Welcome ladies, gentlemen and all others inclusive to this week’s episode of your favourite online periodical: Jimmy’s Mongrel Preview!

Another week has come and gone as we approach the halfway mark of the home and away season. We saw upsets, we saw plenty of live action from the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, there was even another press conference cameo from Luke Beveridge that had some within the media scratching their heads at his cryptic messaging.

All that and plenty more, but we have other things on the agenda, and I’m here to slice and dice them for you in whichever way I see fit. Let me present to you my take on Round 11.

 

 

Teams:

Sydney vs Richmond

 

Venue:

SCG

 

Snapshot:

Going down to Carlton on Friday night has made it three losses from the last four games for the Swans, with their only win coming at the expense of an insipid Essendon side. Their midfield struggled to match that of the Blues, with Carlton winning by 15 points. Speaking of the Bombers, despite showing some improvement, the Tigers were too good for them on Saturday night in the annual Dreamtime at the ‘G clash, running out 32 point winners to make it four wins from their last four outings.

 

So what does it all mean?

This game will be an intriguing one for a number of reasons. The Tigers find themselves back inside the top eight, a game clear of Collingwood and the Bulldogs with a percentage that’s only marginally lower than that of the Swans who sit above them in seventh. Richmond have lost eight of their last nine games to the Swans at the SCG, but have beaten the Swans in three of their last four overall encounters. It’s a week off ahead for the Tigers who have the Bye next week, followed by a Friday night blockbuster at the MCG where they’ll host Port Adelaide. The Swans take on the undefeated Melbourne next week at the MCG before having the bye the following week.

 

It’s a big week for:

Isaac Heeney

The 26-year-old had every right to stake his claim as the best player in the competition across the first five rounds. He kicked 14 goals in that period and still played a starring role in the Swans’ midfield, leading them to four wins in that time and setting up a brilliant start to the season. In the five games since he’s kicked only five goals and impacted games nowhere near the extent that he did earlier in the season. One thing I’ve noted, in the past few weeks especially, is that Heeney has been spending a bit more time working up the ground towards the backline. Will Powell worked him terrifically a few weeks ago when the Swans played the Suns, he didn’t run a hard tag, but opted for what they’re calling ‘a cooling role’, just to curb his influence, and it worked well. Heeney was given little space and failed to capitalise on the few opportunities that he had. I don’t know what the next step is, all I know is that the past five weeks haven’t shown me the same Heeney that I had in Brownlow contention across the first five.

 

Last time they met:

Back in Round 3 of last year the Swans were dominant in almost every aspect of the game, beating the Tigers by 45 points in a match that should’ve seen a higher margin had the Swans kicked a little straighter. Sam Wicks was in control of the forward line, kicking 3.2 and winning plenty of the ball. Tom Papley kicked 4.1 and Tom Lynch kicked 3.3 for the Tigers. Trent Cotchin and Dion Prestia both left the MCG with hamstring injuries. The final scoreline reading 10.12.72 – 17.15.117

 

All eyes on:

The Butcher, the Baker and the Midfield Playmaker.

 

The Butcher – Tom Lynch was rattled early in his side’s Dreamtime clash with the Bombers last week. Dealing with a number of opponents, but for the most part of the match it was young Zach Reid, playing just his fifth senior game. Whilst Lynch marked the ball just as well in contested situations as when he broke away and took it on the lead, he just could not convert his shots into goals, missing some very regulation shots on goal. Now the former leader in the Coleman medal race is set to miss a number of weeks with a hamstring injury.

 

The Baker – Unlucky not to be awarded the honour of best on ground in Dreamtime at the ‘G, Liam Baker starred after being thrown back to his previous role at half-back. Playing undersized never looked any better as Baker proved more than a handful for the Bombers’ forward line. Numerous times he was able to dance his way out of trouble and bring the ball back through the centre or back up the wing, all the whilst acting as a stopper that chopped off many of the Bombers’ sporadic inside 50 forays. His ability to change things up and play well at either end has become just another massive tick for coach Damien Hardwick.

 

The Midfield Playmaker – This may come as a surprise to some, but likely not Tigers supporters. Jack Ross was brilliant at times against the Bombers, his ability to control the ball and set up play from the wing or off half-back was great to watch. I saw a number of kicks sail over the head of a teammate, but hit the actual intended target lace out further along the line. I never took Ross to be a massive playmaker in the past, but seeing him find targets in places that not even his opposition could envision and defend was terrific.

 

Wakey, wakey it’s Nick Blakey.

The emergence of the McCartin brotherhood down back for the Swans has been a superb pairing, almost like a fresh-brewed black tea with an Oliva Lancero cigar (don’t knock it until you try it). But there’s an undersung battler down back that I feel doesn’t get the credit he deserves, and that’s Nick Blakey. ‘The Lizard’s was moved to the backline last year, and is providing great return with his elite speed for a bloke of his size, but also his uncanny knack for being able to hit a target by foot, both from a standstill and on the run.

 

 

Teams:

Brisbane vs GWS

 

Venue:

Gabba

 

Snapshot:

The Lions went down to the Hawks in Launceston in what was a relatively high scoring affair. I read a stat this week that completely blew my mind – since taking the reins at the Lions, Chris Fagan has a 0-33 record when the opposition scores more than 100 points against them. Unbelievable.

Coming off a fortnight of disappointing losses, the Giants under interim coach Mark McVeigh recorded a strong win over the battling Eagles to the tune of 52 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Brisbane still hold on to second place thanks to their far superior percentage over Carlton, but the Demons skipped away to two games clear on top, thanks to the Lions losing to the Hawks. The Giants are now 14th after winning their third game of the season and face an uphill battle to make finals from here. The youngest club in the competition does hold some bragging rights over the Lions, surprisingly with the upper hand in their encounters at 7-5 from their 13 clashes since their inception into the competition, including beating Brisbane at the Gabba in five of their past six meetings at the venue. The Giants will take the week off with a Bye next week before travelling to Melbourne where they’ll take on the Kangaroos. Brisbane are heading to Optus Stadium where they’ll play the Dockers before hosting the Saints at the Gabba the following week.

 

It’s a big week for:

Matt de Boer

One of the last of a dying breed, the true, old-style taggers of the AFL, capable of shutting down some of the competition’s best ball winners and changing the way an entire team functions by their subsequent loss of influence. I was surprised to see the veteran playing a lot more time up forward last week, and now I can’t help but wonder if new coach Mark McVeigh will be tempted to send the pronounced stopper to run alongside Lachie Neale in an attempt to stem some of his masterful midfield craft. Sam Mitchell of Hawthorn sent Liam Shiels of all people to Neale last week in the second half to great avail – 16 disposals and a goal in the first half, but restricted to only nine touches and very little effect on the game from there on out. The keys to the machine are in the ignition, will Spike be game enough to fire it up?

 

 

Last time they met:

The first six goals of the match went the way of the Lions in Round 11 of last year, as the Giants struggled to match Brisbane’s intensity at the Gabba. Mitch Robinson and Dayne Zorko completely dominated proceedings, the pair combining for 65 disposals and 6 goals in a mammoth effort that proved far too much for Greater Western Sydney. The final score was 19.15.129 – 10.5.65

 

All eyes on:

The coaches box.

Imagine a world where the media berated a club for not making enough changes to their structure and sticking to an old design despite losing games. Now, imagine that same club’s senior coach decides to resign on good terms, leaving the club in search of a new coach come season’s end and elevating an assistant coach to the caretaker role in the interim. If I can ask you to use your imagination once more, picture a world where the interim coach makes numerous changes to his playing side and those around him in the coaches box to set the team in a new direction under his tutelage. Wouldn’t it be a new level of irony for that same media outlet to paint the new coaching setup in a poor light, criticising them for a supposed lack of respect shown to the original assistant coaching staff by experimenting with new game-day configurations. I ask strictly hypothetically, of course.

 

It’s all about the timing.

Having only your second loss for the season as late as Round 10 is a decent season by any stretch for a team of any calibre. Even with the loss of two of their dominant key forwards, Brisbane have managed to battle out this season to date in a strong fashion. However, their loss to Hawthorn on the weekend could not have come at a worse time when you look at what’s ahead of the Lions. After hosting the Giants at the Gabba this weekend, the Lions will head to Perth and take on Fremantle, who up until a fortnight ago looked to be in almost as good a shape as the Lions currently are. Brisbane host the Saints at the Gabba a week after, there’s a team that’s locked in a tight battle to crack into the top four. They’re then treated to a week off compliments of the Bye before a tough fortnight pitted against both of last year’s Grand Finalists, Melbourne at the MCG and the Bulldogs at the Gabba. That’s as tough of a month of footy as you could get, it will be critical for the Lions to return to the winners list, and I have every faith that they will. However, those four weeks will truly test their resolve.

 

 

Teams:

Geelong vs Adelaide

 

Venue:

GMHBA Stadium

 

Snapshot:

The win-loss-win-loss pattern continued for the Cats as their second-half blitz blew away Port Adelaide by 35 points. Adelaide sunk to their fourth loss in as many weeks since their one-point thriller over the Bulldogs back in Round 6.

 

So what does it all mean?

Sixth place holds the Cats currently as their win and slightly higher percentage sees them hold off the incoming Swans and Tigers. The Crows are back inside the bottom four after losing their past four matches in a row. The Cats have had the better of the Crows in recent years, winning three of their past four encounters, the one loss coming in Round 1 last season where Adelaide stunned the Cats to kick-start their season. It’s been a Geelong dominated history between these two when playing at the Cats’ home ground, the Crows losing their last 11 games at GMHBA Stadium, their last victory there coming way back in Round 10 of 2003. Here’s a funny little stat: a young Gary Ablett played just his 22nd game of senior football for the Cats that day, it would be the 16th loss of his career in just those 22 games.

Geelong head to Marvel Stadium next week where they’ll play the Bulldogs on Friday night, followed by the Bye. The Crows will host the Eagles next week, before also having the Bye.

 

It’s a big week for:

Tyson Stengle

As the wantaway, once-troubled forward is set to come up against one of his old sides for the first time in Cats colours, he will do so whilst seeing the game in a totally different light, on the back of his incredible change of fortune. The 23-year-old forward has found a new lease on life and a different niche as a very effective, pressuring small forward. In his 10 games for Geelong this season he has already kicked 20 goals, eclipsing his previous best of eight, which he kicked from his 12 games as a Crow last season. The same can be said about his tackling, he has already laid more tackles this season than last, from two fewer games. How long has it been since Geelong have had a true, mercurial small forward? Matthew Stokes? I think Stengle could be even better if his career trajectory remains the same.

*For clarification, I classify Paul Chapman as a goalkicking midfielder, and Stevie J was too tall to be considered as a genuine small forward. I also rate Matthew Stokes over Travis Varcoe. But I’m open to any other suggestions that I may have neglected, Cats fans?

 

Last time they met:

The Crows jumped the Cats in Round 1 last year, kicking seven goals to three in the second quarter which built them enough of a lead to see off the fast-finishing Cats, with the Crows running out 12 point winners. Tex Walker kicked 5.2 and Rory Laird ran riot through the middle, Brandon Parfitt and Isaac Smith were amongst the Cats best.

 

All eyes on:

O, O, O.. O’Brien.

Can anybody shed some light on the whole Reilly O’Brien situation for me? The way I see it, the bloke wins the best and fairest in 2020 (that has been pointed out with regularity), 2021 sees him play 20 games and continue as one of the handful of premier ruckmen in the game, finishing equal fifth in the best and fairest. He started this year with a few decent games amongst a couple of quiet games, reached his heights with a brilliant game against the Bulldogs in Round 6, followed by two pretty dismal games across the next two rounds, only to find himself out of the side and relegated to the reserves in favour of a slightly younger ruckman (Kieran Strachan) that had only played three senior games to that point, after a brilliant year in the SANFL, winning the club’s best and fairest there. Plenty of other first choice ruckmen get more than two poor games before being shafted from the side, who’s toes has O’Brien stepped on?

 

Look what the Cats dragged in.

I’d just like to tip my hat to Tom Hawkins for a minute. Roughly once a year I stop and reflect on the career that the hulking forward has had, and how his consistency just filters on through each year that he ages. Turning 34 this year, his numbers show that he is still one of the most potent and fruitful forwards in the game. Not only is he third in the Coleman Medal standings at the time of writing, he’s also ranked third in score involvements, equal third for direct goal assists, first for marks inside 50 and fourth overall for contested marks. Credit where it’s due, Hawkins is a champion.

 

Teams:

Melbourne vs Fremantle

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The Demons had a fair contest from a spirited North Melbourne for the best part of almost three quarters, before their class and credentials rose to the top, and the reigning premiers ran away by 47 points down in Tassie. Fremantle succumbed to their second loss in as many games, this week being outcoached and outplayed by the Magpies in some torrid wet conditions in Perth, the Magpies rolling the Dockers by 36 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Two games clear on top of the table for the Demons, whilst the Dockers almost fell out of the top four after their fortnight of losses, currently sitting in fourth and holding off St. Kilda, who are also on seven wins, by only percentage. Melbourne have won three of their past four games against the Dockers by an average of 33 points, however, it’s Fremantle that have the better recent history at the MCG, beating Melbourne in three of their last five encounters at Australia’s home of football. Looking ahead, it’s the Demons taking on the Swans at the MCG next week and then they’ll ramp it up for the Queen’s Birthday match against the Magpies. For Fremantle, they’ll host the Lions at Optus Stadium next week and then the Hawks the following week, also in Perth.

 

It’s a big week for:

Sean Darcy and Rory Lobb

Coming up against the toughest task in football for a ruckman – Max Gawn and Luke Jackson at the MCG. If the current forecast at the time of writing is to remain accurate (which it won’t, I can’t rely on anything in football to remain accurate a few days in advance, let alone the weather) then the Demons may just have an added advantage that some wouldn’t have expected a few weeks ago – wet weather. I would expect the Dockers to have the sprinklers on at training every day this week, after being thoroughly beaten in the conditions by Collingwood last week, a true coaching success by Craig McRae to employee tactics that benefited the Magpies game and utilised the conditions to their advantage. The Dockers seemed to try much too hard to over-possess the ball, which led to their demise as Collingwood pounced.

 

Last time they met:

It feels like an eternity ago, but way back in Round 1 of last year, on their way to their first Grand Final in two hundred and thirty-something years, the Demons kicked off their brilliant season by grinding out a 22 point win over the Dockers, their first Round 1 victory in four seasons. The final score was 11.14.80 – 8.10.58, with Tom McDonald and Christian Petracca lighting up the scoreboard with a couple of goals each and Matt Taberner kicking three for the travelling side.

 

All eyes on:

Make way, sure! For the battle of the Brayshaws.

This is one of the better opposition brother pairings currently in the AFL. Angus at Melbourne has become one of the league’s premier Leatherman multi-tools, with an ability for any occasion. Last year in the Demons’ premiership season, became his side’s best defensive wingman and played a vital role during their run for the finals. This year he’s spent a lot more time in the backline, presumably covering for the loss of Christian Salem early in the season. A seamless transition that comes unstuck for teams more often than it pays off, we’ve seen examples of this in other sides as recently as the past couple of seasons, yet it’s working wonders for both Angus and his Demons.

Meanwhile, across the other side of the country, younger brother Andrew has become one of the Dockers’ most valuable players to their team and their current rise up the ranks within the AFL. The inside mid who’s a proficient tackling machine and a clearance king plays a very different role to what we’ve seen of his big brother, but one that suits his abilities and greatly benefits his side. Andrew is currently one of the red-hot favourites for the Brownlow, tipped by many to have polled at least a vote in almost every game that he’s played, if he runs out the season in the votes as hard as he runs out during games, then his name is justifiably in contention.

 

 

Teams:

West Coast vs Western Bulldogs

 

Venue:

Optus Stadium

 

Snapshot:

This is a matchup that holds near and dear to my heart, compliments of an internal rivalry that we have here at the Mongrel Punt. In the blue corner, we have our very own resident Eagles supporter and Oscar Allen advocate in Daniel ‘Kersh’ Kershaw. In the red corner, wearing his best Aaron Naughton headband and screaming Yippadee, Dippadee Doo! Into his webcam whenever the Bulldogs have a win, please give it up for Alex ‘The Doc’ Docherty.

The Eagles showed a lot against the Giants last week, probably more than we’ve seen from them in a number of weeks. They were a point off kicking their highest score of the season and were still in this game for long periods against the Giants, ultimately succumbing to a 52 point loss. The Dogs on the other hand have made it two decent wins from their past two games, this time accounting for a Gold Coast side that has shown plenty, beating top eight sides Fremantle and Sydney before coming into this game. The Bulldogs won by 19 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Eagles are still last on the ladder, their loss to the Giants actually lifted their percentage, slightly. It’s becoming a genuine race between them and the Kangaroos to their next win, even if only to get West Coast out of wooden spoon territory. The Bulldogs have had the better run of the two sides in recent times, winning their past three over the Eagles. However, it’s the home side that holds the advantage at this particular ground, the Eagles having beaten the Dogs in two of their three clashes at Optus Stadium by an average margin of just under 10 goals. The Bulldogs will host Geelong at Marvel Stadium next week before their bye the following week, whilst the Eagles travel to Adelaide for a date with the Crows before also having their Bye in Round 13.

 

It’s a big week for:

Tim English

The Bulldogs’ big man was in scintillating form, playing predominantly in the ruck across the first five rounds before a hamstring injury derailed the next five weeks of his season. I think English’s imminent return to the side will be a telling factor in how the Bulldogs fare this season, given that he was in conversations amongst the best ruckmen in the league for his form in the first month or so of football. The Eagles have been using a mix of their own Bailey Williams and Callum Jamieson in the ruck across the past few weeks, and whilst they’ve battled admirably, experienced, big-bodied ruckmen have exposed them. Max Gawn and Luke Jackson dealt them a tough assignment only a fortnight ago, but even the young, fledgling Matt Flynn last week for GWS proved too strong and too adept. With all due respect to the young Eagles duo, if the Bulldogs wanted a game tailored to easing a ruckman back from injury, then this would have to be one of your top choices.

 

Last time they met:

In Round 15 of the 2021 season, the Eagles had entered their decline whilst the Dogs were aboard the Grand Final train, they just didn’t know it yet. It was a very dull three quarters of football for a neutral observer before the Dogs finally broke free of the pack and piled on seven goals in a row to blow the margin out to 55 points. Aaron Naughton kicked 4.2, Bont kicked 3.1 and terrorised the Eagles midfield. Naitanui got the better of English in the ruck and Shannon Hurn was resolute in defence. 6.7.43 – 13.20.98.

 

All eyes on:

A bit on the Bulldogs.

Yeah, I’ve got to be really careful here. My Bulldogs pieces have been really dominant, but there are reasons why they’re not this week. That’s all I’ll say.

 

The wrong side of history.

I read during the week that this has become the worst season for the Eagles since 1989, when they only won a single game before Round 12. It’s also the first time in the club’s history that they’ve lost five games in a row by a margin greater than 50 points. With the midseason draft fast approaching, who are we hoping your club targets?

 

 

Teams:

Gold Coast vs Hawthorn

 

Venue:

TIO Stadium (Darwin)

 

Snapshot:

Sam Mitchell snapped an impressive end to the Hawks’ four-game losing streak, beating Brisbane down in Launceston in a tight finish by 5 points. The Suns on the other hand went down to the Bulldogs by 19 points after impressive wins over both Fremantle and Sydney.

 

So what does it all mean?

There’s only a 1% difference in the ladder positions of the Suns at 12th and the Hawks at 13th, with both sides sitting on a 4-6 ledger. Hawthorn have won three of their past four matches against the Suns by an average margin of just under 10 goals. These two sides have never faced off in Darwin before, the Suns have only played at TIO Stadium twice in their history, both significant losses. Their average score across those two games was a measly 4.6, whilst their opposition has averaged 8.18 against them at the venue. No, that’s not a typo. Eight goals, eighteen behinds – reflective of the playing conditions up there. The Suns will have back-to-back games in Darwin as they take on North Melbourne up there next week and then their week off for the Bye the following weeks. The Hawks take on Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday afternoon before heading to Optus Stadium where the Dockers await them.

 

It’s a big week for:

Jarrod Witts

The Suns banked two impressive wins, back to back over two formidable opponents in Sydney and Fremantle, largely thanks to their ability to control the ball out of the centre and make the most of their opportunities. They didn’t win the possession count against Fremantle, nor did they win the hitouts. But they capitalised on their contested ball and dominated in the clearances thanks largely to some great tap work by Jarrod Witts. Sean Darcy finished the game with the higher hitout numbers, but Witts was a lot more efficient and set up his midfield in a much more advantageous way. If Witts is able to take advantage against a Hawthorn side that is severely undermanned in their ruck department, the Suns’ midfield has the potential to go head to head with that of the Hawks, and potentially net Gold Coast their first-ever win in Darwin.

 

Last time they met:

Gold Coast hosted Hawthorn at the SCG. If I typed this three years ago, you would’ve looked at me as if I had just brewed soup in your boot. Perhaps if I told you that Gold Coast would roll the Hawks by 37 points after kicking the first four goals of the game with Ben King and Izak Rankine bagging four goals each, and Alex Sexton kicking three, I’d get the same look. Touk Miller and Brandon Ellis were unstoppable in the middle as Liam Shiels and Ben McEvoy battled admirably.   17.11.113 – 11.10.76.

 

All eyes on:

Dare to dream?

If you look at the month ahead for the Suns, you’d be forgiven for thinking that if they play their cards right, they may just be able to use it as a building block for the remainder of their season in their push for the club’s first finals berth. Their upcoming period consists of a plethora of games against the bottom and also a number of teams within close proximity to them on the ladder, some of the better sides are even travelling to Metricon Stadium, giving the Suns an even greater opportunity to establish themselves and continue their rich vein of form that’s seen them beat Sydney in Sydney as well as Fremantle, preventing both of those sides from scoring heavily and managing to pile on enough goals themselves via their makeshift forward line.

 

Sword and Shiels.

Do you try to stop Touk, or do you counter with your own midfield and nullify his ability to win the ball by relying on your own hard-nosed ball winners? Liam Shiels did a terrific job on Lachie Neale in the second half of his side’s win over the second-placed Brisbane last week. Neale started the game in scintillating fashion but was ultimately ‘cooled’ by Shiels. This week, Hawks coach Sam Mitchell has a decision to make on whether or not he turns to the veteran and former teammate of his to play a similar role against the Suns, or whether he backs the power of Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and current Rising Star smokey in Jai Newcombe to go head to head in a traditional midfield battle. Overcoming the ruck obstacle will be his first challenge.

 

 

Teams:

St. Kilda vs North Melbourne

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

It’s two wins on the trot for the rampaging Saints after a shaky couple of weeks that saw them drop a couple of games, this week gone they were far too good for an inaccurate Adelaide, beating the Crows by 21 points. North Melbourne put up a decent fight against the undefeated Demons for the best part of three quarters, in an effort that would’ve lost them no respect from their fans. Melbourne ran away in the final term to win by 47 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Only percentage is keeping the Saints outside of the top four now, whilst only percentage is keeping North Melbourne out of 18th. The Kangaroos have won four of their past five against the Saints in recent times, every one of the past 26 games between these two sides has either been contested at Marvel Stadium or Blundstone Arena since 2003 – which was the last time these two sides squared off at the MCG. The only exception to that was in 2008 when the Kangaroos played three games, including their clash with the Saints, on the Gold Coast at what is now known as Metricon Stadium. Why did this occur? The AFL were experimenting with football on the Gold Coast in the early days of their bid to grant a license for a 17th AFL side, a license that would inevitably go to the Gold Coast Suns.

Speaking of the Suns, that’s who the Kangaroos will face next week up in Darwin, before hosting the Giants at Marvel Stadium the week after. As for the Saints, they’ll have next week off before heading up to the ‘Gabba-ttoir’ to take on Brisbane.

 

It’s a big week for:

Callum Wilkie

The Saints defender may be on the verge of losing his tag as the side’s most underrated player. Wilkie has had a solid season, capped off over the past three weeks with a handful of terrific games, but his form this season has been ever consistent, a trait that carries over from his body of work last year. I wrote earlier in the year that Wilkie had fast become one of the best sets of hands in the St. Kilda team and one of their more reliable players. I notice as of late that there is a lot of traction building in the general media, acknowledging him and his efforts this season to quell the influence of some of the game’s best forwards: Greene, De Goey, Cameron, Fritsch, Gunston, Walters. One of the keys to the Saints success this season has been their ability to switch matchups mid-game and allow their opponent no sense of familiarity. It started out of necessity after a poor outing, but became part of their fabric as we see each week players switching their direct man and changing things around regularly. At what point will Wilkie become a rated player? My money is in the ‘very soon’ camp, that’s not to say that he isn’t already there.

 

Last time they met:

An inaccurate St. Kilda kicked away from a gallant North Melbourne and managed to hold on for a 20 point win. Luke Dunstan was in terrific form in what turned out to be nothing more than an audition for the League’s other sides, as his papers were already stamped at the Saints. Aaron Hall was dominant from half-back, rebounding the ball for the Roos and causing some dramas for the opposition. Mason Wood kicked three goals and Jack Billings was lively with two of his own. 12.16.88 – 10.8.68.

 

All eyes on:

Not pandering the downtrodden.

In a week that’s been nothing short of hellish for North Melbourne, rather than add yet another yellow box round to the current bonfire that’s crackling away at Arden Street, I’ll instead focus my attention on their captain who is set to play his 250th game of football this week. Jack Ziebell was taken from the Murray Bushrangers by the North Melbourne Football Club at Pick 9 in the 2008 National Draft. Highlighted in his first season by then-coach Dani Laidley (Dean) as a future leader at the club, Ziebell quickly cemented his place in the Kangaroos side as a player that wore his heart on his sleeve and did everything within his power for the betterment of his football club.

Named vice captain at the age of just 23, it was at the conclusion of the 2016 season that he was named to replace Andrew Swallow as captain of the club and has carried that title since the 2017 season. Whilst drafted with the intention to play as a midfielder, Ziebell has gone on to become the ultimate small utility at the club, spending years playing a role in the forward line as a high-pressure tackling forward, but more recently having stints in the backline as a rebound defender and utilising his elite foot skills to set up play behind the ball. Ziebell has etched his name amongst the modern day greats at North Melbourne and will continue being the front of their rebuild as the club looks to re-enter the race for finals contention.

 

Player highlight.

How good is Jack Sinclair looking this season? Nothing special here, just a good old fashioned admiration post. Every club seems to have one of those stories where a new coach comes in and switches the magnets around, but there’s that one player that jumps off the board and grabs his new position by the balls. For the Saints, that is Jack Sinclair. His shift to the backline has become a revelation for the Saints, finishing second in the club’s best and fairest last season, Sinclair has fast become one of the league’s best rebounding defenders, highlighted by his inclusion in the suggested All Australian side of most football personalities and organisations at the midway point of this season. It’s become a season of discovery for the 27-year-old as he’s earned himself the tag as one of the Saints’ best players.

 

 

Teams:

Collingwood vs Carlton

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

Coach Craig McRae pulled out a number of stops against the Dockers that proved to be ingenious, outplaying Fremantle on their own ground and winning by 36 points after a fortnight of heavy defeats at the hands of Richmond and the Bulldogs. Carlton made it four in a row when they ran over the top of Sydney on Friday night. Their midfield proved too strong for the Swans, despite a late resurgence, the Blues wound up winning by 15 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

One of the oldest, and once fiercest rivalries in our game. Carlton find themselves comfortably inside the top four and playing some great football. The Magpies are now up to 10th as they look to build towards a crack at the top eight once again. The Magpies have won five of their past six games against the Blues, with every game between these two sides (with the exception of one Covid affected match in 2020 being at the Gabba) since Round 18 of 2000 where the Blues rolled the Magpies by 111 points at Princes Park, has been contested at the MCG. Carlton have the bye next week before they’re scheduled to break the hearts of Essendon fans in their club’s 150th-anniversary celebration match the week after. Collingwood take on Hawthorn at the MCG and then Melbourne the week after, also at the MCG, for the Queen’s Birthday match.

 

It’s a big week for:

The backup ruckman

Darcy Cameron is set to take on Tom De Koning in this week’s battle, marking the losses that both teams have suffered in their subsequent ruck departments. With Brodie Grundy rupturing his PCL on Anzac Day, forcing the man with the mammoth contract to sit the majority of the season out, Darcy Cameron has been thrust into the ring, apparently held in greater stead with the coaches than Mason Cox, to tackle the role of number one ruckman. Likewise at Carlton, Marc Pittonet also ruptured his PCL, which has once again left the Blues looking at alternative options. Knowing that Jack Silvagni isn’t the answer, they have turned to Tom De Koning. Both ruckmen mentioned have done well in their role, proving once again that teams willing to be brave in the face of adversity can reap the rewards of their fortitude when players that are thrust into the limelight, prosper.

 

Last time they met:

A wet and miserable Sunday afternoon as the rain tumbled down in July, it was Round 18 of last season and the Blues kicked eight of the last nine goals of the game to storm home with a wet sail and beat the Pies by 29 points. Sam Walsh put up a herculean effort in the centre with some help from Matt Kennedy. Jordan de Goey was impressive for the Magpies and Harry McKay extended his Coleman lead with four goals.

9.8.62 – 13.13-91.

 

All eyes on:

Sacrificial Jack.

When he’s not plying his craft as a backup ruckman’s backup ruckman, Jack Silvagni has added another string to his bow and one that caught my eye last week against the Swans. In a rehash of the forward line to cover for the loss of reigning Coleman Medallist Harry McKay, Charlie Curnow was allowed a free range to operate in the forward line, with Silvagni pushing himself further up the ground and potentially sacrificing his own game for the betterment of the team – a tactic that worked brilliantly, earning my praises.

 

Coaching capers.

As former teammates at the Lions, Craig McRae and premiership hero Michael Voss prepare to face off as senior coaches for the first time ever, one’s mind tends to wonder just what little tricks we might see pulled out this week. Both of these coaches have had a few genius moments in season 2022, outwitting their opposition with changes and tweaked mid-game that have become a catalyst for a surprise win. Let’s see who pulls the fanciest trick out of the coaching hat this week.

 

Teams:

Port Adelaide vs Essendon

 

Venue:

Adelaide Oval

 

Snapshot:

Port lost their first game in over a month after losing their first five games of the season, and winning the next four. The Cats were too good down at Geelong, winning comfortably in the end by 35 points. The Bombers showed some growth and an improvement on last week’s capitulation, but not enough to see them run away with the win, their lack of ability to prevent transition football from the opposition’s backline costing them, once again. The Tigers were victorious against the Bombers yet again, extending their winning streak that stems back to 2014, by 32 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Bombers are now only one win out of the bottom two on the ladder as the only team currently left on two wins for the season. Port dropped to 11th after their loss on the weekend and the subsequent wins to Collingwood and the Bulldogs. The Power have won their last three clashes with the Bombers, they also hold a narrow 3-2 advantage over Essendon in games played at Adelaide Oval. The Bombers have the Bye next week before celebrating their 150th anniversary in a game against Carlton at the MCG – how riveting is that going to be for their supporters..

Power also has the Bye next week, then they travel to the MCG to take on Richmond.

 

It’s a big week for:

Andrew McGrath

With fellow running defender Mason Redman copping a one-week suspension for an errant elbow, there will undoubtedly be a shift in focus at the Bombers onto who picks up the slack down back. Given that their numerous deficiencies have been brought to the front in tremendous fashion this season, losing another player for a week is just another hurdle that they must jump in their unenviable quest for some relevance. McGrath has spent the majority of his career so far being switched between his role at half-back and a midfield position, with many questioning whether the Bombers have afforded the utility any time to settle and make a role his own. Jordan Ridley is also set to return to the side after missing last week with health and safety protocols, which would bolster the Bombers’ defence, at least in theory.

 

Last time they met:

A disastrous afternoon lay in wait for the Bombers, but from the ashes of disaster rose a phoenix with the number three emblazoning its back. Port were much too strong at home, winning by 54 points as the Bombers lost Dylan Shiel, Sam Draper and Jye Caldwell to long term injuries in the same game. But it was through this wave of injuries that they were forced to play Darcy Parish directly on the ball, the rest is history. Zak Butters played one of his best games for the club, Charlie Dixon and Mitch Georgiadis kicked four goals each and Ollie Wines preyed on the undermanned Essendon midfield. The final margin reading 18.11.119 – 9.11.65

 

All eyes on:

Charlie Dixon

The strong marking forward makes his senior return for the first time this season after having ankle surgery back in February, to a surprising lack of fanfare. Perhaps easing him back into senior footy against a side in as poor shape as Essendon currently are in doesn’t necessarily command the same backpage headlines that bringing him back for a blockbuster game would. However, it will bolster Port Adelaide’s scoring options and present them with a hard-hitting, strong marking tall forward that they struggled to find earlier in the season. The hope from here will be that another tall doesn’t upset the apple cart that’s finally looked somewhat closer to making it back to the September market.

 

Hobbs and sure.

Resist the temptation to ruin the career of another promising young kid, Essendon. Ben Hobbs simply must stay in this side (pending fitness) and gain exposure to as many midfield minutes as his body can handle. If you truly see this 19 year old as the strong, bullocking midfielder that everybody else recognised him as at the draft, then you must continue to play him accordingly and get some games under his belt. He has shown this year that he has far too much talent with the ball in hand and when tackling the opposition, to just be pissed away in a meaningless, deadend position.

 

Well, that’s me done for another week, folks. Don’t forget to add any comments, queries or corrections. That’s me signing out for another week!

 

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