As part of the Tigers’ revamped midfield, the former Giants combined beautifully with an established bull at Dion Prestia who picked up where he left off last year by making a big impact as he, too, garnered a stack of departures.
The 2019 All-Australian was a constant threat and his work around the competition was excellent, but he also covered a lot of ground, popping up from the boundary line for a beautiful goal in the second stanza.
The additions of Taranto and Hopper in engineering have given Richmond the luxury of bringing former captain Trent Cotchin to the attacking line, where he looked dangerous, putting up goals and slinging one himself after crushing the pack nicely in goal court in the second period.
Sheezel brings the excitement to North
Kangaroo fans also had something to look forward to – namely the highly acclaimed top pick Harry Sheezel.
The No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft was outstanding up front, finishing with three goals and already looks like a solid first-round starter after showing the same class, balance and X-factor he showed in 2022 at the level of minors has shown.
One of North’s best players in the opening period, Sheezel started the game with a bang, tackling Taranto in the first minute and pinging him for holding the ball before casually converting the free-kick from 35 yards just in front of goal .
He added another clip to his highlight role 15 minutes later when he deftly tapped the loose ball out of the overload to Jaidyn Stephenson, who hand-played it back to Sheezel before snapping in with a great try under pressure from a tight angle the bag really snapped.
His third major came in the third half when he crumbled the pack in the goal square and sent a hasty banana through the big sticks to round off a busy opening push against senior AFL opponents.
Other kangaroos who impressed were Luke Davies-Uniacke, who as always was their best on-baller, and Cam Zurhaar in an unfamiliar role in the middle.
Zurhaar participated in numerous bounces down the middle, and although he was caught holding the ball a few times, he made his presence felt and added a grunt in the clinches.
The maligned Stephenson also looked dangerous at times as a midfielder/high striker developing and setting up the game and applying good forward pressure, and young key forward Charlie Comben provided the Kangaroos with a solid target to finish 2-2. New coach Alastair Clarkson is hoping Comben can work effectively with Nick Larkey in attack this year.
From purple to blue and white
Clarkson would also have been happy to welcome another newcomer, former Docker Griffin Logue, who had a good fight with Star Richmond spearhead Jack Riewoldt.
In their first official hitout under Clarkson, North’s ability to run in numbers, particularly on defense, made itself felt, and they appeared to have a stronger defensive structure compared to previous years. They also didn’t shy away from taking the game down the corridor, with fast handballs making for an impressive run-and-carry game.
The Tigers kept three-time Norm Smith medalist Dustin Martin busy and showing a glimpse of his best with a couple of fine goals, co-captain Toby Nankervis was great in the ruck, Nick Vlastuin was rock solid in defense and rookie pick Seth Campbell looked lively ahead and scored a couple of goals from limited playing time.
And without Tom Lynch, the young, tall Samson Ryan provided a forward presence for the Tigers, scoring two goals and could have finished with four, but missing two of his set pieces.
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https://www.smh.com.au/sport/afl/richmond-s-sharp-new-dynamic-duo-sheezel-stars-for-north-20230224-p5cnb7.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto shine for the Richmond Tigers; Harry Sheezel exciting for North Melbourne Kangaroos