because he is from a non-Victorian team, the 26-year-old does not receive the accolades he deserves, with his on-field output being close to the league’s best.
After breaking the record for most consecutive games with 30-plus disposals in 2021, Miller has been able to keep the trend going, averaging 30 possessions from the first seven games.
The All-Australian is starting to receive attention from opposition sides, with Giants player Lachie Ash being deployed as a tagger earlier in the season to curb his influence.
However, Miller’s commitment to the Gold Coast both on-and-off could elevate him to Gary Ablett Jnr. territory, who is still the best Sun to ever play the game.
More turmoil for deplorable Bombers
Essendon have fallen to 1-6 in season 2022 after being easily beaten by an inconsistent Bulldogs outfit.
Looking for answers and not finding any, coach Ben Rutten continues to scratch his head, as each week seems to get worse and worse.
The Bombers sit 16th for points against, totalling a disastrous 736 points in seven games, with an average of 105 per game.
With only a few key players out, Essendon should be competing with teams like Western Bulldogs but find themselves being taught a lesson.
Barely sitting above a decimated Eagles and re-building North Melbourne team, the Bombers must find something to salvage from this season, even though finals seems to be out of reach.
Buddy Beauty: Franklin still has it
Despite the Swans’ loss to Brisbane, Lance Franklin still poses as one of the league’s best forwards, even after injury trouble and questions raised over his age.
Labelled as the ‘Greatest Showman’, Franklin kicked six goals and almost single-handedly led Sydney to victory.
Missing only one game this year, Franklin has kicked multiple goals in all but one match, with yesterday’s haul of six and a bag of four against Geelong the highlights, which included the famous 1000th goal.
Now 35 years old with this year left on his contract, Franklin continues to defy the odds, silencing critics with his impressive performances on field.
Although joining the game’s best goal-kickers like Lockett and Dunstall, the number 23 does not seem to be slowing down in the slightest and could be pivotal in the Swans’ tilt to premiership glory.