West Coast’s Andrew Gaff celebrates his goal in the third quarter. Picture: Michael Klein
West Coast’s Andrew Gaff celebrates his goal in the third quarter. Picture: Michael Klein

Why Saints will throw kitchen sink at Gaff

DUSTIN Martin takes to the field strutting around like a muscled-up streetfighter.

Fellow Brownlow Medallist Nathan Fyfe could be mistaken as a model on the Milan fashion catwalks.

Andrew Gaff most closely resembles a high school prefect.

But yet again at Etihad Stadium he does what he has perfected over seven and a half seasons:

Quietly tearing an opponent apart with death by a thousand cuts.

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson minimised the influence of most of West Coast's stars - Jeremy McGovern was quiet and Jack Darling kept goalless by Ben Stratton.

He just couldn't stop Gaff, and as a result West Coast have won nine straight games for the first time since 1991 after a 15-point win at Etihad Stadium.

Gaff's desire to win a premiership likely will keep him at West Coast as his manager Paul Connors flies to Perth in coming weeks to chat to his client.

St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis made clear on Saturday just how much the Saints would love to get their clutches on the hard-running eastern suburbs junior.

What kind of crazy offer would they have to put to him to lure him east - something starting with a one and running to seven figures?

Gaff's stat sheet on Sunday was comprehensive: 35 possessions at 80 per cent efficiency, 12 marks, seven clearances, five tackles and a goal.

One upon a time this game would have been an Etihad Stadium shootout.

Instead we got a tight arm wrestle with plenty of momentum turns, but a dour struggle rather than a glorious celebration of football.

There were only 20 goals with barely a moment when every player wasn't squeezed into one quadrant of the ground.

As usual there were brief explosions of activity in a contest stifled by dozens of players around the ball.

It is hard not to think the AFL's players have become something of a $220 million waste of talent, this weekend no greater example.

At times the match-ups were mouth-watering and the marking targets myriad.

Consider the stars strutting their stuff - Gaff, Elliott Yeo, Jack Gunston, McGovern, Luke Bruest.

But the one-on-one in which two players have room to move - a pair of talls isolated deep, or two wingmen going hard all day - just doesn't eventuate.

Jack Darling was held goalless by Ben Stratton. Picture: Michael Klein
Jack Darling was held goalless by Ben Stratton. Picture: Michael Klein

We play those players $220 million a year to perform superhuman feats and this week we conceded defeat by just bringing in comic book company Marvel instead.

Like Richmond the day before, premiership contender still found a way home in a game with a strong last-term surge.

They were given an armchair ride by Naitanui's 34 hit-outs, the freakish Eagle's pack mark and goal huge to start the last-term push.

Josh Kennedy scrounged three goals, while Willie Rioli mixed the sublime with the ridiculous.

Rioli will face MRO heat for his knee drop on Blake Hardwick and his bum-tap on "Razor" Ray Chamberlain.

In another moment a cheeky tap might have gone unnoticed, but when you have just given away 50m and are being marched back to goal, it was ridiculous in the extreme.

Chamberlain raced into the contest rather than staying back at a distance, which is the way he goes about business. But Rioli will surely be sent to the tribunal for umpire contact then sweat upon a fine, rather than a suspension.

 

Umpire Ray Chamberlain isn’t sure what to make of Willie Rioli’s love tap.
Umpire Ray Chamberlain isn’t sure what to make of Willie Rioli’s love tap.

 

With Mitchell quiet the Hawks found a heap of honest contributors to stay in the contest until late.

Ben Stratton, continually underrated in his career, did a sterling job on Jack Darling.

Jarman Impey continues to prove an inspired recruiting decision, kicking two early goals and setting up a pair as well.

Jaeger O'Meara hit the scoresheet with three impressive goals, but too few Hawks had lots of possessions for not much impact.

Liam Shiels did plenty of work in close (29 possessions, six tackles, seven clearances), while Isaac Smith mixed brilliant moments with some costly clangers.

 

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