Round 18 Mongrel Preview

Well, we’re getting closer and closer to September, and this round will be pivotal for the sides eager for a place, and a good place in the top eight.

Anything is possible, so who’s playing who and what are your chances?

Here’s the Mongrel Preview.

 

Friday

Adelaide V Essendon 7.20pm Adelaide Time, Adelaide

When I do these previews, I like to look back to the last couple of weeks to get a gauge at how teams are travelling. However, as of now, I am refusing to look at any game against the Gold Coast as any more than a light training drill. How can one gain any kind of insight when they are playing against a team bereft of, well, anything? Previous to that, though, the Crows have been in a bit of a slump with a couple of pretty poor losses in a row, and this week they’ll need to turn it on against the Bombers in a battle which could be the difference between a spot in the eight or just missing out. Essendon, on the other hand, have been in very good form having won five of their past six. Their stars are aligning- and actually performing- and I’m very slowly just starting to admit I may have been wrong about them for a good chunk of this season.

The performance to look forward to this game will be Betts and Saad. Both will need to keep each other accountable and both will want to do that by putting on a clinic. If Betts gets free, then Saad’s running, and important ball movement will be lacking from the Don’s generally fast game. If Saad gets loose, then Betts will have to play a bit more defensively. It could be a deciding factor in the game.

Important ins see Heppell return, whilst Fantasia and Hurley are set to miss, whilst Tom Lynch finally gets back into the Crows team, giving them additional hard run from half forward.

At home it’s often hard to tip against Adelaide, but I think they lack the class and consistency. The Dons are in red hot form and I expect that to continue. Essendon by 21 with their captain back.

 

Saturday

Richmond V Port Power, 1.45 EST, MCG

There’s something in the water that breeds inconsistency and Port are drinking too much of it. How can a team play so dominantly one week and then back it up with complete mediocrity the next? Or maybe it was Port being good against an Adelaide who decided to be particularly poor, and then Port was just slightly poor against a much better side. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t tip them, but I didn’t quite expect forty eight point margin. I don’t know where they go from here. They’re no longer in the eight and face an uphill battle to make it. Port at their best can beat anyone, but at their worst they could lose to anyone, too. They’re a tipster’s nightmare so don’t take advice from any expert.

Richmond on the other hand have got their team almost back to full strength and the fixture has given them probably the easiest run home to the finals in the history of the AFL. Little bit farcical there, guys but you can only follow what the AFL give you, so we can’t blame the Tigers for getting their dream run. Still, they must win the games, which for the most part, just means rocking up. Their systems are working, their players are playing well, and they are getting harder and harder to tip against every week. I will take this opportunity to wish Jack Higgins a speedy recovery as he deals with bleeding on the brain. If anyone still needed a reason to understand why the AFL takes head knocks and concussion seriously, this is it.

Liam Baker makes his way back in for the Tigers, as does Jack Graham, and Kamdyn McIntosh sees himself omitted as the squeeze begins at Punt Road. Dan Houston is back for the Power, and he is joined by Matt Broadbent and the young gun Duursma, who was dropped for last week… for some reason. Losing a player the calibre of Brad Ebert is a blow, however.

The game will be won by whoever works harder. It’s as simple as that with these two sides. Both like to utilise pressure and don’t rely strongly on skill. The Tigers are better at it, and I’m not sure whether Port have the heart to match them. Tigers by 19.

 

Carlton V Suns, 2.10 EST, Marvel

David Teague’s mob just keep winning. I’m not really sure what their strategy is – if they even have one – but it is certainly better than it was before. It’s amazing how well you can play when you enjoy your footy. A team who isn’t enjoying their footy is the Gold Coast Suns. They look completely depleted of energy and are just waiting for the season to end. In some good news, a couple of good prospects re-signed, so internally at least, they must be optimistic, but it isn’t showing on the field. They have been less than state comp quality the last couple of weeks and they must turn that around, for the players, their coach, their members and to some smaller extent, their existence. Their opposition can survive a long time without a reasonable season, but a small expansion club can’t. To win this week, the Suns must want, and I mean seriously want to win. They have to attack the contest with everything they have and put the Blues on the backfoot early. Even then, the Suns may not have the cattle to keep up with the Blues, who are finishing strongly, but at least they’ll provide a contest.

Carlton by 31.

 

GWS V Collingwood, 4.35 EST, Giant Stadium

Collingwood travel away from Melbourne for just the fourth time this season, in a remarkably unfair fixture compared to Geelong who should play at the MCG as they, unlike Collingwood, get eighteen home games a year (compared to the Pies’ 17 games in Victoria). Sorry, Bucks, you won’t find much sympathy from a West Australian. Seriously, that may be the single dumbest thing he’s said since he said, “I might leave Brisbane to Collingwood so I can win a flag.” Quality humour.

Anyway, back to the footy.  GWS are going the way of Richmond, which is to say they’re losing all their good players to injury. Unlike Richmond, though, they haven’t timed it very well and not only are losing their grip on the top four, but their top eight chances could be dwindling as well and, as it stands, are now only a loss (and some percentage) off tenth place.

The Pies went over to Perth last week and out of no where took the four points off the Eagles. They did it by spending so much time in their forward line that they had started decorating the place. It was a surprising win, but one that would give them a lot more confidence than they’d have had to this point. For a team in the top four, they weren’t tracking all that well, and have now proven they can match it with the best.

Because of that, and
because of the Giants’ injuries, you’d have to tip the Pies in a pretty comfortable one. Even if it is away from home. Pies by 32.

 

Brisbane V North, 7.25 EST, Gabba.

Well, Brisbane are officially a genuine contender. And it’s about time too. For too long they’ve languished down the bottom, looking very much like their little brothers down the road do at the moment. It’s good to see the Lions roaring and their supporters re-emerging from hibernation (or at least swapping out their broncos jumpers for a while).

North are also tracking well. They’re still half a chance for the finals and will want to increase that with a win on the road here. They competed well against the Dons last week, but in the end their lack of pace showed and that, more than anything, is what will stop them from a top eight finish.

You can’t really fault the Lions at the moment. They’re a young side, an optimistic side, an energetic side and one who can smell a bit of glory – though they’ll say they’re taking it one week at a time. Which is probably fair. A win here for them can put them into second place if either they win big enough or the Pies lose to the Giants.

I think they can. Not only win but win big. North are inspired, but the Lions are inspired and talented. Brisbane by 48.

 

Fremantle V Sydney, 6.10 WST, Optus

Fremantle have a tall issue at the moment. They have nine injured players and eight of them are important, tall key position players. It’s no wonder their form has dropped off, but it also doesn’t explain why they’ve suddenly completely forgot how to play football. A team who was pencilled in to the top eight a few weeks ago, now find themselves battling to finish above fourteenth – where they finished last year – an important milestone for a team who is supposed to be improving.

Speaking of fourteenth, Sydney are also eager to get out of that spot and come over to Perth without a great deal of form either. They have a good record at Optus stadium, and they’re certainly playing better than the Dockers, but they have lost their last two games, against Carlton and Essendon, which were both winnable given their form before that.

Sydney have won the last three games against the Dockers by an average of 84 points. I don’t think that will happen this week, given the slump in Sydney’s quality, but if it does, we may see another coach get the sack on Monday.

Sydney by 21.

 

 

Sunday

Geelong V Hawks, 1.10 EST, MCG

The battle for the ages. Everyone loves a good rivalry and in modern footy, this one stands out above all else. Not that the two clubs hate each other as much as in other rivalries, not because of long standing history or whatever, just simply because when these two sides play each other, the games are almost always close, hard fought and exciting.

Can it be repeated this week though? A quick glance at the ladder suggests a lowly placed Hawthorn against the easily best side Cats and one would be excused for assuming a comfortable win to the better side. However, the Cats’ form since the bye has been a little lacking in consistency and the Hawks, occasionally, have been able to turn it on.

This will be an absolute spectacle. That it is on a Sunday is almost a crime against humanity.

 If the Hawks can bring their best, they can absolutely win this match. It would be an upset, given the fortunes of each side, but not entirely unexpected. The cats got the better of the Hawks earlier in the year, but it wasn’t by a lot- just a measly three goals- and the Hawks have improved a bit since then.

Still, you’d be a braver man than me to put money on the Hawks. Cats by 8.

 

Melbourne V West Coast, 2.50 Central, Traeger park

Footy is off to the Northern Territory and do I love these occasional excursions the game takes. Sure, there isn’t eighty thousand people there, but the atmosphere is still vibrant and usually better than the fifteen or so thousand the Dees are getting at the ‘G this year anyway.

The Eagles will be filthy with themselves after last week – almost as filthy as a few of their fans. When you’re an interstate side, you need every advantage you can get in September, and finishing top 2 is the best chance you get of making the Grand Final.

I expect them to respond and respond strongly. Melbourne have been largely woeful this season and, despite their best efforts, will come up against an Eagles side in a bad mood- and the Eagles can really turn it on when they want to send a message.

If this was at home, I’d tip them by ten goals plus, but in the NT anything is possible (except winter). West Coast by 41.

 

St. Kilda V Bulldogs, 4.40 EST. Marvel

The Dogs have a lot to play for here, given that they’re a reasonable chance for the eight. Believe it or not, they’re not even that far off a home final, should they be able to string a few wins together. They have a great chance this week against the lowly Saints side, who have been reasonably easy beats all season.

Except one small issue. The Saints took the advice from a couple of other teams and swapped out their old coach for a newer model. All credit to Richo, he did the best with the cattle he had, but, if Carlton and North are anything to go by, a new coach means freer footy and no small amount of improvement. The Dogs may have beat Geelong, thrashed port and comfortably run over Melbourne in the last few weeks, but they really can’t prepare for what may or may not happen this week.

One thing is certain though, the twenty two players the dogs put on the park are more talented than the twenty two North put on the park. If they can remember that, the dogs will win the game.

Western Bulldogs by 18.

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The Mongrel’s Rolling All-Australian Team – Round 17

The Mongrel Punt’s 2019 Rolling All Australian Team: Round 17

 

We’ve made it to the middle of July. A time of joy, a time of sorrow, and a time when teams start to wobble and fall off the September bound train. So where does that leave our team of superstars? How many players retain their places? Who has put forward a strong case for an inclusion. The penultimate Mongrel Punt All Australian team was a very difficult one to select, and we are sure it will be dissected by the loyalists.

BACKS

 

Back Pocket: Shannon Hurn (West Coast)

As West Coast assume the role of “premiership favourites” (although who can really pick it these days), the man leading the charge as always is their fearless skipper, and the captain of our team, Hurn. Teaming with Brad Sheppard to form a fruitful rebounding partnership (it should be noted that Sheppard was very close to being selected himself), Hurn’s last five weeks haven’t been his most prolific, but his leadership is what key Eagles personnel value the most, and with West Coast firmly in the race for a top two spot, Hurn shapes as the catalyst for the Kings of the Big Game to soar once more.

Full Back: Harris Andrews (Brisbane)

Moving from centre half back to the full back position in this team, Harris Andrews has turned himself into one of the best one-on-one defenders in the competition. Ask yourselves when you remember Andrews being beaten one-on-one. The fact that it is taking so long to recall any moments of loss speaks for Andrews’ talents as a tall defender. Averaging 13 disposals a game, Andrews’ efficiency of 85% is elite for a man of his size, and he leads the competition for spoils. All of this, and Andrews is still just 22 years of age.

Back Pocket: Jake Lloyd (Sydney)

As the Swans set about an unlikely stumble towards September, prolific rebounder Jake Lloyd reminded us all just how devastating he can be running from defence. In round 12, it was the tightest of calls between Lloyd and Alex Keath, however there can be no such debate this time around, with majority ruling in favour of the Sydney backman over the likes of Mark Blicavs and Brodie Smith. Since the bye, Lloyd has averaged 27.5 disposals at 88%, five marks and four score involvements. It remains to be seen if Sydney are still in the finals race, but Lloyd’s work in defence will be paramount to their success should they make it.

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HALF BACKS

 

Half Back Flank: James Sicily (Hawthorn)

Master tactician Alastair Clarkson made a rare blunder early in the season, moving James Sicily into Hawthorn’s forward line in an attempt to correct their scoring woes. All it did was rob a fragile backline of its most talented player, and once Sicily was swung back to his familiar place in defence, he thrived once more. Sicily’s best on ground performance against the Magpies was perhaps the best of his career, and while drafted as a forward, Clarkson will surely be thinking twice before moving him out of Hawthorn’s back half again. Selected by nine of 11 Mongrels, Sicily’s place on the half back flank is a strong as it has ever been.

Centre Half Back: Jeremy McGovern (West Coast)

With Andrews moving closer to goal, marking machine McGovern has overtaken Mark Blicavs for the second tall defensive position. Interestingly, McGovern was only picked in five Mongrel teams, but all of them on the half back line. Inside the top 10 for total marks, and in the top five for contested marks, McGovern’s last five weeks have been vital to West Coast’s march towards the finals, as he is equally brilliant with the ball as he is stopping his direct opponent from having any influence. West Coast’s defence is often underrated, but a fourth consecutive All Australian jumper looks well within McGovern grasp should his excellent form continue.

Half Back Flank: Tom Stewart (Geelong)

Once again, Tom Stewart’s spot in our defence is his for the foreseeable future. A selection that proved tougher than first figured, Stewart’s inclusion in six teams saw him retain his place ahead of Brad Sheppard. Remarkably consistent, every single game Stewart has played in has produced at least 21 disposals and his effiency is still 80%. Leading the competition in rebounds from defensive 50, Stewart, along with fellow Mongrel team member Tim Kelly shows just what a remarkable job Geelong’s recruiting team has done to find diamonds in the rough.

CENTRES

 

Wing: Bradley Hill (Fremantle)

While Fremantle’s season is crumbling, speedster Bradley Hill’s season has gone from strength to strength. Since the mid-season bye, Hill has averaged 28 disposals at 81% efficiency, and his tandem with Michael Walters is as important to Fremantle’s hopes as their skipper. Interestingly, Hill was only selected in four teams, but every Mongrel that selected Hill placed him on the wing, and was picked just ahead of Giant Lachie Whitfield be the smallest of margins.

Centre: Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

Since Brendon Bolton’s departure, Carlton skipper Cripps has made a strong recovery from his slight mid-season form slump. Playing without the weight of the world on his shoulders, Cripps leadership has been superb in the Blues’ resurgence. Selected in six teams, it was Cripps’s selection in the centre square in four teams that got him the nod over Geelong midfielders Mitch Duncan and Tim Kelly.

Wing: Travis Boak (Port Adelaide)

With Port Adelaide’s season becoming increasingly unpredictable, former skipper Boak has continued his stellar efforts, averaging 32.5 disposals since the trip to China. Most pleasingly, while Boak has drifted forward on occasions, when he moves back into the midfield, Boak has been his regular contested self, averaging 18 contested possessions. Port Adelaide’s season may be on the verge of spiralling out of control, but for them to arrest their inconsistent form, they will need their fearless leader to keep his prolific season going.

HALF FORWARDS

 

Half Forward Flank: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)

A player who had only received just a single previous selection (coming in Round 7), Bontempelli’s second half of the season has been exceptional, and his performances have mirrored his team, as the Bulldogs are starting to motor towards September. Being selected in seven teams, Bontempelli’s numbers are all career bests, averaging 27 disposals, four marks and four tackles. Bontempelli is also in the top 10 for contested possessions, and is seen by many as Easton Wood’s heir apparent to the captaincy.

Centre Half Forward: Jeremy Cameron (Greater Western Sydney)

How do you pick a centre half forward when the position almost doesn’t exist anymore? It is clear based on weight of numbers that Jeremy Cameron is the most likely type, due to his ability to play further up the ground. Cameron was selected in all 11 of our teams, six at centre half forward and five at full forward. Averaging three goals a game, the current Coleman Medal leader’s gap has shortened to his rivals, and he will need to maintain his consistency to obtain his first leading goal kicker trophy.

Half Forward Flank: Michael Walters (Fremantle)

A player that received unanimous selection, Walters form has continued the upwards trend since the mid-season break. In a battle with skipper Nat Fyfe as Fremantle’s biggest Brownlow Medal chance, Walters combines his ball-winning ability with a goal sense that the Dockers have been so desperate to find. Leading Fremantle’s goal kicking, Walters speed and elite ball use has put him in contention for the AFL’s highest honour.

 

FORWARDS

Forward Pocket: Gary Ablett (Geelong)

This was the absolute tightest of calls. Both Ablett and Lion Charlie Cameron were selected in five teams, and both received four votes in the forward pocket and one at half forward. It came down to Cameron not having enough momentum to push Ablett aside, and the Little Master just retains his place. Kicking 28 goals from his 15 appearances, Ablett’s disposal average of just 20 is his lowest since 2006, but his goals per game average is a career best.

Full Forward: Tom Hawkins (Geelong)

Sitting third in the race for the Coleman Medal, Geelong mountain Hawkins has quietl
y gone about his business in establishing the Cats as the team to beat in season 2019. Hawkins was included in nine teams, including six at full forward, and though his 40 goals aren’t a career best, his partnership with Gary Ablett has been impressive to say the least. Hawkins has also been a dead eye in front of goal, as his accuracy of 63% is the highest of the top 20 goal kickers.

Forward Pocket: Ben Brown (North Melbourne)

The closest challenger to Jeremy Cameron’s crown, it seems the Mongrel team was divided in their opinion of Ben Brown’s season. Being included in six teams, the question over Brown’s best and worst has reared its head, as it was argued that Brown’s inconsistency makes him a liability. Brown’s six goal return against Essendon was simply outstanding, but his previous effort registering over three goals came in round 11, indicating that Brown is capable of huge bags of goals, but if held by a capable opponent, his output diminishes significantly.

 

FOLLOWERS

Ruckman: Brodie Grundy (Collingwood)

Still the clubhouse leader for the first ruck position, Brodie Grundy has continued to fend off the advances of Max Gawn, who for the first time has taken selections away from Grundy as Mongrels’ starting ruckman. Still picked as nine Mongrels’ first choice, it seems that Grundy’s form has somewhat fluctuated with that of his team, as when he is at his most inspirational, Collingwood plays brilliantly, but if Grundy is even slightly off, the Magpies have struggled. The final six rounds have become a two horse race, with Grundy leading the pack as they all turn for home.

Ruck Rover: Nat Fyfe (Fremantle)

The skipper of a ship that is hurtling towards an iceberg, Fyfe has been outstanding in his leadership of a team trying a turn around a season that threatens to come to a halt. Selected in all but one team, Fyfe’s statistics are identical to his Brownlow Medal winning 2015. Sitting equal second with Lachie Neale for contested possessions, Fyfe inspirational effort in returning to the field in a close to best on ground display after injuring his shoulder in the loss to the Hawks saw him retain his place underneath Brodie Grundy over the likes of Dangerfield and Coniglio.

Rover: Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

Sitting second behind Adam Treloar in total possessions, and leading all comers in clearances, Brisbane superstar Lachie Neale was one of four players who found himself in every team the Mongrels put forward. We were divided over which midfielders made the starting 18, and seven Mongrels had Neale in their midfield, winning him the spot over Tim Kelly and Ben Cunnington. As Brisbane make a charge towards a finals double chance, Neale’s leadership since crossing the country from Fremantle has been vital in the Lions rapid improvement.

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INTERCHANGE:

Tim Kelly (Geelong)

In looking at the statistics for selections in our team, it should be noted that Kelly found a place in nine Mongrel sides, but we were unable to agree on Kelly’s best position, and as such, the Brownlow Medal favourite finds himself sitting on the pine. Since the bye, Kelly has been overshadowed in the Cats’ midfield, with only his performance against Adelaide likely to receive votes. Regardless, a player of Kelly’s enormous talent is still considered one of the best 22 players in the competition at this stage of the season, and he will be vital to Geelong’s premiership aspirations.

Ben Cunnington (North Melbourne)

It has finally happened. Mongrel Punt HQ couldn’t hold off the onslaught any longer, and Kangaroo Ben Cunnington has taken his place in our team. The leading player for contested possessions, Cunnington’s selection in six of our team earns him a place on our interchange bench. While others around him are elite users of the ball, Cunnington’s best work is at the bottom of packs, but his efficiency of 78% often goes unnoticed by many pundits.

Charlie Cameron (Brisbane)

Who saw this coming? After 17 rounds, Brisbane sits third on the ladder, and a man that has been vital to their success has been their magician Cameron, who leads the Lions goal kicking and has produced some moments of pure magic. Just getting pipped at the post by Gary Ablett for the forward pocket position, Cameron is Brisbane’s most important forward, and a key ingredient to the Lions reaching the Holy Grail a year or two before anyone predicted.

Max Gawn (Melbourne)

Brodie Grundy’s biggest threat, Max Gawn’s last five weeks have heaped the pressure on the hairy Magpie. Leading the competition for hit outs to advantage, and third for overall hit outs, Gawn is seen by many as Melbourne’s most important player and his partnership with Clayton Oliver and Angus Brayshaw will be the key to the Demons finally realising their potential. Selected in five of our teams, two Mongrels felt that Gawn had done enough to usurp Brodie Grundy, and if his form continues, the race of the ruckmen will certainly come down to the wire.

 

As always, the significantly shortened version of our team looks like this:

B: Hurn (c), Andrews, Lloyd

HB: Sicily, McGovern, Stewart

C: Hill, Cripps, Boak

HF: Bontempelli, J. Cameron, Walters

F: Ablett, Hawkins, Brown

R: Grundy, Fyfe, Neale

INT: T. Kelly, Cunnington, C. Cameron, Gawn

IN: McGovern, Bontempelli, Brown, Cunnington, C. Cameron, Gawn

OUT: Blicavs, Coniglio, Finlayson, Keath, Whitfield, Luke Ryan

 

This really was one of the hardest teams to select, and this is backed up by some interesting stats:

§  64 individual players received a selection, the highest of our teams this season.

§  Just four players were selected unanimously, down from 11 in round 12.

§  Despite once again sitting second on the ladder, only Brodie Grundy was selected from Collingwood.

§  Five teams (Adelaide, Essendon, Gold Coast, Richmond and St Kilda) did not have a player selected.

§  Giant Jeremy Finlayson received seven selections in round 12, and did not receive a vote in this instalment.

Just six rounds remain until our final team is selected. Have our players done enough to fully secure their positions? Or will there be a bolter from the back of the pack? Of the players that were closest to selection this time around, former members Mark Blicavs, Patrick Dangerfield and Lachie Whitfield would consider themselves the unluckiest, with Whitfield’s injury coming in the worst possible time. Teammate Stephen Coniglio’s knee means that he will be unable to regain his place, and newcomers Brodie Smith and Josh Dunkley have both put forward strong cases for a late season inclusion.

Round 23 awaits.

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Gillon McLachlan

Gillon McLachlan’s reign as AFL CEO is nearing the end, with the chief’s contract expiring at the end of next season. McLachlan has previously stated that he wants a less high-profile and scrutinised job by the time his children reach high school, meaning next year is set to be his final year in the hot seat of one of the most high-profile and scrutinised jobs in the land.

So, as the curtain prepares to close on his reign over the AFL, we review how he has fared thus far – the only way The Mongrel Punt knows how. This is the good, bad and the ugly of Gillon McLachlan’s legacy.

 

THE GOOD

 

AFLW

This inspired captain’s call will be the skipper’s most enduring and legacy-defining act. A national women’s competition was originally scheduled to commence in 2020. However, McLachlan, in the face of several doubters both inside and outside AFL House, decided to fast track this process which resulted in the AFLW beginning in 2017 – in a blaze of glory. Women’s participation in Australian Football has exploded since then, entirely on the back of the AFLW ‘movement’. It was a massive statement and demonstration of leadership from McLachlan, and meant a generation of female footballers finally had their dream realised.

 

Broadcast rights

In a game increasingly driven by the bottom line, McLachlan’s administration was able to deliver a record-breaking broadcast deal that cements the AFL’s place as the most powerful – and secure – code in the country. The $2.508 billion six-year broadcast rights deal with Seven, Telstra and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp signed in 2015 looks even more impressive now due to the industry wide concern over negotiations for the next broadcast rights deal. Financially, McLachlan will leave the AFL in its strongest ever position.

 

Good Friday Footy

After years of softening up the game’s traditionalists, the AFL, under Gil’s watch, finally bit the bullet and introduced for the first time, Good Friday football. The AFL is yet to settle on an annual match-up with pioneers North Melbourne having hosted the Bulldogs, St Kilda and Essendon over its three-year run. West Coast and Port Adelaide also received a piece of the action with this year’s double-headed fixture. The league will eventually find the right mix, but most importantly, the game raises significant funds for the Good Friday Appeal and has been a largely welcomed edition to the football calendar.

 

Twilight Grand Final

The annual Good Friday style cycle is nearing its completion in regards to a twilight Grand Final. ‘Inevitable’ was the word used by McLachlan’s to describe the incoming twilight Grand Final, with AFL Chairman Richard Goyder going public in his support for the concept earlier this year. ‘Inevitable’ is a long timeframe but with McLachlan set to depart the league at the end of next season, pencil in a twilight GF for 2020. The time change is expected to deliver 800,000 more viewers from the less football-infatuated states of New South Wales and Queensland. But how will the football obsessed in Victoria, SA and WA handle the change to their well-planned Grand Final day celebrations?

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THE BAD

 

Mid-season trade period

A mid-season trade period is set to take place in a competition wide bye next season in order to further feed the ever-hungry trade news beast. This year’s mid-season draft delivered little yet has been significantly detrimental to the game’s second-tier competition, especially the SANFL and WAFL who remain independent of the AFL’s control. The idea of mid-season trade period is even worse and will be a debacle for contracts and provide unneeded pressure on AFL players to uproot their lives to play and live halfway across the country in the space of a week.

 

Lachie Whitfield

Every time Lachie Whitfield has the footy in a GWS jumper – which is quite often! – my mind immediately jumps to his ill-fated attempt to avoid drug testers and how on earth he is allowed to be still playing? McLachlan’s AFL’s pathetic eight-week suspension in 2015 should have been four years if the rules had anything to do with it. And if ASADA did not pick and choose when its strikes and when it cowers. Too often in McLachlan’s reign were penalties based on convenience and ‘optics’, instead of rules and fairness. Put an asterisk next to Lachie Whitfield – and hence, GWS – until next season.

 

Sydney trading ban

When the Swans embarrassed the AFL by pulling the tablecloth out on their plans to sign Lance Franklin as the face of their newest baby, the Giants – the AFL proceeded to further embarrass themselves. The AFL severely penalised Sydney with a two-year trading ban for following the rules that they designed. Former AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has his fingerprints all over the farcical ban but McLachlan’s title means he too must yield some responsibility. The ban has certainly been at the forefront of the incredibly strained relationship between the league and its most critical club.

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THE UGLY

 

Essendon drugs debacle

The beginning of McLachlan’s reign was dominated by the dark clouds of a drugs debacle that crushed the game for years. As deputy leader, McLachlan shouldered much of the responsibility for the league’s handling of the crisis even before sitting in the main chair. However, his primary failing is not having implemented significant change in stopping such a debacle from ever happening again. The first step would be ditching the WADA code which is completely incompatible with AFL football. Specifically, the WADA code’s assumption that athletes are responsible for actions of their coaches and support staff is a ridiculous notion in a competition where footballers have no say where they are drafted. An ill-fitting drug code doomed thirty-four footballers; this risk remains over all others because McLachlan has not addressed the issue that defined his tenure in charge.

 Who are the best players aged 23 or under? Check out The Mongrel’s Patron article with the All 23 & Under team
Who are the best players aged 23 or under? Check out The Mongrel’s Patron article with the All 23 & Under team

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Mongrel Of The Year Votes – Round 17

Mongrel of the Year 2019 – Round 17

 

It shaped as one of the rounds of the season, and in large part the seventeenth weekend of 2019 lived up to expectations. Four games were decided by eight points or fewer, with the top 8 continuing to take shape with just six games left before finals, and with the season being as even as it is, we’re no closer to knowing just who will taste the ultimate glory come the last Saturday in September. We’re also no closer to knowing who will take out the inaugural Mongrel of the Year.

In devising this award, we at the Mongrel Punt are attempting to recognise the kind of player we like to see play the game. It’s not just midfielders; this week we’ve seen wingmen, half back flankers, key forwards and tall defenders all feature in the votes. Each week, those of us who write game reviews for the Mongrel site award votes on a 3-2-1 basis, centred on our own individual criteria, but predominantly looking at the influence of players rather than their statistical output. Here are Round 17’s votes:

West Coast v Collingwood

3 Brody Mihocek (Collingwood)

2 Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood)

1 Elliot Yeo (West Coast)

It was a gutsy and important win for the Magpies, away from home on the big Friday night stage against a team to whom they’d lost their last five encounters. Nathan Buckley would have to have been pleased with their performance, especially in the second half, and would also have to be pleased that Brody Mihocek looks back to his best. It wasn’t just the equal career high four goals which he kicked, all of which came at critical junctures, though they were no doubt important. His ten marks and five contested marks were both game highs, as were his eight score involvements. He sent the Magpies inside forward 50 four times, the equal third most of any Pie, while his 447 metres gained had him ranked fourth on his team. Mihocek has no doubt played some good games for his side this season, kicking four goals in three games, but having managed just 5.9 in his previous six games, it would no doubt be a happy sight for Pies fans to see the second year forward dominating again.

If it was a 32 gamer who stood up most prominently up forward for the Magpies in what was certainly their most important win of the year, it was a 227 game jet standing up in the guts to make sure the star studded West Coast midfield didn’t get the ascendancy. Steele Sidebottom’s shift out to the wing to compensate for other big names in the middle has led to decreases in his stats across the board, but on Friday night he was back near his classy best. Only renowned ball winner Adam Treloar had more disposals and contested possessions than Sidebottom’s 33 and 14 respectively, while he also had five score involvements, an equal team high eight intercepts, six clearances and five inside 50’s. His 550 metres gained were the third most of any player on the ground as time and again he and captain Pendlebury drove the Pies forward to get them over the line, and thus he gets the votes ahead of Crisp.

He might not win as many disposals as Andrew Gaff, nor look quite as flashy as Luke Shuey, but it’s probably fair to suggest Elliot Yeo is the Eagles’ most important midfielder. Having managed just seven goals for the season before this game, he kicked multiple goals for the first time since Round 20 last year, kicking the first goal of the second quarter and then what proved to be the Eagles’ last goal of the game, 10 minutes into the third quarter. He also had two goal assist, for a grand total of eight score involvements, the equal most of any player on the ground, with his nine inside 50’s also a game high. His eight tackles were a team high, as he once again showed his willingness to crack in and do the dirty work when others look less interested, and with his 499 metres gained also a team high, it would have been hard to look past the former Lion for best on ground honours if the rest of his team had have managed to crack in as much as he did.

Sydney v Carlton

3 Nic Newman (Carlton)

2 Jake Lloyd (Sydney)

1 Marc Murphy (Carlton)

Nic Newman was traded from Sydney to Carlton at the end of last year’s trade period for a future fourth round draft pick. While undoubtedly there have been bigger steals in the long history of AFL player movement, this was a true robbery, as Newman in the space of one offseason went from a fringe player in John Longmire’s side to an integral part of a Carlton backline which has looked shaky at times, but better with every week. Against his old side on Saturday afternoon he was irrepressible off half back, with team highs in 32 disposals, nine rebounds and 711 metres gained, as well as game highs in 12 intercepts and 13 marks. With his disposals coming at 88% efficiency, it was a career best outing for the former Swan, who showed why the Blues’ list management were so keen on bringing him into the side.

It’s been a funny year for reigning Bob Skilton Medalist Jake Lloyd. He continues to rack up ball across half back better than any other defender in the competition, doing so at fairly high efficiency, and yet very few teams seem willing to throw a defensive forward at him to curtail his influence. On Saturday against the Blues he was again prolific, his side’s best player, and yet he couldn’t get his side over the line. He nailed a rare goal with almost no time left on the clock to give the Swans the slightest of sniffs, but his work across the game was what earned him votes, with game highs in 34 touches, 12 rebounds, and 771 metres gained, as well as six score involvements and three inside 50’s as he consistently turned defence into attack.

I’m not sure whether it’s been a masterstroke by David Teague to move Ed Curnow and Murphy back into the midfield, or whether it shows how stubborn Brendon Bolton was in his commitment to youth. As with all things, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but Murphy looks a revitalised man under the new coach, playing what is close to career best footy in his 14th season in the AFL. His 29 touches were the third most of any player on the ground, with 11 contested possessions, six clearances and 475 metres gained. No Blue had more inside 50’s than his six, as well as a goal just before three quarter time to hand the young Carlton side some breathing room and some hope heading into the final break. His experience is unmatchable and crucial in this young Carlton side, and he now looks revitalised enough to continue into another season.

Hawthorn v Fremantle

3 Ricky
Henderson (Hawthorn)

2 James Worpel (Hawthorn)

1 Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle)

It’s almost hard to believe how good Ricky Henderson has been for Hawthorn this year. In a game marred by horrible disposal at times, he stood above everyone else. Whenever he had ball in hand, it was almost as if Hawthorn supporters could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that he would use it well enough to create some kind of damage. His 25 touches came at 80% efficiency, with his six score involvements including two direct goal assists at critical junctures of the game. He had game highs in inside 50’s (seven), rebounds (five), metres gained (654) and marks (11), as he ran harder than most other players on the ground. There are few players who reach their peak after age 30, but in his 10th season the former Crow shapes as, at this stage, a certain inclusion in the All Australian squad and as good a chance as any other wingman to take the spot.

While all attention turned to Jaeger O’Meara after Tom Mitchell went down with a broken leg in preseason, James Worpel has flown under the radar a little. After an encouraging start to his career last year in 11 games, he has improved out of sight thus far in 2019, having more than 20 touches in every game bar one, and five or more clearances in ten of those games after reaching that mark once last year. It was a career best outing on Saturday afternoon against Freo, with his 33 disposals, 15 contested possessions, nine clearances, and seven score involvements all either team or game highs. Only Henderson managed more than his 580 metres gained, while his goal assist to Mitch Lewis in the first quarter was a thing of beauty, roving a tap from Ben McEvoy to perfection. The Hawks may just have found another one here, after drafting him at Pick 45.

In a game in which his team looked entirely insipid for large patches, the class differential between Nathan Fyfe and a lot of his teammates is blatantly obvious to see at times. While he struggled to break the Howe tag early, after going off the ground injured he looked like changing the game up forward for his side. With Taberner and Hogan missing, and Lobb and McCarthy struggling to have an impact, Fyfe’s second quarter was a thing of beauty, as all of Fremantle’s forward entries gravitated toward him. He kicked three of his side’s first four goals, on a day where they struggled to convert for the entirety. His eight tackles were an equal game high, while no one had more than his 16 contested possessions, and no Docker was involved in more scores than his five. Three of his six marks for the day were contested, as he managed to be one of the best players on the ground in spite of the rest of his team’s mediocrity.

Essendon v North Melbourne

3 Ben Brown (North Melbourne)

2 Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (Essendon)

1 Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne)

It doesn’t happen very often that the losing team have two of three players in the votes, but with Essendon snatching victory in the last 30 seconds, courtesy of a goal which I’ll get to later, it’s also probably fair enough. With Michael Hurley going off injured early in the third quarter, Ben Brown exploded, kicking four of his six goals for the day after that point to get the Kangaroos within a sniff of victory. It will be tough going, clearly, for Essendon without Hurley, but that is to take nothing away from the man who is now second in the Coleman race. He could have managed a bigger bag too, with 6.1 and three shots on goal that failed to register a score, combined with nine total score involvements, 12 marks including a massive six contested, and 380 metres gained. He’s a hard man to stop when he’s in full flight, and though North’s finals chances now look slimmer than they did heading into this game, Brown is still a decent shot at a first Coleman Medal.

Find me someone who loves footy who doesn’t love watching Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti play, and the odds are they’re a North Melbourne fan. Honestly his two votes here are just as much for his last minute of gameplay as they were for the 119 before it. The level of difficulty on that snapped shot, under pressure, was immense, with so little room for failure, and yet Tippa managed to spin, turn, and finish truly to see Essendon in the eight after 17 rounds. His 11 score involvements were a game high, while only Brown had a greater scoreboard impact than his 4.2. Two of his four tackles came inside forward 50, as he managed to put the pressure on North’s backline, and so he gets the votes, just ahead of Dylan Clarke, who kept Ben Cunnington quiet for the third week out of four.

It’s quite incredible that Robbie Tarrant has never been in an All Australian team, let alone an All Australian squad. 2019 looks to be the season in which that changes, even after Josh Bruce got a hold of the North backline last week. Of Tarrant’s 22 disposals, only one was ineffective, and while those stats for defenders can sometimes be misleading, they weren’t on Saturday evening. Tarrant gained 465 metres, the most of any Roo on the ground, along with a game and career high 12 rebounds. He also took 11 marks, the second most of any player on the ground behind Brown, as well as a massive 14 intercepts, another game high, and 11 one percenters, a team high, as time and again the Essendon players seemed to be picking him out inside their forward 50.

Gold Coast v Adelaide

3 Wayne Milera (Adelaide)

2 Rory Atkins (Adelaide)

1 Brad Crouch (Adelaide)

It would be more difficult to pick out Crows who didn’t deserve votes in this one, in a game which at times looked more like Adelaide’s tropical midseason training run than a game of high level football. Daniel Talia had just eight touches, but was part of a backline that conceded just eight goals. In the end, it was the role-players who got the greatest recognition out of this one. Wayne Milera had some time in midfield and managed to show his talent in one of the better games of his still young career. His 27 touches came at 85%, with a goal and a massive four goal assists in among 12 score involvements. Only Rory Sloane had more, while only Brodie Smith had more inside 50’s than his seven. Milera was drafted with the pick Geelong traded for Patrick Dangerfield, and though he may not be a player of the same quality, his talent very much came to the fore on Saturday night.

Rory Atkins was another of Adelaide’s lesser lights who managed to dominate against the Suns and get some valuable form into his legs as the Crows look to secure a home final. He was one of many, many Crows who was less than adequate last week in the Showdown, as Port belted their crosstown rivals in the second half, but he was excellent on Saturday night. Only once in his career has he managed more than the 35 touches he racked up, and he was one of eight Crows to have double digit score involvements
, with 10. Two of those were direct goal assists, while he also sent the ball inside 50 seven times, and had a game high 687 metres gained, as he and Brodie Smith time and again drove the Crows out of defence and into attack.

Since totalling six votes in the three weeks leading up to the bye, Brad Crouch’s form had tapered slightly, in losses to the Cats and Port. While he wasn’t totally prolific with ball in hand against the Suns, with just 25 touches and seven score involvements, he gets the final vote as much for his defensive work as anything else. In blowouts like this it can be easy for players to start playing bruise free footy, and so while other Crows had more of the ball than him, and more than his three clearances as well, no one on the ground had more than his massive 16 tackles. Crouch’s desire to crack in hard against the young Gold Coast midfield was one of the more pleasing aspects of the Crows’ win, as they managed to be just -6 in tackles despite winning the disposals by 174.

Geelong v St Kilda

3 Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong)

2 Mitch Duncan (Geelong)

1 Luke Dunstan (St Kilda)

By no means has Patrick Dangerfield had the impact he did across 2016 and 2017, a two year span across which he was the best player in the competition, in 2019. Still, Geelong are two games clear on top of the ladder, and requiring less output from their superstar midfielder. On Saturday night, when they needed him to, he flicked the switch, playing what was arguably his best game of the season. A game high 23 of his 32 disposals were contested, as he managed to win the ball on the inside and feed the Cats’ outside runners, including predominantly Duncan. His nine clearances, eight score involvements and three contested marks were also equal game highs, while his 553 metres gained were an outright game high and his seven tackles were an equal team high, as he busted his gut to ensure the Cats wouldn’t slip up, adding a goal halfway through the third quarter to ensure their two game lead on top of the ladder would be restored.

With Tim Kelly’s further rise to prominence this year, Mitch Duncan has had to take another step back in Geelong’s star studded midfield. Ask a Geelong supporter though, and they’d probably tell you he’s been the club’s most consistent midfielder across the entirety of the year. It was arguably his worst game of the season in last week’s loss to the Dogs, which demonstrates his importance to the midfield, and on Saturday night he, in combination with Dangerfield, rebounded strongly into form with a game high 33 touches. He kicked a goal as well in time on in the third term to put breathing room between the two sides, as part of eight score involvements that also included a direct goal assist. His 491 metres gained were the third most of any player on the ground, with four clearances, four tackles and five inside 50’s rounding out a solid night for a gun player.

In a year in which consistency has been relatively hard to come by, Luke Dunstan has been more than handy since his return to the senior side in Round 8. Since then, he’s averaged 24 touches a game, well up on his career average of 19. In Geelong on Saturday night he provided the spark St Kilda needed as they looked capable of scoring a massive upset before running out of legs halfway through the third quarter. His 30 disposals were the most of any Saint, as were his 17 contested possessions, and he more than any other player for his club reaped the benefits of Rowan Marshall’s domination in the ruck, finishing equal with Dangerfield with nine clearances. He also managed six score involvements and 328 metres gained as he took it right up to the Cats’ much vaunted midfield.

Richmond v GWS

3 Tom Lynch (Richmond)

2 Shai Bolton (Richmond)

1 Dylan Grimes (Richmond)

On a day on which three time, reigning Coleman Medalist Jack Riewoldt returned for the Tigers after playing just three games in the first 16 weeks of the season, it was Tom Lynch who played one of his best games in yellow and black, if not his absolute best. He may have kicked ‘just’ the three goals, the same amount he’s kicked in each of his last three games now, but his 18 disposals were a season high. He sent his side inside 50 four times, with his 11 score involvements an equal game high. Opposed to Phil Davis, he was the most influential player on the ground, an event which doesn’t happen very often, and his 13 contested possessions were a team high for Richmond. With Riewoldt fairly quiet, understandably, in his return game, Lynch stood tall and got his side over the line in one of their more convincing wins of the year.

If any young player has flown under the radar this year more than Shai Bolton, I’m not aware of them. It might surprise everyone, but he’s actually Richmond’s leading vote getter in this award this season, which probably speaks as much to the Tigers’ even spread of contributors as much as it does to Bolton, but in any event he was hugely influential in their road wins over Fremantle and Gold Coast, and backed that up this week with another tremendous performance against the Giants. After not having crossed 20 disposals at any point in his first 17 games, he’s done so in each of his last two weeks, with his 29 on Sunday a new career high. He kicked a goal and added a goal assist for seven total score involvements, with four clearances and five inside 50’s as he showed he could be a new midfield weapon for Damien Hardwick’s men.

While plenty of Giants racked up plenty of ball, it was Richmond’s replacement Rance in Dylan Grimes who earns the final vote. The Giants actually won the inside 50’s, 60-59, and yet managed just 22 scores to Richmond’s 29. In a forward line led by Jeremy Cameron and Harry Himmelberg, as well as Toby Greene and Tim Taranto rotating through, the Giants managed just eight marks inside 50 to the Tigers’ 11, and while conditions played a part in that, so too did Grimes. The Tiger’s 15 touches included 10 intercepts, which allowed Bachar Houli and Jayden Short to provide drive off half back. He was involved in five scores, a pretty good tally for a deep defender, and only Short had more rebounds for the Tigers than him.

Western Bulldogs v Melbourne

3 Josh Dunkley (Western Bulldogs)

2 Jackson Macrae (Western Bulldogs)

1 Steven May (Melbourne)

In what shaped as a banana peel game for the Dogs, who have beaten Richmond, Brisbane, Port Adelaide and Geelong, yet lost to Carlton and the Gold Coast, Josh Dunkley played one of the best games of the season by any player. If, as we keep threatening to d
o, the Mongrel Punt compiles a list of the year’s best individual performances, Dunkley’s would have to be near the top. According to @SirSwampThing on Twitter, who I strongly recommend following if you’re a fan of obscure and necessary footballing stats, no player in recorded history had had 35+ disposals, 20+ contested possessions, 15+ tackles and 2+ goals in a game before Sunday. Against the Dees, Dunkley recorded a statline of 39, 24, 15 (all of which were game highs) and 2.0 respectively, to go with a game high 10 score involvements and an equal game high nine clearances. His 494 metres gained were the third most of any Dog on the ground, and with Marcus Bontempelli quiet before going off with an ankle injury that clearly hindered him, Dunkley was exceedingly important.

With Matt de Boer out for an extended period of time, since suffering a fractured shoulder in Round 13 against North Melbourne, there’s been discussions around who the best tagger in the game is. While that honour probably falls to Essendon’s Dylan Clarke or St Kilda’s Jack Steele for their shutdown ability, Jackson Macrae has been outstanding since the bye in a run with role. Since the bye he’s polled eight votes in five games, having shut down Patrick Cripps in round 13 and now Clayton Oliver in head to head matchups. While he had 30 touches at 77%, with six tackles, three clearances, five score involvements and four inside 50’s, he managed to keep Oliver quiet in one of the most important aspects of the Dogs’ win, the Demon having just 17 touches at 53% efficiency, and though he managed eight clearances, he only had four score involvements, highlighting his diminished impact.

The influence of Aaron Naughton on this Bulldogs’ lineup in just his second season has been truly remarkable, with his dominance in games against Richmond and Geelong, as well as a notable performance against Brisbane, all key contributions to important wins for his team over the course of the season. There’s a school of thought that if you shut down Naughton, you close down the Dogs’ avenues to goals, and while that wasn’t necessarily the case against the Dees, Steven May deserves a lot of credit for his best game in red and blue. The young Dog managed just 10 touches, with four marks and, most notably, just the one score involvement, a behind, as his possessions came largely up the ground. May, on the other hand, had 16 touches at 81%, with three score involvements, 484 metres gained and a game high eight rebounds, to keep his new side in the contest.

Port Adelaide v Brisbane

3 Jarryd Lyons (Brisbane)

2 Charlie Cameron (Brisbane)

1 Mitch Robinson (Brisbane)

It’s scarcely believable that Jarryd Lyons is at his third club in four years, after having been let go for peanuts by Adelaide, and delisted by Gold Coast last season. Sure, Adelaide could probably afford to let go of some midfield depth, but with the way the Suns are tracking this year, they would love a midfielder of Lyons’ quality. Regardless, they let him go, and though Lachie Neale has received a lot of plaudits for his year thus far, the former Sun’s year has been excellent as well. It was arguably a career best performance on Sunday evening, as the Lions won their second consecutive game on the road against a top eight contender to cement their top four spot. His 36 touches, nine tackles, eight score involvements, and 654 metres gained were all game highs, while he also kicked the Lions’ fifth goal in a run of seven to open the game. Only the ever prolific Neale had more than his nine clearances for the game, and only 2017 All Australian Dayne Zorko, who was desperately unlucky to miss out on votes, had more than his six inside 50’s. In short, it was one of the performances of the round by Lyons, shaded only by Dunkley in my opinion.

Charlie Cameron is exactly the kind of enigmatic small forward the Lions need to:

1. Play an exciting, winning brand of footy.

2. Bring fans in through the Gabba gates.

In his 100th career game, he kicked his third bag of four or more goals for the season, polling votes for the third time. Sure, he’s the kind of player who doesn’t need to have a bunch of disposals to impact a game, but with a goal in every quarter against the Power, and 15 touches, he was a big factor in ensuring the Lions soared to third spot on the ladder. All three of his marks came inside 50, while he also laid two tackles and sent his side inside 50 twice, as the dominant forward on the ground.

Mitch Robinson’s year has been a huge factor in the Lions’ astronomical rise up the ladder. He hasn’t always been the most reliable player, and you do still need to take the good with the bad, but his leadership against the Power came to the fore, and was a big part in ensuring his young side wouldn’t be bullied by their more experienced opponents. His vote here is as much for standing up for Lachie Neale in the first quarter as it is for his work with ball in hand, though he was more than handy when he was in possession. Nine of his 21 disposals were contested, with eight intercepts an equal team high, as well as a first quarter goal he earned by running hard which really put the Power to the sword. His 585 metres gained were the second most of any player on the ground, with five inside 50’s to boot, in another excellent performance from one of the Lions’ most important players.

Leaderboard

1. Tim Kelly (18)

2. Travis Boak (17)

3. Marcus Bontempelli (14)

3. Lachie Neale (14)

5. Brad Sheppard (13)

6. Patrick Dangerfield (12)

7. Brad Crouch (11)

7. Nathan Fyfe (11)

7. Max Gawn (11)

7. Luke Shuey (11)

Another week with no movement at the top of the tree, with Tim Kelly well held by the Saints’ Jack Steele and Travis Boak great again in a big loss to the Lions. Lachie Neale was also handy, although Power debutant Cam Sutcliffe subdued his influence on the contest a little. The Bont was clearly impacted by an ankle injury he sustained in the second quarter against the Dees, even if his influence was diminished by Jordan Lewis in a run with role before that point. Brad Sheppard was handy enough against the Pies, though ultimately not influential enough for votes.

The big movers all came in the bottom half of the top 10 of this leaderboard. Dangerfield polled three votes for the first time since the Round 12 game against Richmond, with another best on ground performance against the Saints. While Gawn and Shuey weren’t as dominant as they ordinari
ly are in narrow losses, Fyfe’s second quarter was largely what got him in the votes, despite his team’s loss to Hawthorn, and Brad Crouch’s 16 tackles against the Suns had him in the upper echelon of an excellent team performance.

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The Other News Stories Of Round 17

It will come as no shock to most that I am someone who is relatively easily pleased. Throw a game of footy on the TV, give me a comfy chair and a bit of quiet, and you’ve won me over.

As the weekend wound down and attention started drifting to Round 18, I had the chance this evening to sit back and ponder a few of the stories that seem to have been pushed aside by the media in favour of the more sensational headlines.

Let’s run through a few of them.

 

GARRY LYON CALLING FOR THE HEAD OF BEN CUNNINGTON

Was Cunnington hiding behind a grassy knoll as Zach Merrett threw his head back on the wing and drew a free kick against the North hard man? You could be forgiven for thinking so if the reaction of Lyon was anything to go by.

He basically nailed Cunnington to the cross after Merrett hit the deck and was awarded a free kick. He implored Michael Christian to do something about this serial offender who was going around and whacking blokes. Gimme a break, Gaz.

The replay showed Cunnington punching the ball and then his forearm made slight contact with Merrett. Was the free kick there? Yep, definitely, but if we took Lyon’s word for it, Cunnington would be the AFL equivalent of Reuben Carter, and Bob Dylan probably doesn’t care enough to write a song about him to raise awareness.

Cunnington was cleared of any wrong doing today… which often happens when you haven’t done anything wrong!

 

NIC NAITANUI’S DOMINANCE AGAINST GRUNDY

There are two ways to look at this – Naitanui was so unstoppable when on the ground that the consensus best ruck in the game couldn’t do anything to stop him, or that Grundy is so much better conditioned that on the whole, he was probably the better ruck option on the day.

It was quite an amazing tussle.

Nic Nat monstered Grundy, and Grundy monstered Hickey when Nic Nat was too buggered to continue.

I had a good chat about this with my mate, Adam La Porta today. He was firmly in the Grundy camp, but as a Collingwood supporter, you have to consider he may be a little biased. I was more in the middle. I could see what he was saying – do you want a ruckman out there for just 50-60% of the time? Or would you prefer a ruck that can ruck for over 90% of game time and do a great overall job?

I’m a bit torn. I saw how Naitanui went at Grundy – he was brilliant, but only in short bursts. I’m eager to see what you guys think. Who would you have rather had on your side last Friday?

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THE TARGETING OF LACHIE NEALE

Another one I was torn on – I loved seeing the Power giving Neale a hard time. I loved that they went out there with an edge that made the statement that they were going to get stuck into Neale at every opportunity. They’re known for it.

They beat the hell out of Max Gawn in Round One, and won the game. They weren’t as fortunate this time, as Neale had ample backup in the form of Jarryd Lyons in the clinches, and Mitch Robinson should any Power player step too far over the line.

What I liked most about it all is that Neale kept his cool, played his game and had ten clearances under the most intense of physical pressure. That, my friends, is a class on-baller.

I also loved that people compared the Port philosophy to that of Geelong in the 89 Grand Final, and they were punished similarly as well.

I know a lot of people dislike the niggle and physical intimidation of sport, but I am not one of them. I love seeing how teams and players respond. It adds plenty to the game for me, and when it pans out the way it did for the Lions, I am sure their fans were rapt to see their team not only stand up to that kind of treatment, but overcome it and thrive in the face of adversity.

 

THE TOM LYNCH GAME

I can’t believe Lynch got no votes in the Herald Sun. None.

Gilbert Gardiner comes across as a lovely bloke on Twitter (as do I… it can be misleading) but I can’t for the life of me understand how he thought Lachie Whitfield was best on ground and Lynch didn’t rate even one vote.

Lynch was a monster, compiling his most complete game as a Tiger, clunking marks, setting up teammates and kicking goals himself. I have to admit, I haven’t been overly impressed with him at times this season, and I thought he’d come across as very one dimensional, but I am a big boy, and when I am wrong, I am happy to wear it – he looked amazing out there this weekend.

 

MITCH LEWIS EMERGING

I’ve been lamenting the fact that Hawthorn have looked lost going forward at times this season, but in the small amount of the game I watched between the Hawks and Dockers, the presence of Mitchell Lewis really stood out to me.

With 16 touches, four contested grabs and 3.2 for the game, I think the Hawks may have just found a piece of marble that Alastair Michelangelo may just be able to sculpt into the next good forward at Hawthorn.

His back-to-back goals toward the end of the third quarter put his stamp on the game and put the result all but beyond doubt. To see him on the end of two consecutive forward forays, and converting the opportunities… it warmed the cockles of this old Hawk’s heart.

 

THE GOLD COAST PILE ON

And heeeeere we go.

Andy Maher jumped on board today, calling the Suns “soulless”. Yeah, thanks Andy; very helpful.

This is low-hanging fruit, people. Every man and his dog could see this team was cherry ripe for the start of the season, and as the season wore on, young legs would get tired, and the older legs just don’t have enough talent in them to carry the load. They trained the house down in the pre-season and burst out of the gates, but they’ve come back to the pack, and the pack have gone past them.

They’re limping to the line, and really, isn’t that what we all expected?

I likened them to a sprinter in a marathon – good for the first couple of hundred metres, but then the slow burners catch up and pass them. Gold Coast could’ve easily been 4-0 this season, dropping their first game of the season to St Kilda by a single point. In four weeks they’d surpassed the speculative targets of most experts, some of whom thought they would not win a game.

Next season they go from sprinters to middle distance runners, and in 2021, with some key re-signings and perhaps the addition of some quality 25-27 year olds, the Suns may start to go the distance in a season. This was a complete rebuild – those calling for their relocation and lamenting their inclusion in the league are short-sighted. In five years , if we’re having the same conversation, I think it’ll have way more merit.

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THE DARLING SEASON

I reckon if you ask any casual fan, they’ll tell you Jack Darling has had a poor season. At a point in the year, they may have been correct.

But no longer.

How about if I told you Darling was averaging a career-high in goals this year? Still disappointed?

Hiw about if I told you since Round 11, he is averaging 3.33 goals per game? And then if I told you the leader in the Coleman race, Jeremy Cameron has averaged 3.00 goals per game this season? Still disappointed?

Darling has stepped up. After taking three contested marks in his first six games, he’s taken 17 in his last six to sit ninth overall. He is warming into the season beautifully after a slow start. Be disappointed with the first third of his 2019, but don’t paint the whole of his 2019 with that brush… it’s getting better.

 Who are the best players aged 23 or under? Check out The Mongrel’s Patron article with the All 23 & Under team
Who are the best players aged 23 or under? Check out The Mongrel’s Patron article with the All 23 & Under team

 

WHAT COULD’VE BEEN – MATTHEW KREUZER

There must be times when Matthew Kreuzer looks back on his career and wonders ‘what if?’

What if he hadn’t hurt his knee? What if he hadn’t had that heart condition? What if his body had held up a bit better?

I am old enough to remember Kreuzer being drafted and the wraps on him at the time – he was the prototype of what the modern ruckman was going to be. Athletic, hard-working, does the little things. He was meant to be what Brodie Grundy has been for the past couple of years, but we were robbed of the chance to see Kreuzer at his absolute best.

So it put a smile on my face to see him strutting his stuff against the swans this weekend, racking up 19 touches, 45 hit outs, six clearances and six inside 50s. I’d say it was vintage Kreuzer, but it was more a reminder for me of what could’ve been.

That said, I’d love to see him get a good run for the rest of the season and an injury free lead into 2020. With him playing well, Carlton are so much better.

 

So do you have any of your own news stories that were played down by the media in general? Feel free to add them on our socials, or in the comments below. I’m always up for a chat about footy.

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Western Bulldogs v Melbourne – Here’s What Happened

It seemed unlikely when they were 2-4 after six rounds, having lost games to perennial cellar dwellers Gold Coast and Carlton, but with a win on Sunday afternoon, against 2019’s most disappointing side, the Demons, the Western Bulldogs, or Footscray, as which they were nostalgically referred to all day, could have seen themselves just a win outside of the eight with six games remaining. With North Melbourne and Fremantle falling over the day before, and Hawthorn facing an exceptionally tough run home, the race for the final two spots looked to be down to four teams, if the Dogs could get a win.

Meanwhile, the Demons have failed spectacularly to live up to expectations. They sit still firmly entrenched in the bottom four, and look almost certain to end up with at least a top five draft pick. No one would be foolish enough to write them off in season 2020, but 2019 is essentially a write off at this point, with Simon Goodwin essentially being given licence to try new things out, given that things could hardly get worse at this stage. With that being said, after winning in the dying stages last week against Carlton, and with three big ins in the form of Lever, Jetta and Gawn, they were a decent chance of causing what would have been an upset.

While this was no doubt an important game on the field for the Dogs, it may have been just as important off it, as they commemorated 30 years since 1989’s famous Fightback. The Dogs may well have been starved of success over their long history as a club, but there’s no doubt that this team means so much to so many people across Melbourne’s West and the country in general. With 1989 hero Irene Chatfield on hand to toss the coin, it was pretty clear to see that this would be a retro round like no other. Here’s what happened:

Fightback 2019

Success or failure in 2019 might not have the same dire consequences for the Footscray Football Club as it did 30 years ago, but after a poor start to the season, wins over Richmond, Brisbane, Port Adelaide and Geelong, as well as a gallant performance in defeat to Collingwood, have revitalised the season, seeing the Dogs in a genuine push for September action. There are few things better in football than a retro jumper, and Footscray’s one on Sunday was an absolute belter, and it was a fantastic touch that they ran out to, and celebrated victory with, Sons of the ‘Scray.

There’s a bit of old school footy about the Dogs too this year, though I’m not quite sure it’s quantifiable. Maybe it’s the workmanlike attitude of their players, but in full flight there are few teams in the competition who play a more watchable brand of footy. You probably would have asked their midfield in head to head against the Dees too, with Macrae, Dunkley and Bontempelli a better first choice trio than Oliver, Brayshaw and Viney. Nonetheless, with Max Gawn dominant against the rucking equivalent of Simba prior to his Hakuna Matata phase, Footscray’s midfield struggled to get their hands on the ball early on, winning just seven of the first 20 clearances. However, they did manage to break even in the scores from stoppages at quarter time, both sides kicking 3.1 apiece.

More important than their ability to get their hands on the ball, the Dogs’ pressure early was manic and showed they had a hunger for the contest which was in part lacking over the first month or so. They laid 11 of the first 12 tackles, and 20 of the first 25, ultimately winning the stat 71-56 despite also winning the disposal count 377-314. Early in the piece, a three man crunching hit on Jake Lever showed how desperate the Dogs were to make their mark on the game.

Speaking of hunger, it was pretty evident in the first quarter that Josh Dunkley’s appetite for the contest was on. He won a holding the ball on Jayden Hunt that showed he wanted a win desperately, and whether that was purely for the sake of his club, or whether he wanted to get one up on his little brother, we’ll never know. In any event, it was a nice kick by him to set up Josh Schache for his side’s third goal, just one of a game high ten score involvements for the midfielder who has looked like one of the best players in the competition since moving out of the forward line. His statline on Sunday was ridiculous, with 39 touches, 24 contested possessions, 15 tackles (including a perfectly executed rundown on Brayshaw which saved a certain goal) and the ten score involvements all game highs, as well as two goals, the second of which came at a critical stage of the last quarter to give Footscray a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Quickly on Schache, his workrate on Sunday with Aaron Naughton being well held by Steven May was very impressive. While he may not have had the scoreboard return, kicking just 1.2, he was involved in eight scores, took three of his four marks inside 50, managed four clearances when he was thrown into the ruck and laid four tackles as he showed once again that he has a lot to contribute at this level.

There were no Nat Fyfe level heroics from Marcus Bontempelli on Sunday, as after missing most of the second quarter with an ankle injury he came back on to have some impact, though he was below his best. The Dogs have the midfield depth to cover an injury like that, and Jackson Macrae was excellent all through the game really. He probably doesn’t get the attention that he deserves, but when people talk about accountable mids, but this guy should really be up there. His work on Oliver was terrific, with the Demon bull having 17 touches at just 53% efficiency, and with just four score involvements. Meanwhile, Macrae managed 30 touches of his own at 77%, as he managed to work both ways to have an impact, laying six tackles. I’d be interested to know how many of Oliver’s eight clearances came directly opposed to Macrae, because from what I could see of the game, it wasn’t too many.

It happens all the time, where a team has the ascendancy for extended patches of the game and fails to capitalise, only to see the other team go up the other end and score quickly, but that was the exact script the game followed after half time on Sunday, with the Dogs’ seven shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the third quarter resulting in 0.6 and one out on the full. The Dees managed to whisk the ball up the other end, where Harry Petty kicked his third goal of the game, and all of a sudden the margin was back to what it was at the long break. In reality, Footscray should have kicked at least three, and maybe four goals to put the game to bed, and if they had have eventually lost this game that patch would probably have been the most talked about one. In the end though, they managed to scrape over the line, with Dunkley’s goal complemented by an outstanding outside of the boot banana by Lachie Hunter and then a classy finish from 50 by Bailey Smith to ice the game.

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No Petty Excuses

Heading into this game, having lost six goal hero Tom McDonald and rising, if underachieving, forward Sam Weideman to injury, the Dees’ tall forward stocks looked criminally depleted. They did, luckily, welcome Max Gawn back into their lineup, meaning Preuss could play up forward, but with him seemingly as the lone key forward, they looked like they’d need big outputs from Petracca and Hunt. Simon Goodwin swung Harry Petty forward though, and he looked a likely target in just his seventh game, and first as a forward. His first three career goals all came at opportune moments for the Dees, and with his 10 disposals and five marks, the Dees might have found one here.

The majority of Petracca’s work came up the ground, with 22 disposals and a goal, but it was the behind he kicked in the last quarter, after leading well into space, that hurt his side the most, as the Dogs managed to take the ball up the other end of the ground for Dunkley’s second goal. Jayden Hunt wasn’t quite as effective as he was last week either, with just one goal from 10 touches, though his short pass to Petty for his second goal was exactly what his side needed after bombing away too many times.

It wasn’t just the fault of the forwards that Melbourne couldn’t manage a winning score on Sunday. They had 47 inside 50’s of their own, but their disposal going forward has been pretty woeful all year, and this game was no exception. There was a two minute patch in the second quarter where Jones, then Lever and finally Hunt all found Bulldog interceptors with their kicks inside 50. In reality, just as their opposition dominated the first half of the third, the Demons had plenty of chances through the middle 15 minutes or so of the second quarter, and could have really put their stamp on the game but failed to do so. They were lucky, in the end, to get their fifth goal, after Kyle Dunkley dropped a mark that was paid by the non-officiating umpire.

As much as errors in disposal hurt Melbourne’s forward line, their fumbles hurt just as much. It was an affliction which hurt both sides, but it arguably cost the Dees more, with a Neville Jetta drop late in the third quarter robbing them of what looked like a certain goal heading into the final break, combined with what were by my count four dropped marks by Preuss across the ground but predominantly inside 50. If they had managed to kick straighter they would have probably won this game too. Bayley Fritsch was arguably the chief culprit, missing a set shot late in the third which would have drawn the margin back to one point, and though he kicked two goals in the last, he absolutely needed to capitalise on his last set shot, which would have had the Demons within two points with around two minutes left. Instead, he played on, tried to kick a snap around the corner, and failed, leaving the going a little too tough for Melbourne.

Down back, Steven May played clearly his best game in red and blue. He was pretty good against the Lions, and kept Mitch McGovern markless last week, even if the former Crow looked disinterested in the contest at times. In any event, playing on Aaron Naughton is a step up for anyone really, with the young key forward having dominated last week against the best backline in the competition, statistically. May managed to keep Naughton to just one behind from four marks and 10 touches, after he kicked 4.1 from nine marks last week, and when the young Dog did get the ball, it was in general up on the wing where he was considerably less damaging. May, on the other hand, had 16 touches at 81%, rebounding the ball a game high eight times and gaining 484 metres – the most of any Demon, in a performance that essentially kept the Dees in the contest. He was assisted well in the backline though, with Christian Salem saving two certain goals, and Jake Lever and Sam Frost managing to kill contests even if they didn’t win a lot of the ball themselves.

‘That’s Ruck Craft, Big Boy’

The above could well be the quote of the season from the eccentric Gawn, who decided to give the umpire a few pointers after giving away a free kick to Josh Dunkley in the second quarter, who duly converted to break a run of three straight Demons goals. In fairness to Gawn, it was a horrible free kick, as he simply used his strength to outbody a much smaller opponent. In fact, as ruck free kicks go, the only worse one you’ll be likely to see this year was the one against Gawn in the last quarter to Josh Schache. I’ve watched that vision three or four times now and I still can’t figure out why he was penalised.

Tim English, in combination with Rowan Marshall and Reilly O’Brien, is one of the up and coming ruckman of the league. He has all the tools, but he isn’t quite built enough yet to compete with the best of the best. In two games against the Dogs this year, Brodie Grundy has received six Mongrel votes, monstering the young West Australian. With Max Gawn back in the Melbourne side, you’d have expected him, in tandem with Preuss, to dominate, and while they did in the end, winning the hitouts 52-20 and the clearances 41-29, the midfield couldn’t really capitalise on the work of the big men. In fact, the Demons have scored from just 18% of their centre clearances this year, the worst rate in the competition, and to three quarter time the Demons hadn’t scored from a single one of their centre clearances, indicating just how wasted Max Gawn’s work has been across the season.

With more games under the belt of Preuss this season, you’d expect the ruck pairing to dominate all of next year if they can get on the park together. With one of the two in the ruck, and the other down the line to stop the opposition from taking contested marks, the Dees have the makings of a good structure, but they need their midfield to be able to capitalise on good ruck work. The two time All Australian’s flicked hit out over his head to Viney, who set up Petty for his first, was a thing of beauty, and he did manage seven score involvements, the most of any Demon. Heading into the game, I would have put money on Gawn to be best on ground, and though he was one of the best Dees on the ground, his impact wasn’t quite what we’ve come to expect.

Concluding Thoughts

Can it actually be done? The Dogs have won four of their last five games, and after Sunday’s gritty win, sit just four points and percentage out of the eight. They should win their next two, against St Kilda and Fremantle at Marvel, but then would need to win at least two, and potentially three given their inferior percentage, of their next four games, against fellow finals contenders Brisbane at the Gabba, Essendon at Marvel, the Giants in Sydney and Adelaide in Ballarat. It’s certainly not out of the question that we could see the Dogs return to September for the first time since 2016, but they would certainly have to earn their place.

And where to now for the Demons? I can’t really see Simon Goodwin putting his cue in the rack, but with West Coast next week in Alice Springs, and Richmond and Collingwood to come, it’s certainly going to be a tough ask to climb any further up the ladder. With Casey struggling a little in the VFL, now might be the time for Goody and his coaching staff to begin experimenting fo
r 2020, and it will be interesting to see what they do with their first round pick, with Brad Hill and Alex Keath both being linked to a move to the Dees over the course of the season.

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Mongrel Wrap – Brisbane v Port Adelaide

First Thoughts

In a game that further pushed the Victorian agenda, this salivating game was left in the graveyard shift of Sunday twilight. Nevertheless this ninth vs fourth match-up was always destined to deliver a serious shake-up to the look of the ladder.

How this shakeup happened was something that this writer did not see coming at all.

Brisbane stormed out of the gate. The Lions kicked the opening SEVEN goals and the ball was living in their half of the ground. It seemed the Power were playing old school footy. They were far too focused on making life tough for the Lions’ better players like Lachie Neale that they forgot that the aim of the match is to actually go for the ball. However, the way the young Lions responded and refused to let their star midfielder be isolated was very encouraging.

The image of Mitch Robinson beckoning Cam Sutcliffe to try and square-up with him, as he hassled Neale all the way to the bench, will be replayed at nauseum, but it shows how much Robinson has developed at the Lions. He’s gone from a lamented player to a true cult figure that has the respect of most supporters in the competition for the role he plays at the Lions.

The Power saved some face as time went on, but the Lions won the game in the first 25 minutes and never looked back. Port fans will be feeling the same way as Geelong fans after the 1989 Grand Final (If only we had played the ball in the first quarter!).

Five Power players had 29 or more disposals to the Lions one. Yet Brisbane won the clearances. It seemed the Power mids enjoyed sharing the footy but were unable to get meaningful returns from their efforts. Kudos must be given to the Lions midfield players and coach who seem to be punching well above their anticipated weight class from the beginning of the season.

The Best Stuff

Travis Boak

The former Power skipper was one of the few genuine winners in the game. He can hold his head up high as he continues his fantastic renaissance of form in the 2019 season. Another week, another 30+ disposal game for Boak. A game high 18 contested possessions and seven clearances, shows just how much Boak fought the fight alongside his fellow Power on-ballers in what must’ve seemed like a web of Brisbane midfielders around them. Alas, there is no rest for the wicked, as he must continue to deliver in spades for the Power if they are to stand a chance in their next three games. He’ll need help, but I doubt Port’s ability to perform on a consistent basis without him.

Mitch Robinson

Mitch Robinson is the player you always want on your team. He has always been tough – relentless at the footy and ruthless toward his opponents. Always the first in to back up his mates on the field, he makes others walk taller but doesn’t seem to feel the need to prove himself as the best player on the field. Robinson has had his faults in the past, but his transformation at Brisbane into a genuinely exceptional AFL player has been remarkable.

To appreciate Robinson, you only have to see the passage of play from the first quarter where he started a Brisbane chain deep in the backline, only to be on the receiving end of it in the opposite goal square. The play wasn’t a slow stop-start chain either – it flowed quickly. That’s the sort of running you see from the elite midfielders. Now I’m not putting Robinson up with the likes of Dangerfield, Fyfe, Sloane or Cripps, but he is definitely in the rung below.

His final stats read 21 disposals, five inside 50’s, seven tackles, five one percenters, one goal and 585 metres gained.

Jarryd Lyons

Speaking of midfielders on the rung below, how underrated is Jarryd Lyons? Currently at his third club and you have to wonder what the hell the Gold Coast were thinking when they let him go last year. Lyon was the top disposal winner on the ground AND the leading tackler, which would’ve been a whole lot more impressive if Josh Dunkley didn’t have the monster game he did, not 90 minutes earlier. Nevertheless 36 disposals, nine clearances and nine tackles highlight just how hard Lyons was in this game. With Neale slightly down and Zorko playing a more outside role, Lyons stepped up early and put his stamp on this contest.

 I still can’t believe the Gold Coast didn’t want this guy… THE GOLD COAST!?! How’s that working out for them?

Dayne Zorko

Another great game by Zorko. This guy would be compared to the likes of Treloar and Martin if he played in Victoria. In my opinion he is the most underrated player in the competition. Three goals, 24 disposals, 549 metres gained and five tackles. A complete performance on the outside while the likes of Neale, Lyons and Berry got it done in tight.

Charlie Cameron

Cameron was probably the highlight of the match. Could’ve easily finished with six or seven goals. Looked dynamic and continually threatened. Duly finished with his bag of four goals (on track for 40+ for the season) and furthered his claim for the All-Australian forward pocket.

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The Good Stuff

Cam Sutcliffe Vs Lachie Neale

A solid match-up. Sutcliffe probably took the early points but there was no denying the will of Lachie Neale, as he forced his way into the match. Neale did receive good support with Lions players continually blocking for him at stoppages. Neale’s numbers were down in some areas but he still delivered 17 contested possessions, 10 clearances (five centre clearances) and six tackles.  Sutcliffe stuck to his task but couldn’t hurt Neale enough going the other way. Neale finishes with the points and the win.

Harris Andrews

To paraphrase Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in one of my all-time favourite films, Harris Andrews is a “10-foot road block”. Only nine disposals and two marks for Andrews in what seems a quiet outing where he did what had to be done. Seven intercept possessions and 14 one percenters, which are mostly his commanding spoils highlight just how hard he was to pass for the Power’s forwards. Charlie Dixon’s lack of impact highlights the effectiveness he Andrews and Darcy Gardiner continue to have. Throw in the newly introduced Marcus Adams and Brisbane’s big defenders look rock solid.

Lincoln McCarthy

Really delivering on the talent he promised at the Cats – McCarthy is such a good mark for player of his size. His game is exactly what you would want from a small forward each week. Two goals, 20 disposals, six score involvements, 25 pressure acts and eight tackles. It was the game of a crafty player who works hard defensively to protect his teammates down the field. A very busy player who was biding his time in the rehab room and now looks like he is really enjoying his footy.

The Not So Good Stuff

Steven Motlop

Steven Motlop was the ‘almost’ player at Geelong for years. At Port he is nowhere near that. 13 disposals, one contested possession, no scores. It was an unproductive day for Motlop, who only had to look down the other end of the field for how a small forward should be approaching a wet-weather day. He had two options. Attacking flare like Charlie Cameron, or pressure like Lincoln McCarthy. He chose neither, as they were both too hard and involved getting hit occasionally.

Sam Powell-Pepper

How can someone run so far and so hard for so little. 15 km’s for 18 disposals… and if you really watched his game a lot of his disposals were at stoppages and in-close which means he did a hell of a lot of unrewarded running. Only two clearances, two tackles and seven contested possessions shows he just wasn’t putting himself in the right spots.

Cam Rayner

Butchered the footy a lot. Just another game where Rayner shows he has x-factor, but not consistency. Still a young player though, so all is forgiven as his team is consistent enough without him. Chris Fagan will absolutely keep him in the team on the potential of what he could do in a final if it clicks for him. Just not his day today.

Justin Westhoff

Westhoff just failed to impact this game. For such a senior player, Ken Hinkley will need him to stand up and deliver consistently if Port are going to seriously challenge for finals spot. His game was best summed up by a passage early in the last quarter. Worked hard up to the wing, received a less than perfect kick. Lunged for the mark and juggled it over the boundary.

The Other Stuff

The Return of the Drop Kick

Stefan Martin’s very loose handling of the ball midway through the second quarter was well recognised by Anthony Hudson. Martin fumbled the ball to the ground and threw the boot at it. Reminiscent of a bygone era it laced out Cam Rayner but was deemed not long enough to constitute a mark (Bit stiff ump. Where’s your sense of occasion?).

Oscar’s plucking Seagulls

Oscar McInerny is just making his way as an AFL ruckman and his tandem with Stefan Martin is paying dividends for the Lions. A big body, but still not quite fully developed, McInerny had some quite funny situations where he just took some ridiculous marks. Whether by luck or skill, they are good signs for Lions fans expecting some big things from the developing semi-giraffe.

Points for Effort

Far from a day-out for Josh Walker, from the Lions. Brisbane’s number one target inside 50 for the day and not one mark. Back in for the injured Eric Hipwood, Walker showed a distinct lack of touch that wasn’t helped by the weather conditions. Luckily, he saw the funny side when he marked the ball midway through the last quarter… while on the bench. Walker still served a key purpose for the Lions in bringing the ball to ground for them all day and not letting the Power defenders hold sway. We’ve all been there Josh. It’s the little victories, mate.

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Final Thoughts

Brisbane Lions

Positives first. The Lions are in a rich vein of form. They have arguably just completed the hardest two weeks of their season with back-to-back interstate trips against fellow prospective finalists, and comprehensively beaten both. They have won four straight since that uncharacteristic loss to Carlton (who have also carried that form so maybe it’s not so bad).

The Lions should win the next four games. Hosting North and the Dogs at the Gabba, which both should be good matches but at home, the Lions should prevail. Playing their new bunnies, the Hawks, in Tassie. They also play the hapless Gold Coast which should hopefully provide some percentage. Their big test comes in the final two weeks of the Home and Away season. Hosting the Cats and then playing the Tigers at the MCG.

Those two matches could be the difference between the Lions potentially finishing second or sixth. Either way, they are a long way above where most pundits predicted at the beginning of the year.

Port Adelaide

Where to now for the Power? Now a full game out of the top eight. It seems every time they have a great win and start to build some real momentum, they throw it away the next week.

They can only hope that their inconsistent form continues and they pull out a blinder next week against the in-form Tigers. With their two following games against the Giants and Bombers, the Power need to find a way to win consecutive matches quickly, or they will find themselves behind the pack and playing teams with nothing to lose (and nothing to gain for themselves) in the final weeks of the Home and Away season.

A poor run over the next three weeks and subsequent potential finish in the bottom six could spell the end of Ken Hinkley at Alberton.

OR

A fantastic run over the next three weeks and some consistent performance leading to a finals appearance and possible home final, could see the man hailed a hero. Port’s destiny is in their hands. They just have to decide how much they want it and how much they are willing to hurt for it.

 

Well that’s a wrap. The Lions gave the Power a lesson in playing energetic footy on a wet Sunday afternoon.

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Ten Things I Learnt After Round 17

TEN THINGS I LEARNT AFTER ROUND 17

 

1 – When you write off the Pies, that’s when they rise.

On the back of two very mediocre performances, and staring down the barrel of another defeat trailing by 16 points at 3/4 time in front of a hostile Perth crowd, and against a highly fancied Eagles outfit, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking their Top Four chances were shot.  The Pies, however, had other ideas.  They dominated every facet of the game in the final quarter.  The Eagles were completely outplayed, and if the Pies had been more accurate around goal, the result would have been decided earlier.  This game just proves once more you can never write this group off.  They’ll be without their skipper for a while, but if this week is any indication, you can bet they’ll find a way to manage without him.

2 – Levi Casboult will be playing next year.

Levi languished in the VFL for the first six weeks, and there was a collective groan from Blues fans when he was brought into the side for Round Seven.  We’ve all been aware of his kicking woes, but even his trademark marking power seemed to be banished to the past.  After a couple of serviceable games, he was sent down back and began to shine.  His marking returned and he was beginning to grow in confidence.  The last three weeks, Levi has returned to the forward line and booted six goals, including a couple from outside 50.  Six weeks ago, his papers were all but stamped, but now it seems his value as a marking forward, key defender, and backup ruckman has all but made certain at least one more year for the big man.

3 – It looks like another wasted year for the Dockers.

The Dockers have now lost four in a row after being in a good position with a 7-5 record after an impressive win at home against Port Adelaide.  They would’ve expected to prevail over Melbourne and Carlton, and at 9-5 they would’ve been threatening for a Top Four berth.  Instead, they fell short and it’s all gone pear-shaped since then.  They’ve slipped to 13th, and if they were to go down to the struggling Swans in Perth next week, I imagine some would be questioning the tenure of their coach.

4 – McDonald-Tipungwuti is officially now a freak!

Make no mistake about it, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti was great all day, and his heroics kept the Bombers in the game when it looked like the game might slip away.  But in the dying stages, after the Kangaroos had taken the lead, that snap at goal from the tightest of angles splitting the middle was mercurial.  I’ve always rated him as silky with his skills, but on Saturday evening I believe he can be elevated to “freak”.

5 – The Gold Coast Suns can’t wait to see the end of the season.

It’s really hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel for the Suns.  It’ll be interesting to see what gets done by the AFL to assist this failing franchise.  Whatever the case, the Crows did as they pleased.  They amassed 476 possessions to just 302.  The Suns come up against an improved Carlton this week, and a loss makes the wooden spoon certain.  Is it time to pull the pin?

6 – The Saints are brave but it won’t save Richo.

You have to feel for the St Kilda coach.  They started the season so well, but a combination of injuries and inconsistency has seen them tumble down to 15th on the ladder with possibly worse to come.  His future at the club was based on playing finals, and nobody would’ve had the Saints playing in September.  Sure, maybe the coach gets moved on at season’s end, but what about the board and the recruiters who signed off on disasters like the Hanneberry deal?  Tough gig being an AFL coach.

7 – An injured knee might’ve cost someone a $1.4 million dollar a year contract.

Reports have had Stephen Coniglio being offered as much as $7 million for five years.  We don’t know how bad his injury is, but if it does turn out to be an ACL, can a club like Carlton afford to shell out $1.4 million for a player who would miss more than half of the 2020 season?  

8 – The Tigers are eyeing off Top Four, but will percentage cost them?

They’re tracking nicely, and slowly but surely, the Tigers injury list is getting smaller.  There’s even talk Alex Rance may make an appearance in September!  The Tigers are currently fifth, a game and considerable percentage behind the Eagles in fourth place (113.3%).  Richmond has a percentage of just 104.9.  This means losses aren’t really an option.  One loss will make it tough, while two almost certainly guarantees they would finish outside the Top Four.  That said, it doesn’t seem to be such a big problem these days, and if their list is healthy at the right time, the Tigers are well and truly in it either way.

9 – The Dogs’ hopes of finals are still alive.

That’s now three wins in a row, and they’re a very good chance of winning the next two as well.  Like the Tigers, they have percentage issues too, so it will be hard for the Doggies as they can’t afford to lose more than one game to have any chance of slipping into the eight.  As for the Demons, they had their chances once again.  This will go down as a year where they clearly lost it in the off-season with so many players coming off surgery and an interrupted preseason.  You would hope to see them back up the ladder next year, but how much damage this year has done to the psyche of the club remains to be seen.

10 – Port Adelaide are incapable of playing two good games in a row.

Taking nothing way from the Lions, who were fantastic, particularly early, but the Power were woeful in the first quarter.  Their focus on trying to shut down Lachie Neale was borderline obsessive to the point they forgot about chasing the footy.  And, before you knew it, the Lions put the first seven goals on the board and it was game over.  Next week the Power come to Melbourne to face the Tigers.  If the trend of winning one week and losing the next continues, they may do the unthinkable, but I think the Tigers will be more than ready for them, and this time next week we might be saying that Port’s chances of playing finals are all but gone.

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The Good, Bad and Ugly – Richmond v GWS

So before we get going, there was a strong message sent at the MCG this afternoon.

No matter how good you are – no matter how much talent you possess, you simply cannot allow a team like Richmond to get a jump on you.

It’s that simple. They are a team of grinders, with a smattering of superstars mixed with blokes who crack in every single week. Once you fall behind by four or five goals, you are in a house of pain against Richmond, and as the siren rang to end the first quarter, that is where the GWS Giants found themselves.

A goalless quarter saw the Giants at the mercy of the Tigers, and even an inspired blast of desperate Giants footy was not enough to close the gap.

This game should serve as a warning to any team Richmond faces for the remainder of the season – do not give them the ascendancy early. If you do, you will pay for it.

And the Giants paid dearly today.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

 

TOM LYNCH

This was the best game I’ve seen Lynch play in yellow and black. I know statistically he’s had a six goal bag earlier in the season, but in conditions that did not favour big forwards, Lynch looked dangerous every time he went near the ball.

He took contested marks, made deft little touches matter as they set up teammates, and his 11 score involvements speak of a man who made things happen not just for himself, but for those around him.

I have a confession to make – I openly questioned the acquisition of Lynch in the off-season; not because I wanted it to fail, or because I thought it would. No, I questioned it because the Tigers had a forward structure that was really working for them, and I wondered how the addition of a marking forward the likes of Lynch would impact that balance.

Well, it turns out, on this day at least, it turned out quite well.

I found it interesting that, in his post-game interview, Jack Riewoldt mentioned that he didn’t get as much footy as he would’ve liked. It was a throw-away line, I’m sure, but it’s enough for this old Mongrel to watch the next six weeks very carefully.

My worry with the Lynch-Riewoldt combination was how well they’d gel. We haven’t really seen them together enough to make that assessment just yet, but Lynch looks as though he is the focal point at the moment. Riewoldt will work himself into some form and THEN we will see how it all works.

I know I may come across as a crackpot conspiracy theorist looking for something that’s simply not there, but I find this storyline quite intriguing. I remember angry Jack. I remember petulant Jack, and though it’s been a while since we’ve seen him, part of me wonders whether a few games where he “doesn’t get as much footy as I would have liked” will see him make another appearance.

But back to Lynch – his game this afternoon was exactly what the Tigers recruited him for. Strong in the contest, hard at the footy, and involved in anything, he was the most influential player on the park for mine.

And to add another string to Lynch’s bow, when assessing him, you have to take into account the quality of his opposition. He had Phil Davis for company all afternoon long. When you can have the influence he had today, and do it against a player the calibre of Davis, you know you had a great game.

 

THE UNDERRATED CLEARANCE KING

As the Tigers put distance between themselves and the Giants, one man was doing his best work.

Dion Prestia had half of his final total of disposals in the first quarter as Richmond powered away from the Giants. Included in his 12 first quarter touches were five clearances (I actually think it was six and he was robbed one) as he set up the attack of the Tigers at the coalface on multiple occasions.

Prestia is one of those players who are not drawing the attention of the media, and therefore seems to be flying under the radar. He is a tireless worker who seems just as content laying a block for a teammate as he does collecting the ball himself.

It was telling that after quarter time he did not have another clearance for the game as other Richmond midfielders came to the fore, but when the Tigers needed him early, Prestia put his hand up. He has had 7+ clearances on five occasions this season as he continues to fly under the radar of many. He is the sort of player that could jump up in a big game and win a Norm Smith Medal…

… but maybe I am jumping the gun a little there.

 

GRIMEY

In the first quarter I wanted to run up to the GWS box, grab Leon Cameron by the collar and point out to him that Cameron and Himmelberg were both kick chasing, thinking that they’d left their man for dead, only to turn, kick inside 50 and see Dylan Grimes mark their aimless kicks.

If it was annoying for me, I can only imagine how pissed of Giants fans must have been as their side fell behind and their midfield seemed to be deliberately kicking the ball to the rangy Richmond defender.

Grimes ended up with ten intercept possessions as he combined beautifully with Nick Vlastuin and David Astbury to repel GWS attacks time and time again.

We often get a bit of shtick from Richmond fans for leaving Grimes out of any “best of…” kind of teams. He does great, consistent work for the Tigers in a period that they’re without their defensive anchor. Is he All-Australian? Richmond fans will scream “YES!” but I am not completely sold.

Irrespective, Grimes will continue to go about his business, and you know what is better than making any of those “best of…” kind of teams?

Making premiership teams, and the Tigers are rounding into form nicely.

 

THE FIFTH, SIXTH AND SEVENTH BEST BALL-WINNER

I know it’s not the most flattering title but it gives an indication that, at 30 disposals for the game, Bachar Houli was not one of the biggest accumulators on the ground. Those honours went to four GWS players.

For losing GWS players.

You see, with some players it is far more beneficial for them to have 25 touches than it is for another to have 35. Today, we had players like Taranto, Toby Greene, Lachie Whitfield and Jacob Hopper all collect more of the footy than their Richmond counterparts, but did they hurt as much?

No, I don’t think they did.

Houli had 30, Shai Bolton played perhaps his best game for the club with 29 disposals, and Brandon Ellis had 29 as well.

And this is the beauty of Richmond. They don’t need players with 40 touches to be dominant. They have this mix of players all capable of that 20-30 touches and every one of them brings something different. Houli brings the intercept and drive from half back, Bolton the run and carry combined with inside 50s, and Brandon Ellis gets out on the wing and is a valuable link man in important chains.

So as other players hack it forward, or go sideways to rack up another touch, the Tigers… the fifth, sixth and seventh ranked disposal winners get the touches that matter. Less of them, but more meaningful.

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NICK HAYNES

People are starting to question me a little in the hallowed halls of the Mongrel offices (my lounge room). You see, this bloke floats into contests and clunks marks and I just make these “oohhhh” and “aahhhh” noises which draw a bit of attention.

I love watching Nick Haynes patrol the half back line, reading the play, beating his own man when required, and taking intercept marks. Speaking of marks, he took a game-high 11 this game as he did his best to quell the influence of Jack Riewoldt, and he did a pretty damn good job of it.

You have to give Jack the benefit of the doubt, given he hasn’t played in ten weeks, but Haynes was excellent all game, and is so good that I was offended when so many of our team nominated him for the all underrated team – I rate him, damn it!

 

BRENT DANIELS

I know I am giving GWS a bit of love here, but there is no way you can summarise this game and leave this bloke out. He was the catalyst for the GWS resurgence in the second quarter and it was done through hard work, hard running, pressure and good decision making.

Daniels has been threatening all season, and whilst a four quarter game is still required, the way he flashed in and out of this game showed enough glimpses that anyone who watches a bit of footy knows what a talent he is.

He had 22 touches, valuable tap ons, and drove the Giants inside 50 on seven occasions. On a day where possessions may have been a little overrated in some cases, Daniels was excellent and actually hurt with a lot of his efforts.

 

 

 

THE BAD

 

HEATH SHAW

This is the second time I’ve had him in this section… and I’m starting to worry.

I’ve loved watching Heater play over the years. He has never shirked the issue, always takes on the best mid-sized forwards and has won way more duels than he has lost, but there is a some cause for concern with Shaw’s play in 2019.

Admittedly, I have not watched every GWS game, but I am seeing some things manifest in Shaw’s game that aren’t all that positive. He is banging the ball on the boot a little too randomly, and is missing targets when he does have time on his side. This is un-Shaw-like.

He had 11 turnovers in this game, and in a game where the opposition prey on errors, they were very costly. Has heater turned the corner? Is he still in the best 22 for the Giants if they were injury-free? Or is he battling with an injury?

My hope is that it’s the latter, as I have not had my fill of Shaw in the game, and I want him to have one more tilt at the big one.

 

GIANTS DOWN

This is just a little nit-picking kind of thing, but I don’t think I saw one Richmond player stay down after a collision today, but I saw plenty of Giants.

What could this mean?

I am not one to cast aspersions on GWS or their players, but I found it strange how many Giants were on the ground, writhing in pain after in-contest clashes with Tigers and how the Richmond players refused to stay down. Was it a mindset of the Richmond Footy Club to get up and deal with the pain later? It sends a strong message, and I reckon this sort of thing, when the chips are down in finals, holds you in good stead.

You think about it – if you were Richmond and you were playing GWS in a final this season, psychologically, I’d be looking at them and thinking we had their number. We want it more. We don’t stay down when we get hit. We’re tougher than them.

And the thing is, the Tigers would be right thinking those things.

And just finally on this point, I think that it is important to note that in no way does this apply to Stephen Coniglio, who was obviously seriously injured. Hope it’s not as bad as it looked.

 

 THE UGLY

 

A BAD GUESS

Cards on the table – I am a Toby Greene supporter. Not a Giants supporter, but I love the way Toby Greene plays. He is on the edge all the time, but when an umpire decides he has stepped over the edge and toppled into the realms where free kicks are to be awarded, it kind of pisses me off.

When they make wild guesses about what’s occurred, it annoys me even more.

The Tigers had a comfortable lead in the last quarter of five goals. Kane Lambert had just snagged his third of the afternoon and Shane Edwards decided to let Greene know about it. he walked up behind Greene and shoved him in the back. Greene retaliated with a round arm that hardly moved Edwards. He added a push.

The whistle blew and Edwards  was awarded a free kick, and in effect, gifted a goal.

People, this is a joke. Firstly, the rule to award a free kick in front of goal for an infraction so minor needs to be looked at and adjusted to a free kick in the middle. The ball is dead, and in a situation like this the punishment does not fit the supposed crime.

Secondly, the umpire jumped the gun, panicked, saw it was Toby Greene and blew the whistle. If it were someone else, would it have been a free kick?

I’ve heard discussions about players being booed out of the game recently. I reckon Toby Greene is the one player who may be booed out of the game.

This decision should be reviewed and the umpiring department needs to put their hand up and admit they may have got this one wrong. It was the decision that put the result beyond doubt. It was unlikely that the Giants could get back, but to go from four goals down to six goals down in a matter of seconds… that is a killer blow, and whilst the first goal from Lambert was a belter, the second was an unnecessary joke.

Only I’m not laughing.

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QUICK BITS

Loved the early work of Sydney Stack. There were three consecutive efforts at half forward in the first quarter that will not register a stat, but he was so desperate that you couldn’t help but feel he was intent in setting the tone for his team.

That said, I could do without Dwayne Russell cheerleading for him.

I mentioned how offended (not really offended, I’m not a snowflake) I was when members of our team threw out Nick Haynes for our underrated team, but the bloke I reckon should get a run is Sam Taylor. He had nine intercepts in this one and plenty of spoils to go with it.

I know you guys will hammer me for leaving Kane Lambert out of the good section… I’ll wear it. he snuck home three goals, including a very important one early in the last. Goal kicking mids are so hard to come by, and usually it’s Dusty doing these types of things. Whilst I would never compare Lambert to Martin, his contribution in this one was vital to the Tigers’ win.

I thought Dan Lloyd did a serviceable job on Dusty, yet Martin still ended up with 25 touches for the game. No votes for Dusty tjis week, I’m afraid.

Probably the most involved I’ve seen Daniel Rioli this season for Richmond. He was looking a little too free and easy earlier this year, but 18 touches and three tackles is the sort of output Damien Hardwick would like to see from now on.

Jeremy Cameron – 19 touches and three goals is a good return considering I felt he was actually beaten on the day. If he kicks a little more accurately, however, I reckon we may be singing his praises. He finished with 3.4 for the game, but Astbury was excellent on him.

I guess that’s the mark of a good forward, huh? Finish with three goals on a day where you didn’t have the best of your opponent.

Finally, Toby Greene – my man… I thought he was very serviceable today. His 34 touches were probably the only high-number stats not overblown with sideways rubbish, and the fact he hit the scoreboard while spending plenty of time up forward indicates that he can absolutely do it all. GWS need two of him

And that’ll do the old Mongrel today. Nice win by the Tigers as the Giants fall over at the home of footy (which is a cricket ground) again. Richmond get the Jekyll and Hyde Port Adelaide next week at the ‘G again, and the Giants look to be without Stephen Coniglio for a fair while as they head home to welcome Collingwood, who will be without their captain.

It’s going to make for another good weekend of footy, and could very well shape whether the Giants can rally for a top four spot, or drop into the dangerous territory of missing the eight. That would not bode well for Leon Cameron if it is the latter.

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The Ups and Downs of Geelong v St Kilda

Sometimes the games that you expect the least from can turn out to be the tight contests that keep bums in seats.

That was the case (for the first half anyway) as we saw the glaringly evident top of the table Geelong, take on the 15th placed St. Kilda In a game that threatened to be a huge percentage booster for the Cats, and ultimately a Saturday night fizzer.

However, the Saints surprisingly avoided embarrassment early by showing plenty of first-half fight down in Geelong. Gradually the cream rose to the top as the skill and sheer class of the Cats allowed them to best the Saints – a clear indication as to why they sit two games clear atop of the ladder.

Another good week for Dangerfield, Duncan, Selwood and Co. ultimately proving too good for an under-fire St. Kilda outfit, the Cats running away with the game in the second half.
Despite leading by two points at half time, the Saints could only muster a meagre two goals, six behinds for the second half of the game, while the Cats piled on seven goals, five behinds to eventually run out 27 point winners.

Staring down the barrel of a bottom-four finish after their tenth loss of the season, there is seemingly nothing keeping the wolves away from the doors at St. Kilda. With a change of coach before season’s end almost imminent, it’s hard to get a clear indication of which direction this club is heading with its current list.

At the opposite end of the spectrum you have a resolute Geelong side ticking all the boxes and seemingly cruising to another finals series.

 

Mongrel Ups

 

Versatility the key

One thing we’ve learnt from Geelong this year is their depth and versatility is up there with the best in the league. They have the enviable ability to tweak players positions and roles mid-game and totally change the tempo and pace of a game in a matter of minutes. When something isn’t working for Chris Scott, it doesn’t take those who follow long to notice his subtle changes that can turn a game on its head before your eyes. Just another string to Geelong’s coaching bow

Another week, Another mention

Apologies in advance for the code jump, but it’s the age-old tag that reigns evident at the Cattery; Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – if Lillee don’t get you, then Thommo must!
Even with Ablett managing hip soreness, and Selwood battling a hard tag for parts of the game, it’s the aforementioned versatility that allows other players to step up in their stead.

Week in, week out it’s the same names that keep on presenting for Geelong. Dangerfield, Selwood, Miers, Duncan, Kelly, Stewart. If Tuohy goes quiet, Stewart steps up. If Rohan and Dahlhaus don’t kick goals, Ratugolea and Guthrie do. If Tim Kelly is held, Mitch Duncan plays a role. Leading up to the pointy end of the season, it’s the little things that can make or break a team, but with the depth and cohesion of Geelong, its easy to see why they’re going Into the finals as clear favourite

Marshall Law

The emergence and improvement of Rowan Marshall as St. Kilda’s number one ruckman is another successful example of clubs looking outside the box for mature age players. His averages over the last 6 week’s rank him up there with the best players in the league. Not only is he winning hit-outs, but he’s roving his own ball, laying tackles, taking marks and kicking goals. Which makes it hard to understand why the Saints have shown such an interest in Essendon’s Sam Draper. Their pursuit of the uncapped Bomber certainly leaves us scratching our heads, especially when there are other facets of their game that require a lot more attention than their ruck stocks.

Living Danger-ously

Patrick Dangerfield finished the game with 32 disposals (23 contested), nine clearances, seven tackles, five inside 50s and three contested marks. The 2016 Brownlow medallist proved to be the difference, particularly in the second half. His poise and ability to make things happen at either end of the ground dug Geelong out of their first half deficit and showcased a level of football above all others on the ground. 

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Mongrel Downs-

Defence of defence.

Alan Richardson has been adamant that his defence can hold up against the best forward lines in the league when they work together and play their natural game style. But time and time again we see the same defenders being easily beaten. The scoreline flattered a few of the Saints defenders come the final siren. It seems that all the groundwork is left up to a few players, while others guard grass and point fingers. Credit is due for them putting the screws on Geelong in the first half, but to steal a line from Kevin Sheedy; “it’s hard to accumulate success when your backline is chocolate, that is they’re all sweet to taste but they melt as soon as things get hot”. Expecting more changes than just the coaching position in the near future. It’s getting more and more obvious that players are either unhappy with who they’re playing for, or where they’re playing.

Time for a spell, mate.

Fan interaction is all a part of the game. Without the fans, there really is no game. Which is why it absolutely baffles me as to why almost every week we read of a fan taking it too far. To the fan that threw half a beer at Gary Ablett during the first quarter, not only are you an imbecile for wasting half a beer, you’re part of a bigger problem. That problem is a select group of supporters who feel that the price of admission entitles them to act like idiots and tarnish the reputation of a supporter base. Here’s to hoping he/she is found and dealt with accordingly. The less of this rubbish that we even have to acknowledge the better.

Wait, watching whose balls?

From the early days of Auskick we are taught not to be caught watching the ball. Always maintain touch on your opponent and read the passage of play. Had the Saints players at each end of the ground remembered their basics during the third quarter, they may have had a closer score come the final siren. In what became the turning catalyst for the match, more than once were Jake Carlisle and Nathan Brown caught wondering. How bad it must look upon replay at your team meetings during the week, standing there watching your opponent Mark the ball whilst you are metres away telling a younger player what he should be doing. Is it a lack of leadership at Moorabbin? Obviously they are missing Jack Steven, among others. But who else will stand up and be the leader St. Kilda need? Or will they limp into the off-season and try it all again next year.

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Mongrel Notes-

-Tonight Joel Selwood overtook Ian Nankervis to have the most disposals of any Geelong player (7295).

-25 disposals and nine tackles at 88% efficiency to young Hunter Clark who had a fair crack, showing his willingness to get his hands dirty early.

– The term ‘GOAT’ is thrown around a lot these days, but Gary Ablett’s two goals in a Minute showed exactly why he is the GOAT. Carrying a clear hip injury, he managed to turn it on for 60 seconds of the game, kicking two flash goals that all but hammered the final nails in the Saints coffin.

-Hunter Clark, Jack Steele, Jack Billings, Jade Gresham and Blake Acres laid 38 tackles between them in another dominant display of tackling by St. Kilda. Jack Steele has laid 34 Tackles in his last three games.

– How many Cats can we squeeze into the All Australian team? I don’t know what will stick out more, the amount if inclusions, or the amount of exclusions this season. Another year of trying to squeeze 50 deserving players across the league into 22 positions.

-St. Kilda have only won five quarters for the whole year.

– Is it a cop out for a team in St. Kilda’s position to blame the umpires for their loss?

 

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