The Adelaide Crows withstood a spirited North Melbourne for three quarters before putting their foot on the throat of the Kangraoos and running away to win by 41 points.

It seems amazing, looking at that scoreline, that the Kangaroos actually went into the last quarter with a four-point lead, but the determination of the Crows, and the run in their legs put paid to the North challenge and sent the Crows to a 3-1 record, with their only loss coming against the in-form Sydney Swans.

Led by Rory Laird, Tom Doedee and the hard-running wingman, Lachie Sholl, the Crows slammed on eight goals in the last, putting North to the sword.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

THE DESK

When you’re looking for the player who made the biggest difference, sometimes you simply cannot look past numbers, particularly when they are so skewed in the favour of one man.

On this occasion, that man was Rory Laid, and the numbers I speak of relate to his work around stoppages. Let’s break it down.

Only three players in this game had more than three clearances. They were Reilly O’Brien, Jy Simpkin and Rory Laird. Simpkin and O’Brien combined to have 12 coearances, whilst Laird… well, he picked up 11 all by himself in a dominant midfield performance, combating not just opposition mids, but a dedeicated tagger, in Kayne Turner as well.

I am sure that there would be plenty of Crows fans annoyed with the tactics of Turner, but it was a valuable lesson for Laird, who fought through the persistent attention to remain involved in the game whilst learning how to deal with this type of nuisance.

Turner started to suck Laird in at stages, but the defender turned midfielder was able to refocus and deliver the standout performance of the game.

With Rory Sloane on the sidelines, hanging out with Matt Crouch, a huge load was placed on the shoulders of Laird in this game. He responded with 31 touches, those 11 clearances and over 400 metres gained as he powered the Adelaide engine room, holding the fort until the return of his partners.

 

THE FUTURE LEADER… NOW

I know it’s probably something Crows fans do not like doing, but cast your mind back for a moment, to the 2018 season.

So much was expected of the Crows that season, and for a variety of reasons, they failed to deliver. One of the bright spots from that season, however, was the emergence of Tom Doedee in defence, filling the role abandoned by the departed Jake Lever. With a dedication to the contest and a great read on the ball in flight, Doedee’s form soon made Crows fans forget about Lever, with his replacement looking every bit as capable of holding the fort with Daniel Talia.

Then a knee injury cut him down and ruined 12 months of his footballing life – maybe more.

The thing about knee reconstructions is that it takes time to once again develop confidence in your body. There is always this nagging little voice asking “what if it happens again?” when you twist or turn out of a situation. Part of you expects something bad to happen, and it takes a while before that scream turns to a whisper, and eventually becomes silenced.

Right now, Tom Doedee is at the point where that voice is not making a peep.

Captaining the Crows with Sloane out, he was huge across half back when the Kangaroos were making their charge. Doedee collected 11 intercept possessions for the game and was a tower of strength across half back as he continually cut North off at the knees. His presence, and effectiveness, allowed players like Andrew McPherson and Jake Kelly the freedom to play their own games and focus entirely on the job at hand, safe in the knowledge that their captain was never far away.

Doedee won’t receive many plaudits for his stellar efforts – it is not the nature of the footy media to concentrate on the bloke continually making saves – they like the ball-winners and goal kickers much better. Here at The Mongrel, however, we keep an eye on the exploits of the defenders, and I would expect that Doedee will feature heavily in our Defensive Player of the Year rankings when they’re released around Tuesday/Wednesday (cheap plug!)

 

THE RUNNING MAN

Geez, I reckon North Melbourne would have been wishing there was an uncle-nephew draft rule after watching Lachie Sholl cut them to shreds in this game.

An elite runner, Sholl put in a true four-quarter performance in this game, picking up carer high numbers in the process as he worked both ends of the ground to secure the win for the Crows.

Many will believe I am being swayed by his brilliant last quarter, and to an extent, that may be true, but I’ve had my eye on Sholl since he was robbed of his Rising Star nomination last season, only to grab a nomination to make up for it soon after.

He was matched up on fellow youngster, Bailey Scott, for an extended period in this game, and I reckon it could be a wake-up call for the North wingman. Both guys are relatively inexperienced, but Sholl gave his contemporary a lesson in hard running, and aerobic fitness in this one, providing relief for his defenders at one end, and running hard to get on the end of attacks at the other.

Seriously, people – at 21 years old, he displayed the kind of tank that has people raving about the aerobic ability of Sam Walsh. Slighter, and lacking the strength of Walsh, Sholl was still simply too much for his North Melbourne opponent, still running at top pace late into the last quarter to secure eight touches and a goal. In comparison, Scott looked out on his feet – Sholl was all over him.

If people had not started taking notice of Sholl in 2020, this season, with longer quarters, should well and truly open their eyes. He is an endurance beast with a hunger for the contest and looks as though he has all the tools to emerge as a star of this team over the next few years.

And no, David Noble… there is no such thing as the uncle-nephew rule… but North would be rapt if there were.

 

YOUNG TALENT TIME

There was plenty of it on display in this one, with Sholl already covered above as the standout.

Others to catch the eye included the following.

Andrew McPherson – has flown under many people’s radar, despite having to take on some big jobs in his AFL infancy. Racked up the lazy 23 touches and seven intercepts in this one as he was able to zone off and aid his teammates whenever North tried their repeated “long bomb to a contest” offence.

Aiden Bonar – His move to North really ruined my dream commentary line of Anthony Hudson getting excited during a GWS v Adelaide game and calling the following sequence. “Bonar… Cumming… all over Butts”.

Sadly, I’ll have to find another low brow form of humour to entertain me, now. Alas, we should not allow the three late goals from Shane McAdam to wash away how good Bonar was in defence for the first three quarters. He effectively shut his man down and looked at home.

Nick Larkey – Actually started to have a presence, although he is still too easily knocked off his line when approaching a contest. Had a terrific tussle with the next bloke and managed to snag three goals.

Jordan Butts – Holding down a key defensive role at 21 is no joke. Butts has been an excellent replacement for the injured Daniel Talia and with another ten one-percenters in this one, he was more than serviceable again. Make no mistake, this time spent as the number one defender is going to serve him incredibly well when the cavalry arrives and he can start playing on forwards who are less dangerous.

Will Hamill – Another 20-year-old finding his way in defence, Hamill provides excellent help defence and a quick release option once the ball hits the deck. Still small for a backman, his agility and ability to make the ground is a bonus for the Crows when the ball hits the deck.

Tom Powell – Showed a fair bit in this one, working hard through the middle to collect 19 touches for the game. North’s second selection in the 2020 Draft is thus far better prepared to make an impact than the bloke selected above him.

Harry Schoenberg – Another who can play wing, drift forward, or mix it up in the middle, Schoenberg worked all over the park to pick up 20 touches at 90% efficiency. He even got on the end of a couple of goals late in the game, one courtesy of a brilliant Tex Walker tap on, to cap off a great day at the office.

There are others, but they weren’t as impressive as the ones named – Luke Davies-Uniacke had moments, but my expectations of him are higher than what he displayed in this one. Tarryn Thomas kicked a couple of goals, but made an error early in the last and went right into his shell soon thereafter.

On that one – I made a note of it at the time. It was either going to be a kick in the pants to get him going and make him determined to make amends, or he was going to withdraw into his shell. People, right now Tarryn Thomas is the tortoise of the AFL. Once something spooks him, he hides away in his shell until everything is all over, and North need more from him. Will Phillips was also a little too quiet for my liking, but with just two games under his belt, he gets a pass.

 

THE HALLWAY

You have to give David King a little credit – he called it early; the Kangaroos looked the most potent when Aaron Hall had the ball in his hands.

And he proceeded to go and get it a game-high 33 times in this game.

Hall has been a bit of a maligned player since moving down from the Gold Coast, rarely producing the kind of form the Roos thought they were getting when they went after him. Today, however, he was into everything, racking up 25 kicks amongst his possessions and gaining 825 metres for his team.

Playing mostly between the arcs, Hall also worked hard into defence to pick up seven rebound fifties and drove the Roos into attack on five occasions. If he can replicate this kind of form more often, the Kangaroos may just start to believe they have got a good return on their investment.

You’ve got to start somewhere, and in this one, Hall did everything you could ask of him.

 

THE OTHER MCKAY BOY

You’ve got Harry McKay sitting second on the goal kicking ladder, and over at Arden street, his brother was matching up on the bloke who leads the way.

Tex started with a bang, and you got the feeling that after 17 goals in three weeks, we may have been about to see him put some distance between himself and the second-place man.

But Ben McKay had other ideas.

Whilst Tex had some significant wins along the way, McKay was steadfast in defence all afternoon. A lesser defender may have coughed up six or seven to Tex, but McKay’s commitment to the cause saw him record 11 intercepts, pick up six spoils and a big, fat ZERO turnovers as he held Tex to just one more goal for the game…

… and that came as a result of a downfield free kick.

McKay has been under the pump this season with the absence of Robbie Tarrant. That was compounded with Josh Walker being out this week, but his defensive work is top notch at the moment and on a day when North’s effort fell away in the last quarter, McKay was one who battled away for all four quarters.

 

 

THE BAD

 

WHAT IS POSSIBLE VERSUS WHAT IS PROBABLE

It must be frustrating to see what a player is capable of, only for that player to offer up completely different versions of himself on either side of the quarter he dominates.

Even though this is situated in the “bad” section, there was still a lot of good from Jaidyn Stephenson. Unfortunately, it was all contained in one quarter – the third.

Stephenson had ten of his 17 total disposals in the third quarter as North Melbourne made their charge back I to the contest. His run and carry both from half back and down the wings was a huge part of the Kangaroos’ surge into the lead, but it appears at this stage that Stephenson doesn’t have the full four quarter effort in his arsenal.

“Oh, but he did it in Round One”

That’s very true, actually, and I am sure that you’d love to see that kind of effort more often, right?

Yep, me too.

His ten touches and a goal in the third was the spark that should have lit the fire for both him and his team. Instead, his last quarter mirrored that of his team, with Stephenson picking up three touches and one of them resulting in a turnover. That means he had just four touches through the first two quarters, right? Maths… how great is it!

Look, I don’t want to whack the bloke, but he came to this club stating he wanted to prove Collingwood was wrong for letting him go. Playing one good quarter and going missing for the other three doesn’t do that – if anything, it completely justifies their decision. Let’s hope for another four quarter performance in the near future – his skillset has the potential to be the difference between a close loss and a win.

 

THE UGLY

 

STOPPING TO A WALK

Giving up eight goals in the last quarter must have completely deflated David Noble. And blokes like Ben McKay, Aiden Bonar and Lachie Young, who had to stand inside defensive fifty as the ball came in again and again, must have been feeling pretty bloody flat as well.

I kind of singled out Stephenson above, as he showed what he was capable of in the half hour before this capitulation, but there were others that just seemed to want to… and I hate quoting Dwayne Russell here “make it somebody else’s problem”.

There was little in the way of poise and kicking to position. There was no overlap run and linking handball chains (not any that managed to hit the mark, anyway) as North ran up the white flag and simply became spectators in a contest they were still part of.

Yes, the rotations were down due to the early injuries to Cam Zurhaar and the returning Luke McDonald, but players were simply too eager to throw the ball on the boot and get it the hell away from them to execute anything resembling a positive chain of disposals. Davies-Uniacke was a big offender, as was Jy Simpkin, but at least they tried. Tarryn ‘The Tortoise’ Thomas hid away, as did second-year man, Jack Mahony whilst Stephenson, Scott and Lazzaro ran out of gas.

This North team is not as bad as people make it out to be. Throw in McDonald for the entire game and add Trent Dumont as a mature body and things may have been very different, but as it stands, the white flag went up against a team unwilling to accept a surrender.

And a slaughter ensued.

A 41-point margin did not accurately reflect how North played in this game up until three quarter time, and after being in front, a bit of soul searching is warranted.

 

SOME QUESTIONS

 

JUST THREE GOALS FOR TEX THIS WEEK… TIME TO DROP HIM, RIGHT?

Yep, get him out of there, obviously. Kane Cornes will be all over it!

I have to admit, I was pulling for Tex to amongst the carnage in the last quarter and help himself to four or five goals in total. The bloke deserves it. Instead, he settled for three for the game, led all players in score involvements, with 11, and helped his teammates with two direct goal assists.

Guys, three goals does not do his game justice, and if you want to see the peak of 2021 Tex Walker, jump to the last quarter and watch him in all his glory as he opts to tap the ball to the running Harry Schoenberg instead of taking possession, leading to the young man’s second straight goal.

We release our first Mongrel 50 tis coming Wednesday, ranking the top 50 players of the season so far. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if Tex is not number one, I swear, you can all beat the shit out of Joe Ganino.

 

HOW FAR AWAY FROM FULL FITNESS IS BEN CUNNINGTON?

He had seven touches in the last quarter, but his inability to cover the ground makes me think he is about three or four weeks away from being the player we remember from a couple of seasons ago.

An in-form Cunnington is the hand that rocks the cradle for the Kangaroos, and feeds his running teammates the ball on the outside. He had moments in this game, but also had periods where he could not get involved in the play. His second quarter, in particular, looked lethargic.

Here’s hoping North can nurse Cunnington back to full health this year, because when he is at his best, he is every bit the contested footy winner that Patrick Cripps, Nat Fyfe or Jack Steele is, and I’d love to see him at that level again.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS PAUL SEEDSMAN TO THIS CROWS TEAM?

He is the icing on the cake for them when their midfield is up and running. A fantastic kick, his uncontested touches (21 of them) and hard run to launch the Crows inside 50 (eight times) fives Adelaide a reliable provider for the hungry forwards.

His first quarter was huge in this one, and really set the tone for the Crows to go end-to-end on a couple of occasions.

 

HOW FAR CAN THE CROWS GO IN 2021?

This is the big question, and I reckon I may get a few of you off-side with my answer. Here goes.

Somewhere around 10-12 seems like a logical spot for them. Yes, they have had a great start to the season, but I am not sold that they’ll stand up as the season progresses. In the past, we’ve seen teams like Gold Coast – young and choc-full of talent – produce great wins early but fall away as the grind of the season wears them down. Whilst I think the Crows are a more professional outfit than the Suns were in 2019/20, I also expect this season to get the better of them at some point.

Be happy and enjoy this while it lasts. They have the Dockers at home next week, and at 4-1… well, belief can do funny things. Who knows what it can do for the Crows?

 

WHO WON THE RUCK BATTLE?

In head-to-head battles, I loved the work of Reilly O’Brien. He was a tower of strength around the ground and his four contested grabs and six clearances were important for the Crows.

Then you have old rolled Goldy, with a couple of goals as he drifted forward. They were vital to North at a time when they were fighting to get back into the contest. I rate rucks that hit the scoreboard very highly, but given ROB had one of his own, and added a liberal dose of around the ground dominance, it is hard to go past the Adelaide big man as the best ruck on the park.

 

 

OTHER BITS

 

Darcy Fogarty and Shane McAdam had 11 kicks between them for six goals. Whilst that is all well and good, both need more involvement in the game other than when the ball is kicked directly to them.

McAdam made a couple of significant errors, including a dropped chest mark that most likely would have led to a goal early in the game. Three late goals wallpapered over what was a pretty ordinary game from him.

Seven tackles, and three tackles inside fifty is the type of result I am looking for from Lachie Murphy. I wanted to see it more in 2020 after Eddie Betts left the club and the Crows were crying out for a pressure forward, but he has taken his sweet time to snatch that role. Hopefully he makes a good fist of it now.

The Crows would kill for a better option than Billy Frampton right now. Where is Elliott Himmelberg at? A tanning salon? I cannot see him on the injury list. Can he only play night games due to the sun?

 

And that’ll do me. After four weeks, the Crows are 3-1. Who saw that coming? They deserve the success they’re now getting and with Talia and Crouch back soon, there is some genuine excitement about the tea, I’ll admit… they’re damn fun to watch.

 

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