North Melbourne are weak and pathetic, from the coach down
North Melbourne lose, and lose miserably
Where has it all gone wrong for North Melbourne? What should have been a season that saw a fairytale return to the finals has instead become a waking nightmare.
Off the back of an improving list and a soft draw, North were a popular pick for the eight this year.
Yet, if we take away soft wins against the expansion teams, the Kangaroos are sitting at 1-5, conceding 108 points a game.
Even the win against Gold Coast was a poor one, surrendering a seven goal second quarter, as well as the half time lead.
For those unaware, the Suns are yet to win a game in 2012.
The Kangaroos effort, or lack thereof, against the Bulldogs in round seven had to been seen to be disbelieved. But to then lose against Port, a side which had only won two of its previous 19 matches, was to redefine insipidness.
But to lose after being 32 points up with twenty minutes to go? That just reeks of apathy, incompetence, and a lack of discipline. No backbone. No spine. And no excuse.
It’s clear that despite the tough talk from coach Brad Scott during the week, and boy did he talk it up, his players weren’t hurting enough after the disastrous Bulldogs performance. They just weren’t committed enough to playing the Port game out.
Speaking of the coach, there were plenty of threats about ‘ringing the changes’, but then only one player, Liam Anthony, averaging 27 touches a game, was omitted.
He always seems to be the scapegoat for a weak North performance under the supposed hard-line stance of Scott, despite his obvious ball-winning abilities. And yes, only an uneducated football watcher judges a players worth by how many times he gets the ball alone, but it’s a start.
If we dig a little deeper into the stats, he’s laid more tackles than hard-nut Ryan Bastinac, kicked more goals than the free-running Daniel Wells, and before being dropped was equal fourth for ‘frees for’, indicating that he puts his body in harm’s way more than a lot of teammates.
Against the Dogs, only three teammates had more contested possessions, and no one had more clearances.
It’s all well and good to ‘send a message’ as a coach, but this was the wrong target, and a soft option for a coach who preaches toughness.
Perhaps Brad needs reminding that it’s his brother Chris that has won a premiership medallion as a coach and has put some credits in the bank. Come to think of it, perhaps the wider footballing community and media need that reminder too.
When it comes to tackles, that simple indicator of work ethic and desire when you don’t have the football, Brent Harvey had laid only eight in seven games leading into the weekend. That’s hardly the example that a senior player and respected leader should be setting.
To be fair to Harvey, he put on six tackles on the weekend, but then again he wasn’t getting the ball, so perhaps felt he had to do something to earn his substantial pay packet.
While we’re on Harvey, it seems that he’s still the key to beating the Roos. In his last seventeen matches, he’s been held to 21 disposals or less on eight occasions. His team has lost every one.
This is not brought up to go the hack on a 300 game veteran, but more to question the worth of his teammates. The diminutive former skipper is 34 years old, and still gets the hard tag by men ten years his junior, some of the fittest aerobic athletes in the country. It’s only fair that he’s going to struggle to shake them more than he once did.
Where were the other players willing to step up in the last quarter and not allow the loss to be snatched from the jaws of victory?
North were only able to collect 59 disposals in the last term. 59! Less than two per minute. Even Melbourne was getting the ball 85 times a quarter while on the receiving end of a 101 point belting.
Wells only touched the ball three times after carving it up when the going was good. Leigh Adams is apparently the most underrated player in the league.
Perhaps he’d be a lot more ‘rated’ if he had more than two possessions when the game was slipping away, the least of any on-baller when the going was tough. Even Keiran Harper got it twice, and he was subbed off minutes in.
I reckon Liam Anthony might have had something to say when the game was slipping away, and you can be assured that if he was playing his team would have had it more than 59 times.
We certainly can’t blame player continuity. Over the first seven rounds, North had a league-high (equal with Richmond) seventeen players not miss a game, and Jack Ziebell hasn’t missed since resuming from suspension in round three either.
So, considering that it has all gone wrong for the Roos, the more pertinent question might be, why did we think it was going to go right?
Perhaps we were seduced by two ninth place finishes in 2010-11, years in which the competition as a whole was strong at the very top, but relatively weak outside of the chosen few.
A look at last year’s ladder reveals a 10-12 record and a percentage, usually a reliable gauge of the strength of a team, of 101.
But a closer inspection reveals big wins of 40 points or more over the weakest teams – Port twice, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Adelaide at their lowest ebb, and a visiting Fremantle. Even their other three victories were over a lowly Western Bulldogs, an Essendon at the tail-end of a five game losing streak, and Richmond in the last round when neither team had anything to play for.
These results were interspersed with 87 and 117 point humiliations to Collingwood, eleven goal losses to Geelong and the stodgy St Kilda, as well as losing to a Brisbane side that only won four games for the season.
Drafting at the top end in the last decade? It makes Richmond’s history look good.
Does anyone want David Trotter or Chad Jones? Jesse Smith anyone? What about Matt Riggio? Perhaps you can be tempted by Lachie Hansen, Gavin Urquhart or Robbie Tarrant?
The latter was so heavily spruiked in the pre-season he should have been on sale at the Vic Markets.
All of the above are top 30 picks over the last ten years. To this you can add Ben Cunnington and Shaun Atley, first round draftees that die-hard North supporters are currently demanding be dropped from the team.
I look at all of this now and wonder how in the hell I had them in my top eight at the start of this year.
If we took the outstanding Andrew Swallow and ever-maturing silk of Wells out of the Kangaroos and gave them to the Demons, would we see a reversal of ladder positions and fortunes?
A bit tongue-in-cheek maybe, but worth thinking about.
But let’s let Matthew Primus sum it up for us shall we? Before the weekend’s match, he said it all.
“Their coach has certainly been saying a lot of things in the press. But it’s how your players come out and want to play.”
Too true, Matthew, too true.
Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for in his mind there is nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.