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Mid-season review: Northern Blues

Carlton Coaches' Corner | Hugh Goddard VFL Senior Coach Josh Fraser speaks to Ash Aidone about the form of Hugh Goddard in this week's edition of Carlton Coaches' Corner, presented by On Time Group.

IT’S a mid-season bye for all involved at the Blues, with the AFL, VFL and VFLW sides all out of action this weekend.

With a break in transmission, it’s time to look back on the Northern Blues’ season so far and the individuals who have flourished.

HOW IT’S PLACED

After nine rounds, the 5-4 Northern Blues sit just inside the top eight at the halfway mark of the season.

The year commenced in the best possible manner for the Blues, who enjoyed one and three-point wins in the opening fortnight against Geelong and Collingwood away from home.

Despite developing a 4-1 start, three losses in the last four weeks sees Northern in eighth place on the ladder at the culmination of Round 10.

Consistency in performance has been an issue for Northern, but it has shown that its best footy can well and truly match it with the best.

What’s worth noting is the Blues will have had three byes all inside the opening 12 rounds: from here on in, it’s all systems go towards what will hopefully a first finals appearance since 2011.

MR. CONSISTENCY

There’s no doubting that Hugh Goddard is the pick of the bunch for the Northern Blues so far this season.

The new recruit has been the rock in Northern’s backline, performing with aplomb since arriving at Ikon Park as a rookie in the off-season.

Leading Northern for marks, Goddard has been a general in defence, often lining up and negating the opposition’s best forward.

Averaging 16 disposals, nearly eight marks and four rebound 50s a game, Goddard has been the standout performer in defence for the Blues and will surely feature in best and fairest calculations come season’s end.

THE KEY TARGET

At the other end of the ground, a third-year Blue continues to make strides in his game.

Generally a reliable goal-kicker for Northern in his first two seasons, Patrick Kerr has stepped up to be the No.1 forward target for the Blues at VFL level in 2019.

 

With 18 goals from his eight games, Kerr has kicked multiple goals on five occasions — including a career-best six in Round 7 against Frankston.

While uncharacteristic inaccuracy has seen him miss chances he’d normally take, Kerr (who is also averaging five marks a game) has taken steps forward and been a consistent source of goals for Josh Fraser’s side.

THE RETURNEES

Tom De Koning looked set to take his second year by the scruff of the neck in pre-season, before an ill-timed knee injury sidelined him for 10 weeks.

Making his return against Coburg in Round 10, De Koning is slowly getting back up to speed after his rehabilitation.

Combining with Matthew Lobbe and Andrew Phillips as a ruck-forward option, the exciting forward will be hoping to showcase his natural talent in a big second half to the season.

It’s also hard to look beyond the story of the VFL-listed Alex Johnson, with the former Sydney defender settling into the mix instantly in the last fortnight in his return from his knee injury.

THE SURPRISE PACKET

Few would have expected the former basketballer to produce a five-goal haul in his eighth VFL game — but that’s exactly what Matthew Owies did.

Signed as a Category B rookie at the end of 2018, Owies has found himself a home in Northern’s forward line.

 

Using his pace and strength to apply pressure while also pinch-hitting on the scoreboard, there’s still a lot of development to come in the game of a man who — in his own words — has “six years of catching up to do”.

However, the early signs are positive for the code-jumper, with Owies averaging a goal a game over the course of the season. His last month has seen him average 11 disposals and two goals.

WHO’S SETTING THEMSELVES?

Two players who are yet to feature at AFL level in their brief careers are beginning to put together impressive form lines for the Northern Blues.

Since the beginning of the season, Angus Schumacher has grown to be a dependable performer in Northern’s back six. The second-year Blue has averaged 17 disposals over the course of the year, as well as four rebound 50s a game.

Meanwhile, the last four weeks has shown glimpses of what Matthew Cottrell is capable of. After seeing his counterpart Michael Gibbons play every game since being selected as a supplementary pick-up, Cottrell’s month has been promising.

The hard-running wingman collected 19 disposals and kicked two classy goals against Coburg in Round 10.

THE VFL TALENT

Northern was dealt a hammer blow when its inspirational captain and three-time best and fairest winner Tom Wilson ruptured his ACL against North Melbourne.

In his absence, the likes of Sam Fisher, Frank Anderson and Jonathan O’Rourke have had to shoulder the increased midfield load.

Fisher is averaging nearly 24 disposals and six clearances a game, while Anderson has impressed since arriving at the Club as a big-bodied midfielder who can also play a defensive role.

O’Rourke, who arrived at the Blues alongside Alex Johnson and Kieran Collins (sidelined with a shoulder injury), has steadily built into the year after a delayed pre-season.

Young defender Mason Blakey continues to impress down back, while last year’s leading goal-kicker Jesse Palmer will be hoping for another big finish to the season after 10 goals from his opening nine games.