Essendon’s slashing win over Carlton Sunday night has re-ignited speculation over who coaches Essendon beyond this AFL season.
The speculation is the likely main talking point out of the third round – along with Adelaide’s poor finishes to matches and North Melbourne’s newfound ability to win the close one.
Commentator Tom Harley put interim Essendon coach Mark Thompson in an uncomfortable spotlight.
Harley, who was Geelong captain under Thompson for the 2007 and ’09 premierships, says Essendon are better coached now than when James Hird was in charge.
Thompson has taken over this season while Hird serves his 12-month AFL suspension over the club’s supplements scandal.
Essendon have re-confirmed Hird will definitely return as coach later this year, following last month’s controversy where his wife Tania strongly criticised the AFL in a television interview.
Thompson has repeatedly said he will happily hand the team back to Hird later this year.
But Harley also said after the game on the Seven Network that Essendon looked more drilled under Thompson.
His comments were brought up at Thompson’s post-game media conference and the Bombers coach laughed nervously.
“He didn’t say that, did he? Here we go,” Thompson said.
“I can’t respond to that, apart from saying ‘Tommy, you silly bugger, what did you do that for?”
Earlier on Sunday Port Adelaide’s famed last-quarter fitness advantage counted for little as North Melbourne’s star players rose to the challenge in a seven-point AFL win over the Power at Etihad Stadium.
Tough midfielder Ben Cunnington had a day out with 30 possessions and nine clearances as the Kangaroos overcame a 10-point deficit at three-quarter time to win 14.13 (97) to 13.12 (90).
Cunnington, 22, and Levi Greenwood, who gathered a game-high 34 disposals in his 54th match, played key roles for the Kangaroos who notched their second win of the season.
The previously unbeaten Port are now 2-1 from three rounds, after their much-feared running game fell victim to North’s greater work-rate.
North kicked 5.2 to Port’s 2.3 in the final term.
Three of North’s last-quarter goals came from experienced duo Nick Dal Santo, a triple All-Australian at his former club St Kilda, and Brent Harvey, a five-time club champion.
Harvey’s two last-quarter goals gave him a match tally of three alongside fellow small forward Lindsay Thomas, while for Port big forward Jay Schulz booted three majors.
Dal Santo had 30 disposals while Harvey looked ever-dangerous with 23 touches in his 365th match.
Port coach Ken Hinkley said the Kangaroos were more efficient in the last quarter.
“Some of their good players stood up and kicked crucial goals when they needed them,” he said.
“Boomer (Harvey) and Dal Santo kicked really good goals. A bit of class got them through at the end.”
Scott also praised 35-year-old Harvey, saying top players are always up for the moment in close games.
Injury-hit Port host Brisbane on Saturday.
Club champion Chad Wingard is in doubt with an ankle injury, while fellow small forward Angus Monfries is set to miss a month after being subbed out with a hamstring injury in the third quarter.
AFL Round Three
HAWTHORN 6.2 12.5 17.7 21.11 (137)
FREMANTLE 1.2 2.8 5.10 11.13 (79)
Goals: Hawthorn: I Smith 3 L Breust 3 P Puopolo 3 C Rioli 2 J Gunston 2 J Roughead 2 B Hill D Hale G Birchall L Shiels M Suckling W Langford. Fremantle: M Pavlich 4 P Duffield 2 A Sandilands C Mayne D Pearce H Ballantyne R Crowley.
Best: Hawthorn: J Lewis S Mitchell C Rioli I Smith B Hill L Shiels L Breust. Fremantle: M Pavlich S Hill A Sandilands.
Umpires: Brett Rosebury, Luke Farmer, Nicholas Foot.
Official Crowd: 43,583 at MCG.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 5.4 9.5 11.9 15.10 (100)
RICHMOND 2.4 3.4 9.6 15.8 (98)
Goals: Western Bulldogs: L Jones 3 D Giansiracusa 2 L Jong 2 S Crameri 2 A Cooney J Macrae J Stringer L Dahlhaus L Hunter S Higgins. Richmond: J Riewoldt 4 B Griffiths 2 T Vickery 2 D Jackson D Martin J King N Gordon R Petterd S Grigg T Cotchin.
Best: Western Bulldogs: J Macrae M Boyd T Liberatore D Morris W Minson S Higgins S Crameri. Richmond: T Cotchin D Jackson S Morris J Riewoldt R Conca M Thomas.
Injuries: Western Bulldogs: J Roughead (shoulder). Richmond: N Vlastuin (concussion).
Umpires: Matt Stevic, David Harris, Leigh Fisher.
Official Crowd: 31,724 at Etihad Stadium.
SYDNEY 6.2 9.2 14.5 21.8 (134)
ADELAIDE 2.2 5.7 9.10 9.17 (71)
Goals: Sydney: L Franklin 4 L Parker 4 H Cunningham 3 D Hannebery 2 K Jack 2 B McGlynn G Rohan J Laidler J McVeigh L Roberts-Thomson T Mitchell. Adelaide: M Grigg 2 D Mackay E Betts J Podsiadly M Jaensch P Dangerfield R Douglas R Sloane.
Best: Sydney: L Parker L Franklin J Kennedy J McVeigh N Malceski K Jack B McGlynn. Adelaide: R Douglas M Jaensch P Dangerfield J Podsiadly R Sloane.
Injuries: Sydney: Nil. Adelaide: M Grigg (groin) S Kerridge (eye) S Thompson (corked thigh).
Reports: Sydney: J McVeigh (Sydney) reported for rough conduct on M Jaensch (Adelaide) in the first quarter. Adelaide: Nil.
Umpires: Mathew Nicholls, Dean Margetts, Brendan Hosking.
Venue: Adelaide Oval.
GOLD COAST 2.2 5.6 12.10 17.12 (114)
BRISBANE LIONS 1.2 3.4 6.4 9.7 (61)
Goals: Gold Coast: S Day 4 G Ablett 3 B Matera 2 D Swallow 2 J Harbrow J O’Meara K Kolodjashnij M Shaw S Lemmens T Lynch. Brisbane Lions: T Rockliff 3 M Paparone 2 J Aish L Taylor P Hanley S Mayes.
Best: Gold Coast: G Ablett D Prestia D Swallow S Day K Kolodjashnij J Harbrow. Brisbane Lions: T Rockliff J Redden B Moloney M Paparone M Golby T West.
Injuries: Gold Coast: Nil. Brisbane Lions: D Rich (knee).
Umpires: Scott Jeffery, Chris Kamolins, Heath Ryan.
Venue: Metricon Stadium.
GEELONG 3.5 6.7 9.12 12.15 (87)
COLLINGWOOD 0.4 6.7 8.9 11.10 (76)
Goals: Geelong: T Hawkins 4 A Mackie C Guthrie G Horlin-Smith H McIntosh J Murdoch M Stokes S Johnson T Varcoe. Collingwood: J Elliott 5 J White 2 A Toovey J Blair S Sidebottom T Goldsack.
Best: Geelong: J Selwood M Duncan T Hawkins T Lonergan M Stokes A Mackie C Guthrie. Collingwood: J Elliott S Sidebottom N Maxwell D Beams H Lumumba B Macaffer.
Injuries: Geelong: C Enright (ankle) replaced in selected side by J Sheringham. Collingwood: S Dwyer (leg).
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Sam Hay, Shane McInerney.
Official Crowd: 63,152 at MCG.
WEST COAST 3.2 5.4 8.8 12.11 (83)
ST KILDA 1.5 6.6 7.8 8.10 (58)
Goals: West Coast: J Cripps 2 J Kennedy 2 X Ellis 2 C Sinclair D Cox J Darling L Shuey M Brown M Priddis. St Kilda: L Dunstan 2 L Montagna 2 N Riewoldt 2 B Maister E Templeton.
Best: West Coast: M Priddis D Cox J Darling A Gaff L Shuey. St Kilda: L Dunstan L Montagna L Hayes F Ray N Riewoldt.
Injuries: West Coast: C Masten (corked thigh) M LeCras (arm) S Selwood (ankle) S Wellingham (general soreness) replaced in selected side by W Schofield. St Kilda: L Montagna (leg) S Gilbert (foot).
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Jacob Mollison, Andrew Mitchell.
Official Crowd: 36,448 at Patersons Stadium.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.2 2.7 5.12 10.19 (79)
MELBOURNE 0.2 1.5 5.5 7.5 (47)
Goals: Greater Western Sydney: J Cameron 2 J Kelly 2 J Patton 2 A Treloar D Smith S Coniglio S Mumford. Melbourne: J Watts 2 L Dunn 2 D Kent J Frawley M Jones.
Best: Greater Western Sydney: S Mumford A Treloar C Ward S Coniglio J Kelly H Shaw. Melbourne: M Jones J Frawley J Howe J Watts M Evans D Cross.
Umpires: Ben Ryan, Simon Meredith, Ray Chamberlain.
Official Crowd: 7,016 at Spotless Stadium.
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2 7.3 9.11 14.13 (97)
PORT ADELAIDE 4.3 6.8 11.9 13.12 (90)
Goals: North Melbourne: B Harvey 3 L Thomas 3 A Mullett 2 A Black B Jacobs J MacMillan N Dal Santo S Thompson T Goldstein. Port Adelaide: J Schulz 3 A Monfries 2 C Wingard 2 H Hartlett 2 J Westhoff M Broadbent O Wines T Boak.
Best: North Melbourne: B Cunnington L Greenwood S Gibson B Harvey S Atley R Bastinac L Thomas N Dal Santo. Port Adelaide: R Gray T Boak H Hartlett A Carlile M Broadbent O Wines.
Injuries: North Melbourne: J MacMillan (ankle) J Ziebell (shoulder) replaced in selected side by B Jacobs. Port Adelaide: A Monfries (hamstring) C Wingard (ankle) T Jonas (cut head).
Umpires: Stuart Wenn, Robert Findlay, Jason Armstrong.
Official Crowd: 19,111 at Etihad Stadium.
ESSENDON 6.3 10.6 16.8 21.12 (138)
CARLTON 0.3 3.4 6.8 8.9 (57)
Goals: Essendon: J Winderlich 4 P Chapman 4 B Stanton 3 K Hardingham 3 B Goddard 2 D Heppell H Hocking J Carlisle J Daniher J Melksham. Carlton: D Ellard 2 T Menzel 2 J Garlett L Henderson M Murphy Z Tuohy.
Best: Essendon: H Hocking P Chapman J Merrett M Hibberd D Heppell J Carlisle M Baguley. Carlton: K Simpson B Gibbs.
Injuries: Essendon: P Ambrose (quad) replaced in selected side by J Melksham. Carlton: Nil.
Umpires: Justin Schmitt, Troy Pannell, Craig Fleer.
Official Crowd: 62,730 at MCG.
LADDER AFTER ROUND THREE
P W L PC Pts
West Coast 3 3 – 216.6 12
Hawthorn 3 3 – 143.0 12
Geelong 3 3 – 132.9 12
Essendon 3 2 1 156.0 8
Port Adelaide 3 2 1 131.1 8
GWS 3 2 1 127.3 8
Fremantle 3 2 1 127.0 8
Gold Coast 3 2 1 110.6 8
St Kilda 3 2 1 99.6 8
Nth Melb 3 2 1 98.8 8
Sydney 3 1 2 104.2 4
Richmond 3 1 2 97.1 4
Collingwood 3 1 2 77.6 4
Wtn Bulldogs 3 1 2 70.8 4
Carlton 3 – 3 64.6 –
Brisbane Lions 3 – 3 63.6 –
Adelaide 3 – 3 59.2 –
Melbourne 3 – 3 47.4 –
10: L Breust (Hawthorn) 3, N Riewoldt (St Kilda) 2
9: J Elliott (Coll) 5, P Chapman (Essendon) 4
8: J Roughead (Hawthorn) 2, J Kennedy (West Coast) 2, J Darling (West Coast) 1, S Day (Gold Coast) 4, J Schulz (Pt Adel) 3, T Vickery (Richmond) 2
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