Look, I know we’ve got AFLW, I know we’ve had AFLX, and I know this isn’t the real stuff, but I got home on a Thursday night and there was footy on TV, and I was bloody rapt.
Here at The Mongrel, we live, breathe and we’d even make love to footy if it hadn’t threatened a restraining order against us.
But I don’t want to bore you – I have a whole season to do that.
I won't write about who was missing, or who should’ve done what. I’ll just concentrate on the things I saw from the first game of the 2019 JLT series that jumped out at me. The nuts and bolts.
Sam Walsh – well, well… look what the Blues have got here. It’s not often that a young bloke comes in against men and not only wins the footy, but outworks them. But that’s exactly what Walsh did tonight. I loved what I saw from him against the Bombers, and the thing that was most impressive was his tank. His ability to make the run and not only to win the ball, but then run again to receive was painfully obvious. This kid, with one pre-season under his belt, showed many what work ethic was all about.
There was another thing he did in the last quarter that got little attention, but given his tender age, you wouldn’t expect him to be doing this – he ran down Adam Saad. Now Saad just managed to get his foot to the ball, apparently, so Walsh didn’t get a free kick, but far out… this is Adam Saad he chased down. It’s not as though he got Zac Clarke. He knuckled down, gritted his teeth and caught one of the quickest players in the game. You can't teach that.
His first half duel with Dyson Heppell was very interesting. Heppell played wide of him, and truthfully, was just as damaging as Walsh. I had them playing to a draw at half time, but Heppell sat the second half.
Yeah, again, this isn’t the real stuff, but Walsh’s performance tonight was as real as it gets. Wow…
Was anyone else starting to think the Blues should’ve taken Patrick Cripps off half way through the last quarter? I couldn’t believe he was still out there. He was easily the best player on the ground, and collected what has become his standard 20 contested touches, but I just wanted him off the ground and into recovery mode.
Remember last season when everyone was questioning whether Cripps could carry the load by himself all season and whether it was too much on his body? Well, playing full games in the JLT series don’t exactly ease that burden. I know he’s a workhorse. I know he wants to be out there, but you have 23 rounds of footy to get that big body through.
Still, that goal in the second quarter, where he grabbed the clearance, weaved through traffic and slotted the goal – that was masterful.
If there was one negative, I thought he whined to the umpires a bit in the first half in particular. I’m not saying that he was wrong, but it seemed on every decision he was either arguing, or appealing for a free kick. On a very bright evening, that was the one dark spot.
For the Bombers, the presence of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti through the centre of the ground was a highlight. He finished with 14 touches, and much like Cyril Rioli, will probably be criticised for not doing enough for the entire game.
Here’s some advice about this bloke – stop wondering about what he’s not doing, and start watching what he is doing, because what he is doing is quite amazing at times. The moment in the last quarter when he charged at a bouncing inside 50 ball, tapped it behind him, completely lost Nic Newman and then fed Stringer for a goal was absolutely incredible play. If ever in doubt of what he can do, watch that play again. It was brilliant.
I was hoping someone would check whether Robert Walls was alive at the back of the Carlton box at stages. The only thing worse than having Robert Walls sitting behind you as you coach would be having the corpse of Robert Walls sitting behind you as you coach.
I’m still unsure what kind of player Lachie Plowman will turn out to be. For such a high pick, I have such low expectations for him, however, I liked what I saw from Will Setterfield tonight. 19 touches and eight tackles was a very nice contribution. Good pick up by the Blues - he adds a bit.
The ruck duel was a pivotal clash. I thought Zac Clarke made a really good showing early, but as the game wore on, Andrew Phillips in particular, started having a real impact. Clarke demonstrated he can go forward and clunk a mark if required, but with Lobbe stepping in for Phillips, the Bombers started throwing Joe Daniher into the mix... my take is that you don't throw a thoroughbred in with the donkeys.
Overall, I think both clubs would be pleased from the output of their big men tonight.
Whilst on big men, Joe Daniher got through, which for me, is a huge win. He looks a hell of a lot stronger than last I saw him, and had the dream start, getting a lace-out pass from Dyson Heppell to convert. Following that, it was a bit of a mixed bag, but getting him through, getting him right, and re-establishing some confidence in his body would’ve been the main goal tonight – mission accomplished.
Jake Stringer looked lively, and finished with three goals. Good to see a bit of spirit from him as the game progressed. I like it when players give a shit, and he looked like he gave a shit tonight.
Andy McGrath moved into the middle a bit more and Guelfi looks like he may usurp his role off half back… he wasn't bad, though I was a little disappointed with some of McGrath’s kicking. He's got some polish, but looked a bit too rushed at times.
I was probably more disappointed with Michael Hurley’s kicking, overall. I might be on an island here, but whilst I love seeing him with time to assess situations, his disposal when there’s pressure around can be very iffy.
Nice new ‘do’ by Guelfi, by the way.
Overall, I wasn’t really a great fan of the Hurley/Hartley/Ambrose defensive set-up. There appeared to be a fair bit of miscommunication, and too many blokes were either spoiling each other, or giving away unnecessary free kicks in marking contests. The defence looked leaky enough to rival the level of George Pell's lawyer at times.
Dylan Shiel… my jury is out. Looked like he was starting to hit his straps just when he banged his knee. His go-to move is that back-tracking gather where he just outworks those around him, only to turn and send the Bombers (or formerly the Giants) back into attack. We saw it a couple of times tonight. He looks like his fitness base is still really strong, so I expect we’ll see him running games out well. He was just a little… sloppy tonight.
Mitch McGovern. If fit, he’ll be a fantastic option for the Blues, but of all players on the park, I reckon he had the least amount of definition in his arms. I know that’s not the be-all and end-all of fitness, but definition is a great indicator of work put in. Personally, I reckon he cruises by on sheer talent.
Great to see Michael Gibbons snag a few goals. That’s a good news story, but in truth, they were pretty easy goals in the context of the game. Don’t go backing him for the Coleman, will ya?
Nic Newman seemed to fit in seamlessly in the Carlton defence, and Jacob Weitering started showing he has the ability to put himself in the right place at the right time. Good to see that Liam Jones didn’t crash into him, or anyone else tonight.
The rule changes? The biggest one was the kick in rule, with some of the defensive exits landing close to the wing. This is an absolute zone breaker, and truthfully, I like the way it impacts the game. The transition from defence to offence is blistering when the kick in is used well.
I can see the 6-6-6 structural rule costing teams greatly. We saw one instance where a player limped off, and his replacement was just running on when the umpire was ready to bounce the ball. Luckily, common sense prevailed and the player was allowed to take up his position, but during the season, something like that in a close game could be very costly… and people will be upset.
So, how did you see the game? What were your highlights, low lights, and those lights that dim and then brighten with just a turn of a knob?
Speaking of knobs, shout out to my friend, Joe Ganino, who I will try to insult in every game review this year. He’s a complete idiot.
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. We even have a place for donations now. ORRRRRR, get one of the more moderately priced stubby holders or bumper stickers. Click the links below. Keep The Mongrel alive in 2019.