Kangaroos heading north up the ladder
Hawthorn's Travis Tuck in action during the AFL Round 03 match between the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Hawthorn Hawks at the Telstra Dome. Slattery Images
The North Melbourne Football Club could be described as the parable of the 2012 AFL season.
After the first 10 weeks they had taken steps forward in their exciting dash and free-running play, but also had their pride and self-belief hammered to the tune of 20 goals by Buddy Franklin’s Hawks, leaving them sitting gingerly at 4-6.
In what coach Brad Scott yesterday described as a ‘surprising’ resurgence, there has been a sense of inevitability around the club that things would click eventually, and when they did teams would have a lot of trouble containing this exciting group of players.
Just ask Nathan Buckley. When probed about the reasons why his battle-hardened Pies couldn’t sustain any real authority over the Roos on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium, Buckley was brutally honest.
“You would find it hard to nominate a player who won their position tonight,” he said. “Out of the 22 blokes that took the field I don’t think any of them had a clear win. You are not going to win many games of football if that’s the case.”
There are a lot of theories in the world of football about why teams drift in and out of form. The 2012 Kangaroos are a fantastic case study on this very subject.
For one, since that fateful day in Launceston, they have won nine out of their last 10 games, the other a two-point loss to West Coast. To put it simply, North have played exceptionally as a team.
Players like Cunnington, Atley, Bastinac, Anthony and especially 26-year-old mature age revelation Sam Gibson have performed above and beyond expectations in the last two months.
Even more impressively, their midfield group as a unit has rarely been beaten in all the key statistical areas.
Scott and his football department, not to mention the medical team, which has remarkably seen only one soft-tissue injury come through all season, have got the list gelling and playing selfless football at the right time of the year.
While the big trio of Petrie, Tarrant and Hansen up forward have been lauded as a potent combination over the last two months, it is the somewhat blue-collar back line that has seen the Kangas become as stingy as they are lethal.
This was no more evident than on Saturday as Scott Thompson and Luke Delaney gave Cloke and Dawes a lesson in one-on-one football, with the Pies forwards not taking a mark until the third term. Cloke’s $1-million price tag seemingly taking a hit with every fumble and lost contest.
The footy being served up by this North Melbourne team is the best and most clinical since the glory days of the ’90s.
At an average age of 23, these young Roos are making a name for themselves, and who knows, come September they may just be the joker in the pack ruining a few good hands.
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