They may wear red, but the Northern Blues are the surprise packet of 2013 as we hit the halfway mark of the Peter Jackson VFL season. A change at the helm with rookie coach Luke Webster being the only major change of note, as the Blues kept the majority of their list. 2012 was a disappointment, finishing just outside the eight despite roaring home to win seven of their last nine games, but this young, developing side continues to keep their opposition honest.
Season so far:
When speaking of this young developing side, Nick Meese will become just the third player on the list to play 50 VFL games, and be just the fifth player to have played more than 25. Now sitting seventh after just two wins from their last five starts, the season started off in sensational fashion for the Blues starting out at 3-0 with a ballooning percentage above 200. Yet with all wins have been against opposition in lower positions on the ladder, it’s their inability to close out games that inspires doubts in Blues’ supporters and onlookers’ minds; evidently throwing away match-winning leads against Port Melbourne, Sandringham and Collingwood.
Big Improver: Kane Lambert
You could call it improvement, but Kane Lambert is more or less displaying the same form that saw him just miss the VFL State side selection. Perhaps it’s on a more eye-catching scale, but the 171cm-midfielder who shut down the likes of John Baird, Farren Ray and Troy Selwood last year (to name a few) has been released for the shackles of a lockdown player to average 28 possessions this year, including four bags of 30 or more. His tackle numbers have risen to seven per match and his ability to hit the scoreboard (14 goals in nine matches) regularly see him slip under the radar of the opposition.
Biggest Slider: Matthew Watson
Big things were supposedly bound for Matthew Watson in a Mick Malthouse-led club, with his big frame, enormous boot and Carlton’s desire for another key defender. Yet his lack of consistency hasn’t seen him warrant selection for the Carlton senior side. Is amassing solid numbers in the late-teens for disposals, yet is still suspect in direct, one-on-one contests. The last outing against Frankston, where Khan Haretuku bagged six on big Watson, tells the story of his season thus far.
Second half preview:
The Northern Blues’ five wins have come against sides lower than them on the ladder, and their narrow losses in games they should have won may come back to haunt them. Williamstown, Casey, Essendon and Box Hill ensure a tough four weeks ahead for the Blues before a smoother run home may see Northern halve their remaining games before this season is out. Having said that, the percentage bolstering from their early matches may come in very handy.
End of season prediction: Six wins and three losses from their last nine games.
Ladder prediction: 5th