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The Good, Bad and Ugly - North Melbourne v Carlton

The Blues fans turned up with high expectations, but it took just one quarter of hard running football from the Kangaroos to dash the hopes that had been building over the past couple of weeks.

North Melbourne burned up the Marvel Stadium deck as they ripped the heart out of the Blues, kicking five goals to none, and backing it up with a five goal to one second quarter.

With the game effectively over at half time, North used the game to get some ball into the hands of their young runners, as well as a forward who may be the answer to the problem of having no second option that’s been plaguing them without Jarrad Waite drawing the attention of defenders.

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

 

THE GOOD

 

TAKING THE RESPONSIBILITY

There are a few captains in the AFL that are captains in name alone.

Who are they, I hear you ask? Okay, I’ll bite. Dayne Zorko and Dyson Heppell to me, are leaders in name alone, but you know who isn’t? Jack Ziebell.

Years ago I watched Ziebell get rubbed out for incidents that weren’t anything I considered untoward, yet there was Jack, fronting up to the tribunal and sitting out for weeks on end. He was a bit old school, inasmuch as he gave as good as he got, never complained, and when it was his turn to put his head over the footy, he wouldn’t even hesitate.

But there is something that screamed “leadership” about the way he went to the centre at  the first bounce and stood next to Patrick Cripps.

It’s arguable that Cripps has been the best mid in the game this season. His ability to get first hands on the ball is second to none, and knowing that North would need to curtail his influence, Ziebell went into the middle to perform a role that Marcus Bontempelli should have been playing a couple of weeks ago when Cripps tore the Dogs a new one.

Now, I am not going to sit here and stat you to death, because when you look at the game as a whole, you could be fooled into thinking Cripps had a good one – he didn’t. When the game was there to be won, Ziebell, with great support from Ben Cunnington and Jed Anderson, stifled the Carlton captain to the point he was completely ineffective.

At half time, the game was over, and whilst Ziebell had only nine touches, so did Cripps, and only five of his hit the target.

Cripps would go on to finish the game with an equal team high, but 17 of his 26 disposals came when the result was already determined. They’re basically junk time stats, and when the game was there to be won, Ziebell and company had Cripps’ number.

And that’s what counts.

 

THE ANTIHISTEMINE

Yeah look, I was struggling to find a good title, and his name is kind of like Zirtec, and I thought… why not? Sorry…

Irrespective of names, Zurhaar could have finished with a legitimate bag if not for two posters and a complete inability to connect with the footy on his left while on the run. Watching him in the first half, he was lively, read the ball well, and with Ben Brown looking dangerous, Zurhaar was able to swoop in and make life very difficult for the Carlton defenders.

Not only was he able to hit the scoreboard, I liked his physical pressure as well. He is quick, runs hard at the ball and the man, and likes laying a tackle. This is EXACTLY what North have been missing. While we’re all looking for the second option to help Ben Brown, Zurhaar has jumped up and stuck his hand in the air.

North coach, Brad Scott will be calling on him in the future, and it will be interesting to see if Zurhaar can respond. He is 13 games into his AFL career, so it is probably unfair to expect him to do what he did today on a regular basis… hell, he’d be kicking a ton if he could do that, but what he can bring is the urgency, the pressure, and the hard work to get into space and create an option that opens up the forward line.

Those sorts of efforts may not always reward him, but it allows Mason Wood room, it allows Ben Brown room, and it releases Jack Ziebell into the middle where he can lead his team from the guts.

A great breakout game for Cam Zurhaar – I hope to see plenty more.

 

THE ENGINE ROOM

If you listened to Dermott Brereton on commentary, and I love listening to Derm, you would’ve heard him laughing at the disdain with which Ben Cunnington treated his opposition today. He threw younger players around, beat Patrick Cripps in one-on-ones and helped himself to ten clearances along the way.

When he rode the tackle of Liam Stocker in the last quarter and simply dispensed with him as the Roos pushed forward, the difference in the teams was evident. Despite having kids on the team, the Kangaroos looked like a team of men playing against a team of boys learning the ropes.

He finished with modest stats for him, of 27 disposals, 16 contested touches and of course the 10 clearances which are just absolutely phenomenal. He is the unsung hero of the competition, but a true hero to the Kangaroos supporters.

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Grab a Mongrel Bumper Sticker - click the image, grab a sticker and help spread the Mongrel word. We’d really appreciate it.

 

THE DEFENSIVE ANCHOR

When Scott Thompson was ruled out of this game, I started to have a few fears for the Kangaroos. With Robbie Tarrant the only proven tall defender, and with Harry McKay clunking contested marks like his first name is Aaron and his surname is Carey, it spelt trouble.

But it turns out I didn’t need to worry. Robbie Tarrant gave McKay an absolute bath, restricting the in-form Carlton big man from having any influence at all on the contest. Not only did Tarrant restrict McKay to no contested marks, he shut down the Carlton big man so comprehensively that he took no marks at all.

Whilst we are not going to hear too much of Tarrant’s name read out on Brownlow night, he secured three Mongrel votes for his domination of his opponent.

So what’s the argument against Tarrant receiving the votes, as I am sure some would prefer Zurhaar, Higgins, Dumont or Cunnington?

I suppose he didn’t get much of the ball, himself. Did he need to? I have a great respect for a defender who can do his job so completely that he doesn’t need the ball to be effective. Call it the Robert Klomp effect, but Tarrant’s effort on McKay was the catalyst for North’s rebound, and scoring on the overlap.

 

THE BAD

 

TIME… CARLTON IS OUT OF TIME

My guess is that there are thousands of Carlton supporters tired of waiting. Tens of thousands.

You know, today while the game was dragging on into the second half, I was able to chat to a couple of our Carlton-supporting writers, and even in text, I could feel their building anger, mixed with both a rising level of despair and impatience. It’s not a great mix. One of them simply stopped writing. The other held it together, but at what point do these blokes, and the tens of thousands just like them give up?

I don’t hope for the pain to continue for the Blues at all – a strong Carlton, or at least a Carlton that isn’t pissweak, is good for the league, but how long is long enough to wait? Every time they show a sign, it’s completely undone by their actions, or in this case, their inaction within a couple of weeks.

They broke the drought against the Bulldogs, and were a kick away from backing up against the Hawks, but to them come out and kick one goal in a half against a team that had been struggling themselves… it’s just not good enough.

I have memories of Carlton being a team to fear. Remember that? If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, the Blues were indeed mighty, but there is something in the missed kicks, the half-hearted efforts and the absolute anarchy that seems to embody their modern game plan that does anything but strike fear into the hearts of opposition supporters. It’s not even amusing.

They lost Kade Simpson and Nic Newman this week, which seemed to leave them rudderless in direction, as those who were stationed there in this game had absolutely no idea how to get out of defensive 50 in the first half. Even having Sam Walsh drifting back there, with his calm demeanor and good ball use didn’t seem to help.

I don’t know whether this is systemic, psychological or whether it is purely a personnel issue, but if I am sick of waiting for Carlton, I can only imagine how pissed off their fans must be, and how their patience must be worn completely thin.

Time is a thing Carlton no longer possess. Being patient is something they’ve been already. They need to start seeing a hell of a lot better than what they displayed in the first half today. This is not good enough.

We can point to who is out. Newman, Simpson, McGovern… all teams have outs. The players on the park still have to be a level above insipid.

The Blues are now in their longest premiership drought EVER. Enough is enough.

 

THE UGLY

 

THE LACK OF ANY SYSTEM

I’ve touched on this already, but the inability to find a way out of defence was a disaster for Carlton today. Turnovers inside 50 killed the Blues early.

Liam Jones, him of the knocked out variety, and Lachie Plowman both butchered the ball so badly that their skill errors resulted directly in shots at goal for the Roos, with Goldstein goaling from Jones’ error and Garner letting Plowman off the hook.

The amount of times the Blues defenders got possession of the ball with a short chip, then stood there looking around before kicking to a contest (and kicking to the wrong side of the contest for their teammate… that has to drive them crazy!) was unbelievable. They looked completely rudderless without Simpson there to steady the ship, and without Newman there to provide some run and dash.

I saw Sam Walsh drifting back early in the piece to provide some composure and sure hands, but what does that say about the back six when you have to rely on a kid to get back and bail you out?

In contrast, north were able to stream out of defence unimpeded in the first half as the Blues rolled off their men at half, or three quarter pace to apply “pressure”. Carlton were nowhere near the level they were in the first half against Hawthorn. The endeavour wasn’t there, the intent to put someone on their ass wasn’t there, and their ability to win the ball back was almost non-existent.

Of course, it doesn’t help matters at all when old mate Levi Casboult kicks back directly to Mason Wood and gifts him goals. That sort of stuff would break your heart.

They said 41K were in attendance at one point? By half way through the third quarter, I reckon 25K remained, and I don’t blame one single person for heading for home when the Blues were serving up that crap, after promising so much more.

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Look! Mongrel Punt Stubby Holders. Buy one and be cooler than all your friends! It also helps the site out.

 

QUICK BITS

 

Tarryn Thomas, huh? With all the talk of the Carlton kids and the development of Sam Walsh, Thomas has slipped under the radar a little. Not for much longer, if at all. He had 19 touches in this one, and with only a couple not hitting the mark, he was all class. His sure hands, handballs that actually hit the mark (how many teams can’t actually do this?) and vision, he is a gem.

Mason Wood was good today. 24 touches is a career high, and he’d be feeling pretty good about his work. He was gifted a goal from Levi, and started to look dangerous at points. I thought I saw him hear footsteps as he ran with the flight late in the second quarter, pulling out of the contest. However, to his credit, he didn’t let that affect him. I was actually quite surprised to see no Carlton players let him know about it either, but I guess when you’re doing so many things wrong, it makes it difficult to point out the foibles of others.

I hated Marc Murphy’s game. To be honest, I’ve never really liked his game at all, but there is just something so “pretty boy” about the way he plays that it irks me. He gave away an idiotic free kick to Ziebell after the ball rolled out of play, and actually had the chance to flatten Shaun Atley in a marking contest and pulled up way before the ball got there. At that stage, Carlton needed someone to make a statement – I guess it’s foolish of me to think that Murphy would ever be that player. He is not earning his money.

The more I think of it, the less he deserves to have a uniquely spelled name. His name is now Mark Murphy. No more ‘c’ to make it a bit different. Just plain old Mark with a ‘k’. Earn your special spelling back, Mar-k.

That clash between Jones and Zurhaar looked brutal, but how good was Zurhaar just popping up with blood pouring out of his head and trotting off to the bench? It was really gutsy by Jones, who really had his hands full with Ben brown to that point, but equally as brave by Zurhaar, and not much was made of his resiliency.

I heard a few people throwing Higgins’ name around as a potential best on ground. Not for me. He had plenty of it, but his delivery by foot left a lot to be desired before half time. The heat was well and truly off after the main break, but with Higgins not hitting targets inside 50, I find it hard to reward him with talk of three votes.

How are people feeling about the Carlton kids? Sam Petrevski-Seton can go from the penthouse to the outhouse pretty quickly. He started this game on fire, and then moved around like a first gamer after ten minutes. Way too patchy to hold down a full time midfield spot at the moment.

Walsh looks great. He’s a bloke you look at and you just know he’ll be a star.

Lachie O’Brien? Nope. Not yet, anyway. Needs some time to grow a body and get some confidence in his abilities. Always looks hesitant when he gets the ball.

Paddy Dow. He could really go either way at the moment.  Feel like he’s teetering on the edge of becoming a good player, and becoming a player who will be traded away in a couple of years as he isn’t fitting in. this is a real worry, as it seems the haphazard way Carlton plays continually puts him under pressure, and he doesn’t quite have the tools to get himself out of those spots just yet. I sincerely hope Carlton don’t ruin him.

Zac Fisher. Knows what his strengths are and plays to them. I’d hazard a guess that he is Cripps’ number one handball target.

Harry McKay. Had a shit one, obviously, but has been great this year. Needs to find a way to impact the game when he’s not clunking marks. Can’t be a one-trick pony.

Of North’s youngsters, Trent Dumont had the ball on a string, finishing with 38 touches, with 17 coming in the first half, importantly. The other was Nick Larkey, who had ten touches for the game and showed a bit as well.

We’ve seen what Bailey Scott is capable of, but damn I wish Nick Blakey had chosen North as well.

Polec was relatively quiet, but they didn’t need him to be anything special today. He finished with 22 but the majority of them came after half time.

Not the case for Jasper Pittard, however, who was very good again this week, racking up 25 touches and killing more than his share of contests.

And finally, though I recon old mate Goldstein could’ve probably imposed himself on the contest a little, having only to dispatch of Andrew Phillips, his ability to sneak forward on the turnover and convert resulted in two North goals.

And that’ll about do me. I skipped over to watch the Crows-Dockers game before completing this review… if you thought your game was ugly in patches, you should’ve checked that abomination out. I couldn’t even do a good, bad and ugly about it… there was too much ugly!

Carlton get the old enemy next week, and they need to respond. What a terrible time to come up against one of the two best teams in the game at the moment. North host Geelong – they get the other team that’s traveling best. Big games for both teams, and a win to either would mean the world.

Cheers, big ears.

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