Welcome ladies, gentlemen and all others inclusive to this week’s episode of Jimmy’s Mongrel Preview.

With yet another riveting round of football travelling from paddock to plate, let’s take a gander at the round to come.

 

Teams:

Port Adelaide vs Western Bulldogs

 

Venue:

Adelaide Oval

 

Snapshot:

A return to the Friday night doubleheader doesn’t fill one with confidence in the league’s choice of overlapping games for one of their premier fixtures. Word on the street is that they did it to free up Mother’s Day somewhat on Sunday. First up is Port hosting the Dogs, with the home side now having won their last two games in a row, after having lost their first five in dramatic fashion. The Bulldogs continue their up and down season having lost one week then won the next every week since Round Two.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Bulldogs sit a game outside of top-eight contention with a percentage that will play a huge factor in their standings if they’re not able to inflate it. Their next fortnight will see them in back-to-back Friday night games, with their next clash against Collingwood at Marvel Stadium, followed by Gold Coast at MARS Stadium in Ballarat. Power are now out of the bottom four thanks to their second win of the season over the Saints on the weekend. They have a couple of weeks on the road ahead of them, heading to Tasmania where they’ll take on the Kangaroos next week, followed by a trip to Geelong to take on the Cats at GMHBA Stadium.

 

It’s a big week for:

Ollie Wines –

You know what? I think the criticism around Wines has been unfair in the past few weeks. I’ve seen people hounding on him, questioning his Brownlow Medal win of last season, all because he had a rough patch playing for a side that lost their first five games of football after a demoralising finals loss at home late last year. Then wait for it, berating his form in his return game, the week after he was in hospital for what the club initially called a heart irregularity, that was further diagnosed as atrial fibrillation. Whilst in a lot of cases, such a diagnosis can be easily treated, one would have to take into consideration the labour on the heart of an elite athlete at the peak of his age and power. I thought he was good against the Eagles and not too bad last week in the win over the Saints, especially given the heavily publicized playing conditions in Cairns.

 

Last time they met:

That fateful Saturday night at Adelaide Oval in the Preliminary Final of last year when everything came crashing down for Port Adelaide. The final score line read 6.9.45 – 17.14.116. It was the Bulldogs’ vicious start that completely stunned the opposition, kicking seven of the first eight goals to lead by 37 points at the first break. The margin crept out to 58 at halftime as the Dogs were relentless and Port just didn’t have the answers. Standout players were Ollie Wines who battled tirelessly in a hapless side, Bailey Smith who was a force in the midfield and stormed forward for four goals, and Jack Macrae who was at his accumulating best.

 

All eyes on:

Robbie Gray –

At his absolute peak, one of the most undersold and dangerous players of his generation. You often hear how the likes of Cyril Rioli and Lance Franklin didn’t need many possessions or opportunities to win a game or hurt the opposition, Gray is in a totally different league where he can hurt you with consistent numbers, accumulate the ball and drive his side forward at his own behest. Or on the flip side of this power token, he’s more than capable of playing forward and really causing havoc for defenders, needing only a touch or a sniff of opportunity to turn nothing into something. We’ve seen it time and time again and many have highlighted it after his efforts to drag Port Adelaide over the line against the Saints last week.

Running into the forward line hard up against the boundary, Gray knew that all he had to do was score to take the lead back for Port in the dying minute, sending through a behind and then vehemently defending to lock the ball in. At 34, the seasons left in the tank may be beginning to dwindle, but the name Robbie Gray will certainly be held amongst the greatest to ever play at the club in the AFL.

 

Slam Dunkley –

Josh Dunkley was absolutely brilliant against the Bombers last week and it prompted me to do a bit of a deep dive into his stats so far this season, something that I hadn’t done for him this year. What really stood out to me is the key categories that he leads in the league, and those that he ranks highly in. I know that stats can easily be manipulated to sound more or less important than they really are, but a lot of the areas that Dunkley is excelling in are critical when judging a player’s output, and a clear indication of his potential as a player and why his opposition last week went so hardly to try and bring him over during the trade period last year. To start off, at the time of writing Dunkley is currently the number one ranked player in the game, and by a sizable margin.

He is equal top 20 for score involvements, top 20 in the league for contested possessions, equal top 10 for marks, top 10 for disposals overall, and second for tackles. I won’t further bore you by rattling off deeper and more obscure stats, but I was both surprised and not-so surprised to see his name atop the rankings at this point in the season. With Marcus Bontempelli’s output being somewhat quelled at points of the season thus far, Dunkley has taken yet another step to bring his game to a whole new level. Right in time for contract negotiations!

 

 

Teams:

Fremantle vs North Melbourne

 

Venue:

Optus Stadium

 

Snapshot:

We see a massive contrast in fortunes between these two teams. The Dockers have won their last five games which sees them third on the ladder, pushed out of second place narrowly by Brisbane’s strong percentage. North Melbourne on the other hand have now lost their past five games on the trot and look to be locked in another battle for the wooden spoon.

 

So what does it all mean?

Fremantle have flexed its contention credentials early and are comfortably inside the top four. Their upcoming weeks will both have them in the Sunday timeslot, first heading to the Gold Coast where the Suns await them, followed by a home game where they’ll take on the Magpies. For North Melbourne, nothing comes easy this season. But their upcoming fortnight isn’t one file their supporters with optimism. They’ll host Port Adelaide at their second home in Hobart before returning to their neo-traditional home at Marvel Stadium where the reigning premiers stand in wait.

 

It’s a big week for:

Cam Zurhaar –

When the bull from East Fremantle is cleaning blokes up, clunking marks and kicking goals, the circus that surrounds him with praise is enormous. But when his side is struggling and he’s not performing to a level that’s considered by those that sell papers to be of an industry-standard, that’s when the knives truly come out. This season we’ve seen Zurhaar move further up the ground and play a much different role to that of the stay-at-home, bullocking forward that we’ve seen in seasons past. With Nick Larkey being rubbed out for a one-week suspension after a tunnelling incident whilst playing Carlton last week, there will be an inevitable restructure in the forward line, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Zurhaar returned to the forward line in some capacity to provide a more prolific scoring option in a game that threatens to be a blowout.

 

Last time they met:

It was a warm, dry evening in Perth back in Round 6 of 2021 when the Dockers made light work of the Kangaroos, after a tight opening quarter, it was a run of six straight goals that took this one away from the travelling side and helped Fremantle coast to an easy win. Nat Fyfe was prolific, but scored 0.4 whilst Taberner, Schultz and Mundy combined for 11 goals. Jack Ziebell had a day out playing off half-back and finishing up with some massive numbers for the game.

 

All eyes on:

Like for like at half the price –

When Adam Cerra made the inevitable public decision that he wanted out of Fremantle on a one-way ticket to Lygon Street, not many people were overly surprised. He had become the biggest ticket item in the offseason, and the rumour mill had been churning out scoops since earlier in the year. As with any club, losing a star midfielder brings with it a certain sense of crisis, at least to the public’s perception. Fremantle had contingency plans, however, and they’ve unearthed the potential of some absolute gems amongst the throwaway piles of other clubs.

Blake Acres was a set of steak knives that were thrown in as part of the Brad Hill deal with St. Kilda, whilst Will Brodie, who has become one of the more consistent midfielders in the competition, just couldn’t find himself a gig in Gold Coast’s engine room, but has grasped his opportunity at the up-and-about Fremantle with both hands.

 

I see a North Star a-rising-

With the announcement being made that after seven rounds of football, North Melbourne’s Jason Horne-Francis has been nominated for the AFL Rising Star award, a lot of North supporters breathe a sigh of relief, amidst thoughts of ‘about time’.  His game against the Blues on the weekend has been lauded by his own coach and many others throughout the industry, and rightfully so. Not just for his onfield ability, but also his willingness to fly the flag and stick up for his club in the face of opposition mockery, in just his seventh game of football. If you haven’t yet seen it, scroll back and watch the video of him getting in the face of Carlton’s Jack Silvagni and refusing to pull any punches at any point throughout the match.

As a coach, David Noble must absolutely love these qualities from the 18-year-old. A willingness to not lay down and let another team’s taunts go without response speaks largely to his character and the sort of player that he is. Do what you can to retain this kid, North Melbourne. I’m beginning to see why there were comparisons made to the likes of Joel Selwood.

 

 

Teams:

Richmond vs Collingwood

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

One of those old-school, traditional rivalries from two of the original powerhouse teams in Victoria. Richmond and Collingwood seldom ever fail to draw a crowd, and the quality of their matches tends to reflect that. The Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak by systematically dismantling West Coast on their own ground in a heavily lopsided Friday night affair. Whilst the Magpies made it two in a row when they proved too good for the Suns.

 

So what does it all mean?

*Insert Richmond in ninth place joke here

Something we haven’t seen for a number of seasons now given their dominance of the competition, but Richmond find themselves back in their colloquially traditional place of ninth. Thanks to the percentage boost from annihilating West Coast, it’s now only the one win keeping them outside of the eight. They’ll take on the Hawks at the MCG next Saturday afternoon, and then prepare for a massive Saturday night spectacle against the Bombers at the MCG for their annual Dreamtime clash. Collingwood’s fourth win of the season earned them a place just inside the top eight. The Magpies will play the Bulldogs at Marvel on Friday night and then head to Perth for a date with Fremantle in the graveyard shift of Sunday twilight.

 

It’s a big week for:

Footy fans-

It was Anzac Day a fortnight ago when the Bombers and the Magpies drew a crowd of almost 85,000 – the largest crowd at an AFL game since the 2019 Grand Final (pre-covid). With some aspects of life returning to a slight form of normality, we are seeing more and more crowds returning to the football in droves. Given both teams’ current position on the ladder and current vein of form, this Saturday afternoon clash has the potential to be another game with the punters pouring in en masse. Perhaps the only dampener, both literally and metaphorically, will be the poor weather forecast, with the MCG set to welcome a downpour throughout the day, meaning this one may just develop into a good, old fashioned slog-fest in the wet.

 

 

Last time they met:

It was a one-sided affair for the majority of the game in Round 17, 2021 when these two sides last faced off. The Magpies trailed the Tigers by 20 points at the final break, but the injury-plagued Tigers struggled to run out the final quarter in the absence of some true firepower. The Magpies sent home seven goals to one in the final quarter to record an epic comeback victory, with their midfield able to run over the top of Richmond’s. Jack Riewoldt kicked his 700th career goal, Brodie Grundy had a day at the shops whilst the Magpies midfield unit as a whole showed plenty of flex. The final margin favouring the Magpies, 11.5.71 – 13.9.87.

 

All eyes on:

I see you, Scott-

Slowly but surely, Scott Pendlebury is gradually making his way back into the midfield fold in dribs and drabs, as required. We’ve seen at numerous times during the year that when things aren’t going to plan for the Magpies in the midfield, the message from coach Craig McRae comes on through and Pendlebury will shift from his floating role at halfback, and get a bit of a run on the ball. It was a masterstroke on Anzac Day as the Bombers’ mids started to press in the final quarter, we saw it too against Brisbane and Gold Coast. It’s a tactic usually thrown into the mix later in the game, and one that’s ticking boxes for Collingwood.

 

Everyone’s game-

Without turning this into a mud-slinging match between those that can afford, and those that can’t, I cannot for the life of me fathom how the AFL manage to allow a marquee match between two of the league’s biggest, and most popular clubs to be aired only on Foxtel. How they schedule two Saturday afternoon games to start at 1:45, and with all due respect to Sydney who are flying at the moment, and Gold Coast, opt to have their game broadcast on free to air TV over Collingwood and Richmond, a game that you’d bet your house on drawing a bigger crowd and more at-home viewers than the former, seems like a poor broadcast decision.

 

 

Teams:

Sydney vs Gold Coast

 

Venue:

SCG

 

Snapshot:

The Swans fought back admirably against the Lions but ultimately couldn’t handle the sustained pressure, with Brisbane handing Sydney their first loss in a month of otherwise good football and only the second time that the Swans have ever lost a game where Buddy Franklin kicked six goals. The Suns continued to claw their way back into their game against the Magpies, but lacked the composure to capitalise on their run and hit the lead. Their loss makes it now three in a row since their rousing victory over Carlton a month ago.

 

So what does it all mean?

Their third week in a row recording a loss has caused Gold Coast to drop back to 15th, with only 1.1% keeping them out of the bottom four. Their upcoming fortnight gets no easier for them on Paper as they fly down to Ballarat where they’ll take on the Bulldogs at MARS Stadium, and then back home to Metricon Stadium for a potentially dangerous clash with the in-form Dockers. Sydney now find themselves narrowly outside the top four thanks to St. Kilda’s superior percentage. The Swans are set to host Essendon at the SCG before coming to Melbourne for a Friday night bash against the Blues at Marvel Stadium.

 

It’s a big week for:

Gold Coast’s Back Line –

This week the Suns travel to Sydney, where they’ll take on the second-highest scoring team in the league this season. The Swans have harnessed the ability to score highly without relying on one key target in the forward line. Both Buddy Franklin and Isaac Heeney sit equal seventh in the tight Coleman Medal tally with 18 apiece, and Will Hayward also rounding out their contributors in double figures. With a midfield that finds ways to score, and quickly when required, it’ll take the absolute best from the likes of Sam Collins and Charlie Ballard, who have paired well at times together this season. A strong start will be essential for the Suns, as they’re conceding almost five goals on average every first quarter in games that they lose. We saw in their victory over the Blues that aggressive ball use out of the middle benefits their forward press exponentially. This is a key to getting on top of Sydney, but no mean feat given the potency of the Swans midfield.

 

Last time they met:

It was the Suns concluding game of the season in Round 23 of 2021 when they last met the Swans, in a game that capped off a terrible season for the Gold Coast in as anticlimactic a way as conceivable. An 87 point loss, highlighted by nine goals conceded in the final quarter alone. The Swans’ score of 136 was their highest as a club since way back in 2017. Buddy kicked six whilst Heeney and Papley chipped in with three apiece. Jordan Dawson provided quite the audition to impress the Crows in his final game in Sydney colours. The final score reading 21.10.136 – 6.13.49.

 

All eyes on:

Rising Suns-

In their past three games at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Gold Coast surprisingly hold a 2-1 advantage on the winning ledger against the Swans. Not just with a kick in it either, their wins coming with an average margin of almost five goals. They’ve found avenues to goal this season in the absence of Ben King, thanks to a regular contribution from Levi Casboult. The much-maligned former Blue is providing a tall marking target up forward, alongside wantaway Tiger Mabior Chol.

 

Storming home-

In their past two wins this season, we’ve seen the Swans kick eight goals in the final quarter alone on average. Their win against the Eagles was nothing more than a late flex as they piled on an additional seven goals in the final quarter of a game that had already blown out to an insurmountable margin. But the Hawthorn game was a completely different brand of coffee. That game, in particular, was well and truly in the balance as the Hawks had more than competed well for the entire game, even leading for the first three quarters. But it was a rapid nine-goal burst in the final quarter that not only secured the lead for the Swans, but buried the Hawks in the interim, blowing away a deficit and turning it into a 41 point win. Even though the game ended in a loss, even the Brisbane clash of last week we saw the Swans manage to harness the power of a bursting patch, largely through the dominance of Lance Franklin.

 

 

Teams:

GWS vs Geelong

 

Venue:

Manuka Oval

 

Snapshot:

In the most emphatic fashion, the Giants put a stop to their losing ways, ending the streak that saw them drop three games in a row, by powering past the Crows in a blistering first half that their opponents just couldn’t come back from. The Cats strong start to the season has started to show very small signs of unravelling as they record losses in two of their past three matches.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Giants recording their second win of the season may keep the wolves away from their door for the interim, but it doesn’t gloss over the fact that their two wins from seven games still has them in the bottom four of the ladder. Their coming fortnight will benefit them being at home as they host Carlton at Giants Stadium next week, followed by the Eagles the week after. Geelong’s two losses from three games now has them in seventh place and needing more wins if they’re to see themselves back in contention for the top four. Next week’s clash with St. Kilda at Marvel Stadium is shaping up as a potential ladder-shaping thriller. The Cats will then head back across the West Gate the week after to host Port Adelaide at GMHBA Stadium.

 

It’s a big week for:

Jeremy Cameron –

Coming up against his old side for only the second time since his well-publicised trade to Geelong, Jeremy Cameron will be looking to bounce back after being well held by Griffin Logue when he came up against the Dockers last week, being kept goalless and his influence on the game was well quelled. He kicked 2.2 against his former side in last year’s Semi-Final that saw the Cats storm home in a second-half blitz and knock the Giants out of the finals. He is averaging a tick over three goals a game at this point in the season and is sitting equal third in the Coleman Medal standings.

 

Last time they met:

As previously mentioned, the last time these two met was in last year’s Semi-Final which the cats won by 35 points. The game was contested at Optus Stadium with Geelong hitting a lead early and the Giants not having the answers, Tom Hawkins kicked five goals, Shane Mumford was influential in the ruck, whilst both Sam Menegola and Zach Tuohy had standout games.

 

All eyes on:

Cumming or going-

Finally getting some recognition from the powers that be south of the border, the defensive workrate of Cumming has forced his name onto the lips of those that commentate the sport. It’ll be a tough week for the lively defender as the Giants prepare to take on a Cat’s side hungry for retribution after a rare loss at home last week. With Zac Williams having shipped off to Carlton, a spot was opened up in the back half for a clever kicking, intercept defender that was capable of setting up play from the backline and assisting the midfield with their transition, well they sure found a mighty option in Cumming. Pound for pound, I’m convinced that his raking right boot holds up with any in the AFL that play a similar role.

 

Chasing steeples-

Does Mark Blicavs get the love that he deserves outside of Geelong? At times I don’t think that he does. When you break down his career, there aren’t many players in the game today that can lay claim to the level of versatility that the Cats have at their disposal thanks to Blicavs. This year alone we’ve seen him take on the role of number one ruckman at times, we’ve seen him down in the backline providing a tall, agile marking target that can clear the ball out of defence on his boot or through his ability to run, and even on the wing whilst working a partnership with Isaac Smith. There aren’t many blokes of his size that offer their team a level of versatility that comes close to that of Geelong’s former elite athletics runner and steeplechaser. It’s funny to look back now and think that it’s all thanks to Cam Guthrie’s dad for alerting the club to Blicavs ability, and suggesting that the club keep an eye on the junior.

 

 

Teams:

Brisbane vs West Coast

 

Venue:

Gabba

 

Snapshot:

Three wins in a row for the Lions, three losses in a row for the Eagles, as simple as that. The Lions were too good for the Swans, beating them at the SCG for the first time since 2009, only their second victory at the venue in their past 12 outings. The Eagles have slumped to a low point not often seen throughout their history, having lost their past three matches by an average of 85 points, including last week’s capitulation at home by the Tigers, that saw West Coast trail by 109 points at the final siren.

 

So what does it all mean?

Nothing comes easily for a team in the position that the Eagles find themselves, but unfortunately, a fortnight that has them pitted against the two top teams in the league, including the reigning premiers, takes things to a potentially ugly level of difficulty. After they travel to the Gabba for a game that some are predicting to be a bloodbath in terms of scoring potential, they’ll be back at home the following week where they’ll host ladder-leading Melbourne. The Lions face a couple of weeks on the road, first they must cross the border and head to Adelaide where they’ll battle the Crows on Saturday night, followed by a trip over Bass Strait to take on the Hawks at UTAS in Launceston.

 

It’s a big week for:

The West Coast WAFL side-

With 21 players on the Eagles’ senior list being ruled as unfit to play for various reasons, the club will now once again turn to their WAFL side in an attempt to field a complete team, causing the reserves side to postpone their own game due to lack of players available. I read somewhere that the 42 players who have lined up for the Eagles at this point in the season is the most since St Kilda’s season of 1910. It’s a sad, worrying state of affairs for the Western Australian clubs this season, but especially the Eagles given their compounded injury list on top of their health and wellness protocols. The prospect of facing the highest-scoring club in the game right now, on their home ground, is terrifying. Especially with coach Adam Simpson now set to miss as well, handing the reins to assistant coach, Matthew Knights. All I can say is, luckily Josh Kennedy reached his 700 goal milestone last week, otherwise, he may have been forced to play up the ground and allow a couple of younger forwards to grow, or retire.

 

Last time they met:

It was Round 23 of the 2021 season with both teams having something of importance to play for. The Lions needed a percentage booster to leapfrog the Bulldogs on the ladder and finish within the confines of the top four, earning themselves a double chance in the finals. The Eagles too had a chance, a chance to still make the top eight but weren’t able to slay the relentless Lions. The final score was 19.11.125 – 13.9.87. Joe Daniher kicked four goals for the Lions, as his teammates Daniel Rich and Dayne Zorko were prolific behind the ball and Lachie Neale was the major ball-winner on the night.

 

All eyes on:

Youth –

It’s getting to that point in the season for West Coast where things are looking pretty bleak. Supporters switch off and opt for a movie or TV series to grace their screens instead of sitting through four quarters of torture. The diehard fans will watch it closely still, as it’s ingrained in them to do so. As you trawl your way through the clickbait articles with the damning headlines centred around your club, you find it harder and harder to tune in each week through a sheer overload of negativity. But if you can live through all that for another week, let me digress, and then you’ll be treated to a glimpse at some of the budding, younger members of the Eagles squad, and the fast-tracked progression to their careers after being thrust into the spotlight perhaps somewhat more prematurely than coach Adam Simpson would’ve hoped for.

Nonetheless, we’re seeing blokes like Luke Foley and Harry Edwards holding down key spots in the backline under extremely trying circumstances, but if you’re looking for positives, this is exposure that they otherwise may not have had with such regularity. The first time I was shown to drive a truck as a young fella was in an R-Model Mack with a converted twin shift. The old bloke that was teaching me said, “If you can master one of these, then any of those modern Road Ranger boxes will feel like you’re driving a Rolls Royce.”

I think what he was trying to say was, battle the adversity, and the good times will be more rewarding. I feel that pertinent to the Eagles right now. Whilst most outlets will tell you it’s all doom and gloom, just take a look at the club’s history of bottoming out – they never stayed down there for very long.

 

Youth 2.0 –

The Brisbane Lions have reason to be boastful as much as any club in the league right now when it comes to youth. They opted to pump games into younger players and are more than reaping the rewards as we speak. Their strong, experienced core is surrounded by that perfect age bracket of youth with slight experience, and capped off with a handful of younger, greener players. Many assess the list of the Lions as one of the better-kept sides in the league, and it’s through their willingness to blood young players when they feel they’ve earned their spot in the team, that they are coming out stronger for it and are rightfully sitting high on the AFL ladder as many tipster’s selection for Grand Finalists this season.

 

 

Teams:

Essendon vs Hawthorn

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

The Bombers have slumped to another terrible start, winning only one game this season and being scored against at will in their losses. Their final margin against the Bulldogs flattered the losing side thanks to a few late goals. Hawthorn have now lost their past two games, albeit against some of the top teams in the league, taking their season record to 3-4.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Hawks have three wins for the season which sees them currently sitting in 11th on the ladder. Their coming fortnight will pose more challenges for the rebuilding club, first they must tackle the Tigers at the MCG on Saturday afternoon, then they host the up-and-about Lions at UTAS (Launceston). The Bombers have sunk to one of their worst starts to the season in recent years, sitting now 16th on the ladder and not currently playing a brand of football that will convincingly see them rise much higher. Their upcoming fortnight of Sydney in Sydney, followed by Richmond at the MCG for their annual Dreamtime clash will potentially cement them as a bottom four side this season.

 

It’s a big week for:

Darcy Parish –

Accused by many of becoming an accumulator that wins the ball and dishes it out no sooner, purely to pump up his own stats with zero regard for his own team. Well, that’s what they’ll have you believe in the hot topics of the daily rag and on the headline-grabbing panel shows that may as well earn their commission like a car salesman, for every eccentric and click-bait headline that they sell centred around a controversial or fiery opinion. It’s become known colloquially as the Tom Mitchell Effect, where a player wins the ball at the contest, gets the clearance, racks up 40-odd possessions (50+ in the case of Mitchell), and is accused of having no effect on the game because his side lost. I realise that our game is judged almost purely on wins and losses, but it seems too easy for everyone to write off a player’s game as a selfish, individually driven stat-grab when they are doing their bit in a struggling side, as only one of 22 players that are also underperforming, yet we hone in on the bloke that’s actually having some impact, for not having enough of an impact, when teammates around him are having zero impact. I understand too that his defensive game has left a lot to be desired, but so has the defensive game of 90% of his teammates. However, if the biggest fault you can pick in this Essendon side is the lack of impact from one of their better performers, then I dread to see what you’ll find if you watch some of their underperformers a little closer – and there are plenty of them.

 

Last time they met:

It was the Bombers’ first game in Tasmania for almost 30 years when they travelled to the Apple Isle in Round 14 of last season. They would go on to record a 13 point win in a game where Hawthorn just kept on coming, but ultimately didn’t have the answers for Sam Draper in the ruck, nor the Brilliance of Jake Stringer as the latter registered one of his greatest individual games of his career. The final scoreline reading 10.13.73 – 13.8.86

 

All eyes on:

Defender’s day out –

If you fancy yourself as a rambling, gambling man, then backing James Sicily to have a corker against the Bombers wouldn’t lead you astray. For the record, I don’t publicly condone gambling, however, given the form of Sicily, Scrimshaw, and at times Jiath this season prior to his hamstring complaint, paired with the Bombers’ incompetence at getting the ball effectively into their forward line, the Hawthorn defence should have a collectively inflated stats sheet come the final siren in this one. So much so, that they might yet be accused of only playing well and accumulating the ball to pander their own individual stats (just like Tom Mitchell and Darcy Parish are regularly accused of). In all seriousness though, James Sicily would be close to leading the best and fairest at Hawthorn to this point in the season, and rightfully so. His confidence equals his ability, and that’s a potent mix, especially for a head-strong defender. Jiath started the season well and has slightly tapered at points throughout. I feel the Hawks have missed him greatly over the past fortnight, as well as Mitch Lewis up forward.

 

Jordan Ridley –

After a career-best season in 2020 that saw him win the club’s best and fairest award, followed by a terrific season last year that had him stamp his name as one of the most reliant, and classy defenders in the league, the form of Jordan Ridley has taken a hit this season. The injury niggles to Jayden Laverde and losing their key one-on-one backman in James Stewart has forced Ridley to play a foreign role that has become unfamiliar to him, as he excelled in his former position. But most of all, his side’s midfield and forward line’s inability to prevent quick transition ball movement is catching him and other defenders off guard, and being reflected on the scoreboard as teams known to consistently use the wing and chip the ball around are now having a field day straight through the middle of the ground at the Bombers’ expense. Last week Ridley did a brilliant job on Aaron Naughton, keeping the mercurial forward goalless and forcing him to play a more supporting role and look to bring fellow forwards into the game. It was a huge tick for the Bombers defender in what was his best game of the season, against one of the league’s best young forwards. He’ll have a big matchup this week whether it’s on Jack Gunston, Jacob Koschitzke, or perhaps a smaller player in Dylan Moore (if he’s not moved into the midfield again) or Luke Breust. if he’s able to play one out on his man and set up some effective ball movement from defence as he did against the Dogs last week, the Bombers may be able to stop this game from blowing out. Maybe.

 

Doing Wrong By Peter Wright

 

 

Teams:

Melbourne vs St. Kilda

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The Demons are flying once again as their undefeated start to the season continues to roll on. It was Hawthorn last week that rode the bumps with a grin as Melbourne came out victors, many people starting to question when and where their next loss may actually come from. St. Kilda dropped their cash-grab game in Cairns to Port Adelaide by a single point thanks to some Robbie Gray brilliance late in the game. Kicking 4.18 was a horrible scoreline in a match that will be remembered more for the outcry around the weather and conditions than the actual game itself.

 

So what does it all mean?

Melbourne on the first rung still have Brisbane breathing down their necks, so a loss for the Demons and a reasonable win to the Lions will easily see a shift in the tectonic plates of the ladder. However! Their next fortnight is against the bottom two sides, West Coast in Perth and North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, so the likelihood of the above-mentioned scenario planning out are Dusty levels of Slim. The Saints still sit inside the top four thanks to their brilliant run of wins over the past month, with the exclusion of last week. Geelong at Marvel Stadium and then the Crows at Adelaide Oval will throw a couple of tests St. Kilda’s way in the next couple of weeks.

 

It’s a big week for:

Max King –

St. Kilda’s young star forward is sitting equal third in the Coleman medal standings with 19, but could easily be well in front of leader Tom Hawkins with his 22, especially with King kicking 3.9 in his past two games. He and his partner in crime Jack Higgins, will need to be at their scoring best this week if they’re a chance of taming the undefeated Demons. With Tim Membrey also averaging over two goals a game, and an array of other players finding the goals, the Saints have plenty of scoring avenues, but it’s their midfield that will be under the most pressure as they come up against the best centre line in the game currently. Finding a way to limit the effectiveness of Oliver and Petracca is paramount, but also preventing Max Gawn from dominating in the ruck and around the ground will pose a huge task for the St. Kilda rucks.

 

Last time they met:

A three-goal loss to the Saints was the result of the last time these two teams met, and it was Round 2 of last year at Marvel Stadium. Oliver and Petracca were their usual damaging selves, whilst Christian Salem was a force off half-back. Jack Steele kicked three goals for the Saints, as he, Jade Gresham and Jack Billings won plenty of the ball and all found the scoreboard. The final scorecard reading 11.7.73 – 12.19.91.

 

All eyes on:

Rowan’s return –

The return of Rowan Marshall is a timely one for the Saints, but he is to be greeted by no less than the toughest task in footy – taking on Max King and Luke Jackson in the ruck. Rowan forms a brilliant partnership with veteran Paddy Ryder in the ruck, one that has proven in the past to win more games for the Saints than it is to lose, but as far as matchups go in the AFL, none are more daunting than that of last year’s premiership ruck duo, tapping the ball to the advantage of last year’s premiership midfield. The Saints will have to be on the ball early in the game both literally and figuratively, a shaky and inaccurate game like we’ve seen in their past fortnight that has caused them to dish up a combined score of 14.35 across the last two games just will not stack up against the best side in the league.

 

The Hawk that troubled the Demon –

I watched the Melbourne/Hawthorn game closely last week and I noticed a few interesting moves made by the Hawks at points throughout the game, and especially in the second half and even parts of the second quarter when the Hawks just kept pestering the Demons and not letting them get on their customary run of goals to take the lead away. It appeared as if the Hawks employed an extra man in their forward line which threw Steven May’s interception game right out of whack. Whether this had something to do with Dylan Moore’s move to the midfield in the second half I couldn’t quite pick up on, but between the aggressive movings up forward, the direct tag sent to Ed Langdon on the wing, or the failed attempts to outmuscle Christian Petracca, the Hawks weren’t afraid to throw caution into the wind, and whilst some of those decisions failed, others showed great effect. To Melbourne’s credit though, they are at a point in their sustained success where teams are open to trying new things, anything to get the upper hand on them, and we’re still yet to see anyone employ a tactic successful enough to conquer them since the Bulldogs did so in Round 19 of 2021.

 

Melbourne v St Kilda – The Extended Mongrel Preview

 

 

Teams:

Carlton vs Adelaide

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

It’s been an up and down past five weeks for the Blues, having won three of their past five games, but doing so without back-to-back wins, including last week’s comfortable victory over North Melbourne. Adelaide’s start to the season was better than most predicted with wins over the Tigers and the Bulldogs, as well as arch rivals Port Adelaide in that time. Their hefty loss to the Giants was their biggest of the season and only the second time that their game has ended by a margin of more than a kick or two.

 

So what does it all mean?

Carlton are currently sixth on the ladder, but their low percentage may see them come into strife in coming weeks, with teams below ready to pounce and leapfrog them given the chance. Next week they’ll travel up to their former breeding grounds to take on the Giants at their namesake stadium, followed by a Friday night blockbuster against the Swans at Marvel Stadium. The Crows are now 12th, their run of tight games has affected their percentage substantially. Their next fortnight will be contested at home, first the Lions will try their luck, followed by the Saints the week after.

 

It’s a big week for:

Josh Rachele –

It seems strange to put an onus on a kid playing just his eighth game of footy, but such is the impact that we’ve seen him have in his first two months of senior football. Rachele has gone goalless across his past fortnight, spending more time in the midfield against the Giants last week and kicking only two behinds in his side’s narrow victory over the Bulldogs the week prior. We know how crafty he is, he’s of that strange build that is foreign to a lot of defenders. Whilst playing as every part of a small, agile forward, he also has a solid core and broad shoulders that make him hard to tackle and even harder to take off his feet. It’s easy to see why the Crows pounced on him while still being available at pick 6 in last year’s draft, but he’ll be looking to make more of an impact on the scoreboard this week.

 

Last time they met:

The Blues got the job done at Marvel Stadium to the tune of 10 points. The Crows got out to an early lead before allowing the Blues to pile on a run of eight of nine straight goals in a monster second quarter before spending the rest of the game pecking their way back. Eddie Betts kicked three for the Blues as did Taylor Walker for the Crows. The final scoreline reading 12.11.83 – 10.13.73.

 

All eyes on:

Tides turning –

Before the Blues beat the Crows at Marvel Stadium last season, they had lost six of their past seven encounters with Adelaide by an average of 43 points. Including losses of 55, 60 and 104 points. Harry McKay has been the most productive forward in that same period of time, kicking 10 goals, six behinds in the four of those games that he played. The Crows were stopped dead in their tracks by the Giants last week after a string of tight finishes this season has seen them sitting prettier than most could’ve predicted. Similar can be said for Carlton, with the Blues also exceeding the expectations of many early on in the season, showing a form that many thought possible due to their array of talent, but not one we’d seen string together with any great regularity under previous coaching groups.

 

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