R3 – Carlton v North Melbourne – The Prophet’s Perceptions

Welcome to Marvel Stadium this Friday afternoon. On a day long bereft of football, this annual match on Good Friday had a great atmosphere. With both clubs wearing special jumpers and having spent time at the Royal Children’s Hospital, we all came into this game expecting maximum effort, even if it wasn’t close on the scoreboard. How did things play out? Well, I’m the Prophet and these are my Perceptions.


Midfield Battle

The ruck battle was an interesting one. Xerri competed around the ground, but I would say that Tom De Koning and his support crew in the ruck was more dominant. On numerous occasions, especially in the fifty metre arcs, Cripps was the nominated Carlton ruckman, and he moved Tristan Xerri out of the way with far too much ease. If Xerri is going to assert himself on the competition and in the contest, he needs to be ensuring midfielders are not moving him off the line of the ball. He has some fantastic midfielders working at his feet, it’s important he gives them a good look at the footy – don’t take possession and get caught or fumble, and don’t be outbodied. Yes, he had the most clearances of all players with ten, but there were maybe two that were effective and beneficial for his side.

North won the clearance battle around the ground (27-21) while the Blues edged them out of the centre (19-16). The Blues were able, on purely the eye test, to get some cleaner exits from stoppage and going forward, allowing them to maximise the starting position advantages that clearance wins allow.

The biggest difference, however, was the finishing by foot. North had more dump kicks from stoppage, and struggled to get some open space from stoppages. The Blues were very good at this. North have the tools and had moments – Cam Zurhaar in particular, burst through a F50 stoppage in the first quarter, blowing everyone away. He just butchered it on the way out. This was reflective of things for North for much of the day.

Now, I really like the pieces around the ball for North. We are seeing a number of young players grow into being AFL players, and their roles. They compete, beeline the ball, and are willing to crash in. The next steep is the synergy together, and getting the spread right from stoppage; they do it well in transition and from turnover, they need to be able to do it for longer from the stoppages (most of their stoppage scores were early in the game). George Wardlaw was a defensive and pressure beast, continuing to show his development.

It’s worth noting that scores from stoppages were relatively even – this was helped by North’s efficiency and accuracy early, making the most of their early momentum. It was their turnovers that hurt, and allow Carlton to significantly outscore North there.


Doing it for the Kids

And no, I’m not referencing Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue’s song. We know that Good Friday in Victoria signifies the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. It was a great scene, pre-game, with a number of kids doing it tough being able to enter the arena through a banner, and seeing the players embrace the occasion.

The coin toss was really well done, with young North fan, Imogen giving one of the early highlights, with a great toss and nice, loud “GO ROOS!” as she walked off. One thing the clubs, and the AFL do well, is get behind the community causes and really embrace what is going on. The RCH Appeal is an incredible event, and it’s well done by the AFL to link up with it.

Some are unsure about footy on a Holy Day. And that’s okay. We live in a free society where people can express different beliefs, whether you agree or don’t (and this includes the players), and so some question if that’s what we should be doing on Good Friday. As someone invested in the subject matter – both from a faith perspective and a footy perspective – I’m all for it. My Christian faith talks about a lot of things – but a main one is caring for the vulnerable and being in community. Footy on Good Friday achieves both caring for the vulnerable, and bring people together in community.


Fix it, AFL

To no-one’s surprise, except maybe the AFL rule makers, there were a plethora of dropping the ball/incorrect disposal free kicks missed. It has become an epidemic now, and players are getting away with literally putting the ball on the ground, or dropping it cold, and not being penalised. I’m at the point where I’d be fine with a holding the ball free to be paid against any player who drops the ball/has it knocked out in the tackle/doesn’t dispose of it correctly, just for the sake of consistency.

I’m trying to avoid bashing the umpires here, even with their 50+ frees given today. It’s a challenging game to officiate, and that’s consistently made more difficult by the AFL’s perpetual need to tinker with rules, changing nuances and interpretations and trying to remove instinctual decisions. The AFL needs to bring clarity, and simplicity to the officiating. They say they listen to the fans, well, AFL House, the people have spoken and they want simplicity and consistency.

While you’re at it, fix the commentary. Luke Darcy and Matthew Richardson, in particular, spent multiple minutes throughout play trying to name Eddie Ford’s sideburns, talking about Graceland, and then looking up famous sideburns. If I wanted that sort of conversation, I would go down to my local barber. You know it’s bad when guest commentator Patrick Dangerfield had to apologise during the coverage for there being silence while they googled sideburns.

AFL, you need to speak with channel 7 and fix their coverage, if you want the public to tune in to your public broadcaster. The reality is, once Fox Footy get all the games next year, Foxtel users will not tune in to Channel 7 because of their abysmal coverage – I reckon we here at the Mongrel could do a better job.


Stars versus Battlers

Is that the way we’d describe the battle between the Carlton forwards and the North Melbourne defence?

It was always going to be a danger game for the Kangaroos’ defence, which is comprised of Toby Pink, Kallan Dawson, and Aidan Corr as the tall defenders. Ans all the Blues had going for them were two Coleman Medallists.

It turned out as you’d expect, with the tall timber of Carlton completely outclassing the makeshift North Melbourne key position defenders. Harry and Charlie clunked three contested marks each, and ended the game with nine goals between them. Truthfully, it could have been more, but McKay, in particular, was seemingly very generous toward his teammates late in the game. He looks like a different player to the one who copped so much criticism in 2023.

Other teams with powerful forwards will be watching the way the Blues were able to capitalise on North’s key position deficiency, and I get the feeling it could lead to some big bags being kicked against them.

Of course, giving away six 50-meytre penalties didn’t exactly help their scoreline, either.



They start well, and can bring the speed and great linking play, the issue is that they need to be better for longer. Good on the counter and from stoppage (early), but then drifted in and out of the match. We know that they can score, given how much they press up in defence, and when they force a turnover, can spread quickly and end up with good looks at goal; hence they are relatively accurate.

Carlton combatted by exiting D50 wide, and then, with the defence spread, they would transition to the corridor and launch their offense that way. What this achieved was a number of one-on-one scenarios for the Carlton forwards, who were able to capitalise on these opportunities and maximise said opportunities.

North were able to kick five goals in the third term, which is a significantly increased output in the Premiership quarter, having only managed three goals in total in this quarter, thus far in 2024. This is a sign that they are beginning to develop and stay engaged. Where Northball lets them down, is that the risk-reward style of play, opens them up to some pain the other way; especially with their defensive frailties at the moment.


What Did We Learn?

Blues – Carlton are a good football side. Sure, they played North, who are limited in defence, but they played some fantastic football. They were strong in the contest, and hunted the ball all day, resulting in 44 points from forward half turnovers. The one concern – or, perhaps, question of interest with the Blues – is that they’ve only played winless sides. We saw Mitch McGovern play well, but he was not manning anyone, and North scored freely on the slingshot rebound. Can Carlton stay engaged throughout games, especially in coming weeks where they face Fremantle, GWS, and Geelong over the next month, or will bad habits creep in because of the opponents they’ve played in the early rounds?


Roos – As mentioned above, some ill-discipline cost the Roos at key moments. We know their defensive struggles, so, giving away unnecessary fifty metre penalties, and some lazy free kicks really hurt them. Young sides can struggle with staying mentally engaged, but there were more senior players who contributed to these as well. Northball is exciting and they clearly have some talented players on the list, suited to the slingshot, fast ball movement. Consistency is what needs to build,


Other Bits

Kick a drop punt! Terrible attempted dribble kick from Cam Zurhaar in the first term. He had the opportunity to kick the first two goals of the game, and butchered a long-range dribbler that didn’t register a score. Here’s hoping Jason Dunstall has something to say on Sunday Night on Bounce. – he could learn from teammate Paul Curtis who perfectly executed a dribble kick – both situationally and skill wise – early in the third term.

Fantastic chase from Adam Saad late in the first quarter. Zurhaar was moving out of stoppage, and a great handball out of traffic from Tom Powell put his teammate in the clear. He setup for a long shot, and the Saad chase and tackle prevented clean contact, resulting in a turnover. It’s the little things that set the good teams apart.

Colby McKercher will be a star. I mean, that’s not a revolutionary statement. We expected him to show a lot of promise based on expectation when drafted. He is clean, reads the play well, and often intercepted in a way that immediately put teammates in space. He is tough, uses the ball well, and will be a fantastic player for a long time for North (or, until Tassie enters the comp).

Three games in – zero contested marks for Nick Larkey. Jacob Weitering is the third defender to completely own the contest against him this season (Sam Taylor and Alex Pearce are the other two). Where is Larkey at, and can he add contested marking to his game? North need it desperately.

Within the first quarter and five minutes, North had given up three fifty metre penalties, for minor things – twice, not standing on the mark, and one for kicking the footy away after a free kick. This ill-discipline and switching off in key moments needs to be eradicated from their game if they are going to continue to progress. – add in a further three in the third. From free kicks and fifties, North conceded 8 goals.

Jack Carroll & Tom Powell are showing tremendous growth for their respective clubs in 2024. They are winning the footy, using it well, and hitting the scoreboard. While they may not be household names, and may have struggled with consistency prior to this year, the opening few rounds have shown that they have great futures in the AFL and are going to be serious footballers.

Congratulations to Elijah Hollands as he kicked his first goal in navy blue. Having moved across from the Suns, and having a delayed start to the year with an AFL imposed suspension, he was a very good contributor for the Blues today, and the goal was a great reward for his efforts today.


So, the Blues did what many expected them to do, winning by 56 points. They continue their undefeated start to 2024, while North Melbourne remain winless. Next week the entire footy world descends upon the City of Churches for Gather Round. Carlton face the Dockers at Adelaide Oval in the Saturday Twilight spot, while North face the also winless Brisbane Lions at Norwood Oval in the early Friday Night game.


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