Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and all others inclusive to this week’s edition of Jimmy’s Mongrel Preview! Put the cat out, feed the dogs and tie your mother down because it’s time to talk footy.

After some mighty upsets, some standard blowouts and a sprinkle of controversy to stop the kids farting in church last week, Round 12 is finally upon us.

This is the first week of the bye rounds as I see it.

 

 

Teams:

Western Bulldogs vs Geelong

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

The Bulldogs come into this important clash on the back of a 100 point trouncing of the Eagles, they kicked away early and shared the prosperity amongst the side’s 16 individual goal kickers. The Cats were also far too strong for a lesser opponent, outscoring the Crows by 42 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

It’s back inside the top eight for the Bulldogs and a big enough win could see them switch standings with sixth-placed Geelong, leaving them scraping to stay inside the top eight themselves. A win to the Cats would see them vying for a spot inside the top four once again, such is the current tightness of the top half of the ladder. The ladder is likely to see some strange placings over the next three weeks until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. It’s been somewhat up and down between these two sides over the years, with the Cats having won three of the last four clashes against the Dogs. They’ve met at Marvel Stadium 15 times since the stadium opened, with the Cats holding a 9-6 advantage at the venue. Both teams have the Bye next week before a week on the road, the Bulldogs heading to Giants stadium to take on GWS and the Cats heading to Perth where they’ll be met by the Eagles.

 

It’s a big week for:

Mark Blicavs

Geelong’s tall utility is one of the more intriguing players in the game for a number of reasons. There aren’t many players of his size that possess the aerobic capacity, nor the athleticism that Blicavs does. The only problem for the Cats is that they haven’t got two of him. Blicavs isn’t just the Cats’ best option in the ruck, he’s also one of their more reliable defenders. His ability to read the play, leap high and mark the ball, as well as find a way to set up from the backline is no less than vital for Geelong. Although Reilly O’Brien was dominant last week, Blicavs was also arguably one of the Cats’ best players in his hybrid role that sees him cover numerous bases. He will once again have his hands full this week, with the impending duel against one of this season’s in-form ruckmen in Tim English. In his second week back from a five-week injury layoff, English was instrumental in the Bulldogs’ win over West Coast last week, and will prove another tough test for Blicavs this week. Even if Rhys Stanley is recalled to the side, we all know the highest quality ruck work by any player in the hoops will be from the hands of Mark Blicavs.

 

 

Last time they met:

A back and forth, goal for goal thriller down in Geelong saw the Cats scrape out a five-point win over the Dogs in Round 14 of last year. You may remember the game for the final minute drama, where Toby McLean looked to have kicked the sealer in the dying seconds in what was his return game after rupturing his ACL. But it was an after the siren set shot from Geelong’s Gary Rohan who marked truly in the left forward pocket during the final seconds of the match, flushing the kick to drive a nail in the hearts of the Bulldogs. It was a typical clash of the titans as your standard names starred, such as Selwood, Menegola, Liberatore and Bontempelli, whilst Stewart and Daniel were both at their damaging best in defence for their respective sides. Thirteen lead changes throughout the match lead to an absolute thriller, the final scoreline read 12.11.83 – 11.12.78.

 

All eyes on:

Sam De Koning

Our latest Rising Star nominee has earned the praises of many within the football world this season after playing all but one game and exciting Cats fans with his brilliant vertical leap and defensive capabilities. His efforts against the Crows last week were enough to secure him Round 10’s Rising Star nomination, an achievement long overdue in the eyes of his supporters. Seeing him line up on some of the competition’s best full forwards this season has been a brilliant precursor of what’s to come in a hopefully long and fulfilling career. Seeing him potentially line up on Aaron Naughton this week should be scintillating football.

 

Bailey Smith

With ‘Bazlenka’ set to return to the side this round after missing last week’s trip to Perth with a debilitating bout of the flu, Smith will be hoping to stamp his authority on a game against the Cats, after being heavily subdued the last time these two sides met, in a game that saw him cop some heavy criticism for his poor ball usage and lack of urgency. He’s been in terrific form so far this season, with quite a few personalities having him amongst their top picks for the Brownlow Medal at this point in the season. His inclusion in the side comes at a great time for the Bulldogs as they look to continue making amends for their poor start to the season.

 

 

Teams:

Adelaide vs West Coast

 

Venue:

Adelaide Oval

 

Snapshot:

The Eagles were soundly beaten by the Bulldogs, the final margin ballooning out to over 100 points as Tim Kelly starred amidst the heavy defeat. The Crows were also beaten, their trip to Geelong proving too much to overcome as the Cats ran away 42-point winners.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Eagles cashed in with their number one selection in the midseason draft, sitting below North Melbourne on the ladder thanks to a paltry percentage. The Crows are also in the bottom four thanks to only winning three games this season. A win could see them jump as high as 13th, pending the results of other games. The ladder is likely to see some strange placings over the next three weeks until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. The Eagles hold a strong record over the Crows, having won seven of their past eight encounters by an average of 26 points. Of these two sides’ six clashes at Adelaide Oval, West Coast have been victorious on four occasions, holding the better record at the Crows’ home ground. Both sides have the Bye next week, Adelaide are then set to travel to Metricon Stadium to take on the up-and-about Suns, whilst the Eagles host the Cats at Optus Stadium.

 

It’s a big week for:

Taylor Walker

Big Tex started his season incredibly, the veteran forward bagging 16 goals in his first five games for the club, followed by a fortnight of two-goal hauls. His past few weeks have been below standard, kicking only single goals in each of his last two outings. Now, it would be remiss of me to not mention his opponents in those two games – Brisbane and St. Kilda. Two sides that are currently inside the top four. But with the prospect of facing the side on the bottom of the ladder on his home deck, the pickings are right for Walker to have a day out. Especially against an Eagles side that’s decimated to the levels that we’re seeing this season. Other teams are using the matchup as a percentage booster where possible, so it’s time for Tex to cash in and kick himself a bag before the Bye.

 

Last time they met:

Other than their heroic victory over the Magpies this year, the Eagles beating the Crows in Round 18 of last season was the second-last time that the club would taste victory, right up until the current round of this season. The Eagles controlled the tempo for the majority of the game at Adelaide Oval, Jamie Cripps and Liam Ryan kicked 8.6 between them whilst Rory Laird and Ben Keays were proficient in the midfield for the home side. West Coast tasting victory by 42 points in Nic Naitanui’s 200th game. 8.8.56 – 14.24.98.

 

All eyes on:

Patrick Parnell

Whilst the mid-season draft is fresh in our minds, now is as good a time as ever to mention the impending debut of Adelaide’s first selection at pick #4 in the 2021 mid-season draft, Patrick Parnell. The gut-running defender has been credited as an elite user of the ball by foot and a sublime decision-maker under pressure, which is fitting given the Crows’ woes in their backline at times throughout this season to date. The Crows’ woes.. I’ll use that one again somewhere. Playing the beginning of the year in the Crows SANFL side, Parnell has impressed with his ability to impact a game from the backline often turning a highly defensive predicament into an attacking opportunity thanks to his determination and skill.

 

Aces Jai

The Eagles got their man. All eyes were firmly focused on Jai Culley, the Eagles’ first choice in the midseason draft this week. The 19-year-old is primed to bolster the midfield of the embattled Eagles, standing at almost 6’4 in the old scale (193 cm), Culley is an elusive, big-bodied midfielder from the Dandenong Stingrays that has impressed this season in the NAB league with his ability to get forward and kick goals, as well as utilising his height to mark the ball at its highest point. I have no doubt that we’ll see Culley’s name on the teamsheet post-Bye, once he begins to adapt to the new footy club. I speak for myself, as well as the Eagles supporters when I say that I’m excited to see what the young gun is able to achieve.

 

 

Teams:

Gold Coast vs North Melbourne

 

Venue:

TIO Stadium (Darwin)

 

Snapshot:

The Suns had an impressive win over the Hawks, one of their largest winning margins in the club’s history. Playing the conditions in Darwin brilliantly, they wound up beating Hawthorn by 67 points. North Melbourne were disappointing in captain Jack Ziebell’s 250th game, being outclassed by the Saints to the tune of 53 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Luckily for the Kangaroos, the Eagles with their subpar percentage are relishing on the bottom of the ladder, keeping North in 17th currently. The Suns are 12th and only one win outside of the top eight. The ladder is likely to see some strange placings over the next three weeks until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. It’s been a close history between these two sides, Gold Coast have more wins over the Kangaroos than any other side, their overall tally of seven wins from their 15 clashes could even out at a 50/50 split if they’re to win this week. This will be the first time these two sides face off outside of Victoria, Tasmania or Queensland, with the Suns’ record in Darwin not great viewing up until last week’s win over the Hawks. Gold Coast have the Bye next week before they host the Crows at Metricon Stadium. The Kangaroos will host the Giants at Marvel Stadium before having the Bye the following week.

 

 

It’s a big week for:

Hometown Heroes

Gold Coast duo Joel Jeffrey and Mal Rosas Jnr had the rare privilege of playing in front of a hometown crowd on the weekend when they were both named to play in the Suns’ clash at Tio Stadium in Darwin. Cameras in the live broadcast panned to the family and friends of the local pair numerous times, and both players starred in their own rights, no doubt fueled by their desire to excel and impress in front of their oldest and truest supporters. Gold Coast are lucky enough to be playing there again this week, with the club opting to stay in Darwin for the two week period thanks to the scheduling of back-to-back games in the Northern Territory.

 

Last time they met:

Round 15 last year we saw one of the more frustratingly inaccurate games of the season as the Tasmanian winds of Blundstone Arena wreaked havoc on the goalscorers, both sides combining for 6.15 in the second half, with the Suns kicking the final five scores of the match – all behinds. On a day of wasted opportunity for both sides, North Melbourne would win by nine points. 9.18.72 – 9.9.63.

 

All eyes on:

Jaidyn Stephenson

Whether he makes it back into the side or not this week, just where is Stephenson at in his career? North Melbourne acquired him for next to nothing, compliments of Collingwood’s deplorable mismanagement of their list a few seasons ago. So after being dropped twice this season, Stephenson has been told to find form in the VFL, playing for North Melbourne’s reserves side. But with coach David Noble stating this week that “It’s difficult to generate that intensity and pressure at times with VFL, the standard is difficult and awkward at times.” I can’t help but wonder just how effective a few weeks playing in the VFL are actually going to be, given that it’s apparently so difficult to assess how the player is faring when relegated there, by his own coach’s admission. There are so many strange happenings at the North Melbourne Football Club currently, or should that be the Twinkie Football Club? Given that when the world implodes, it’ll be just Shinboners and cockroaches left, right Boomer?

 

Tall Forwards

With Levi Casboult set to miss the side’s clash with the Kangaroos this week, the Suns have recalled Sam Day from their VFL side for the first time this season. One of the few remaining foundation players left at Gold Coast, Day now sits fifth on the most games played for the  Suns behind David Swallow, Jarrod Harbrow, Alex Sexton and recently Touk Miller, coming into what will be his 144th appearance in the red, blue and gold.

 

 

Teams:

Melbourne vs Sydney

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The almighty Demons were finally conquered, on their home patch no less by the exciting Western Australian side of Flagmantle. The Dockers astoundingly kicked 13 of the final 14 goals of the game, limiting the Demons to only a solitary goal since the halfway point of the second quarter, beating the reigning premiers by 38 points. The Swans scraped home against the Tigers amidst a sea of controversies. The final margin being only six points at the SCG.

 

So what does it all mean?

Despite their loss on the weekend, the Demons still sit a game clear on top of the ladder with an almost 8% gap between themselves and the second-place Lions. The Swans are currently seventh, but only percentage away from third if they’re to win this week, such is the closeness of the top eight standings. The ladder is likely to see some strange placings over the next three weeks until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. Sydney hold a recent dominance over the Demons, winning nine of their past 11 meetings since the two side’s epic draw back in 2011, with seven of those games being played at the MCG, six of which were won by the Swans. Melbourne have Collingwood at the MCG next week for the annual Queen’s Birthday match, then the Bye the following week. The Swans will have their week off next week, then travel to Adelaide where they’ll take on Port.

 

It’s a big week for:

Sydney’s Forwards

With Buddy Franklin failing in his bid to have his one-week suspension overturned for striking Richmond’s Trent Cotchin last week, the Swans will be without their leading goal scorer for this season, in a match that would’ve played well into his favour, given that the Demons appear likely to be without All Australian defender, and currently one of the league’s best in Steven May. The onus will now be on the likes of Sam Reid, Will Hayward and Logan McDonald, all of whom have scored multiple goals in recent weeks, to find a way to kick goals against the best side currently in the league. Just as long as nobody’s legal council insinuates that Buddy Franklin is a coward, or that Trent Cotchin is a poor actor – I’d hate to see the AFL be forced to release a public apology, distancing themselves from such comments.

 

Last time they met:

It was a somewhat subdued match by anyone’s standards, let alone two free-flowing, high scoring teams such as the Swans and the Demons when these two sides last met at the MCG in Round 8 of last year. Melbourne held out to win by nine points, with Ben Brown and Tom McDonald starring in the forward line together for the first time, combining for seven of the Demons’ ten goals. Buddy Franklin was blanketed by Steven May in the champion forward’s return game. 10.7.67 – 8.10.58

 

All eyes on:

Blueprint, or shoe print?

The mighty Demons have been slain. Cue the dozens of articles detailing the exact blueprint used to beat them! Personally, I’ve seen a dozen or so, and I’ve had a gutful. In absolutely no way am I discounting what the Dockers did, they were tremendous and truly did beat Melbourne at their own game – both literally and figuratively. But when you break it down, the loss of Steven May mid-game to injury, Christian Petracca playing ill to the point that he was bedridden in the days prior to the game, and Ed Langdon missing the game are all variables that the opposition can’t really account for, nor make plans around. Equally as great as Fremantle were on the day, there were extenuating circumstances in that match that make it impossible for teams to watch it on replay and carve out a like-for-like “blueprint” to beating the Demons. Sure, they can emulate things that Fremantle did successfully, but you can’t expect teams to achieve that every single week.

 

 

Teams:

Hawthorn vs Collingwood

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

It was a case of the haves and the have nots up in Darwin. The Suns have a ruckman, the Hawks have not. Jarrod Witts led his side to a 67 point win over the Hawks, winning their first-ever game in Darwin in the process. The Magpies held on against the fast-finishing Blues, upsetting their arch-rivals in front of a massive crowd at the MCG on a Sunday afternoon.

 

So what does it all mean?

Sitting on four wins has the Hawks in 13th place, whilst the Magpies are up to 10th and sit only percentage outside of the top eight. The ladder is likely to see some strange placings over the next three weeks until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. Since the turn of the millennium, the Hawks have had a good run against the Magpies, winning 24 of their 31 meetings, including 13 of the last 15. Only twice since the stadium’s inception have these two sides faced off at Marvel Stadium, the only other venue in such time was Sydney Showgrounds Stadium due to Covid restrictions. Other than that, this fixture has been strictly played at the MCG for over 20 years. The Hawks travel to Perth next week to take on Fremantle before having the Bye, the Magpies will face the Demons in the annual Queen’s Birthday match at the MCG before they too have the Bye the following week.

 

 

It’s a big week for:

Jai Newcombe vs Jordan De Goey

There are a number of matchups this week that have the pundits salivating. For me, I cannot wait to see Rising Star hopeful Jai Newcombe and Jordan De Goey go head to head in the midfield for their opposing teams. Newcombe has impressed Hawks fans and footy fans alike this season with his brute strength and willingness to attack the ball, and his man at the contest. We all know what Jordan De Goey is capable of when his pets aren’t breaking his bones or overseas nightclubs busting his balls. The Magpies grunt midfielder has spent more time at the centre bounce this year than ever before, clearly working in that dominant midfield role that he had his eyes on in seasons past. We’re likely to see these two bulls quite literally going at each other, and it’s a matchup that has me frothing.

 

 

Last time they met:

Remember when Hawthorn started winning games left, right and centre after the club had announced that they were trading in coach Alastair Clarkson for the later Sam Mitchell model? Well, this was one of those games. The Hawks jumped the Magpies, kicking eight goals to three in the first half, with a blistering run of ten out of twelve goals kicked across the second and third quarters building a fine lead for the brown and yellow, before the Magpies piled on a handful of late goals to get back within a few kicks, but it was Hawthorn that managed to hold them off and claim the win, finishing up 19 points winners. The final score 15.7.97 – 12.6.78.

 

All eyes on:

I sound like my copy of Bomber by Motörhead. (Unfortunately, an overused busted record)

 

I’ve long had a brick in my fruit bowl over footy clubs opting to throw a veteran midfielder into a halfback role when they still have more than enough to offer by being in the midfield. Anybody perusing this that by chance has read any of my Sydney Swans pieces about Josh Kennedy this season will have a sense of Deja Vu. Now, I completely understand the benefit of allowing younger players a run through the midfield, and this often has to come at the expense of a senior player. But taking out a player that isn’t necessarily the weakest link, can prove to have a negative effect. We’ve seen this at times with Scott Pendlebury spending the majority of his time this season behind the ball. We saw on Anzac Day when the Bombers were pressing hard in the final quarter, coach Craig McRae charged Scott Pendlebury with a return to the midfield for one of the first real times this season, a move that paid dividends and went a long way to helping the Magpies win that game. Since returning after missing Round 9, we’ve seen him quietly slip back into a more permanent midfield role, and the results for the Magpies speak for themselves.

Last week against the Blues, Pendlebury spent equally as much time at centre bounces as any other Collingwood player, and whilst his numbers weren’t as high as we’ve come to expect, his influence on the game cannot be understated – especially taking into account the quality of midfielders that he was opposing.

The week before, in his side’s upset win over Fremantle, the same thing occurred. Pendlebury spent more time at centre bounces than any player on the field. Again, his numbers weren’t fanatical, but his influence and ability to effect the contest against the likes of Brodie, Brayshaw, Mundy and Serong were massive.

Scott Pendlebury has had more centre attendances than any other Magpie across the past fortnight, and the results are speaking for themselves. Whilst I believe there is always room for a classy ex-mid to slip into the backline, using his control and poise behind the ball, sometimes it works out much better for the team to just play the player in the position that he’s started in for 300+ games.

 

 

Teams:

Fremantle vs Brisbane

 

Venue:

Optus Stadium

 

Snapshot:

The Dockers come into this game with a head larger than one of Grandma’s onion-laden rissoles, having defeated the undefeated on their own turf, taming Melbourne at its MCG fortress. Brisbane scraped for a while but we’re ultimately too good for a proppy Giants side that is showing a lot more promise than they were a few weeks ago.

 

So what does it all mean?

The Dockers sit third on the ladder, directly below the Lions in second. With only one win separating the two sides, a big enough Dockers victory will see them leapfrog the Lions and claim second place. The ladder is likely to see some strange placings over the next three weeks until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. It’s been all Brisbane in recent times, with the Lions winning five of their past six clashes over Fremantle, including winning two of three from Optus Stadium by an average margin of 65 points. Both sides will host home games next week, followed by the Bye. The Lions take on fourth-placed St. Kilda at the Gabba, whilst the Dockers will host Hawthorn at Optus Stadium.

 

It’s a big week for:

Luke Ryan

After absolutely starring for the Dockers last week in their streak-breaking victory over the Demons, anybody watching would be forgiven for likening the event to that of WrestleMania XXX where the world came to a standstill as Brock Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s streak of 21-0 at the company’s flagship event. Ryan was a force to be reckoned with as he put on a clinic for the Dockers, stunning the Demons and only allowing last year’s Premiers to score one goal after the halfway point of the second quarter, whilst Fremantle piled on 13 goals of their own. This week, Ryan is set to oppose the highest-scoring team in the league this season, and a side that has a ridiculous amount of players with an ability to kick multiple goals. If he can back up his efforts from the MCG last week on his home deck against the Lions this week, the Dockers may just find themselves second on the ladder.

 

 

Last time they met:

We were closing in on the finals last year, both sides were in poor form, Brisbane scraping to stay in touch with be top four whilst Fremantle too were scraping to stay in touch with the top eight. The Lions came out breathing fire, beating the Dockers by 64 points, causing the purple haze to drop from eighth to twelfth and all but dashing their finals hopes. Dayne Zorko was elite and Joe Daniher kicked four goals. 8.6.54 – 18.10.118.

 

 

All eyes on:

The outcome.

I touched on it briefly in a previous segment, but this game is shaping up as a rip-snorter in terms of ladder positioning. We were gifted in the latter half of last season with a handful of big stage games where the outcome determined ladder position and even finals position, and it was thrilling for the footy public. This week is no exception with the second-placed Lions taking on the third-placed Dockers in a game that has the potential to affect their current standings. Not just that, but both sides play again next week before having the Bye the week after, meaning that if Fremantle manage to get the win over Brisbane this week, all of a sudden their clash with Hawthorn next week, paired with the Lions’ must-win game against the fourth-placed Saints becomes even more gripping. Suddenly, the Lions’ tough few weeks become even tougher pending the results of those teams closing in on them.

 

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