Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and all others inclusive to the Round 14 edition of Jimmy’s Mongrel Preview!

We ticked off yet another bye week as the AFL somehow managed to cram six games into five days across a full-bore long weekend of football.

Now follow me as I guide you through yet another bye-round as seen through the eyes of a Mongrel.

 

 

Teams:

Richmond vs Carlton

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The Tigers come into this absolute blockbuster on the back of a grinding win over Port Adelaide whilst the Blues put an expected dampener on the Bombers 150th anniversary celebrations at the MCG.

 

So what does it all mean?

The ladder is likely to see some strange placings between Rounds 12-14 until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. The Tigers are now back in their spiritual place at ninth thanks to the Magpies’ upset win over the Demons in the Queen’s Birthday match. Carlton are a game clear in fourth, but still one game behind the three teams above them. After their shock Elimination Final loss to Carlton back in 2013, the Tigers went on a run of 11 straight wins over the Blues, up until they snapped that losing streak in Round One of this season, Michael Voss’ first game as coach of Carlton. This game is a standard MCG fixture, having not been played at any other ground since 2006 at Marvel Stadium. With this week spelling the last of the bye rounds, both sides have big games ahead of them. Carlton take on Fremantle at Marvel Stadium next week in a match that will help shape the top four, then another hugely impactful game the following week against St. Kilda, which will also be at Marvel Stadium. The Tigers have a date with Geelong at the MCG, and then the Eagles the week after, also at the home of footy.

 

It’s a big week for:

Tom Lynch

The Tigers forward was leading the way in the Coleman Medal standings before his untimely hamstring injury against the Bombers back in Round 10. Amazingly, he still sits equal fifth, two goals behind the next best (Tom Hawkins) and eight behind outright leader, Charlie Curnow.

 

Last time they met:

The drought-breaking win to kick-start the Blues’ season. They trailed the Tigers into the fourth quarter, but astoundingly kicked the final seven goals of the game to win their first game of the season in a long time, and record a win over Richmond in an even longer time. Patrick Cripps made a good contribution to his Brownlow credentials of this season, kicking three goals and accumulating possessions for fun, and Shai Bolton was electric up forward, kicking three goals for the Tigers. 14.17.101 – 11.10.76

 

All eyes on:

You Swing Me Right Round

One thing that I’ve liked this year is that Damien Hardwick hasn’t been afraid to move his players around. We saw Noah Balta start the year swapping between the forward line and the back line when the Tigers were struggling to score. We’ve seen Liam Baker take a hold of the task handed to him, be that as a forward half pressure player or his new role as a fleeting stopper across half-back. There is no reluctance to do what’s best for the team, and it’s one thing I admired about this Richmond side throughout their premiership years. They recruited Josh Gibcus as a highly motivated key defender for the future, and we’ve seen some great signs of progression this season. Last week Todd Marshall got the better of Gibcus, prompting Hardwick to send his top pick of last year to the forward line, where to his credit, he kicked a brilliant goal from the boundary when the game was on the line. Call it chance, call it luck, call it fate, but it worked. It may have been a flash in the pan that appears in hindsight as a moment of sheer coaching brilliance, but nobody can deny that Dimma isn’t prepared to try a Plan B, C and D when things aren’t working his way.

 

True Tall Test

Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow did enough against the Bombers last week without having to break any records in terms of input. If I’m honest, I was left slightly underwhelmed, but that lies largely in part thanks to my lofty expectations, having seen this season that these two are knocking on Geelong’s door in an effort to take the mantle as the best one-two forward combination in the League. Essendon’s inability to defend this season sees them as the worst side in the competition for ease of being scored against, this is something that I expected both McKay and Curnow to take full advantage of. Don’t get me wrong, they both performed well in their own rights (except Harry feeling the need to put more sauce on a few instances of contact than my kids would on a bowl of chips, but I brushed on that in my On Fire / Under Fire article this week). I thought Charlie’s dribble kick from near the boundary showcased the versatility of a player his size to be able to play the number one role as the key tall, as seen in McKay’s absence, but has enough goal presence and agility to play a crumbling or opportunistic role as required.

This week against the Tigers, they’ll have a true test ahead of them as a side that regains Tom Lynch, who was in Coleman Medal-winning form up until his hamstring injury a month ago, as well as ample height in ruck stocks and down back. A training run against Essendon will have done Harry the world of good, but both he and Charlie will need to be at their best against Richmond. I’m no advocate for gambling, but I, like many others, often check what the bookmakers have as odds for an upcoming game, just to gauge what the general consensus in the broader football community looks like. At the time of writing, Richmond head into the game as odds-on favourites, something that I don’t think we would have seen a month ago.

 

 

Teams:

Essendon vs St. Kilda

 

Venue:

Marvel

 

Snapshot:

The celebration of their 150th anniversary was a marvellous spectacle in front of a packed crowd at the MCG. Unfortunately, the Bombers continued in their disappointing ways, losing to the Blues by 26 points. The Saints travelled to Brisbane where they didn’t have the manpower left to stop the Lions at home, going down by 21 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

The ladder is likely to see some strange placings between Rounds 12-14 until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. The Bombers are still heavily cemented in 16th with little more than a high draft pick to look forward to in the next nine months. The Saints sit in sixth on the same number of wins as Geelong above them, one win and percentage outside of the top four. It’s been tight pickings between these two in recent years, both sides winning three of their past six clashes against one another. The Bombers travel to Perth next week where they’ll face the Eagles, then return to Melbourne to take on the Swans at the MCG. The Saints will head to Sydney where the Swans await them at the SCG next week, then they’ll take on Carlton at Marvel Stadium the week after.

 

It’s a big week for:

Sam Draper

One of the toughest tests in football awaits the Bombers ruckman as he’s set to take on Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall in the ruck, likely with Andrew Phillips as his deputy. Draper showed plenty of heart against the Blues last week and even got on the end of a couple of goals. I felt like he didn’t quite go for the kill, being matched up on the inexperienced Tom De Koning and the undersized Jack Silvagni. It was a game where I expected Draper to stamp his authority, which he arguably did in some facets. His two goals were from sheer will in the forward half and he clunked numerous contested marks, whilst Phillips laid an almost game-high nine tackles and crashed packs in an attempt to bring the ball to ground. Together, they’ll need to show a lot more against the formidable pair that they’re set to line up on this week. Ryder is still one of the most prolific tap ruckmen in the competition, and Marshall has the ability to regularly damage teams with his big marking ability.

 

Last time they met:

The Bombers had their biggest win and kicked their highest score of the season in Round 3 of last year as they ran rings around the Saints from the opening bounce, eventually winning by 75 points. Cake Hooker kicked five goals and Jake Stringer kicked four as the Essendon midfield ran riot. A display that’s a far cry from what we’re seeing from them this season. Jack Higgins snagged three for the Saints and Jack Steele was strong out of the middle.     22.11.143 – 9.14.68

 

All eyes on:

The Kids Are Ok – Five Reasons To Keep On Truckin’

 

In seasons like this one where nothing goes right and you’re left bitterly disappointed by the results each week, you grab onto each little positive that you can. For the Bombers, if you look closely enough there are a few little positives that hopefully equate to short-term pain for a long-term gain. I’ve even compiled five examples to help you escape the negativity.

Harrison Jones – Do you ever see a young kid come through the system and something inside of you just pleads with the powers of fate that they manage to go on and have a successful career? That is me with Harry Jones. I absolutely love the way this kid goes about his football from the time he arrives at the club to the time he leaves. I wrote a piece last year with an insight into the kind of player that Jones is. He’s the sort of kid who stays back after training to help sweep the club rooms and pack up equipment without being prompted. He’s the kind of kid that reaches out to a past player from the club that he now shares a jumper number with, on his own accord, to seek their blessing. He’s the sort of kid that even as a teenager just makes the club a better environment. This is the sort of player that you want to build your future forward line around, and he’s showing plenty of signs of progression in the abilities department.

Archie Perkins – If anybody in the AFL was to be the embodiment of Motörhead’s second single from their 1979 album Overkill, No Class – I promise you that it’s not Archie Perkins, because this kid is all class. We’re slowly starting to see him rewarded with more midfield minutes, and it will only improve him as a player and the team as a whole. He is unafraid when taking on a tackler because he knows that he is agile and moves like a cat when he’s going for contested ball. He has a goal sense when he’s in the forward line and he’s not a bad set shot either. Whether he’s utilised as the high half forward we’ve seen this season or given some more time rotating through the centre with the likes of Jye Caldwell, you know that his smooth approach and well-thought-out disposal will be calculated.

Ben Hobbs – I hate to go from using a legendary Motörhead reference to a modern pop in the same segment, it almost seems sacrilege to utter them in the same breath. But if You’re looking for a player at the opposite end of the spectrum to Perkins, it’s Ben Hobbs and the Miley Cyrus-like wrecking ball that he comes in on. This kid impressed me immensely as an 18-year-old in his first season, the way he didn’t even bat an eyelid at throwing his still maturing body at the contest without hesitation. Against Richmond he copped a lot of roughing up behind the ball that the cameras didn’t pick up, but do you think he took a backwards step? With his jumper torn by two much older opposition players, he gave both as good as he got and held his own until reinforcements came  It’s been a bit of a baptism of fire coming into a side in your first year, as a teenager, when wins look as good as impossible, but this hasn’t phased Hobbs in the slightest. The hype is real around this kid.

Jye Caldwell – Hands up if you forgot that Jye was only 21. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Given that he served time at GWS before being traded to Essendon, most people forget that he’s 21 and hasn’t even played 30 games yet. But the way he goes about his football just reeks of a 100+ gamer. Whilst the Bombers are still yet to consistently nail his position in the side, when he’s given the opportunity to play the contested football that they brought him in for, he usually excels. Once they’re able to pull him out of the half-back line and stop using him as a fail-safe that has to mop up the slack of certain others around him, we will begin to see the best of Caldwell. Tackles, hard ball gets, pressure acts, bumps and clearances. It won’t be pretty, but it will be good, hard footy.

Zach Reid – Give this one a bit of time. Think of how many full forwards have started their careers looking like Matthew Lloyd. Think of how many ruckmen have started their careers looking like Simon Madden. Think of how many full backs have started their careers looking like Dustin Fletcher. Big players almost always take time to develop. Yes, there is the occasional rare exception to this rule, but as a whole, you’re very lucky if your key position player looks 100% AFL-ready week in/week out across their first two or three full seasons. Reidy, given the chance, will be much better for the continued run in the seniors. The best way to learn how to not be beaten when you’re defending, is to be beaten when you’re defending and learn from those mistakes. That is from the Kevin Sheedy playbook of not being afraid to give young players a run. Yes, big forwards are going to get a hold of him early on. Yes, he’s probably going to have goals kicked on him semi-regularly. But he’s going to be much better in the long-run, thanks to that exposure. The subtle signs are there if you look closely enough – backing himself to help a teammate, going back with the flight of the ball and knowing when to spoil or when to mark.

With that in mind Bombers fans, the future isn’t so bleak if you tap into the possibility of these players all getting another 50+ games under their belts.

 

A Jack Attack

Steven May and Jacob Weitering missing weeks of football has left an uncertainty around the backline in the All-Australian side this season. You know what that means, Saints fans? It means that… Jack Sinclair will now have some new-look players around him, because if he’s not the first player selected in that backline, then I’ll chew my boot. He is having a tremendous season and one that comes as a bit of a surprise to those that haven’t watched his progression over the past couple of years. The high half-forward/wingman role just never looked right for Sinclair. Yes, he had a few great games in the position, but nothing that could hold a candle to the form that we’re seeing this season. The entire Saints backline would have to be one of their most improved facets in season 2022, especially when compared to some of the games where the opposition got a hold of them last season.

 

 

Teams:

Port Adelaide vs Sydney

 

Venue:

Adelaide Oval

 

Snapshot:

Port travelled to the MCG for a rare date with Richmond in Melbourne. It was the Tigers finishing strongly, winning by 12 points. The Swans had the Bye last week, but beat Melbourne by 13 points the week prior.

 

So what does it all mean?

The ladder is likely to see some strange placings between Rounds 12-14 until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. The Swans are now sitting seventh but on equal points as Geelong in fifth, Power sit in 12th and are three wins outside of the eight. Port Adelaide have beaten the Swans in their past five encounters, three of those from Adelaide Oval and two from the SCG. Prior to that it was the Swans winning five straight against Port. It’s back-to-back graveyard shifts for Power as they host Gold Coast next week, followed by a trip to Perth to take on Fremantle the week after. The Swans have the Saints at home and then travel to the MCG to take on the Bombers.

 

It’s a big week for:

Robbie Gray

I’m an unabashed fan of Robbie Gray and I just want to see him year games apart by causing havoc for defenders. He hasn’t kicked a goal since Round 10 against the Cats, he was quiet before the bye against the Bombers and was even quieter against the Tigers last week. He’s due and Port are in dire need of some wins at this point in the season. If anybody can get out behind this staunch Sydney defence, it’s a sneaky, Robbie Gray leading the Power forward line.

 

Last time they met:

Port Adelaide kicked the final two goals of the game to snatch victory away from the Swans who had regained the lead late in the game. Scott Lycett and Tom Hickey fought an epic battle in the ruck whilst Travis Boak and Callum Mills went head to head in the middle. Buddy Franklin kicked 4.2 but the Swans went down by 10 points. 12.9.81 – 10.11.71

 

All eyes on:

Battle Of The Backup

Jeremy Finlayson didn’t look horrible last week when fronted with the task of handling Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo in the ruck last week. Port comfortably won the clearances against the Tigers, but couldn’t stop the forward flow leading to inside 50s. Ken Hinkley is clearly happy to let both Finlayson and Dixon tackle the ruck work, with Sam Hayes being left in the seconds once again. They’ll be taking on their former teammate Peter Ladhams, who now plays for the Swans and is only taking on ruck duties for Sydney thanks to Tom Hickey being out injured. We’ve seen Sam Reid pop in to pinch-hit in the ruck to some avail against both Melbourne and Richmond, two games that resulted in wins for the Swans.

 

 

 

Teams:

West Coast vs Geelong

 

Venue:

Optus Stadium

 

Snapshot:

Both the Eagles and the Cats come into this one off the Bye. The week prior, the Eagles lost to Adelaide by 31 points at Adelaide Oval and the Cats were too good for the Bulldogs, beating them by 13 points at Marvel Stadium.

 

So what does it all mean?

The ladder is likely to see some strange placings between Rounds 12-14 until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. Geelong are now fifth on the ladder and sit on equal points with three other side. Their percentage, however, is the fourth greatest in the top eight. The Eagles are sitting plumb on the bottom still. It’s three wins from the last four meetings for the Cats, by an average margin of 58 points. They’ve never beaten the Eagles at Optus Oval however, the last time the Cats beat the Eagles in Perth was way back in 2013. West Coast host the Bombers next week before heading to the MCG to take on Richmond. Geelong have Richmond next week and then a potential bloodbath with North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium.

 

It’s a big week for:

Tim Kelly

It’s always tough coming up against your former club. It’s even tougher coming up against your former club at your former home ground. It’s even tougher again coming up against your former club at your former home ground when your current side’s average losing margin for the season sits narrowly under 10 goals. The debate around whether the Kelly trade was a bust for the Eagles or not is one that pops itself into our lives every few weeks, and the dirt sheets have started again early with it this week. Kelly had a tough game against the Crows last week and looked to suffer a number of times as he was left to lead the Eagles midfield with so much traffic going the other way. He’ll undoubtedly have a point to prove this week back at the Cattery.

 

Last time they met:

A long, dark Saturday afternoon awaited the Eagles at GMHBA Stadium in Round 6 of last year. Amazingly, they lead by five points at quarter time. The Cats then piled on 19 of the next 21 goals, including 12 in a row showing no mercy in their relentless onslaught. Eventually, the final siren sounded on a 97-point win. Mitch Duncan was clinical, kicking four goals and running riot through the middle.       21.10.136 – 5.9.39

 

All eyes on:

Strength In The Spine

When you look at Geelong’s past two defensive coaches, is it any wonder that players like Tom Stewart, Zach Guthrie, Zach Tuohy and Tom Atkins are working in tandem so beautifully? Matthew Scarlett, followed by James Kelly have led a strong ethos down back at the Cats under Chris Scott for a number of years, and it’s really beginning to show. Even young Sam De Koning, who I gave a massive shoutout to only a fortnight ago, is having a brilliant start to his AFL career under the tutelage of great players. Throw Mark Blicavs down there when he’s not tied into ruck duties, and Geelong have a very unorthodox, but highly effective backline.

 

Luke Shuey

The Eagles captain had a quiet fortnight against the Giants and the Bulldogs, but he looked brilliant before the Bye when taking on the Crows. It’s been a tough old season, with many questions been thrown at every facet of the Eagles, especially their embattled captain. With talks around his position in the team and possible retirement into next year rife, Round 12 was a timely reminder of just how good of a player Shuey is, and that when he’s given the room to move, he is still amongst West Coast’s best players.

 

 

Teams:

GWS vs Western Bulldogs

 

Venue:

Giants Stadium

 

Snapshot:

It was another win for Mark McVeigh as he guides the Giants through the remainder of the season. They proved too good for the Kangaroos, winning by 49 points at Marvel Stadium. The Bulldogs had the bye, but went down to Geelong by 13 points at Marvel Stadium the week prior.

 

So what does it all mean?

The ladder is likely to see some strange placings between Rounds 12-14 until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. The Giants jumped up to 13th, but with an 8-4 record are almost certain to miss the finals. The Bulldogs are now sitting in 10th and are two wins outside of the eight. Their healthy percentage means that if they’re able to start winning games, they’re still a chance of making finals, but they’ll need to win a lot of games from here on out. The Giants have lost three of their past four games against the Bulldogs, with a 1-1 record for games played at Giants Stadium. It’s a trip to Melbourne next week for the Giants where they’ll make a rare MCG appearance against the Magpies, then they’ll host the Hawks at home the following week. The Bulldogs have a few primetime games ahead with the Hawks at Marvel Stadium next Friday night and then Brisbane at the Gabba the following Thursday.

 

It’s a big week for:

Adam Treloar vs Josh Kelly

A former Giant who left in pursuit of glory, chose Collingwood over Richmond for their superior list, watched the Tigers win three out of four flags before being as good as booted from the Pies because they chose to pay overs to retain other players in a complete list mismanagement, forcing Treloar and others to seek opportunities elsewhere. He’ll go head-to-head with the AFL’s resident Rolls Royce in Josh Kelly who, alongside co-co captain Stephen Coniglio, has hit the ground running under his caretaker coach, as the club heads in a new direction.

 

Last time they met:

The Bulldogs travelled to Manuka Oval in Round 6 last year for a Friday night special, only to turn the game on its head, beating the Giants by 39 points on their home deck. Macrae, Libba and Treloar were unstoppable for the Dogs as Toby Greene kicked four and Isaac Cumming was strong in defence. 9.11.65 – 15.14.104

 

All eyes on:

Toby Greene

I rate this rivalry as one of the best, pure, modern-day rivalries in the AFL. So many feuds between teams stem back fork incidents generations and generations ago, the hatred that Doggies and Giants supporters have for each other just continues to grow every time the sides play, and as a neutral observer, I love it! The instigator more times than not is usually Toby Greene. Whether it’s because of an on-field action or his feathers copping a ruffling from Bulldogs players with long memories, this one is set to be an absolute firecracker. Especially if new coaches Mark McVeigh and Dean Soloman have a say in the physicality proceedings. Neither of whomever once took a backwards step from a biff, brawl or barney in their own playing days.

 

I’d Like To Talk About Bailey…

Dale, that is! I wish I kept count of how many times the sudden realisation hits me that Bailey Dale is only 25 years old, and hasn’t played 100 games yet. Is there a player within the Bulldogs, or the AFL for that matter, that if you didn’t know any better, you would bet your house on them being a 250+ game veteran with the absolute surety we see him play with each week? He was All-Australian last year, and I feel if the Bulldogs were winning more games then we may have seen his name mentioned in selection possibilities once again.

 

 

Teams:

Gold Coast vs Adelaide

 

Venue:

Metricon Stadium

 

Snapshot:

Both the Suns and the Crows come into this one off the Bye. The Suns rounded out their tour of Northern Territory with a 62 win over North Melbourne, whilst the Crows were too good at home for the Eagles.

 

So what does it all mean?

The ladder is likely to see some strange placings between Rounds 12-14 until things even out, thanks to the Bye rounds. The Suns are currently 11th and three wins outside of the top eight. They need to continue winning if they’re a chance at cracking the finals for the first time. Their percentage is relatively healthy l, but they need to bank some more wins. The Crows remain stranded in 15th on their four wins thanks to their low percentage. The Suns had a worse run against the Crows than any other team in the AFL. They lost their first 13 matchups with Adelaide, and only beat them for the first time in the club’s history in 2020. It remains their only home and away win over the Crows, the ledger currently standing at 14-1. The Suns will head to the city of churches next week where they’ll meet Port Adelaide on Sunday afternoon, then return home to host the Magpies at Metricon Stadium the following Saturday. For the Crows, it’s a trip to Tasmania next week to front up with North Melbourne, then they’ll host the Demons at Adelaide oval the week after.

 

It’s a big week for:

Mabior Chol

The former Tiger is relishing his new life on the Gold Coast, finding a completely new lease on his football career being afforded the place inside the starting 22. Of his recent form is anything to go off, he’s due to kick a bag this week. His past seven weeks have followed a goalkicking pattern of 1,3,1,4,1,3,1. If that’s anything to go by, we can expect him to get on top of the Adelaide defenders and cause some damage on the scoreboard. When was the last time that the Suns went in as such heavy favourites over the Crows, who they’ve only ever beaten once in their club’s history? Time to turn that tide.

 

Last time they met:

A back and forth arm wrestle ensued where the Crows’ composure helped get them over the line, kicking the last two goals of the game to win by 10 points in Round 3 of last season. Tex Walker hit beast mode, kicking 6.3 and clunking four contested marks. Hugh Greenwood was a tackling machine for the Suns and Ben King finished the day with four straight goals.    14.11.95 – 12.13.85

 

 

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