Adelaide v Carlton – The Mongrel’s Loves and Hates

I’m not usually one to get sucked in by throwing a name on a specific round and pretending it’s something special, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me when I found that I was pretty eager to watch the opener of Gather Round.

Was it the fact that all the games were located in South Australia?

Not really.

Was it because the Blues had started the season the way they probably should have a couple of times over the last few years and looked threatening?


Or maybe it was because the Adelaide Crows had strung together two weeks of pretty damn impressive footy.

Again… maybe.

On reflection, coming into this game, you could feel that it actually meant something. This game was a genuine test for both these clubs. The Crows have a high-powered offence and a workmanlike defence. The Blues have stars on every line and look like they should be contenders.

We were going to find out exactly where these teams stood in this one, and in the end, it was the Crows left standing, with the Blues knocked down in the first 30 minutes of footy. Make no mistake – the season may be just five weeks old, but this win meant a hell of a lot. This was the Adelaide Crows putting their hand up and saying “don’t forget about us” when it comes to this season.

And if you did after the first two weeks, time to rethink things. People, brace yourselves… the Crows may very well be back!

Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Loves and Hates of the huge Crows win.



Is Dawson the most versatile player in the league, right now?

He’d have to be close. The Adelaide captain was thrown in the middle in this game, attending just about every centre bounce and having the job of ensuring Patrick Cripps wasn’t a huge influence n the game at points. It may have been a team effort to prevent Cripps from having the type of dominance he has enjoyed recently, but more often than not, it appeared as though Dawson was the one putting his hand up to curtail the Carlton skipper.

Whilst Cripps had nine clearances – equal game-high with Rory Laird – Dawson had seven of his own and was a much more damaging player on the spread. Cripps had those nine clearances, but added just ten more disposals around the ground. Dawson had 32 touches, overall, and looked like the most dangerous player on the park.

When watching the Adelaide midfield operate in this one, you had the two standouts – Laird was everywhere early on, with first hands on the footy four times in the first quarter. He is not as flashy as Dawson and if I were to liken him to a swordsman (not a sexual swordsman… more like the type with an actual sword) he’d be the type to handle a rapier. He’d poke and stab with the occasional slash. You don’t think he is doing much damage until you’re bleeding out.

Laird is death by a thousand cuts.

In contrast, Dawson is a broadsword, cutting you to ribbons with his disposal, his run, and his decision-making. He leaves you like the Black Knight after fighting King Arthur. Sure, the opposition may say it’s just flesh wounds, but he has hacked off their arms and legs with clinical precision. Dawson’s three direct goal assists are testament to how much he hurts teams with the footy in hand. Not that I am saying Laird doesn’t (15 score involvements says he does), but Dawson is often the man responsible for that last kick inside 50, and when playing tin the middle, a weapon like his boot is lethal.

The broadsword that is Jordan Dawson laid waste to the Carlton midfield, with ten inside 50 deliveries carving them up en route to a best-on-ground performance for the Adelaide captain, who is starting this season out like a man born to lead this team.



The stats sheet is damning – for the second-straight occasion, Adam Saad was charged with keeping Ben Keays quiet. And for the second-straight time, the mid/forward finished the game with three goals to his name.

If the stat sheet was damning, the vision was worse. At one stage, a front and centre Keays was able to stroll to the drop of the footy, have a cigarette, excuse himself and squeeze out a fart, and blame Darcy Fogarty before taking the loose ball and snapping a goal.

Meanwhile, Adam Saad was ten metres away, watching it happen and wondering who was picking this guy up at the fall of the ball.

It was YOU, Adam! It was you the last time he stitched the Blues up and it was you this time.

Earlier today, there was a chat between some of the Mongrel writers about the subject of Saad as a defender. Our very own Hodgey, who hates anyone who has walked away from Gold Coast (so he hates about half the league) labelled Saad a “shit defender”.

A bit of a sweeping statement, but a succinct one.

I was a bit more of the opinion that Saad was primarily used as an attacking defender, and therefore should not be assessed solely on his stopping ability.

I may have been wrong, because being a defender, it turns out, requires quite a bit of defending. And to paraphrase Hodgey, Saad was shit at it in this one, not giving Keays enough respect when they were opposed to each other.

Matthew Nicks obviously feels that Saad’s inattention to the job at hand can be exploited, and in employing a hard nut like Keays, who will work tirelessly to ensure he gives his team every chance to succeed, as the weapon of choice to punish Carlton, he demonstrated that he knows his stuff.

My question is more about Michael Voss and what he did to combat the exact same matchup that cost the Blues in Round 20 last season?

It would appear that “not much” would be the answer to that question.

Given the way Keays towelled up Saad last time the Blues were beaten by the Crows, why would you allow Adelaide to manufacture the exact same situation again? It baffles me like I am a Dermott Brereton asked to explain a particular play in just a few words. Baffled, I tell ya!

Anyway, the trade-off was always going to be what the Blues were willing to give up in order to have Saad play defensively, and perhaps what Saad was willing to give up in order to stop Keays from repeating the dose this time around.

As it turns out, the Blues and Saad changed nothing and gave up nothing. Saad finished with 17 touches (five from playing on from kick ins and a few getting it back from the guy he targeted) whilst Keays snagged three goals.

Some work needs to be done there and some questions need to be asked of Michael Voss and his decision to go with what didn’t work last time. Baffled…



No, no… I don’t have a spy camera in his bedroom… yet.

With so much focus on Izak Rankine, the work of Josh Rachele could fly under the radar if you weren’t paying attention. My guess is that Crows fans have been paying pretty close attention to what the second-year man is doing this season, as he is finding a heap of the footy as he rotates from half-forward into the midfield and back again.

Rachele is a creator, looking as though he is one of those players that sees the game playing out just a little bit before everyone else. He is quick by hand and foot, and by that I mean he makes a decision and the time he takes to dispose of the footy is rapid, and barely ever loses his feet.

In one instance you could see him paddle the footy to his advantage, have players diving and lunging at the footy, only for him to remain standing and end up as the guy extracting the footy and moving to remain part of the Adelaide chain going forward.

With 22 touches and goal in this game, his work was of the highest order.

Earlier this preseason, I asked the question as to how Rankine and Rachele would gel inside 50. I was quite confident that they’d both do well, as both were capable of moving up through the middle to contribute in different ways, but seeing it in person… these two have the capacity to provide a one-two punch that will knock some teams flat on their arses.



Matched up on first-year sensation (hyperbole, I know), Max Michalanney, I expect the elusive Jese Motlop to give Carlton plenty of bite around packs and once the footy hit the deck inside 50.

Y’know… I’m getting a little sick of being wrong.

Whilst I don’t want to pit the kid, who has been pretty damn good thus far in 2023, you could tell Motlop was going to have a poor one in the first quarter, where he was lucky not to be pinged for flat-out dropping the footy twice.

At that point, it was as though Michalanney realised he had this bloke’s number, and started to run off him and back himself to attack the footy.

Motlop was a non-factor, adding a few tackles inside 50 after the game was pretty much out of reach to make his stats sheet look respectable, but for the most part, he hung around inside 50, looked vaguely interested in what was going on, but at no point looked like he was entertaining the idea of getting in there and making a difference.

He’s still a baby, at just 19 years old, but given the standard he’d set for himself this season, I was not impressed with what I saw in this one. Not at all.



I often get people telling me that a good, old-fashioned orgy never happens these days. Did I say orgy? I meant a genuine one-on-one contest… I wouldn’t know about orgies… too many ugly people involved, I reckon.

Anyway, seeing Nic Newman getting stuck into Izak Rankine early on, with the bumpers up, refusing to allow him the opportunity to run forward unimpeded, you got the feeling that Izak was in for a long night.

And I guess in relation to the way he’d played through the first month of footy, he did have a long night.

Both blokes had their moments, with Newman over-committing and getting extremely frustrated whenever Rankine was able to get the upper hand, so much so that he gave up a fifty-metre penalty for dissent at one stage which set up Ben Keays’ third goal.

Newman finished with 20 touches for the evening, whilst Rankine had just the one goal and five score involvements. You give this one to Newman.



The big ROB took two big marks in this game. I wish he took more.

I remember reading about the great Australian wicket-keeper, Rod Marsh, who was given the dubious nickname of “Iron Gloves” early in his test career after dropping a few catches.

I reckon Reilly O’Brien is the footy equivalent… and he doesn’t even wear gloves.

Over the course of the season, ROB drops dozens of marks he should eat up. He gets both hands to them, and in some cases, he is not even in a contested situation, but like Joe Ganino at an all-you-can-eat brothel… he just fails to gobble everything up

I’m not sure if this is a mental thing for him, or whether he spends it before he gets it, but ROB has the ability to be one of the top handful of big men in the game… IF he holds these marks. He dropped two in this game (one in the first quarter and one in the second) that h really should have held and really, that his team needs him to hold.

If you add in a couple of marks each week to his overall numbers (which also leads to +2 disposals each week), ROB could be something special.

But until he holds his marks more often, quite simply, he won’t be.



I want to highlight a couple of players here who don’t have the exposure of some of the others.

In the second quarter, you could almost feel the momentum shift. Carlton were getting the game back on their terms and were playing a much better brand of footy than they were in the first stanza (they couldn’t get much worse, could they?). The Crows needed players to stand up and push back against the advancing navy blue onslaught and they did, in the form of Lachie Murphy.

Over a fifteen-minute period spanning he late stages of the second quarter and the beginning of the third, Murphy did two or three of the little things in the game that add up to something big. His smothers on Blake Acres as the Carlton recruit went to snap for goal toward the end of the second quarter was everything you want from a pressure player, and he followed that up with another smother on Matt Kennedy in the third where his follow-up earned him a free kick for a high tackle.

It was also Murphy dropping in the hole in front of a hard-leading Harry McKay at one stage in the third quarter, which indicated to his teammates that he was willing to take one for the team… and so should they!

Chayce Jones was another willing to put his body on the line.

In perhaps his best performance for the club, his work on the wing (and his efforts to drop back into the same hole Murphy did) punctuated a fantastic evening at the office for him.

Jones finished with 28 touches, loving the freedom of spending an entire game on the wing, whilst Murphy had a very understated 16 touches, but his influence was worth much more than numbers on a stats sheet will ever indicate.



How brilliant is it to see Tex Walker clunking marks like he’s Stewart Leowe? Those hands were like buckets in this game as he dragged in six contested grabs.

It is a pity he kicked like his feet were also buckets, as he could have easily equalled Darcy Fogarty’s five-goal haul and perhaps exceeded it.

That said, eight goals between your two key forwards would have been something the Blues may have expected from their power duo of Curnow and McKay, coming into this one. But the Crows actually got it.

Charlie looked lively, able to clunk five contested grabs opposite Nick Murray, but often found himself just that little bit too far out, and hooked his shot at goal searching for distance.

McKay was forced to work up the ground a little more to earn his touches, with Jordan Butts keeping him company for most of the contest.

Meanwhile, I am not completely sure, but a little too often, it appeared as though Lahie Plowman was isolated on Darcy Fogarty. That is not the matchup I would have liked if I were Michael Voss. Maybe he got caught on a switch a few times, but with Weitering and Young back there, you feel that one of the big fellas needed to take the responsibility for Fog. Maybe not two years ago, but now, definitely.



Great to see Sam Walsh back out on the park for the Blues, and whilst we would be silly to think he was gonna come out and have 35+ touches in his “first game in eight months…” as the commentators mentioned about thirty times, he did some nice things, looked to be right at home in the midfield, and snagged a goal.

As the Carlton midfield struggled overall (Cripps, Hewett, and Kennedy all disappointing), the form of Walsh and that of Adam Cerra would be the big takeaways for the Blues. I suppose the question is where do you play these blokes when they’re not in the guts?

Cripps can drift forward. Kennedy has been slotting in at half-forward, as well, but he was drifting into defence in this one – not to sure about that. And I suppose either of Walsh or Cerra can drift out to the wing if need be.

Where that leaves Acres or Hollands, who I really like, will be something the Blues need to work out.



1 – The Crows are for real. Early this year I wrote about how potent their attack is, but it is their workmanlike midfield (which is even better with Dawson in there) that can feed those forwards all they need to kick a winning score

2 – Jordan Dawson is an absolute star. The Broadsword will cleave you if you neglect to put time into him.

3 – Carlton miss Sam Docherty. His composure at half-back may have made a pretty significant difference in this one.

4 – The ability of the Adelaide smalls to move up into the midfield frees them up. If Rankine is held tight in any game, a move into the guts, and switching Rachele forward, gives the Crows an instant switch between two high-quality players.

5 – The Crows’ delivery inside 50 makes their forwards look like a million bucks. Take a bow, Jordan Dawson and Max Michalanney.

6 – Zac Fisher does not do anywhere near enough for someone with his talents.

7 – Not sure both Hewett and Ed Curnow should play in the same Carlton team. Might be time to tap Ed on the shoulder. Hewett is the upgraded model.

8 – The Crows’ kicking game is elite. Marksmen on this team allow them to go end to end without even looking like turning it over.

9 – The Crows’ tall defenders are not elite, but they don’t have to be. Murray should always kill contests. Don’t get delusions of adequacy and attempt to mark – just kill it. Always kill it.

10 – Would not be the worst idea to play conservatively and own the footy against Adelaide in the first quarter (take note, Hawks). If they get a fast start, they’re hard to stop,


And that’ll do me. Really pleased to sit and watch this one. You know what? The Crows are back, baby! It’s been a while, but this team is just about ready to make some noise. Finals are now on the agenda.

As for the Blues, they simply did not play up to their potential. Too many passengers in this one. And some weird coaching decisions.

Massive thanks to those who support us. Seriously, I don’t just copy and paste this – I mean it. Your support enables me to do this work and provide a different angle when it comes to footy coverage. I’m humbled by your support.


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