R5 – Geelong v North Melbourne – What Caught My Eye

The newly-upgraded GMHBA stadium has proven to be a difficult place to play, and I wasn’t expecting it to be any different in this encounter. In what has been a round of upsets, you expect the experience and class of Geelong to take care of the bottom of the ladder, North Melbourne.

It was a battle between two teams on the opposite side of the ladder, with two different list demographics going through a different set of journeys.

For the Cats, it was simply all about securing another win and continuing on their unbeaten run to start the season. On the other side, the winless Roos have had a pretty tough draw to start the season.

It wouldn’t be a Geelong game without a late out. Tom Hawkins comes out, being managed, and Shannon Neale becomes the beneficiary.

For North Melbourne, injuries to Cam Zurhaar, Liam Shiels, and Kallan Dawson meant that Tyler Sellers made his debut and Bigoa Nyoun played his first game in North colours. The omission of Jaidyn Stephenson opened up the opportunity for Blake Drury to play his first game of the season.

The subs for both teams were Jhye Clarke for the Cats and Charlie Lazzaro for the Roos.

Without any further ado, here’s what caught my eye.



The most important kick in the game today is the last kick going inside 50. I’m talking about the kick fifty to seventy metres out, that finds a target inside your forward 50.

With defensive zones and the way teams defend, the last kick going inside your forward line is becoming more and more important. If you don’t get it right, you’re just handing the ball back to the opposition.

When you turn the ball over in that part of the ground, you make it hard for yourself to defend transition. It’s simple. You turn the ball over, you bleed. Teams like Geelong hurt you on turnover. They cut you to ribbons.

Each team should be armed with at least a couple of elite users of the ball, that can distribute it cleanly inside 50. Luckily for the Cats, they’ve got a bucketload of them.

How many times does a Cats forward look up and get a ball kicked lace-out to them? It happened very often today! It’s ridiculous how blessed they are with some elite ball-users. Gryan Miers, Mitch Duncan, Tom Stewart, Max Holmes, and even Jeremy Cameron when he finds himself further upfield. It’s the reason why their forward line is arguably the most potent forward line in the competition. As a teammate, you’d love to be leading to these players.

North Melbourne, luckily, has Harry Sheezel, and he’s got the license to go further upfield and distribute the ball going forward. It’s why commentators and fans are asking for a positional switch when it comes to Sheezel. There were a couple of kicks he hit today just outside 50 where you just want to see more of it. Without those types of kicks, North simply does not score.

Whether it’s another half-back, a midfielder or even a high half-forward, the Roos need to find another player that can deliver that ‘money kick’ going inside 50. It’s still early days, but perhaps Colby McKercher could be that player. I can also see Zane Duursma being this type of player, the more games he plays.



Speaking of Sheezel, is it time for a role change? I know it’s been a hotly-debated discussion amongst some this week. Is there even a need for change? Does it significantly help North Melbourne, and does it even make them better?

I guess the verdict is still out. In this encounter, I don’t know if it would’ve helped much at all. Especially with McKercher being subbed out early with a rib injury, and the Roos midfield being soundly beaten all day.

It’s not like he’s exactly struggling down back, and he was quite good in this one. He was the highest-rated player on the ground amassing 39 touches, 15 marks, and 515 metres gained to go with a goal.

I get why you’d ask the question, but for me, he stays where he is for now. The vice-captain played his juniors as a forward but has been so great down back, that you could argue that it’s a bit hard to take him out of there at the moment. North gained a lot from his drive.

You can argue that he’d be wasted if he went forward because the ball doesn’t get down there much, and they’ve already got several medium-sized forwards that can play that role. Paul Curtis does well to fill the void, they’ve recently drafted Duursma who’s a similar player, and Zurhaar also plays a similar role.

He faces similar issues in the midfield, where North already has several players that can run through there. So much so that their co-captain, Jy Simpkin has been pushed up forward. You could argue Sheezel would be better than those players in the midfield or up forward, but I’m happy with where he is for now.

What some people forget is that a player like Sheezel, probably wouldn’t be afforded the amount of time he has at half-back if he played as a midfielder. In saying that though, he still manages to push up the ground and has the license to go as high up the field as he wants.

It’ll almost be robbing Peter to pay Paul if you took the reigning Best & Fairest out of half-back. The trend of the game currently points towards this. With the style in which North wants to play, and how aggressive they want to be off half-back, Sheezel has to stay back for now.



Geelong have several key players that are out of contract by the end of the year. There’s none more important than Max Holmes, and the Cats will be desperate for his signature.

Without any inkling whatsoever, I expect him to stay, because why would you want to leave a great club such as Geelong, but the longer he remains unsigned the more likely you are to have some doubts.

You can see why he’s one of the most sought-after players in the comp right now. He was brilliant in this game and the move to half-back seems to be paying dividends for Christ Scott. It’s an ideal position for him to use his speed and endurance, where his line-breaking speed allows his team to gain territory for his team. Not only that, he’s a really good user of the footy.

While he plays predominantly at half-back, he did attend some centre bounces and Scott also has the luxury of throwing him on the wing at times. He could be a serious problem come finals as I’m yet to see teams put some time into him. He’s been left unopposed a lot of the time in games I’ve seen this year.

25 disposals and two goals is a day out for a half-back.



I think Clarko needs to have a serious look at what he does with his co-captain, who I think is being left to waste at half-forward.

The move of Jy Simpkin to half-forward was earmarked ahead of the season starting, and it was a move I thought was quite interesting. I understand why Simpkin has been moved forward, but so far it hasn’t worked this season. I think they’ve got to strike a better balance of giving him more midfield time or having a better split.

At a glance looking at this season to date, it’s easy to argue that his numbers are down on what it’s been. There’s nothing that suggests to me that it’s been a great move. He hasn’t been a notable goal-kicker and he’s not the best overhead mark either. For me, he seems to get a bit lost in the forward line and goes unsighted too often.

When you look at how North was beaten in and around the contest, you can argue that maybe he needs to go back to having more midfield minutes. As a team, North won the hit-outs but Geelong were +7 in clearances. The North Melbourne midfielders looked undersized in there against the bigger-bodied Geelong players.

While Simpkin did attend some centre bounces towards the end of the game, it was a little too late. I hope Clarko hasn’t all of a sudden forgotten how good of a midfielder he is. His experience there would certainly help.



What is a disruptor you ask? It’s a defensive forward or a utility-type player that can come in and play an accountable role on an interceptor or at least negate their influence.

Every team has got to have this type of player. Not every team has one, but they’ve got to find one.

I tune into this game and it’s almost predictable what’s going to happen. Within the first five minutes, Tom Stewart has already got a couple of intercept possessions and he’s been left to run around unopposed. It happens all the time and not many coaches or players do anything about it. It’s nothing new either. We all know that a player like Stewart isn’t going to give you the slightest bit of respect if he thinks you’re not in a dangerous position.

Games too often are dictated by the intercept defender. They’re almost the most important player on the ground, because of the way they dictate games.

Stewart has had more damaging games than he did today, but he still got the ball 24 times. He was still allowed to get 13 intercept possessions. You don’t give yourself any sort of a chance if you let him set up and play how he wants.

I understand sometimes you just can’t stop a player like Stewart from getting the ball, but you’ve just gotta keep him honest and make him accountable. Make him defend. This is going to be a big watch for me this season, not just with Stewart but all the teams that have damaging interceptors. I expect Geelong to stay at the pointy end of the ladder. So come finals, teams better have a plan for him.



It’s probably done to death a little bit about how much Nick Larkey would benefit from a partner in crime.

While he’s been really good in a poor side and has done well being a lone key pillar up forward, it’s unsustainable for him to continue carrying the load. He’s constantly battling it out against two or three defenders which makes it hard for the Roos to lock the ball in their forward half.

It’s an issue North have been dealing with for several years, but it’s something that should be rectified at the end of the year. Imagine how much more dangerous Larkey would be with a solid number two right beside him. He still managed to kick two goals today, but none of them came easy. He had his hands full with Sam De Koning.

It looks like the Roos will be a bottom-four side again this year, which will give them a good pick. They’ve recently drafted some good midfielders, but now it’s time to go shopping. Whatever their first draft pick ends up being this year, it’s time to use it and give Sydney an offer they can’t refuse for Logan McDonald.

I think as a team, the Roos have some nice pieces on the chessboard. It’s time they start building around them through trade and free agency, they’ve done enough drafting now.



Jezza Cameron just does as he pleases out there. What do you do with him as a defender? Do you let him roam up the field and worry about him only when he’s inside 50?

I’m glad I’m not his opponent because it looks like one of the most difficult tasks in footy. After 27 disposals and two goals last week, I was worried about the pain he would inflict in this one.

At his damaging best again. Finishing up with 6 goals, 21 disposals and 11 score involvements. He could’ve easily had ten goals, he was going that well. He had four goals at half-time but as we’ve seen with Geelong players and their team-first approach, he helped set up a few goals for his teammates. I love it when he drifts up the field. He acts as another midfielder and he uses the ball nicely.

Paul Curtis has lots to like. He just bobs up in the right spots at the right time and has something about him.

I know there are rumblings about Zurhaar potentially being on his way out, but North fans shouldn’t fear as Curtis ticks all the boxes. He had four shots at goal for one return, and he should’ve had more. He knows how to find space in the forward line and leads well. Solid overhead mark too. I daresay he’s got a bit of x-factor and he only needs to get the ball 10-15 times, but he will have an impact.

I think the Cats have found Hawkins’ successor. The late inclusion of Neale with Hawkins being managed is a move that gave a glimpse into the future.

He certainly took it with both hands and energised the crowd with his three-goal performance. I don’t know what they’re feeding them down at the Cattery, but whatever it is, it’s working. Even his ruck work inside 50 had a bit of Hawkins about it. He’s a very good option to have, even though he will have to bide his time, but it’ll be hard keeping him out of the side with a performance like that.

Charlie Comben somewhat solves a little bit of North Melbourne’s lack of height down back. He’s a great height that can play on talls and his marking is somewhat of a feature. In tough going he took some big clunks that showed he’s more than comfortable down back. Nyuon was okay in his club debut, but it was tough going for the North Melbourne defence all day. Aidan Corr found it tough also but took some big marks.

Defensive stocks have been a big problem for North Melbourne and key injuries to players have played a part in that. Everyone from his teammates to the coaches and fans will be hoping Comben remains injury-free and can become a mainstay of the defence. They desperately need him too with how easily they got scored against.

There were plenty more good things I could’ve talked about Geelong, but I can’t fit them all. Special mention to Zach Guthrie, who’s come on as a player. Brad Close just keeps doing what he does. Brandon Parfitt was quite significant In the midfield and was helped by Tanner Bruhn, who keeps on improving.

For North Melbourne, apart from Drury and Eddie Ford, there wasn’t much else to write home about. Luke Davies-Uniacke and Tom Powell tried hard but were let down by ball use.



You don’t need to be an expert to recognise that the Cats are simply just too good for the Roos.

The Roos had a decent crack in the first half and a bit, but it was all too much for them, being on the receiving end of a 75-point belting at the Cattery.

In what has been a difficult start to the season, the winless Roos take on the winless Hawthorn at Marvel next week. Both the Roos and the Hawks will be giving themselves every chance in this one, as they’ll be desperate for a win.

The Cats take on Brisbane at the Gabba in a Round Six clash that looks mouth-watering everywhere you look. The Lions are showing a bit of form with their last two wins, although are yet to win a game at home. It’ll be a good opportunity for Geelong to strike while they’re hot.