This week, we thought we’d try something a little different.

Parochialism is great, but only when there is an alternate view you can use to balance things out. There is no way both sets of supporters ever walk away from a game feeling completely satisfied. there is always a winner and a loser… or two teams that played to a draw and no one is happy.

In order to capture the feelings and thoughts of both teams, irrespective of the outcome, Alex Docherty and HB Meyers went into watching this game as fans with eyes only for one team. Doc was all about his Bulldogs, and HB Meyers threw on a North jumper to cover the game.

Below is the dual review from two Mongrels with very different perspectives on the game.

 

WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – Hard to pick a sole match-winner when you win by 50 points. The defence was magnificent all game long. Tom Liberatore stood out on a night where Bailey Smith was knocked out early and Marcus Bontempelli was well subdued by Luke McDonald. Tim English was visibly everywhere after half time and Laitham Vandermeer was building up a really nice game before he was knocked out.

But ultimately, football is a game about kicking goals. Josh Bruce equaled a career-high, with a bag of six goals from six marks and 10 disposals and nine scoring involvements – that’s efficiency right? Given the injury to Aaron Naughton last week, Bruce needed a big game this week- his first four weeks have been lean to say the least. I have noticed him throwing himself into more contests and getting a little bit more involved, but this week just looked like the perfect forwards game. He couldn’t have done it without both the service from the players up the ground, and Josh Schache playing a decent foil-role, enabling Robbie Tarrant to play one-out against Bruce more often than not.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – For North? No one. Seriously, there was no player out there that could put his hand up and claim to have made a significant difference other than Luke McDonald, and his job was simply to stop someone else from being the match winner.

Plenty of people have pointed out Jy Simpkin to me in the last couple of weeks, but he completely disappeared in the third quarter. A bloke spending that much time in the guts should not be registering zero touches in a quarter.

And Todd Goldstein found out the hard way that Tim English is no longer someone to be toyed with. English had less than half the hit outs of Goldy, but was instrumental both in attack and defence as a marking target.

Did Goldy have his colours lowered? No, but North would have been expecting a clear win in the middle with Goldstein exerting his influence. What they got was a break-even and it was only Goldy’s ability to hit the scoreboard that kept it that way

 

WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – The short answer is the third quarter. After North Melbourne kicked the opening goal to reduce the margin from 20 points to 14, the Bulldogs flicked the switch and propelled themselves out to a lead that would make it an extraordinarily hard ask to catch them.

The long answer is a combination of the Bulldogs’ defence, and whatever pressure was applied further up the ground to enable the North players to put in so many sloppy inside 50 entries. Whether it was hack kicks trying to make up ground or the high up and under kicks that would often make the defender wet their underpants with uncertainty. Easton Wood was intercept marking nearly everything in sight, Zaine Cordy barely lost a one-on-one, Hayden Crozier and Alex Keath were just as good in the air and Caleb Daniel, Bailey Williams and Jason Johannisen were all outstanding in running the football out of defence and setting up the quick transitions.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – Oh, where do we start?

Firstly, the selection of Ben Cunnington. Clearly not right and unable to have any significant contribution to the team, he spent the majority of his time looking sore and plonking down on the bench.

Oh, he is a warrior and I am sure you could amputate his leg and he’ll still try to get out there to fly the blue and white flag, but someone else needs to show some common sense and make the call for him. Who was that person at North Melbourne? Who was the person that looked at this fella clearly struggling to do anything of note and thought it would be a good idea to allow him to play? Whoever that was should be having some questions asked of them, because not only did they play a clearly injured player, but they were asking 21 others to carry him, and that was unfair on everyone.

Secondly, maybe it was the complete inability to hit a target inside 50 at all for the entire night. The amount of times North would just bomb the footy in and hope for the best was mind boggling. Tell me – who did they think was going to clunk a mark?

Ben Brown looks like he is trying to execute the triple jump as he approaches marking contests with these big loping strides. You ever seen Herman Munster? That’s how he looked out there – like he was dragging massive boots around that are too heavy for his feet. He isn’t going to be pulling down pack marks, and if he isn’t going to do that, why were there only minimal efforts to lower the eyes and hit a target?

Panic? Is that what it was? Where are these classy ball users like Higgins, Polec and Simpkin? What about Dumont? Hit and hope simply  does not work.

Third – too many passengers. I don’t know what it is about Shaun Atley, but once he actually does something in a game it is like he puts the cue in the rack as if to say “well, there’s my part of the video review ticked off.”

His smashing tackle on Bailey Smith is the sort of thing that should inspire the team – look at him going hard and making people pay. Instead, he wanders off to play a meandering half back role with no physical presence for the rest of the game. But don’t worry… he did one thing well. One thing – that’s what seems to matter.

Xerri, Hall, Mahony… passenger, passenger and passenger.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – In a big win, there’s not much I would change from this Bulldogs’ team. I was visibly miffed on Thursday night when Louis Butler was dropped, considering that he had a really solid debut and was the equal-leader from the game against Sydney for intercepts. But, when the three inclusions all had very good inputs on the win on Saturday night, I’ll give Luke Beveridge’s selection Scrabble a rest for this week

In terms of on the field, perhaps this is just nit-picking, but there were a few moments in the opening half that the Bulldogs needed to kick it in deep and direct but hesitated the pull the trigger. Most notably was the final 30 seconds of the first quarter. The transition was beautiful from half back, and with Tim English marking 50 metres from goal with a few of his teammates streaming inside 50, he just needed to put it in deep or go for home. Instead he handballed it to Bailey Dale who then tried to launch it home, but didn’t even make the distance.

But again, that’s just a small thing. All in all, it was an unbelievable win, a stark contrast to what happened when we rebooted the season. The Dogs have their bark and their run back!

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – North are playing Cam Zurhaar too close to goal. Whilst Ben Brown is leading up to half back to get a touch, Zurhaar was stationed in the forward fifty getting cold. He has the ability to get up the field, turn his opponent around and work back to goal and he looks good when he does that.

But does he have the tank to do it?

I guess if North are not opting to use him that way they must have a reason?

I’m sorry to say, but it might almost be time for Big Ben to have a rest. This has not been a good year for power forwards and Brown has been one of the more average full forwards of the bunch. I wrote about his plodding above – he needs teammates blocking and working to give him the space to operate, but opponents are becoming a wake up to North’s stagnant set up, and are lapping up the stupid long kicks inside 50. Even if he did find some space, the odds of a North midfielder hitting him were pretty remote tonight.

Looking at the way North scored, very rarely was it with run through half forward but that seems to be the best avenue they have to goal currently. I’d station Zurhaar and Curtis Taylor as high half forwards and really, I would avoid the long ball at all costs. It worked only when Todd Goldstein was able to clunk a mark at one stage early, but that was it.

I’d also give Robbie Tarrant a clear lockdown role and stop relying on him as your key rebounder. There are other players that can do that, but not many that can shut down a power forward.

 

MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – I have two – one from either side. From my own team, I feel like Toby McLean’s work goes around a little bit unnoticed. It still baffles me why he was left out of both the losses against Collingwood and St. Kilda. It is quite noticeable that when he’s in, he adds a new dynamic to the team. In the middle, he plays a lot tougher than he looks and he doesn’t shy away from the contest. Around the ground, he links up really well and when his team doesn’t have the ball, he’s often in the face of the opposition, doing his darndest to cause the turnover. He had 22 disposals, seven of those contested, along with three tackles, three inside 50s and two clearances.

For North, I thought Trent Dumont’s game was actually overlooked a fair bit. As the game progressed the result slipping away from the grasp of the Kangaroos, I could see that he looked like he wanted to try and keep his team moving. 18 disposals, four inside 50s and three tackles. It was a night for the Roos when many others around him just struggled for any ounce of impact whatsoever.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – It’s gotta be Luke McDonald. Held Bontempelli to just 12 disposals and took a lot of pride in the way he went about it.

He was hard, tough and committed to the cause irrespective of what was going on around him, and to stifle a player like Bont, you have to be on your game.

McDonald did well against Toby Greene a couple of weeks ago, and now he has added another scalp.

Ben Jacobs would be proud.

 

THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – I had my eye on Ben Cunnington in the lead-up to this game. The past two weeks that North have been without him, they struggled massively. When it was clear that Cunnington was going to play, I was excited, because I would rather a North’s best team as opposed to a North team that is missing arguably the teams best contested possession winner. However, when the ball was bounced, it looked obvious that Cunnington’s back was not 100 percent and by the third quarter, his night looked done.

As a result, North’s midfield struggled immensely – I’ll get to them in the next bit. But that was probably the biggest moment in the game. North are a much better team when he’s fit and firing, and the fact that he’s still struggling with a bad back, whilst not the main reason why the team has been on a downward spiral the last three weeks, it has certainly played a integral factor why they are where they are right now. I wouldn’t want to be North’s medical department right now, because they should be put in the blowtorch following the decision to okay him.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – I wrote about Atley’s hit on Bailey Smith above. That should have been the catalyst for North to get up and about. He took Smith, one of the Dogs’ prime movers this season, out of the play and out of the game. It should have revved the Roos up.

It didn’t.

And therefore it didn’t really matter, did it?

 

WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – Marcus Bontempelli’s impact was well kept under wraps by Luke McDonald (Big kudos to him by the way). Whilst disappointing he didn’t get a lot of the footy and didn’t do a great deal with it, the midfield were still good enough to do what they liked with the Roos. Liberatore and Jack Macrae were standouts, whilst the work of McLean and Patrick Lipinski were also very good. Maybe if the results were reversed, this would be a different tune.

This is probably going in the nit-picking category again. But Bailey Dale’s kicking was something else I felt a bit let down. He kicked the first goal of the game, and even still, he got way too close to the man on the mark. The rest of his opportunities either skewed sideways or didn’t even make the distance. I will say in more positive light, he found himself in opportunities – perhaps the same amount of opportunities per game he had in the back-end of last year. Even if he polishes up a fraction on his set-shots, he’s back to two or three goals per game.

From North? Where do I begin? Well I’ve already mentioned Cunnington and North’s brain trust that is the medical department. Shaun Higgins was thoroughly disappointing from someone else considered to be an All-Australian – all he looked like on Saturday night was more of a downhill skier than anything else. Ben Brown was okay up the ground, but it is noticeable that he’s dropping marks he would’ve taken a few years ago and missing kicks he would’ve kicked also. I didn’t know Aaron Hall was playing until he butchered that kick after the three-quarter time siren – he was that quiet. Jamie Macmillan and Jasper Pittard had little impact in defence, Cameron Zurhaar suffered from the Bulldogs’ suffocating defence and Shaun Atley was ordinary.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – How long have you got?

Aaron Hall looked like it was his first game out there and there should be red flags everywhere around his performance today. Five touches and actually had a chance to give North a slight hope on the three quarter time siren with a shot from 40 out, but he never really looked like it and it really summed up his poor day.

Jared Polec’s defensive pressure was poor, and if broken tackles are not enough proof for you, check out his man, Ed Richards picking up the footy at a stoppage inside the Dogs’ attacking 50 and slotting a goal whilst Polec… hell, I don’t even know where the hell Polec was!

I didn’t know Tristan Xerri was playing until half way through the second quarter, such was his level of non-infleunce, and though he would redeem himself with some fierce attacks on the footy later, Kryon Hayden not going in the second quarter and allowing Josh Bruce to run onto a chest mark was horrible. I watched that back a few times – it was not Jamie MacMillan that called him out. JMac looked mightily annoyed that Hayden didn’t keep coming back.

I hope he learns from that, and if his attack on the footy later in the game is any indication, I reckon he goes every single time from now on regardless of who calls him out.

Atley I touched on – he has never got anywhere near the level I thought he could. If he were an actor at the Oscars, he would be one who is interviewed and says he was just happy to be nominated. Never does enough, doesn’t chase hard and has taken money off North for years without doing anywhere near enough to justify it. At 27, he should be at his peak… which is really sad.

I could go on and on here. Zurhaar, Brown, Higgins… all poor.

 

PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – Well, on a more positive note for the Roos, Loved the work of both Jy Simpkin and Jed Anderson in the middle. Neither man gave up for a moment and they worked hard until the final siren. 37 disposals, 11 clearances, seven tackles and eight inside 50s between the pair of midfielders. Simpkin’s work has improved out of sight over the past 18 months, whilst Anderson has been slowly churning together these kind of performances over the past two years.

I will also highlight Curtis Taylor. Been a big fan of him in the lead-up to the 2018 AFL Draft. A mid-sized forward, with a good goal sense and not a bad leap on him. He brought that to the fold on Saturday night, taking a few nice contested grabs and converting a pair of set shots with relative ease. It absolutely baffles me how he went as late as pick 46, he was easily their most dangerous forward tonight.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – It’d be easy to say Josh Bruce when you look at a six goal haul, but give me someone who has the ability to use the footy. I’m saying Caleb Daniel.

26 touches at 86% efficiency and he was basically doing whatever he wanted from half back. He had ten score involvements… TEN! How can we not be capitalising on a guy of his size at half back? How do our mids not see the mismatch in the air and try to isolate him? I’ve seen it done – why can’t North manufacture something like that?

It made me sad.

 

WRAP  UP

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS – A couple of key points before I sign off.

Whilst I liked Robbie Tarrant’s game as an intercept defender, the fact that he was beat by Josh Bruce in terms of one-on-ones tarnished his game quite a bit. He definitely wasn’t their worst, but you can’t go concede six goals to a guy that was a tad out of form before Saturday night.

Whilst I loved Tim English’s game around the ground, I think it was a break-even in terms of influence against Todd Goldstein. It was expected that Goldstein would dominate the hitouts – which he did, 31-15 against Big Tim – English’s positioning behind the play, his marking hands and his second and third efforts after the initial ruck contest were just as important as Goldstein winning the taps.

And lastly. This time next week will see Lachie Hunter serving his four-game suspension and available for selection as the Dogs enter the Gold Coast Hub. Unless either Bailey Smith or Laitham Vandermeer fail to get up during the week, then I think Hunter is better off next week playing in the seconds (do we call it that?). The team is flying, and I think he can do with a week just honing his match fitness and awareness just that little more.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE – There are not a lot of positives to take from this one. Our skills were poor, we were second to the footy and we didn’t deliver the ball with any kind of system. The hit and hope is fine when you have people capable of clunking marks, but without Nick Larkey up forward, we don’t have that player able to crash packs and make a grab stick.

God, he is missed.

A forward set up with Brown, Larkey and Zurhaar is like a car made entirely out of spare parts that just hums along beautifully – no top draft picks there; just three guys that will win on effort. Sadly, when one is missing from the equation, not only do the wheels fall off, but the motor starts sputtering and the car comes to a halt.

In the guts, Simpkin is good, but there is only so much he can do. A fit Cunnington would have made a difference, but players like Higgins need to start winning some footy as well. Jed Anderson works hard but we all know he lacks polish. He is good for the grunt work but needs others to assist.

I’ve left Robbie Tarrant for the end, because even though he didn’t have Josh Bruce as his direct opponent all night, there were a few times he did, and he was beaten cleanly. There is no shame in it, but I’m thinking many will point to his ten Rebound 50 disposals and ten marks as an indicator that he was very good.

He was… in patches, but ultimately we had a forward playing against us go home with six goals to his name after managing just three goals in the prior four games. We let him off the hook by not giving him the respect he deserves. Six goals is an apt punishment.

 

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