The Six Points: The big concern with the Demons; Max King can flop all he likes; dirty Dayne Zorko

Connolly: Crows' slow rebuild paying off (3:02)

A lot of teams don't have the patience for a slow rebuild, but Adelaide has shown it's still possible in the modern game, says Rohan Connolly. (3:02)

Each week, ESPN.com.au's Jake Michaels looks at six talking points from the AFL world.

This week's Six Points feature Melbourne's greatest worry, why Darcy Moore is the best skipper in the league, the type of flopping I don't mind, and the Dayne Zorko injustice.

1. Why we all should be at least slightly concerned about Melbourne in 2023

Just 21 days ago I penned my feelings on the Demons in this very column. I made the claim Melbourne deserved to be the premiership favourite over Collingwood, Brisbane and Geelong.

Since then, Simon Goodwin's side unconvincingly overcame the Suns before losing back-to-back games against Port Adelaide and Fremantle. They've also lost midfield star Clayton Oliver to a hamstring injury.

It all makes Friday night's clash against a desperate Carlton -- the team they cruelly beat in Round 22 last year -- a sneaky must-win for Melbourne. A loss would have them fall to 7-5, with games to come against Collingwood (MCG) and Geelong (GMHBA Stadium), either side of their bye. All of a sudden, 7-7 is not out of the realm of possibility, a mile from where everyone had them pencilled in to finish the season only a few weeks back.

I'm not prepared to sound the alarm right now. Despite what I said above, Melbourne is favourite to beat Carlton and even splitting the next two would have them at a comfortable 9-5. But should we be even somewhat concerned with the Demons? We should. And here's why.

The natural growth of the playing group has stagnated. Let me ask you something: how many of these Demons have improved from last season?

Fortunately, courtesy of Champion Data's rating points, I've got the answer. The list is just six names long: Kade Chandler, Ben Brown, Christian Salem, Trent Rivers, Tom McDonald and Lachie Hunter. (Jacob Van Rooyen only debuted this year, and has admittedly shown some good signs.)

Of the six, only five were at the club last year. And of those five, none have played even half the available games since the beginning of 2022, which means the sample size is quite small and there's really no true proof they have improved as players. The only two names who really pass the eye test of improvement are Chandler and Rivers.

Literally every other player on Melbourne's list has either had their output plateau or drop off from where it was last year, let alone 2021 when the club won the premiership.

Is it catastrophic? No.

Is it something to keep an eye on? Absolutely.

2. Darcy Moore has quickly ascended to the No. 1 captain in the AFL, and maybe Collingwood's best player

Right this moment, who is the most important Magpie?

Is it second year star and Brownlow Medal favorite Nick Daicos? How about the bullocking Jordan De Goey, who has to be in All-Australian discussions? And then, of course, there's Scott Pendlebury; the man who epitomizes professionalism and success. All of the above have a serious case, but in my mind, it has to be skipper Darcy Moore.

The job Moore has done since taking on the captaincy should not be understated. He has seamlessly grabbed the torch from Pendlebury -- undoubtedly one of the greatest captains in football history -- and after 11 weeks has his side sitting atop the ladder as the clear premiership favourite.

His heartfelt speech on Anzac Day, his involvement in the healing ceremony at Victoria Park, and the way in which he conducts himself both on and off the field all speak to the character of Moore as a person.

As a player, he's pretty handy, too.

At the beginning of the year I ranked Moore as the 31st best player in the AFL. If I was to re-do that list today, he would 100% be in the top 15. Moore is an absolute rock for the Magpies, capable of either locking down the opposition's best key forward or floating in the backline and picking off intercepts. Just go back and watch the way in which he single-handedly snuffed out the Blues in Round 10.

This week, we named Moore as the captain of our mid-year All-Australian team. If his and Collingwood's form continue through the second half of the season, I'd be stunned if he wasn't named to that honour when the official team is announced later in the year.

3. I've got absolutely no problem with (certain kinds of) flopping

Ah, outrage. There's nothing footy fans love more.

The amount of it we saw permeating around Marvel Stadium, and social media networks, after St Kilda's Max King was assessed to have twice 'flopped' and coerced the umpire into paying back-to-back 50m penalties, was off the charts.

King had been awarded a free kick at the top of the 50m arc midway through the first quarter of his side's clash against Hawthorn. His opponent, James Blanck, was clearly frustrated, and shoved King in the chest when he wasn't looking, resulting in the first 50m penalty. As King was being marched to the goal line, James Sicily repeated the dose, giving away the second 50m penalty.

First of all, can you unequivocally say it was a dive or a flop? I can't. King wasn't even looking at Blanck when he copped the first hit, and the second from Sicily -- a raised forearm to the chest -- would have dropped most players in the league.

I'm clearly in the minority with this one but I've got no issue with players going down if they're struck by an opposition, because that action is what we should 100% be stamping out of the game. It's fake-macho garbage which is just so unnecessary in this day and age.

Instead of worrying about flopping or diving, the message coaches should be drilling into their players is simple: don't give umpires a reason to pay a free kick or a 50m penalty against you. The rest will take care of itself.

4. The Suns have enough talent, it's time the club parlayed it into a finals berth

Every year. Every. Single. Year.

It wouldn't be an AFL season post-2014 if either the 'can' or 'should' Gold Coast make the top eight debate didn't circulate at some stage before the bye rounds.

The Suns had an uncharacteristically slow start this year, beginning their campaign 1-4 and drawing a heap of criticism from most including me! But since then, they're 4-2, with the losses coming in a thriller against Melbourne and in the Q Clash against Brisbane. A season which looked all but over after five weeks has once again discovered a heartbeat, with Stuart Dew's side now just one game and percentage outside the top eight.

What has Gold Coast been able to do over the last six games? Two things.

Firstly, it's become a far stronger defensive unit. Since Round 6, the Suns rank third for points against (70 per game, down from 97 from rounds 1-5). It's also the third-best team for scores conceded per inside 50, meaning they are holding up far stronger than we've seen previously.

The other part of the equation has been the increased midfield production. Gold Coast has vaulted to No. 2 in the competition for clearance differential and No. 3 for contested possession differential over the last six weeks.

It's all started with the dynamic Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson duo. The pair complement each other as well as any, often telegraphing where the other will be and what they will do. Rowell leads the competition in tackles, ranks equal-second for clearances and third for contested possessions. Anderson is the fifth-best clearance winner in the game but does more of his damage on the outside as one of the best kicks among midfielders. Add the injured Touk Miller back into the mix and it is a seriously impressive midfield trio; maybe the best in the league.

But there's plenty more talent. Ben King and Jack Lukosius both rank top 20 for goals this year, having booted 45 between them. Jarrod Witts is regarded as one of the best rucks in the game. And if the All-Australian team was finalised now, Charlie Ballard would be receiving a blazer, having been the league's No. 1 intercept marker all year.

I really feel the Suns are just one more scalp away from the vast majority of footy media and the public sitting up, taking notice and declaring them a chance to play in September.

So who's on the horizon? This week they face the Crows at TIO Stadium, then the bye, before Carlton at the MCG and Hawthorn at home. Adelaide might well be that scalp I'm talking about. Win this one and you'd almost expect them to win the next two.

5. What more evidence do we need to prove Dayne Zorko is a dirty player who simply crosses too many lines?

Be it cheap shots behind play, refusing to shake Touk Miller's hand, sledging Harrison Petty's sick mother, or, now, eye gouging a young kid, Zorko has completed his bingo card of pathetic on-field football acts.

Zorko was handed a one-game suspension for grappling with Luke Pedlar, and pushing the index finger of his right hand into the eye region of the 21-year-old, early in the Lions' loss to the Crows at Adelaide Oval.

One game. That's it!

You know who also received a one-game suspension from that match? Rory Laird. The Adelaide ball magnet was punished for a dangerous tackle on Lachie Neale in the third quarter. Except it wasn't dangerous. Neale had an arm free and Laird appeared to exercise great care in ensuring he didn't dump him head-first into the turf.

Not only that but Laird boasts a relatively clean record, certainly in comparison to Zorko. Through his 213 game career, Laird has been cited only twice before this incident. Zorko, meanwhile, has now caught the MRO's attention 16 times in his 239 games.

But even taking each player's record out of the equation, how can these two incidents be assessed as essentially the same offence and worthy of equal punishment? It's not right. Thankfully the Tribunal agreed with my thoughts on Laird, and has lifted his suspension, freeing him to play this weekend against the Suns.

These non-football, grubby acts must be punished far more severely than the football actions which have, at worst, only gone slightly wrong. If not, the AFL will never stamp them out of the game once and for all.

6. This is how the bye rounds should work

I was never a fan of the bye rounds being split over three weeks. Call me crazy but six games per round just isn't enough footy!

The way the AFL has it now is much better but here's how I'd run them, at least until Tasmania enters the competition in 2026:


Splitting the byes over a greater number of weeks softens the loss of footy during the peak of the season. If the AFL went with a four-week bye period, you would still have seven games for three of the four weeks, and only down to six for one of them.

To those lobbying for a single bye week at the halfway point of the year, where every team gets a week off, I say absolutely no way!