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The Roar


North Melbourne's worst losses under Brad Scott

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Roar Guru
27th March, 2019
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Only three teams have employed the same senior coach since 2010, but whereas two of them have tasted premiership glory in these last nine years, one of them has struggled just to make the finals.

Brad Scott is in his tenth season at the helm at North Melbourne. Only Hawthorn and Richmond have stayed constant with their main man in charge in that time, with some clubs (Melbourne) going through as many as four coaches in the last decade.

But the Hawks and Tigers have experienced ultimate success under Alastair Clarkson and Damien Hardwick respectively, with a whopping four premiership cups for the former and the 2017 flag for the latter.

The best result Scott has managed in the same time is a pair of preliminary finals appearances, achieved in 2014 and 2015, both as a team that finished in the bottom half of the top eight.

Two prelims are nothing to sneeze at, but in reality North were making up the numbers in both of those seasons. Granted, if not for some fair umpiring, the result in 2015 against West Coast could’ve gone a different way, but if it did, I think it would’ve challenged 2007 as one of the most one-sided grand finals in the history of the game.

Scott is not a bad coach. You don’t survive ten seasons in the industry by being a bad coach. But is he a good coach? The numbers say he is not, suggesting that for the North Melbourne hierarchy – namely James Brayshaw, Eugene Arocca, Carl Dilena and Ben Buckley over that time – simply being okay at the job as head coach has been good enough.


The question must be asked: Would someone like Brad Scott, whose career highlight as coach has been making back-to-back preliminary finals, survive at a club like Hawthorn or Collingwood? The answer is a big, fat no.

What makes a good coach? Is it being able to think outside the box and come up with a unique game style that opposition sides take almost all season trying to overcome? Is it being able to recognise why the opposition is gaining the upper hand and making the necessary changes to stop it? Is it having a contingency plan in case what you’ve been practising and implementing at training doesn’t work on game day? Is it getting the best out of not only your better players but also your middle to lower-tier players? Or is it being a fatherly figure, ensuring that when you leave the club, be it after two years or ten, you’re in a better position to succeed off-field?

Frankly, Brad Scott has one of these qualities, and it doesn’t relate to on-field performance.

After the weekend’s disgusting performance I thought it would be fun (sarcasm) to look back at the worst losses North Melbourne have suffered under the guidance of Brad Scott and see if there are any reoccurring patterns or themes.

North Melbourne coach Brad Scott

Brad Scott (AAP Image/David Crosling)

10. Collingwood 22.15.147 defeated North Melbourne 3.12.30 (MCG)
Early in Brad Scott’s reign at the Kangaroos he struggled immensely against the top clubs of the league. The Roos were routinely walloped by the likes of Geelong, St Kilda and Collingwood, and this performance on a soaked MCG in Round 16 is a game no North fan would want to remember. Funnily enough, it is not the lowest score the Roos have managed under Scott.

9. Adelaide 21.14.140 defeated North Melbourne 9.9.63 (Adelaide Oval)
In a performance very similar to the game against Fremantle last weekend, the Roos went into this Round 1 clash full of optimism, having secured the services of Shaun Higgins and Jarrad Waite during the off-season. While Higgins booted four goals in his first match in the blue and white, Waite was unsighted, as the Crows handed out a devastating 77 point loss.

8. St Kilda 19.21.135 defeated North Melbourne 10.10.70 (Marvel Stadium)
Despite starting the 2011 season with four losses, The Kangaroos remained a finals chance going into this Round 23 clash with the Saints on a Saturday night, albeit depending on other results going their way. Having lost their previous three matches against St Kilda, Brad Scott publicly declared this match as a ‘line in the sand’ moment for the club, challenging his players to stand up to an opposition club that had regularly bullied them in previous outings. A five-goal run in the second quarter saw the Roos lead by 20 points, but they would kick just three more majors for the match as the Saints effortlessly lifted another gear, ending North’s finals hopes.


7. North Melbourne 12.13.85 defeated by Western Bulldogs 13.14.92 (Marvel Stadium)
This one remains fresh in the memory, and quite frankly I still can’t believe we lost this match. Going into this Round 21 contest last year, North sat in tenth position on the ladder, just one win from the top eight. Leading by 28 points at half-time, it seemed nothing could get in the way of the Roos landing their 12th win of the year. A Bulldogs onslaught in the third quarter, when they slotted eight goals to two, was enough to end their season. It displayed Brad Scott’s inability to stop an opposition run-on, with the team almost conceding defeat once the Bulldogs got close enough.

Brad Scott North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL 2017

Brad Scott (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

6. West Coast 24.18.162 defeated North Melbourne 9.12.66 (Subiaco Oval)
Geelong, under Chris Scott, have developed a reputation for getting blown out of the water early in finals matches over the last few seasons. But people forget that his twin brother Brad suffered from early onslaughts in September first. Having guided his team to its first finals appearance in five years, the Roos were scheduled to play West Coast in Perth on a Sunday afternoon in 2012. With the temperature hitting 30 degrees, North couldn’t handle the heat, with the Eagles kicking the first nine goals of the game. After a brief fightback in the third term, West Coast slotted nine goals in the last term to run out 96-point winners. Plan B would’ve been handy that day.

5. North Melbourne 19.10.124 defeated by Adelaide 18.17.125 (Marvel Stadium)
What’s one word that could send shivers down the spines of every North Melbourne supporter but doesn’t really mean anything to any other ordinary punter? ‘Petrenko’. Let’s set the scene. With just over nine minutes remaining on the clock in this 2013 encounter, North led by 30 points. No team with a good coach should lose from here, right? Well, you guessed it – North did a ‘North’. The Crows got a sniff of momentum and all of a sudden they were like a steam train, running all over us until Jared Petrenko kicked the matchwinner from a calamitous defensive error from Shaun Atley. If ever a game could force you to cut up your membership, this was it.

4. Port Adelaide 14.11.95 defeated North Melbourne 14.9.93 (Football Park)
While the Petrenko match was bad, I think North supporters forget just how much this one hurt. Facing a Port Adelaide side coming off a six-game losing streak on a Saturday afternoon in 2012, the Roos were again in a comfortable position late in the last quarter, leading by 32 points with ten minutes on the clock. A sudden surge of momentum saw the Power pile on the last nine scoring shots of the game, with Paul Stewart of all players kicking the go-ahead goal with under a minute to go.

3. Hawthorn 27.12.174 defeated North Melbourne 9.5.59 (University of Tasmania Stadium)
A fortnight on from that horror show at Football Park, things got a lot worse for North Melbourne. Despite sitting just a game ahead of the Roos on the ladder at the time, the Hawks, led by superstar Lance Franklin, were just too good. Brad Scott had no answers for the Franklin match-up, with Buddy kicking a career-high 13 goals on a dark day for the Roos. In a positive for North, this game would spark a decent run of form, with the Kangaroos winning ten of the remaining 12 games on their way to a finals appearance.

Brad Scott

Brad Scott (Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

2. Collingwood 17.10.112 defeated North Melbourne 14.11.95 (MCG)
The Magpies have been one of Brad Scott’s bogey sides over his time as coach of the Roos, with 27.27 per cent winning record since the start of 2010. This loss in 2015 remains not only his worst against Collingwood but one of the most embarrassing of his tenure. A 39-point lead at half-time on a wet track at the MCG should be enough for any side to coast to victory, but any opposition club knows that a North Melbourne outfit under Brad Scott is incredibly vulnerable if they lose momentum.


The Magpies kicked nine goals to none in the third term, and despite a brief challenge from the Kangaroos in the last quarter, they ran out winners by 17 points. It is these games and the losses against Port Adelaide and Adelaide in 2012 and 2013 that make most matches in which the Roos find themselves ahead extremely uncomfortable and unnerving for supporters. It is also these kinds of games that bring about the hilarious jokes, such as, ‘Why shouldn’t you trust North Melbourne to walk your dog? Because they can’t hold a lead’.

1. Fremantle 21.15.141 defeated North Melbourne 9.5.59 (Optus Stadium)
After a few days to think about it, I contend that this game is the worst in Brad Scott’s time as coach for a number of reasons. Because of the off-season hype that was generated from our quartet of recruits. Because of the belief that we would improve again after an impressive 2018 season. Because the Dockers had endured a week from hell during which their star recruit was ruled out, weakening an already weak-looking forward line. Because maybe, just maybe, we had learnt how to win a Round 1 game. Instead we looked beaten from the first few minutes.

We could not hit a target. We could not handle the pressure. We coughed up the ball at every opportunity and we did not look like scoring when we went forward. A keen observer could have seen this result coming from roughly the third or fourth-minute mark of the first quarter. Did we have a Plan B or even a Plan C? Of course not. Who needs ’em?

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Each one of the above matches has one reoccurring theme: North do not know how to stem the bleeding once an opposition side gains the upper hand, and it can result in the team almost waving the white flag. That either comes when the opposition has already gained the lead and is looking to put its foot on their throat or it comes when the Roos have skipped ahead, only to be reeled in.

I’ve been thinking about North Melbourne’s horror Round 1 record under Brad Scott. Is it because we don’t train hard enough and it takes us a little while to cope with the rigours of meaningful football games? Are we just unlucky? The answer to both is no. It is because opposition clubs have four to five months to plan for their opening-round encounter with the Roos and Brad Scott.

We are easy to coach against. We have a game style that can be dissected and overcome. Our players have become used to it. Nothing works for them when it comes to Round 1 because the coach in the opposition box has thought of everything.

To reiterate, I do not think Brad Scott is a bad coach. But he is limited, and I believe the club cannot win a premiership with him. Do Ben Buckley and Carl Dilena recognise that? The sad reality is that they probably do, but finishing close enough has become the accept norm at North Melbourne under Scott, so why would that stop now?