Adelaide v North Melbourne - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Kangaroos were asked the questions and they failed to come up with the answers. The Crows held on to score a win in their final home game of the season and knocked the Roos out of contention.

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

THE GOOD

Andy Otten

The forgotten man of the Adelaide defence put on a show against the man who until recently was leading the Coleman medal race. Prior to this round, Brown had been held goalless on only two occasions – one against the Gold Coast in Round One, in what was ostensibly a swimming pool, and once against the Cats in Round 12.

This week, trailing Jack Riewoldt by two goals, you’d think the Roos would have wanted to get him involved. It was impossible - Otten was his master. He was an unlikely hero, with a huge job to do in the absence of Daniel Talia, but Otten was diligent, and he not only matched Brown in the air, he blitzed him at ground level as well. He ended up with almost five times the amount of touches as Brown, two more marks, and kicked just as many goals – haha.

Otten is one of the players I’ve heard Crow fans speak about as being on the bubble as to whether he is at the club next season. With Doedee emerging as a potential star key back, it would only be injury that would open the door for Otten to play significant time, but you get the feeling that if he didn’t play himself into another year at Adelaide, he may be worth the gamble for another team needing an insurance policy.

Jarrad Waite

It looked as though Waite was going to drag North Melbourne over the line in the last quarter. He gloved everything that came his way and gave them a real look at a possible win with two last quarter goals.

He had a really strong start to the game before going missing for the entire third quarter, only to emerge to be the best player on the ground in the last. His hands were beautiful and even though he was probably within distance a couple of times late, he elected to go out wide to do the team thing. I would’ve preferred he took the game on and went for the Crows’ jugular.

He finished with 15 touches, 10 marks (six contested!) and kicked three goals. Add to that his two goal assists and he was easily the best forward on the ground for the day, which is great for him. I’m not sure how great it is for the Roos to have a 35 year old bloke as your most potent target.

Didn’t they recently get rid of an old bloke who was playing pretty good footy?

The Crouch and Laird show

I’ll start with Laird – he is as close to a lock for an All-Australian spot as there is. He has been supreme off half back this season, and he has held together an Adelaide backline that has been under siege at times this season.

For him to have this kind of year whilst the rest of the team dealt with injury after injury, and off-field crisis after crisis, is indicative of just what a professional he is.

The welcome return to form of Matt Crouch probably came a little too late. I know a few will point to his performance last week and state that he had 30 touches against the Giants but he was fumbly and double-grabbed at a lot of the contests.

Against the Roos, he was back to his best. He had 46 touches at 85% efficiency, and counted 17 of those touches as contested.

He was second only to Sloane, with nine clearances and laid five tackles as well, working both ways all day long.

These two accumulated 87 disposals between them on the day to be the most effective mids on the ground… which is quite amazing as Laird plays off half back! Seriously, I am astounded that opposition coaches don’t put someone on him to lock him down. The only team I’ve seen do it all year is Port Adelaide, and I reckon they do it out of spite!

Rory Sloane

And if anyone could challenge those two for the mantle of best mid on the ground, it’d be Sloane. Right from the outset you could tell he meant business. His body to body clash with Jed Anderson was classic Sloane.

He finished with a game-high 20 contested possessions amongst his 29 and added 11 clearances to those impressive stats. But as always, it’s what Sloane does that doesn’t register a stat that is important. He hustles, bustles and takes a 30-70 and turns it into a true 50-50. He gets a hand in to disrupt a handball or puts a little bit of pressure on to cause a spillage. He does the little things, and here at The Mongrel, we love the little things.

With Yes Walker on the sidelines, Sloane’s performance will give weight for those calling for him to be captain next year. Personally, give me Tex any day of the week – he is a leader and Sloane strikes me more as the quiet achiever.

My hope is that Sloane gets a clean run at 2019. His first half of the year was decimated by injury, and it was no coincidence that when Sloane went down hurt, the Crows plummeted. With him up and running, Adelaide is far from a spent force. Get some dollars on them to contend early.

Throwing Gov into defence

Now this was a great move by Don Pyke. Those who question his coaching should look at the way he shifted the chess pieces as North made their run. He could see his team running up and down in the one spot and knew the game had to be saved.

McGovern collected eight touches in the last quarter, and was excellent in the air, cutting off seemingly every second North inside 50. He had four intercept possessions for the quarter and was vital to the Crows hanging on.

His stats on the day aren’t that impressive. 15 touches and nine marks are a decent day at the office, but it is WHEN and WHERE he got those touches in the last quarter that are actually worth noting.

McGovern is a noted late-game performer, and this game was no different. Though we’ve got used to seeing him slot goals, he was saving them here, and that can be just as important.

Jed Anderson’s physicality

This bloke is part of a dying breed – the type who will throw his body at the contest and actually make an opponent earn the footy.

I don’t want to celebrate Tom Doedee getting injured in his hard clash with Anderson in the third quarter (I'm a big Doedee fan), but THAT is exactly what North needed to demonstrate to indicate they were up for the fight.

As a matter of fact, Anderson was hard at it all day, colliding with Sloane in a hard clash of bodies as well.

Wayne Milera

He’s a hard man to tackle, isn’t he? He reminds me a bit of Adam Saad in a way, and not just because of the dark hair and dark eyes – it’s the “I’m getting the ball and I’m gonna run” kind of attitude that gets me.

Sure, he might run into trouble now and again, but his ability to extract himself from that trouble is quite amazing. His effort in the third quarter to wheel and turn out of trouble at half back left me wondering why someone just didn’t grab him and throw him to the ground.

Then I realised why – because they couldn’t.

Milera is like a pinball, and he can dart left and right before the opponents even get a chance to put their fingers on the flippers. He had some big one-on-one wins against Shaun Atley early in the game that showed Atley just what is required in terms of desperation.

His progression is a real bright spot for the Crows in an otherwise dark and dingy season. He finished this game with 23 touches, 15 of which came in the second half.

THE BAD

Ben Cunnington

He’s been great all year, and we’ve sung his praises when he has performed, so even though I am sure there’ll be a few North supports that do not like it, it’s only fair that his name is called when he lowers his colours.

Ben Cunnington has set such high standards for himself, that seeing him amass just 16 touches for the game, including just four after half time is completely… Un-Cunnington-like.

He looked a little slow, which I’m sure he’d acknowledge, but it was his inability to find teammates in situations that would normally see North off to the races that really hurt his team.

Not that a game like this takes the gloss off what has been a wonderful season, but wen North needed him to stand up, he was nowhere to be found. As Laird, Sloane, Atkins and Gibbs ran around collecting the ball like a bunch of primary schoolers collecting Coles-Mini items, Cunnington was docile, benign and ineffective.

He still managed five clearances, but they were negated by his six turnovers and disposal efficiency of just 56%.

Possibly his worst game of the year at possibly the second worst time (the worst time was last week, but he was good in that game). Still, there was another Ben who had a worse game.

Ben Brown

Have you ever seen someone piss away the Coleman medal? If you’ve watched Brown over the past few weeks, that’s exactly what you’ve witnessed.

His past five weeks have yielded just eight goals, as the pack has closed on him, and in one case, gone past him. His great strength; his overhead marking on the lead, has deserted him as teams figure out that he is not very effective at all once the ball hits the deck and will throw themselves at the marking contest and sacrifice the recovery in order to kill Brown’s chances.

Brown had only four touches for the day, and though he had five tackles, he found it hard to have any influence at all. His one score involvement (a  behind of his own) indicates that he was a complete non-factor inside North’s forward 50.

Of his four touches, just one hit the mark. Yep… one. He spent 100% of game time running around out there and had one touch that did something. You can blame him being double-teamed, you can blame him being blocked from a pivotal marking contest late in the game, or you can blame anything you like. Fact of the matter is that Ben Brown was disastrously bad at a time when even his average may have been enough for the Roos to get over the line.

THE UGLY

Will Walker’s knee

You just hate to see that. A young fella, just coming into his own and finding his feet in the league, and in one instance, and in one awkward landing, it looks as though he could be missing a huge chunk of next season.

It was a standard attempt at marking, but when you see a knee hyper-extend like that on landing, you can’t help but cringe. There is something about the entire commentary box saying “Ohhhhh” together when they watch the replay that makes you think something horrible has just happened.

All of us at The Mongrel have our fingers crossed for him, but it looked like a bad one.

Wasted seasons

This can apply to both teams, and as a neutral, I was actually pulling for both Adelaide and North to make September.

Adelaide’s season has been well documented. Journos loved the stories about cult camps and players leaving acrimoniously. They enjoyed sinking in the boots as the team struggled through a multitude of injuries, and yet I thought there was no way the Crows would miss finals. I was waiting for the Adelaide renaissance that never came. As late as Round 15, I was still a believer that the Crows could make finals and give things a real shake, but in the end the weight of all the issues was just too much.

North captured my imagination, and though I don’t support them, I was barracking for them to make the eight just so they could stick it up all those doubters who said they couldn’t, and all those who decided they would undoubtedly be the worst team in the comp. Players like Higgins, Cunnington and Anderson in the middle provided the engine, Tarrant and Thompson held down those key back spots, and up forward the trio of Brown, Waite and Ziebell looked as dangerous as any forward line in the game. But when Ben Jacobs went down… things went awry. Their stopped was stopped, and so was their momentum.

Both these teams are missing September for very different reasons. The Crows could not overcome the injuries, and the Roos could not keep playing above themselves. They were two of my favourite teams to watch all year, and I am personally disappointed we’ll be seeing finals without them.

But at least they should get a good draw next year, right?

OTHER BITS

Trent Dumont was pretty good early for the Roos. He had 20 touches in the first half en route to a career-high 33 touches for the game.

As much as I like Tom Doedee, he is not ready to take a player like Jarrad Waite one-on-one. Waite looked incredibly dangerous early, and his mark just inside 50 in the first minutes was an indicator that he would be a handful all day.

Crow fans, how many more seasons can you see big Sauce hanging around? Right now I think he is good for one decent game every 4-5 weeks. Is that enough for you? What are your other options? The Crows look pretty thin in the ruck.

North used the ball really well early in the game, and in truth, looked the better team. I reckon the Crows started the game like a team who knew there was no place in September for them, and it took a while for them to start realising that they were a better team than the mob in blue and white.

Geez it was a dumb free kick that Tarrant gave away against Jenkins in the first. He had Majak running back with the fight and all he had to do was call him in. In an effort to protect Daw, perhaps unnecessarily, Tarrant grabbed JJ over the shoulder and the big fella was gifted a goal.

A running goal from Goldstein is such a rare occurrence that you couldn’t help but think it had to be North’s day early on. Again, a RUNNING goal from Goldstein. Guys, he moves like a glacier!

Hugh Greenwood has to learn to get some uncontested ball. I reckon his Achilles injury in the preseason limited his aerobic endurance this year and means that he can’t gut-run during the game. A full preseason this off-season will be a welcome  

Great to see the Crows do their homework on the long kick-in down the guts from the kick-in. When the Roos tried this tactic to Cunnington in the first quarter, the Crows descended in numbers. By the time it got there, he was surrounded by five Adelaide players. That is great attention to detail, and fantastic preparation by Don Pyke to ensure that avenue to goal was completely shut down. David King, who was sitting in the commentary box for the game, was the one who pointed out this tactic earlier in the year and made it public knowledge. I’m sure Brad Scott appreciates it.

On Atley, I know he snagged an important late goal, and he collected a season-high 23 disposals… I just don’t think he is combative enough. I look at a bloke like Andrew Gaff – he learned to go and get his own ball. I reckon Atley needs a bit of that. He is a free-wheeler when he gets the ball on the outside (I just had to look up what that meant) but when he has attention on him, he is passive.

For what it's worth, Tom Doedee should be the Rising Star this year. Has been huge in a depleted defence. Jake who??? 

The Seed was back to his distance gathering best. He was the only player to collect over 500 metres gained for the day. He was a strong contender for the All-Australian half back/wingman before he was injured. I really wanted him to glove that mark over Daw… it would’ve been amazing. Such a shame.

Eight intercept marks to Majak Daw for the game. He has really rounded into the role across half back, but once every game, he puts an easy one to ground.

Criticism of Shaun Higgins here. I know he has had an amazing year, and I know he is a beautiful user of the ball, but in the second quarter he had the chance to lay a shepherd to free up Trent Dumont, but elected to run to get the handball receive instead. So instead of seeing Dumont run, carry and deliver, we had Higgins caught with the ball and a stoppage ensue. Sometimes it’s OK to do the grunt-work, Shaun.

Loved the way the Crows continually worked for stoppages early in the third quarter before finally getting some open space for Hugh Greenwood to work into and goal. It was an exercise in patience from the Crows, and once a mistake was apparent, they pounced.

Ziebell's hit on McKay... ouch! 

Can we take a moment to talk about Bryce Gibbs? Sounds like an intervention, huh? He probably needed one at Carlton. He has been amazing for Adelaide this season, and though they won’t play finals, his contribution to the team, through all the hardships they endured, should be commended. 27 touches again against the Kangaroos was just above his impressive season average. Averaging five tackles and five clearances per game is well above the output I expected of him this season. I thought he’d drift around half back and collect easy touches, but his clearance work in tight games this year has been phenomenal.

All that said, Gibbs was pretty quiet in the last quarter, but he had a fair few mates, including…

… Eddie Betts. How good was that mark in the closing stages of the game! The Adelaide crowd haven’t had a heap to cheer about in 2018, but they popped when Eddie flew high to take a hanger in the last minute. Even Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers had to stand and cheer. Amazingly, it was Betts’ only touch for the last quarter – good timing.

 

And that’ll finish off our Round 22 coverage. If you want to give us a Like on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter, we’d really appreciate it.

And hey... if you'd like to support us, you could head over to our Mongrel Shop and purchase one of our hideously overpriced hoodies or notebooks. ORRRRRR, you could wait a week or two and get one of the more moderately priced stubbie holders or bumper stickers (which we don't have to pay a huge commission to Redbubble for)