The Blues firmed as September starters and top four threats as they commenced the biggest Saturday of footy for the year with a win over the travelling Dockers.

Freo started fast, and their defence looked solid early, but the Carlton desperation – something that has not been their hallmark over the last few years – combined with some excellent clearance work and advantage provided from their runners to drive the Blues home.

The win sees the Blues draw level with Freo on points, and will be out of the top four only on percentage, depending on other results this weekend.

Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Big Questions to review this one.

 

HOW GOOD WAS THE CURNOW V LOGUE MATCHUP?

Earlier this season, Griffin Logue matched up on Charlie Curnow and took the chocolates, limiting the current Coleman leader to just two goals.

In recent weeks, Logue has been deployed as a forward and has provided the Dockers with a string marking target as he ventured up through the wings. So impressive had Logue been in the role of lead-up forward that I wondered how they would fit him in when Matthew Taberner once again took his place in the team.

It turns out that he didn’t retain the position, with Justin Longmuir going back to what worked the last time these teams clashed. He would have been hoping for a similar result, and early on, it appeared as though Logue had the upper hand.

A recurring theme in this review will centre on opportunism. As a forward, you only need moments to make your presence felt. Charlie Curnow didn’t need to have 20+ touches and take ten marks to make an impact on this game. All he needed were slivers to open up, and once they did, he pounced and made Freo pay.

Griffin largely ruled the air in defence, making a heap of spoils e route to amassing 15 one-percenters, but the way Charlie Curnow combated that seemed to be with the footy version of street smarts. When Logue flew, Charlie stayed down. And when he stayed down, all the ball had to do was spill and he made it his.

Curnow finished with four goals from just ten touches, and though if we looked at the entire contest, you think it was about even, the fact that he was able to make the most of his opportunities when they presented leads me to have him as the clear winner in the duel.

 

INDEFATIGABLE

I had to just check that was a word… I thought it was. Well done me, expanding my vocabulanary. 🙂

What a tank Sam Walsh has. He just puts others to shame with his ability to make contest after contest and his supreme balance and ability to read the bounce of the footy make him a weapon that is almost impossible to stop. Below his knees, Walsh is a maestro, rarely fumbling, and managing to take the footy with one grab irrespective of the pressure around him. What is most impressive is that he is now developing a real sense of power to stand in tackles, shake those hips and get rid of the bloke attempting to tackle him. I reckon I saw him tackled properly just once in this game – every single other instance saw him wrestle an arm free to release the footy, or fight through the tackle to break right free, himself.

With a career-high 40 touches and only two turnovers to his name, Walsh made those around him better all game long. His vision was outstanding, and with 11 inside 50s, he made many of his opponents look as though they were standing still.

Whilst I loved the game of Will Brodie – in and under and relentless in his own way – when you get the chance to watch the game back, check out the last five minutes. You can see that Brodie is out on his feet. There is a lot of walking from contest to contest. Compare that to the work of Walsh, who was still hunting; it is only then that you get an appreciation of how tireless he really is.

This was a three-vote game from Walsh, as he combined beautifully with the combination of Cripps, Hewett, and Kennedy to outclass the Freo mids, with the Blues enjoying a +14 clearance advantage, and a massive +24 win in inside 50 count.

 

WHAT HAVE THE BLUES FOUND IN LEWIS YOUNG?

I’m not quite sure just yet, but what is clear is that they have definitely found something.

When we started this season, had I pulled you aside, whispered in your ear… maybe pinched your bum, and told you that by Round 15, Lewis Young would be your number one defender, you may have written off the season, right? I mean, how optimistic were you?

This was a team with reigning Mongrel Punt Defensive Player of the Year, Jacob Weitering in the team. The backups were Oscar McDonald, Mitch McGovern, Caleb Marchbank… and whoever else the Blues managed to pick up along the way. Go back early enough, and add Liam Jones to that mix.

Yet, here were are and Young is holding together a back six that, in comparison to the solid pillars at the other end – Pearce, Ryan, Logue, Cox – looks like it is made of crete paper and sticky tape.

On paper, Freo should have monstered this defence. Matt Taberner and Rory Lobb should have destroyed them in the air. Nat Fyfe should have drifted forward and clunked marks, and if pressed, Griffin Logue could have slotted in and overpowered them.

But that is often the case on paper. In reality, things are very different.

Young had 15 one-percenters and eight intercepts in another very solid effort. He was assisted by Brodie Kemp and Lachie Plowman – hardly a trio that would instil fear into a forward group…

… yet it should

Weitering is not that far away, and when he gets back into this mix, it takes the heat off Young and the others. The great thing is that they have proven that when it is their turn to stand up, they are more than capable. Sometimes, all players need is a chance, and the Blues’ backline have well and truly grabbed their chances this season.

 

SHOULD WE BE IMPRESSED WITH TOM DE KONING, OR DISAPPOINTED IN SEAN DARCY?

I’m torn on this one.

Here, we had a young developing ruck with potential coming up against a player that should have been able to handle him both in the ruck contests and in the air around the ground. Sure, TDK can fly, but if caught body-to-body with Darcy, he should have been rag-dolled.

But he wasn’t.

Tom De Koning continues to turn heads in 2022, more than ably competing against one of the biggest and baddest rucks in the game, and doing quite well for himself. What became apparent as the contest continued is that TDK was still able to work around the ground and make an impact, whereas Darcy began slow.

As an example, in the first half, Darcy had 20 hit outs from 31 ruck contests attended. Yet in the second half, he had 15 from 31. In contrast, TDK struggled in the first half, with seven taps from 29 contests. Then after the break, he had 15 taps from 35 contests. While Darcy slowed, De Koning was able to maintain his pace.

Darcy has two years and – if we believe the official AFL stats – nine kilograms on TDK. It looks to me like a good 15 kgs, but you know… people are sensitive about that stuff. If Freo are going to press home their ruck advantage, Darcy just needs to, and needs to be able to work harder. He cannot be outworked by players like De Koning, and that is exactly what occurred in this one.

You would have heard the commentators asking “where’s Sean Darcy?” when the ball was being kicked long to the line.

The answer to that one was pretty obvious – not working hard enough to get there.

 

IS NAT FYFE IN TROUBLE?

Here’s a test for the AFL.

Nat Fyfe appeared to be in the thick of the action when he put his hand on one of the umpires and gave him a gentle little push. The umpire didn’t react, and really, anything like this is as soft as butter when a player is cited for this type of thing.

But we do want consistency, don’t we?

Look, if it were up to me, there would be no penalty for Fyfe. It was innocuous and meant nothing to the game… but neither way the Toby Greene impact last year that cost him SIX WEEKS!

Are the AFL going to sweep this under the carpet and hope nobody notices? I reckon it might be too late. You cannot have one rule for one and one for another, so how the league goes about handling this will answer two questions for us.

Number one – Is there different rules for different players?

Number two – How much does the league hate Toby Greene.

I’ll grab the popcorn.

 

HAS LOCHIE O’BRIEN FOUND HIS PLACE?

I often look at teams that just through any old Tom, Dick, or Lochie onto a wing and wonder how much thought they’ve put into their decisions. Teams like Brisbane – they had James Tunstill playing there in his first game on Thursday… and he was handled easily. Hawthorn have Harry Morrison on the wing… he really doesn’t know what he is doing there. And GWS have tried 13 players this season… no wonder they have sucked so much over the last few years.

At Carlton, they seemed to be pretty settled on the pair of Jack Newnes and Lochie O’Brien, with the latter really finding his groove, recently.

O’Brien has learnt the right running patterns, when to maintain his space, and when to drift back into defence and help out. More than all of that, he has developed a killer instinct when the chance to score beckons, and he hit the scoreboard in this one.

LOB finished with 19 touches, eight marks and had just two touches inside forward fifty, making the most of both of them.

This is EXACTLY what you want from a wingman, and with 17 of his 19 touches coming uncontested, it is evident that he has finally adapted to AFL pace and worked his way into a role that suits his skills. He was our top-ranked wingman last week, and after this week, he will likely pick up more points in our Wingman of the Year Award, too.

Throw in Matt Cottrell switching between the wing and half-forward to notch two goals of his own, and Newnes slotting a goal as well… these Blues are owning their wings, and opposition teams should take note.

 

HAS ADAM SAAD FOUND HIS RHYTHM?

I have heard that he does use the rhythm method…

Okay, that was crap. I’m sorry. Saad at Essendon was a running machine… an uncontrollable running machine with only one speed. He would grab the footy, drop the hammer and go as long as he could whenever he could.

I used to lien him to a chicken with its head cut off (did you know one chicken actually lived 18 months after having its head cut off? Look it up!), but at Carlton, he seems to have learned to take the foot off the accelerator at times and, unlike the 15-year-old me… slow down a little bit.

Saad has started to show poise and composure with the footy… which are kind of the same thing. He still loves to run, bounce and sink the slipper into it as hard as he can, but he doesn’t look as though he feels like he has to. Instead, he is now picking the right options and using switches better. In truth, it’s probably about time.

His duel with Lachie Schultz in this one was a ripper, with Schultz having a few moments where he beat Saad, but was unable to capitalise on them. Schultz finished with 1.1 for the game but was unable to do what Curnow did at the other end and make his chances count when they presented. There were a couple of instances where he had the better positioning, or made the play, but didn’t finish off. If he finishes with three from limited chances, we sing his praises.

But he didn’t, and his opponent had 28 touches at 93% efficiency.

Them’s the breaks.

 

WAS HARRY MCKAY HARD DONE BY IN THIS ONE?

No, he was beaten and that’s okay.

Alex Pearce was one of the better defenders in the league before injury, and this season he has gone a long way to re-establishing himself again. We could blame Harry’s wayward kicking in the first quarter for making it look as though Pearce had the better of him, but I prefer to look at all the times when Pearce actually did have the better of him.

It’s easier.

Harry competed well, but Pearce was diligent in defence and limited Harry to just three marks for the contest. Credit where it’s due – Pearce had his number in this one.

 

IF YOU COULD REACH THAT HIGH, WOULD YOU PUT YOUR FOOT RIGHT IN RORY LOBB’S ASS AFTER THIS WEEK?

I ask you, because I don’t want to pull a hamstring trying to do it, myself.

I covered this in the section on Lewis Young, but far out, sometimes you see matchups and you wonder how a player is not just all over his opponent. That’s how I felt watching Lobb meander around forward 50, jumping at the footy like he was deliberately trying not to hurt anyone.

Someone at Freo should buy a full-length mirror – screw it – they should buy two, stick them together and make Lobb stand in front of it with a midfielder and stare for a while. Once he has done it, ask him some questions.

Do you see how big you are compared to this other bloke?

Do you think this other bloke can stop you in the air?

If he tries, what is stopping you from putting a knee right in the back of his head?

If Rory Lobb has a killer instinct, we are now at the point Freo needs to see it. We know he has ability, but I am sick of seeing him go at the footy half-hearted. I’m guessing Freo supporters are, too.

 

AND STILL CHAMPION…?

Yes, Will Brodie retains his Mongrel Punt Midfield Title, despite the massive performance from Sam Walsh.

You see, in this little competition we have here at The Mongrel, you not only have to see your team win to take the title, you also have to convincingly beat the champ, and though Sam Walsh was incredible in this game, Brodie was pretty damn excellent, as well.

Walsh was +4 in disposals but Brodie had a +5 advantage in tackles. Walsh was +2 in clearances, but Brodie was +2 in intercepts. The real winner for Walsh was his +6 in inside 50s, but for me, it wasn;t quite enough to secure a clean win.

As such, I look at this like a count out win to Walsh. He gets the win, but the title stays with Brodie. Congrats, champ… one good takeaway for the Dockers.

 

OTHER BITS

 

Probably the best game I have seen from Liam Henry. Really good evasion, solid overhead and provided good, hard run. I know there are a few not sold on him, but he looked like he made a big step in this one.

Massive pat on the back to Jack Silvagni, who sacrificed his own game several times to provide a contest and take out defenders to open the door for the Carlton blokes who stayed on the deck. I love what he provides this team – heart and soul player.

Another beats of a game from Sam Docherty – geez that holding the ball call was harsh on him, but other than that, he did what he has done all season, and if he makes the AA team this year, it will be one of the greatest things I have seen in footy.

For the first time in a while, I didn’t love the game of Andrew Brayshaw. I didn’t hate it – I just felt it was nothing special this week.

Nat Fyfe was a shadow of the player he once was in this game. Struggled in the midfield, looked slow at times, and that kick inside 50 that was assessed as deliberate… wow. I know he thought he saw a Freo player, and it was the ump, but that was the point you really wanted to see him tear inside 50 and slam home a big goal. Between him and Mundy, the Freo midfield looked a little too slow for my liking.

 

And look… I have to go cook dinner, so that’ll do me. Great win by the Blues. I reckon the margin may have flattered the Dockers a little. They get the Saints next week – these hits just keep on coming. Meanwhile, Freo head home to face a desperate Port Adelaide.

I’m liking how this finals series is shaping up.

 

 

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