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

With the three contentious bye rounds firmly behind us, I’m reminded of the wise words imparted on us by Rafiki every time I think back on them: “it doesn’t matter, because it’s in the past”.

Once upon a time, I would’ve questioned my sanity at squeezing a quote from a monkey in a Disney movie into a footy article, but if The Lion King is good enough for our national lord and saviour Ash Barty to use, then who am I to question that choice?

But enough about the past, let’s shimmy on over and take a peak at Round 15 through the eyes of a Mongrel.

 

This Round is unique, given that every single game pits sides that are close to each other on the ladder, making each match huge in its own right in relation to where both sides sit on the ladder.

 

 

Teams:

Melbourne vs Brisbane

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The Demons made it three losses in a row in their loss to the Magpies on the Queen’s Birthday before having the Bye last week. The Lions also had the Bye last week, but bounced back the week prior at home, beating the Saints by 21 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the Bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for this years final eight is shaping up to be. The Demons surrendered their tenure at the top of the ladder following their loss to Collingwood in Round 13 and Brisbane’s subsequent win over the Saints. This game has now become a battle for top position with Brisbane proudly atop and Melbourne directly below in second.

 

It’s a big week for:

Thursday Night Footy

I don’t know what your thoughts are on Thursday night footy, Mongrel faithful. It’s definitely a polarising time slot. I feel that it really lends itself to a tv-orientated timeslot when not during school holidays, as you’re not going to get as many rural supporters or other travellers make the trip into the MCG on a weeknight. Something that could potentially harm the already low crowds we’ve seen at Melbourne games this year, paired with an interstate side like Brisbane. Usually, it’s a good spectacle to behold, especially when we get two big teams like Richmond/Carlton who have played on a Thursday both times that these two sides have met this year, or a highly anticipated clash like Bulldogs and Sydney back in Round Three.

One of the more eagerly awaited matches for this season has been that of Melbourne and Brisbane, the two sides that have spent the vast majority of the season to date sitting at one and two on the ladder respectively. It’s a huge clash to stick in the Thursday night timeslot and one that the AFL are clearly banking on raking in the television ratings for this match, given the circumstances that I mentioned earlier about it not being the ideal time slot for a top-of-the-table clash if you’re hoping for a large attendance. Nevertheless, it will be a brilliant spectacle and one that I fully expect many punters and pundits alike to tune in for.

 

Last time they met:

It was week one of the finals in 2021 when the Demons would slay the Lions on their way to their first Grand Final win in 2,736 years. In what started out as a tight affair in the opening quarter, Melbourne powered away to win by 33 points. Lachie Neale was huge in defeat for the Lions and Charlie Cameron kicked five goals. But Melbourne led the way with Max Gawn dominating in the ruck and the Demons midfielders leading the charge.

13.15.93 – 9.6.90

 

All eyes on:

The MC-Gee it’s been a while

This was a quirk that I had to fact-check myself to believe. The last time that the Brisbane Lions stepped foot on the MCG to play footy was back in Round 1 of 2020 when they lost to Hawthorn by 28 points. To add a little context, that was the first and only round of that particular season that was unaffected by Covid-19, with the remainder of the season played abroad, predominantly in Sydney and Queensland for the Lions. The last time these two sides played at the MCG was Round 22 of 2017, a game that saw the Demons win by 13 points. The last time the Lions actually won a game on the MCG turf was Round 21 of 2014 against the Magpies. Funnily enough, the only players still on Brisbane’s list that played that day are: Darcy Gardiner, Daniel McStay and Dayne Zorko. Now, ten losses across the next eight years later, Chris Fagan will be aiming to turn the Lions fortunes around and record a win at the MCG, especially with a finals series looming.

 

Time To Turn Up

I heard this week that the last side to lose three games in a row during the season and still win the Grand Final was Richmond in 2017, but no team has ever lost four in a row and managed to still go on and win that last day in September that Mike Brady sings so passionately about. The Demons have had more on their plate in the past few weeks than I could even comprehend writing here. But history says if they lose this week, then they take a hand off this year’s flag. Especially given that many have predicted this year’s Grand Final to be contested by the two sides playing in this match.

 

Melbourne v Brisbane – The Extended Mongrel Preview

 

Teams:

Western Bulldogs vs Hawthorn

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

It was the Bulldogs who were too good in their modern day grudge match against the Giants last week, finishing up 20-point winners. The Hawks had the bye, but bravely lost to the Dockers by 23 points the week before.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the Bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for this years final eight is shaping up to be. The Bulldogs are currently 10th and only one win outside of the top eight, with a healthy percentage. A win will likely see them inside the top eight, however, the closeness of the company around them will likely see them slip back out after the results of other games pan out. The Hawks are stuck in 14th on their four wins and won’t finish the round any higher than 13th, even with a win.

 

It’s a big week for:

Changkuoth Jiath

Jiath and his defensive cohorts have a cracking chance to utilise their pace and poise this week against a Bulldogs forward line that has struggled at points this season, and will be without Cody Weightman and also Bailey Smith who has proved to be a more than capable goal kicker this season. If the Hawks are able to control the ball from the back line and force their opposition into turnovers as we saw GWS do at times last week, they will go a long way to beating the Dogs this week. Especially if somebody is able to blanket Aaron Naughton and stop his lead and leap at the ball.

 

Last time they met:

Round 22 of last season was a lull for the Bulldogs, they would inevitably find themselves in the Grand Final, but they had a hot few weeks where they lost some easy games to lower sides, their last meeting with Hawthorn was one of those games. Both sides travelled to Tasmania for a low-scoring affair up until late in the third quarter where the Hawks kicked the last six goals of the game to finish 27-point winners on the eve of the finals. Daniel Howe and Jai Newcombe took it up to the Bulldogs’ midfield as the Dogs struggled to adapt to life without Josh Bruce.

9.10.64 – 5.7.37

 

All eyes on:

Covering Losses

This has been the tagline for the Bulldogs season to date. It just seems like since the start of the season we’ve seen the Bulldogs trying to cover for their losses in playing personnel. Sometimes with great success, other times clubs take full advantage of their current situation. This week we’ll see the Bulldogs without three important components, each that have missed games at times throughout this season for different reasons.

The first omission is Tim English. Despite missing five rounds of football before this week, English was firmly in a lot of people’s consideration as one of the top-performing ruckmen in the League this season. He will miss this week, and possibly next week after experiencing delayed symptoms of concussion after his side’s win over GWS last week.

The second omission is Cody Weightman. Love the bloke, or hate him, you cannot deny the sheer willingness he showed last week after kicking five goals in the first half, and managing to return to the field after dislocating his elbow mid-match. After copping flack left, right and centre when the media highlighted his tendency to intentionally play for free kicks, Weightman returned to the side with a point to prove, and full credit to him for doing it the way he did. I tip my hat to him. He will likely miss this week with his aforementioned elbow injury.

The third omission is one that also missed last week, but I feel his absence in the team will be felt greatly over the coming weeks, and that’s Bailey Smith. I’m not here to comment on the circumstances of his further suspension, however, he was in blistering form this season and he is definitely a force that the Bulldogs will notice missing. A lot of slack is left for players such as Adam Treloar, Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae to pick up. Fortunately, the midfield is a department that the Bulldogs bat far deeper in than most side’s in the competition.

 

Growth

I don’t think this season will be solely looked at from a win/loss perspective for the Hawks come the conclusion of Round 23. It’s safe to say that the Hawks won’t be playing finals, but that ought to take nothing away from the progression and growth that we’ve seen from this side under new coach Sam Mitchell. I know that nobody writes records on tight and honourable losses. But at least the Hawthorn fans and staff alike can take out of this season the solace of a rebuilding side winning some games that were far from expectant, and challenging some opposition that, on paper, they shouldn’t be able to hold a candle to. Such is the resilience and belief within this club.

 

 

Teams:

West Coast vs Essendon

 

Venue:

Optus Stadium

 

Snapshot:

The Eagles took the fight up to Cats and looked almost the best that they have for the season, eventually being run over by only 18 points. The Bombers have us one of the upsets of the round, beating the Saints by 35 points for our Friday night footy.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for this years final eight is shaping up to be. The ramifications of this game have become massive in terms of shaping the bottom rungs of the ladder. The Eagles showed plenty against the Cats last week in their loss, as did the Bombers in their win over the Saints. A win to West Coast will finally see the Eagles off the bottom of the ladder, however, if Essendon can string together their first back-to-back wins of the season, they have a chance to move anywhere from their current 16th all the way up to 13th.

 

It’s a big week for:

Pace & Poise From The Backline

Last week in their upset win over the Saints, the Bombers midfield found a way to defend the St. Kilda’s lazy and lacklustre attempts to transition the ball, something that the Bombers had failed out greatly for the most point this season. One area where they were greatly improved, to the point that it went a long way to helping them win the game, was not just their date from the backline, but a willingness from players to take the game on and not just seek an alternative to the easy option, but also successfully hit up that target and put the ball in areas that actually benefited the team going forward. Two players that did it excellently were Mason Redman and Nick Hind. Through the sheer lace of Nick Hind’s legs, he was able to propel the Bombers from half-back with jet-like speed, but he was also brave enough to take the game on. Redman was a lot more composed with his disposal, but nonetheless effective, managing more times than most to take his own man on and kick the side into a better position, or even drive the ball long down the line to a position that actually benefited his side. The debut of Massimo D’Ambrosio was also a highlight, with the 19-year-old midseason recruit showing exactly why the Bombers and many other sides rated him so highly. For a player in his first game, his willingness to take on multiple opponents and not be rushed into a forced disposal was just the tip of his potential iceberg.

 

Last time they met:

The stakes were high in Round 11 last year when the Bombers last took on the Eagles at Optus Stadium. The 16-point win saw the Bombers inside the top eight, as the Eagles lost Tim Kelly to a knee injury and Oscar Allen to concussion during the course of the match. Jake Stringer was instrumental in his return to football that night, kicking three goals and causing unstoppable havoc for the Eagles. Nic Naitanui dominated affairs in the ruck and Dom Sheed put on a clinic, but it was the combined work of Zach Merrett, Kyle Langford and Darcy Parish that slammed the door shut, with former Eagle Alec Waterman kicking the sealer in the final quarter.

11.5.71 – 12.15.87

 

All eyes on:

The Things You Don’t See On TV

It’s been a very doom and gloom season for the Eagles this year. But having watched almost all of their games, there are a number of players that don’t receive the plaudits that they deserve for their work behind the play or when the play is at the other end of the ground. Last week against the Cats, one player that really caught my eye in this regard was Jamaine Jones. The former forward has been deployed behind the ball at times this season, and quite often I noticed that when the ball was in the vicinity, he was applying constant pressure to his direct opponent, but also peeling off to help out teammates. It sounds trivial, but there were numerous instances where the Cats looked out for all money and about to score a certain goal, only to be intercepted or cut off by a prompt and precise act of pressure. Whilst his numbers didn’t jump off the page after the game and scream competitive beast, they were impressive nonetheless to those that saw his intent.

 

More Midfield Minutes, Please

With Darcy Parish missing the side’s win over the Saints last week, Andy McGrath missing the week prior to that and now set to miss this week as well (don’t get me started on Essendon’s poor mismanagement of players returning from injuries), it once again opens the door for a little reshuffle of the magnets, especially within the midfield. You’d think that the inclusion of midseason recruit Massimo D’Ambrosio would potentially help cover for the loss of McGrath’s pace if he had been played behind the ball, but with Parish set to step back in, it will be interesting to see how much time the likes of Archie Perkins, Ben Hobbs and Jye Caldwell are afforded in the middle. Last week it was Perkins and Caldwell that benefited the most from the loss of Parish, with Perkins having spent on average more than twice as much time at centre bounces over the past month, than he had for the first 10 rounds of the season. He has a rare ability to side-step an opponent without thinking twice, and shrugging a tackle thanks to some brilliant hip work is just part of his natural ability that screams classy half-forward. Caldwell is versatile in that he is able to be played defensively, given his tackling prowess and knack for two-way running, but he gets in low and isn’t afraid to win the hard ball. Ben Hobbs has had fleeting opportunities in the midfield largely thanks to his mature build for a teenager, and like Caldwell, he has zero hesitation in putting his body on the line to win the ball, but is likely to remain more in the forward half this season as he finds his feet at AFL level. However, the wraps on him are justifiably high.

 

 

Teams:

Carlton vs Fremantle

 

Venue:

Marvel Stadium

 

Snapshot:

Richmond got the better of the Blues last week as Carlton really began to struggle under the weight of their defensive injury concerns that are starting to stack up. The Dockers had the Bye but beat Hawthorn by 13 points a week earlier.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the Bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for the final eight is shaping up to be. Carlton started last round with an opportunity to be sitting in first had they beaten Richmond, but their loss saw them drop down to fifth. Fremantle are third, with the top three teams all on equal points. Meaning a loss could potentially see Carlton potentially drop out of the eight.

 

It’s a big week for:

The Top Four

This round of football is a rare, statistical anomaly where we see every single game being played by two teams in rather close proximity to one another on the ladder, meaning that the final result will have a massive impact on the remainder of the season for both clubs. It’s almost certain that the loser of this game will finish the round outside the top four. If you channel your inner Zach Galifianakis from The Hangover memes and crunch all the numbers in your head, there are scarce possibilities for Fremantle to lose and remain in the eight, however, it’s much more dire for Carlton, who could find themselves as low as ninth if things really don’t go their way. Having the worst percentage of any side inside the top eight is something that may come back to haunt them in a season that’s inevitably going to be one of the closest finishes that we’ve ever seen.

 

Last time they met:

This is one of those fixturing anomalies where the Dockers only met the Blues nine weeks ago. It was Round 6 and the Blues had won two of their last three matches by the narrowest of margins, and also dropped one to the Suns, whilst the Dockers had made it three wins in a row and came into the game off the back of an utter trouncing of Essendon. It was Adam Cerra’s first game against his old side as the Blues got out to an early lead, but Fremantle hit their strides in the second quarter, kicking eight of the next ten goals to build a commanding lead, one they’d hold onto for the rest of the game, eventually winning by 35 points. Patrick Cripps was sensational in a losing side, as was Sam Docherty. But the damage was done by Lachie Schultz and Rory Lobb who both kicked three apiece, and of course, Andrew Brayshaw was dominant in the midfield. Carlton ruckman Marc Pittonet would leave the field with a knee Injury that all but ended his season, whilst the Dockers’ own ruckman in Sean Darcy was subbed out with concussion.

14.12.97 – 9.8.62

 

All eyes on:

Forward Power

With the Dockers set to regain both Matthew Taberner and Michael Frederick, Taberner that hasn’t played a senior game since suffering a back injury in the side’s upset win over the then-undefeated Demons in Round 11, and Frederick who served a club-imposed one-match ban for disobeying club rules (drinking when playing on a six-day break), Fremantle are set for a mighty forward line boost. Long thought to be a bone of contention for the Dockers, they’ve shown this year that they’re able to score, and heavily, when required, as well as backing that up with their traditionally right back line that has restricted some of the games highest scoring teams to reasonably low scores. The partnership of Sean Darcy and Rory ‘Crispin Glover’ Lobb has been one that works tremendously, with Darcy continuing his form as one of the best young ruckmen in the game, and Lobb, who is projected to overtake his previous career-best goal tally (29) if he remains on the scoring pathway that we’re currently seeing, is reaching his potential in the forward line, but also as a high marking target around the ground when required. The loss of Blake Acres is one that will be felt, as I have rated his season to date highly.

 

Backline Blues

I’m not going to spend this entire piece harping on about the current deficiencies in the Carlton back line. If I’m being truly honest, I just really liked that tagline title. But it’s becoming a bit of panic stations for Michael Voss as to what he is able to do in terms of key defenders. The club was down to its care bones as it was, forced to recruit former Kangaroo Sam Durdin at the midseason draft to try and plug one of the many holes down back that they had suffered, only to see their latest recruit out of the game in the final quarter with what would be a knee injury, further forcing more defensive drama on the Blues. The Tigers were relentless in their attack, smelling blood with the opposition’s defence being in such disarray. Despite a spirited comeback, Cameron just didn’t have the height, the experience or the class to stop the Tigers from scoring. Fremantle will be an even bigger challenge this week, especially playing at Marvel Stadium. It’s the kind of adversity that a new coach would cringe at facing, but the kind that makes someone of Michael Voss’ ilk even stronger.

 

Teams:

Geelong vs Richmond

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

A brave West Coast pushed Geelong for much of the match before overrunning the embattled Eagles by 18 points. The Tigers jumped the Blues early and held on to win by 15 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the Bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for the final eight is shaping up to be. Geelong are back inside the top four, with their current form causing many to find their own courage to tip them for a strong finals run. The Tigers also found themselves back in contention talks, sitting sixth now thanks to their strong win over Carlton last week. A win to the Tigers has the potential to see them as high as fourth, whilst a win to the Cats would see them climb higher in the top four pending other team’s results.

 

It’s a big week for:

Dion Prestia

How good was he last week against the Blues? When the opposition started to strike and it looked as though Carlton may turn that game on its head, the cooler head of Prestia prevailed. He was outstanding at the contest and was as good as untouchable, even against a midfield stacked with as much class and talent as Carlton’s is. Whilst still severely underrated by those outside of Richmond, I really feel like Prestia is one of the Tigers most important players. Statistically, when he plays really well, the Tigers win a hell of a lot more games than they lose. Geelong’s midfield hasn’t exactly been their strongest asset this season, so if the Tigers are able to pressure and bully their way out of the centre like we saw last week, then this game will be just as good as they’re predicting it to be.

 

Last time they met:

Round 19 of last year the Tigers and the Cats met at the MCG. It was a fairly innocuous contest in the first quarter before the Cats kicked six straight goals thanks to some brilliance up forward by Tom Hawkins and Esava Ratugolea. It was the first time the Cats had played the Tigers since losing to them in the 2020 Grand Final, with Geelong’s accuracy and ferocity in the midfield the telling factor. Geelong ran out the game 38-point winners and moved to outright second on the ladder.

15.5.95 – 8.9.57

 

All eyes on:

 

The Coleman Medal Race

*For the sake of clarity, any mention of a player’s Coleman Medal rankings, I’m using their equal standing, not their overall ranking. Taking into account that any players are sitting on an equal number of goals, meaning that there aren’t many outright placings that aren’t shared.

It’s not very often that a team has three players inside the top 20 for the Coleman Medal standings. It’s usually a clear-cut sign of one of two things: either a strong, high-scoring forward line has numerous players capable of affecting the scoreboard regularly, or a side that places far too much emphasis on a select few players and not sharing the load. In the cast of both Richmond and Geelong, I can say with the utmost sincerity, that we’re dealing with the former. These two sides have the best representation of players in the goal kicker standings at this point of the season. Outstandingly, the Cats have Jeremy Cameron ranked second on 39 goals, only one kick off the leader in Carlton’s Charlie Curnow. Then it’s Tom Hawkins in third on 36 goals. A little further down we find Tyson Stengle in his first season at the club in equal ninth (overall 16th), sitting on 26 goals, making him the second most potent dedicated small forward in the AFL currently, behind Charlie Cameron.

Richmond also have a strong showing in the Coleman medal standings. In fact, they’re arguably the second-best team in these standings behind Geelong. They currently have Tom Lynch in fifth (overall 6th) on 34 goals, who was the outright leader before injuring himself in Round 10 and missing the ensuing couple of weeks. Followed by Jack Riewoldt at 11th (overall 19th) on 24 goals and Shai Bolton in 12th (overall 22nd) with 23 goals.

The thing that sets these two apart for me, is the unselfishness we see at Geelong, and the incredible partnership of Hawkins and Cameron, that not only contributes more goals than any other pairing of forwards in the competition, but also set up more goals in tandem than any other players in the competition, period.

If you look at score involvements, who do you think are currently ranked second and third overall in the League? You guessed it. Hawkins and Cameron (with third being Shai Bolton, funnily enough). Now some people think that score involvements are a contrived stat that doesn’t hold much standing. If you’re a firm member of that camp, then check the stats for direct goal assists. Only three players in the competition have set up more goals directly than Tom Hawkins (Petracca, Bontempelli and Rankine for those interested), and only slightly lower down the list in equal fifth, is Jeremy Cameron. Only the Lions have a better overall showing of players in the goal assists category, but their top two (Berry and Lyons) sit equal with Hawkins and Cameron on 26 goals directly attributed to their work.

 

Teams:

Sydney vs St. Kilda

 

Venue:

SCG

 

Snapshot:

The Saints looked disinterested on Friday night and the Bombers surprisingly managed to exploit that, beating St. Kilda in Spud Frawley’s tribute match by 35 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the Bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for this year’s final eight is shaping up to be. The loser of this match is highly likely to end the round outside of the eight, with the Swans currently seventh and the Saints in eighth, there are a number of sides banging the door down to enter the top eight.

 

Last time they met:

Late last year the Swans travelled to Marvel in Round 22 where the Saints snapped a three game losing streak and also threw a pebble in the Swans’ pie, ending their five game winning streak on the eve of finals. The Saints led at each break to win by 29 points. Jack Higgins kicked four goals and Dean Kent got on the end of three. Jack Steele was his usual impressive best out of the centre and Luke Parker battled tirelessly for the Swans.

14.9.93 – 10.4.64

 

All eyes on:

Been A Long Time

Zakk Wylde said “Oh Lord, it’s been a long time. Doing my best I’ll try and get it next time.”

This is quite fitting when you look at the Saints’ record against Sydney in Sydney. It hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Saints, having not beaten the Swans at the SCG since their one-point thriller in Round 18 of 2009. That game started with a Leigh Montagna behind at the 43-second mark and ended with a Leigh Montagna behind at the 33m 43s mark of the final quarter to steal back the lead by that solitary point. Here’s the kicker, of the 44 men that took the field that day, the only person that played and could have potentially played in this game *is Dan Hannebery, who played his fourth game for the Swans that day, but is now on St. Kilda’s list.

*Ben McEvoy is the only other currently listed player to have also played that day, however, he is now on Hawthorn’s list.

 

It’s a big week for:

The Man Of Steele Returns

After only four weeks on the sidelines recovering from shoulder surgery, the Saints courageous captain Jack Steele is set to return to the side this week to take on the Swans. His side has managed to cover the loss of their skipper over the past month, but his inclusion comes at an important time into he season for the Saints, as they and their opposition look to keep in touch with the top eight.

 

Heeney, Meeny, Miny, Mo
Despite the side looking poor throughout vast stages of the game, I must say it was refreshing to see Isaac Heeney back on song in the forward line. I have such high wraps for Heeney, and after his blistering start to the season, I really thought he was in for a competition-shaking season. His four goal haul last week was the first time he had kicked multiple goals since Round 7 and the first time that he had kicked more than three goals since his mammoth effort against the Cats back in Round 2. Being such a hard player to match up on, there are a number of Saints defenders that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they were to be tasked with the arduous job.

 

Is That A Hickey?

The Swans are set to regain Tom Hickey this week, and the timing could not be any better. Peter Ladhams had an absolute mare against his former side last week, enough to see him suspended this week for a mindless off the ball incident. After playing in the VFL last week, it’ll be no walk in the park for Hickey as he prepares to take on the formidable duo of Paddy Ryder and Rowan Marshall in the ruck. Whilst the two lowered their colours somewhat to the Bombers last week, you’d expect a totally different St. Kilda side this week, a position that isn’t enviable for a player that’s only managed five games this season, and hasn’t laced up the boots for a senior game since Round 10

 

.Max To The Max

St. Kilda’s over-reliance on Max King is starting to become a bit of an issue for them, one that other teams are starting to cotton on to. Last week against the Bombers, we saw the Saints target King inside 50 more than any other player, and in the end it was to their detriment. When he struggled to break the attention given to him by Jordan Ridley, there wasn’t another option presented in the forward line that looked at all likely. Mind you, their wayward entry into the forward 50 sure didn’t help his cause. Whilst I expect a vast improvement on their effort from last week, things wont be much easier against the Swans, with the likes of the McCartin brothers paying him attention, especially given their ability to intercept so far this year.

 

Can Anyone Stops Callum Mills?

Callum Mills is in career best form, which is funny to say because I don’t remember a time of late when he wasn’t in terrific nick. Some teams have tried to put some time into negating him this season, but the only side that springs to mind that had reasonable success was Good Coast. With most teams opting to counter-attack as opposed to losing a teammate in the aim of preventing just one opposition player from having an influence on the game, Mills has taken full advantage, and shown no sign of balking afrer assuming Sydney’s captaincy this season. It comes as no surprise to those that watch a lot of Swans football, that Mills is currently firmly entrenched in the top 10 for the Coaches votes at this point in the season.

 

Teams:

North Melbourne vs Adelaide

 

Venue:

Blundstone Arena

 

Snapshot:

Not even the Kangaroos could lose last week, but prior to the bye, it was the Giants who handed them a 49 points loss. The Crows stuck far with the Suns for much of the first half and into the third, but Gold Coast were far too good, winning by 43 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the Bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for the final eight is shaping up to be. This is North Melbourne’s chance to get themselves off the bottom of the ladder if West Coast happens to win their match against the Bombers, it’s also their opportunity to put some breathing space between them and the bottom of the ladder. The Crows are currently 15th and can only climb as high as 13th with a win.

 

It’s a big week for:

Someone’s Getting A Win

If this game ends in a draw, you have every right to curse me and call me every name under the sun. But given that North Melbourne have won only one game in their past 11 appearances, and Adelaide with one in their past 7, these two sides stack up to some pretty grim football for their fans. The Crows looked lovely early in the season, playing competitive football and only going down by reasonably small margins, unfortunately for the Kangaroos, this season has been a giant step backwards from where they had gotten themselves at the late stages of last season. Adelaide have won three of their past five games against the Kangaroos, but never beaten them in Tasmania. It’s the apple isle where the Roos have a winning average of 33 points over the Crows. Will that change this weekend? One thing is for certain: one of these teams should¬†leave Blundstone Arena with a win to their name.

 

Last time they met:

North Melbourne’s final game of the season last year came in the way of a 44-point hiding at the hands of the Crows from Adelaide Oval in the unofficial Wayne Carey cup. The inaccurate Crows had their chances to bury the Kangaroos, but really missed their opportunities. Ben Keays and Rory Laird absolutely monstered the opposition out of the middle, Keays also getting on the end of a couple of goals with Shane McAdam also contributing with three goals. Aaron Hall and Tarryn Thomas combined for one of their best games of the season.

13.20.98 – 8.6.54

 

All eyes on:

Bookends Back

North Melbourne fans will breathe the slightest sigh of relief, even if only momentarily, with Can Zurhaar and Ben McKay set to make their awaited returns to the side. With captain Jack Ziebell looking at a few weeks minimum on the sidelines with his facial fracture, and number one draft pick Jason Horne-Francis suspended, it’s a timely inclusion for the Roos. Zurhaar will hopefully be able to alleviate some of the reliance on Nick Larkey to score, and now that Carlton no longer require his services, the lone McKay brother will return to his post at fullback, where he was vital earlier in the season.

 

Need To Do Better

I take nothing away from how good Gold Coast were last week, but geez the Crows tried their hardest to make the Suns look even better. I noted after the game that some of the dinky little nothing kicks coming out of the backline were doomed the second that they left the Adelaide player’s boots. A good handball can get you out of trouble just as well as a poor handball can get you into trouble. Unfortunately, last week there was plenty of the latter, with zero cohesion between the Crows players when transitioning the ball. It’s the job of the coaching staff and players to not underestimate their opposition, however, given North’s track record, you would be forgiven for thinking of this game as somewhat of a free pass to hopefully light a fire amongst the players and remind them of just how well they’re able to play when they nail the basics.

 

 

Teams:

Collingwood vs GWS

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Snapshot:

The Magpies had the Bali-Bye last week and beat the Demons on the Queen’s Birthday the week before. The Giants did a lot in the first three quarters but not enough to hit the front, going down to the Bulldogs by 20 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the race for the final eight is shaping up to be. With the Bulldogs and the Suns breathing down their necks, the Magpies have a chance to well and truly make their way back into the top eight, but a loss could see them drop as low as 11th. The Giants are the team that will benefit the least from a win, not currently able to climb any higher than their current 13th with a win this round.

 

It’s a big week for:

Collingwood

I don’t dabble in off-field drama, it’s not really something that appeals to us here at The Mongrel Punt, especially not when we’re talking football. That being said, when the off-field turmoil spills into the game itself and causes some effect, then I find it noteworthy. Whilst I’m not here to debate the ethics around the Jordan De Goey case, nor the more recent exploits of Jack Ginnivan and Isaac Quaynor, I can’t help but wonder how these events will affect the Magpies come match day? With De Goey set to miss this week’s game, it’s a plausible question to ask. Some football sides historically become polarised amidst controversy, whereas others gel together and use it to fire their furnace. The wider football community will watch in earnest as the Magpies take the field after their week of front-page attention.

 

Last time they met:

Way back in Round 4 of last season, the Magpies were put to task by the Giants who made a rare appearance at the MCG, and walked away 30-point winners. Tim Taranto and Callan Ward put on a masterclass for the Giants and Toby Greene kicked five goals as stand-in captain, ironically, his personal best tally up until his seven-goal haul against the Bulldogs last week. The win was made even sweeter as the Giants came into the match missing captain Stephen Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield, Harry Perryman and former skipper Phil Davis. 9.6.60 – 14.6.90

 

All eyes on:

Jack Ginnivan

If I read this kid as well as I like to think I can, then pencil him in for 3+ goals and a whole lot of attitude this week. He really strikes me as the kind of kid that thrives when under external pressure. Like Toby Greene, the more the papers write about him and try to make you hate him, the better he will play as he lets his football skills do the talking.

 

Toby Greene

Speaking of Jack Ginnivan, is the MCG big enough for the titanic clash of egos with him up one end of the ground and Toby Greene up the other? I say that as a term of endearment. When it comes to the monthly debate over whether Greene and Ginnivan are nothing more than a pair of flogs, or a breath of fresh air as two players that march to the beat of their own drums, I am camped so far in the latter that the former is out of my sight. Greene looked at his absolute best last week, statistically he was the most proficient player in that round of football. His seven goals and work dabbling in the midfield was a sight to behold. I cannot wait to see how he backs it up at Australia’s home of footy.

 

 

Teams:

Port Adelaide vs Gold Coast

 

Venue:

Adelaide Oval

 

Snapshot:

The final margin read 23 points as Port Adelaide were far too good for the Swans last week. The Suns were also too good, beating the Crows by 43 points.

 

So what does it all mean?

Now that the Bye rounds are finally behind us, the ladder will really start to take shape in the ensuing weeks, giving us a closer indication of just how tight the top half of the bracket is shaping up to be. A win here is crucial for Port Adelaide if they’re to have even a remote chance of making the top eight this season, they’re currently two wins outside contending, so a win over the Suns will see them leapfrog Gold Coast into 11th position. The Suns have a chance of cracking the eight, or at least finding themselves one step closer with a win.

 

It’s a big week for:

Port Adelaide Defenders

The Suns have scored more than 100 points in each of their past three games, even taking their opposition into consideration, it’s a welcomed effort after where we’ve seen this club in recent years, especially missing key members of their forward line, such as Ben King. Port have shown that even with Charlie Dixon back in the side, Todd Marshall is still more than capable of playing the role of dominant forward, making this an interesting clash.

 

Last time they met:

It was an embarrassing loss for the Suns the last time these two sides met. Port travelled up to Metricon Stadium where they kicked nine of ten straight goals to bury Gold Coast by 50 points on their home deck in Round 14. Ollie Wines put on an absolute clinic with some help from Steven Motlop, Connor Rozee bagged himself three goals as Touk Miller, Jack Jukosius and Hugh Greenwood battled endlessly for the Suns.

4.7.31 – 12.9.81

 

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