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Talking Points

Dusty past, Green future

Points 0.3: Giants v Suns, Dogs v North and Demons v Tigers

Saturday’s matches featured a raft of teams who should be contending for the eight this year… plus North. I am going to try to write something about every team every week in this column, but for the Kangaroos I might have to make an exception.


The hype over Tom Green has become monotonous in the off season, and it has been building for years. Yes, he does have the tools to become the next inside bull like Christian Petracca or Dustin Martin: the chunky upper body, the expansive glutes and the obvious footy smarts. It took Trac and Dusty many years to fully come into their powers, spending years on the flanks being a bit of a disappointment compared to their draft position before they matured and solidified into premiership building blocks. That is not to say that the magic always happens; just look at Sam Powell-Pepper, Cam Rayner and Tarryn Thomas.

Matt Rowell with the world on his shoulders (and Lachie Whitfield).

Green also looked great last preseason and delivered an impressive stat line in round 1… but then didn’t really follow it up. Consistency is the key for that kind of player, lifting their floor of performance so that you can rely on them for a certain level of output every time they suit up. The departure of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper (more on them later) leaves him more responsibility and it is probably the right time in his development to take the last step. The pumpkin and charcoal always seem to have a production line of inside mids due to their league-engineered flood of early draft picks, and there will be others to replace him if he doesn’t work out, but for now Green is the man and it’s all on him.

On the gold and red side of that game, Matt Rowell knows all about pressure as a young inside mid. For the good of the sport, one hopes he can regain some of that form of his first four senior outings. Sometimes the fairytale never comes. Speaking of which, Sam Flanders had a run through midfield in this game in the absence of Touk Miller and racked up 30 touches including three clearances. His body shape suggests his ceiling is more Brandon Matera than Alan Didak, and he had a few examples of how one’s career should not progress as a mid to learn from alongside him in Brayden Fiorini and Darcy MacPherson. The Suns development program has not historically been at or above league average, so Flanders is more than likely not to hit his personal ceiling of performance.


Back at Princes Park the story was mostly about the Dogs talls, a fleet of which have suddenly lobbed at Footscray where before there was a major lack. Josh Bruce played in this contest but really shouldn’t be sighted much during the home & away because the club needs to get games into Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy, preferably together in the same forward line. The arrival of Liam Jones also means there isn’t room in the backline for Bruce, and neither should there be a spot in the best 22 for Ryan Gardner. This frees up Bailey Williams and Bailey Dale to forget about minding key position players, and hopefully means less one-on-ones for Caleb Daniel to try to defend.

A rare shot of Will Phillips with the footy.

The departure of Josh Dunkley might end up being a net positive, as it leaves other players with more defined roles as Luke Beveridge doesn’t have to satisfy midfield requests from too many mids. Like Richmond post 2017 when they brought Tom J. Lynch in to cover their lack of a CHF, the Bulldogs should have an easier life without having to scramble to make up for deficiencies in their structure. A good run with injury should see the Dogs play their way into September again – though you could say that about a dozen clubs, of course.

Now, do I really have to talk about North? Their kids are largely no good – Will Phillips was given a mountain of CBAs and did very little with them, for example – but Alastair Clarkson has to play them. The list is in a very sorry state, and the coach wasn’t really the problem last year. Paying big bucks to the bloke in the chair is one thing, fixing what’s broke at North is quite another. Blowing up the list Sam Mitchell style is probably in order, to be brutally Francis. (Mind you, North will probably beat my team Hawthorn this season.)


Up at Casey, Melbourne rotated a lot of blokes through some unfamiliar positions, especially early. What was Clayton Oliver doing on a HBF? I’m not sure he knew. That was just preseason shenanigans, and the game mostly settled down into a pattern of the Tigers getting smashed in the air by the Demon talls. It wasn’t just Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy, it was Tom McDonald and Ben Brown (albeit late), and the poor kid they victimised was usually Tylar Young. Sometimes footy is that simple: you kick it to the bloke with a great match up, and whoever Young was standing had a great match up. We didn’t learn a whole lot about the Grawndy tandem because both of them usually touch up Toby Nankervis, who had scheisse on the liver by the end of the evening with his two nemeses bashing him at once. The test of those two will come when they have a decent backline to compete against and a ruck who can halve contests around the ground. Many teams do not have that, admittedly, but the good oppos will and that is who Melbourne will be aiming at.

Jacob Hopper, disappointing everyone.

We didn’t see anything different about Richmond really. They started with Bolton forward getting little supply until Prestia got injured, which caused Bolton to shift to the centre where he was more influential. Tim Taranto did what he did at the Giants, which was great, and Hopper also did what he is known for, which is less good. The knock on Hopper has always been that he is as hard and tough as the likes of Taranto at the coalface, but he looks very poor in comparison at the very important midfielder job of working hard between stoppages. That was a flaw in the game of, for instance, Clayton Oliver, which he worked on and has turned into a positive in the middle stages of his career. Someone at Punt Road needs to get in Hopper’s ear and show him videos of Clarry’s 2022, because that is the sort of work rate that his new club should expect. Richmond already has Jack Graham and Jack Ross: they don’t need another B-rotation mid at the price they are paying for him.

On the subject of expectation, I suppose Dustin Martin doesn’t owe any Tiger fan anything given what he has delivered for the club… but he is almost a list clogger at this point. Will we ever see the old dominating Dusty return? At the age of 31, he shouldn’t have regressed this far. It’s between the ears for him, and it always has been.

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