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Preview: Round 9, 2019

Form

North Melbourne (2-6) v Sydney (2-6)

Both North Melbourne and Sydney enter their Round 9 clash with disappointing 2-6 records, sitting 17th and 16threspectively in the standings.

North was defeated last time out against the ladder leaders, Geelong, but will be buoyed by many aspects of its performance. 

The Roos matched the Cats for long periods, and if they can bring that level of performance again on Saturday, will fancy their chances at their Tasmanian fortress, Blundstone Arena.

The Swans recorded just their second win of the season last Friday night, edging Essendon by 5 points at the SCG, having lost their previous four matches.

Last time we met

The Roos and Swans last met in a thrilling contest in Round 17 of 2018, with Sydney grabbing bragging rights with a 6-point victory at Marvel Stadium. 

The match was a see-sawing affair which saw the lead exchanged 11 times before the final siren, with an Aliir Aliir goal the defining moment.

There were a number of outstanding individual performances from both teams, with Shaun Higgins (33 disposals), Todd Goldstein (52 hit-outs), Jack Ziebell (5 goals), Ben Brown (4 goals) and Majak Daw (4 goals) the Roos’ best on the day. 

Ben Ronke was excellent for the Swans with 5 goals, and Lance Franklin kicked the 900th goal of his AFL career.

Key matchup 

Nick Larkey and Aliir Aliir.

Larkey has made a fantastic return to the AFL fold in 2019, impressing in each of his three games so far. 

He has been instrumental to the North attack since his recall in Round 6, with no Roo or Swan bettering his 8.3 score involvements per game, placing him fifth overall in the AFL.

With this sort of influence in the forward line, it’s no surprise that the Roos’ average score has increased by nearly 22 points with Larkey in the team (69.2 in Rounds 1-5, in 90.6 Rounds 6-8).

The 20-year-old has brought an added dimension to the team’s attack, and the responsibility to stop him will likely land with Aliir.

Aliir’s athleticism is a hallmark of his game, and he will need to be at his best to stop the increasingly-influential Larkey.

The 24-year-old’s 2.9 intercept marks puts him ahead of the rest of the Swans and Roos in this category, highlighting his strong ability to read the play. 

The numbers suggest that Larkey is likely to have the edge in a contest (1.3 contested marks to 1), increasing the importance of Aliir’s interceptions.

The two, athletic key-position players going head-to-head is sure to be a fascinating battle. 

It’s won and lost in… 

The midfield.

Some of the competition’s best contested midfielders will go toe-to-toe at Blundstone, and the winner of this battle will go a long way to deciding the contest. 

Ben Cunnington and Josh Kennedy have been some of the best contested players in the AFL in recent years, and this season is no different.

Cunnington is enjoying arguably a career-best campaign so far in 2019, averaging 17.8 contested possessions, the second-most in the AFL behind Patrick Cripps. 

Kennedy has been the benchmark for contested midfielders in his stellar career to date, and he is enjoying another strong season, averaging 28.6 disposals (13.4 contested). 

Both Cunnington and Kennedy possess strong support crews in the midfield, with Jed Anderson, Jack Ziebell and Shaun Higgins looking to best Luke Parker, Zak Jones and Isaac Heeney.

The Roos pose a significant threat on the wings through Jared Polec and Trent Dumont, and their fortunes will correlate strongly with the outcome of the midfield battle.   

Keep an eye on…  

Mason Wood and Dane Rampe. 

Last time he faced the Swans, Wood put in a career-best performance in a memorable win at the SCG. 

He kicked four goals, including the match-winner, showcasing his clear ability when up and going. 

North’s number 32 also took 9 marks and had 17 disposals.  

Dane Rampe has made plenty of headlines for his approach in the win over Essendon, and will be worth keeping an eye on. 

Nevertheless, the Swans’ co-captain is a quality leader and won’t take a backwards step.