Sydney v North Melbourne - The Good, Bad and Ugly

In the second cracking contest of the season between the two, Sydney turned the tables on North Melbourne to run out winners by six points.

Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

THE GOOD

The Ronke

Well, it wasn’t Friday night, but it didn’t matter, as Ronke continued his startling debut season with a five goal haul.

I had someone message me during the game and just say “How good is that Ronke bloke?” Well, the answer is goooood, verrrrry good. He has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, and does the right thing with the ball when he gets it.

Yeah, he finished with five, but at no stage did he look as though he was being selfish at all. He was opportunistic, he was flashy, and he was the difference up forward. With Buddy looking more like he was wanting to get teammates more involved, Ronke shouldered the load until Franklin made a great cameo in the last quarter.

He finished with 16 touches (8 contested) and although he didn’t lay a single tackle (tut tut), his presence around the stoppages or around marking contests made defenders very nervous.

The Swans have three kids looking very likely this season – Ronke, Hayward and Florent have all demonstrated the ability to fit in seamlessly with this professional outfit. The Swans’ future is in safe hands.

Shaun Higgins

The Rolls Royce, huh? I wonder how Scott Pendlebury feels about someone pinching his nickname?

Alas, Higgins is classy, but more than that, he is as hard a worker as there is on the ground. He has amazing balance and rarely loses his feet even when others are flying all over the place all around and at him. It’s as if he heeded the old advice that if you go to ground, you’re out of the contest, and he does everything he can to stay in the contest – that’s where he makes his impact.

If there was one tiny knock on him today, it would be that he wasn’t really effective in the last quarter, when the heat was well and truly on… but then again, the heat was on all game in this one. He was probably bloody exhausted due to the mountain of work he did through the first three quarters.

Higgins finished with 33 touches to lead all players, and took a leaf out of teammate Ben Cunnington’s playbook by having 18 of them contested. He had seven clearances (some of those clearances, combining with Goldstein and Cunnington were absolutely fantastic), and worked all over the ground, as evidenced by his eight inside 50 disposals and five rebound 50 possessions.

Shaun Higgins is the real deal, and I wonder what sort of price a man with a bit of cash to splash could get for him on the Brownlow? Have any of you thrown a bit of coin on him?

Jack Ziebell

This is the best game I’ve seen from Ziebell. He looked every part the captain of the Kangaroos, leading from the front and earning every kick along the way.

He finished with an equal career-high five goals to go along with 22 touches (11 contested) and nine marks. He had eight score involvements overall, and kicked big goals when his team needed him to.

He did little things as well – he had a well-timed spoil without infringing, drifted down back to take a timely intercept mark, and threw his body into contests all game long. It was a captain’s knock from Ziebell. It’s a pity his team couldn’t get over the line for him.

Jake Lloyd

Another week, another 30 touches for Lloyd running off half back.

As others bandy names around for All-Australian backman, Lloyd’s name must not be left out of the conversation. This is the third straight week he has topped the 30 disposal mark, and is delivering the ball at over 80% efficiency for the season whilst averaging a very healthy 28.1 touches.

Lloyd has been a pillar of consistency for the Swans in a season where stars have fallen and young guns have been forced to sit out extended periods. His efforts across half back, and his run through the middle are equaled only by Rory Laird, for mine. He has done nothing to make me think he’ll lost his spot in our own Rolling All-Australian team when we update it this week.

Isaac Heeney’s last quarter

I love this bloke – he makes my top ten favourite players to watch when he’s up and running, and he was definitely up and running tonight in the last quarter.

He had ten touches in the last, and was a beast at the centre bounces. He had the first goal of the last quarter, courtesy of a nice hand off from McCartin, and went straight back to the centre and got the next clear possession, hitting Franklin.

In an enthralling game, the emergence of Heeney as THE centre bounce go-to player for Sydney was significant. With the injury to Kennedy, and with Hannebery, Jack and McVeigh looking like their best may be behind them, Heeney’s evolution is a storyline worth following.

He had 28 touches for the game, with 15 coming in contests, kicked two goals and added five clearances to his name as well. He is no longer one of the younger players striving to make a name for himself. The name has been made – Isaac Heeney is ready to take games over.

Tom McCartin

So In am just looking up the stats as I write this – I can’t believe that of the players who were not on the bench with injury, Tom McCartin had the lowest number of disposals of anyone. I guess this is a case where numbers simply do not tell the whole story.

I really liked what I saw from the little brother of Paddy. No, scratch that (he writes, instead of just deleting it). I have a feeling that when all is said and done, we may remember Paddy McCartin as the older brother of Tom.

McCartin provided a great hit up, or bail out target for the Swans as they ran out of defence all day. He finished with two contested grabs amongst his eight marks for the game, and is a great link man around the wing, allowing Lance Franklin to circle back closer to goal. With Sam Reid hurt, Tippett retired and the Swans lacking other marking options, McCartin’s development has been fast-tracked, and he is providing the Swans with a glimpse into the future.

Oh, and in case you missed it, it was McCartin floating across getting his fist to the ball that caused the spill where Aliir ran onto it and goaled.

The winner

Regarding Aliir playing on Majak and vice versa - these blokes aren’t novelties. They’re professional athletes, just like every other player out there.

I kind of felt that we were one dumb remark away from BT losing his job today. I get it, Brian - their families are both from Africa. Righto...

Anyway, all that aside, seeing Aliir drift forward after Majak had finally started looking at home in the forward line for the Roos, was such a wonderful ending… if you’re a Swans supporter, I guess.

I really feel that North went into their shell a little, and went safety first, with both Williams and Macmillan trying to fist the ball away from the secondary contest when what was needed was for someone to take possession and absorb a tackle.

Of course, it’s easier to say than do, otherwise, I’d just do it.

The game itself

I notice that there was a group of people in the crowd that North had organised to attend their first ever AFL game – they picked a great one to attend.

Seriously, this game had it all, and as a spectacle, was one of the best games of the year. It was open, it was lightning fast up and back, it had great skills, big names, accurate kicking, emerging stars… and it was well-umpired. Wow – made me proud to be an Aussie Rules lover FOR those people. What do you think the chances are that if they front up again in a week’s time, they’ll see something similar?

Absolutely ripping game of footy.

THE BAD

Josh Kennedy injury

This isn’t bad just for this game – this could have bigger ramifications. As a man with a sore back myself (from carrying all the bozos I work with… I know you read this – do some work!) I saw the way he was moving as he went down the race.

That is a man with an issue. He was very proppy, and the problem with your back is… you only have one. It’s not as though he can just favour the left back next week.

Yes, that was quite a dumb statement, but I do stand by it. You show me a man with two backs, and I'll recant.

Kennedy plays a contested game, and if I were part of the Gold Coast team next week, and Kennedy suits up, I’d be crashing into him every opportunity I get.

I think he’ll at least have next week off. Maybe he’ll pop a few voltaren (they’re banned in England, you know? What do they know that we don’t?) and get the inflammation down. He’s had such an up and down season, but in order for the Swans to be big factors in September, I think he’ll have to be part of it.

Hayward with no left foot

OK mate… stop taking the piss here. You’re a professional athlete. You have to be able to throw the ball onto your opposite foot and at least do something with it.

Twice tonight, Hayward was completely ineffective because he refused to try to kick with his left foot. Get out on the track, play kick to kick, and get some confidence with your non-preferred. They’re not paying you to be half a player.

THE UGLY

None. Seriously, there were none that could be classified as ugly. Ugly-ish?  Maybe.

Maybe Robbie Tarrant’s kick out of defence late in the piece that went straight to Aliir in the middle of the ground without a North player around?

Maybe Marley Williams’ aimless kick halfway through the last quarter? It was a true kick without poise.

How about Shaun Higgins taking the advantage and ignoring the lead from Ben Brown only to run too far?

Maybe Luke McDonald’s poor reading of the Heeney inside 50 sky-ball that allowed Hayward to gather and goal?

See? Not many to choose from. If you’ve got one on a great game like this, hit us with it.

OTHER BITS

I reckon if there was a contest amongst all players, where they had to shake hands and the point was to crush the other guy’s hand ala Teddy Whitten… Ben Cunnington would win. When he grips the footy, it’s not coming out of his hands. He is like a vice!

Luke Parker’s smother of the Luke Davies-Uniacke kick in the middle of the ground following Aliir’s goal deserves some recognition. He just threw himself across the boot of the youngster to prevent North from going forward.

Buddy’s two goal cameo in the last quarter… just incredible. His long bomb from 55 landed ten metres past the goal line and was classic Franklin. And if that was classic Franklin, what could you call his dribbling goal minutes later? Kept his feet as Tarrant hit the deck.

But I am getting ahead of myself – talking about the end of the game when we have a whole full three quarters to cover first.

The free kick against Dane Rampe to Ben Brown in the first quarter was horrible. Just really poor decision. If anyone here was at fault for Brown being outmuscled, it was Jed Anderson who kicked it so far away from Brown’s advantage that Rampe just moved him out of position so easily. Charity goal.

Majak Daw up forward – good to see him timing his leads well, and leaping at the ball. When he gets a clean run at it, and is able to leap unimpeded, he is almost impossible to stop. Mind you, he was given some silver service today from Jed Anderson and Shaun Higgins on a couple of occasions. I didn’t like how easily Aliir stepped around him in the second quarter. Majak missed a tackle in one of the other games we reviewed recently. He is a big strong bugger - he needs to stick tackles.

Goldstein’s ruckwork was sublime today. He had 53 hitouts, and 15 of them went straight to North players. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound so impressive when I write it that way. How about if we add four clearances for himself? That’d make it 19 effective ruck contests, assuming that’s where his clearances occurred.

In contrast, I like Cal Sinclair's defensive work. Eight tackles for the game led all players. Only Grundy does stuff like that regularly.

Zak Jones had some really nice moments throughout the game. His run and carry through the middle was hurting North.

I thought Jamie Macmillan was close to the best player on the ground in the first quarter. His running goal, replete with some great selling of the candy, was a beauty. Great hands by Paul Ahern to hit him in stride through the middle, too.

I thought Newman was really stiff not to be rewarded for his tackle on Macmillan in the second. Holding the ball, for mine. At least the free kick was paid to Fox not long before it after Higgins bounced around like a pinball in the middle before Fox got him.

Every time I watch Sydney play, I get the feeling Tom Papley is about to do something special, but this season… something is just lacking. He has such a good footy brain, and looks like he is ready to explode. Is his body letting him down this season? Swans fans?

If you ever doubt how clean Heeney is, check out his half-volley and handball to Papley across half back early in the third quarter. Just exquisite skills.

Liked the game of Harry Cunningham. Very workmanlike, but didn’t do much wrong, and I loved how good his kick was to Fox in the last. I don’t know why so many players find it difficult to kick to the advantage side of the forward. Cunningham didn’t find it difficult, and a goal resulted.

Really important touches to Luke Parker over the course of the last quarter. Not a heap of them – just important ones.

Obvious throw by Simpkin on the wing was missed late in the last quarter… I’m not sure about Simpkin’s tank. Always starts well. Always drifts out of the game.

First gamer – Colin O’Riordan gets a pass mark from me. Didn’t do a helluva lot wrong and didn’t try to take on the world, either.

We covered the late game stuff previously, but what a ripping game. One of the best of the year. With Hawthorn’s loss yesterday, North had a real chance to strengthen a finals berth, and Sydney… well, top four is right in play for them. Irrespective of the result, this was a wonderful game of footy – North are making a bit of a habit of having these this season, huh?

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