Welcome ladies, gentlemen and all others inclusive to the latest edition of Jimmy’s Mongrel Preview.

Round Eight left some teams weighing up their options, whilst others are wagging their tongues in anticipation for what’s to come.

Speaking of what’s to come, let’s take a look at the round ahead of us through the eyes of a Mongrel.

 

 

Teams:

Collingwood vs Western Bulldogs

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

Two teams that had disappointing games in Round 8. The Magpies were put to task by the Tigers in a Saturday afternoon special at the MCG. The Bulldogs got out to a bit of a lead early on, but Port Adelaide got on a run of four goals in a row in the second half and took the game away from the struggling Dogs.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s 9th vs 10th, but with plenty at stake. The winner of this one has a chance to jump back into the top eight, pending the results of those above them. The Magpies will have a fortnight of Sunday afternoon games, first travelling to Perth to take on the high-flying Dockers next Sunday, followed by a clash at the MCG against Carlton the next week. The Bulldogs head back to Ballarat where Adelaide pipped them in the dying seconds a few weeks ago, this time Gold Coast awaits them, then a trip to Perth to take on the lowly Eagles.

 

It’s a big week for:

The Bulldogs Defenders

Whilst the Magpies’ forward line may be devoid of an A-Grade, bulking power forward, they’ve had the ability to kick winning scores this season on the back of crafty, hard to match sized players such as Brody Mihocek and Ollie Henry, but also had great relief from the much smaller Jack Ginnivan, with the pesky goal sneak pairing with Mihocek to kick a combined 35 goals for the season, the highest partnership at the Magpies. Given the Bulldogs’ troubles with injuries to defenders this season and Luke Beveridge’s fascination with playing an excessive amount of midfielders in different positions around the ground, the Dogs will need to be wary if someone like a Jordan De Goey or Will Hoskin-Elliot getting out the back and scoring against them.

 

Last time they met:

It was back in Round 1 of this season and it was a game that failed to set the world alight in many aspects. Bailey Smith won plenty of the ball and kicked a couple of goals, with both teams’ spread of goalkickers rather even. It was a game that endured large patches with little to no scoring, but the Dogs would eventually run away 16 point winners.

 

All eyes on:

A mystery in the history –

Between 2013-2017 the Bulldogs won five straight games against the Magpies, then from 2018-2020 the Magpies turned the tables and won four straight. These two sides have met each other at Marvel Stadium 20 times in the past with Collingwood holding a 13-7 advantage over the Bulldogs at this particular ground. The Bulldogs went into the game last week without their captain and third-highest goal kicker for the season in Marcus Bontempelli, this week they will be without their second-highest goal scorer this year in Cody Weightman, as well as ruckman Tim English’s return to the side ruled out for another week. The Magpies forward line has been decimated by injury to a similar level of that of the Bulldogs’ backline, meaning this game could shape up to be an interesting one.

 

Mihocek please!

I sang the praises for Brody Mihocek in my other weekly article a few weeks ago, and boy has he had a decent patch of form since then. He’s bagged 10 goals in his past three outings, including two bags of four, one against Gold Coast and the other against Essendon on Anzac Day. Mihocek has won Collingwood’s past three goal kicking awards and is currently edging out Jack Ginnivan to lead again at this point of the season, averaging almost three goals a game. I’ve really liked his ability in the past to stretch his opponent and mark the ball on the lead or in a pack. In a season that’s seen Brodie Grundy out for the rest of the year, Nathan Krueger also out injured, Jamie Elliot facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines and Mason Cox struggling for form at senior level, the Magpies will rely heavily on the likes of Mihocek to use his experience and ability to kick a score against an equally undermanned Bulldogs backline.

 

 

Teams:

Hawthorn vs Richmond

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The Hawks will come into this one bitterly disappointed at their fadeout last week, losing to their old enemy in Essendon by 27 points after leading by four goals late in the third quarter, before the Bombers piled on eight goals to one in the final quarter, including seven straight. The Tigers also finished with a 27 point margin against an old rival, except their margin favoured them over the Magpies.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s back inside the top eight as the Tigers have found some form, winning their first back to back games of the season, something that they haven’t done since rounds 11 and 12 of last year. Their next fortnight is a big one, with Dreamtime at the ‘G and a Friday night special against Sydney at the SCG to come. The Hawks have dropped down to 12th with a percentage that seats them in the middle of the table of sides that are on three wins for season. The Hawks have a couple of weeks of travelling ahead of them, first hosting the Lions at UTAS in Launceston, then heading up to Darwin where they’ll play Gold Coast at TIO Stadium.

 

It’s a big week for:

Dustin Martin –

After missing all but one game this season due to his decision to step away from the club citing personal reasons, Dustin Martin made his big return to senior footy last week, much to the rousing applause of the Richmond faithful in the stands. His two goals from 23 disposals were a great return and one that I’m sure got the monkey off his back in terms of missing a chunk of footy, with his eyes fully set on backing it up against the Hawks this week. With the furore about his return to the game behind him, it’ll be a lot smoother sailing this week as he’s hopefully able to navigate his way through a game without being the centre of media attention.

 

Last time they met:

The epic draw to end the 2021 home and away season. The Hawks got out to a 30 point lead late in the final quarter before the Tigers kicked the final five goals of the game in a late flurry, to record a frenetic finish to the season for both clubs. The Tigers were without numerous big-name players as Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara cleaned up in the centre, whilst Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt shared six goals between them.

 

All eyes on:

Full Strength Available On Tap-

In stark contrast to the last time that these two teams met in last year’s home and away season, the Tigers are set to play as close to full strength as they have in a long time. With players returning from illness, Dustin Martin’s well-publicised homecoming last week amidst a plethora of positional changes, we may just see a continuance of last week’s domination over Collingwood as this Richmond side attempts to re-establish itself as the powerhouse of the competition that it’s been across the past five or so seasons, only in a different light under a new team structure, led by the next generation of players coming through the ranks. Young players such as Maurice Rioli Jnr, Noah Balta, Josh Gibcus and Thomson Dow are making their way through the side and giving supporters a glimpse at what the future for Richmond holds.

 

I’ll Give You A Hint, He’s From Poowong-

You know who I’m talking about straight away, don’t you? It’s funny how the wider media grab onto a little tidbit about a player’s past or personal life and that one piece soon defines them. The AFL’s Round 5 Rising Star nomination was Jai Newcombe off the back of a mammoth game that saw his Hawks upset the Cats in their traditional Easter Monday clash. Since evening selected by Hawthorn in the 2021 midseason draft, the 20-year-old midfielder made an instant impression at the top level, ensuring that his name was and remains now as one of the first chosen in Sam Mitchell’s side each week. His emergence couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve seen earlier in the season that some of his teammates have struggled to hit their peak form. Jaeger O’Meara’s start to the season was widely recognised as poor by his standard’s, then last week in his side’s loss to the Bombers, Tom Mitchell looked slow and borderline disinterested as he registered his worst individual game for the season, prompting many, myself included, to question whether he was carrying an injury. Surprise, surprise… he is rested this week.

 

 

Teams:

North Melbourne vs Port Adelaide

 

Venue:

Blundstone Arena

 

Snapshot:

Sadly for North Melbourne, it’s becoming a season of damage control each week as they figure out which was to best stem the bleeding from the team in front of them. The Kangaroos come in on the back of a heavy loss at the hands of Fremantle, a 78 point drubbing where they only managed three goals for the entire game, the third of which came in the dying stages when the Dockers had hit cruise control. The Power have turned their 0-5 start to the season into 3-5, winning their past three games in a row, including accounting for the Bulldogs last week. Port Adelaide holds a strong recent record over the Kangaroos, having won seven of their last eight encounters by an average of 35 points.

 

 

So what does it all mean?

Power currently sit 11th on the ladder but their percentage isn’t great enough to see them challenging for the top eight, yet! They travel to Geelong next week where they gave the daunting task of taking on the Cats in their own backyard, then they’re set to host the Bombers at Adelaide Oval. North have an unenviable couple of weeks ahead of them, taking on the currently undefeated Melbourne at the MCG next week and then St. Kilda at Marvel Stadium the week after.

 

It’s a big week for:

The North Melbourne defence

Having conceded 100+ points in five of their past six games, it’s time for North Melbourne to tighten the screws with their defenders. Last week against the Dockers poor Ben McKay looked to play a lone hand before he limped off and reviewed attention for an injury. He was the primary rebounding and intercepting defender when his side was under fire. Having lost Robbie Tarrant to the Tigers in the offseason, it was a huge opportunity for some younger Kangaroos players to step up and assume the mantle in a developing backline. Port Adelaide have struggled with their forwards at times during the season, more so in the early stages. They’ve only kicked more than 10 goals in four of their eight matches, so if the Kangaroos’ defence can clamp down early to restrict their opponent’s ability to score, they may have half a chance.

 

Last time they met:

Way back in Round One of last season, Power began their season strongly with a 52 point victory over North Melbourne. It was a tight, low scoring opening quarter with the Kangaroos actually leading narrowly at quarter time. Then Port Adelaide got out on a run, kicking 10 of 11 straight goals and essentially burying their opposition before coasting to an easy victory. Orazio Fantasia kicked 4.4 in his first game for his new club, whilst Jaidyn Stephenson also starred in his first game for North Melbourne after being shown the door at Collingwood.

 

All eyes on:

Growth-

North Melbourne must begin to show signs of growth. The sad reality is that our competition is measured on wins and losses, and that’s the yardstick used by the media judiciary to determine a side’s worth. In these terms, Round Nine has been one of the sliding doors for the Kangaroos. If you look back to Round 9 of the 2020 season, you would see North beat a hapless Adelaide side by 69 points at Metricon Stadium. Fast forward to Round 9 of last season and the Kangaroos would record their first win as a club since that demolition of the Crows almost 12 months prior, a stunning 32 point turnaround down in Hobart had David Noble win his first game as senior coach against the Hawks in what was a glimmer of hope for the club. Beyond that point North would still have some ups and downs, however, their end to the 2021 season was a resilient one. After the bye round, they only won a further two games, but they were in many contests late and avoided being blown out of the water on the same regular basis that they were in the previous half of the season. If you turn your attention to this current season, all of a sudden North Melbourne make it to Round Nine with only one win for the season, and white a few blowout losses along the way. Something needs to change at this club, drastically. There comes a time when younger players seem to gel and click together, almost as if in unison sometimes. This is what the Kangaroos need to go forward. They need some of these high draft picks that they’ve recruited to start impacting and most importantly, winning games for this club. Otherwise, the spotlight will only remain focused on them and their lack of growth as a club.

 

Introducing: Scorers –

One thing that I’ll preface by saying is that I feel a lot of Power’s critics this season have neglected to take into account the missing firepower in their forward line. This season they’ve been without two of their three highest-scoring players of last season with Charlie Dixon and Orazio Fantasia both sidelined through injury. Those two accounted for 76 goals last season, then throw Robbie Gray into the mix who contributed almost a goal a game off his own boot, he too has missed a chunk of games this season. We’ve seen the likes of Jeremy Finlayson and Todd Marshall step up this season and become regular scorers in the absence of the aforementioned players, but with Fantasia and Dixon both set to return to the fold in recent weeks, we may see a rise of the Power forwards, and a return to the heavy scoring we saw from them last season.

 

Teams:

St. Kilda vs Geelong

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

A game that’s shaping up to be one of the best of the round, but every time I say that, the game becomes a bust. So apologies to the Cats and Saints fans if and when this comes to fruition. The Cats dismantled the Giants last week by 53 points whilst the Saints couldn’t keep up with the Demons and wound up losing by 38 points. Of the past 13 clashes between these two sides, St. Kilda have managed to win only one match by three points, share a draw and lost the other 11 games.

 

So what does it all mean?

Even this early in the season, top eight clashes such as this have large ramifications for sides. Both of these sides sit on five wins, Geelong are fifth and the Saints are seventh but the Cats’ percentage is superior to that of the Saints by almost 10%. Carlton have made their way into the top four thanks to their six wins for the season, but their lacklustre percentage will see them slip straight out at the hands of any team in contention that manages a win where the Blues can’t. The Cats have a fortnight at home, hosting both of the South Australian teams back-to-back at ABCDEFGMHBA Stadium. Meanwhile, the Saints may feel like they get a slight reprieve as they head to Adelaide next week to take on the Crows and then return to Marvel Stadium where North Melbourne awaits.

 

It’s a big week for:

Jack Higgins

After a brilliant fortnight that had the former Tiger kicking nine goals across two games, Higgins was threatening to break out as one of the premier small forwards in the competition. His last fortnight has seen returns of one goal each week and a lack of the immense pressure that we’ve seen from Higgins around the forward line in earlier rounds of the season. Geelong have a well-renowned backline, but the size of Marvel Stadium may just benefit the likes of the small forwards, giving Jack every opportunity to hit the scoreboard and have an impact for his side.

 

Last time they met:

In Round 22 of last season, the Saints made their way down to GMHBA Stadium as the Cats were looking to win every game possible and cement their place inside the top four. It was St. Kilda that kicked the first five goals of the match, stunning the home side and holding them goalless for much of the first quarter. It was a back-and-forth arm wrestle from there as the Cats regained their composure and managed to regain the lead in the third quarter before kicking away late in the game and eventually winning by 14 points. Cameron and Hawkins kicked seven goals between them whilst Sam Menegola and Can Guthrie played outstanding games. Brad Crouch was instrumental for the Saints, kicking two goals and commanding the ball in the midfield.

 

All eyes on:

Tyson Stengle

There’s a lot of press around Stengle this week, but I don’t think it should be undersold just how far the former Crow and Tiger has come in his brief period in the game. Geelong’s hiring of Eddie Betts as a development coach may go down as a masterstroke as the recently retired goalsneak lends his experience to the Cats, given that Betts was one of, if not the best small forward of his generation. After a number of off-field indiscretions spanning his tenure at both Adelaide and Richmond, Stengle was given a third opportunity at the Cats, an opportunity that the 23-year-old is beginning to relish. He’s kicked multiple goals in his past four games with his season tally of 16 equalling a two-goal per game average, which would leave the Cats hierarchy feeling pretty happy with their decision to throw the former South Australian a lifeline. He’s now taken the mantle as Geelong’s best small forward this season, showing that he’s not afraid to go both ways and attack the man, averaging three tackles per game and recording five tackles in each of his past two games.

 

A Rusty Year –

Does anybody else feel like Jack Steele isn’t having the kind of year that most expected of him? After the Saints realised the former Giant (that’s right, remember the long luscious locks of hair?) held more potential in their side as a genuine ball winner rather than the makeshift tagger that he was being used as, Steele broke free in 2020 and became one of the more reliable players at St. Kilda. He was awarded dual-captaincy beside Jarryn Geary for the 2021 season and again, improved his standings tremendously, seeing him finish equal 5th in the Brownlow Medal tally on 26 votes. When I look at the Jack Steele of that 2021 season and compare it to the Jack Steele that I’m seeing in 2022, there is definitely something lacking. Whilst his performances are far from poor, and he still wins a lot of the football, I feel like Steele hasn’t been able to influence games white as much. Perhaps a team restructure has caused him to take a step back? With Luke Dunstan leaving the club and players such as Jade Gresham and Seb Ross spending more time at centre bounces than in previous years, perhaps a slight tweak to the role Steele plays is the catalyst for the noticed change? One thing I have noticed is that his scoreboard influence has greatly reduced. By Round Nine last year Steele had eight goals to his name, this year, however, only the one. His tackling is also a point of difference compared to his ferocity last season. Perhaps I’m being too hard on him where others are starting to pick up the slack and carry some of the responsibilities. But it’s something that I’ll be checking back on at a later part of the season to see if his numbers continue to plateau, or if he rises back to the levels at which he played last season.

 

 

Teams:

Sydney vs Essendon

 

Venue:

SCG

 

Snapshot:

Ben Rutten finally gets himself a win on the board this season as the Bombers steamrolled the Hawks in the last quarter to record a 27 point victory amidst scenes of sheer elation from the players and fans alike, after losing an additional five players on the eve of the game to a flu-like illness. The Swans managed to lose yet another home game to the Suns, making it three of their past four games against Gold Coast turning into losses.

 

So what does it all mean?

The loss to the Suns has caused Sydney to drop to sixth place on the ladder, only sitting above seventh-placed St. Kilda by less than one percent. A win will have them firmly still in the mix and comfortably inside the eight for another week. They’ll play back-to-back Friday night games across the next couple of weeks, first heading to Marvel Stadium to take on the Blues, then back to the SCG to host Richmond the following week.

The Bombers still sit in 16th and aren’t likely to move much higher in the interim. Their upcoming fortnight looks like Richmond at the MCG for their annual Dreamtime clash, followed by a trip to Adelaide Oval to take on Power.

 

It’s a big week for:

Anyone on heart medication

These two sides have played out some absolute thrillers over the years, so much so that their match each year has become somewhat of a rivalry for no reason of dislike, but more for the frequency of which their finishes are closely contested and sometimes under somewhat controversial finishes. Over the years we’ve seen Tony Lockett kick the Swans into a grand final with a behind after the siren to break the tied game, we’ve seen Stephen Alessio score a goal in the dying seconds to hand the Bombers a win, Ricky Mott miss a set shot from point-blank range that cost the Swans the game, Adam Goodes miss a shot after the siren that would’ve won them match, Courtenay Dempsey play on right as the siren sounded to finish the game, costing him a shot on goal, we’ve seen Gary Rohan mark the ball on the final siren in the goal square and kick the winning goal, we’ve even seen Dane Rampe somehow escape infraction for scaling the goalpost whilst David Myers had a last gasp set shot from about 60 metres out. As a matter of fact, all of their past five encounters have been won by 10 points or less.

 

Last time they met:

It was a shootout of sorts, with 26 of the 33 goals kicked for the game being back and forth goals between the two sides, as the momentum of the game was continually swung each way. Tom Papley kicked four and Kyle Langford kicked three as Callum Mills and Zach Merrett went head to head in the middle, with Merrett getting on the end of two goals. The final score reading 16.6.102 – 17.7.109 with Sydney holding on late as the Bombers closed in.

 

All eyes on:

N.Hind Behind The Ball –

I was surprised to see Nick Hind dropped for the Bulldogs game a fortnight ago. Despite the Bombers trying to make out as if they were dishing out some tough love by dropping players such as Nick Hind and Dylan Shiel, I don’t think Hind’s form warranted an exclusion from the side, especially given that were other players performing far worse than he was. One thing being dropped did do was click whatever he had been missing across much of the first six weeks back into gear, because he was back to his best against the Hawks last week. His dash out of the backline, his forward press and ability to set up a chain, then overtake the players to become the next link in the chain, at times likened him to a Looney Tunes character. My only knock on him in the Hawthorn game was that he had a tendency to run himself a little too far, closing in on his opponent so much that when he had the ball in hand, he was forced to kick it higher and clear the opposition player, meaning that more times than not, the teammate on the receiving end of the kick had to stand in the hole and await contact from another player before the ball landed in his arms. But you’re always going to get that with those zippy half-back players. In seasons gone by, Essendon fans would’ve been used to players such as Adam Saad and Connor McKenna rubbing themselves into trouble, it’s just the nature of the game when you’re dealing with players of their calibre. You’ve got to drink the froth to get the beer.

 

Bet your house on it –

I feel like I say this almost every week, but I don’t condone gambling. However, if you were able to sneak a cheeky bet on Isaac Heeney and Luke Parker having an absolute blinder (Hey Google! What is a blinder?) then this would be your match to do it, for a number of reasons. Heeney has had an average past three weeks. I say average, but 95% of players would be more than content with the numbers he’s put up, however, I hold Heeney to a much higher standard than 95% of the league because at his best I rate him well and truly inside the top 2% of players in the game. So besides him having a few quiet weeks, the Swans will be out for blood after succumbing to Gold Coast, in Sydney, yet again. As a side that’s safely in contention to finish top six this season, John Longmire will have his players on edge and looking to bounce back, convincingly after last week’s shambles. ‘But Jimmy, you forgot to elaborate on why Luke Parker is a certainty to play well…’ – Astute observation my Sydney supporting friends, the reason I back Parker in to have a blinder is so simple that I’ll give it to you in two points.

  • Because he is Luke Parker.

And,

  • Because Luke Parker ALWAYS dines out on the Bombers. Whilst historically Lance Franklin has enjoyed playing the Bombers almost more than any side throughout his career, in recent years it’s Luke Parker that seldom fails to take the Bombers to the shops.

 

Just make sure that Dane Rampe hasn’t been watching Spiderman and leaves his pole-climbing, linesman gear at home.

 

 

Teams:

Adelaide vs Brisbane

 

Venue:

Adelaide Oval

 

Snapshot:

The Lions are flying currently, having won their past four games. They head to Adelaide to take on the Crowd on the back of a 75 point win over West Coast which, strangely enough, most treated as a soft kill, given the current state of the Eagles. With many tipping it to be a certain three-figure margin. The Crows were once again disappointing, after sticking with the Blues for much of the first half they were blown away in the second half, marking their second consecutive blowout of the season after being competitive each week leading up to then.

 

So what does it all mean?

The battle for second is heating up as Brisbane and Fremantle are neck and neck, with only a brief percentage keeping the two apart. The Lions in third will look for any percentage boost that they can get, whilst the Crows will hope for any win possible that keeps them out of their current touching distance of the bottom four. It’s a trip to Launceston for the Lions next week where they’ll take on the Hawks, followed by a much warmer match back at the Gabba where they’ll take on the Giants before the first bye round. The Crows will return home to host the Saints next week, then fly back to Geelong where they must battle the Cats.

 

It’s a big week for:

The Brisbane Forward Line

No Daniher, no McStay.. This Lions side will get a huge challenge this week as they field a side missing two of their three first-choice tall forwards. Whilst the club has replacements and no doubt some sort of a contingency plan, even given the current form of the side they’re facing, I can see some cause for concern. In a way though, the Lions are better off getting these injuries out of the way now and hopefully having their forwards back, match fit and firing for the latter part of the season leading into finals.

Hipwood is returning, but you always have to be wary of people coming back from an ACL. They need time,

 

Last time they met:

It was Round 16 of last season when the Lions travelled to Adelaide Oval. They arrived, they conquered, they left. It was Brisbane’s midfield that caused carnage for the Crows, proving much too strong for the struggling side. It was a relatively tight contest for the first three quarters before the Lions kicked eight of nine straight goals going into the final quarter to see the final scoreline as 8.11.59 – 17.9.111.

 

All eyes on:

This midfield battle –

If Adelaide were in a place of contention like the Lions currently are, this game would be an absolute classic based on the midfield matchups alone. For any and all of their faults this season, the Crows have a lot of talent in their midfield and when they’re up and about, the figures put up by the likes of Ben Keays and Rory Laird are rather impressive. With all due respect to the Crows, if they could be competitive for four quarters and get the jump on the Lions early, taking full advantage of their current situation in the forward line, then this game has the potential to be one to watch for those who admire the aspects of two talented midfields going head to head. Hugh McCluggage played his best game of the season last week, being used predominantly as an on-baller this season as opposed to out on the wing, he amassed huge numbers of possessions and also got forward for four goals. Jordan Dawson has continued his brilliant run of form at his new club, I personally have him up there with Will Brodie as the two top recruiting bargains of the season. Zac Bailey has played some really impressive games this season, he’s exactly the kind of player that can break the shackles and take the game away from the Crowd if given the chance. I’d love to see who gets the matchup on Taylor Walker this week. The Adelaide spearhead has continued to defy his age this season and play footy as well as he has throughout his career. One player who I can’t wait to see more of is Sam Berry. I marvelled at his game against the Blues last week in just his fourth game this season, and I hope that he’s able to back it up against an equally strong opponent again this week.

 

 

Teams:

Gold Coast vs Fremantle

 

Venue:

Metricon Stadium

 

Snapshot:

Gold Coast managed to snap their losing streak before it registered its fourth, beating the Swans in a rare interstate victory for the club. The Dockers made it six in a row, having not lost a game since Round 2, beating north Melbourne by 78 points and keeping them to only three goals for the game.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s a tight tussle for second place, the Dockers narrowly holding off the Lions and maintaining their position second only to the undefeated Demons. They’ll prepare for a Sunday afternoon clash with the Magpies next week, before a massive, top of the table clash with Melbourne at the MCG the week after. The Suns have found themselves in 13th after a string of losses was broken last week. They travel from one corner of the country to another in the next fort fortnight, first taking on the Bulldogs in Ballarat before heading to Darwin to take on the Hawks.

 

It’s a big week for:

Will Brodie

It’s always a big week ahead when you come up against your old side for the first time. Even more so when you were essentially taken from the scrap heap, and you’re now able to play a style of football that has you in conversations as one of your new team’s best players this season. Will Brodie has transformed into the big-bodied midfielder that most side’s crave in the modern game, and the Dockers only gave up half a Mars Bar for him.

 

Last time they met:

It was a sunny day in Perth back in Round 13 of last season when these two sides, I’d I’m brutally honest, slugged out a horribly boring three-quarters of football that went back and forth with the Suns holding a brief lead before the Dockers managed to take it back. The ensuing goal for goal went on until late in the third quarter when Fremantle managed to kick away, eventually winning by 27 points. The Suns’ inaccuracy cost them, kicking 6.13.49 – 11.10.76. Sean Darcy monstered Zac Smith in the ruck to be best on ground, Luke Ryan was a rock in defence whilst Touk Miller, Darcy Tucker and Andy Brayshaw were all prolific in the middle.

 

All eyes on:

Strength In Adversity

If you fancy yourself as a bit of an optimist, you may lend yourself to the theory that these constant ins and outs of Fremantle players each week is only strengthening a team that has already proven to stack up against some of the better sides this year. Usually, when a team loses a handful of players leading into a game, it spells certain chaos for that team and their structures. However, we’ve seen numerous times this season that Fremantle have been able to walk into a match having lost numerous key players from multiple positions around the ground, yet it hasn’t seemed to phase them. Now whilst this may not stack up against the likes of Melbourne or Brisbane, they’ve had no trouble accounting for teams in the tier below so far this season, showing that their list depth and their ability as a team to overcome the adversity of losing a key player is paramount to their success. I’ve likened this current Melbourne side to the mythical beast: the Hydra. When you cut off one head, two more emerge in its place. To a slightly different extent, I can see the same from Fremantle this year. Through sheer adversity of health and safety protocols, they’ve been able to lose half a dozen players here and there, but still have the nous as a team to pull it together and cover for their losses.

 

History Lesson

The Suns are yet to beat Fremantle at Optus Stadium since the ground was first opened back in 2018. Their only two appearances at the ground to take on the Dockers have ended in losses, however, the Suns have had the better of the matchup when played at Metricon Stadium, winning their past two clashes between these two sides at the Suns home ground. Mind you, both of those wins were tight ones, the Suns holding on in a thriller back in 2019 to win by three points, and again by 13 points in 2020. Surprisingly, the out-of-favour Alex Sexton has been the most prolific goal scorer when these two sides have met in recent years, kicking 9.5 across their past four clashes. The Suns last trip to Optus Stadium was a successful one, beating West Coast back in Round 1 to record their first-ever win at the venue. Captain Jarrod Witts has had a terrific start to the season, he’ll come up against the returning Sean Darcy who has also been in good touch to start his year, despite injury concerns.

 

 

Teams:

GWS vs Carlton

 

Venue:

Giants Stadium

 

Snapshot:

The Giants succumbed to a very disappointing effort after their rousing victory over the Crows the week before. They found themselves at the mercy of the Cats who were far too strong at the Giants home ground, making it four losses from their past five games. Carlton are still up and about, winning their past two games by an average 49 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s the first time since 1996 that Carlton have started their season 6-2. They now sit inside the top four, however, their percentage is the weakest of any team in the top eight. They take on Sydney at Marvel Stadium in a Friday night spectacular next week, followed by a Sunday afternoon classic at the MCG against their old rival: Collingwood. The Giants have dropped to 15th as one of two teams with only two wins so far for the season. This time last year they were 4-5 and banging down the door for a top-eight spot. Next week they’ll host the Eagles at Giants Stadium before the daunting task of taking on Brisbane at the Gabba.

 

It’s a big week for:

Leon Cameron –

The great goodbye! Arriverderci, au revoir, aufwiedersen, hasta la vista (baby). Leon Cameron and the Giants have mutually agreed to part ways, with Cameron set to coach his 180th and final match against the Blues this weekend. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Cameron, after starting his playing career at Footscray and finishing at Richmond, he went back to the Bulldogs as an assistant coach from 2004-2010 before heading to the Hawks in a similar role, where he’s credited as being an instrumental component to the 2012 premiership. After leaving to take on a senior assistant role under the great Kevin Sheedy at the Giants in 2013, he was groomed to take over the position as head coach in 2014 upon Sheedy’s departure, after helping the club establish in its first two seasons. In his tenure as senior coach, Cameron steered the Giants to give out of six finals series between 2016-2021, the second-most by any club in that period. They made their inaugural Grand Final appearance in 2019 where they were beaten by the Tigers and made finals once again in 2021. Cameron’s coaching record at the time of writing is 179 games coached for a record of 94-81-4. He leaves the Giants in the hands of assistant coach Mark McVeigh for the remainder of the season.

 

Last time they met:

If you cast your eyes back to Round 23 of last season, the Giants managed to rally in the second half off the back of their midfield standing up and taking control of the game. The Blues lead for the first half, but it was a swtich from Taranto, Kelly and Ward that saw the Giants dominate out if the centre and convert on the scoreboard. Curnow was dominant for the Blues, kicking four goals and tearing it up into the midfield. No, not Charlie. Ed Curnow. The final score favouring the Giants 11.9.75 – 12.17.89.

 

All eyes on:

Tantalising, On Paper

Let me set a hypothetical scene: you have no recent form guide, yet you have a good enough knowledge of the game to recognise each player by name and how talented they are at their peak. With this as the case, how good does this match appear on paper? A midfield clash of Cripps, Walsh, Cerra and Hewett taking on Taranto, Kelly, Green and Ward. Toby Greene and Jesse Hogan trying to score on the likes of Sam Docherty and Jacob Weitering. There is so much to like about this match and the potential matchups were likely to see, that it’s easy to fathom why the Giants are looked at as disappointing. They have an extremely talented list full of players that would make key differences if they were to walk into any other club in the game. Unfortunately, they’ve just been unable to string it together and produce another tilt at finals in the past few seasons. Not one that’s seen them push towards that elusive Grand Final, as we saw back in 2019.

 

Charlie Curnow

The perennially injured forward has looked great to start the season, kicking 25 goals from his eight games including two bags of five and last week’s haul of six against the Crows. It will be a massive test for the agile forward this week as he prepares to face a game without last year’s Coleman Medallist in Harry McKay standing beside him. Curnow is sure to garner the attention of some stiff defence from the Giants defenders, more so given that the Blues’ biggest scoring threat over the past few seasons is now out of the side. It’s going to be worth watching where Carlton’s goals come from this week, whether they rely heavily on Patrick Cripps to continue his run of scoring heavily from the midfield. Given that Curnow and McKay have contributed 45 goals between them this season, the next best is Cripps on 13. After that, it’s single figures to the likes of Silvagni, Fisher and Surfing, with Jack Martin also out of the side.

 

 

 

Teams:

West Coast vs Melbourne

 

Venue:

Optus Stadium

 

Snapshot:

Will this one be as ugly as most predict? Or will Melbourne play the role of the cat and toy around with the mouse before going in for a quick kill? If you’re West Coast, where do you cast the stone for an acceptable outcome? Some would say if they manage to kick a competitive score and not be completely annihilated, then you could almost call it a minor win, given the club’s current circumstances. The Demons wound up making light work of the Saints last week whilst the Eagles went down to the Lions by 75 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s the top placed, an undefeated team taking on the bottom-placed side that’s won only one game for the season. The Demons have the Dockers and the Lions breathing down their necks, both with healthier percentages, waiting for if and when they happen to lose a game. The Demons will be out for another percentage boost next week, as they take on North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium before hosting the Dockers at the MCG in a massive clash the following week.

 

It’s a big week for:

The West Coast Eagles

As stupid as it sounds, this week is huge for the Eagles. Why? Because it’s their chance to stand up amidst the barrage of naysayers and be competitive. Most outlets predicted a three-figure smashing at the hands of Brisbane last week, the Eagles managed to hold them to a 75 point margin. Once again most are tipping Melbourne to roll over the Eagles on their own ground, this is the week where West Coast can stand up and show those who love writing articles about their demise, that they still have something at their club and that they’re going to fight for it. They don’t have to win this game to show heart, they just have to put in a four quarters effort reflective of their current status, and give the fans something to hold on to. Show us all that this club still has something.

 

Last time they met:

The Demons travelled to Optus Stadium late last year in Round 21 expecting an easy win, the Eagles had other ideas. It was the Demons who got the lead early before the bone side wrestled it back and went into the half time break in front. Melbourne kicked away in the third, kicking four straight goals in the quarter and taking a strong lead before the Eagles managed to claw back late in the game, the final margin being only nine points Melbourne’s way. The scoreline reading 9.9.63 – 10.12.72.

Jack Redden and Elliot Yeo had the ball on a string whilst Ben Brown kicked three goals.

 

 

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