Welcome ladies, gentlemen and all others inclusive to this week’s Mongrel Preview. I wouldn’t bother putting the kettle on because we’re gearing up for an even shorter, bye-induced round of football this week, with Adelaide, Collingwood, Fremantle, Melbourne, St. Kilda, Sydney, Richmond and West Coast will all having the bye.

But before we delve too far into the week ahead, let’s check out the highs and lows of Round 13.

A welcome return of Thursday night football gave us Port Adelaide vs Geelong from Adelaide Oval. There were multiple lead changes throughout this one before the Cats rallied late and flexed their top four credentials, winning by 21 points.

Highs – 12.6 to Geelong’s power-trio of Hawkins, Cameron and Rohan in a dominant forward display. A four goal first quarter to Connor Rozee including a couple of pearlers. Dangerfield made his successful return to football.

Lows – Another loss to a top team. Port were still well and truly in this until late and avoided a blowout, but it still leaves questions around their ability against stronger teams.

Over in Sydney we had the first upset of the round with the lowly Hawks taking it up to and running straight over a slow, stagnant Sydney Swans. Ruckman Jonathan Ceglar played the game of his life in the ruck and around the ground, popping up forward to kick a goal for the Hawks.

Highs – Hawks winning a game, let alone against a quality side like the Swans, so convincingly on Sydney’s own turf. Plenty to like about some of the Hawks younger players. CJ back to his early season form and Jai Newcombe laying a record 14 tackles on debut.

Lows – Will Hayward copped a nasty concussion whilst contesting the ball in an accidental collision with Jaeger O’Meara. The dangerous forward combo of Franklin, Heeney and Papley combined for a measly two goals – well down on their current form. James Worpel reported for a dangerous tackle.

Over in the West, the Dockers proved too strong for the inaccurate Suns. After kicking the first goal of the game the momentum was all Fremantle’s from there on out. Gold Coast would get it back within a kick in the third, but late goals to Liam Henry and Rory Lobb sealed this one for the Dockers.

Highs – Sean Darcy played a strong hand in the ruck and backed it up around the ground, kicking a goal for his troubles. I like the look of Josh Treacy, he kicked 2.3 but could’ve easily had a bag of four or five to his name. Touk Miller is an absolute star and would be spoken about a lot higher if he played for a bigger club. Alex Pearce’s return to football solidified by keeping Ben King well and truly held.

Lows – The skill errors from both teams were horrendous, definitely not a game that’ll have people rushing to catch the replay any time soon. After starting to string together a couple of wins the Suns have slipped to four losses in their last five games.

Look away Saints fans. Nothing you’ve read over the past few days will have been pretty, and my take on this game won’t be any exception. Playing out of Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns, the Saints kept the Crows goalless until well into the second quarter, all the while getting out to almost a 40 point lead. Once the third quarter was started it was all one way traffic for the Crows who would gain the lead for the first time in the match in the dying seconds to deny St. Kilda the win.

Highs – Not much was higher than the spirits of the Adelaide players after this one. Young Rhiley Thilthorpe kicked three goals including the matchwinner, Reilly O’Brien cemented his form by notching up the most career hitouts by any player after 50 games and Seedsman, Laird and Keays just go from strength to strength. Jack Steele is all but carrying the Saints upon his own back.

Lows – St. Kilda Football Club. Almost as a whole. Their lack of composure to run out a game, even when looking decent in the first half and gaining such a healthy lead is a horrible indication of where they’re at. Their injury list is also a fairly low point, but the fact that they didn’t just drop the ball, they let it roll on the road and be run over by Adelaide’s bus speaks numbers. Kicking 1.6 after half time to Adelaide’s 7.6 says it all.

Is there a more underachieving team in the AFL than GWS over the past five years? In terms of the quality of their list, but the inability to win the games required and having something to show for it? After traveling down to Blundstone Arena in Hobart, the Giants were on the back foot all day as they conceded lead after lead to the Kangaroos. If they were up against any other team in the league playing the way they did, they would’ve been trounced. They’re borderline lucky that they played the team that resides on the bottom of the ladder which ultimately afforded them a drawn match.

Highs – Some promising signs for North fans that have been starved for so long. Although the game ended in a draw, Kangaroos’ supporters can hold their heads high that their team outplayed a much better team for the best part of four quarters. Ben Cunnington is showing no signs of losing any of his tenacity, Aaron Hall is becoming a revelation this season and Jy Simpkin battled it out all day. Shoutout to the game of Josh Kelly. With news circulating this week that he’s looking to get out of Dodge, almost 40 disposals, 12 score involvements, six tackles, five clearances and two goals is not a bad little dress rehearsal to show other clubs just what you have to offer.

Lows – Whilst GWS were far from terrible, there were plenty of moments that they’d love to have their time over. They were honestly outplayed by a team that looked miles above what they’ve shown us for the best part of this season. It’s easy to potshot a bloke who played his first game back in a while, but as lethal as Toby Greene looked, kicking 1.4 hurt his team. Whilst still productive, the Giants’ midfield looked feeble when the ball landed in the hands of anyone but Kelly or Taranto.

West Coast and Richmond played out what would be the game of the round. An absolute thriller that went down to the wire. After a tight first half that saw a vastly even contest and a scoreline reflecting as such, the Tigers would kick away in the third and again in the fourth quarter to get out by almost a four-goal lead. Not to be denied, Waterman, Cripps and Allen would all goal late in the fourth to get the Eagles to within a kick. Elliot Yeo played the last quarter like a man possessed – it’s easy to forget just how good a player is when he’s spent 12 months on the pine.  A late run by Liam Ryan and a diving mark, followed by clutch snapped goal from the boundary by Josh Kennedy to clinch the game for the Eagles.

Highs – As mentioned, Elliot Yeo reminded us of just how big of a role he played in this team, Jack Redden also having a standout game. Nic Naitanui had a field day against the lesser experienced Mabior Chol and Shannon Hurn took multiple saving grace marks in the last quarter. This may be the big win West Coast needed to break the shackles for their latter half of the season.

Lows – Richmond’s midfield that methodically picked apart Essendon looked a shadow of last week’s form. Castagna, Cotchin, Pickett and Caddy at times looked like passengers as the same few did the bulk of the heavy lifting.

Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne… You can’t really throw down on a team that’s sitting atop the AFL ladder with a 12-2 record – but you can say this: if any team was going to succumb to their inner demons (pun kind of intended), then it would be Melbourne. I didn’t trust Collingwood enough to tip them this week, but in the back of my mind I just had this niggling itch that the Magpies would get it done in senior coach and club legend Nathan Buckley’s last game. Collingwood would lead for the majority of the day as they looked the better team from the outset. Melbourne at times looked slow and disinterested almost, like as if the game was just going to hand itself to them eventually. A fitting send off to the tune of 17 points in a Queen’s Birthday clash.

Highs – Darcy Cameron bagged his best ever return by booting four goals and taking three contested marks for the Magpies. After struggling at times this season Brody Mihocek also looked strong for Collingwood up forward for most of the afternoon. He was presenting well and snagged three goals. Isaac Quaynor’s stat sheet may not read as impressive, but he blanketed the damaging Kossie Pickett for the best part of the day. When Melbourne needed a spark, Pickett just wasn’t there to be found and that was largely thanks to Quaynor’s defensive effort.

Lows – As stupid as it sounds, it was like as if Melbourne were just waiting for the game to go their way, without exerting much authority. As good as Petracca looked, his disposal by foot was poor and cost the Demons on the rebound. Weideman just wasn’t providing much up forward, but at times it was like the Melbourne mids were picking out the Collingwood defenders. A week off to reset should do the trick for the Demons.

There we have it folks, with all that said and done, let’s jump on over and check out the short week we have ahead of us.

 

Teams

Geelong vs Western Bulldogs

 

Snapshot
We’re set to be treated to get another top four clash with the Cats set to host the Bulldogs down at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong. The Cats will come in hot off a 21 point away win over the highly touted Port Adelaide as the Dogs are fresh off their week off, compliments of the bye. With a rather healthy list and minimal current casualties, the Cats are looking to be full strength as we gain on the important part of the season. The Bulldogs still have a stretch of important players sidelined for the near future, as they’ll sweat on the fitness of ruckman Stefan Martin and his chances of playing in this blockbuster Friday night affair.

So what does it all mean?
The Bulldogs are sitting second on the ladder and are currently a game clear of Geelong. If the Cats were to win this one, the Bulldogs sizable percentage would almost certainly keep them in second place, however, it would then be neck and neck for second position from there on out, as the Cats would no doubt have Melbourne and the number one rung on the ladder in their sights.

All eyes on:
Danger Man – Patrick Dangerfield made his return to football last week after injuring his ankle way back in round five against North Melbourne. Whilst his game was a quiet one by his lofty standards (still managing 10 contested disposals from his 18 and seven clearances), Chris Scott and the coaching staff at Geelong would’ve no doubt been pleased that their star player and Brownlow Medalist made it through roughly three quarters of game time unscathed. Especially as the Cats are building on the back of their terrific form this season, and mounting a charge for the top of the ladder at the pointy end of the season. Geelong are now faced with the problem of having too many fit players – an enviable problem to have in our game. Cam Guthrie look set to return this week, but Gryan Miers will also start pushing his case for selection… but at the expense of whom?

Midfield Masterclass/Forward Envy – The Bulldogs boast one of, if not the most powerful midfield in the competition. Even in the absence of Adam Treloar and Josh Dunkley due to injury, they still share an abundance of talent and quality players in Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore, Marcus Bontempelli, Bailey Smith and Lachie Hunter. They’re set to lock horns this week with a team that could mount a challenge as having an equal or even stronger midfield of their own; Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, Mitch Duncan, Cam Guthrie and Shaun Higgins highlight what will be a thrilling battle out of the centre. The same can be said about the forward prospects of this match. If the rain stays away at the Cattery, we could be set for a whopping shootout with both of these teams enjoying the luxury of a potent, three-pronged tall forward setup. Much has been said about the impressive functionality of Geelong’s Hawkins, Cameron and Rohan trio, by the greater AFL media and myself for that matter. But taking into account that the opposite end of the ground will feature Aaron Naughton, Josh Bruce and Tim English means the stage could be set for an old school, tall forward’s shootout.

 

Teams

Gold Coast vs Port Adelaide

 

Snapshot
There isn’t a lot of prettiness to wrap and tie in a bow when it comes to 15th playing 5th, especially when Gold Coast have succumbed to five losses from their past six games. Port Adelaide come into this game off the back of another loss to a top eight team in Geelong, having already been beaten at the hands of Brisbane, West Coast and the Bulldogs so far this season. They’ll travel to Metricon Stadium where the Suns are set to regain Vice Captain Sam Collins.

So what does it all mean?
The Suns currently sit inside the bottom four on the ladder and are only .5% away from being a spot lower after Collingwood secured their third win of the season against Melbourne on the Queen’s Birthday fixture last week. Percentage now holds Port out of the top four as they sit equal with three other teams on eight wins for the season.

All eyes on:
More ruck pain – The Suns’ ruck woes this season have been widely publicized. Losing captain Jarrod Witts to an ACL injury, second string Zac Smith to a PCL injury and young training ruckman Matt Conroy to an ACL injury has left Gold Coast “Knee-ding” all the help that they can get – Ba-Dum Tsh. Ok, ok.. I’ll show myself the door.

But in all seriousness, with Port set to welcome back their top ruck option in Scott Lycett this week, after serving his controversial month-long ban for a dangerous tackle on Adelaide’s Ned McHenry, that left his opponent concussed, and with backup ruckman Peter Ladhams already holding his own, Port now have the advantage of a second tall to swing forward that will stretch the Suns’ already depleted tall stocks. Both Lycett and Ladhams have shown us in their games for the Power that they’re able to drift forward and hit the scoreboard, as well as win the ball in the ruck contest and gain the clearance for their club. Chris Burgess and Caleb Graham have both done an admirable job for the Suns in the ruck so far this season, given that they’ve been thrown in the deepest of ends under such unfortunate circumstances.

 

Teams

North Melbourne vs Brisbane

 

Snapshot
Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. No three words can better sum up North Melbourne’s game against Greater Western Sydney last week. In the end, it was a bittersweet finish for the Kangaroos; bitter in that they couldn’t hold onto their multiple leads for long enough to take home the four points, but sweet in that they were in most facets the better team on the day. Showing all around the ground that they could take it up to and almost, almost beat GWS with their star-studded lineup. Brisbane will head to Tasmania for this clash fresh off the bye.

So what does it all mean?
A win for North won’t get them off the bottom of the ladder, but if by way of a miracle they manage to roll the Lions who are currently very up and about, it would be the biggest win for this club in a very long time. Brisbane would love a percentage boost out of this one to get them one step closer to gaining on Geelong and their third place.

All eyes on:
Style in the Isle – Aaron Hall and Jye Simpkin love playing out of Tasmania. Both players were in top form against the Giants last week, in their team’s win over Hawthorn in round nine and Melbourne in round seven. Aaron Hall is one of a handful of Kangaroos players that will finish this season with his head held high, despite North Melbourne’s lowly finish being all but a certainty. Hall is rising to levels previously unachievable in season’s passed, ranking elite in more stats categories then ever before. His run out of the backline and linking up play through the wing has been outstanding, especially given his team’s standings this season has meant the ball spending a lot of time in defence. Whilst Jye Simpkin hasn’t been a pivotal point in as many games as he was last season, he is a player that’s definitely benefiting by having tough company next to him in the centre – namely Ben Cunnington. When North get a run of clearances out of the middle, it’s almost a given that it’s on the back of a hard ball won by one of those two.

Lion King’s Return – Brisbane’s star ball winner Lachie Neale made his return in the side’s loss to Melbourne, after spending five weeks sidelined recovering from ankle surgery. It wasn’t a three-vote game by any stretch of the imagination, it was however a perfectly timed return. Given that Brisbane had the bye the following week, Neale was able to return and play a full game of football knowing full well that he had the benefit of a 15 day break between games. With no disrespect intended, if ever a top contending team recognised a game as a potential percentage booster, it would come at the expense of North Melbourne. Although the Roos’ midfield has held up at times, Brisbane would love the odds of their own midfield having a field day and getting a much-needed percentage boost of his own morale into Lachie Neale. The sort of game that can really put a rocket up a returning player and set his trajectory for the remainder of the season.

 

Teams

Greater Western Sydney vs Carlton

 

Snapshot
GWS are currently sitting 10th on the ladder and must be pondering just where another season has gone for them. They’ve managed only five wins and a draw to North Melbourne to go with their seven losses. It may not be too late for them to turn it around, but it’s bloody close and not looking likely.
Carlton are in a worse position. After everyone jumping aboard the Teague Train for 2021, fueled by high ambitions and a sense of growth throughout the club, they’ve failed to deliver thus far. Again.

So what does it all mean?
If the Giants are absolutely any hope of featuring in September, then this game is more than a must-win for them, it’s a must-win-by-a-lot. They’ll need to win this one, comfortably, and gain a bit of a percentage boost if they’re to even think of contending finals football. For the Blues, it’s almost to a point of damage control. They need whatever wins that they can get and they need to look good, especially given the pressure building around the club’s current review. If for nothing, this game will be a good audition for GWS’s fringe players that Carlton will inevitably draft in the offseason.

All eyes on:
McKay’s Your Guy – One thing that Carlton fans can be buoyed by in another season that’s heading down the pathway of mediocrity is the re-signing of Harry McKay for an additional two years. Although it’s not the long term contract that a lot of supporters were hoping for, perhaps this will work out better in the long run for both player and club. McKay attracted interest from numerous rival clubs on the back of his scintillating form this season – in his 12 games he’s scored 38 goals and currently leads the race for the Coleman Medal. He’s one of the first of a number of high profile players whose current contracts expired this year, including Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps.

Cripps has also attracted the interest of rival clubs, however, the Blues remain confident of working towards a new deal for their superstar midfielder. Carlton will no doubt have a lot of questions asked of them at the end of this season, and more than one of those questions will be answered when we see who gets another contract for 2022. Especially given the vast number of players remaining uncontacted, including former captain Marc Murphy, Eddie Betts, Jack Silvagni, Marc Pittonet and Sam Petrevski-Seaton.

Raw de Boer – Matt de Boer’s return to the Giants’ side was a welcoming sight for GWS fans. After going down to a hamstring injury in round three, he, alongside captain Stephen Coniglio and Phil Davis, have spent considerable time on the sidelines. Despite their overall struggles as a team this season, one part of their game that Carlton lean towards being stronger in is their midfield. This posed the question, who does de Boer go to?

Will he bother trying to stop the run of Sam Walsh where many others have failed so far this season? Walsh hasn’t just taken his game to a new level, he’s skipped numerous other levels on his way there, rapidly becoming Carlton’s most consistent player. Is the temptation there for Leon Cameron to send his premier tagger to Carlton’s captain Patrick Cripps? Although he’s down on form this season, at his best, Cripps can be one of the most damaging players in the comp. Especially given his bigger body and his ability to get the ball forward and score. Is Ed Curnow more likely to cop a heavy tag? We’ve seen before that stopping his spread can be a huge thorn in Carlton’s side. With numerous options, it’s definitely going to be something that’s given a lot of thought as the Giants set their magnets up this week.

 

Teams

Essendon vs Hawthorn

 

Snapshot
This is one of those great, old-time rivalries where both teams still hate each other after generations of history have passed. Hawthorn fans hate Essendon fans and Essendon fans hate Hawthorn fans just as strongly. You’re looking at two teams that are currently at different crossroads, coming from completely different destinations in recent times. Hawthorn have been one of the most successful and dominant clubs over the past 15 years, their record speaks for itself. Essendon’s pathway has been a stark contrast, even if you ignore their disastrous years of 2012-2017, they’re a club that’s been starved of success for a very long time. The Hawks currently reside at 17th with only the Kangaroos below them. Essendon are sitting 11th after a brief stint inside the top eight, before being blown away late by Richmond a fortnight ago.

So what does it all mean?
Essendon aren’t very likely to crack the eight this year. Sorry Bombers fans, but it’s a reality. As gallant as they’ve been in some games, (having three losses by three or less points) making finals shouldn’t be on your hopes agenda for this season. That’s not saying that they haven’t taken great strides this season, but this year isn’t the one to back for your first finals win in 16 years. Hawthorn, on the other hand, are in a place that they haven’t been as a team for a long time. They’ve transitioned from one champion side to another so well over the years, utilising the draft and recruiting players from other clubs well to their advantage that it’s strange to see them in such a lowly position.

All eyes on:
Ooh, ahh no McGrath – Essendon’s number one draft pick of 2016 is sidelined with a PCL injury sustained in their Dreamtime clash against Richmond. Andrew McGrath looks likely to miss the remainder of this season, which opens up a spot inside the Bomber’s midfield. If this season’s track record for the club is anything to go by, it may just be another one of those flowers blooming from the ashes of disaster. Cast your eyes back to round two when Essendon were easily dealt with by Port Adelaide, they lost midfielders Dylan Shiel and Jye Caldwell, as well as number one ruckman Sam Draper to injuries throughout the course of the match, all three would miss months of football. In what was supposed to be doom and gloom for a transitioning football team that’s building a new team and a new game style under a new coach, actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it unlocked the midfield chastity belt that had been firmly clamped on Darcy Parish for his first 100 games.

We had seen glimpses of his potential, we had heard Geelong and other suitors express interest in acquiring Parish as an inside, ball-winning midfielder, however, we were yet to see him be played in such a position for an extended period of time. After playing his last eight or nine games there, he’s now all of a sudden in talks as being an outside smokey for the Brownlow. Regardless of that, his form has been extraordinary. Which leads me back to my original point, who will cover the loss of Andrew McGrath? After working so well in tandem with Parish and Zach Merrett in the engine room, is this a huge blow for Essendon? Or does it open the door for coach Ben Rutten to pull the pin and roll the dice in a season that already has very little riding on it in terms of success and achievements expected?

Worp’ed reality – Essendon aren’t the only team set to ring in the changes at selection this week, with James Worpel being handed down a one-match ban for a dangerous tackle on the Swans’ Harry Cunningham in the Hawks’ shock win last week. It a sizeable loss for the Hawks, especially given his onfield output this season. Although it doesn’t necessarily transcribe in the win/loss column, the cohesion I’ve seen built this season between Jaeger O’Meara, Brownlow Medalist Tom Mitchell and James Worpel has been a massive win for this team that’s very much in a rebuilding phase. Especially given the changes this team has seen throughout the season. Not only that, but the hamstring injury to young midfielder, Harry Morrison, will also force Clarko’s hand at the selection table this week. It will certainly open the door for more midfield time to younger players. After seeing the Hawks’ mid-season draft choice Jai Newcombe smash the record for most tackles on debut last week, laying 14 of them in his first game in the gold and brown. It seems to be perfect timing for the young man, who’ll be afforded more midfield minutes, with a very solid duo already in place that will aid him in honing his craft. We’ve seen already this season that Hawthorn aren’t scared to play younger players and really switch the magnets up when things aren’t working for them.

That’ll see us out for this week Mongrel faithful. Remember to get your tips in on time, eat your vitamins and correct me in the comments. Until then, I’ll see you round like a rissole.

 

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