Saturday, 22nd April, 2017
By Tyler Hannigan
The Jubilee Oval will be rocking today as last year’s grand finalists face off for the first time in 2017.
North host South in what has become the marquee matchup over the past number of years. Both sides are the best in town and have traded the premiership back and forth since 2011, North with four and South with two.
Their last meeting was the 2016 decider and despite South going in as hot favourites, having lost just one game in the regular season, it was the Bulldogs who were triumphant on the day by 15 points in trying conditions.
Mat Garrick was best on ground that day as he racked up countless possessions playing loose in the back half. His reading of the play was exceptional and led to many intercept marks that stifled South’s attacking moves although he hasn’t been named for today’s game and will be sorely missed.
The usual suspects for North were among the best on that day as well with Jayden Kelly, Codie Howard, Quinton Beavan and Jake Borlace all having an impact. Two other players who were instrumental that day in Isaac Cumming and Ethan Slater, who kicked three goals, are also missing from North’s team.
North was too good for a gallant Central team last week, winning by 31 points. Out of that side go Garrick, Jedd Watson, Blake Clare, Jackson Pryor and Tyler Hicks with Bailey Shepherd, Anthony Tidball, Nash Mitchell, Dakoda Hocking and Chavez Hocking all coming into the side.
South’s start to the season has been very good by anyone’s standards with an 80-point win over Central in round one followed by a 97-point victory in round two against West, but there is still room to improve.
They’ve been led in the forward half by returning star Cody Schorn who has 13 goals in the first two rounds. He’ll have it a little tougher today as North defender Borlace is his likely matchup. Borlace is a quality defender, capable of competing against Schorn in the air and on the ground but he’ll need to be at his best if he is to contain the South forward.
Jake Peters, who was among South’s best in last year’s grand final loss, returns to the side today after the first two rounds in the reserves where he was in the best players in both games. Joining him is the quality trio of Jordan Johns, Arlen Bird and Drew Hardy, all of whom missed last round.
New to South’s side is Matthew Reavill who previously played in South Australia for Hallet Cove and briefly for Glenelg. He’s been named to start on the ball today.
Out of the side are Sam Lines, Luke Lines and Nick Brown but by far the biggest name is that of captain Michael Westley who injured his hamstring whilst playing in Mildura last weekend. It’s unknown just how long Westley will be out of action but his absence leaves a fair size hole in South’s lineup.
This promises to be true heavyweight battle between two quality football teams. South are sure to be still hurting from last year’s upset loss in the grand final and will no doubt be motivated to extract a measure of revenge on their opponents.
However, North are always up for the fight and will come just as hard at the Roos. They may not have quite the depth that their opponents do but their top-tier players will keep them in the game.
Where North could struggle is up forward against a quality South backline. Angus Collins is quickly becoming the best defender in the league while Jordan Holmes has adjusted beautifully to his new role at centre-half back. Add to that the return of Peters and the North forwards will have their work cut out today.
All in all this should be a cracking contest and one that this writer is excited to see.