I am hearing a lot about North Melbourne being a side in form, and being a little stiff against the better sides.
They should have beaten Geelong and they probably should have beaten Hawthorn. But they didn’t. And the reason: they are not in form.
Exhibit A: Decision-making.
On TV we see teams win the contested ball. That’s the common camera shot. All teams win their share of the footy. What we don’t see on TV is the expanse of opportunity sides have once they get out, get clear. When you’re at the ground you see North butcher opportunity after opportunity. Even on TV v Hawthorn you could see option after option ignored. (Richmond also do it).
Exhibit B: Skills
North is a very skilful side – when free of physical pressure, or free of the pressure of mental expectation of a winning performance. However, their skills go missing at times. They need to toughen up.
Exhibit C: Authority
The good teams have players who exude belief and commitment and, hence, authority. The Hawks machine of the 80s had uber-authority.
What a North Melbourne disaster the final seconds of Sunday’s match were. Petrie (fine player, fine skills, takes responsibility, but serial offender) had the footy 75 metres out. Everyone was flocking back. Hawthorn’s panic was palpable. Not one North player thought to button-hole and turn back and lead on the 45. There was space, space, space (there were actually two fat sides, because everyone was running straight down the middle) and North have a stack of players with the acceleration to do it. They’d have had a set shot from 35 for the game.
North play dumb footy sometimes.
North are over-coached by a bloke who has all the ability in the world but is fearful. North have belief when they can implement their practised regimented strategies. They spread Geelong’s zone brilliantly in the first half and picked the Cats off with pure skill. If a zone is like a molecule, they forced distance between atoms. Whether it was intentional or not they also found the weak part of the zone and attacked through the part of the ground where young Blicavs was stationed, and also through Mitch Brown. The Cats had no answer. However, when it was harder to play structured, controlled, pre-ordained, over-planned footy (because Geelong took the game on and created a new culture in the game and because tiredness became a factor) North struggled.
They shouldn’t struggle in that situation. They have the players to thrive in that situation.
Solution: Free them up and give them confidence.
Easy to say. Confidence will grow with some wins. At the moment there is a culture of doubt.
Here’s one thing I would do though. Fast-break practice.
In basketball, teams practise the three on two, or three on one, fast break. So that when there is a turnover in a game situation the scoring of the basket is automatic, second nature. It just happens.
North are driving me nuts with their inability to take advantage of turnovers. They win the footy. They get out. They muck it up. They should be able to score Under 12 goals like Geelong do. With someone giving Chelsea a peck on the cheek before dribbling the footy through.
Geelong’s squad allowed them to play attacking footy which made the footy ground look big again. North have a side of similar skill-sets.
I have seen quite a few non-Geelong games this season, a few of them live at the ground. Of the teams I have seen I would say North are better than Richmond (by a good margin),North are better than Collingwood, North are better than Carlton. At their best they can win any match.
Their opponent this week: Port Adelaide
Ken Hinkley is not a KPI sort of bloke. Playing as a skinny half-back flanker who probably had the high-score on the pinball machine at his local fish’n’chips joint in Geelong, he read the game and trusted his skills.
Mark Williams was not a natural KPI man either.
Port has not been a KPI team over time – have a look at the `04 flag side.
It looks like K. Hinkley has encouraged his young men to Embrace the Chaos. To play the game.
This has been great for his young charges.
They can beat North if North turn up wondering whether they’ve done their homework and can keep their gruff coach happy.
In this life it is folly to believe you can control things. People concerned for their lot try and prove that they are in control.
Chill out B. Scott. Get some perspective.
If the opening five rounds have shown anything, they’ve shown this is a game of the spirit.