The Giants weren’t about to drop another game at their Canberra fortress, getting the jump on St Kilda and refusing to relinquish it.

On the back of six goals by Coleman Medal frontrunner, Jeremy Cameron, some great defence early from Sam Reid and Zac Williams, and the brilliant Nick Haynes, the Giants were able to cover the loss of Josh Kelly in the middle to run out 44 point winners over a St Kilda team that fluctuated wildly between wanting to have a go, and seemingly just happy to be there.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

NICK HAYNES

I love watching this fella zone off his opponent and clunk a mark as both his direct opponent and the guy he jumped in front of curse his existence.

Nick Haynes is often overshadowed. He has played in a star-studded team for years in a role that is often overlooked when Jeremy Cameron kicks a bag, or Toby Greene boots someone in the head. He has been surrounded by quality for years and years. Phil Davis, Heath Shaw, and now with Zac Williams back and running riot, Haynes’ efforts could easily get lost.

Even with Cameron kicking six, I had Haynes as the best player on the ground in this one. He repeatedly unravelled the plans of the Saints midfield… such as they were, drifting in to cut off delivery to their intended targets and send the ball out of defence.

Haynes had 14 intercept possessions and 10 rebound 50s, whilst gaining 667 metres for his team. Though he is often the man who gets left out of the conversation when people talk about the best defenders in the game, we here at The Mongrel believe he should not only be in the conversation, but mentioned early, and often.

 

JC SUPERSTAR

Six goals is a bag by modern standards. Hell, even four goals is celebrated like it is some kind of milestone these days. Well, given the way he’s travelling at the moment, there’ll be quite a bit of celebrating for Jeremy Cameron this season, and he is one more bad of 5-6 goals away from people starting to ask the question – can he kick the ton?

Look, I think it’s unlikely, but with a real day out of nine or ten goals, and a few blowouts here or there along the way, Cameron could threaten 80-90 goals this season. The only other person capable of that in recent memory has been Buddy.

There was a touch… just a slight touch of Wayne Carey about JC today, gaining a possession between wing and half forward, only to work back with the flight of the ball, taking a gutsy mark at full forward. Carey may have been more demonstrative, and the King’s mark with the flight may have been a bit better, but the similarities were there, and anyway, I said there was a touch of Carey about him. I didn’t say it was the North Melbourne captain reborn.

Cameron went off late and had a shoulder iced up, quite content with a six goal haul. He now leads the Coleman Medal race comfortably, 13 ahead of the yet-to-play Tom Lynch, and is going to take some real catching. His hands were magnificent today, taking several of his ten marks out in front of his face, and under pressure.

Prior to this week, Cameron was pressing Brodie Grundy for the number one spot in our fortnightly power rankings, and after today, the gap will have closed again. Come the end of Round Eight, we may have a new man at the top

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JACK STEELE

There is one bloke in the St Kilda midfield you can always rely on to give 100%, even when the rest of them appear happy to be out there running around like it’s a local seconds game.

Jack Steele takes some pride in his work, and matched up on Stephen Coniglio (who in fairness has a broken finger), had the better of the GWS star.

What is more impressive is that Steele was working against the orange tide that threatened to wash over the Saints at points. How easy would it have been for him to throw his hands up in the air, the game completely gone from their grasp, and end up with his opponent getting 30 or so touches and keeping that average looking good?

But that’s not how Jack Steele operates. He finished with 24 touches and ran at 84% on the day – one of the few St Kilda mids to have the composure to lower his eyes and actually kick to the advantage of a teammate. He had four clearances, and was able to harass Coniglio to the point of causing errors.

His opponent on this day had 22 touches, but Coniglio was only able to run at 59%, despite getting off the chain early for a lucky goal that clean bowled both teammates and defenders.

Earlier in the season we rated some of the best taggers in the game, and Steele didn’t feature in the top five, but if he’s not there now, it certainly won’t be long til he is. His evasion at a forward half stoppage in the second quarter set up a goal for Blake Acres. That is the kind of patient, composed play the Saints needed today.

Unfortunately, they only had one Jack Steele.

 

ZAC WILLIAMS AND SAM REID

I’m lumping these two in together, because they were both fantastic off half back today.

Firstly, Williams led all players with 30 touches and went at 80% in the process. This is made more impressive by the fact that 25 of those possessions were by foot, so there were no little dinky handballs in the mix to improve his percentage. When Zac Williams gets the ball, he trusts his leg to get the job done, and it does.

Sam Reid was responsible for Jade Gresham in the first quarter, and not only did he do his job well defensively he also snuck forward and rammed home a goal to stick a dagger in Gresham’s heart and twist it.

Gresham could not shake Reid forward of centre, and was moved into the midfield to free him up in the second quarter – testament to the dedication and ability of Reid to shut him down so completely.

Between the two of these players, they had stats of 54 disposals, with 45 of them being effective. That is the sort of rebound you want from your half backs, propelling the team forward and through the middle quickly and accurately. You heard the commentators rambling on about GWS scoring from defence, right? You heard them talk about the disparity in inside 50s to St Kilda? Well, these two were the reasons why.

They were the ones making life hell for the Saints inside 50, and they were the ones, teaming with Nick Haynes, setting the Giants off and running.

 

ISAAC CUMMING

You might think that 10 disposals and no goals is a pretty ordinary return from a forward, and usually you’d be right, but the work of Cumming today extended far beyond numbers in columns. It was the way he attacked the contest, the way always presented and made himself dangerous, and the way he combined with Dan Lloyd and Brent Daniels to completely take Shane Savage out of the game in defence.

I’ll get to Savage in a bit, but the way Cumming, and both Lloyd and Daniels spread the Saints defence made ample room for Jeremy Cameron to work into, and we saw what resulted.

Too often, selfless acts go unnoticed when we focus on those who have big games, but Cumming, particularly early when GWS were looking for people to stand up and help establish a lead, was excellent. He demanded that Savage pay him respect, and refused to allow the Saints’ best run and carry player from half back any room when the inevitable turnover came.

Cumming deserves plenty of pats on the back from teammates, but so do other unsung forwards who chopped him out as the game went on, namely Lloyd, and the livewire known as Daniels.

There is a little something about the way Daniels goes about it; a sense of controlled urgency… like an organised chaos around him when he’s near the ball, and that is a valuable commodity in a small forward.

 

THE BAD

 

GRESHAM AND BILLINGS

How disappointing.

Gresham was absolutely blanketed by Sam Reid early in the game, and by half time could manage just seven disposals despite a move to the midfield.

Billings became a throwback to his 2018 self after a great start to this season. He managed just 19 possessions in a listless performance devoid of energy and urgency. Seemingly content to play the role of seagull, Billings did little of merit, either with the ball in hand or defensively, but he had a lot of mates.

Gresham was nominated by a few of the Mongrel team for a berth in our upcoming Mongrel rolling All-Australian team. My guess is that they’ll be reconsidering those picks after an 18-disposal game that saw him run at 39% efficiency.

Yep, you read that correctly – this highly skilled forward/mid ran at 39% for the game. That’s disastrous. Ten of his 18 touches were turnovers… not even just poor kicks – straight to a damn opponent.

In a game where the Saints needed someone to step up and do something, the something Gresham managed to provide was positive only for the Giants.

 

THE MUMMY FREE KICKS

I want to touch on the ruck contest here, because on paper, it looks different than it actually was. Here’s what you’ll hear from the media.

“Mumford won the tap outs, but Marshall was able to hold his own in clearances and around the ground.”

Do me a favour and disregard that. Any journo who writes that didn’t actually watch the game. Mumford killed Marshall, but gave away so many free kicks basically out of stupidity masked as clumsiness, that it made Marshall look good.

The clearances state Marshall had nine for the game, which was a game-high. What it doesn’t state is that six of them… yes, SIX of them came directly from Mummy doing something a little silly at stoppages and gifting him the ball. He didn’t win the clearance – he won the free kick, which also counts as a clearance. It’s an important po
int to make.

Mumford had seven clearances of his own, but unlike Marshall’s, his weren’t gifted.

Around the ground, Marshall did rack up 22 touches, and kick two goals (one from a 100 metre penalty from old mate Mummy) so he did get amongst it, but Mummy’s job was to provide first hands on the ball at stoppages, and even with Marshall’s nine clearances, the Giants won the overall clearances 44-39.

There is no question that Mumford had a huge influence on this game. No one can quite disguise intentionally running over someone with clumsiness quite like Mummy can, but Marshall gives the Saints plenty to look forward to.

In terms of stats, Marshall hits the triggers in our power rankings for both disposals and clearances this week. He has really got a mortgage on that role for the saints, particularly with Billy Longer demonstrating that he really isn’t up to it last week, and if the Saints persevere with him, I have a feeling the rewards will be substantial.

 

SHANE SAVAGE DISAPPEARING ACT

So here’s Shane Savage’s last two weeks.

27 disposals at 88% efficiency in a win against Melbourne.

30 disposals at 86% efficiency in a loss against Adelaide.

Credit where it’s due – Leon Cameron did his homework and put a lot of work into curtailing Savage this week. I don’t rate last quarter stats in games where the outcome is already decided, so let’s look at how Savage was travelling prior to that.

At that point of the game, Savage had nine disposals to his name and was completely ineffective. It’d be easy to point the finger at him and say he wasn’t trying hard enough, or didn’t want it bad enough, but the truth of the matter is that the Giants worked cohesively to ensure he didn’t get any loose ball across half back.

As mentioned above, Cumming, Daniels and Lloyd put work into him, as did anyone who saw him looking to get off the chain. The Giants were extremely disciplined in not allowing Savage to play the role for the Saints that Zac Williams was playing for them. Savage couldn’t respond. He seemed a bit rattled by the attention, and like so many of his teammates, didn’t run hard enough for long enough to shake the attention he was getting.

Savage had ten touches in the last quarter, but they were complete garbage time stats. The job was done early.

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Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

 

THE UGLY

 

THE ONE SPEED SAINTS

In want to name some names here of blokes who seemed content to just cruise around, pick up a few easy possessions through the middle, and do not much else of anything else.

I mentioned jack Billings and jade Gresham before, but they had plenty of mates.

Blake Acres. Mate… having a nice sounding name doesn’t cut the mustard. Sure, you sound like some sort of movie star spy… “The name’s Acres… Blake Acres” but being a bloke with a cool sounding name who plays in the seconds doesn’t have quite the same right to it, does it? Nine disposals for a bloke of his talent is criminal.

Jimmy Webster. You know, I thought this was going to be Webster’s year. Turns out I was dead wrong. Nine touches for him as well today, and roaming around half back, with so much attention on Shane Savage… Jimmy, what the hell were you doing back there?

Hunter Clark. Ten touches.

Tim Membrey. Man, this guy just threatens and threatens and… rarely delivers. He can have games where he looks like the best player on the park (vs Melbourne) and then days like today, where you barely even know he’s out there.

Dean Kent. I was pretty pleased with Kent’s acquisition in the off-season. I thought he added quite a bit of grunt to their forward line, he finished with two goals, but for the game, he ran at 37% efficiency. It makes Jade Gresham look like Darren Jarman. Of course, his opponent was Zac Williams, who had the lazy 30 touches.

But it wasn’t just those with low disposal that were the issue. Seb Ross missed targets, travelling at 69%, and that would’ve been substantially lower had he been called for the two blatant throws in the last quarter. Jack Newnes went at 63% and threw the ball onto the boot way too often without looking.

It must have been a frustrating day to be a St Kilda fan. To watch many of the above players slot into third gear, and simply be unwilling to put their foot down (Seb Ross… looking at you) would be enough to make you drop your head. For God’s sake, you were 4-2 coming into this game, but played like a team that was 2-4.

When watching GWS were cutting the Saints to ribbons with their run through the middle and delivery inside 50, I was wondering how many people would blame the defenders. Nope, it was the lazy half forwards and the jogging midfielders who refused to run hard to shut down the run through the middle. GWS had options everywhere, and several of those I mentioned above were responsible for the space available to those runners.

Time to go back, reassess and starting looking for answers to the many questions about the ‘stars’ who were out there today, and whether they want to work hard, or be content with sitting middle of the road.

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QUICK BITS

Good to see Jackson Hately get a run, but when the Giants were calm and hitting targets, that’s when you could tell he was a rookie, throwing it on the boot quickly. It’s nit-picky, as overall he was great (21 touches almost puts him in the Rising Star nomination box seat) and he’ll learn to read the game, and his surroundings a little better.

This is not the first game I’ve seen Ben Long try to be physical early, or at least do something early, and then fade completely from the game. He finished with five disposals for the game and should make way for someone who’s not going to drop their head so easily.

I liked the game of Heath Shaw today. It wasn’t a possession accumulating game, but more a better-rounded game that saw him defend beautifully when it was his turn to go.

Matthew Parker was a livewire for the Saints early, and with two of their first three goals, was a godsend. He seemingly went out of it after copping a poke to the eye, James Harden-style, only he didn’t squint and play it up for the rest of the game.

Really want to highlight the lack of defensive run from the St Kilda mids here. On long shots you could really see the GWS mids run and spread while their St Kilda counterparts seemed content to jog along and mind the corridor. And where did the Giants score most? From transition. I don’t know if Seb Ross is instructed NOT to go deep into defensive 50 often, but he certainly looked like someone who didn’t want to be anywhere near it out there.

There are more than a few teams that would like the services of Jeremy Finlayson right about now. Hawthorn… I really wanted you to throw a pick at GWS for this guy, but as you don’t know me, don’t listen to me, and are probably right to not to… I just wanted to point out that I thought it was a good idea to talk to the Giants about the possibility. Throw in Melbourne, North Melbourne, St Kilda and Port as the other teams that would relish having him inside 50. Luckily for the Giants… you have him. Smile – it’s a great thing.

A bit of a purple patch for Sam Taylor in the second quarter, with three intercept marks in about five minutes. He looked like Glen Jakovich back there!

Interesting to see you can now be pinged for holding the ball when someone bumps into you, as happened to Stephen Coniglio when Seb Ross ran into him at half forward. Luckily, the guess/decision didn’t cost a goal.

I felt that the last quarter was complete and utter garbage time. When you’re looking at the stats, please factor in that Jack Steele only had two in the last, whilst Seb Ross had seven. I guess that’s the difference between those two.

So where do we head next? The Saints get West Coast at Marvel Stadium, which will either get their season back on track, or condemn them to mediocrity. The Giants get their first look at the MCG as they run into the struggling Hawks. A win there will well and truly cement them in the top four as we tick into the second third or the season. Yep, that’ll be a third over already… goes quick, huh?

 

 Where did these guys rank in the second Mongrel Player Power Rankings? Click here to find out.

Where did these guys rank in the second Mongrel Player Power Rankings? Click here to find out.

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