With their season shot, and coming off a 98-point loss to the Demons, you could be forgiven for thinking the Gold Coast Suns would phone in the remainder of the season. After all, it has become somewhat of their trademark over the last few years, right?

On the flip side, you had Carlton, who, believe it or not, were playing to keep their faint chance of finals alive… and if there is any team that knows how to keep a fire burning just enough to give their supporters the slightest amount of warmth, it’s the Blues.

Of course, they then snuff it out, leaving their long-suffering supporters out in the cold.

Again.

They had some help in this one, with the Gold Coast using a third quarter of hard, dirty work to set them up for the win, capping it off with some good finishing in the last, whilst restricting the hapless Blues to under 60 points for just the third time this season.

In perfect conditions under the roof at Marvel, the Suns proved that their trajectory is upwards. And the Blues… well, they disappointed again.

Here are The Mongrel’s Big Questions

 

 

HOW MUCH CHARACTER DID WIL POWELL SHOW IN THIS ONE?

A strange place to start? Maybe, but I loved the battle between Powell and Jack Martin in this one.

Martin jumped out of the box, and looked to be dragging Powell into places he really didn’t want to go. This was compounded by Powell dropping two intercept marks which allowed the Blues to get into scoring positions.

A lesser man would have gone into his shell at this point, but in watching the way Wil Powell conducted himself in this game, and the way he worked back, not just to break even, but to give the Suns powerful drive from the half back line, I could not help but be impressed.

Martin had four touches and three marks in the first quarter, but managed just seven touches and three marks for the remainder of the contest, as Powell picked up 25 of his 28 touches after quarter time.

Powell’s lift gave the Suns a legitimate winner inside defensive fifty as he picked up nine intercepts, laid seven tackles and had ten rebound-fifty disposals. Whilst Martin had a moment or two, it seemed as though the entire last three quarters belong to Powell.

He has been viewed as a bright prospect all season, and at 21, he will be part of this Gold Coast defence for a long while, but there are games when a player really seems to arrive, and in this one, I get the feeling we saw the acorn that was Will Powell start to transform into the oak tree that will be one of the best intercept defenders in the game over the next 8-9 years.

 

ARE THE SUNS “FATTENING UP” BRAYDEN FIORINI, OR IS HE A GENUINE PART OF THEIR MIDFIELD GOING FORWARD?

I have been thinking about this for a while.

I have not seen someone fall out of favour to the extent I saw Brayden Fiorini fall from grace at Gold Coast in 2020/21.

After leading the Suns in disposals in 2019, with over 25 per game, Fiorini was suddenly the invisible man on the team in 2020, averaging 13 touches in his five games, whilst he was played out of position. As we started 2021, he was still on the outer, but in the second half of the season, he has forced his way back into this Suns lineup and is finding plenty of the footy.

Whilst disposal efficiency remains a slight issue, Fiorini, playing a vital role in the Suns’ midfield since Round 14, will have seen his value rise on the open market. He is contracted to the Suns for next season, which may give them some bargaining power IF they decide that he is not part of their future plans.

I could see many teams interested in acquiring his talents.

But let’s say they’re not fattening him up like a turkey before Christmas – what role does he play with the Suns’ midfield up and running at full strength? You throw in Greenwood, a fit Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson, Elijah Hollands, Touk Miller and David Swallow – does Fiorini get squeezed out again? And is he content with that?

His is a name that I will be following as we head toward the end of the 2021 season. Whether he stays or goes, his second half to this season has well and truly put his name back in the limelight as one of the better young mids in the caper, and his work opposite Patrick Cripps in this one was exemplary.

 

IF THE BLUES GET THIS VERSION OF PATRICK CRIPPS FOR THE NEXT SIX SEASONS, IS IT THE WORST CONTRACT IN THE GAME?

Yep, and not by a short distance either.

Fellow Mongrel, Brett Hodgson, pointed out that Cripps has as many years remaining on his extension as he had kicks in this game, and given the standard of his kicks, Carlton would be praying that he gets better, both in terms of his kicking and overall play by the time 2022 rolls around.

It’s hard to believe that just two seasons back, Patrick Cripps was the toast of Carlton. Averaging 28 touches and over six tackles per game, Cripps was comfortably in the top ten players in the league. Where would he be right now? Would he squeeze into the top twenty mids? Top thirty?

Cripps has had 30+ disposals just once in 2021. He has had 10+ clearances the same number. Even in the shortened game time of 2020, he managed similar highs. Back in 2019, he had 10+ clearances seven times and had 30+ on nine occasions.

Right now, he is a shadow of the player that put this team on his back so often, and though he shows signs of crashing through tackles and the strength that made him such a force, the way he is disposing of the footy is questionable, and I am surprised that he was not pinged for holding the footy more times, after he crashed into the tackler and simply let the ball fall out of his grasp.

Many speculated that the work Cripps was doing at Carlton would take a toll on him. This season has seen him regress dramatically, and unless he is able to work into shape in 2022, this could be a very long six years for the Blues fans as they watch the player he is, and remember the player he was.

Fingers crossed Cripps is able to get into game shape before the 2022 season kicks off.

 

WITH THE TWO MOST DOMINANT DEFENDERS ON THE GROUND, HOW CAN CARLTON KEEP SCREWING UP?

I’m at a loss.

With the way Jacob Weitering and Liam Jones control the defensive fifty, how can Carlton remain so… so… so shit?

Let’s take a look at what they did in this one.

Weitering had a monster game, completely nullifying the influence of Ben King to the point where King looked beaten before the ball even came into his area. The reigning Carlton Best and Fairest had 14 intercepts to go along with seven one percenters as King moped around like a grumpy toddler.

His partner in defensive crime, Liam Jones, notched 11 one percenters to go along with seven intercepts.

Anyone wanna do some maths? That’s 39 contests the pair either won, or broke even on. Whilst I am well aware that a few of these contests would have been outside the 50-metre arc, the Suns only had 52 inside 50s for the game, so what the hell is going on with the rest of this Carlton defence?

You’d be hard-pressed to lay much blame at the feet of either Jones or Weitering, but the lack of meaningful run out of defence from Saad, Stocker and Williamson is a huge concern. I cannot believe I am writing this, as I have been a critic of his this season, but the Blues really missed the dare of Zac Williams in this one, and I reckon there needs to be some real attention paid to their defensive structure headed into the 2022 season. No more trading for half backs who have designs on playing in the midfield – they need someone who can run AND defend… not one or the other.

 

WHERE IS MATT ROWELL AT?

I’m not really sure. He looks to be lacking what you’d call in basketball, a “first step”, inasmuch as he seems to be lacking that power from the contests that he demonstrated in his first few games on the season in 2020.

Maybe we’re expecting a little too much from Rowell. Two significant injuries in his first year and a half in the game are obviously going to slow anyone down, but with just three touches to half time, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking he was possibly not right.

He was better in the second half, notching ten touches, and lifted his workrate around the contest in the last quarter, but the sure thing of 2020 has gone to a “pretty likely” in regard to his future this season. Rowell was the feel-good story of the early stages of 2020, and he came along at a time when most of us needed some good news in footy. Injuries may have slowed him this season, but sitting here in Melbourne, there are more than a few of us down the East Coast that could use a bit of a pick-me-up if you’re reading, Matt.

 

WHAT DID JACOB TOWNSEND ADD TO THIS TEAM?

Grunt.

Mongrel.

A presence inside 50 that makes up for the passive actions of Ben King.

If you’re a Suns fan, you may bristle a little at that last comment, but you’d also know it’s true. As good as King is, and will be, he is too easily taken out of the contest, and lacks the genuine mongrel to fight his way back in. Having Jacob Townsend stalking around the forward fifty like a hungry wolf starts to even that up a bit.

Did you know that wolves are one of the only animals that actively seek revenge? I heard that in a movie called The Grey, with Liam Neeson… worth a watch. But that is how I view Townsend. For so long, he has been on the cusp of teams. He was on the cusp at GWS for four seasons, then around the mark at Richmond, then played 12 games with the Bombers.

Now, you would think he would be on his last opportunity with his fourth team, and he attacked the contest like a man wanting to exact revenge on those who doubted him. He threw himself into contests, took his opportunities, and his tackle on the unsuspecting Jacob Weitering was delivered with the rare combination of care not to slam him too hard into the deck, and a bone-jolting initial contact that caused Weitering to lose control of the footy and give up the free kick.

In case you have not noticed, I am a believer in the way Townsend goes about his footy, and though injury and suspension (I believe?) have limited his chances in the Gold Coast team this season, his aggression and attack on the footy make him a welcome addition to a team that at times lacks someone up forward willing to do some damage.

 

IS JOEL JEFFREY A BETTER BET THAN IZAK RANKINE?

He showed a bit, without taking the world by storm, and had he kicked well, could have had three goals.

Come to think of it, it sounds like the way I have explained games from Izak Rankine in the past. Are they like for like? Not really – Jeffrey is a hell of a lot better in an aerial contest, and though it came to nothing, his endeavour on the deck to paddle the ball along and remain in the contest was the meat and potatoes aspect to his game that Stuart Dew may prefer over the all-sizzle game of Rankine.

It’s way too early to start bandying around possibilities of whether the Suns are better off having Jeffrey in the side over Rankine, but what is good about this situation is that it could light a fire under Rankine to start knuckling down and becoming more of a hard worker inside 50 than just the highlight machine that produces here or there.

For the record, Jeffrey looked good in patches, but the sample size is way too small just yet. I’d like to see him get another crack at it.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PADDY DOW RENAISSANCE?

It fell on its arse in this game, that’s for sure.

It was a bit of a throwback game for Dow, who looked tentative and seemed completely out of his depth in the midfield. He still put his body in, but he was just unable to get his hands on the footy, registering just eight touches for the game, effectively leaving the Blues one short in the middle of the ground.

Dow’s season has reflected that of the Blues in a microcosm. He is capable of looking great, and has, at times, caused Carlton supporters to think that he may actually reach the levels they envisioned when they drafted him third overall in the 2017 Draft – it seems so long ago now, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, interspersed with his 20+ disposal games are the slaps in the face of reality like this.

He tackled well, if you’re looking for a positive, but when you can’t get your hands on the footy, what else is there to do? There are a few blokes taken immediately before or after him that he will always be assessed against. Right now, when you mention the names of Andrew Brayshaw, Luke Davies-Uniacke, and Adam Cerra, all are a cut above Dow.

Maybe a purely defensive mid role is on the cards for him in the future?

 

IF EDDIE BETTS PLAYS NEXT SEASON, WAS THE CARLTON REVIEW A POINTLESS EXERCISE?

Credit where it’s due – fellow Mongrel, Julian Russo channelled Damien Barrett to proudly announce that…

IF… Eddie Betts plays on next year

THEN… the review at Carlton has failed.

He was blanketed by Sean Lemmens in this game, and with no disrespect at all intended toward Lemmens, this was a matchup Betts would have been licking his lips about a few years back. Instead, what we saw was a passive, inconsequential game from Betts, who looked every bit his 34 years as he as beaten by the young Sun.

He registered five disposals for the game and added a nice, big goose egg in the tackles column as well. Sure, he slotted a goal, but in terms of impact on the contest, Betts was as far from effective as he has ever been.

Prior to this season, I wondered in columns left, right and centre, whether Betts should have been part of this Carlton side. Yes, it was a lovely gesture by the Blues, and yes, I am sure that supporters enjoyed the Eddie Betts farewell tour at times this season, but games like this were exactly why I was a little sceptical as to whether he had another 12 months of footy in him.

And now, we’re hearing that he might play on? Oh geez…

Common sense prevails here, and Betts surely slots into an advisory or coaching role with the Blues next season, right? If you’re trotting him out and hoping he can provide something special, I’m sorry… you’ll be very disappointed.

After two disposals against North in Round 19, this five-touch game should be the final indicator that looking forward at Carlton can no longer involve looking back with rose-coloured glasses.

The future is in Josh Honey and the like. Eddie’s time is done, and it has never been more apparent.

 

IS THAT THE BEST GAME WE’VE SEEN FROM NOAH ANDERSON IN 2021?

Yes sir… yes it is.

Anderson has had an up-and-down season, and has looked at times as though he is a bit lost in the Suns’ midfield. Playing on the wing in 2020, and with much of the attention going on Rowell initially, Anderson was able to ease into AFL footy, and showed a fair bit in the process.

And then more was expected of him in 2021.

I believe it is fair to state that Anderson has struggled this season. He has looked out of place and visibly annoyed at points of the season – at what, I do not know – but he has definitely shown signs at points that indicate he has every opportunity to be a star in this league.

This was the fifth 30+ disposal game for Anderson in 2021, so the talent is obviously there, but when you weigh that up against the eight games he has registered less than 20 disposals, it more than evens out. If anything, it ventures into the more disappointing territory. Second-year blues are common in professional sports, and the only way to dispense of them is via hard run and hard work. What we saw from Anderson in this game was exactly that. He was strong in the contests, matched up against the likes of Walsh, Cripps and… well, throw Dow in there as well, although I don’t think he offered much in the way of resistance. He finished with nine clearances to lead all players, and drove the Suns inside 50 on seven occasions.

Sometimes, you watch a young player and how hard they work without the footy. You can tell a lot about how desperate a player is and what their work ethic looks like by seeing how they cover the ground and how hard they work to the next contest. Anderson has a great example in the form of Touk Miller, and his application matched that of his number one midfielder. Let’s hope Anderson can string a few good games together and aid his team to do the opposite of what they’ve managed in recent seasons – finish on a high.

 

HOW SORRY DO WE FEEL FOR MATT OMAN?

Our resident Mongrel All-Australian selector made the big call to drop Touk Miller from his Rolling All-Australian team this week, and then the Gold Coast star goes out and does this?

Talk about putting the heat on Matt!

Miller was a giant in this game, notching 34 touches and seven clearances in another vote-catching performance. Drawing a free kick inside fifty (admittedly, a pretty soft one), it was Miller slotting the goal to give the Suns breathing room in the last quarter, after several nervous moments in the first five minutes.

At that point, the Suns looked like they were playing panicked footy – like a team that almost expected their opposition was going to come at them forcefully, and that they would wilt under the pressure, but with Miller running hard to provide option after option, and having solid backup in the form of Anderson, Powell and Fiorini, he was able to steady his team and steer them toward the finish line.

And so, Matt Oman… the challenge is now with you, my friend. You asked the question of Touk Miller and he responded once again. The argument that his team was playing poor footy now seems to be pushed aside. On form, can you leave him out?

Better you deciding this, than me, my friend. Suns fans… I reckon you should let Matt know all about how good Miller has been in 2021 in the comments. I am sure he’d love to hear from you!

 

And that may just do me. The Suns played the role of spoiler and effectively ended the Blues’ season. In many ways, they put Carlton fans out of their misery, and in the process gave their own supporters some hope that things are not as bad as last week indicated.

Heavy losses occur to young-ish teams, and the Suns still fit that bill. In 2022, they may not make finals, but the next step is ceasing blowouts like we saw last week. If they bring the same game they did this week, that will take care of itself.

 

 

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