Six common opinions about North Melbourne that are wrong

Josh Elliott Editor

By Josh Elliott, Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    Well, look at that. I made it almost the entire pre-season without writing something about North Melbourne. I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

    The idea for this article has been floating around in my head for a little while but I wasn’t sure whether or not it was worth putting out there. So I did what all reasonable people do: I asked Twitter.

    You asked for this, folks. 65 per cent of you at least. You can’t un-ask for it! So here it is.

    Without further ado, I present to you six things you probably think about the North Melbourne Football Club, and why they’re wrong.

    North Melbourne had an awful form collapse last year
    If you just skim the win-loss line, this one does seem pretty black and white. In the first 11 games of the season North went 10-1, in the next 11, they went 2-9.

    Most people will happily tell you that North’s good form early, including a 9-0 streak to start the year, was the product of a soft fixture – and that is at least partially true.

    What gets ignored is that North’s ‘bad’ form in the second half of the year was the product of a fixture run just as hard as the earlier leg was soft.

    Across the entire season, North only lost a single game to a side that finished below them on the ladder, and only won two games against sides that finished above them.

    That paints a pretty clear picture of a team whose ladder position reflects perfectly where they were at.

    That’s not to say that North wasn’t a somewhat better team earlier in the year, when Jarrad Waite and Todd Goldstein were in their best form.

    But for the most part, their bizarre win/loss line was more the product of a lopsided fixture than it was a lopsided effort from the side.

    Todd Goldstein North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL 2016

    The moving on of Boomer and others was poorly handled
    For North Melbourne supporters, the club’s sudden announcement that Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo would not be offered new contracts is one of those traumatic ‘where were you?’ moments.

    The club quickly came under fire for how they handled it, too – a simple press release on the website, followed by a press conference where none of the departing players was present.

    This was put in contrast to the virtual love-in retirment pressers of players like Matthew Pavlich and Lenny Hayes in recent years. And while that’s how we would have liked these players to go out, it’s not really a fair comparison.

    The key thing here is that unlike Pavlich or Hayes, none of these players wanted to retire. When told they wouldn’t get new deals, they understandably weren’t keen to pretend it was by choice.

    That left the club in the awkward position of either trying to cover up the news until the players came around, or breaking it to the fans in the best way that was available to it.

    Many say that North Melbourne should have waited until after the season to inform the players of the decision and avoid such unpleasantness with just weeks left to go – but that would’ve been unfair to both players and fans.

    In the end, the club made the decision to be honest to its players, and honest to its fans. Stuck in a bad situation, it did the very best it could possibly do.

    Drew Petrie Brent Boomer Harvey North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL Finals 2016

    North has moved on all its best players
    Brent Harvey was one of the best players’ on North Melbourne’s list, if not the best, and his loss will be keenly felt this year.

    Daniel Wells and Nick Dal Santo too will be missed as they offered a level of class with their disposal that is rare in the AFL and rarer still at North Melbourne.

    However it would be a mistake to suggest, as many have, that by moving on these three and Firrito and Petrie, that North has dropped its best talent.

    Don’t get me wrong – I loved all of these players to bits. But that doesn’t mean that they were without their flaws.

    Neither of Petrie and Firrito were playing particularly well in 2016 despite the occasional flash of brilliance, and might well have been dropped under a coach more prone to shaking up the side.

    Harvey and Dal Santo are great users of the ball, but neither had a great deal of defensive application and the way the modern game is trending that is no longer something a player can neglect.

    Wells was arguably North’s most talented player on the list, but we all know his injury issues.

    These players have contributed plenty to North’s success in 2014-2016, but it would be doing the rest of the list a disservice to think that all the accolades belong to them.

    Drew Petrie North Melbourne

    Brad Scott is a terrible coach
    Opposition fans don’t like Brad Scott. And that’s okay, because really, you’re not actually supposed to – he’s our coach, not yours.

    He says strange and ill-considered things at press conferences, he makes his own language out of arm-waving when in the box.

    However, it’d be a mistake to think that his quality as a coach can be read entirely from those occasional moments where he lets himself down.

    What has to be remembered is how far back North Melbourne was from the rest of the competition when he took over – it was a club still stuck very firmly in the 90s.

    Now the team runs like a very modern organisation and is on par with or ahead of the rest of the competition in how it trains and prepares.

    If North Melbourne has ‘overperformed’ – an oxymoron if ever there was one – despite having a substandard list in recent years as so many claim, then logically that must mean we have an excellent coach. You can’t have it both ways.

    Is Brad Scott a perfect coach? No, of course not. But he has taken this team from being well behind the pack to at least being a part of it.

    Maybe now as the club embarks upon a freshening of the list, he will have the opportunity to use the platform he himself has helped to build to spring ahead of the rest.

    It’s a simple equation really – so often people say that North has a bad list and a bad coach. So how is it that we’ve regularly performed at a half-way decent level?

    If he looks like a doof in the box every now and then, well, I really don’t mind. We might not exist if he hadn’t done the job he has.

    North Melbourne coach Brad Scott

    Majak Daw will be a best 22 player this year
    Now don’t get me wrong – I am by all means a fan of Majak Daw and I would love to see him become a truly worthy AFL player at North Melbourne.

    Many have him earmarked to be a clear part of the best 22 at North Melbourne this year, though, and that doesn’t make sense to me yet.

    You’re either playing him as a forward or a ruckman – and I don’t think there is room for either in the ideal North Melbourne side.

    If he’s a ruckman, he’s got to wait behind Todd Goldstein – and it’s possible that Braydon Preuss could be ahead of him here now.

    If he’s a forward, he’s got to wait behind Jarrad Waite, Ben Brown and Mason Wood – and in time, Ben McKay too, most likely.

    He will probably play Round 1 given Mason Wood is going to miss the first few weeks with a hamstring, and maybe he can cement a spot.

    But at the moment, putting him in North’s best side is a bit premature.

    North can’t make finals in 2017
    North Melbourne are the side most likely to drop out of finals from last year and in many cases, they are the only side many people are tipping will do so.

    Look, that’s fair enough – there are obvious demographic reasons why that should be the case and they only barely scraped it in last year.

    However, it’s worth noting that North Melbourne’s fixture in 2017 is a fair bit easier than the one it faces in 2016.

    It starts off rough – North will most likely be 0-4 after four rounds, and 2-6 at best after eight.

    You can very much expect that the endless parade of doomsayers will be prematurely making their voices heard at that point in the year.

    Things open up marvellously from there on out, though. North’s 2017 fixture is essentially the exact opposite of what it faced in 2016.

    If North was to beat all the teams in 2017 that it didn’t lose to in 2016, it would finish with 13 wins – enough to play finals.

    Logically if the team gets worse it will be surpassed by a few of those sides and won’t reach that watermark. And that’s probably what will happen. I’m not tipping North to make the eight.

    But, there is somewhere out there a universe where the combination of Jack Ziebell’s leadership, a new youthful and more competitive club culture and a greater focus on physicality and team defence sees this side actually improve, or at least tread water.

    Maybe – just maybe! – we live in it.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • Roar Guru

      March 20th 2017 @ 9:03am
      TomC said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Actually a pretty good article.

      Not sure it’s a common view that Majak Daw is going to be in North’s best 22 this year though.

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 8:54am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        To be honest it’s probably more common among AFL website writers than it is among fans.

    • Roar Guru

      March 20th 2017 @ 9:53am
      Paul D said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Pretty fair article actually. In today’s climes I’d happily take competent if unspectacular leadership over the alternatives.

      Also, you seem to have a real talent for mistaking hostility for indifference. I haven’t seen this sort of siege mentality since Peter Dutton.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 12:16pm
        Slane said | March 20th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

        I like your last paragraph.

        The one word I’d use to describe North Melbourne is ‘Meh’. Such a nothing side that nobody even bothers to hate them.

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 8:55am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        I’ve probably spent too much time in conversation with Cam Rose…

    • March 20th 2017 @ 10:09am
      Arky said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Yeah, good article.

      I would have mentioned the injuries under the “form collapse” bit though. Yes, it was partially a tough draw following a soft draw, but even leaving aside Waite and Goldstein’s injuries, the run of injuries to smalls that led North to having to play McKenzie and Mullett in defence for half the season and led to debuting Mountford up forward before he was ready and breaking the glass on emergency Robbie Nahas and Farren Ray (who both then got injured themselves!), that was at least part of it. Players like Sam Wright, Luke McDonald and Mason Wood aren’t necessarily big names yet but they are crucial in a team which lacked the depth to cover for them at all.

      I disagree re: the moving on of Boomer and co. it was poorly handled from a PR perspective and didn’t go down well with the players either. I disagree that it would have been worse to do it at the end of the season. I think with the season gone, the final lost, you can say “it’s rebuilding time, thanks for the memories Boomer, Nick, Drew, Micky” and everyone takes it as fair enough. That’s what happens at that time of the season in a team which is clearly on the downward slope. Doing it to a team still fighting for the finals and only a couple of months removed from 9-0? That’s a gut punch. They wouldn’t do it the same way if they could do it again.

      (But entirely true that the only guy there who could have gone around again was Boomer, and maaaybe Dal Santo. Firrito was done, and Petrie was done by the end of 2015, and Wells was always injured when you needed him anyway. We haven’t moved on all our best players, not at all).

      Brad Scott got the most out of a list which had very few top draft picks (and those top draft picks were Injured Wells and Lachie Hansen, so yeah). Consecutive prelims, the second one in particular which North could have won with more luck with injuries/umpiring. Without a dominating list, which Scott couldn’t do anything about, about all you can ask is to get the team in a position to make a Grand Final if they get some luck. I rate Scott as a coach, but now he faces a new test- we don’t know if he’s the best coach for a rebuild.

      North CAN make finals in 2017 because none of the bottom 10 teams from 2016 has a completely compelling case to grab the spot. But honestly, I hope North does bottom out and play the kids for a year. The list needs a reload. I’d be far happier watching Mountford and Clarke and McKay and Durdin running around for a year having learning experiences and finishing 15th than I would watching North lean on the veterans again and scraping into 8th and getting destroyed first round of the finals.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 12:29pm
        Pope Paul VII said | March 20th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        Jacobs was a big loss as well

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 8:57am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Did consider mentioning the injuries but I feel like it becomes a bit of an excuse, every side gets injuries and the challenge is not to have a team that crumples when it gets a few.

        Personally I would’ve felt absolutely shattered and much angrier at the club if they had waited until season over to tell us they were delisting Boomer et al, as I might not have flown to his last game if I hadn’t know it was happening and would hate to have missed that.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 10:40am
      Birdman said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      I like the way Preuss has gone about it in the pre-season – he looks an upgrade on Petrie and Hvorat looks a capable replacement for Boomer at this early stage.

      Still can’t see finals in 2017.

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 8:58am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        Reckon Preuss is probably more a longterm ruckman than someone who will play forward, but hopefully gets a chance this year. No replacing Boomer but I do like Hrovat.

    • Columnist

      March 20th 2017 @ 10:46am
      Cameron Rose said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

      A case well made Josh.

      “Opposition fans don’t like Brad Scott.”

      There are plenty of North fans that don’t like him either!

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 8:58am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        That is true… every club has them!

    • March 20th 2017 @ 11:15am
      andrew said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

      from round 11 onwards, north played 3 sides out of the 8 in 2016. port, pies and saints. they comfortably beat the pies and saints and lost to port. and they did so fielding sides that will be perceptibly worse than what they put on the park for round 1 in 2017.

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2017 @ 12:12pm
        TomC said | March 20th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

        Plus they beat Richmond in round 11.

        Although I don’t know about the team being ‘perceptibly worse’. In theory every team should start the season with a stronger list than they finished the previous year, as they have fewer injury absences.

        Those St Kilda and Collingwood results were games where the Roos got particularly good returns from Dal Santo, Petrie, Harvey and Wells. While I agree we’re all getting a bit carried away predicting North’s downfall those matchups against young mid-range teams tend to be where the veterans make the biggest difference.

        I agree with Josh that we shouldn’t overstate the impact of losing players who collectively don’t make a lot of defensive impact, but they certainly will make games where the Roos had an edge last season at the very least much closer; they’ve lost a lot of attacking drive in one off-season.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 4:52pm
        Arjen said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

        Petrie replaced by Waite
        Firitto replaced by Thompson
        McKenzie replaced by Wright
        Mullet replaced by Marley Williams
        Harvey replaced by Hrovat
        Wells replaced Clarke
        Turner comes in.
        Higgins & Garner are fit again.
        Jacobs, Wood, Cunnington to come back in over the next month.

        The only loss from last year is Wells, the rest of the players who retired were cooked.

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 8:59am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Ironic in some ways that the last really great game Wells played for North was against the Pies…!

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