If Melbourne were ever going to break the North Melbourne win-streak, today was the day. The Kangaroos are rebuilding, and the Dees are eyeing finals.
Still, it was not until the last quarter that Melbourne was able to stamp their authority on the game.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of their MCG clash.
Good, hard footy
The first quarter was full of good, heavy clashes. Majak Daw crunched Jordan Lewis on the wing, which signalled his intentions for the day. Even better, Lewis bounced right up. North were actually harder at the ball and the man early, and it wasn’t until the second quarter that the Dees started to exert a bit of physical pressure.
Once Melbourne started winning the physical contests, the momentum of the game well and truly swung.
Let me tell ya something, brother... there is a guy at St Kilda struggling to find his place as a forward. He should watch this game and nod, finally understanding what St Kilda wants him to be. Hogan was tremendous, working hard up the ground and back towards goal, gathering 26 disposals and 7 marks.
Hogan only finished with one goal, but his influence on the game as he outworked his opponents time and time again was evident. The Hulkster was running wild at the MCG today.
Garlett was extremely lively, and though he is not really going to be a 20-disposal player, what he does do, when he flashes in and out of the game, is crisp, and important. His interception of the Luke McDonald handball in defence was magnificent, and a genuine highlight of the game.
As McDonald retreated after hearing the whistle, he waited to hear the umpire call advantage. He had a teammate ten metres away, awaiting the handball. Seeing this, the ump called the advantage and McDonald cocked the handball.
Enter Garlett. He swooped in, got a hand in the way, deflected the handball and made the Kangaroos pay with a dribbling goal. It was exquisite small-forward play.
Is he now the best tagger in the game?
Yes, Oliver ended up with respectable stats of 20 touches and two goals, but the goals came in junk time, and when the heat was on, Jacobs was at his Crowley-ish best. To half time, the Demons’ best ball winner had only eight touches.
The game got away from the Roos in the second half but it wasn’t due to Jacobs not doing his job. He finished with 15 touches and ten tackles in a great defensive display. I look forward to him tangling with Tom Mitchell down the track a little.
The Demons’ start to the game
As I was watching the first ten minutes unfold, you could tell there were two styles of play out there. Melbourne were playing like millionaires, whilst North Melbourne had their work boots on. Before you knew it, those who were working hard were four goals up and the Dees were shocked into a response.
It came via a soft downfield free kick to Thomas Bugg (one of three first half shots he got via free kicks). He converted and the demons started doing a bit of hard work of their own.
Melbourne will have to be careful with this. They have some highly skilled, silky players, but against a polished team that goes hard at the contest as well, they could be blown away if they try to play bruise-free footy.
No accumulator for the Kangaroos
When you look at most teams, there are one or two players who are capable of racking up disposals. I’m not sure the Kangaroos have that kind of player that you can reply on to get his hands on the ball 35 times a game.
In Round One, Jamie MacMillan and Ryan Clarke had 26 apiece. Last week, Waite, Higgins and Hartung had 24 each, and this week, Cunnington topped the list with 25. Whilst sharing the load is admirable, the Kangaroos are in dire need of someone who can carry their midfield. Ziebell and Cunnington are hardnuts and will win contests. Higgins is silky but doesn’t get enough of it.
Any free agents upcoming???
Todd Goldstein’s disgusting kick.
Start of the last quarter? Check.
First centre clearance important? Check.
Todd Goldstein wins a free kick? GREAT!
That series of events should’ve propelled North deep into attack. Instead, he chipped sideways in what can only be described as an abortion of a disposal, completely missing his target and opening the door for Melbourne to go inside fifty.
Guess what happened next. There was a stoppage, Gawn won the tap to Nathan Jones, and he hit up Jordan Lewis for a goal. The worst possible outcome for a team looking for something to instil hope.
Majak Daw must’ve had a bit off a flashback to the JLT series when he found himself firstly isolated against Christian Petracca inside fifty, then Hogan in rapid succession. In the JLT series, he looked all at sea, and though he had a very strong start here, Petracca marked against him, and Hogan was awarded a free kick for holding.
A lot of times you can judge how a game was won not by what your top five did, but by how your bottom five travelled. Of the bottom ten players for disposals, North had eight. Turner, Daw, Davies-Uniacke, Hrovat, Anderson, Williams, Waite and Simpson all had ten disposals or less.
I find it amazing that after this long in the league, Jordan Lewis still does not instinctively handball with his right hand when it is the best option. Though the free kick against him for a throw was contentious, it should not have even been considered by the umpire – Lewis should have handballed right-handed. Thank you, Captain Hindsight.
The thing I like most about Max Gawn is how clean his hands are below his knees. His handball to Kent after the ground-ball pick up was as good as you’ll see from a big fella.
There was a definite feeling about North Melbourne in the third quarter, as though they were a fighter who was all punched out. Melbourne had them against the ropes and should’ve landed a knockout blow. The fact they didn’t is worrying.
Everything Majak Daw does attracts your attention. That’s why you only pay attention to him under ten times per game. He just doesn’t do enough of the mundane, whilst doing several spectacular things.
Dangerous tackles – I’m never going to shut up about these. If a player is trying to dispose of the ball and swings his leg at it, of course the tackler is going to take him down with momentum. What is the tackler supposed to do? Let his opponent kick it? This needs to be looked at, as umpires are very jumpy with this rule.
Jake Lever started well, taking two intercept marks within 20 seconds at one point. He drifted out of the game, but ended up with 20 touches in his best effort for the Demons to date. He’ll be important in a big game soon enough
Nice composure by Fritsch to find Hogan for an easy goal in the second quarter, when many more would’ve blazed away from the pocket.
In the end, a nice win to the Dees, but I really think North were ripe for the picking earlier in the game.