R9 – Gold Coast v North Melbourne – The Mongrel Review


Suns shine, keep finals dreams alive with win over not-good North


This is the second week in a row I’ve had to write about North Melbourne, and I’m really beginning to wonder why I volunteered myself to watch a fortnight of this misery.

North fans, I am sorry for what you’re about to read, not much of it is going to be pretty… but then again, I can only assume your skin is pretty thick by this point.

The Gold Coast Suns were the beneficiary of the walking dead that is the Kangaroos this week, putting on a show for their Northern Territory supporters to walk away with a 17.18 (120) to 7.10 (52) victory despite some inaccuracy in front of goal.

It was a happy glimpse into the future for the Suns with Mac Andrew, Sam Clohesy and Jed Walter all making the most of the opportunity to feast on the cellar dwellers. The joys were less obvious for North, but Colby McKercher racking up 30 touches was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary day.

These are the types of games the Suns have to make an afterthought. They were expected to win big, and they did, with a performance that could have resulted in a larger margin had they not dropped their guard in the last 10-12 minutes and permitted North to score three times. Make no mistake, this was a belting, and whilst it is great signs for the Suns that they were able to dispose of a lesser team, what it means for North, who are now heading toward dangerous territory in terms of teams over the last 100 years, the waters just seem to get muddier and muddier each week.

While being one of those bored-out-of-your-skull type games, there are always some things we can learn, so let’s go over a couple of my takeaways below:


The curious case that is the Suns of 2024

The Gold Coast Suns are 5-4 on the season, sitting outside the top-8 only on percentage, with a September dream well and truly still there for the taking.

Imagine if I told you that a week ago? Fresh off an absolute belting from a decimated Brisbane outfit, the Suns were copping it from any media that cared to pay attention to them and were, in all honesty, in a pretty bad spot.

Fast-forward some seven days later and here we are, back to talking up their finals dreams. Amazing what a game against North Melbourne can do for your narrative, isn’t it?

But credit where it’s due, while it’s only North, the Suns were pretty damn impressive in this one (at least, I think they were).

They have a midfield that, on their day, is as competitive as any other. I love what Jed Walter is growing into at rapid speed (his inaccuracy let him down, but six shots on goal is great for any young key forward) and Mac Andrew is coming into his own on the back of some consistent appearances.

I’m not sure what to make of the Suns. I still struggle to take them completely serious as a top 8 side, but they’re only nine games into the Damien Hardwick era, and you have to think the only way is up for them as they continue to learn this new brand of footy.

They have embraced the pressure game that Hardwick is famous for, but the class of some of their mids adds a layer of depth that Dimma would be thrilled to possess. Do you think he sees Richmond-like qualities in this team? They may be a bit further along than the Tigers were when he took the reins, and if that is the case, I am not sure we won’t see these Suns pressing for finals.

But they need a couple of big scalps in order to do that. Easy kills like this don’t come along often.


LDU arrives in 2024, but North’s midfield still gets killed…

I did warn you this wouldn’t make for great reading, North fans, but from what I saw on Saturday night your midfield stunk more than a changeroom without Dencorub.

Luke Davies-Uniacke has been less than his usual self to start the 2024 season and rumours around his future at the club are swirling, but Saturday night was his best effort yet with 35 disposals, nine clearances and a goal.

Still, despite their bull being back to his best, North lost the centre clearances 16-10 as Touk Miller, Matt Rowell, Bailey Humphrey and Noah Anderson got to work in the middle and were too much for the second-tier North midfielders.

It’s a night that would have left Alastair Clarkson scratching his head in search for answers, as outside of Tom Powell (seven clearances) and George Wardlaw (four) were the only others to make any kind of impact in the middle of the ground.

North’s rebuild is centred around their young and imposing midfield… well, it’s supposed to be anyway. However, time and again, the young midfield just doesn’t give you the glimpses you’re looking for over an extended period of time. This is common for developing players, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating for North supporters who are very tired of being patient.

Maybe I’m being harsh given just how young they actually are, and maybe I’m being a bit Kane Cornes-ish (god help me), but I want to see more.


Guys, I think this Jed Walter guy might be really good

Pick two in the National Draft, built like a brick shithouse, and likened to Charlie Curnow… I know, Jed Walter is SUPPOSED to be good.

The good thing for Suns fans is, he bloody is!

I know a scoreline of two goals, four behinds doesn’t make eyes pop out of heads, but there’s just something about the way this kid approaches the game that makes me so upset he doesn’t play for my favourite team.

Time and again we’ve seen massive key forwards refuse to throw their huge frame around and take advantage of their size (hello, Rory Lobb), but Jed Walter won’t be falling into that category anytime soon.

He hits the footy hard, creates opportunities for his small forwards, and best of all is offering some pretty sound support to fellow big man, Ben King.

It feels like a bag of goals might be just around the corner for the young stud, and I hope I’m watching the Suns that day as well.

A question to leave you wish on this topic – if both King and Walter are healthy in three years time, who is the number one key forward?


Witts wins battle of the big men

Tristan Xerri has been one of North’s only positive stories this year, and had it not been for Harry Sheezel’s staggering statistical start to the season might be leading the club’s best and fairest (even then, he could still well be).

But he met his match against Gold Coast powerhouse, Jarrad Witts in tough conditions on Saturday night.

Witts was the superior ruckman, winning 37 hit outs to Xerri’s 20 and while that stat is usually useless, it felt like it mattered in this one.

Xerri actually had more disposals than Witts, the same amount of marks and just one less tackle, so stats-wise they were still very similar, but Witts won the eye-test by a fair few lengths and managed to support his midfielders much better than his Kangaroos counterpart.

Xerri is a bit of a brute, and at times in 2024, has been able to out-muscle opponents and win clearances. Against the Gold Coast, he was unable to do this. I guess it’s not that easy to move a mountain with arms and legs out of the way to take clean possession.

Advantage, Wittsy.


Second-half steamrolling shows ominous signs for North

Perhaps the hardest thing for North fans to stomach this year is how the margin continues to blow out on them.

They trailed the Suns by 25 at half time on Saturday night (not a close margin, but not an unattainable one either). Yet they allowed 12 second half majors to the men in red, and went home with a 68-point belting in the record books.

To me, it feels more mental than physical. It looks like a sign that the Roos just aren’t prepared to grind out games, and if I’m being brutally honest, they look like they couldn’t care less.

A collection of them might be checked out already (potential exits loom for Davies-Uniacke, Cam Zurhaar and others) while some may just feel like it’s all too hard. Others still might be trying their guts out, but without the right supports around them, their efforts appear futile. And that leads to checking out. An 0-9 start will do that.

It’s this attitude that makes it tough to see any wins on the horizon… poor George Wardlaw might have to wait until his third season of footy to bank four points!


Overall, this was a game that played out exactly as the script dictated. On paper, the Suns were better. In the contest, the Suns were better, and on the outside, the Suns were better, too.

68 points is a very solid win, but somehow, it felt as though it could have very easily been more.