It was a game that always felt as though it was Geelong’s to win, or lose. They were the better team – cleaner, better skilled and with the scales heavily tipping their way in the talent department.

So when the Kangaroos pulled to within 15 points late in the contest, you had to wonder what they’d done wrong, or more to the point, what they had to do to fix things.

Enter Patrick Dangerfield.

After spending most of the evening sliding around on his knees in the forward fifty like Joe Ganino on nudist colony’s slip and slide, he was inserted into the middle to win the footy and secure the win for the Cats. 15 seconds later, the game was over as the ensuing Danger clearance set up Mitch Duncan for a goal round the corner and things were as they were supposed to be.

It was a tough night at the office for the Kangaroos. Coming off what could have been a turning point in their season last week – a cracking win over the Crows, they reverted to playing messy, unstructured football and only inaccuracy from Geelong kept them close enough to believe they had a shot.

In the end, the Cats cruised to a 33-point win, which felt about right.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE LIFE OF GRYAN

He’s not the messiah… he’s just a very naughty boy!

Gryan was anything but naughty in this one, continually finding space to punish North Melbourne on the turnover, and in particular, his direct opponent – the perennial underachiever, Shaun Atley.

Every week I watch Atley do one good thing on the footy field and put his cue in the rack, as though he believes everyone will remember the one good thing he did and forget about the other bonehead actions on the night.

Well, I don’t remember any of his good stuff tonight, because Gryan Miers highlighted the bad.

Miers took advantage of Atley’s loose checking to get open inside 50 and make a complete nuisance of himself, slotting four goals to lead the game and kickstart the Geelong offence. Whether on the move or taking grabs inside 50, Miers was far too active for the “laconic” (always a good way to say “lazy”) Atley, and was able to turn his opponent’s deficiencies into his advantage.

It was Atley turning the ball over on the half back line, typically setting up his teammate, Jed Anderson to be tackled immediately after receiving it, but realising his error, he chased down the footy and won a free kick. Instead of clearing the area, he poked a dinky little 30 metre kick up the wing, only to watch the footy land in the arms of Jack Henry. He got the ball quickly inside 50 where Miers stood all alone.

Atley remained on the half back flank, lamenting costing his team a goal, and that goal going to his direct opponent.

I know I am whacking Atley here, but in 200+ games I have NEVER seen him take over a game from half back. Not once. He looks like a player just content with being out there, whereas his opponent this evening looked like one who knows he needs to make every post a winner.

Gryan Miers was not a high draft pick. He was not highly sought after by a dozen clubs. He is a local boy from Grovedale, and he is anything but just happy to be out there. He is a killer dressed up as a kid, and tonight, he killed Shaun Atley.

 

THE SHAGGY BEAST

Dangerfield, Hawkins, Selwood, Duncan… you don’t hear much about Cam Guthrie when people talk about Geelong, but the way he is going about his footy in 2020, you’d think that is all about to change.

As stars all over the league watch their averages plummet amid shorter game time, Guthrie is increasing his. He is +3 disposals per game on his 2019 numbers as his importance to this Geelong midfield grows week by week.

He spent a couple of games earlier in the season playing out wide on the wings, but he looks very much at home in the hustle and bustle of the centre square.

Guthrie had 29 disposals and six clearances in this game as he put his stamp on the contest with one of the best games I’ve seen him play. As North Melbourne hacked and fluffed kicks all over the park, Guthrie used his huge tank to play both ends of the park, but it was his delivery inside 50 that made him stand out.

Guthrie had seven disposals hitting the 50 metres arc to lead all comers and his eight score involvements is evidence that when he touched the footy, good things happened.

He may not be a household name outside Geelong, but as 2020 rolls on, more and more people will be sitting up and taking notice of what Cam Guthrie is doing for this team. And if you ignore it, you do so at your own peril.

 

MENE-GOLD ON THE WING

I keep hearing people talking about Hugh McCluggage and Andrew Gaff as the best wingmen in the game. I reckon they’re missing someone.

This season, I am putting it out there – Sam Menegola is the best wingman in the game. Yep, even better than Mitch Duncan, as Duncan spends a lot of time in the middle. Menegola spends all his time out wide.

He had the lazy 28 touches in this game, providing hard run between the arcs all night for the Cats. He was named on the wing in our Rolling All-Australian team earlier in the year and as it stands right now, when we do another one at the conclusion of Round 12, I cannot see him being displaced.

Want further evidence?

Every week, I compile this little ranking column for members. It focuses on the most neglected position in the league – the wing. And coming into Round Ten, have a guess who sat at number one overall?

If you guessed Sam Menegola, get out your MENSA application, because he has been wonderful this season and only people who really watch the game will see what he is bringing to this role each and every week.

 

MEMBERS – Wingman Rankings – Round Nine

 

THE HAWK

You know what I love about Tom Hawkins’ game?

The score involvements.

Every week, when you look at who performs for the Cats, I am sure a lot of people look at the goals kicked and assess his performance on how many he has to his name. If you’re one of those people, you might want to try digging a little deeper.

With another nine score involvements tonight, Tom Hawkins now sits on 66 for the season. As of the end of this game, you know where that puts him?

I’m sure asking a lot of questions in this review – it put his at number one in the league. That’ll probably be eclipsed by Christian Petracca in the game following this one, but we don’t really hear many people calling Hawkins the best player in the league like we do Petracca, do we?

Hawkins took his standard three contested marks in this one and had a mammoth seven marks inside 50. He finished with three goals, could have had six and once again flies under the radar in terms of the most impactful forward in the game.

 

JACK DOWN BACK

Loved the game of Jack Henry in this one; it was plain to see why the Geelong faithful adore this bloke.

The Cats have been blessed over the last 15 or so years in terms of great quality defenders. Scarlett, Harley, Enright, Blicavs, Taylor, Lonergan… the hits just keep coming.

In this current crop, you have Tom Stewart, who is one of the most fluent defenders to watch when he is on, the emerging, but oft-injured Jordan Clark, and then you have Jack Henry.

At just 21, he is the future of this defence and with eight intercept possessions in this game, he left no doubt that the Geelong defence is in good hands for a long time to come.

 

THE FOG ROLLS IN

Whenever I have written about ‘The Fog’ in the past, it has usually been about the Adelaide version, but on this night, the Fog rolled into the Gabba in the form of Lachie Fogarty.

I’m not sure you’d call anything Fogarty did in this game as brilliant, but if you put together a montage of all the little things he did, and overlayed it with some Rocky music, I reckon I could convince you that he was really good.

Working as a high half forward, his 23 touches were a career high, and whilst he has a bit of work to do in terms of hitting targets, seeing him work to make good position would be enough for Cats fans to recognise that there is plenty to like about him.

At 21, Fogarty has a lot of improvement in him, and I have always thought that it is the organic improvement in players where you don’t really expect it that makes a team great. The Cats now sit 6-4 and whilst no one would dare call that “great”, they are well-positioned with seven games remaining. If they continue to get lifts from players like Fog, who knows what kind of noise they can make in finals…

 

ROBBIE T

It’s easy to talk about the impact Dangerfield had on the game in the final minutes when things started, perhaps for the first time since the first quarter, to look as though they may favour the Kangaroos.

However, had Robbie Tarrant not been so attentive whilst Danger was forward for the majority of the first three and a half quarters, things may have been dire indeed.

Tarrant is so often overlooked when it comes to the A-Grade defenders but when charged with a job, he rarely lets his team down. Dangerfield had his chances to kick goals in this one, and he finished with 0.2. I wonder how many he would have kicked had he not had Robbie Tarrant to deal with?

 

THE BAD

 

SILVER-STEIN?

I don’t know what it was about big Goldy in this game, and I suppose I should give credit to both Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs for the job they did on him, but when you see the man you’ve been touting as the All-Australian ruckman turn in a stinker, you start looking for reasons why.

It’s rare to see Todd Goldstein drop chest marks, but there he was this evening, putting a couple of them to grass and directly increasing the pressure on his team in doing so.

Is he hurt? Is he starting to get a little fatigued? Either, or a combination of the two are the only reasons I can think of for such a drop in performance.

To his credit, Rhyce Shaw recognised that Goldstein was being beaten in the ruck and moved Majak Daw in to have a crack in the second half. Daw looked pretty good, but starting Goldy on the wing… well, that was interesting.

North come up against Melbourne next week and we’ll see Goldstein take on max Gawn in what will pretty much be a one-on-one duel. If we get the Todd Goldstein we have watched for the majority of the season, it’ll be an enthralling contest. If we get the Todd Goldstein we saw tonight…

… Max Gawn is going to have a party.

 

UNCLEAN

I’ve never known a team to miss handball targets as often as North Melbourne in 2020. They play a style that can only be described as scrappy, and when they win the footy, it is usually when their opponents play down to their level.

I wonder if that is in the game plan? Drag them down to our level…

The amount of handballs that are either behind the running player, to their feet, or miss them completely are staggering, and every time it happens it completely halts the momentum and places unnecessary pressure on the bloke receiving the footy.

As a result, it looks as though players do not want to run past for the handball as there’s a chance they’ll be sold right into trouble as a result.

Check out Majak Daw’s handball to Jack Mahony at the 50 metre line in the third quarter. It is abysmal, and anyone with any kind of vision would have seen that all he was doing was setting up his teammate to fail.

Yet North do it time and time again.

They have some classy ball users in space, but they are too often brought undone by players completely wasting the footy. Bailey Scott had good moments, but some of his disposal… horrid. Will Walker you give a pass based on his inexperience, but after a week on the sidelines, you’d think Jared Polec might be looking to make amends this week.

You couldn’t tell by the quality of his disposal. Even blokes who are supposed to be classy ball users like Aaron Hall just hacked it. He earned a free kick at 52 out in the third quarter, and his kick somehow ended up out of bounds 30 metres from goal. You have to give your forwards a chance, Aaron!

Overall, the story of this game won’t be the poor kicking of the Kangaroos, but it should. People will focus on the poor kicking at goal by the Cats in the second quarter, and in a way, they’re correct in doing so. Had they kicked better, the game would have been over, but the Kangaroos’ field kicking is a real issue and I am afraid it is not something that can be addressed quickly. If the opposition matches them in the scrap, North has nowhere else to go.

And a team with a poor Plan A and no Plan B is not going anywhere in this league.

 

 

THE UGLY

 

BROWN DOWN

This season has been a nightmare for Ben Brown.

After three straight seasons with 60+ goals, Brown is now staring down the barrel of a 2020 where he is averaging under a goal per game.

As he hobbled off early in the game, it was as though his situation was an avatar for the entire North Melbourne year. Just when things are bad, they get bloody worse!

Big Ben is currently without a contract for 2021. Another season akin to anything from 2017-19 would have seen him secure some niiiiiiice dollars, however on the current form, are North willing to take the risk on anything longer than a couple of seasons? And will they be ready to pony up anywhere near the amount of money they would have 12 months ago?

If there is one player in the AFL whose stocks have plummeted in this compromised season, it is Brown’s.

He has been pigeon-holed as a mark-kick forward with little else in his bag of tricks, and watching him this season, it is hard to argue. Opponents know that he is not a threat in a contested situation and will not be overly troublesome at ground level. Unless he is receiving silver service – something this North Melbourne team seem almost incapable of providing – he is rendered pretty much redundant. How much would you be willing to cough up for a golfer who players the entire 18 holes equipped only with a five iron?

Brown will get another deal somewhere, and he has the ability that will persuade a team to give him overs compared to his worth, but the longer this season goes and the more issues he has with his body and performance, the more you have to start thinking it might be best for him to explore options elsewhere.

 

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

IS JACK STEVEN ROUNDING INTO FORM NICELY?

Apologies for the poor choice of words there, but yes he is.

He looks hungry (oh man…) for the contest and was really relishing (…) the contest this evening. Some of his disposals had a little too much mustard on them (… Mongrel, please), but overall, he was serving up some delightful inside 50 disposals that were swallowed up by his forwards (okay, I give up… you’re an idiot!)

 

WHAT IS UP WITH JARED POLEC?

No idea.

Looks like a bloke who has lost confidence and is losing the confidence of the coach as well.

I thought Polec would win the North Best and Fairest this season, and after the first couple of games of the season, I was feeling pretty good about that prediction. Now, he looks hesitant and unsure every time he gets the footy. Needs more outside footy, but has no one to get the ball to him.

 

JASPER PITTARD – FORWARD OR BACK?

You don’t flirt with form.

Pittard was having a very solid season as a defender until about three weeks ago. I know that Rhyce Shaw is searching for an answer, but sometimes I am not sure he knows what the question is.

Pittard is a defender. He is great as the help defender and can do the job on a dangerous mid-sized forward. When he is playing the role of defensive forward, you lose too much from your back six, and when he does get back there, he seems unsettled.

Some players need routine, and I reckon Pittard is one of them.

 

WHAT DOES RHYS STANLEY MEAN TO THE CATS?

He meant a hell of a lot tonight, and my guess is he’ll mean a hell of a lot going forward as well.

It’s not just his willingness to compete in the air that works for him – it is the second efforts from Stanley and his clean ball use that makes him an asset. With him and Blicavs combining in the ruck, the Cats ostensibly have two players that can double up in any other position on the ground.

What a luxury.

 

WHERE THE HELL IS JOSH JENKINS?

I’m still waiting for him to make an appearance. He is listed as having a back injury, but there is going to come a time where the Cats need a good, reliable second option. Hawkins will have a dirty day along the road to finals (or he’ll get suspended) and the Cats will need to have some game time into JJ before that point.

They have to get him on the park soon.

 

 

OTHER BITS

 

Good to see Jy Simpkin return to form. He was quiet in the first quarter (two touches) but worked his way into the game nicely. Without Cunnington, a ton of responsibility goes on his shoulders, and since about Round Six, I reckon we saw that catch up with him. This game breaks him out of a three-game run where he averaged just 14 touches.

Another solid game from Luke McDonald in defence for North. He may be the only challenger to Todd Goldstein in North’s B&F this season given some of the defensive jobs he’s done.

I don’t care what stats say, especially when you can watch and assess with your own eyes – are the Geelong defence the best collective defence in the game? I look at the way guys like Bews, Stewart, Taylor and O’Connor cover for each other and I can’t help but think that if they’re not THE best, they’d have to be right up there.

So many times, people allow stats to dictate whether a defence is good or not, but I often find that if the midfield is not helping defensively, it doesn’t matter how good the defence is. Man-to-man, I don’t think there is a team with a better collection of defenders than Geelong.

Damn that hurts to say – I’m a Hawks man.

 

And that’ll do me. I still have the second game of the double-header to watch, so I am off to do that.

The Cats and the Saints next Monday will be a belter, whilst the Roos have a good chance with the Dees around the same mark they’ve been this season.

 

And hey, you know we have memberships here at The Mongrel, right? We are small, we’re independent and we’ve knocked back cash from the gambling industry as I reckon I’d be a massive hypocrite if I complained about all the gambling ads on AFL coverage and then sold out to them. For 40-80c per day you get access to our wingman rankings, defensive rankings, weekly player rankings as well as members-only columns and early access to my Good, Bad and Ugly evening game reviews.

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