They were calling it out on Fox Footy as a weird game of football. Me on the other hand, I’m not so generous: This game was the absolute drizzling shits.
There are games of football that are worthy of the graveyard timeslot of 4:40 on a Sunday evening, and this swa one of them.
On Saturday night, a VFL Women’s game was held in Port Melbourne – the scoreline was six behinds to four. It was played in cold, miserable and was completely pissing down all night. Also, they are part-time athletes.
What’s the excuse of these blokes to half-time? Full-time athletes getting paid a living and they only managed three goals under the roof in the opening half, and one of them was yet to register a goal? It was a game riddled with basic skill errors and errant decision-making abilities that could’ve put the Auskickers that ran out onto halftime to shame.
Things picked up after halftime slightly and North Melbourne made it a respectful contest to a degree. They needed a response after being belted by the Demons by 15 goals last week, and whilst there was more of an effort to stifle St Kilda on possession maintenance, skill errors were costly and the Saints were able to record a five-goal win.
Under the new and improved (and extremely cuddly) Ross Lyon, the Saints have played these opening two months well, considering 99 percent of football watchers would’ve had them entrenched in the bottom four to start the year.
Instead, they’re 6-2 and humming along well. There is of course the concern of having a horror second half like last season. But let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.
It was a crud game of football, but like every other game of football, there are some good things that come out of it… I’ll do my best to break it down without trying to put my head through a wall.
Judging from this game and the opening eight games overall, an All-Australian blazer beckons for Callum Wilkie. If we were to pick the side today, he would be among the first five picked. For the record, there are currently eight players that are locks in the 22: Wilkie, Tim English, Jeremy Cameron, Marcus Bontempelli, Jordan Dawson, Nick Daicos, Charlie Cameron and Charlie Curnow.
Wilkie’s ability to hold the line as the anchor, the interceptor, the one-on-one combatant – everything really – is first class. If it’s possible to clone people, I’m certain at least half of the competition would be looking to clone Callum Wilkie.
It was another exceptional performance from him in this one. There looked to be some defensive attention from Griffin Logue at times and forced him to compete rather than peel off and be the extra man to intercept, but when Logue was forced to go in and play as a relief ruck for Todd Goldstein, he stood out, doing exactly what he does best.
The raw stats say he had 28 disposals – 18 of which were kicks and kicked them at 78 percent efficiency. Combine that with 372 metres gained (fourth-highest at the Saints) and eight rebound 50s, he really had a good offensive game.
Over the past couple of years, Wilkie has come across as a pure defensive player. This game was no exception: 12 intercept possessions, four of his nine marks were intercept marks and also got eight spoils.
You know what you’ll get nearly every week with Wilkie, he was one of a few standouts in this one.
DIAL Z FOR ZIEBELL
I’m going to start this off with saying Jack Ziebell scored me 179 in Supercoach and got me a nice win in both the A3 Footy Podcast’s Supercoach League and the public league – I care more about the former because it’s my first win after a rough seven weeks… It’s my first season in god knows how many years.
If you don’t care for Supercoach, I’m sorry. But talking straight from the game, Ziebell filled up the stat sheet here: 36 disposals, 30 kicks at 93 percent, nine rebound 50s and 18 marks. Sounds like a great afternoon right?
Let’s strip this back even further. Four of his 36 disposals were contested. A lot of times he was one of a couple of guys in that last line for the Kangaroos and they did resort to chipping the ball around looking to retain possession and go the slow plays.
Some might argue that he played like a cheap touch merchant in this game, but I think it’s incredibly stiff to call him out for it. For a side that hasn’t got many ‘veteran’ heads in this side, Ziebell was the man conducting how the Roos play and often started off the transition out of the defensive half.
Some kicks were lateral, but he still managed to record 469 metres gained – only Harry Sheezel and Luke Davies-Uniacke recorded more at North Melbourne. What should also be considered is that when it was called upon, he had to force himself to impact contests and fill a hole when the Saints continually moved the ball forward.
Four tackles, eight spoils, three intercept marks and two contested one-on-one wins from three contests says that he did a pretty good job when called upon defensively.
There weren’t many winners from the North team to choose from, but Ziebell’s efforts stood out in this game.
There are a few good stories that are coming out of St Kilda this season. I’ve hitched my wagon on the Liam Stocker story this year.
He was known as the kid Carlton gave up a future first round in the 2018 AFL Draft for to secure him. We don’t need a repeat of the entire process of that, but it eventually resulted in him getting delisted from the Blues last year.
When that happened in real time, many believed it to be an incredibly strange decision, as he was a midfielder that was being played out of position in the defensive end and never really got a chance playing in the midfield, which was the position he played in, during his stint in the under-18s. Guess it was never going to really happen when he had the likes of Cripps, Walsh, Cerra, Hewett and Matt Kennedy in there.
The Saints gave him a second chance over the summer and he’s taken it on with both hands. Defensively, he’s not going to be the next Matthew Scarlett of mid-sized defenders but what he adds to the Saints line-up is another guy that is more than capable of moving the ball out of the defensive end.
Especially with Jack Sinclair being moved across all three areas of the ground – he did have Curtis Taylor running with him at numerous points throughout the game – the Saints can cover his elite rebounding with a guy like Stocker, who showed plenty of good run and drive in this game.
Even during the slow play, he can provide a steady head and show composure to get it to the next target. This was a game that will highlight the defenders a hell of a lot more, but it’s important to recognise the effort and contribution that he’s putting towards the Saints’ 22.
In his first seven games as a Saint, he averages career-highs in disposals, marks, rebound 50s and intercept possessions. In this game, he had 25 disposals, 19 kicks at 89 percent, 16 marks, five score involvements and five intercept possessions.
Liked a lot of what I saw from Blake Drury in his first game of AFL footy. There was a bit of noise and hype surrounding him ahead of last year’s AFL Draft. He was eventually overlooked in the national draft and then snapped up by North Melbourne in the first pick of the Rookie Draft.
The following is from the Rookie Me Central website:
“One could say Drury shares some similarities to Jack Higgins who was a ball magnet at 18s level but would find a more permanent home as a crafty small forward at AFL level… his attributes should attract clubs as there are many players currently in the AFL influencing games despite their height.”
He’s a smaller size, but in these teams where wins are few and far between, players that dip in are worth their weight in gold and it’s refreshing to see Alastair Clarkson give kids like him a chance in favour for dregs such as Kayne Turner and Aaron Hall.
He had a couple of chances on goal in this game and it would’ve been nice to see him drill one through, but the upside is that he’s getting these chances in game one of his career.
There was plenty else he did alright in this game – he went back against the flight to take a good mark. He linked up well when he got his hands to the ball and had 18 pressure acts, which was the equal-third most of any North Melbourne player out on the ground.
He finished with 13 disposals and four marks from 70 percent of game time. He didn’t look out of place on debut. I hope Clarko sticks with him for next week.
In the lead-up to this game, Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera had been averaging just under 20 disposals (16 kicks), over five rebound 50s, 4.5 intercept marks, nearly six marks per game and over an intercept mark per game – all of which are career-highs.
He was a high-end draft pick in 2021, eventually taken by the Saints just outside the top 10. His abilities are unquestioned, but I had queries about where he can play his best footy and whether or not he can stand up
The following exert was from my 2021 Top 30 Draftees article from the Mongrel Punt. For the record, I did have Nasiah as the 16th ranked prospect from that year:
“His skills with the ball in his hand and his ability to make quality decisions under pressure immediately cancel out any concerns with his contested ball. He finds space easily and even under pressure, he can find an extra second or two to make sure he hits his teammate on the chest.”
People outside of St Kilda will slowly catch onto him, but we’re seeing his true value in this St Kilda side and a case in point was this game. He provides the Saints with a lot of defensive drive and he always looks to try to break the game open with kicks on the 45 degree angles, he never stops trying to open the game up.
There was a play late in the game where he gathered the ball on the wing, before a casual turn and sliced through to find someone in the middle of Marvel Stadium. That’s one of many instances of how good he can play.
He had 28 disposals, 20 kicks with 75 percent efficiency and 449 metres gained. His defensive efforts were solid for an outside player too, recording 14 pressure acts and four tackles. He also recorded five rebound 50s and 11 marks, outlining his ability to position and get into the right spots in chain possession.
In a game where skill was bereft at times, this young lad in just his second season in the big time has shown that he’s going to be some kind of player in the years that follow.
I haven’t mentioned much about St Kilda’s clearance work, but throughout the game, they were head and shoulders clear of the Roos. Centre clearances were 10-4 and were the difference in overall clearances Jack Steele was the driving catalyst, recording nine clearances, five of them were from centre bounces.
Cam Zurhaar had a stinker with the ball in hand. Every time he had the ball, it was the opposite of gold… I think it’s shit? He had only just five effective kicks from 14, and went 50 percent from 20 disposals.
Cooper Sharman was back in the game this week and was a good presence. Linked up well up the ground, showed strong marking hands and perhaps looked the liveliest key forward. Much better than Zaine Cordy. Should’ve finished with more than one goal.
Really liked Ben McKay’s game here. Will have done his value no harm on the back of strong overhead intercept marking and good defensive contests. He had seven intercept marks, ten overall.
Mattaes Phillipou taking a screamer and then gasping in the direction of the umpire after he was paid the mark like he couldn’t believe it. That will live rent-free in my head, great moment in the game!
Harry Sheezel, the man dubbed by me as the man of 1000 nicknames has continued to press his claims for the Rising Star award with a good performance across the defensive half. Highlight was the intercept that led to one of Nick Larkey’s three goals. He finished with 30 disposals, six intercept possessions and eight marks.
He’s got company in the form of Mitch Owens, who was solid playing up forward and in the ruck. Finished with 16 disposals, nine contested possessions, five marks and seven tackles. Was a blue-collared effort.
Another week seeing Ben Cunnington subbed out. Only finished with seven disposals, looked really slow. Yikes.
Really liked Ryan Byrnes’ game along the wing. There was a good balance of linking up and the ability to gather the ball in contested situations. He had 10 contested possessions and 24 disposals overall.
Luke Davies-Uniacke showed a lot of strength and want through contest, but his kicking skills, much like a lot of his mates, were deplorable. 13 kicks at just 46 percent.
Jack Higgins was another that should’ve finished with more than what he had, perhaps the most dangerous forward on the night. Had 2.2 from eight score involvements and had four tackles inside 50.
Nick Larkey’s third quarter stats: three goals, three kicks, three marks. The rest of the game saw him have a further four disposals, two marks and one behind.
Bradley Hill has been in good touch since the start of the season and this week was no exception: 26 disposals, two goal assists, 615 metres gained, eight inside 50s and 17 pressure acts.
Todd Goldstein had a really good game in the ruck. Has made the most of a grim situation that has seen a lot of their talls put on the sidelines for an extensive period.
Why are North fans booing Mason Wood? Guy got delisted by this lot a couple of years ago, he didn’t choose to leave them. Good to see him thriving at the Saints. Been one of their more important players this year.
And with all of that said, that’s me for this game. A win is a win and for the Saints, it’s another win to bank in a big season. At 6-2, there next three games could see them head into the bye with nine wins from 11 games.
Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval next Sunday poses as an interesting game, given the Crows like to move the footy with exhilarating speed, followed by an away game against the GWS Giants.
As for North Melbourne, a better effort, but the facts are they have now six losses in a row and are staring down the barrel of a potential bottom-two season. Next week will be a massive game for them as the Jason Horne-Francis revenge game is on the horizon.
It’s a big test, considering Port are on a five-game winning run, but expect nothing but spite ahead of this game. Probably won’t be a close one, but a bit of fire makes for good entertainment right?
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