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The Good, Bad and Ugly - Adelaide v Sydney

No one wants to be 0-2. If you’re unfortunate enough to listen to this week’s AFL echo chamber, you would’ve heard people talking about the difficulty of making the top eight when you lose your first two games.

Once again, Sydney finds itself in that very spot after being rolled at home by the Adelaide Crows

There’s plenty to talk about in regard to this one, and for some strange reason, I had a heap of messages coming through the old Mongrel Punt Facebook account as I watched… we’ll get to them at the end.

But for the time being, here’s the good, bad and ugly of the Crows and the Swans.

 

THE GOOD

Tex in the contest

I’m not sure this’ll get a lot of press, and the focus always seems to be on the players who rack up big numbers, or kick a bag, but I loved the way Tex Walker contested today. He looked like he was up for the fight, and the stiff-arm he hit some poor, unfortunate soul with early in the last quarter was straight out of the Dusty/Cunnington/Breust handbook (yes, there’s more than one player who successfully pulls that move off consistently).

For a big bloke, he started to look relatively nimble across half forward, and some of his creative play to set up teammates was excellent.

He finished with modest stats of 16 touches and six marks but after a good early duel with Lewis Melican, I thought that Tex really got on top and started having significant influence on the contest, and would probably be mentioned a lot more had he converted better, finishing with 1.3 for the game.

A lot of people denounce Walker’s leadership, and have spoken about the addition of Rory Sloane as co-captain as a way of saying Tex wasn’t doing a great job, but this was a captain’s knock from Walker tonight, and it would’ve shut a few people up.

For the time being, anyway.

 

Paul Seedsman’s first quarter

Here’s a little secret. I’ve been working on a formula set to debut after Round Four that’ll give us our first ‘power rankings’ of 2019, and whilst metres gained isn’t something I’d usually look to factor in, I do keep an eye on it. I’ve kind of earmarked 600 metres gained as the number required to demonstrate a player (particularly a defender) has made an impact in this stat.

Well, at quarter time, I thought I’d have a look at how Seed was travelling in that department. My eyes nearly fell out of my head.

Last week, James Sicily racked up 901 metres gained against the Crows. It’s a monstrous number, aided by him taking the kicking in duties and waltzing out of the square. Well, after the first quarter today, Seedsman had 369 metres gained to his name, including 60 metres from that beautiful long goal on the siren – what a kick that was.

He was curtailed after that, finishing with 515 for the game, but that first quarter was as good a demonstration of hard running and long kicking as you’ll find.

 

Josh Jenkins’ second half

I want to preface this by saying that I did not like his first half at all. I didn’t like his attempts to get over the back and get easy goals. He is a monster of a man and needs to start leading up at the ball carrier more often, using his size to shield the space, and taking some damn marks.

The one time he did, he marked at 50, went back and kicked a ripper.

And after half time, he started attacking the contest more. His work to take contested grabs on the wing, and his willingness to work all the way down to half back was precisely what the Crows were crying out for to successfully exit their defence. It was as though when Sam Jacobs went off after rolling his ankle, the shackles were off Jenkins, and he was free to move further up the ground in a temporary ruck role.

He started using that bulk and power, and as the Swans kicked the first goal of the last quarter, it was Jenkins who muscled his way into the very next contest and snapped a ripping goal to steady the ship.

I’m not sure there is a forward combination more maligned than the Tex/JJ duo, but there were moments in tonight’s game where both stood up and won important contests for their team.

 

Brad Crouch and Bryce Gibbs

With his brother strangely quiet, particularly in the first half, Brad Crouch stepped to the fore and combined with Rory Sloane to give the Crows what the Swans lacked – a good on-ball connection.

He, along with Paul Seedsman, was the catalyst for the Crows dominant first quarter, and his five tackles indicates that he was no one-way player.

Crouch’s re-emergence as a midfield force adds another dimension to Adelaide in 2019. His hardness, and refusal to give up on plays makes him like a brilliant new recruit this season, after missing all of last year. But the thing I like best about his form is that it releases Bryce Gibbs to do what he was recruited for; to be the polish in the Adelaide midfield.

At half time, Gibbs was going at 100% efficiency, and though that dropped to 82% for the game, Gibbs’ ability to stop, take a moment and look for an open target, and actually hit it, made a big difference for the Crows.

 

Tagging Rory Laird and not tagging Jake Lloyd

Finally, someone wakes up and throws a defensive-minded player at Laird. The only other coach I’ve seen employ this tactic is Ken Hinkley, and that’s just because I reckon he’s had a bit of FU about him and doesn’t want Laird racking up big numbers against his team.

Well, George Hewett went to Laird early, and did a great job on him. Laird had just four touches in the first quarter, as Hewett put the clamps on, and though Laird ended up with a respectable 21 for the game, his influence was negligible.

Luckily, for the Crows, they have this ball-winning backline that can easily cover when Laird is held.

Brodie Smith notched 23 touches, and Wayne Milera added 22 as the Crows simply adjusted roles to ensure they got drive out of their back half. Laird managed to get a fingertip on a quick snap by Josh Kennedy early in the third quarter, which was important, but standing right next to him was Hewett, who did not allow Laird to slot into that customary goal keeper slot that works for him so often.

Now, while I liked Longmire tagging Laird, why the hell don’t coaches set a player as a defensive forward against Jake Lloyd? This bloke wanders around, doing as he pleases, and rarely has to compete for the ball. He just gets it on a platter time and time again.

Do coaches think that Lloyd doesn’t hurt them? He had 34 touches at 88% efficiency with just four of them coming in contested situations. I have a two year old… we watch Sesame Street and we like to count things - let’s count. Four contested possessions… ha ha ha. 27 uncontested possessions… ha ha ha.

But wait on… that leaves four possessions short – I am sure the statisticians know what they’re doing, right? They work with numbers, and they know that 27 plus four doesn’t equal 34… right?

Anyway, the point is that this guy just hovers in and around defensive 50 and gets free rein to do whatever he likes. The Swans like going to him – why let them? Why not make someone not as good by foot take that kick out of defensive 50?

So we saw one prolific backman tagged, and another allowed to run riot. I wonder how many other teams will employ similar tactics against Laird, and how many others will roll the dice on allowing Lloyd to run free?

 

Josh Kennedy going forward

There was a bit of chatter in the Mongrel team tonight about whether Kennedy was cooked. It came at a time when he wasn’t working hard to get back into defence to aid his team… and we’ll cover that, but for this section, let’s look at the positive aspects of his night.

And there were plenty.

In a lone hand, he had a 36 touches, 1o clearances, 11 inside 50 deliveries and 13 score involvements. Each one of those was a high for the game. He also added two direct goal assists in a virtuoso performance running forward of centre

Kennedy is being forced to prop up a rather suspect midfield at the moment, and he tried his guts out tonight. Last season, we saw him start to fade quite significantly in some games. It made me start to question just how long he could continue as the number one man in the Swans midfield.

After an off-season to freshen up, he was at it again, tonight. What a player.

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THE BAD

 

An over-umpired two minutes

So firstly, did you want to just slap Colin O’Riordan in the back of the head as soon as Chayce Jones was awarded the 50 metre penalty in the third quarter. As soon as Jones took off, you just knew that the Irishman was going to chase him, look confused, do something dumb and give away another 50.

You just knew it! I knew it.

And not being one to let down his supporters, O’Riordan did just that.

So we got an additional 50 metre penalty for what originally a simple push in the back, slightly late in a marking contest. Brilliant. Chayce Jones then went back, slotted what he thought was a goal, and everyone went back to their positions.

But wait, there’s more!

Jones is obviously just a kid, so I am not going to bag him out for making a blue with his shot at goal, but it turns out he got a little too close to the man on the mark, and Dane Rampe was able to touch it as Jones kicked. The ball was taken back to the centre, everyone stood around for 20 or so seconds, and then the score review people… who I now realise have their own acronym, signal that it was a touched ball and everyone has to reset for the kick out.

Exciting stuff, huh?

I absolutely hated it!

I hated the over-officiating. I hated that such a technical little piece of crap rule gave Jones a shot at goal when he first earned possession at half back. I hated that O’Riordan was so god damn clueless even though everyone has been banging on about what not to do since the JLT series, and I hated that after the goal, everyone is dragged back to the centre, then back to the Swans’ backline as they correct the call.

This is not what I want to see when I watch football. You know why? Because it is all rule-focused and it created a chain reaction of over-officiating. I will watch scrappy footy til the cows come home, but I don’t want clinical, sanitised crap like I saw tonight.

I know this may be the anomaly, and that we’re probably not going to get two minutes of action focused solely on the umpires and their decision-making, but it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it when it does.

Rant over… for now.

 

The Swans midfield

I admire Josh Kennedy. He is the last man standing from what was a dominant Sydney contested ball-winning midfield. Hannebery has gone off to clog up St Kilda’s list, and take a fair whack of their coin in the process, Kieren Jack is banged up, and Luke Parker is still deciding exactly what he wants to be as a player and splits time between half forward and the middle as a result.

But with Kennedy hitting 31 years old in a couple of months, his bash and crash style is starting to wear on him, and as much as I loved what he provided going forward, I didn’t see the same effort going the other way.

That’s probably for very good reason.

Look at the Collingwood midfield, and in particular Scott Pendlebury. The Pies have built that midfield up around him so as to ensure Pendles doesn’t have to be the best player in the guts for them to win. Treloar, Adams, Sidebottom and now Beams… they are spoiled in there. Pendlebury doesn’t have to carry that group anymore.

But what have the Swans done to help Kennedy? There’s Papley (who gave away a whopping seven free kicks for the game) who has a strong body in the contest, Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, the defensive minded George Hewett, and the aforementioned Parker.

The Swans refused to use Heeney or Mills in there for any significant stretch, meaning that Kennedy had to play a lone hand in the midfield. He’s a wonderful player, but he shouldn’t be relied on to do this anymore.

Yet, he is.

The Swans need to address this quickly. They need another strong, ball-winning body, or at least a good reader of the ball in ruck contests to get in there and help Kennedy before he’s too banged up to keep going. He’s already running one way. One day, he’ll just bloody stop!

But what’s the answer? The logical step seems to be for Heeney to get his backside in there and become the player people are waiting for him to be. What’s the hold up? He’s basically Sydney’s Mister Fix-It at the moment, and goes where he’s needed, right?

Well, looking at the Swans midfield, I’d say he is most needed there. A midfield of Kennedy, Zak Jones, Parker, Papley and George Hewett lacks punch. Heeney provides it.

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THE UGLY

 

Guesswork

I’m fixing to rant again… buckle up.

I’m going to highlight this one incident because it is everything wrong with modern footy.

In the first quarter, a downfield free kick was awarded against Sydney’s Zak Jones. He put the hard yards in and ran to pressure the kick of David McKay. As the Crow kicked the ball, Jones swung his arm to make contact with McKay, and did, with an open hand to the side.

People, this resembled at pat on the back than it did an attempt to punch, particularly because no one attempts to punch with an open hand. But that didn’t stop the umpire from guessing that it was a punch, and then guessing it warranted a downfield free kick. It was a terrible call on a play that warranted zero action from the umpire.

What annoys me most is that this stems from all the uproar about punches not being penalised, and is obviously a mandate from the AFL to crack down on something that has been called into question in the media over the past few days.

I feel sorry for the umpire that made the call – it was embarrassing to whistle that as a downfield free kick. I’ve patted people on the back in congratulations with more force than that.

With people upset about former players adding a letter to the AFL acronym to make it AFLM, or others getting annoyed at comments online, THIS sort of thing is actually an issue people should get fired up about. This innocuous contact, made in a desperate attempt to put someone off their kick does not warrant a free kick downfield. It doesn’t warrant a warning, or even a second glance from the umpire.

What is does warrant is the understanding that there are 44 blokes out there in any given game, making contact with each other constantly (sounds like a movie I caught my mate, Joe Ganino watching once). There is always going to be some form of contact, and if you’ve been given a directive to outlaw punches and punish those who do throw them, then so be it, but for Christ’s sake, don’t start guessing that someone has thrown a punch and penalise a team just because you’re scared that you may have missed something. If you miss it, don’t worry – that’s what the MRO is for.

Just umpire what you see. Don’t guess at what you don’t.

Rant over… for now.

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QUICK BITS

Poor old Chayce Jones. He did so much right, and just couldn’t finish a goal off tonight. I loved his endeavour, but he just lacked that tiny bit of composure in front of goals. It’ll come, and he knows how to get to the right spots – sometimes that’s the most difficult. His kick out of mid-air back into play is the sort of instinctive small-forward kind of play you see from Betts sometimes

Ben Ronke looked nothing like the bloke who snagged seven against the Hawks last year. He was fumbly, hesitant and after the first goal, a complete non-factor. I liked his defensive efforts, but I reckon he is in there to provide a bit of offence, and that didn’t happen.  Good comparison for him would be Jack Higgins right now. Who would you rather in your team?

Speaking of non-factors, Ryan Clarke was recruited from north Melbourne in the off-season, and was supposed to provide some great run and carry for the Swans. Well, the run was there, but he didn’t have the ball often, and therefore the carry definitely wasn’t.

Isn’t it amazing how quick momentum can shift? Late in the first quarter Buddy spilled a chest mark on 50 from a beautiful kick by Luke Parker. The Crows took the ball straight up the other end, and on a kick just as good by Rory Laird, Jenkins marked on 50 and slotted a big goal. Not much was made of Frankin’s dropped mark – he is a little protected from that kind of criticism – but that was a significant turnaround in the game.

I had to smile when the commentators were talking up Adelaide’s domination of disposals. They were pretty dominant last week as well – short bloody memories, guys! You were the exact same people talking about how they over-possessed the ball, and this week it’s all okay because they’re in front?

Anyone else notice Bruce MacAvaney throw in an AFLM reference during the broadcast?  

Dane Rampe was unlucky not to get into the ‘good’ category, given how well he played on Eddie Betts. Watching Eddie in the pre-season, I thought he was really going to hit the ground running this year, but his slow has been start. He’s now been soundly beaten two weeks in a row. The upside is that he is moving well, and once things click, it’ll be a bonus for the Crows. Anyone got a prediction for when Betts breaks the shackles?

Tom Papley made a huge difference in the middle in the second quarter. He finished with five centre clearances, but three came in rapid succession as he dragged the Swans back into it in the second quarter. I had him in the votes at half time but he fell off the pace after that.

Comment of the night by BT in regard to Daniel Talia – “He’s always playing with himself.” Aren’t we all, BT? Aren’t we all?

Not sure what I liked better – Buddy throwing his weight around, or Rory Laird getting straight up after taking Buddy’s hit. Who am I kidding – I love it when a player bounces back up!

Quieter night for Matt Crouch, yet he still ended up with seven clearances to be the best Adelaide player in that regard.

The crowd was howling for a free kick to Sam Reid early in the fourth, after Alex Keath and he got tangled up in a marking contest. I haven’t watched a replay of it, but I remember thinking that Reid initiated contact, and Keath did a good job of getting back into the contest to kill it. There may have been a free kick there, but I felt at that point, a lot of Swans fans were booing due to accumulated frustration with calls not going their way.

The one Franklin didn’t get in the last quarter – I’ll cover that in the questions section.

 

 

QUESTIONS

And here we are, in the questions section, which I added for tonight because I got so many messages during the game.

Did Buddy stage in the last quarter to try to milk a free kick?

Just re-watched it. Maybe a little. There was definitely contact as he led toward the pocket (9.01 left on the clock) but he went to ground a little too easily. He was frustrated, and proceeded to give away two free kicks and a 50 metre penalty in the space of the next minute, so he felt he was ripped off, obviously.

It begs the question – from reader, Harry Russell, actually – is exaggerating contact for free kicks becoming more prominent to the point where big forwards going to ground is now accepted as they try to milk free kicks? Or has this always been the case? Forwards do complain a lot…

A particularly irate Swans supporter asked about the free kick count.

It was 27-16 in favour of the Crows, and whilst there were a few that could’ve gone the way of the Swans, I am sure that anyone with blue, yellow and red glasses on could point out just as many that could’ve gone to the Crows as well.

Umpiring is a tough gig, and even though I pointed out that absolute howler against Zak Jones in the first quarter, having a bloke like Rory Sloane putting his head over the ball and earning seven free kicks, and then having a guy like Tom Papley  giving away seven by being careless can really swing that number either in your favour, or to your detriment.

Is Eddie Betts cooked?

No, not by a long way. He was playing on one of the best defenders in the game today, and with the slippery ball, he was never going to get silver service. I loved his smother in the third quarter that led to a quick kick forward and a Jenkins mark. That’s where he can demonstrate his value when things aren’t going his way. By the way, JJ should’ve went back and had a shot at that goal instead of playing on like a spud.

Is Eddie Mcguire the biggest insensitive flog in footy?

I’m sure this bloke doesn’t need anyone to defend him, but in relation to his comments about the woman doing the coin toss, I really believe ignorant is a better word to describe him. I genuinely do not believe he a) knew who she was, or b) knew she had a disability. Whilst I am sure the outrage community will be in full swing by the time I schedule this post to go live, I don’t think this is on a par with his previous slip ups. It was a dumb comment, but not an intentional putdown of someone with a disability. I think this term is probably best to describe it - thoughtless.

All that said, I reckon he will contact the woman personally and apologise for his comment, which would be the right thing to do after making a mistake.

Also, I believe Ed is a professional tosser. He's been tossing for years, and is one of the biggest tossers around, so anyone who isn't as good as him will be called out... on not being a big tosser.  

Is Buddy back?

Did he ever go away? Well, kind of, I guess. He was a shell of his former self last year, and whilst that goal from the boundary - both of them, actually - were the kind of kicks we’ve come to expect from the big fella, he isn’t moving quite as well as he once was.

Time catches up with everyone, but I hope Buddy can outrun it for a couple more years.

Are the Swans set to topple down the ladder?

They looked a bit slow tonight, but throw Heeney into the midfield and they suddenly look quicker. They were 0-2 last year as well, and ended up a game out of making the top four.

That said, if they can’t put the Blues away next week… trouble’s a-brewing.

Is Daniel Talia the most underrated full back in the game?

I rate him – not sure about others. He is just so matter-of-fact. No mess, no fuss… just does his job. The perfect defender, and I am sure he is rated highly by those who matter.

Is Sam Reid the biggest “what if…” in recent history?

It depends what the rest of the question is. What if Sam Reid didn’t get injured? What if Sam Reid would stand up when the Swans needed him? What if Sam Reid was better than he is?

I don’t rate Sam Reid. I don’t think he has ever done anything other than promise. Still waiting for him to deliver… something. What if Sam Reid delivers something? Well, if he does, I’m sure it’ll ease the forward burden on Franklin.

Hey Mongrel, don’t mention Jake Kelly. We like it when he flies under the radar.

Jake who?

Why would you waste Hewett on Laird when Sloane was the obvious target?

The Crows have a few obvious targets. The problem is that the Swans only have one George Hewett and tonight he made life difficult for Laird. I see what you’re saying, however – with Sloane’s well-documented issues with taggers, Hewett may have been able to hamper him significantly.

As an aside, Hewett is a good clearance player, as well. Might’ve been a great help to Kennedy in the middle.

Last one – who was the best pressure player on the ground?

Nice question to finish on. I reckon Sloane is your man, here. Does the little things, wins the hard ball, and will put himself in harm’s way to help his team. Never gives up on a play. I’m really happy to see him healthy this season.

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