If you ever wanted to watch a game that featured two teams that looked absolutely stuffed moments after the first bounce, this one would be it.

The Blues were coming off a four day break and the Giants off a five day break in what is now considered normal in the 2020 season and the game suffered for it. Hacked kicks, players performing well below their normal standard, and a score line that screamed fatigue, GWS used a last quarter surge to power past Carlton and move into the eight.

In the process, they more or less ended the season of the Blues, who have a poor percentage and would have to go on an absolute tear over the last three weeks and hope results go their way to play finals. Not to say they won’t give it a shake – they have Sydney and Adelaide in the next fortnight before running into Brisbane to finish the year off. But we now know how this ends for the Blues.

However, this is not to indicate that has been smooth sailing for the Giants. With a paltry two goals to their name at three quarter time, you could just feel the AFL media readying their knives for the back of Leon Cameron and the GWS management. After locking their coach away for another two seasons, the vultures who love a headline would have been concocting their stories and preparing their hatchet jobs.

Oh, those jobs will come, but not yet, and it was the last quarter effort from the Giants that forced the ever-eager poisoned pens to be put away for at least a week.

The game was poor but the result was great for the Giants, who now move a step closer to contending again, whilst Carlton found yet another way to cough up a lead and choke on whatever was left in their mouth.

Here are the big questions stemming from the game.

 

DOES THIS PERFORMANCE SECURE NICK HAYNES HIS ALL AUSTRALIAN BERTH?

It was already secure, but with an intercept marking clinic, Haynes would have had selectors nodding their head and placing a nice little tick next to his name on their shortlist.

A few weeks back we saw Sydney adopt a great strategy to nullify the impact of Haynes across half back, throwing Wil Hayward onto him as a defensive forward and negating Haynes’ most potent weapon in the process – his intercept marking. David Teague must not have been watching.

It seems strange that Teague, of all coaches allowed Haynes to roam free and do whatever he pleased across half back, given that Sam Docherty was given that leeway by opposition coaches early in the season and he saw first-hand how it impacted his own team when St Kilda threw Jarryn Geary into him.

Prior to that St Kilda clash, Doc was averaging over 25 touches per game and over nine rebound fifty possessions. Those four games remain his highest outputs in rebounds for the season – teams just realised they cannot leave him alone.

The same goes with Haynes, but several teams, or several coaches at least, are too thick to understand it.

Haynes was averaging 3.5 intercept marks coming into this game. I counted either seven or eight of them against the Blues. Whilst that is absolutely brilliant by Haynes, it is both horrible kicking inside 50 by the Blues and just as poor decision making from the coaches box who decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to put someone on Haynes to keep him honest.

N Haynes – three votes

D Teague – zero votes

 

IS CRIPPS COOKED FOR 2020?

He’s not the same player this season, is he? He is dragging that big frame around, never breaking three-quarter pace and is taking a long while to pick himself up off the ground after contests. He looks hurt and he looks a bit over it.

Strangely, Cripps still manages to lead the league in clearances, which is amazing because his mobility seems to be quite hampered by whatever is affecting him. He has that knee strapped, will still fight through tackles like a complete warrior, but he is a one-and-done man in terms of contests now.

Go back twelve months and he was powering from one stoppage to the next, ready to put his team on his back and win another clearance. Now, it seems as though all that carrying is coming home to roost.

He had Matt de Boer for parts of this game – not long stretches and nowhere near the hard tag de Boer has applied in the past, but Cripps just couldn’t impact the game as we’ve come to know.

How much of a worry is this for Carlton fans?

I feel for Cripps – everything he does is hard work. 11 of his 13 touches were contested. He just doesn’t get easy outside footy, and is seemingly incapable of being part of a handball chain through the middle or at half back – it’s almost like it’s too easy. He waits for the stoppage, gets to the footy and tries to dish off – rinse and repeat.

Over the past two weeks, he has averaged 14.5 touches and three clearances. This is not Cripps-like.

With the Blues still a slim chance of making finals, do they persevere with their captain or give him a game off to recharge his batteries?

 

WHO PLAYED WORSE – MITCH MCGOVERN OR JEREMY CAMERON?

Cameron played a lot worse because the expectation of him is that he’ll have an impact. Jacob Weitering ensured he would have none, with an excellent defensive performance that will do his All-Australian claims no harm at all.

McGovern, on the other hand… well, at one stage James Brayshaw commented that “McGovern is having a quiet one…” and I was hoping that Brian Taylor or someone could have added “and in other news, water is wet.”

McGovern has been a bust for the Blues. At seven touches and three marks per game, he is a long way off the level Carlton were hoping for when they picked him up from the Crows, but as we are comparing his game to that of a genuine superstar, my vote goes to Cameron.

There were points in this game where Cameron seriously looked like he did not give a rat’s arse about things. Some of his contests were half-hearted and his second efforts were non-existent. It looked as though he’d turned the corner last week, as he followed the lead of Riccardi and looked energised in the last quarter, but this week he looked lethargic again.

Is it the cumulative fatigue getting to players? Is the desire to right the wrongs of 2019 not motivation enough for Cameron? Was he thinking of fishing and resenting the fact he had to compete on a Thursday night? Or was he simply pantsed by one of the best defenders in the game?

Irrespective, I expect more from JC than I do from Gov, and that is what makes his output a lot more disappointing.

 

WHAT DOES BRENT DANIELS HAVE TO DO TO EARN A FREE KICK?

I reckon he should invest in some incriminating photos of some officials or something, because playing the ball, hitting the packs hard and being scragged as he does so do not seem to be something umpires take notice of.

At one point he was obviously tackled high by Cam Polson and was pinged for holding the ball as a result. Meanwhile three of the first four touches for a “name player” came via free kicks, with contact in a couple of them minimal.

It must be frustrating for Daniels, who has provided the Giants with genuine pace, hits the front and centres hard and creates chaos when he gets the ball in hand in the forward half. You can see the mad scramble amongst forwards and defenders alike as he runs toward  50 – he makes things happen.

At just 21, Daniels is often overlooking when people discuss the best small forwards in the game, but he is compiling a career that will see him emerge over the next two seasons as one of the premier smalls in the game. He’s quick, he’s smart and he knows footy. By the time all is said and done, he will be an All-Australian.

You read it here first.

 

WHAT MOMENT BROKE THE GAME OPEN?

Daniel Lloyd, take a bow.

A couple of my Carlton buddies have been neither here nor there on Sam Petrevski-Seton this season in his role as a defender. To me, it seems as though SPS is being shoe-horned into the role to compensate for the inevitable retirement of Kade Simpson – seriously, he can’t go round again, can he?

I’m guessing that after Lloyd bodied SPS out of the contest en route to collecting and hitting Bobby Hill with a perfect kick inside 50, they would have been cursing him and demanding he be dropped. Such is the life of an AFL defender when they get beaten in a one-on-one.

Lloyd strikes me as a player in that 20-24 kind of range in terms of whether he gets a game each week. He is not guaranteed best-22, but with actions like this to set up Bobby Hill, he would be endearing himself to the coach and selectors more and more.

Runner up – the desperate spoil of Harry Perryman that led to him running into the open goal and securing the lead for his team. A massive team-lifter!

 

WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT STEPHEN CONIGLIO’S LEADERSHIP?

Like the way I did that? I made it a general question so anyone can answer.

Okay, I’ll answer – I am not really thinking much, to be honest. He had 15 touches in this one and a couple of huge turnovers that could have been the difference but for Carlton’s ineptitude in the forward half.

Cogs was applauded when he re-signed with the Giants and made it known he wanted to be part of this club, but since becoming captain, it has become apparent that some more are born leaders, others have it thrust upon them, and others… well, it just doesn’t sit right with them.

Statistically, his year has been fine. Given the shorter games, you give him a marginal drop off in disposals, and his tackling and clearance work are close to where he was last season, but with leadership… he is following on the heels of a great leader in Phil Davis, and one that was prevented from being the leader the Giants needed due to injury, in Cal Ward. But is Cogs the right man for the job?

I don’t know the inner workings of the GWS footy club, obviously, but I know who I would follow into battle given their actions on the field. Joel Selwood, Trent Cotchin, Luke Shuey, Tom Jonas… I’m not yet sold on Cogs as the spiritual leader of this group. He doesn’t do those little things that would inspire me and that is such an important aspect of the captaincy.

At some point in the next month, the Giants are going to need someone to stand up and make a difference. It will be then that we see if Coniglio can be a great captain as well as a great player, or whether he will fall into the category of being a captain in name alone.

 

HEY MONGREL, WHERE CAN I DOWNLOAD YOUR LATEST PODCAST?

Great question, and if you don’t download it and have a listen, you’re no friend of mine. Why wouldn’t you want to listen to the number one ranked Sports podcast in Cambodia? I kid you not… we are.

🎧 Mongrel Podcast Episode 23 🎧

 

WAS THIS CLOSE TO BOBBY HILL’S BREAKOUT GAME?

Yes, indeed.

I loved what he provided for the Giants in this one, making himself dangerous, running hard to position and using both his speed and vision to set up opponents.

After a bit of a shaky start to his career in 2019 (aside from his debut game), Hill has started to develop into the kind of player that will become an asset to the Giants in the long term. Whilst small forwards are renowned for their flashiness and highlight kind of plays, it was the hard work from Hill in this game that stood out.

He worked to provide an outlet for the Giants as they exited defence and if the ball got out the back, he was onto it like Joe Ganino on a desperate drunken woman. He had six score involvements and three inside 50s as his searching runs to half back and his gut-running back toward goal exposed his opponent (I don’t want to whack SPS again, but it was mostly him).

He’s very good, is Bobby Hill, and he’ll be around for a while. Between him and Brent Daniels, the GWS forward line is good hands.

 

DOES THE FOUR POINTS WALLPAPER OVER SOME PROBLEMS?

Look, it definitely does, but so does inaccuracy. if the Giants get their kicking boots on early, would we be talking about how poor they were through the first three quarters?

As much as they did lack around the ground at points, their defence was solid (yet again) and even if a couple of shots sail through, this is a whole different ball game. 1.9 at half time should have been 5.4 or even 4.5 and if that’s the case, there are no real panic stations.

Not yet, anyway.

Fix that kicking, and things will turn around very quickly.

 

IS IT TIME TO REST EDDIE BETTS?

Yeah, it is.

The season is shot and with rumours flying around the Eddie will be retained for 2021, now might be the time to give him a week to freshen up before giving him a couple of games to finish the season.

He was soundly beaten firstly by Heath Shaw and then Lachie Ash, who should take this as a feather in his cap.

Things that have made Eddie special over the journey aren’t as apparent right now, and with the Blues expected to be right to go by Tuesday against the Swans, maybe a game off wouldn’t hurt Betts at all at this stage.

 

HOW LOW CAN CHAMPION DATA RATE JAKE RICCARDI THIS WEEK?

Well, he was clunking marks and kicking goals in the last quarter of a close game… perhaps they’ll actually recognise that he was a pivotal player this week and not bump him down to the bottom of their player rankings?

What are the chances?

Riccardi played a ripping last quarter and is providing a great marking target for the Giants as he trusts his judgment, leaps at the footy and kicks through the footy when going for goal. The Giants had four goals in the last quarter, six for the game and Riccardi collected two of them in a real hurry.

Whether that is good enough for Champion Data remains to be seen, but it is plenty good enough for the old Mongrel.

 

HOW FAR ARE THESE TEAMS OFF FROM BEING GENUINE CONTENDERS?

Giants first – we saw this stuff from them last season as well. Fits and starts of good footy mixed with some atrocious efforts. The risk is that the atrocious footy is never really far away and the gap between their best and worst is huge. They are capable of beating anyone, but sadly, they’re also capable of losing to anybody. That kind of thing won’t lead to sustained success against good teams.

As for the Blues, they’re still a bit off. They go to sleep too often and are dropping games due to their own lapses. They’re a good team in the making, but until they can string four quarters together consistently, probably deserve to miss finals.

 

DID HARRY MCKAY COST THE BLUES?

In a sense, yes.

He took five marks inside 50 for the game and returned a single goal. In a game so tightly contested, even one better conversion could have seen him be the difference.

However, it is unfair to saddle him with the responsibility – at least he was getting his hands on the footy. I covered McGovern above, but Eddie Betts was a non-factor, Levi Casboult couldn’t get near it and Zac Fisher found the going a little too hot for his liking. McKay was at least doing half the job he was out there to do – these blokes couldn’t even lay claim to that.

Even Jack Martin, as good as he was in running down Lachie Whitfield to kick-start the Blues in the first quarter, couldn’t get amongst it until very late in the piece, and even then his attempted running banana kick landed in the arms of Nick Haynes.

I’m sure many will lament the misses of McKay in this game, and quite a few Blues fans would have been screaming at their televisions as he failed to convert time and time again, but there were just as many not even creating shots, and a little bit of that angst should be directed their way as well.

 

DID HARRY HIMMELBERG STAND UP AS THE BEST GIANTS’ FORWARD?

It seems a strange question to ask given he didn’t kick a goal, right?

Well, normally, I would agree with me, but on this occasion, I am going to channel Joe Biden, argue against my own point and not make sense.

Normally, a bloke who is held to zero goals whilst playing deep forward has had a pretty dirty day, but the way Himmelberg attacked the contest and gave his small forwards every chance to find the footy at ground level should be commended. Playing alongside Jeremy Cameron, it is easy to overlook what Himmelberg provides, particularly when you have another forward (Finlayson) capable of kicking the occasional bag.

But whilst Cameron was soundly beaten by Jacob Weitering and Finlayson oscillated between looking dangerous and mouthing off to the umpire, Himmelberg provided a strong, level-headed approach to every contest he was in.

Zero goals means nothing to me when the effort is there, and if you’re asking me whether I’d take the 14 touches and four marks from Himmelberg over the combined 18 touches and a goal from the pair of Finlayson and Cameron… yes I would.

 

WHAT WAS THE MOST UNDERRATED ACT IN THE GAME?

It had to be Heath Shaw’s diving save to touch the footy over the line.

One second he was pumping the footy inside 50 for the Giants and as it came out the other side on the rebound, Heater took off and made sure he was not going to be beaten out the back by the fast-moving Blues.

It was a huge gut run – 120 metres after just running forward and with a desperate lunge, Shaw was the last man back on defence. It made me wonder – how many teammates did he run past on the way back to save that goal? I counted at least four.

Make no mistake – Mitch McGovern’s long shot at goal would have bounced through if not for Heath Shaw. That is the kind of desperation you simply cannot teach. It was gut running of the highest order, it was a commitment to the cause and it is the kind of thing that, when shown in the review, should be highlighted as what is required to play at this level.

If the young GWS stars keep that passage of play in their minds as they build their careers, Heath Shaw is not just in the later stages of an excellent career, he is leaving behind a legacy that will be carried on by Lachie Ash, Tom Green, Jackson Hately and Jye Caldwell.

Speaking way too early, but those are the actions that premierships are built on.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Blues would be eyeing off the Swans and Crows as potential wins before running into the Lions in Round 18. If the cards fall the right way in just about every conceivable way, they may have to knock over the Lions to slip into the eight.

As for the Giants, they get the Crows, Dees and Saints – all very winnable, and I reckon it could come down to the last game as to where the Saints and Giants finish.

 

And that’ll do me. As weird as this season has been, the race for the eight is a belter and I am loving it, even if the footy is… a less than excellent standard.

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