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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)

    • March 20th 2017 @ 12:31pm
      Pope Paul VII said | March 20th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      That didn’t even convince me Josh. Still North will go okay and this comp is more even than people think. Stick it right up ’em North. Starting this weekend vs WC. North by 10 goals.

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:00am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Haha cheers PP. I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank if it happens.

    • Roar Guru

      March 20th 2017 @ 1:29pm
      mds1970 said | March 20th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

      As one who voted yes on your Twitter poll, good to see the article come to fruition. You knew you wanted to….

      This is the great time of hope. If you can’t be optimistic in the week before the season starts, you never will.
      North have lost a lot of experience. It’ll be a relatively inexperienced team. But the opportunity is there for players to step up and play a bigger role. If some make the most of that opportunity, they may not slip as much as some people are suggesting.
      Time will tell.

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:00am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        To be honest if people had voted “no”, I probably would’ve done it anyway…!

    • March 20th 2017 @ 1:35pm
      Keats Mulligan said | March 20th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

      There’s a good deal of uncertainty around North Melbourne this season – just as there is around other clubs that people are tipping to make the leap into the top 8.

      It looks like it’s going to be a tight season.

      I’m not sure where North, or any club for that matter, will sit come season’s end, but I’m sure that few people would have accurately predicted the ladder in March

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:01am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        Well said Keats – though most people seem pretty certain that North will drop, and not unreasonably so.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 1:45pm
      Perry Bridge said | March 20th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

      As a North fan – as long as they have a crack and don’t have all the daring coached out of them.

      In 2016 the lead in to the bye and then the overly long break of the bye followed by the return from the bye was a fixturing nightmare at a time when injuries were really hitting hard. It created somewhat of a perfect storm for North.

      Granted many “I told you so” predictions played out true. As it was – they hadn’t anticipated the specifics.

      North though were unable to pinch that one win before the bye – the Hawthorn game was the one that got away – and the non frees to Thomas vs the soft frees to Sicily (and the continuing commentary from Brereton).

      However – even were that to have happened – the 7th Doggies vs 8th North – the greatest difference between the 2 in launching a desperate finals assault was the doggies started regaining their injured warriors a week or 2 earlier than North did.

      The bye then worked in the Doggies favour.

      North actually really needed match fitness for returning players. Didn’t happen.

      This week – hosting the Eagles – sheesh – I’m bad – I haven’t looked that far ahead. Should be there but alas got a local fund raising BBQ to attend at.

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2017 @ 2:13pm
        TomC said | March 20th 2017 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

        Swings and roundabouts. North pinched an umpire-influenced win against St Kilda earlier in the year.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 4:54pm
          Arjen said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

          Absolute Garbage.

          St.Kilda were flogged by a North team missing 8+ best 22 players.

          Absolutely flogged.

          7 goals down with 5 mins to go and kicked 3 to make it respectable.

          • Roar Guru

            March 20th 2017 @ 5:02pm
            TomC said | March 20th 2017 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

            Those teams played twice, and I’m talking about the first game. I did say it was earlier in the year than the Hawthorn match.

            • March 22nd 2017 @ 8:39am
              andrew said | March 22nd 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

              tom, are you talking about the earlier match, where north where the saints were behind all day, and could not get the ball past the wing in the last 2 mins of the match ?
              the saints did launch a good comeback with 15mins of great footy after what everyone seemed was north just walzing on with a comfy 5 goal win, but hard to say you are stiff to lose when you aint in front all day, and when the match it at its tightest you cant get the ball past the wing.

        • Editor

          March 21st 2017 @ 9:03am
          Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

          Gotta disagree Tom… Hickey had been playing negative tactics on Goldstein all day as most ruckmen do, and deservedly got penalised for them.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 9:28am
            TomC said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

            Seconds earlier Hickey had been clearly infringed in a marking contest without getting his due.

            If we’re going to talk about the umpires influencing the Hawthorn game late as Perry did, then better acknowledge the influence they had late in the Saints game.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 1:46pm
              Perry Bridge said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

              #TomC

              There’s swings and round-abouts for frees and then there’s days when your team just gets slaughtered. We still beat the Doggies in Rnd 6 despite them having a 23-14 free advantage.

              The following week v StK it was Norths way (less so) 22-16 – however, North were largely in control for most of the game and but for poor finishing should have had the game iced much sooner – 9.12 to 7.7 at 3/4 time (7 more scores), and final scoreline of 11.16 to 11.9. StKilda were lucky to get as close as they did – complaining about one free kick here or there, and in this case re Tom Hickey given that the free he DID concede was warranted but the commentators at the time didn’t understand it (and for the afternoon he had 1 FF and 4 FA – he’d actually been lucky to only have conceded that number…..

              anyway, that’s a very different story to the North v Hawks game in Rnd 13 where I do admit that North A. squandered opportunities (11.18 to 14.9 with 4.11 at 1/2 time – game should’ve been iced) B. North conceded some silly frees/50s and got too sucked into the ‘test of strength’ – however – and Brereton admitted as much that if Sicily got the frees he did then Thomas certainly should have been rewarded too, although he’d prefer that neither be awarded frees. Sicily got 5 that evening…..and Brownlow votes too that night I think? Thomas even got pinged for going too high when he beautifully cleaned up Gibson (100% shoulder) that sent him to ground…..that was a frustrating night, normally ‘dirty’ Hawthorn sucked in the umpire sympathies and Lindsay Thomas shows toughness and gets penalised (sometimes umpires guess and it’s when they do that that their prejudices come to the fore).

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 1:57pm
                TomC said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

                My dim memory is that North had one of the best free kick differentials in the league last year. You can correct me if I’m wrong.

                For what it’s worth, nine out of every ten Lions games I watch I come away thinking we were robbed by the umpires. It’s nonsense, of course. It’s understandable to feel emotional at the end of a game but almost a year later perspective really should take over.

                That, of course, does not apply to Sydney fans following last year’s Grand Final. Whether or not it determined the result they have every right to be upset about the officiating that day.

            • Editor

              March 22nd 2017 @ 1:04pm
              Josh Elliott said | March 22nd 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

              Fair call – I don’t feel they influence the game too much in the Hawthorn one. Some of the frees paid to Sicily were awful, but no more awful that most high contact frees. In a game where you are as poor in front of goals as we were there, you can’t blame umpiring.

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:02am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        That first game against Hawthorn was our best performance of the year, despite the fact we lost – and no coincidence that Jack Ziebell was captain on the night. Play like that every game this year and we’ll do just fine.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 4:20pm
      Don Tucker said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

      Try Majac down back and let him be a monster
      Mighty Mick cld show him a few tricks

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:04am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Oh, I don’t feel like that would end well…

    • Roar Rookie

      March 20th 2017 @ 4:56pm
      Sam Bunn said | March 20th 2017 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

      I agree with the point on the handling of the retiring players, you can’t win regardless of the timing. It gave them and the fans a chance to say goodbye

      • Editor

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:04am
        Josh Elliott said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Cheers Sam. It wasn’t a fun experience but I’m glad I got to go to their last game, knowing it was their last game.

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