AFL Round 3 – North Melbourne v West Coast: Naitanui and Harvey make the day

 by John Warhurst

2.10pm, Saturday, 10 May

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

It is always easy to get a seat when one of the non-Victorian teams play in Melbourne; especially when one of the weaker Victorian clubs is involved. Only 18,394 turned up at Etihad Stadium to watch the Roos play West Coast. Neither club had had a win up till then but it turned out to be an entertaining game, close enough without being nail-biting.

The roof was closed but it was a mild night, made for a relaxing walk through town from our hotel in Brunswick St, Fitzroy, with a bite of lunch on the way. We settled down with great seats up on the first tier after a convincing scalper caught up with us in the ticket queue. We even had time to talk about her forthcoming trip to see the Masterpieces of Paris exhibition at the National Gallery in our home town, Canberra.

As a Crows supporter I had nothing to lose and there were plenty of South Australians on the ground, like Scott McMahon and Brad Ebert. I know the Kangaroos well because they have been frequent visitors to Manuka Oval in recent years. I set out to watch a few players that particularly interested me and I wasn’t disappointed. For the WCE Dean Cox has been out of touch but his mobility is always a marvel, Matt Priddis is a tireless worker in the packs who doesn’t get the credit due to him, and I couldn’t understand why Brisbane had let Bradd Dalziell, a real prodigy, go. For North Melbourne I’ve always like Michael Firrito for his determination and hardness ever since I saw his first game. He was a late starter from the VFL and I think the state leagues are vastly under-rated as a source of recruits compared with the wet-behind-the-ears youngsters. My other favourite NM players make my point. The fair-haired flyer Liam Anthony was a mature-age recruit from the WAFL and former Eagle Aaron Edwards, who has had his ups and downs, also had to prove himself again in the VFL. But boy can he jump!

The first quarter set the scene: high scoring and pretty even. West Coast hit the front with a rush at the end of the quarter. It was anyone’s game. What I liked most were the efforts of Cox and Nic Naitanui who fed Priddis from in the air and from on the ground. They ran and they scrambled in a way few ruckmen do. Mark Le Cras was dangerous and kicked a magic sharp-shooter goal from the pocket. But he had to do it on his own and that would be the West Coast’s downfall at the end of the day. What I didn’t like at all was how obtrusive the umpires were. Tiggy-touch-wood we would have said in the old days. There were successive free kicks from the centre before the ball was even bounced and several 50 metre penalties around the ground. The crowd was confused and the soft frees distort the balance of a competitive game.

In the second quarter NM were quickly back in front. My man Edwards marked on a lead and goaled from 45 metres after just 30 seconds. Then a WCE mistake let my other man Anthony in for a long goal. Edwards takes a great mark just in front of me, then kicks into the man! By now it is Naitanui’s mobility that is exciting me. I’ve never seen a big ruckman so energetic off the ball chasing down smaller players. He alone is worth the entry price. WCE have plenty of the ball but no forward structure.  They score just once for the quarter. But for lots of posters NM would be further in front. But they are starting to look comfortable. Brent Harvey is everywhere.

After the break NM is cruising. Harvey already has 30 possessions, though Priddis leads him on contested balls. But the Roos can’t seem to put the Eagles away. Anthony continues to do well, but after a while I realize that some of the time I am confusing him with another blonde, Ben Warren. NM is missing goals from all over, including in front, but then as often happens Anthony kicks the hardest one of all. Just when you think its all over Matt Rosa goals on the run from the pocket and Le Cras kicks his 5th after a good WCE team effort. The umpires are still too obtrusive for my liking.

Betfair has WCE at $10.00 at three quarter time with NM just $1.04. The long odds look better to me, though the Roos should win. NM lead by 23 points. Harvey has almost 40 possessions by early in last quarter, but after five bounces and a long run he hits the post. Priddis, his opposite number, gets a lot of the ball and dishes it out, but is rarely dangerous in attack. He misses a goal he should have kicked. A lot of mistakes are creeping in. Disposals and inside 50s are still pretty even, but WCE don’t look like winners. NM are well ahead on free kicks (25:16) and that’s how it seems. They end up winning by 25 points after being 19 ahead at half time. That sums up a pretty even and enjoyable match between two teams who will probably end up out of the eight without being the worst. Naitanui, a rare talent, is the new star for me. Harvey is still a star at thirty-one in his inimitable fashion. How did he only have five possessions last week!

Comments

  1. johnharms says:

    Totally agree on your Dalziell call John.

  2. Pamela Sherpa says:

    I recall Dalziell’s first game for Brisbane in round 16 against WC 2 years ago. I wrote in my game report” New boy Double D(Bradd Dalziell) has made a stunning debut gathering 32 disposals and is among the Lions best. The fans will certainly know how to pronounce his name next time” It was amusing before the game because the crowd didn’t know how to pronounce his name and I remember thinking that they would get to know him pretty soon after a performance like that.
    Did he want to move back to his WA or did the Lions offload him ?

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