Post-Siren Sickener for North

ESSENDON 3.2 9.8 13.14 14.20 (104) NORTH MELBOURNE 4.3 8.5 10.10 15.12 (102)

Just when you thought the opening weekend of footy couldn’t get any more exciting, along came an after-the-siren epic between two highly competitive and developing sides.

Unsurprisingly for a round one clash, this game played out with both sides trying to find their preferred style and without any real rhythm or flow – this should become second nature as the season progresses.

For the majority of the first-half, we saw a game of attack and counter attack. Both sides attempted to implement their respective defensive press, with inconsistent results that provided plenty of space for the spread to gain an advantage.

At the midway point of the first-quarter, Essendon hard man Heath Hocking received a ball to the face at full speed and was quickly subbed off after failing the concussion test for Nathan Lovett-Murray who had an immediate impact.

North were looking ominous and lead by as much as 17 points, however Lovett-Murray gathered eight possessions and kicked two important goals against the flow to help Essendon to an unlikely nine-point lead at the main break.

The third-quarter saw Hamish McIntosh mark and goal within the first 45 seconds before both sides tightened up, which seemed to suit Essendon as they extended their lead despite an inaccurate quarter in which they scored 4.6 to the Kangaroos’ 1.5 after the McIntosh goal.

The final stanza was fascinating in so many ways. Essendon began with a 22-point lead and looked poised to run away with a comfortable win, and in the last term they had 14 inside 50’s to six and had eight scoring shots to seven – yet North found a way to make things happen.

The Bombers’ inaccurate kicking found them registering 1.6 to North’s five straight goals and four points behind with five minutes still remaining on the clock.

These last few minutes were frenetic: a marking opportunity from Aaron Edwards was rushed through for a behind by Fletcher, as both sides became desperate in their attack on the ball.

With 30 seconds remaining on the clock, it seemed the Bombers would get home by three points, until a last gasp surge saw a North bomb inside 50 resulting in a mark to McIntosh 45 metres out, just moments before the siren.

Remarkably, for the third time in three years, the Bombers were left to watch their opposition shoot for the win from about 40 metres out after the siren, each time being at Etihad stadium.

And for the third time in a row, the result went Essendon’s way when the McIntosh kick faded to the right.

Talking tactics

Partly injuries and partly depth lead to North Melbourne entering this game one key position player short of what they would ultimately desire.

Robbie Tarrant leaving the field with a hamstring injury in the second-quarter left North with no choice but to create space for their small and medium forwards, and forced their ruckmen to spend more time up-forward and less time resting on the bench than was ideally desired.

Stanton was assigned to Wells for the first half, with neither player showing the other enough respect. At the break Stanton had 18 touches to Well’s 17, yet unquestionably Wells was the more damaging of the pair.

Match-up of the night

It may well be argued that Essendon and North Melbourne have two of the three best ruck combinations in the league, with West Coast being the other obvious choice.

With both teams also relying on their big men to provide forward targets, this battle was always going to go a long way to determining the outcome, and David Hille and Patrick Ryder were in no small way responsible for the Essendon win.

Ryder and Hille combined for 44 hit-outs compared to McIntosh and Todd Goldstein’s 30, had 38 possessions compared to 21, and kicked 2.2 whilst North’s ruckmen kicked 1.1 – this was the difference more so than any other battle.

GOALS

Essendon: Stanton 2, Melksham 2, Hurley 2, Lovett-Murray 2, Heppell, Hille, Watson, Jetta, McVeigh, Ryder.

Nth Melb: Harvey 3, Edwards 2, Petrie 2, Adams 2, Thomas 2, Wells, McIntosh, Macmillan, Harper.

BEST

Essendon: Stanton, Fletcher, Howlett, Ryder, Heppell, Myers, Hibberd

Nth Melb: Wells, Swallow, Adams, Harvey, Petrie.

VOTES: 3 – Stanton, 2 – Wells, 1 – Fletcher

REPORTS Sam Wright (NM) for charging Brent Stanton in the second-quarter.
UMPIRES: M Stevic, J Armstrong, J Bannister.
CROWD: 45,818 at Etihad Stadium.

Dockers Pip Cats in Thriller

In what is set to be one of the games of the season, Fremantle have overcome Geelong by 4 points in an epic encounter.

Fremantle and Geelong went blow for blow both figuratively and literally as the lead changed 12 times throughout the game, it took 2 late goals to Matthew Pavlich to get the Dockers over the line.

It was an extremely spiteful match which will be the topic of much of the conversation this week, most of which will be centred on Hayden Ballantyne.

Ballantyne  was involved in multiple incidents throughout the match, the most notable being a punch to the jaw from Matthew Scarlett which could result in a spell on the sidelines for the Cats stalwart. Ballantyne will also come under scrutiny for an incident that left Paul Chapman on his hands and knees.

However, even without these events, the game was of the highest quality with both teams exchanging momentum and having every player on their last legs by the end of the clash.

Fremantle burst out of the gates with the first five goals, they looked like a new team under new coach Ross Lyon and one that that did not look like a typical zoned Lyon team as they moved the ball quickly and spread well.

Despite Fremantle’s dominance, Geelong, as always, were able to find goals and brought the margin back to 2 goals at the end of a high-scoring quarter that resulted in 10 straight goals.

In the second quarter, Geelong began to get on top, especially in the centre as Joel Selwood dominated the clearances with James Podsiadly the primary recipient, kicking 2 goals.

It took an act of brilliance in Nathan Fyfe’s snap on the boundary from the opposite foot to keep Fremantle in touch.

The third-quarter was played at a frenetic pace and Geelong quickly lost their five-point half-time lead.

Ballantyne’s antics fueled the action, however inaccurate kicking meant that neither team could build a lead. The sides entered the final break with only one point between them.

The effort expelled by the players in the final quarter was immense, everyone was out on their legs, mistakes began to emerge and the game began to open up.

The stars from each club tried to will their teams home.

Fyfe excelled with his contested work while for Geelong, Jimmy Bartel was sublime in kicking two goals.

In the end, Fremantle were just able to hack the ball forward more often and Pavlich was able to make use of his opportunities.

Fyfe was the best of the Fremantle players with 30 disposals, he was crucial in keeping Fremantle’s midfield competitive with Geelong’s star-studded line-up. He was constantly at the bottom of the pack, racking up contested possessions

He was well-supported by Sandilands, who at times was unstoppable and worked hard at ground level as well as Tendai Mzungu, who was everywhere and Micahel Johnson who was a rock at centre-half-back, providing great run.

Geelong’s stars were as reliable as always, new captain Joel Selwood dominated the clearances and was the source for many of Geelong’s forward thrusts and Bartel was at his game-changing best, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time.

The cats would also be impressed by the performances of youngsters such as Steven Motlop, Josh Hunt and Billie Smedts who held their own in the high-intensity game.

This win will act a great launching pad for Fremantle and the rest of their season as they now know they can beat the best and will look to push for the 8.

Geelong face the daunting task of flying back to Melbourne to face a red-hot Hawthorn keen to end their losing streak against the Cats.

FREMANTLE       6.0    8.3    12.8    16.9 (105)

GEELONG          4.0    9.2    12.7    15.11 (101)

 

GOALS

Fremantle: Mellington 3, Pavlich 3, Clarke 2, Fyfe 2, Ballantyne 2, de Boer, Barlow, Bradley, Mzungu

Geelong: Hawkins 4, Bartel 3, Podsiadly 2, Motlop 2, Johnson, Duncan,  Mackie, T Hunt

 

BEST

Fremantle:  Fyfe, Sandilands, Mzungu, Johnson, Ballantyne,

Geelong: Selwood, Kelly, Mackie, Bartel

 

Reports: Scarlett (Gee) for striking Ballantyne in third quarter.

 

Crowd:  34,601

Finals footy five months early

Where and When: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Friday 30 March, 7:50 pm

If this match is half as good as their preliminary final encounter from last year, then tonight’s clash between Hawthorn and Collingwood will be match of the round.

Although both captains are missing – Nick Maxwell through an ankle injury sustained in the NAB Cup and Luke Hodge with bleeding in the calf muscle received yesterday at training – the game’s elite are still on show.

On the other hand, both teams have some fresh blood, with four debutants named for the Pies and a few recruits in for the Hawks.

Whatever happens, one of these two teams will find itself outside the top eight for the first time in at least two years.

Hawthorn

Prior to last year’s two losses to the Pies, the Hawks had won five of the past six between the two teams, with some tense and some huge.

Lance Franklin has generally been the key factor, kicking goals every time he plays Collingwood, and with Ben Reid the only recognised key defender and named to play against him, expect him to kick a few.

Add to that David Hale, who has been in brilliant form up-forward and Jack Gunston as the highly-touted youngster from Adelaide and the Hawks have plenty of avenues to goal.

Stephen Gilham is still on the road to recovery despite playing for Box Hill recently, but Ben Stratton, Josh Gibson, Ryan Schoenmakers and big debutant Jarrad Boumann are all named and there might be some double teaming heading towards Collingwood’s power forwards.

Hawthorn look great, except in the ruck, where 25-year-old former Lions ruckman Broc McCauley is set to take on Darren Jolly, and although he performed well last year, he has a huge task in front of him.

Collingwood

Collingwood aren’t playing their best side – Chris Tarrant, Nick Maxwell, Sharrod Wellingham, Dayne Beams, Ben Johnson and Andrew Krakouer are amongst those missing – but they have some exciting youth to introduce.

Jackson Paine, Peter Yagmoor and Paul Seedsman will debut while Marty Clarke makes his return to the Pies in what is overall an undermanned side. Luke Rounds and Ben Sinclair will also play.

Although Hawthorn’s defence appears tall, Collingwood’s small forwards are down to Alex Fasolo, Jarryd Blair and Peter Yagmoor, and they will have to be big contributors if Cloke and Dawes get heavily manned.

They will also need goals from the midfield, from acting captain Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan, Dale Thomas, Luke Ball and Steele Sidebottom all needing to hit the scoreboard to take the pressure off the forwards.

Collingwood’s youth in recent history has slid into the side well, but one must wonder if this team is too depleted to top the Hawks.

Players to Watch

Jack Gunston: This is his chance. Gunston was highly rated at Adelaide before requesting a trade to Hawthorn and the young but impressive tall forward has the perfect opportunity in front of him: 90,000 at the MCG under lights, an undermanned defence against a team that has played in the last three grand finals, winning one. He has to seize it.

Jarryd Blair: Likewise for Blair – the most experienced small forward in the side brings the X-factor to the black and white forward line and against a tall defence he’ll need to use his crumbing and roving skills to kick a few goals – he has the capability.

Prediction

Collingwood are young, they have been for the past few years, but one has to wonder how much youth is too much, regardless of how many senior players are missing.

Proven performers on the big stage are still there, but the Hawks have more of them, and will win, but not comfortably by any means.

Hawthorn by nine points

Teams:

Hawthorn

B: Brent Guerra, Josh Gibson, Jarrad Boumann

HB: Grant Birchall, Ryan Schoenmakers, Ben Stratton

C: Isaac Smith, Sam Mitchell, Chance Bateman

HF: Shaun Burgoyne, Lance Franklin, Cyril Rioli

F: Luke Breust, David Hale, Jack Gunston

R: Broc McCauley, Brad Sewell, Jordan Lewis

Inter: Michael Osborne, Shane Savage, Matt Suckling, Brendan Whitecross

Emerg: Cameron Bruce, Xavier Ellis, Jarryd Roughead

New: Jarrad Boumann (Dandenong Stingrays/Western Bulldogs/Box Hill)

Milestones: David Hale – 150 games

Club Debut: Broc McCauley (Brisbane), Jack Gunston (Adelaide)

Collingwood

B: Harry O’Brien, Lachlan Keeffe, Heath Shaw

HB: Alan Toovey, Ben Reid, Tyson Goldsack

C: Dane Swan, Luke Ball, Marty Clarke

HF: Dale Thomas, Jackson Paine, Ben Sinclair

F: Travis Cloke, Chris Dawes, Alex Fasolo

R: Darren Jolly, Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom

Inter: Jarryd Blair, Luke Rounds, Peter Yagmoor, Paul Seedsman

Emerg: Dayne Beams, Cameron Wood, Tom Young

New: Jackson Paine (Sandringham Dragons), Peter Yagmoor (Queensland zone selection), Paul Seedsman (Eastern Rangers)

Milestones: Travis Cloke – 150 games

Blues Stroll Home Against Tigers

Carlton 18.17 125 def. Richmond 12.9 81

A piece of Chris Yarran brilliance kick-started an avalanche of last quarter goals which allowed Carlton to overrun Richmond and claim their first win of 2012.

In a see-sawing battle Carlton were able to outlast Richmond and coast to an easy 44-point win.

Richmond looked to have all the momentum, coming from 32 points down midway through the third-quarter to draw within 6 points after kicking the first goal of the last quarter.

However, Carlton’s class rose to the top as players such as Marc Murphy and Matthew Kreuzer stepped up a gear and ran over the top of the Tigers.

Richmond got off to a good start, kicking the first two goals of the game, which came from the Tigers’ early midfield dominance, largely thanks to Trent Cotchin.

Despite this, Carlton answered with three of their own goals but were still in two-point arrears at quarter-time courtesy of a Robin Nahas goal.

Second Quarter Domination

With their midfield starting to win the battle and Andrew Carrazzo tagging Cotchin effectively, the Blues began to take control in the second-quarter.

Richmond didn’t help themselves either, returning to habits of old as their disposal efficiency dropped to 59%. Carlton capitalised, kicking 5 goals to 2 for the quarter and taking a 19-point lead into the half-time break.

At the beginning of the second-half, the Tigers’ hopes looked all but lost as Carlton kicked the first 2 goals making it 7 of the last 8.

Richmond needed someone to step up…cue Cotchin and Dustin Martin.

Martin lead the way, breaking the lines and kicking his second goal, while Cotchin returned to his form of the first-quarter, while adding 2 goals himself in a 4-goal run.

Richmond looked like a new team, one that was willing to run and break the lines, leaving Carlton on their heels.

Close, but no cigar.

Jack Riewoldt kicked the first goal of the last quarter which brought the Tigers within 7 points and just as they looked like overrunning the Blues, Chris Yarran brought the house down.

After receiving a handball from Chris Judd just forward of the wing, Yarran proceeded to take on two Richmond players while running along the boundary, jinking to 45m to kick the goal from a few meters inside the boundary.

Although on replay the ball was shown to be out of bounds which begs the question why didn’t it go to video review, it was called a goal and with that, the tide of the game had turned. Carlton were then able to kick 5 of the next 6 to stroll home.

For Carlton, Kreuzer was the star of the night, playing one of his best games since his knee reconstruction. He was dominant both in the air as well as on the ground. With 15 hit-outs, 5 clearances and 5 tackles, the big man showed he is ready to fulfill his potential as one of the elite ruckmen of the competition.

His performance was accompanied by that of Marc Murphy who was prolific in racking up 32 disposals. He was impressive working both offensively and defensively and provided Carlton with a constant source of run and logical decision making.

Carlton’s other best included Simpson and Carrazzo, who played excellent supporting roles in the midfield as well as Shaun Hampson who provided a strong target up-forward kicking 3 goals.

Richmond also had its contributors, most notably Cotchin, who was the Tigers’ best with 27 disposals, 7 clearances and 2 goals. Cotchin was the best on  ground in the first-quarter, showing that he will continue his rise into the top tier of players this year.

He had support from Martin who took the game by the scruff of the neck and broke lines when Richmond needed it. There was also Houli who provided drive from half-back and Foley who played well in the center; however the disposals from them were poor at times.

Carlton will come away from this game pleased, erasing any worries from a win-less pre-season.

They will also take solace in the fact that they still have key players to come back that include the likes of Michael Jamison and Andrew Walker. Their only worry will be Jarrad Waite who probably should get off his rough conduct report but the tribunal’s stance on front on contact, as well has his record will certainly cause some nerves.

As for Richmond, they will be a little disheartened, after the hype around the lead-up, the end result may even be seen as bad as previous years.

The return of bad disposals and decision-making is also a worry for a team that had supposedly put it behind them. However, it is only round one and we all know it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Votes: 3) Matthew Kreuzer 2)Marc Murphy 1) Trent Cotchin

Carlton          3.2    8.7    11.13    18.17 (125)

Richmond     3.4    5.6    10.7      12.9 (81)

GOALS

Carlton: Hampson 3, Betts 2, Armfield 2, Yarran 2, Lucas 2, Waite, Simpson, Garlett, Thornton, Kreuzer, Murphy, Robinson

Richmond: Riewoldt 4, Grigg 2, Martin 2, Cotchin 2, Vickery, Nahas

BEST

Carlton: Kreuzer, Murphy, Carrazzo, Simpson, Curnow, Hampson

Richmond: Cotchin, Martin, Foley, Houli

 

Reports: Jarrad Waite (Carlton) for rough conduct on Dylan Grimes (Richmond) in the first-quarter.

 

Crowd: 78,285