North Melbourne versus Adelaide
1:45 pm, Saturday 23 August
Blundstone Arena, Hobart
South Australian sides don’t have a great record in Tasmania. The last time Adelaide were here, we slogged the couple of hours up the highway to York Park only to see them cop a pasting from Hawthorn. That was 2010. Last year, I took my son, who follows that other South Australian team (don’t ask, I don’t like to talk about it) to see the second AFL game at Bellerive Oval, wherein Port left themselves with too much to do against a North outfit that was too good on the day.
But it goes back further than that. Way back in 1995, I was at Tasmanian football’s traditional home, North Hobart Oval, to see a SANFL side coached by John Cahill and boasting the likes of Clive Waterhouse and Garry McIntosh get outclassed by Andy Bennett’s Tasmania, bringing the famous ‘map’ guernsey one of its most storied victories.
On the other side, North Melbourne’s short and ill-fated affiliation with the now defunct Tasmania Devils VFL team seems already half forgotten. Kangaroos old hands like Todd Goldstein, Michael Firrito and Leigh Adams all played for the Devils during their rapid decline from VFL finals to extinction within a few short years in the late 00s, many say not coincidentally with the North affiliation. One wonders if they still feel in any sense at ‘home’ at Bellerive. But there are genuine home grown Tasmanians in the Roos lineup as well, Nathan Grima and Ben Brown, so maybe there is actually some sort of home ground advantage for them.
So all in all the tea leaves give no grounds for optimism as I head for Bellerive, Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells’ enforced absences notwithstanding. The gamble on a reserved seat located out in the open has paid off handsomely. It’s a beautiful mild day, with the sniff of September just around the corner. Do the Crows have it in their nostrils? I try with only partial success to keep the smugness off my face as I cycle past hundreds of people trudging a kilometre or more from their parked cars to the ground, chaining up 10 metres from the main gate. Surprisingly there are a few patches of green visible in the standing area on the hill, but otherwise it looks like the sellout that it is. The numbers will be well down on normal due to the new stand on the western side being constructed to the 2015 cricket World Cup deadline, so that area is empty except for a scattering of blokes in high-vis tops who appear to be blurring the distinction between construction site and spectator venue. A very Tasmanian moment as I settle in; it turns out the blokes a couple of seats along from me are from my workplace, we exchange pleasantries before the bouncedown.
For the first quarter the scoreboard seems to have slipped prematurely into cricket mode, the clock showing time of day instead of that elapsed during the quarter. The howlers don’t stop there though, a terrible error from the Adelaide defence gifting the first goal to North’s Kayne Turner. Goldstein’s follow up is emblematic of Kangaroo aerial superiority. At the other end, a couple of Crows chances are blown when Wright and Martin have too long to think about it running in. Finally Walker is a bit lucky to get a forward pocket free, he capitalises and Adelaide are belatedly getting into the contest. Scott Thompson is amongst it early, travelling well after several weeks out injured.
The second quarter starts with a big let off for the Crows when Turner misses from 30 metres dead in front, then a fast break sees Lyons goal for Adelaide from a free. Dangerfield is being allowed to drift into defence untagged, and Thompson (the Adelaide one) continues to be a prime mover. One of those ‘make some noise’ scoreboard exhortation graphics draws an insipid response; this largely neutral crowd was always going to be a tough one.
An even spell of the game is broken when a catastrophic Brown pass across goals goes straight to Petrie who runs in and goals. But the Crows seem stung into response. Cameron combines with Podsiadly to goal after the ball goes behind the pack, then Lyons gets his second, and they’re working back into it, 2 points down. Josh Jenkins misses a chance to put the Crows ahead after a long period of play in their half of the ground, levelling the scores instead with a point. A narrow miss from 53 metres by Walker inches Adelaide in front, but they’re failing to capitalise on a long period of domination. Eddie Betts tries a torp from outside 50 after the half time siren but it’s too far for him and it goes out on the full.
Time for the mini-league. Auskick wranglers generally do a good job, but there are always some who don’t realise that small goalposts doesn’t mean you place them a proportionally small distance apart. The poor kids are trying to thread goals through a space barely three metres wide. It’s hard enough to kick straight at that age without having to thread the eye of a needle as well.
Betts goals after 40 seconds of the third quarter, then Wright as well after somehow finding a way to mark almost uncontested 15 metres out. Turner pulls one back for North; it’s still the Crows by 7. But then another disastrous error from Martin sees him not only kick into man on the mark Brown, but do so softly enough for the latter to catch it and pass to Thomas, who duly dobs it. Back to only one point the diff, and momentum seems to have swung. The Crows have monopolised the ball for nigh on half an hour up to now, but have they put enough of it on the scoreboard?
Suddenly North are not only getting more of the ball but moving it quicker. A Black mark results, he narrowly misses the set shot, levelling the scores. Ziebell then behinds to inch the Roos in front again. Thompson somehow finds a hectare of space in the middle and gets it to Betts, who pumps it deep where Walker uses his body cleverly to allow Cameron to mark on the chest and goal. Lyons goals again shortly thereafter and Adelaide are back out by 12. Cameron looking ever more dangerous just misses a snap, but then big Ben Brown chimes in with a goal, and the game is opening up. Ziebell gets another and it’s all tied up again. Jenkins coolly slots a snap, then another behind from Black sees North draw within 5, which turns out to be the three quarter time margin. Lack of match fitness looks to be starting to tell on Scott Thompson, can Sloane step up?
A great chase and tackle from behind by Betts sets the tone for a desperate last quarter, it’s shortly followed by an Adelaide goal. North are not going away though, Swallow finds Ziebell who puts it through from 40 then it’s a groundhog goal, Swallow again through the middle to Ziebell in almost exactly the same spot and he duly puts it through again, scores level. Thomas again displays his uncanny ability to get a kick away from a massive pack, only scoring a point but it’s enough to put North in front. A couple more Roo behinds from good opportunities let the Crows off the hook, but Bastinac’s snap is true and it’s North by 9, then 15 as they bang on another. A strong mark in front by a power forward is exactly what Adelaide needs, but Podsiadly’s indiscipline results in a reversed free and 50 metre penalty. Though Cameron compensates with a goal shortly after, it’s still North by 9 and it feels horribly like J-Pod has just defined the Crows season. The Kangaroos look irresistible now as Adams goals from an errant kick in. Walker finally kicks truly from well outside 50, but it feels like too little too late, Adelaide still down by 10 at the 22 minute mark. Podsiadly attempts atonement, marking 45 metres out, but misses. Several Crows hands are on heads now, at 28 and a half minutes and 8 points down it’s slipping away. Firrito takes a saving mark in defence, but coughs it up and Podsiadly has another shot, tries a checkside from not that great an angle and hits the post. Drop punts, for crying out loud! That’s definitely 2014 gone right there. Poor Rory Laird has just been subbed in only to be knocked out, the resulting long delay means that 38 mins 21 secs of last quarter have elapsed before it’s finally all over, North by 7.
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.3 5.6 9.12 14.17 (101)
ADELAIDE 2.3 5.7 10.11 13.16 (94)
North Melbourne: Ziebell 4, Petrie 3, Turner 2, Bastinac 2, Goldstein, Thomas, Brown
Adelaide: Lyons 3, Cameron 2, Wright 2, Walker 2, Betts 2, Jenkins, Crouch
North Melbourne: Ziebell, Dal Santo, Greenwood, Bastinac, Firrito, Goldstein
Adelaide: Douglas, Thompson, Crouch, Dangerfield, Jacobs, Sloane
Umpires: Findlay, Pannell, Mitchell
Official crowd: 10,702 at Blundstone Arena
Votes 3 J Ziebell (Nth Melb) 2 S Thompson (Adel) 1 N Dal Santo (Nth Melb)