Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and all others inclusive to this week’s Mongrel Preview. After a week where the results landed where most would’ve predicted, we were still privy to the odd little shock here and there. Before we shimmy onto round 10, let’s have a brief glimpse back over round nine.

Friday night managed to creep up on us and fizzle itself away without much fanfare and fireworks. That is unless you consider scoring behinds fireworks, in which case St. Kilda delivered us New Year’s Eve at Sydney Harbour. After a team-wide attempt at breaking Lewis Jetta’s unfortunate streak, it was Max King that ruined the fun and scored the Saints’ first goal at the ten-minute mark of the second quarter, after a string of ten straight behinds. They did manage to go goal-for-goal with the Cats until half way through the third when Geelong regained the lead and built on it from there. Finishing the match 21 point victors in a somewhat underwhelming Friday night affair.

Our super Saturday of football kicked off with Collingwood straight out of the blocks and racing away to a three goal lead at quarter time against Sydney at the SCG, only for the Pies to succumb to their inner demons, or more like their inner Saints of the St. Kilda persuasion, by only managing a further 1.10 for the remaining three quarters. The Swans won this one comfortably by five goals.

Over to Tasmania where the Battle of Bass Strait can be summarised in six relatively simple words: Kanga, Kanga, Kanga – Roo, Roo, Roo. After 287 days without a win, North Melbourne handed David Noble his first win as senior coach in his home state, on his 54th birthday. As much as I love a good pun, and no matter how painfully true it may be, surely the collective AFL media could invest their time wiser than creating awesome pseudonyms like “Borethorn”. Get your shit together.

The Q-Clash in Question was Quite the Quaint Quandary. The Quintessential, Quality Lions were Quicker and wouldn’t Quit their Quarrel as the Quivering Suns Quailed in a Quiet Quagmire which posed the Question that Queries the Quantity of the Queensland expansion’s Quest.  Here I am taking potshots at others for their poor wordplay when I dish up that rubbish. Funny how that works. To summarise, Brisbane trounced the Suns by 73 points.

At Marvel Stadium, the Tigers held the lead for 7:24 throughout the match compared to the Giants 116:11, but it was enough to take home the pizzas to Punt Road. GWS were able to all but hold off the Tigers until the 28-minute mark of the fourth quarter when they would succumb to a late Richmond goal, as Daniel Rioli laid the knockout blow – however, this blow came metaphorically, and not defending his girlfriend’s honour.

Rounding out our Saturday was the highly anticipated, top-four matchup that saw the Bulldogs overcome the Power by 19 points at Adelaide Oval. We saw Port claw their way back from a deficit, but in the end, when two worlds collided, The Dogs were able to tear them apart.

Sunday started with a tight, see-sawing contest between the Bombers and the Dockers at Marvel Stadium. Both teams tried their hardest to lose this one, but in the end, Fremantle were the unfortunate victors in the losing department, going down to Essendon by seven points.

Melbourne played Carlton at the MCG where the Demons went on to record their ninth straight win of the season. The Blues got away to a small lead early, but after half time the Dees never looked like losing this one, as they finished the game 26 point winners.

Our final game of round nine started as a close battle between the Eagles and the Crows. That was until someone spiked Jack Darling’s Gatorade with a goal-kicking pill at quarter time. The star forward kicked five goals in the second quarter to aim the Eagles on a winning trajectory of 30 points.

That’s the end of that chapter. Let take a quick peek at this week before we get into the real McCoy.

Richmond will travel to the Gabba this Friday night to take on Brisbane and I don’t know about the rest of you Mongrel faithful, but I personally cannot wait to hear Damien Hardwick’s thoughts on his Richmond team having to play anywhere but the MCG for TWO WEEKS IN A ROW. The poor Tigers, it’s not fair that they should have to play at little old Marvel Stadium when they hate it there, much less travel to the Gabba. I’m sure Chris Fagan will be there to lend him a shoulder to cry on.

The first cab off the Saturday rank will be Carlton and Hawthorn facing off at the MCG. Cripps and Walsh head-to-head with O’Meara and Mitchell. Much has been said about Hawthorn’s state of affairs after going down to the then-winless Kangaroos in Tasmania last week. But one thing I’ve learnt about Clarko over the years is that he’s not one to stay down for long. The few lower points of his coaching career are often met with a hasty resurgence.

Geelong will host the Gold Coast at GMHBA stadium in the traditional Saturday afternoon slot for the Gary Ablett Cup. I don’t know if that’s actually a thing, but it seems fitting.

Melbourne will look to make it 10/10 as they travel to Adelaide Oval to take on the Crows who looked to have grabbed the good shopping trolley early on in the season. Their past five weeks however have gone from a loose handle and wobbly wheel to flat spots and jamming up the coin lock, ultimately stealing their two dollars. Don’t be fooled by the Demons’ season so far; they haven’t beaten any of the teams above them on the ladder yet.

Saturday night we’ll see the Bulldogs face the Saints from Dimma’s hellhole at Marvel Stadium. St. Kilda will look to trade in their Peter Daicos Goal Master Training Ball and accompanying VHS tape that forward line coach Brendon Lade would’ve left in each of his forwards lockers this week, as the Dogs will look at this game as an opportunity to further boost their percentage and aid their arm wrestle with Melbourne for top spot on the ladder, if and when the Demons lose a game.

In our final Saturday night game, Sydney will fly over West and have it out with Fremantle at Optus Stadium. The Swans will be without two of their rising stars but coach John Longmire has insisted that Buddy Franklin will make the trip to Perth.

Sunday football will be brought to us with West Coast taking on the Greater Western Sydney from Giants Stadium. The Eagles will look to continue their rich vein of form since their horror loss to the Cats a month ago and the Giants, well.. where are they at as a club right now? Injuries are piling up, they seem to have the cattle but lack the direction to gain the most from their investments.

Ahh, this is the one we’ve been waiting for! Well, I have anyways. Without using up too many of my lines that I’ve been saving for the past fortnight, it’ll be Collingwood versus Port Adelaide in a ‘winner wears the black and white’ match. This contest will be held at the MCG and that’s all I’ve got to say on the topic for the time being.

Our final match of the round is the monotonous Sunday twilight fixture of Essendon vs North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium. This time slot is the equivalent of that one Uncle that just won’t shut up and leave the Christmas party. You’ve already helped Mum and the Aunties do the dishes and divvy out the leftovers, now old Uncle Stewy needs to zip the lip and finish his Pav so you can call it a day.

Without any further ado, here’s what we can expect:

 

Teams

Brisbane vs Richmond

When & Where?
Friday 21st May, 7:50 pm AEST. Gabba

Snapshot
After a pair of mediocre losses and a couple of nailbiters, the Lions appear to have their season well and truly back on track. Sitting at fourth on the ladder with a decent percentage behind them, Chris Fagan’s men will look to put Richmond on the canvas as they slog it out at the Gabba on Friday night. Unfortunately for Damien Hardwick and his Tigers, they will have to leave behind their cherished MCG and travel to a substandard Gabba to mingle with the commoners. Poor Tigers.

So what does it all mean?
Their last-minute win over the Giants last week has placed Richmond a game clear in eighth position. A loss this week will see the Giants and the Dockers breathing down their necks if they’re able to win their games. For the Lions, a loss will easily see them slip out of the top four as the Swans, the Eagles and the Power all prepare to play a weekly game of leapfrog as the season starts to even out a little.

All eyes on:
Richmond’s Midfield- A very undermanned Richmond midfield managed to get it done against a star-studded GWS lineup last week. Where many expected the Tigers to be overwhelmed in the centre due to their plethora of injuries, a seemingly young and very green midfield held their own and clawed back into the game late. Lead by Punt Road’s Lord and Saviour; Dusty, the second string line-up stood up in the absence of names such as Cotchin, Bolton, Prestia, Lambert and Edwards. Liam Baker played one of the games of his career in the centre, Jack Graham held his own and young up-and-comer Riley Collier-Dawkins was instrumental. We even saw a second-half cameo from Nick Vlastuin who was thrown in the centre as Damien Hardwick rolled the dice and swapped his players around the field in what proved to be a masterstroke. Nankervis was dominant in the ruck, however, it wasn’t until the second half that Richmond could use this to their advantage and get on top of the clearances.

Even without Brownlow Medalist Lachie Neale, the Lions still have a strong midfield presence, headed by the recently awarded Marcus Ashcroft Medalist for being best afield in the Q-Clash, former Sun, Jarryd Lyons, captain Dayne Zorko, Daniel Rich, young superstar Hugh McCluggage and the hard-headed Mitch Robinson, the Lions Midfield oozes talent and will be a massive challenge for Richmond. As they proved last week though, champion teams are never out for long. So don’t count them out just yet.

Star-studded Starcevich- I’ve always been a fan of a good quality, lockdown defender. A no-fuss, gets the job done, blue collar type player. After only a handful of games in his first two seasons, Brandon Starcevich burst onto the scene last year and cemented his spot in Brisbane’s backline as a lockdown defender for small-mid forwards. His list of scalps so far this season has registered some of the best small forwards currently in the comp, and he’s only 21 years old. He has found a way to stand out on his own accord, in a backline that see’s him shoulder to shoulder with All Australian and one of the best defenders in the game; Harris Andrews. Watching the footy last year, from memory it was against St. Kilda where I first stopped and took notice of him. I remember wondering, which team was this bloke traded from? I was adamant that he had been around the traps for a good 60-80 games already. It wasn’t until he won the rising star nomination for that round that I learnt that he was only a Lion cub. Depending on how the Tigers set up their team structure this week, it’ll be a big week for Brandon Starcevich as he could see himself on Jake Aarrs or last week’s match-winner, the Dangerous Daniel Rioli.

 

Teams

Carlton vs Hawthorn

When & Where?
Saturday 22nd May, 1:45 PM AEST. MCG.

Snapshot
Carlton will be chasing their fourth win of the season after a brave fight early against Melbourne last week, before being out-muscled later in the game. They’re currently occupying 13th on the ladder and will look to have Jack Silvagni return from concussion this week. Hawthorn are hanging down at 17th and looking to get back in the winner’s circle. A loss to the winless Kangaroos last week will be a lingering embarrassment for the club.

So what does it all mean?
Another loss to Carlton leaves them two wins outside the eight and means their season is as good as over, unless they turn their fates around and start playing more competitive, four quarters of football. It’s not an enviable position to be in, given that many expected them to start rising and playing finals footy under David Teague this season. For Hawthorn, it’s all about getting some games into the kids and developing younger players whilst establishing team dynamics as the club looks to usher in their next chapter.

All eyes on:
Pen to paper- Carlton are at a crossroads as a club. They’ve brought in outside talent at a financial expense in the way of Zac Williams, Adam Saad, Jack Martin and Mitch McGovern to help guide their talented, young side into finals contention. Now that they’ve developed younger stars such as Harry McKay and Sam Walsh, the outside lure of lucrative contracts coming from rival clubs has never been higher. Throw Patrick Cripps into the mix and you’ve got quite the headache for their list managers. The writing has been on the wall for a long time that once Cripps was to hit free agency, the number of suitors chasing his signature would rise. Paired with the likes of McKay and Walsh coming out of contract soon after, it would have to be considered quite a remarkable feat if Carlton were able to find room in their salary cap to squeeze all of these players in, as well as retain whatever other talent emerges in the coming seasons. With more players seeking trades and moving clubs than ever before, it’s a great time if you’re in the market and can afford the splurge. Not so great a time if you’re trying to retain your talent.

Where to? – It was pretty bleak viewing for Hawthorn fans last week. To lose their seventh game of the season to a then winless North Melbourne side would’ve been a dagger to the heart of anyone affiliated with the club, from the head coach right down to the youngest supporters. It’s looking like it will be a pretty tough slog for the Hawthorn Football Club for the foreseeable future. They’ve definitely had some individual moments this season that would suggest perhaps they’re making a few positive moves, but seeing their midfield, the strongest, most experienced part of that team get absolutely bullied by North Melbourne in the second half would be a bitter pill for them to swallow. The club has noted throughout the year that they’ll be trialing different players in different positions this season, especially their talls at either end of the ground, conceding that it was an area of the team that needed the greatest development. So to see players like Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and James Worpel just get continually beaten time and time again, it was no surprise to hear Vice-Captain O’Meara label their performance as pathetic and unacceptable after the loss. Walking off the ground, that team looked as deflated as I’ve seen a team for a long time, which leads me to my question – where to from here?

Clarko’s luck and skill with recruiting mediocre players from other clubs and turning them into superstars and utilities may be starting to run dry. Will the Hawks look to use their lowly finish as a boost come draft night and try to somewhat replicate their success of the 2004 draft, where they managed to nab Lance Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Jordan Lewis in one fell swoop?

 

Teams

Geelong vs Gold Coast

When & Where?
Saturday 22nd May, 2:10 PM AEST. GMHBA Stadium

Snapshot
After managing two straight wins against Sydney and Collingwood, the Suns have succumbed to two straight losses, one at the hands of the Saints and a harsh reality check compliments of the Lions. Since losing to Melbourne in round four, the Cats have only lost one game which was a two-point thriller to the Swans.

So what does it all mean?
Geelong are in a great position sitting third, above all others also with six wins. The unfortunate part of their position means as soon as they lose a game, there are at least four other teams on their heels, waiting to climb above them. Gold Coast have dropped down to fourteenth on the back of their shellacking by Brisbane. It’s looking less and less likely that they’ll be playing finals football.

All eyes on:
Dark side of the Suns- No one will have a tougher job at GMHBA Stadium this week than the Suns defenders. Over the past month Geelong’s three-pronged forward attack of Hawkins, Cameron and Rohan have combined for 36 goals. Simply, they’re combining for nine goals a game. It’s a dreary prospect for the likes of Sam Collins, Charlie Ballard and Will Powell, who have held the Sun’s backline for most of this season. With Jack Bowes now out with injury, a shuffle of the magnets for Stuart Dew is almost inevitable. Whilst the returns of Touk Miller and Nick Holman will bolster the Gold Coast side, it’s a hard enough task having to face Geelong in Geelong, let alone with the current state of the Sun’s list.

Defy the odds- Since 2011 the Suns and the Cats have played each other 11 times. Gold Coast have only ever won two out of those eleven matches, and both have been at their home ground, Metricon Stadium. The average losing margin for the Suns at GMHBA Stadium is 78 points across the six games played there. These are clearly grim numbers regardless of how you read them. If the Suns don’t put the time and effort into the likes of Cam Guthrie and Mitch Duncan then they’ll find themselves not just on the back foot, but in their backsides before the game can begin to take shape.

 

Teams

Adelaide vs Melbourne

When & Where?
Saturday 22nd May, 4:35 PM AEDT. Adelaide Oval.

Snapshot
Another game that seems to be one-sided on paper. The top of the table Demons will travel to Adelaide to take on the 15th seated Crows who haven’t won a game since beating North Melbourne back in round four.

So what does it all mean?
Melbourne are a game clear on top of the ladder and two games clear of third-placed Geelong. So an unlikely loss may only see them relegate one position to the Bulldogs. A win obviously keeping them on the top cog for another week. Adelaide now sit in the bottom four after a brief stint in the top four at the beginning of the season. A loss will see them stuck there and make the task of climbing the ladder a greater one.

All eyes on:
Head to head- What a great battle we’re set to witness. Two of the top clearance players in the competition this season in Clayton Oliver and Rory Laird will go head to head in a midfield masterclass. Both are averaging north of 30 disposals, seven clearances, and six tackles a game. Oliver is leading the competition for contested possessions so far this season and Laird is sitting narrowly behind him in third.

Tex returns- Adelaide captain Taylor Walker is set to return to the side this week after being rested for his team’s trip west last week. He’ll be a welcomed sight to the Crow’s forward line that struggled to score against West Coast at times last week. More than a third of their goals came from 18 and 19 year olds Riley Thilthorpe and Sam Berry. Shane McAdam popped up for 3.2 and was lively, but after his early form this season, the Crows will be hoping to see their former skipper back to his best and troubling the Demon’s defenders.

 

Teams

Western Bulldogs vs St. Kilda

When & Where?
Saturday 22nd May, 7:25 AEDT. Marvel Stadium.

Snapshot
The Bulldogs managed to answer some of the questions asked of them last week with an assertive win over fellow top four competitors, Port Adelaide. The Saints did everything required of them to be competitive with Geelong, other than kick goals. Rowan Marshall is a huge omission for the Saints, requiring surgery after suffering a further foot injury at the hands of the Cats last week. Brad Crouch was also injured, but is expected to play.

So what does it all mean?
The Bulldogs are two games clear in second position, so a loss won’t affect their placings on the ladder. The Saints however are sitting eleventh and a loss has the potential to be disastrous. They’re the lowest placed team on four wins, with the Giants and the Dockers both above them on percentage. Any of the four teams below them on three wins will force the Saints down the ladder if they happen to win their own games this weekend.

All eyes on:
Hunter the Gatherer- The Bulldogs look set to regain Lachie Hunter this weekend after hand surgery saw him sidelined for his team’s win over Port Adelaide last weekend. Whilst he may not be the Bulldogs’ most prolific midfielder, he is a key piece in the Bulldogs’ best 22. A regular contributor that gets the ball in space on the wing and is damaging by foot going forward. After his four-game suspension last season for breaching COVID-19 protocols and drink driving, his return to the team bolstered their run in the second half of the year, Hunter being a driving force behind the team that made finals. The Dogs will undoubtedly look a better side with him Hunter on the wing.

Get Rucked- With the chance to face a Dogs unit without Tim English or Stef Martin, the timing of Rowan Marshall going down with a foot injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. Whilst the Saints still have Paddy Ryder to control their ruck, being without Marshall robs them of the option to float one of their ruckmen forward and play in tandem, which has proven to be a vital piece of the ball winning puzzle in the few games they’ve won this season. The Bulldogs retain Jordon Sweet in the side, after his impressive form in the absence of English and other first-choice ruckman; Stefan Martin, what would have been a clear advantage had English returned is now a weakness.

 

Teams

Fremantle vs Sydney

When & Where?
Saturday 22nd May, 7:40 AEDT. Optus Stadium.

Snapshot
In the last ten years, the Swans have only beaten the Dockers away from Sydney once, and that was a 90 point belting in 2016 – the year Sydney would go on to play the Bulldogs in the Grand Final.

So what does it all mean?
This is a potential danger game for Sydney, losing to the Dockers on Saturday will push them lower than their current sixth on the ladder and expose them to the potential of dropping out of the eight in the coming weeks. For Fremantle, they’re no real chance of climbing back into the top eight this week if they happen to win. However, it will take them one step closer given they’re one of three teams sitting a game outside the eight.

All eyes on:
Fee-Fyfe-fo-fum – There has been a lot said about Nat Fyfe and his kicking in the past month of football. The dual Brownlow Medalist is renowned for the skilled footballer that he is and his track record reflects that. He has been a pillar in the Docker’s midfield for a long time, but this season he has looked a little off. Not just his goal kicking yips, but his field kicking and handball as well. I reviewed the Essendon/Fremantle game last week and made note that for all of his domination at the contest, Fremantle received little benefit due to his poor disposal. His kicking efficiency alone went at <50% and left little to be desired. No one is questioning his willingness, well, I’m certainly not. He put his body on the line time and time again at contest after contest, but it was all for nothing if his team doesn’t benefit from his disposal, or he causes a direct turnover.  The Dockers will need him at his absolute best if they’re a chance to knock over Sydney this weekend.

Buddy beautiful- If Lance Franklin retired today he would go down as the greatest forward of his era. That is a fact. His name will be forever etched in the history of the game, alongside the likes of Lockett, Dunstall, Wade, Ablett, Lloyd, Matthews and other champion forwards. What surprised me was to learn that of all the teams he’s played against, he has scored the least amount of goals against Fremantle. That is excluding the two expansion clubs and the two teams that he has played for, for obvious reasons. His career tally across both clubs has seen Buddy kick 41 goals from 17 games against the Dockers at a return of a little over two goals a game. Given his career average is over three goals a game and he averaged closer to four goals a game against teams such as Essendon and Collingwood, it’s startling to think he hasn’t really gotten a hold of Fremantle, considering they did spend so long struggling as a team and suffered some heavy losses in those years. Sydney would love Buddy to get a hold of this Fremantle defence and cause them all sorts of headaches.

 

Teams

Greater Western Sydney vs West Coast

When & Where?
Sunday 23rd May, 1:10PM AEDT. Giants Stadium

Snapshot
The Eagles have won their past four matches against the Giants by an average of just over four goals. As a matter of fact, the Giants have only beaten the Eagles three times in their twelve game history, however all three of those wins were home game for the Giants.

So what does it all mean?
West Coast are sitting two games clear inside the eight with only percentage keeping them out of the top four. That’s how tight the current ladder is. The Giants are a game out of the eight, with a percentage that won’t escalate them in a hurry, unless they win games and win them heavily.

All eyes on:
Yo, Yo, Yeo! – A little left field to start this one, usually I’d save this piece for something that directly revolves around the game at hand. However, I am buoyed this week as I learnt that Elliot Yeo is set to play his first competitive hitout in over a year. After a lengthy battle with osteitis pubis, the same ailment that affected the careers of other players such as Chris Judd, Wayne Carey, Michael Voss, Josh Fraser, Luke Ball and current stars Brad Crouch and Joe Daniher, Yeo is set to return to the Eagle’s WAFL team this week and play limited minutes to assess his fitness. After being struck down in September of 2020, it will be a welcome sight for West Coast fans. If Yeo can get through some modified time in games and work his way back to peak fitness, he will be a huge inclusion in this side in the latter half of the season.

Front of the grid- GWS will have their Rolls Royce line up from poll position this week as Josh Kelly is set to lead the club out as skipper for the first time. It’s a bad time to be leadership material at the Giants, with their captain Stephen Coniglio suffering an ankle injury earlier in the year that won’t see him return to the side until the later half of the season, at best. Then vice-captain Toby Greene injured his shoulder and is expected to miss at least another month of football. Leaving midfield star Josh Kelly as their last man standing in the captaincy stakes. In what is becoming a bit of an injury pandemic at the Giants, coach Leon Cameron has backed his classy mid to lead this inexperienced side against the Eagles.

 

Teams

Magpies vs Magpies (Collingwood vs Port Adelaide)

When & Where?
Sunday 23rd May, 3:20 AEDT. MCG

Snapshot
Any wrestling fans in the house? Please read this in your best Howard Finkel voice: The following contest is a Ladder Match, tied up high above the ring is a briefcase containing an apparel contract. The first person to climb the ladder and retrieve the briefcase will be the winner and their team will forever hold the rights to wear black and white striped jerseys, within the AFL, at any time. Approaching the ring is the challenger, wearing the BLACK AND WHITE (and teal) Port. Adelaide. Power! And the reigning rights holder, also wearing the black and white but with red faces, Collingwood Magpies!

So what does it all mean?
Clearly, the above was satire, but it is one thing that the AFL could adopt from wrestling, imagine further stakes on the game? If Collingwood win, Port must banish their prison bar jerseys forever, and Kochie must do Sunsrise for a week in a Collingwood jersey. Not that it would matter – I mean, Port Adelaide are proud of their heritage. I’ve heard Kochie say it one or two thousand times. If they happened to lose and had to relinquish their stripes, they could wear one of the other nine styles of jersey that the club wore between 1870-1902 that didn’t include the black and white livery. There’s always the light blue and white hoops, the dark blue and white horizontal halves, the all pink number (which is one of my personal favourites) and then there are six different variants of the magenta and blue to choose from. So it wouldn’t be all doom and gloom for Port Adelaide purists if they were to lose.

Anyways, back to planet earth. This is definitely not one that the Power want to lose. Well, none are really. That’s a stupid thing to say. But this one is of the utmost importance, even setting aside all the Eddie/Kochie/jersey colours bullshit. Port are sitting fifth, but thanks to their loss to the Dogs, they now sit equal on points with four other sides, all vying to jump into the top four. A win could see Port take that spot in the top four, but a loss could see them potentially slip as low as seventh. For the Magpies, it really comes down to pride. They will want to win this one for all sorts of reasons, but a bit of pride and a middle finger to the team that hocked a slimy spit their way a fortnight ago would mean a lot more than any regular win.

All eyes on:
Isaac Quaynor – After being assaulted by teammate Jordan DeGoey in the changerooms last week, I’d love to see Quaynor do what he does best and that’s defend the ball, apply pressure to the Port forwards and run that ball. At his best he is damaging, it’s easy to see why Collingwood went so hard to recruit him. This kid is a genuine talent and the sooner Collingwood sort out their onfield issues, the sooner we’ll get back to seeing his best output every week. Quaynor is rated elite for his intercept and rebound work which is a credit to him as a 21 year old. Alongside Darcy Moore, the Pies will be looking to him as a staple in their defense as they look to rejuvenate their football department and become an onfield threat once again.

Apologies, Port fans – Jimmy submitted his article before it came to light that Orazio Fantasia would miss this game. The section he wrote on Port was mainly to do with how good Fantasia has been this year, so I had to remove it… not because I dislike Fantasia – I am over that, given the standard of his play in 2021 – but rather, it didn’t belong in a preview consider he isn’t playing – HB.

 

Teams

Essendon vs North Melbourne

When & Where?
Sunday 24th May, AEDT. Marvel Stadium.

Snapshot
No team was happier with their win last week than North Melbourne, and they had every right to feel that way. After being comprehensively beaten in the first half, they rallied as a team and played tough, competitive football and ultimately beat Hawthorn at what used to be their own game. Giving Kangaroos supporters a glimpse at the future and how they can play when they combine as a unit. They’ll face a resilient Essendon who despite a couple of earlier blowouts, have really shown guts and grit in their games this season. It should be a good contest with both teams akin to playing at Marvel Stadium. Much to the disgust of Damien Hardwick.

So what does it all mean?
Surprisingly more than what meets the eye. If North Melbourne could string together two wins in a row in a season where many predicted they wouldn’t win a single game, it would do untold wonders for the club and the players’ morale, and for the loyal supporters who rock up week after week and continue their support. For the Bombers, a win with their healthy percentage will see them just shy of cracking the top eight. Although many wouldn’t foresee them maintaining this come the end of the season, it’s a positive showing for the supporters that the club is heading in the right direction.

All eyes on:
The tall and the short- It’s a big week for the Essendon forward line. If they can get on top of North early, they could become the difference in this contest. Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti has proven to be a dagger in the hearts of North Melbourne supporters in the past. At his best, he is crafty, dangerous and can play attacking football as well as defending with his tackling. After being amongst the top three contenders for the Coleman Medal earlier this month, Cale Hooker’s past fortnight has been subpar and seen him slip. Essendon should expect a big game from him and stretch the Kangaroo’s already depleted defense. Spending many seasons in the upper echelons of the contested mark rankings as a defender, Hooker is no stranger to using his body and winning the ball in the air. Along with Peter Wright the two will have to be at their best in the absence of Jake Stringer to provide a winning score. Essendon have shown this season that they can find other avenues to score, defenders and midfielders alike are having more of an influence on their scoreboard than in years gone by. This has been evident by seeing players such as Mason Redman, Kyle Langford, Will Snelling and Darcy Parish find the scoreboard at times when playing outside the forward line.

A to Ziebell- With Devon Smith missing this clash with a hamstring injury, and Jye Caldwell not likely to return for a number of months, Essendon are lacking in their run-with department. They have trialed players such as Will Snelling, Andrew McGrath and even David Zaharakis in his early days, in that position, but haven’t had anyone really hold down the post since the retirement of Heath Hocking. They will have to do something to limit the influence of Jack Ziebell. The North skipper is having a terrific season considering how the club is travelling and was one of the catalysts in their comeback against Hawthorn last week. If the Bombers can’t hold him back early, they may lose control of this one.

Thanks for tuning in again folks. As usual, any requests, quarrels or corrections feel free to hit up the comments. If you like what you see or you think it’s a crock, let us know. Enjoy your weekend of football.

 

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