ONE PASSAGE in North Melbourne’s two-goal victory over Adelaide on Saturday night summed up what Jed Anderson’s return means for the Kangaroos.
Anderson first barrelled into and dispossessed Crow Brad Crouch after a ball-up in the middle of the ground before following up and upending Brodie Smith seconds later.
North subsequently charged inside 50.
If that doesn’t convince you, only minutes later Anderson dragged down Rory Sloane and won a free kick, leading to a breakaway play and a Ben Brown set shot at the other end.
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That intensity was missing from a Roos line-up that started the season with three defeats.
Anderson’s absence owed to his latest hamstring injury on February 13 in North’s City vs Country intraclub game – it happened while he was again laying a tackle – and it lingered longer than expected.
He finally made it back two weekends ago in the VFL, but eight tackles later he was back in senior ranks.
One man doesn’t fix everything, but Anderson was the remedy to many of the Kangas’ problems, even if he was having none of the talk he was their lucky charm.
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“I just came in and did my job,” Anderson told AFL.com.au.
“The boys played well and we brought our brand of footy. It was an intense game but we hung in there and got the win.
“It’s been frustrating (not playing), but I knew if I got my body right and worked hard on the sidelines, when I did come in I’d have an influence.”
The evidence on Saturday night suggests Anderson has put in those hard yards at training, given he finished with 19 disposals (13 contested), six tackles and a game-high seven clearances.
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It’s more of the same from a player whose career trajectory has changed dramatically in the past 13 months.
Anderson cobbled together only five games in 2017 to give him 15 in two seasons at Arden St, and 25 in total for the former Hawk across five campaigns.
He made 21 appearances last year alone, coinciding with setting personal bests in disposals (19.7), contested possessions (10.9), tackles (5.2) and clearances (4.6).
Injury was a constant theme before that and the 25-year-old previously wasn’t making a great impact when he was on the field, in part because of that.
An untimely broken hand weeks before Christmas 2017 seemed to be more of the same, but this time was different.
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Anderson voluntarily attended North’s high-altitude camp in Utah ahead of that setback – paying his own way – in a sign he wanted to fight for his list spot entering a contract year.
He knew his AFL career could have been over at the end of last season if things continued as they were.
“I just took a step back and whatever happened, happened,” Anderson said.
“I wanted to play well and train well, and Utah really set that up going into last year and really built that confidence in my game and my ability – and I built from there.
“Scotty (Brad Scott) and the coaching staff backed my ability and it all came together. Playing in the midfield sort of helped that.”
Scott admitted as much on Saturday night as he reflected on Anderson’s rise from fringe team member to critical component.
The coach’s decision to select the Darwin-raised midfield bull in his round one side last year, off little match preparation, was the first plank in that support.
Playing him in his more natural position in the centre was another.
“When Jed Anderson’s around the ball, the opposition knows that,” Scott said.
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“He’s a really important part of the way we want to play, and we set the challenge for all our midfielders to rise to his level …
“We got Jed back to what he was good at (last year) and moved him into a midfield role, which he’s really relished, and he’s worked hard on his fitness as well and now he’s covering the ground really well.”
Anderson said the mood within the club remained positive throughout the 0-3 start and he was already looking forward to backing up the Adelaide win against Essendon on Good Friday.
In fact, he has genuine optimism the Roos can qualify for finals for the first time since 2016.
“When we turn it on like we did (on Saturday) and really grind it out, and play that tough, hard footy, the belief’s always there,” Anderson said.
“Everyone wrote us off last year and we’re backed into a corner at the moment, but we’re just concentrating on ourselves and our game will come out in the end.”
Source: AFL FOOTBALL NEWS