The intensity was high and so were the stakes as the Magpies were too good for the Blues.

Carlton started well and looked to be the better team at the long break, however the Collingwood half back line hit top gear after half time and guided the Magpies home.

Concerningly, the Blues were unable to kick a major in the second half as the Pies turned the screws to stifle every foray forward.

It was scrappy at times, with players from both teams probably wishing they could have moments over again, but in the end, it was Collingwood putting their foot down and Carlton simply running out of gas.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE ALL-AUSTRALIAN CENTRE HALF BACK

Righto, if you were choosing the All-Australian centre half back right now, who would it be?

I reckon we had the top two candidates on display in this very game.

Two weeks ago, all the Mongrel writers submitted their AA teams to be compiled into one combined team. Full disclosure – I selected Darcy Moore as my centre half back, however, the rest of the tea thought differently, and when the compiled team was released, Jacob Weitering was sitting pretty in the key defensive position.

It happens, and I was happy to defer to my team as a whole.

That said, I wonder whether any of them may feel like changing their minds? No knock on Weitering at all – he has been excellent, but is Weitering has been excellent, how do I find words to describe the last two weeks of Darcy Moore’s football?

Last week, Moore had 15 one percenters to go along with his ten intercepts as he dominated North Melbourne’s feeble excuse for a forward line. This week, he was at it again, racking up nine intercepts and nine one percenters to once again stamp his authority on the Collingwood defence.

He was ably supported by Brayden Maynard and Jack Crisp as the Pies have somehow adjusted to life without Jeremy Howe and made it all work.

Weitering doesn’t rack up the same numbers as Moore, but what he does do is shut down his share of players. He made Ben King a non-factor against the Suns last week, and followed up with a sublime 11 one percenters and six intercepts this week as he and Liam Jones held the Blues’ defence together.

I have made my thoughts clear – I had Moore in the spot two weeks ago and he has done nothing at all to dissuade me. Weitering has remained very solid, but for me, it will take something pretty special from Weitering in the current weeks to displace Moore.

Who have you got?

 

THE MIDFIELD HEARTBEAT

As we get closer and closer to the end of this weird season, some players take their foot off the gas (check out North Melbourne’s performance this weekend) whilst others ramp things up.

Taylor Adams is one who ramps things up.

I’m not sure anyone would have said this at the start of the year, but he has emerged as the Pies’ best midfielder this season. With Adam Treloar out and Steele Sidebottom not having the year he envisioned, it has been left to Adams and the evergreen, but recently injured Pendlebury to carry the load.

And Adams has shouldered it beautifully.

Whilst 23 touches is nothing to write home about in the modern game, having 17 of them in the contest whilst picking up seven clearances and laying five tackles in definitely enough to at least send a bit of text to let people know.

Adams hit 2020 like a man on a mission, and as we turn for home, his hardness at the contest and unflinching attack on the footy look as though they will be an integral aspect of the Collingwood assault on the finals.

 

KEITH GREIG V ROBBIE FLOWER – THE MODERN VERSION?

I love seeing a great duel between players, and one that I reckon flew under the radar a little this afternoon was a matchup on the wing, pitting Josh Daicos against Sam Walsh.

As many of you know, I compile a weekly wingmen rankings, and whilst these two have been solid they, along with Noah Anderson of the Suns, are the next breed of top-notch wingers running around at the moment. Daicos has had a standout game this season that culminated with him kicking the winner. Walsh has moved t the wing this season, and after a handful of games to adjust, has now found his niche.

In this one, they went head-to-head for the most part, which was a joy to watch.

So, how do each of these guys play the position?

Both are inclined to stay defensive side of their opponent and if the ball is in dispute, will not run forward and leave themselves exposed – it’s good discipline.

But what you really want to know is how they go when they get into a bit of space, right? The answer is well – very well.

There was very little separating the two in this contest – Walsh had 22 touches and Daicos had 21. Both guys finished with a goal each whilst Walsh seemed more willing to work deep into defence to aid his teammates. Daicos seemed to hover around half forward, waiting for a rushed exit of defensive fifty to give him an opportunity.

If this was round one of a ten-round fight, the judges’ scorecards would have them even. Daicos seemed really composed at times in high-pressure situations whereas Walsh’s disposal really seems to be on the improve this season – it was the big knock on him last year.

I know the Greig v Flower comparison is a stretch given their ages, but these two really seem to be the heir apparents to the league’s current top wingmen like Gaff and Menegola. I’m already looking forward to their next clash.

 

CRISPY BITS

For the second-straight week, the run of Jack Crisp out of defence has been a thorn in the side of the Collingwood opposition.

Crisp had a huge second half in this game, weaving his way out of defence time and time again as the Pies looked to him as their main run and carry player from half back.

Crisp had 24 of his 25 touches come uncontested in this game, and when you consider that I thought this was a high-pressure game, particularly in the first half, it beggars belief that he was able to find his way to so much easy footy.

Jack Crisp is not your standard defender. He is a runner. He likes to take the footy, assess options and make the right decision. I lost count of the times he made the right decision in this game – he just kept bloody doing it!

His 12 marks complemented his outstanding 25 touches at 88% efficiency in another best on ground game from him.

 

WHACK!

I had someone message me this afternoon accusing me of being anti-Cripps.

I didn’t even know it was a thing, but anyway, let me assure you, I am definitely not. You see, I posted a clip showing Cripps being tackled, dropping the footy and the umpire choosing not to ping him. If anything, it was to highlight the frustration with the current state of umpiring the holding the ball rule. It just so happened it was against Patrick Cripps.

Footy is a passionate game, and I love that about fans of the game, but you know what I love more? When a big fella invites someone to take them on in a tackle and steamrolls them, and that’s what Patrick Cripps did to Chris Mayne in this game.

I’ve had people ask me why people don’t just stick tackles on Cripps, and how he is constantly able to get his arms free or extract the footy. I reckon the next person who asks that should be sent directly to Chris Mayne, who may or may not have some recollection of why he couldn’t wrap his arms around Cripps and drag him to the ground…

… if he is awake.

I don’t want to make light of the fact that Mayne was hurt in the clash, but in a sporting landscape that is constantly being over-officiated and in a game where the whistle seems to blow whenever two blokes run into each other, seeing Cripps attack the contest, collect his opponent and leave him lying flat on the turf made me smile.

I am a child of the eighties. I remember vividly the hits of Gary Ablett Senior, John Worsfold, Dermott Brereton and the like. Maybe it is the Neanderthal in me (I did a test… I have some!), but I like my footy laced with a good, hard dose of legal roughness. If I were in Rome back in the day, I would have watched the gladiators battle it out – no doubt.

The blokes that play our game are tough, hard and fearless (mostly) and in trying to take on Patrick Cripps, Chris Mayne proved he was all of those things. He just wasn’t tough and hard enough to drag down Cripps, and was knocked into the middle of next week attempting to.

Great bloody footy!

 

 

GREAT SIGNS

The stats sheet will say one thing, but the eye test says another.

I really like what I am seeing from Tom De Koning. He had six touches and just two marks in this game, but the way he attacked the footy in the air and his second efforts… Marc Pittonet will do for now, but the first ruck spot will belong to De Koning soon enough.

The Blues have copped a hiding over the years around their recruitment and some of their player development, but they’re going about things the right way with De Koning. Look at the way Tim English was mauled over his first couple of seasons at the Western Bulldogs. They really threw him to the wolves, and for a while there, I was wondering whether they were doing him as much harm as good.

English has now improved to the level he can beat the poorer rucks in the comp, but he can still be taken to the cleaners by the best. Carlton have not headed down the same avenue with De Koning. He is playing back up to Pittonet and showing enough signs that Blues supporters should be genuinely excited. There is that youthful exuberance about him when he goes after the footy in the air that I hope he doesn’t lose, and I reckon he could make a very handy pinch-hitter up forward over the next couple of seasons before he takes the reins as the number one ruck.

Until then, Carlton have the services of Pittonet, and whilst he probably won’t dominate games, he is big enough and strong enough that you won’t see the players like Grundy, Gawn and Naitanui push him around.

 

THE WALL ACROSS HALF BACK

Let’s get this little one out of the way – three of the top five disposal winners for the Pies were defenders. What does that say to you?

To me, it means that either:

  1. A) Carlton were too busy playing a zone defence once the Pies got the footy to actually man-up on their direct opponent. That could explain Crisp, Quaynor and Noble all registering 20+ disposals

Or B) Some Carlton forwards weren’t working hard enough defensively.

I’m sure this is a bit of six to one and half a dozen to the other, but I reckon you find out a fair bit about your team when their backs are to the wall, and in the last quarter that’s where Carlton found themselves.

Maybe it was old legs v young legs, but Isaac Quaynor streaming through the middle, with Eddie Betts the lazy thirty metres behind him kind of summed up the way the game played out. The Pies wanted to take the game on and win it. The Blues wanted to slow down, play safe footy and somehow… also win it – things rarely work that way.

I touched on Crisp above, but the run of Quaynor, and his ability to stand toe to toe with Cripps on a couple of occasions, was very important. He didn’t make the best decisions a couple of times, particularly in the third quarter when the heat was well and truly on, but he didn’t fade, either. He got better as the game went on and in the last quarter, he had to sense that Betts was tiring and once he smelt that blood, he feasted. He picked up seven of his 20 touches in the final stanza as he ran off half back at every opportunity.

Maynard, Crisp and Darcy Moore combined for nine intercepts in the third quarter alone as the wall went up and the Blues needed pressure from their forwards in order to ensure the ball didn’t fly straight back out. Sadly, they didn’t get it from players like

 

THE BAD

 

THE DROUGHT

No matter which way you look at it, the Blues were whacked in the second half. The scoreboard overall may not reflect it, but with just four points to their name in the second half, after kicking seven goals in the first, it was painfully apparent that the Pies worked the Blues out.

And given the Blues couldn’t alter things, you have to extend a bit of credit to Nathan Buckley, and perhaps question the lack of coaching acumen from David Teague.

This Carlton team is still working out the kinks. They often have a quarter where the wheels completely fall off and they stand around with a tyre jack and pump wondering how to put them back on. The hope would be that with time, they start to adjust their gameplan and have plans b, c and d to enact when things don’t go their way, but as it stands right now, once things are altered, the result is inept football.

Some will point to a missed free kick, or a free kick paid against – that’s pretty cheap. When you don’t score a goal in a half, that is an issue that needs rectifying at club level. The ball came out of the Blues’ attacking fifty way too easily in the second half, and that puts the defenders under more pressure. Blokes like Harry McKay, whilst a great mark, need to actually apply some semblance of pressure when the ball hits the deck. Ditto for Jack Martin.

Kicking goals is one part of being a good forward. Locking the ball in and offering opportunities for others; that’s what makes good forwards great.

 

THE UGLY

 

ONE POOR AND ONE SHOCKING

Quite a few people have messaged me at the Tom De Koning arm chop at the end of the first quarter. You’re not going to get an argument from me – it looked like Jordan Roughead got his arm when making the spoil to ensure the Pies had the lead at quarter time.

In hindsight, it was a poor decision and should have given the young Blue a shot at goal to take the lead. However, in the heat of the moment, and watching it in real time, I can actually see how the umpire didn’t pay the free kick. In slow motion, the free kick is there every day of the week. In real time… it’s not so cut and dry.

The decision that did get to me happened late in the second quarter when Patrick Cripps was caught in a dual tackle. Cripps did what Cripps does – he fought the tackle, retained his feet and no whistle blew as a result.

Oh, he also dropped the footy in one of the more blatant errors to do with the holding the ball rule in recent memory. Seriously, this was as black and white (pardon the pun) as it gets.

Player caught in a tackle. Player fights the tackle. Player drops the footy.

That is a free kick!

The umpire decided differently, put the whistle away and the ball was shovelled out to Jack Newnes who goaled from just inside 50.

I know the AFL want the game to continue to move quickly, and if the ball comes out in a tackle, they want to keep the game flowing, but far out… there are people who really don’t know what is going on with the holding the ball rule and I am one of them!

The umpires – the poor buggers – appear to be the others.

Changing things now (yet again) would be like closing the door after the cat got out, but for 2021, there needs to be a clear definition of this rule that does not change every time someone cracks the sads.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

SHOULD THE PIES BE WORRIED ABOUT BRODIE GRUNDY?

Look, he was okay in this one again. Not dominant and nowhere near his 2019 form, but not bad.

I suppose the question really is; Is not bad good enough? Grundy’s best is the best in the league, but this season sees him meandering through like a bloke who just signed a big contr…. Ahhh, what have we here?

In the NBA, given the “me, me, me” nature of the players, there is a long-held belief that players play harder in a “contract year”. That was where Grundy was last season. Now that he has a big deal locked away, is there an argument that maybe he is not working as hard as he did? Or is he, with his huge tank, just one of the players impacted most by shortened quarters?

 

DID MASON COX DO ENOUGH TO RETAIN HIS SPOT?

He finished with two goals to his name, but it must be mentioned that one came in junk time. Still, it took one of the big Carlton defenders to keep him under wraps, and if Liam Jones was occupied, that frees up opportunities for others.

I don’t dislike what Mason Cox brings to the team, but I don’t love it either. If he can bob up and take a couple of marks and kick his 1-2 goals, then he is more than earning his keep.

 

BY HOW FAR DOES ED CURNOW WIN THE CARLTON BEST AND FAIREST?

He should win by a mile this season. He pushed Cripps to the limit in the 2019 count, but despite the team being better – and the Blues are better this year – Cripps’ form has not mirrored the improvement in the team.

If anything, he has regressed a bit. Curnow has not. If he doesn’t win it, given his attention to both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game, I’ll be very surprised.

 

DOES ZAC FISHER HAVE THE BEST SIDESTEP IN THE CAPER?

It’s pretty snazzy, isn’t it?

I guess he just has to be careful that he isn’t pulling it out of the trick bag a little too often. He’s not Darren Jarman… yet. That said, he left a couple of Collingwood players looking for a hole to climb into after they were completely sold on his candy in this one. I love a player with a bit of flair.

 

DOES PATRICK CRIPPS NEED A REST?

I don’t know about you, but he looks like it to me.

In his weekly column, my fellow Mongrel, Gab Rossi stated that since Round One, Cripps has averaged just 18.92 touches per game. Even with help from Curnow and company in the guts, that is way below expectations.

Maybe he needs a week off? He tweaked that knee in the second half and resting it, whether it needs rest or not, may be better for the long haul. He has done so much heavy lifting for this team – time for someone else to carry the load for him.

 

WHERE TO NEXT?

The Pies have a blockbuster against the Lions next round before a bye, whilst the Blues take on the Giants in a cut-throat match before taking on the Swans. As an aside, watch the Cripps v Kennedy clash if you get a chance – it always seems to me as though Kennedy takes the responsibility of playing Cripps quite personally.

 

And that’ll do me. Late night for the old Mongrel, but well worth it.

 

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