There was a sense of the familiar to the scrappy first half of the Collingwood v North Melbourne game to round out Round 13 of footy.

The Roos would match the Pies in the contest, fight for possession, win it and look as though they may challenge for a victory, only to commit what can only be termed as dumb turnovers, which would set the Pies off to the races and result in a quick entry inside 50.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of dumb errors from Collingwood as well, particularly in the first half, but North’s just seemed… well, dumber.

If this were a movie, the first half could have been Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd. Notice I used the movie without Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels? Yeah, that was intentional. This wasn’t at all funny.

Anyway, the Pies settled in the second half, with the usual suspects stepping to the fore and making life miserable for the Kangaroos. Pendlebury, Crisp, Adams… they stepped up the pressure and started hitting targets.

North were unable to match them.

The Pies ran out five goal winners in this one and started to look like a team rediscovering its confidence after half time.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE CREAM

What do they call it – the premiership quarter? That’s the one, and it is the quarter that, several times this season, we have seen teams make the break to win the game.

Tonight was no different, and it was the Collingwood midfield that generated the run that halted the North Melbourne challenge. Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams and Steele Sidebottom combined for 29 disposals between them in the third quarter as the Pies put the foot on the throat of the Roos, kicking four goals to two.

Pendlebury was exquisite, playing the role of maestro, waving around his little wand thingy (you know… the thing that conductors use) to control the tempo of the game. His ability to choose the right option and bring his teammates into the game was on full display as he cruised around both the midfield and the defensive fifty to drive the Pies forward.

His excellence was complemented by the grunt work of Taylor Adams, who collected ten of his 30 touches in the quarter. Adam has been the glue holding the Collingwood midfield together this season. In what was supposed to be a dream midfield line-up of the three mentioned above, plus Treloar and Beams, it has often been Adams left to hold the fort, and he has done it brilliantly.

And then there was the run and carry of Steele Sidebottom. Deceptively strong, he stood in tackles, handed the ball off and went off the deck to drive the Pies forward when it seemed that all the pissfarting around others simply wasn’t working. If you’re looking for who kick-started the Collingwood midfield, look no further than Sidebottom.

In his last game before leaving the hub to be with his partner for the birth of their first child, Sidebottom emphasises his value to this team. He will be missed greatly as the Pies and Blues tangle next round.

This game needed some class, and these three blokes provided it in the third quarter. The Kangaroos knew they were coming – they could see this storm brewing in the distance and when it arrived, despite being prepared, they were blown away anyway. That is how you know you have something special in those players. They didn’t sneak up on anyone.

 

THE SNEAKY AA CHANCE

It’s been a hard season to find positives for North Melbourne this season.

Devastated by injury to key players, North have looked anything but the finals team they envisioned themselves as before we kicked this season off.

If we’re looking for silver linings, there is of course the form of Todd Goldstein, but Luke McDonald’s run in 2020 is right up there as well. I’m tipping it now – he will make the AA squad of 40 due to succeeding in dual roles this season.

Earlier in the year, there he was playing the lockdown midfield role on stars like Dustin Martin, then he was playing on Toby Greene and now he has settled into the back half and is going about his business with almost clinical effectiveness.

He had another solid night in a defence under the pump, picking up 30 touches, nine marks, eight rebound fifty touches and seven intercepts. In anyone’s language, that is a stellar night at the office.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing LMac in an All-Australian blazer, but his form this year warrants an appearance in the squad of forty, despite some very strong competition from some players in this game.

 

CRISP DELIVERY

And as I write about strong competition for that AA squad, up pops the name of Jack Crisp.

I was genuinely confused when I saw that he only had 18 touches in this game – his impact with the footy seemed much more potent. I guess that’s what you call making the most of your touches, huh?

As the Pies were struggling to get their game going, it was the attack on the footy and the willingness to continue to push forward that sustained them. Jack Crips was the player responsible for that. Whether he was carrying the footy himself, paddling it along the line or creating overlap in handball chains, his ability to create and continue movement forward for Collingwood was important at a time they seemed to be going nowhere fast.

Just one of his nine first-half disposals failed to hit the mark, as players continually missed the mark. Only he and Brayden Maynard seemed impervious to whatever disease was infesting the teams as they dragged the Pies, kicking and screaming into the game.

I’m not sure many will have Crisp in the votes tonight, but as a neutral watching this game, his efforts to get the Pies up and running should not be discounted. When Jeremy Howe went down, I wondered who would pick up the slack – not with the overhead marking; no one can pick up that slack, but with the great delivery by foot. Jack Crisp was one I circled as someone to watch. I’m glad I did this evening – he was fantastic

 

GIMME MOORE

Okay Britney…

In one of the biggest and best displays of power defensive footy of the season, Darcy Moore absolutely controlled the defensive fifty arc in this game, racking up a game-high, and round-high 15 one—percenters and complementing that with ten intercepts.

Just think about that for a minute. North Melbourne went inside 50 on 43 occasions. Darcy Moore foiled 25 of them by himself. That’s 58 percent of the Kangaroos entries denied by Moore.

In an embarrassing set of circumstances, we here at The Mongrel Punt released our second Rolling All-Australian team after Round 12. Missing from it was Darcy Moore in favour of Jacob Weitering (though I do need to point out that was in the combined team featuring 12 writers’ submissions. In my “I voted for Kodos” moment, I have to state that Moore was in my team).

Not that I think Moore reads our site, or any football media if he is smart, but this performance was a reminder to all that got a bit excited over Jeremy McGovern’s big performance on the weekend, that Moore can do just as much damage. He was every bit as damaging as McGovern and deserves every bit as much credit for the role he played.

Of course, it’d help if North didn’t kick it right to him, but hey… that seems to be what they do.

 

MAYN-AA-RD

See what I did there? I think I’m pretty cluey sometimes.

The run of Brayden Maynard from defence this season has been brilliant for the Pies, and he was at it again here.

When not taking responsibility for Cam Zurhaar, Maynard was getting on his bike and providing options for his team with the ball in hand. I’ve watched Zurhaar a bit, and whilst I love his ferocity at the ball and man, he lacks a bit of discipline in following his man.

To their credit, Nathan Buckley recognised this and used Maynard at every opportunity to run the Pies out of defence, picking up 667 metres for the team.

Often, metres gained is a hollow stat, with people throwing the ball on their boot to gain meterage at a low percentage, but Maynard also ran at 85% efficiency. The bloke did it all. He had 16 of his 26 touches in the first half as he and Jack Crisp held together the running Magpie defence under good North Melbourne pressure. If you picked you AA team right now, there is simply no way you can overlook the man my missus thinks looks like Scott Pendlebury’s slower brother.

He was magnificent.

 

 

THE BAD

 

THE TURNOVERS

Have we identified the weakness in North Melbourne’s game yet? The title of this section may just give you a hint.

The Pies hammered north on turnovers, capitalising better on the poor foot skills of the North midfielders to go the other way and score on the rebound. The Pies feasted on the Kangaroos’ poor delivery, often able to go coast-to-coast as the terrible delivery inside 50 allowed players like Moore, Maynard and Crisp free run from defence with an out-of-position north defence on the back foot.

Though the Pies managed just two marks inside fifty, the quick transition (once the Pies stopped hacking it as well) gave them multiple chances to hit the scoreboard.

North are a match for most teams, but only if they can limit their messy disposal. It’s a big “if”, isn’t it? I mean, these are professionals and they are either very good players wasting the footy, or… they’re not very good players doing the best they can.

Luke Davies-Uniacke showed plenty, but while his “hit and hope” style of kicking may look good on a stat sheet, it does not translate well to the eye-test. Ditto Shaun Higgins, who is a class unit, but often goes long inside fifty to nobody.

Oh, and Higgins also owes Jack Mahony a coffee after that terrible first half handball set the young fella up to be nailed by Levi Greenwood. Higgins has to be better than that.

 

SCORE REVIEW

Have we heard the term “billion dollar industry” in terms of the AFL?

I have.

then how is it that they can only afford a 1997 sony handicam to assess score reviews on the goal line. Seriously, I haven’t seen footage that grainy since the Joe Ganino showed me the homemade “special” video he created with what looked to be a manatee on heat.

Seriously guys, we’re basing the results of games on footage that looks as though it was from a surveillance system 20 years ago. I know the AFL is cutting back on expenses and so on, but this is something that’s needed addressing for years and they just keep ignoring it.

In short, it’s not good enough and will one day cost someone a final. When that happens, I hope you have your masks and stuff on, because there will be a meeting of shit and fan.

 

THE UGLY

 

HOW DOES ATLEY ESCAPE THE COACH’S ATTENTION?

I’ve been watching Shaun Atley for over 200 games now, and I gave up waiting for him to become a dominant half back flanker a long while ago.

He has all the tools… scratch that – he HAD all the tools to become an elite running half back, giving North Melbourne the run and carry, and the ability to hit targets that every team needs. I was a believer and took notice as he came in and established himself as a decent player.

But he never really made the step beyond that status, did he? He’s still a decent player, but he is just not ever going to be a good one.

You might be one of the people inclined to sit back and look at stats as your guide as to who played well and who didn’t. Atley had 18 touches in this game and ran at 72 percent efficiency – not a bad night, right?

Wrong.

Champion Data will tell you that he had two turnovers for the evening. I counted three… in the first quarter!

With Jared Polec, Aaron Hall and Jasper Pittard feeling the Rhyce Shaw whip cracking in recent weeks, how the hell does Shaun Atley continue to meander through life as an AFL footballer doing the bare minimum and never sees the bench? I’m really at a loss here. You have Pittard, who was going along very smoothly in defence early in the season, played out of position as a defensive forward by Shaw and then punished when he doesn’t play that role perfectly? It makes no bloody sense!

Gimme the choice between Pittard and Atley and I take Pittard every single time. But Rhyce Shaw does not, and I just cannot understand it.

Oh, and that Will Hoskin-Elliott goal to get the Pies off and running in the last quarter… if you get a chance, have a look at Atley completely forget that he has a man to play on at the stoppage. I’ll give you one guess who that man was.

 

FILL IN THE BLANKS

I’m tired of writing about Mason Wood and how such-and-such game had to be his last game at the top level for North. I don’t know whether they are trying to establish some value in him in order to move him on (he’s an unrestricted free agent… just let him go), so in order to change things up, let’s play a game.

I’ll leave spaces, you can fill them in. Humour me.

Mason Wood played another (BLANK) game against the Pies. Registering (BLANK) touches, he managed to have (BLANK) influence on the game and looked (BLANK) out there.

Rhyce Shaw continues to play Wood because (BLANK) despite him not producing anything like a good game in (BLANK).

Wood has (BLANK) games left for the season to (BLANK) himself and if he earns another contract with the Kangaroos in that period, Rhyce Shaw should be (BLANK).

Let me know how you go with it.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

WHERE WOULD THE NORTH MELBOURNE BE WITHOUT JOSH WALKER THIS SEASON?

Up the proverbial creek, that’s where.

He has been excellent and in a season where the talls at both ends have struggled, his presence has been a godsend.

In the first quarter of this one, he twice mopped up mistakes from his teammates – one the errant handball from Shaun Higgins that set up Jack Mahony and sent him to the bench injured, and another where Nick Larkey dropped an easy chest mark at half back and allowed Collingwood to attack on the re-entry.

If not for Walker, the scoreboard would have looked very different early in the game. I reckon he is easily atop ten Best and Fairest finisher this season for the Roos, and it is not at all a stretch to state he could be top five. He’s been a wonderful recruit.

 

WHO WON THE GOLDY V GRUNDY BATTLE?

This was a great tussle. I had Grundy edging out the North big man marginally, but not enough to claim anywhere near a clear victory.

Goldstein had the edge in hit outs and the total clearances reflected that almost perfectly, but I felt Grundy was marginally better around the ground. The Pies big man was also able to impact several aerial contests, whether by clunking a mark, or making a big spoil. Both these guys work extremely hard at ground level and can be either creative or disastrous with the ball in hand.

Both were more than capable in this one, but Grundy’s ability to take a mark (something rucks don’t really seem to do much of these days) gives him the slightest edge in their clash.

 

IS LDU THE REAL DEAL?

He’s certainly starting to look like a player.

North have been pretty patient with him, and for a while you had the sense some may have been questioning using pick four on him in 2017, particularly as players like Aaron Naughton and Jaidyn Stephenson burst out of the gates, but he is demonstrating the ability to find the footy now. At times, you get a glimpse of some movement, or some acceleration and you can’t help but nod, but he needs a cool head as well to balance things out.

Seven inside fifty disposals from his 21 touches is a good return but a third of his touches ended in turnovers. Hopefully that’s something that gets ironed out in time.

 

IS JORDAN ROUGHEAD THE MOST UNDERRATED DEFENDER IN THE GAME?

He’d have a bit of competition from Darcy Gardiner in Brisbane or Sam Collins at Gold Coast amongst others, but you just never hear Roughead talked about. He is reliable and trustworthy, and has been a Mongrel favourite since I pointed out to my mate, Adam West that he was a great pick up.

Of course, Adam West said he was too slow and didn’t rate him, which makes me happier every time I see Roughead make the team. He is the unsung hero in the team of defenders that get plenty of attention, and if not the most underrated in the comp, he’d be in the top handful.

 

OTHER BITS

 

Loving Josh Daicos on the wing. He works both ends of the ground and has to be watched closely as the ball comes out of the opposition defence haphazardly. His goal in the first half was a beauty, but with another game of 20+ disposals, Daicos is well and truly making his own name for himself in black and white.

A little bit too much double-grabbing from Jy Simpkin in this game for my liking. I got called out at one stage early in the season for not giving him the respect North supporters thought he deserved. He will be good, but he is baby – at 21, he is not there yet and in tight, a fumble or double grab basically kills your chances of a possession. The lift doors close on those not quick enough, and Simpkin found that tonight.

After a great start to his time at North, I haven’t liked the progression of Paul Ahern. I think he may be being played out of position right now, but he is having very little influence.

Not a bad return from Levi Greenwood. He’ll be better for the run and will contend for a spot in the full-strength team with Rupert Wills and Brayden Sier. If the Pies are in “win now” mode, I reckon Greenwood’s defensive skills come in handy. Long term, Sier is the man you go with.

Best game of the year for Will Hoskin-Elliott in this game. Matched up on Shaun Atley, I’m not that surprised, but he has been a bit of tease throughout his career. Beautiful hands, great balance… he was really important in this game.

Some nice Vaudevillian humour from Jy Simpkin trying to bypass Mason Cox on the mark in the last quarter. Kind of summed up North’s night – it’d be funny if it wasnt so painful.

 

And that’ll do me. The Pies get the Blues next round… woo hoo! Batten down the hatches – a Carlton v Collingwood game with a bit of meaning! This’ll be a ripper!

Meanwhile, North would be looking at the Gold Coast game as a legitimate chance to halt this horrible losing streak. They get them to finish Round 14 on Sunday.

 

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