Melbourne v Adelaide - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Crows came hard late but the Dees had done the hard work, and they held on in enemy territory to defeat Adelaide by 13 points.

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

 

THE GOOD

Clayton Oliver

If you’re not on this bloke already, let me introduce you to him.

Clayton Oliver is a contested ball beast. Tonight he had 25 contested touches. Yep, you just read that correctly – 25 of them! He had 14 clearances, which was double the next best player total, and he added a goal assist and seven score involvements to his night as well.

Impressed yet? No? Well, how about I add that he is only 21 years old? Now what do you think?

Whilst guys like Paddy Cripps have received a wealth of media attention, and justifiably so, Oliver has been going about his business with a minimum of fuss, and could very well give the Brownlow a shake this season. Tonight he became the fastest player to reach the 1000 handball milestone and is the man that the Dees throw in the middle when they desperately need to get first hands on the ball.

In terms of age, he is a baby, and he looks like it, but he is a killer – a baby-faced assassin, and when you play Melbourne you pay him the respect he deserves or you get hurt.

I repeat – 25 contested touches tonight. Wow…

Max Gawn’s ruck work

So I’m sitting here waiting to see if the stats match what my eyes saw. I’ll go out on a limb and leave it in the review – I think Sam Jacobs did pretty well in the ruck in the first quarter, but it was a very quick turnaround for Gawn, who took off after the break and then went to another level in the second half.

In the third quarter, Gawn’s ruck work was sublime. He was just putting taps down his teammates’ throats all quarter, and he was in no small part responsible for the seven goals to one advantage the Demons enjoyed.

All year we’ve heard about the Grundy v Gawn duel for the starting ruck spot in the All Australian team, and it’ll continue after today. Grundy was awesome against the Tigers, but Gawn had a ripper game again tonight. It’ll be a crime if either of these guys end up missing out. Whichever one misses out should definitely get a spot on the bench. It just comes down to which one it’ll be…

EDIT - 23 hit outs to advantage for for Big Max. Ripping night at the office.

Wayne Milera

There were times during this game when Milera looked like a million dollars. I reckon he was playing like a man who wanted to win it, tonight. He took risks, ran into trouble and back out of it, wanted to make dangerous kicks and learned that they were called dangerous for a very good reason, and he backed himself at every stage of the game.

His evasive work when he was surrounded by Demons was spectacular, but at times tonight I thought he looked a bit like a chook with his head cut off, running around a little haphazardly. Now, before I make this statement, I apologise… I used to see that element in a bloke named Richard Tambling.

But wait – Milera is a hell of a lot better than him! Please don’t send death threats.

There is a permanent spot for him off the Crows’ half back line as they look to retool for next season now. With Brodie Smith returning to the Crows team from his knee injury very soon, Milera will have a bit of competition to hold that spot. They have Laird locking down a half back spot already – Milera complements him well, but Smith is a powerhouse off half back when fit. It’ll be interesting to see what the Crows do for the rest of the 2018 season with the 2019 campaign the obvious goal now.

James Harmes

So I was perusing the stats at three quarter time, and Rory Sloane had only 12 touches to his name. That was thanks to the efforts of Harmes.

Harmes was sitting on 18 disposals at this stage, easily getting the better of the man he was targeting. Sloane tried his best to get the Crows back, laying 12 tackles for the game, but he was unable to have an influence with ball in hand. He was actually unable to get the ball in hand at all.

Harmes has emerged as the most effective stopper in the game over the last month or so. He alternated between Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield last week, and made life miserable for Lachie Neale a few weeks ago. He is becoming the kind of player that can make a big difference in September, particularly as he is winning the ball himself.

Angus Brayshaw

You know what? My jury has been out on Angus Brayshaw, but it’s come in tonight, and I find him guilty of being a bloody good player.

There were a few instances tonight where he was the one with clean hands, he was the one putting his head over the ball, and he was the one initiating contact. I loved his marking attempt running with the flight early in the game with Jordan Gallucci bearing down on him. I loved his dual physical collisions with Rory Sloane and Mitch McGovern, leaving McGovern holding his shoulder, and I loved the way he smothered Tom Lynch’s handball in the last quarter only to take possession and sidestep around his opponent in the wet.

He finished with 21 touches, and there were plenty with more of the ball, but Brayshaw was good whenever he got it. He added six clearances and seven tackles to round out his night.

+20 clearances

Here’s where the Demons won it. We’ve touched on Max Gawn’s ruck work already, but I thought this was a pretty dangerous game in the guts for the Dees.

When you look at the Adelaide mids, you see the names Crouch, Sloane and Greenwood. They’re strong over the ball and they’re good whenever there’s a contest to be had. I thought that with those guys in there, and Bryce Gibbs drifting through, they could really nullify Gawn’s taps and take control of the stoppages.

I was wrong. We have already given Clayton Oliver the praise he deserves, but Nathan Jones and Angus Brayshaw stepped up to the plate as well, with 12 clearances between them. Harmes was great around the stoppages, as was Tyson, and the Crows were overrun by the clearance work of the Dees.

 

THE BAD

No-Show-Hogan

I’ve got some genuine concerns about Hogan as we head to September. He’s gone from potential All-Australian to real battler over the last month and a bit. He’s been able to play well against teams that are struggling, but against contenders, he has been rarely sighted.

Tonight was another Jesse Hogan disappearing act, his only goal the result of a soft free kick for an apparently unrealistic attempt at marking by Mitch McGovern. The searching runs have fallen away, the hard work up to the wing and back to the goals have ceased, and the mantle of number one forward has moved from Hogan to Tom McDonald.

The Demons need Hogan up and about if they are to seriously push deep into September. Looking at him tonight, and last week against Geelong, he is contributing very little.

14 touches and a goal last week. 10 touches and a goal this week. Not good enough, and had Adelaide successfully executed the comeback, the heat would be right on him. Winning smooths over cracks, though.

Joel Smith

Just a quick one, because he is a youngster, but geez he made a few big mistakes early on today. He was pretty fumbly, made some terrible decisions with the ball and was involved in a three way (not the good sort) collision with Jetta and Frost, which led directly to a Crows goal.

He’ll be fine, but he looked anything but poised today. Will need to redeem himself to keep his spot, especially as the heat gets turned up over the next month.

 

THE UGLY

The Adelaide season

This has been such a wasted season for the Crows. I sat back at the halfway point and looked at that list of theirs… it is full of quality. I looked at who they were going to get back and thought they’d make a serious run in the second half of the year, but it just hasn’t happened. I’ve actually been a little saddened by it, because I thought they still had the tools to give things a massive shake and despite what happened on the last day in September last year, I thought they were the team that, if things went their way, could challenge and beat Richmond.

Cult camps, angry captains, hamstring injuries aplenty, the coach not speaking to players at three quarter time... there was just so much going wrong all year. It was like they were behind the eight ball before they even got started.

Too many injuries, and too much left to too few have seen the Crows crumble. Stars too quiet and kids who have had too much asked of them basically sums up the Crows’ years. With that much talent at their disposal, this season has been an abject failure on every level. The emergence of Doedee and the addition of Gibbs are basically their only highlights.

There is some soul searching to be done over the next little bit at West Lakes. They still have the talent to contend next season, but a season like this is demoralising and can have a lasting effect.

 

OTHER BITS

It must be infuriating to watch Josh Jenkins and be invested in the team he plays for. He had Oscar McDonald on toast today early and he just didn’t do… anything! He was an almost player. He almost did this, and almost did that all game. And the Crows almost won. But they didn’t. Jenkins almost did a few things, but didn’t. He had an incredible shot at goal early… it almost went through.

Almost – the Josh Jenkins story.

Wonderful drop punt from the boundary from Seedsman for the first goal of the game. Perfect kick.

Three goals to none should’ve put a scare through the Melbourne camp, but their go-to forward, Tom McDonald got one back after a ripping pass inside 50 from Jeff Garlett hit him in stride. McDonald just outworked everyone to get on the end of that, too.

And what’s with Garlett always being called “Jeffy”? You don’t see James Harmes being called Jamesy, or Oscar McDonald called Oscy, or Max Gawn called Maxy… oh wait, yes you do. I’ll shut up… I just don’t like it.

Horrible handball from Sam Frost to Jordan Lewis at half back was a nice “Happy 300th” present. Luckily Lewis had the wherewithal to draw the high free kick. Seriously Sam (or Sammy) you could’ve got Jordy killed!

Sign of where Jesse Hogan is at currently came in the first quarter when he dropped an uncontested mark, tried a fend off against Eddie Betts and was caught holding the ball. He’s in a funk.

We need some side by side footage of Jordan Lewis twin goals in the first and third quarters.

I watched Rory Sloane take his eye off the ball in the first quarter and put that eye right on Max Gawn. I reckon Sloane would’ve cleaned Max up had the opportunity arisen.

Here’s a quiz for you. You get to choose one of Patrick Cripps, Clayton Oliver, Ben Cunnington and Clayton Oliver to get you a centre clearance with 20 seconds left. Who do you take?

I thought Hugh Greenwood was really stiff to get pinged for a push against Max Gawn in their marking contest early in the second. Looked like a really strong mark to me.

One thing I love about Oliver is that he doesn’t just take the path of least resistance. Pinned up against the line in the second quarter, you could forgive him for walking the ball over the line and getting the stoppage, but he wouldn’t cop that. He got there and scooped it up, and fired a handball to Nathan Jones down the line at half forward. That sort of creativity and desire to do that little bit extra is what makes him a star.

I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Charlie Spargo up until tonight. I got the feeling he was trying to do a little too much with it every time he got it tonight.

Plenty of intercept marks for Milera tonight. Not bad for a chook with its head cut off.

Lovely pulled kick from Jetta to set Melksham up for a mark and goal at the top of the square. Jetta had every right to go for home on that, as he ran to 45 metres. I’m not too sold on the decision – he opted for a maybe when he had an actual shot at goal. It all worked out, so everyone is happy, but there’s unselfish, and too unselfish.

Jenkins was caught holding the ball in the middle after he missed the ball with his handball, yet there was no call. I don’t understand how the ump missed it – it was a clear throw.

Didn’t like seeing Frost duck into Walker’s tackling attempt and get rewarded with a free kick for doing so. If the AFL wants to outlaw ducking, stop rewarding it!

Tom McDonald manages to get to the back of the contest a little too easily for my liking. I have no idea why more teams don’t employ a bit of a goal keeper approach. He got a couple of goals running back inside 50 with no one coming the other way at him. Put it this way – it wouldn’t happen against Richmond. They always play a goal keeper.

Jake Melksham has been a fantastic pick up for the Dees. He has the kind of desperation you love to see from a forward. Loved his goal on the run where he just threw it onto his boot and hoped in the third quarter. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good... but it's great to be both!

The Dees started to look really good running out of defence and through the middle in the third. It was as though they were sensing the cracks in the Adelaide dam wall and started applying the pressure.

A comedy of errors at the Demons half forward line saw Hogan drop another mark (uncontested) and Milera rove it, only to shank one of the dinkiest little kicks sideways to open up a chance for the Dees. They fed it out to Fritsch and he goaled from 45 out.

Will be interesting to see how Petracca pulls up. That shoulder was giving him trouble, but it was incurred in a clash with his own teammate.

I reckon the Dees were relatively happy with Kyle Cheney being the loose player back for the Crows. Cheney will always bust a gut for the side, but his kicking… ehhhhh, it can be erratic, so if they’re seeing him wandering around alone, my guess is that they think this is OK because the potential for turnovers is higher when Cheney gets it and a little pressure is applied.

Big dropped mark from Jacobs at half back was pivotal. It allowed Gawn to run onto it, hand to Petracca who went long to Tom McDonald. He marked and goaled and the floodgates felt like they were opening.

And then they burst open as “Jeffy” had a brilliant front and centre read off hands and ran in to snap a goal. Perfectly read off the spill from Garlett.

The Dees falling away a bit in the last quarter – a concern, you think? Yeah, they won this, but their “save game” mode is really poor at the moment. They stopped to a walk tonight.

Crows just peppered the goals in the last. They kicked 3.7 to Melbourne’s 1.1 for the quarter.

Wonderful control from Betts to slot the goal on the run in the last quarter, but it really would’ve made things interesting had he kicked the goal late and brought the Crows to within a kick. It would’ve been interesting to see the way the Dees handled the situation in light of recent events.

Oscar McDonald proved that he should play in the backline his whole career. His shot for goal from 40 out on a 45 degree angle in the last quarter was an absolute stinker.

Umps seemed to be throwing the ball up quicker in the last quarter. Rule changes on the run? 

The Crows just left things a little too late to get close. One sequence put a nail in the 2018 Adelaide coffin. Hogan handballed to Petracca, who gave to Neal-Bullen for goal, but it was yet another Clayton Oliver clearance that got things going the Dees’ way.

And there we go – the Dees can start printing their finals flyers now (but don’t send them!) whilst Adelaide can start planning for an assault in 2019. They’ve got the showdown next week and may hope to reignite the possibility of finals, but they need too many things to go their way to make it feasible. The Dees should be able to handle Gold Coast who really don’t want to move up the ladder at all when a ‘superdraft’ is beckoning, so Melbourne should shore up a finals berth in the next couple of weeks.

So, I hear you like what you’re getting from The Mongrel? Hmmmm, maybe you should give us one of those Like things on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter and you know, we’ll be happy campers or whatever.