Good Friday is always a nice little break after a busy start to the year. What makes Good Friday even better is watching the footy, enjoying some beers, and firing up the BBQ and slapping down some red meat (pretty much the opposite of what the Church recommends).

In the fifth edition of Good Friday Footy, and the third overall clash between these two sides on this holiday, the 17th placed Roos played host to the 14th placed Dogs in this Holiest of Clashes. With both sides sitting at 1-3 after four rounds, we expected a hungry contest, but only one team was going home with a basket full of chocolates.

 

THE STORY SO FAR

Last week we saw a different North Melbourne side nearly cause the upset of the season so far. Playing the Swans on their home deck is always a hard task at the best of times, and many tipped the Swans to run away comfortable victors. With a late scare that saw the Roos in front with only six minutes left on the clock, experience took over and the Swans were able to steal the win from an inexperienced yet gallant Kangaroos outfit. It was a nice turnaround from the 108 point Will Smith slapping they received a week prior from the Lions, but like the Kangaroos of last season, you expect this side to slowly gain some momentum and string some impressive wins together in the coming weeks. It’s only a question of when, and I’m sure all the Bulldogs faithful were praying to their Lord and Saviour, E. J. Whitten, that it wasn’t this week.

The boys from Footscray weren’t terrible by any means last week, nearly winning every area on the stat sheet, apart from the one that ultimately matters, the scoreboard. With a final score of 7.19 (61) from 57 entries, and accuracy in front of goal that would make 2003 era Ian ‘The Sarge’ Perrie look like Tony Lockett, the result could’ve easily been very different for Beveridge’s boys. Goal kicking practice would’ve been hot on the agenda at Whitten Oval this week, as it’s still amazingly an underrated skill.

The 2021 Good Friday meeting between these two saw the Dogs hand the Roos a 128 point spanking. If the Dogs’ engine room could clean up their inside 50 entries, they could take control of the game in the midfield and use their trademark pace to give their forwards first option, forcing the Kangaroos to chase tail all match and possibly hand out another Good Friday Crucifixion.

 

 

HOW IT STARTED

Very early on (and I mean very early, maybe the first 45 seconds) it looked like the Kangaroos were up for the fight before Jack Ziebell dropped a chest mark, the ball rebounded up the other end, and Cody Weightman opened up the account for the night, kicking a beautiful sausage roll on his opposite foot. This set the tone for the next half hour of footy.

The Dogs kicked five goals in a row before the Kangaroos showed some form of life through Jaidyn Stephenson, registering the first for the home team. After a minute of relief for North, the Dogs were hell-bent on making this a Bad Friday for the Kangaroos (what a pun), utterly ruthless in kicking another three goals in five minutes, taking their quarter time score to 8.3 (51), their equal first highest quarter time score under Luke Beveridge. Weightman was the main weapon in a dominant display, kicking four goals for the quarter, with top dog Marcus Bontempelli setting up camp inside forward 50, assisting the first goal, and kicking the next two himself, if you don’t mind.

With $1,200 going towards The Royal Children’s Hospital with every goal that’s kicked for the game (a great campaign for a great cause), and the Dogs registering 25 goals in last season’s meeting, you can’t blame the RCH for getting excited at Quarter Time at the prospect of another clinic by the Doggies.

 

 

KANGAROOS OR WOOKIES?

I’m not sure if David Noble told his troopers they were at the famous Star Wars Celebration, but from the amount of ‘space’ his Droids allowed the Bulldogs in the first quarter, one could be forgiven for thinking they were. The Dogs put the Roos to the Lightsaber in this area, winning the uncontested possession 74-29 in a dominant display of pressuring the Kangaroos in tight, forcing the turnover, then gaining possession and finding unmanned targets aplenty, resulting in the ever-underrated scoreboard pressure.

From here, the Kangaroos tightened up the screws somewhat, but the damage was already done, with the Dogs walking away winning this stat 273-163 (a differential of a whopping 110), as well as the midfield flexing their muscle and winning the contested possession 156-120.

 

 

PRESSURE

There are a lot of things in our beautiful sport that make it compulsory viewing. Whether it be a player kicking a bag or milestone goal. The G-Train in attendance handing out Four ‘N’ Twenty pies as if he were Santa Claus. A coach defending his team and ripping into a Journo. The list goes on, but one of the best things is watching a team apply white-hot pressure, and the Kangaroos brought it in spades for the second quarter.

As it happens in most games, the momentum had well and truly swung, and the Roos were riding it as hard as they could. On the back of great efforts and some guts shown by Davies-Uniacke, Simpkin and Horne-Francis, this team was starting to look like a complete polar opposite from their first-quarter efforts. The Roos had decided that they finally wanted to play some footy, winning clearances 12-8 for the quarter, as well as tackles inside fifty 7-5. You could smell they were starting to believe, and shaved a 45 point quarter time deficit to just 19 points in the shadows of halftime, which included an impressive four goals scored from just six inside 50 entries, as well as drawing level in contested possession for the quarter (24 a piece).

Kangaroos fans would’ve loved what they were seeing from this rejuvenated side who looked all but dead and gone at quarter time. Not one fan dared to walk away from this display of determination, not even to walk to the bar to top up on some Great Northerns (wait until halftime you peanuts, there’s plenty to go around). The only question was, would they be able to keep up this pressure and overrun the shell-shocked Dogs?

Well, four minutes into the third quarter the stats spoke for themselves (and no doubt a good old fashioned spray from Beveridge helped, too), with the Dogs outmarking the Roos 13-0, and killing them disposal wise 20-3. It was the beginning of the end for the Kangaroos after a hard-fought second term.

 

 

DEAD-EYE DOGS

Making a complete Dogs’ Breakfast of accuracy in front of goal, the Dogs kicked wayward for a combined score of 16. 36 (132) over Rounds Three and Four. It’s a poor effort when you consider they registered a total of 116 Inside 50’s for those two games alone, only to register 16 goals, averaging an Inside 50 efficiency of 38%.

After weathering the storm of the Kangaroos’ second term purge, the Dogs kicked back into gear in the third and kicked away, and accurately too for added bonus.

So far this season the Dogs’ highest score came in Round 2, kicking 13.12 (90). Tonight was a different story altogether, reaching the 13 goal mark half way through the third quarter. Pushing their paw on the Kangaroos’ throats, the Sons of the West motored on, kicking a mammoth 21.13 from 67 inside 50’s, going at 51% efficiency (at one point even being on an accurate score of 18.5).It was clear the confidence was back in front of the big sticks, and they ate it up. And one guy was the clear difference….

 

 

NAUGHTON BY NATURE (NOT COZ HE HATES YA!)

Last week against Richmond, the Bulldogs were not only lacking accuracy in front of goal, but also the constant forward presence to kick a winning score. Tonight, Naughton was determined to be the guy to rectify this. Arguably single-handedly grabbing the game by the plums and driving it home for his boys, Naughton was huge. Bagging five goals as well as nine score involvements and one goal assist, he was clearly the difference in a confident display of Big Forward energy.

Also, can we just talk about that goal in the third quarter? You know the one? Naughton casually plucking it out the ruck, running around and snapping a beauty? Poetic. It’s clear as day listening to Wayne Carey talk that he has a huge man-crush on the Naught, and who wouldn’t with that 80’s John McEnroe headband? The lad is the future of the club, and will be an even bigger weapon in coming seasons.

 

 

#1 CURSE

It seems the latest trend to be a #1 pick is to have a hyphenated last name, and tonight there were two representatives, and both seem to be having very different starts to their careers.

Jason Horne-Francis looks to be more comfortable at the moment at AFL level, playing half the amount of games as Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, and already averaging double numbers stat-wise. Respectfully, they do play in two different positions, and being a developing forward would be harder. You need to condition your body, you play on the opposition’s biggest players, and you need to provide a constant target and read the play very well. For me the noticeable difference is the confidence levels at this stage of these young lads’ careers. Horne-Francis looks to have taken to the #1 brand well and is fitting in nicely in the Roos’ engine room, whereas Ugle-Hagan looks like he needs a nudge and a hug from Mum before he flies into a contest, and sometimes looks as if he’s unsure what his role is in the Doggies’ forward line.

Up until the halfway mark of the third quarter, Ugle-Hagan only had three touches to his name (which is a quiet evening for a forward when your team has kicked 14 goals up to this point), and it looked like he would disappear into the background, play decoy and let Naughton take centre stage for the night. Finishing the game on only five touches, he did find a way to make himself a target throughout the last quarter, and it was evident his confidence was growing as he ended the night with a goal next to his name. He’ll only get better with time and confidence, as most young forwards do. So stay patient, his time is coming.

 

 

SOME FOR THE RECORD BOOKS

There were a few PB’s tonight, and they are as follows:

Ball magnet and part-time Instagram model Bailey Smith registered a career-high 43 disposals (13 contested, 32 uncontested), including nine score involvements, seven inside 50’s, going at a disposal efficiency of 72% with 31 effective disposals. Watching the game I thought a lot of his possessions weren’t all that efficient, and the number reflected something more of a ‘Tom Mitchell 50 possession game’ with two metres gained, but the stats don’t lie, so I guess he’ll gain a few more Instagram followers tonight.

Cody Weightman kicked a career-high five goals, with four of those in the first quarter. Cody has the potential to be a great small forward in coming years, but one thing that REALLY GETS ON MY NERVES is the blatant staging and flailing around looking for a free. It’s at the point now that whenever he gets near the pill, I sit in anticipation for an Oscar-winning performance that Morgan Freeman would be proud of. Once he learns to put that bullshit aside and just focus on the game, he’ll be a gun.

Not a great record to beat, but tonight the Kangaroos registered their lowest quarter-time disposal count in 18 years, notching up just 53. And to think Greg ‘Diesel’ Williams would get those numbers just by eating his breakfast in the morning.

 

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Tim English –

I really enjoyed English’s game tonight. In parts, he was playing like a rover and looked fast on his feet. Granted he lost the hitout count to Xerri by four (so why are you giving him an honourable mention?) Great question. He finished with 10 contested possessions, seven inside 50’s, 10 score involvements and kicked a snag. Not bad for a big guy.

 

Luke Davies-Uniacke –

Not many North players caught my eye tonight, but LDU was the one player really working his ring off to get his team back into gear, as well as being very clean with the pill finishing at an efficiency of 86%.

 

Caleb Daniel –

As the season goes on, I find myself getting a man-crush bigger than Caleb himself. This guy’s on field vision is impeccable, and his disposal is something to behold. He rarely fluffs a kick, and nine times out of ten he laces his target out EVERY. DAMN. TIME. His disposal efficiency of 91% tonight backs this up. He’s the best back pocket in the game.

 

WHAT NOW FOR BOTH TEAMS?

The Roos play host to Geelong down at Blundstone Arena. The venue has sort of become a fortress for North as of late, rarely losing whenever they play on that wind tunnel, but a hungry Geelong outfit won’t be an easy task. They’ll want to clean up their hunt for the ball and guarding of space if they wish to get close to the Cats.

As for the Dogs, they host a young and pumped up Crows side at their adopted home at Mars Stadium in Ballarat. Now sitting 2-3, they’ll be hoping they can go one better and climb to 3-3, and really start to setup the rest of their 2022 campaign.

 

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