AFL Pre-season – North Melbourne v Hawthorn: Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home
By Marnie Cohen
It had been a long 32 years since two AFL clubs did battle at Arden Street.
Round 20, 1985: North Melbourne (16.20.116) def Richmond (9.12. 66)
Just over 7,000 people would witness the final home and away game played at the home of North Melbourne. Fast forward to 2017, and supporters were treated to the return of Arden Street Oval. The sold-out crowd gathered to see North Melbourne go 2-0 in the JLT pre season series with a 21-point victory over Hawthorn.
What a day it was, and for North, the pre-season signs are good.
Twelve months earlier, Hawthorn embarrassed the Roos by 45 points at Etihad Stadium but Sunday’s game followed a very different script. It was quite an entertaining game of football, with just two points separating the teams at quarter time, and three points at half time. There were multiple lead changes, and anything one side offered, the other matched. Eventually, North found a way to out-do the Hawks, and they ran out twenty-one point victors.
The Return to Arden Street
Late last year, the AFL announced football would return to Arden Street during the JLT series – and the reception was out of this world. Excitement surrounded the announcement for months, and the game was a sell out. It was a special experience for young and old. I entered the ground with my dad, who had been at the last game played there in 1985 – nine years before I was born. It was heart warming, and an amazing experience to finally witness a game played on home turf. The fun continued at half time, with a re-enactment of the Arden Street Elephant (an Elephant dress up costume) who was treated to a lap of honour around the ground. For a North Melbourne fan, this pre-season game was one to remember.
Sunday’s game, once again, saw the football world shift their opinions on North Melbourne. Following that departure of North’s veterans, media experts and just about the whole football world were salivating at the thought of the Roos decline down the ladder. However, they are showing early signs that they’re going to be no easy beat… and they left it to the kids to prove it.
Brayden Preuss put in another impressive performance on Sunday, booting three goals and a game high 27 hit outs in the ruck. First gamer Jy Simpkin delighted North supporters, with his run and willingness to take some risks, and take the game on. He also took on Luke Hodge, and won – not a bad effort in your first game. Mitch Hibbard rounded out the talented trio, with a team high 25 possessions and 3 clearances.
However, they weren’t the only ones who put in a mighty effort. New recruit Nathan Hrovat played another vital role in the Roos victory. Eighteen possessions and two goals and two assists – his work rate catching the eyes of plenty, including former club champion and commentator David King, who claims the new Roo will become an ‘elite’ footballer in time. Shaun Higgins was back to his best thanks to a successful move into the midfield. He finished with 24 possessions and 4 clearances for the game. He was joined by tough man Ben Cunnington, and to the delight on North fans his best football was back on display. His game will be remembered for that highflying grab over Fitzpatrick and that bump on Duryea, however his 18 touches and 8 clearances shouldn’t go unnoticed. Finally, Jamie MacMillan was rarely beaten in the backline.
Despite the encouraging signs from North Melbourne, the media couldn’t go past Jaegar O’Meara’s performance – 22 disposals, 7 clearances and a goal in his second game as a Hawk. The Herald Sun went so far in calling it the ‘story of the sell out game,’ as they plastered his efforts all over their back page. Sure, he played a great game and it’s encouraging signs for the talented youngster, however the constant denial of North Melbourne’s presence and improvement constantly frustrates me and this is another example why. While we are only in the midst of pre-season, very few outside of the football club are brave enough and willing to defend the direction of the Roos. I am well aware they won’t become an overnight sensation (but wouldn’t that be great) however to refuse that their pre-season form hasn’t been encouraging is just wrong. It will take some time, however the new breed of talent coming through the ranks at Arden Street is exciting, and we will be okay.
In the words of Mick Malthouse of 1996, “We all think it’s going to be a difficult year, but I’m looking forward to it. “
And I am certainly looking forward to it.