You know how some games have these exciting finishes and they make up for a contest that maybe just a little below par?

Well, I wish I could say that’s what he had today, but we didn’t.

What we did have was a defensive scrap riddled with wet weather footy mistakes. What a pity it was dry with no excuse for the substandard skills and ultra-conservative gameplans that made sure we had what could have been a great game of footy turned into a slog between the arcs.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE WINGMEN

This was not a game decided by the big names of either team. Gawn was good, Viney was really solid, as were Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan, but if you’re looking for the players that made the most of the opportunities that befell them you have to look to the outside.

Cam Guthrie and Sam Menegola spent most of their afternoon on opposing wings, but both had a very solid opponent to contend with.

You see, in the off-season, Melbourne went out and recruited both Ed Langdon from Freo, and Adam Tomlinson from GWS to help solve their issue with being too inside-focused. They’ve seen some pretty solid results from the two over pre-season and from Langdon in particular against West Coast way back in Round One.

But against the Cats, they ran into a pair determined not just to break even, but to win the contest.

And that’s what they did.

Guthrie was excellent – I had him as the best player on the park in this game. he broke lines, hit targets and ran hard both directions (and sometimes, I’m guessing, even sidewards!) as he took control of his wing and made the role work for him.

When you think of the Cats, I found that last year it was the players that got under your guardthat killed you. Not the Ablett/Selwood/Kelly/Dangerfield/Hawkins kind of players – more the Atkins, Dahlhaus, Miers and yes, Cam Guthrie kind of players that would come in, contribute and before you knew it, they’d had 20 touches and were killing you.

And that’s what happened in this one.

Guthrie was ably aided by Menegola on the opposite side of the ground and whilst he was less precise with the footy than Guthrie, his repeated inside 50 deliveries gave the Cats multiple chances to score in the same passage of play.

Menegola looks like a classic footballer. Good hands, a textbook kicking style and he can run hard all day. Matched up against  Adam Tomlinson and Ed Langdon, he and Cam Guthrie set the Cats up for this win.

Them, and the bloke I am writing about next.

 

MARK BLICAVS

There is an ongoing chat amongst the Mongrel writers and unfortunately several of them are Geelong fans. Hey, I didn’t know that when I had them jump aboard.

In this chat last week there were several unsavoury remarks about the play of their two-time best and fairest defender who sometimes stupidly plays on the wing, Mark Blicavs. This week… there were no such comments. Strange, huh?

That’d be because Blicavs was quite supreme in the Geelong defensive 50, using his pace to stick with some of the quicker Demon forwards, and his height and power to retreat and cover the defensive 50 arc.

Just wondering – how will Blicavs be remembered at Geelong? What would a third B&F do to his reputation at the club? He’d be joining blokes like Danger, Selwood and Couch. Would he be held in as high regard as those blokes? I get the feeling he wouldn’t, and I also get the feeling he would be okay with that.

Blicavs is a work horse, and those B&F awards were reward for the work he’d put in to go from a project player to one of the most reliable defenders in the game. I was pleased to see him performing so admirably so that some of the more fair-weather Mongrel writers would bite their tongues this week.

Now, Chris Scott… don’t play him on the wing again to give them any ammo in the future, please. Thanks.

 

JAKE KOLODJASHNIJ

Underrated, and with Steven May doing a big defensive job at one end, I found my eye drawn to Jake Kolodjashnij during this game due to the shape of his butt… err, I mean the way he attached the footy in the air.

He had some crunching spoils in this game, ranging from attacks on the ball (and body) in marking contests with Jack Viney and Christian Petracca.

The Cats are a little spoiled for defensive talent. When you look at their back six, it is hard to find a designated weakness. Bews, Blicavs, Kolodjashnij, Henry, O’Connor, Stewart… the list goes on, and it is lucky it does.

With Tom Stewart going down in one of the strangest incidents we’ve seen in a while, it will be interesting to see how the Cats compensate. We’ll get to that a little bit later.

 

STEVEN MAY

I have no idea how much Melbourne would have lost by without Steven May back there in this contest. The amount of times May broke up the Geelong attacks really went a long way to keeping them within striking distance and after such a tumultuous 2019, it was great to see him back in defence doing what he does so well.

And it wasn’t just thumping the ball out of play, himself that made May a valuable contributor to the Demon case – I really liked his ability to hold his ground and hold the play up until the cavalry arrived. He has started to work really well with Jake Lever and the longer the two are able to wax in defence, the better they’ll be in the long run.

With 11 spoils and five rebound 50 disposals, May demonstrated just what he can for this Demon defence in the long run.

Now he just has to keep producing and not do anything silly in the interim.

 

JACK VINEY

There wasn’t much to really like apart from the blokes on the outside and the defenders in this game, but I cannot help admire the way Jack Viney attacks the footy. Looking at him today, he looked like a seven or so years younger version of one of my favourite players ever, Joel Selwood.

Viney’s crash and bash style is suited to this kind of scrap and I am not sure I saw him cleanly beaten in a one-on-one clash this arvo.

21 disposals is nothing to write home about, but it is more the way that Jack Viney goes about it that compels his teammates to follow him.

We didn’t get to see a lot of his good work finished off as this was a contest where the defences were well and truly on top and stacked to the brim with top-end talent, but if you’re looking to watch someone play hard, in and under footy every weekend, you could do a lot worse than watch Jack Viney.

Or you could watch Clayton Oliver – another of my favourites.

 

CHRIS SCOTT AND ALASTAIR CLARKSON

Finally some people with a voice are bloody using them!

If you haven’t checked out the commentary from both the Cats and Hawks coaches about the way footy is being umpired and interpreted, do yourself a favour and listen.

The result of not listening, on the part of the AFL, is games like this one.

 

THE BAD

 

THE STYLE, OR LACK THEREOF

This is not a game any of us will watch again, is it?

As we started the last quarter, Melbourne had kicked three goals. Game over, right? Wrong! Dead Wrong!

This was such a defensive game, stuck in the mire of not wanting the other team to even look like scoring, that three goals was enough to keep Melbourne within striking distance. Three bloody goals and they were still in it.

The Demons came out and kicked three in the last quarter as the Cats managed just one to end up limping over the line in what can only be termed a pretty disappointing affair from a viewer’s point of view. Yeah, if you’re a Cats fan you can pat yourself on the back and take the four points – it is what it is all about anyway, right? But are you genuinely pleased with what you saw today?

I am not personally invested, so maybe my view is a little different, but this game was on a par with the Collingwood v Richmond restart game in terms of its ugliness.

I reckon both teams are better than what they dished up today.

 

THE UGLY

 

INEFFECTIVE FORWARD SET UPS

Is it fair to say that the forward lines for both teams were quite inept in this contest? I reckon it is. They’re paid to kick goals, and whilst the midfields of either team did them no real favours for the most part, there is an expectation that the forwards can win the occasional contest without someone putting the ball straight down their throat.

Look at these numbers,

Esava Ratugolea – five touches.

Bayley Fritsch – five touches

Jayden Hunt – five touches

Gary Rohan – six touches

Mitch Hannan – seven touches

Tom McDonald – eight touches

That, to put it bluntly, is complete shithouse forward play.

We can bang on about doing the team thing and playing a role, but we had the commentators starting to wet their pants about Kysaiah Pickett because he was one of the only blokes out there that genuinely looked as though he wanted to attack the footy and, you know… win a contest.

And he really didn’t even do that in this game!

It was the middle of the arvo, hardly a breath of air about, no rain for at least 24 hours and these teams could not kick a goal if their life depended on it. Even one as seasoned as Tom Hawkins kicked 1.3 for the game and had to venture down to half back to get involved.

Geelong fans may not have liked it, but if I was hating this game, I am sure Demon fans were hating it even worse.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

HOW DO THE CATS REPLACE TOM STEWART?

This is a tough one  – Tom Stewart has been a revelation in this role for a couple of years, and given he’ll be out for a while, the race for his AA spot will now open right up.

This has been a disastrous round for quality defenders, with Stewart joining Howe on the sidelines.

Can Mark O’Connor take the next step? Will Zach Tuohy be looked at as the preferred exit 50 player? How about the old Jordan Clark? Could he float back if he gets a game? Or is it Jack Henry’s time to shine?

I’d have some coin on the last one.

 

IS TOM HAWKINS DOING ENOUGH?

Do you get the feeling Tomahawk is running in about second gear at the moment? I know he has been really keen to ensure others are involved in the goals, but if I pulled you aside at the start of the season and told you he’d have five goals to his name after four games, you probably would have laughed, right?

He is averaging more goal assists this season than he is goals, which is commendable, but at some point this season Geelong is going to need their big man to be just that – the big man.

 

IS TOM MCDONALD COOKED?

Dumb question – he’s 27 years old. He has plenty left, but is he cooked in terms of being the number one avenue to goal? His last year and a half has been absolutely abysmal. The one game he actually did kick a bag of six, he injured himself and sat the rest of the year out.

He’s a great defender – maybe he could…oops, you have May and Lever back there. What else can he do?

Does he have the tank to play centre half forward and go for a bit of a wander? Could he play as a mobile ruck backup to Gawn and allow the big fella to sneak forward here or there?

I’m at a bit of a loss, because keeping him as the bloke coming out of the goal square looks like a disaster at the moment, and it has for a while.

 

IF YOU HAD TO TRADE ONE OF THE MELBOURNE MIDS, WHO WOULD IT BE?

I would have done it last year, and I would have offered Andrew Brayshaw as bait to secure another high pick. He had a couple of nice moments in this one, but I don’t believe the Dees are getting bang for their buck for him.

Petracca, Oliver and Viney I’d hold onto for dear life, but while Brayshaw has some currency, I’d be tempted to explore what was available.

 

OTHER BITS

No goals to Jake Melksham this arvo, but I still think he can have some big outings this season. The 27% disposal efficiency is a real worry, but I reckon he paid the price for trying to create in a game that was designed to deny it today.

A Jake Lever that marks the footy makes the Dees a much better team. Got his mitts to plenty this afternoon, but let too many fall from his grasp.

I see Esava Ratugolea showed up for five minutes again today. Looked great for a brief period in the third quarter and picked up three of his five touches in rapid succession. Then… nothing. Just like the two quarters before that.

Hurry up, Josh Jenkins.

Clayton Oliver remains the Dees’ one mid that truly plays both offence and defence. Six tackles today, and will happily scrap at the bottom of the pack til the Cows come home.

17 touches for Jack Steven in this one, but anything was an improvement on last week. I guess the Cats are hopeful that the time they put into him now will be repaid late in this season.

 

And that’ll do me. Really disappointing game of footy. Devoid of highlights, devoid of flair, and I reckon had this game been called off at three quarter time by Gillon McLachlan and he declared that no one deserved to win it, it would have been a fair result.

A terrible advertisement for our game.

 

Next week the Dees head to the SCG and take on the Swans. That is a very winnable game if their key defenders get on top.

The Cats welcome the Suns to Kardinia Park… now this could get very interesting. I’dlove to see Joel Selwood go head to head with the kid. What a sight…