NAB Cup: North Melbourne v Richmond v Hawthorn

Year 12. It is an interesting year. It has its ups, and it has its fair share of downs. Those moments when you just can’t handle the pressure of the work that is piling on your shoulders at an alarming rate. Thankfully I haven’t experienced that, yet. The good experiences though? Where to begin! The traditional ‘Year 12 party’ the night before the swimming carnival was in full swing, and with a couple of beers for my first time out drinking, I was excited to mix with the friends I’d known for a few good years. Not much of a beer drinker, I still managed to finish them both off (just), and the makeshift dance floor was in full swing. Two dogs were eagerly watching the proceedings, and even slept in the middle of the big circle we had created. All was going swimmingly, until the dreadful words were shouted.

“Who stepped in dog shit!?”

I checked the bottom of my thongs, and sheepishly made my way to the back of the pack. No one seemed to notice me go barefoot for the rest of the night.

With no signs of the previous night on my face, I headed to the local swimming pool for the carnival. With our own personal Year 12 area, we cordoned it off with caution tape to stop the Year 7 pests from venturing too far in. A slip ‘n’ slide, massive speaker box and inflatable boat and paddles a feature, many kids of the younger year levels watched on in jealousy. That’s what we wanted. I was put in charge of cooking the Year 12 BBQ, many sausages were sold. My eye was on the time throughout the day. At 3pm, the footy season, for me anyway, would start. With perfect timing, I heard the familiar sound of the car engine from outside the pool, and knew Dad had arrived. Off to Seymour we went, ready to get into footy again for another year.

In a new North Melbourne clash guernsey, I felt better than I ever did in the Argentina strip. Don’t get me wrong, that was a great jumper, but I feel that I’ll be more socially accepted in the royal blue with white stripes jumper. It’s dark, it’s tough and it’s North Melbourne. Dad and I grab some seats in the forward pocket to the Coventry End, and we watch as Ivan Maric, Richmond’s boom recruit from Adelaide, announced himself on the big stage with a long, free-flowing mullet to make the footballers of the 80’s green with envy.  Hamish McIntosh, back in 2012 to make a big impact up forward and in the ruck, started the game off well, taking contested marks around the ground, but it was clear that we still needed to address those kicking skills, with Boomer Harvey’s risky pass in defence finding Dustin Martin, who kicked the first goal of the new year. Richmond dominated everything early, with Jake King a pressure-king, while Bachar Houli was a dynamo around the midfield. Brad Miller was playing like Travis Cloke, and Martin looked even more impressive than he ever has. Play was soon stopped after Reece Conca downed Leigh Adams in an off-the-ball incident. Adams was out cold, not moving for a few minutes, but was soon up on his feet and walking off a minute later. Not long after, a North Melbourne player slid into Nathan Grima’s leg, tweaking it and straining his medial ligament. Not a great start to a flawless pre-season, injury-wise. Big Tom Derickx was impressing up forward, taking a strong mark and kicking an early goal, and I started to worry that we’d be overrun by this fast and exciting Tiger outfit. Thankfully, we settled. Lindsay Thomas pinpointed Aaron Edwards who ran into an open goal, before he goaled again. New skipper Andrew Swallow put us in front, but we would surrender it before half time.

It took new vice-captain Jack Ziebell just a few seconds to pounce from a centre clearance and bang through a goal on the run from 45 at the start of the second half, putting us back in front. The midfield brigade of Goldstein, Ziebell, Cunnington and Swallow was extremely promising, with Ben-10 impressing the most with his knack of getting himself out of any situation possible. Shaun Atley seemed to be revelling in his new role in the backline, while Scott Thompson was giving Jack Riewoldt an absolute bath. Richmond got back out to a convincing lead (nine points is convincing enough in a shortened game) but, much like we did last September against the Tigers, we fought back. Petrie showed he had lost none of his tricks by getting a boot onto a ball with two Tiger players closing on him, which led to an open goal to Edwards, while Robbie Tarrant was impressive up forward, but still just looks that little bit slow and unpolished. I hope he really stands up this season, because I do see him as our next big forward after Drew retires. He kicked the goal to put us in front late in the game, and we held on for victory. Trust me, it wasn’t heart-stopping stuff, but a three point win after four and a half months of no football is damn exciting.

My excited state was soon deflated when the Hawks ran out. Paul Puopolo had two goals on the board before most people had even realised the ball had been bounced. Ryan Schoenmakers, hopeless as a defender, was being tried up forward and looked OK. He got an early goal, as did Brent Guerra from an impossible angle. Lance Franklin was being tried in his new midfield role, and while he did look dangerous, he never really threatened. On two occasions he went for a long, scintillating run through the midfield, only to be chased down by a North player and giving them a free kick. Aaron Mullett showed fantastic grit and determination to do so on one occasion. With a chance at a super goal in the first half, Franklin lined up from 60m out on the flank, right in front of us. On the mark was Swallow. As Buddy went out on his natural arc, Swallow stood still, hands in the air, looking at the umpire. If the image was captured on camera, it would’ve been the best thing to send to Jeff Gieschen and his lads: Buddy veering out by at least five metres to open up the angle, Swallow left manning the mark of thin air.  Thankfully it wasn’t a goal. Brad Sewell banged through the first nine-pointer of the competition with a fantastic running shot from a centre clearance, not unlike Ziebell’s from the first game, and we were 38-0. I was worried, but it was a shallow feeling. Only NAB Cup. We did fight back, with Thomas kicking our first goal from an acute angle, but missing a couple of others as well. Drew Petrie took a towering grab and converted after that before half time.

The improvement kept coming after the break, with a long goal to Levi Greenwood (who hasn’t improved his kicking) and a free-kick and goal to Cameron Pedersen to start the second half. We were only three goals behind with half of a half to play. The Hawks hit back though, with a fantastic goal to Jordan Lewis from the boundary the highlight of the night. Down we went by 25 points to what should be the eventual premiers of 2012, but I don’t want to make any judgement calls this early on. I despise people who base a whole year on the first game of the pre-season competition. But there were plenty of positives to come out of the loss. Former Box Hill captain Sam Gibson belonged at AFL level, even playing on Franklin at one stage. He led the possession count for the Roos, while Cunnington and McIntosh again followed up with impressive matches.

Dad and I left just after the start of the Richmond v Hawthorn game, predicting that it would be a walkover for the hungry Hawks. We would be proved otherwise, with other North supporters, on the train home. The feeling of footy being back was overwhelming, but worse was the feeling that this time next year, we’ll be sitting through another one of these torrid three-game series crap.

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Welcome back Josh.

    Grima can’t seem to take a trick.

  2. Josh,

    I know it is early…blah, blah, blah…
    But I was decidedly unimpressed by North on Friday night.

  3. Nice read Josh :)

    I don’t think the NAB Cup is a good way to judge how your team is going to go this year.
    If anything most players play halfheartedly and when they don’t, well just look at poor Brent Macafer :(
    Watching some of the new players was kinda like watching a baby elephant trying to walk around after taking its first steps :s
    Some players did shine but i’m waiting for the real season to properly judge.

  4. It wasn’t great was it Smokie?

  5. No Josh, but North’s start to the season was not great in 2011. At least the list is looking healthier. Will be interesting to see how the Goldstein / McIntosh combination works itself out. Put it this way: for it to work, the delivery into the forward line must improve…and the positive is that Drew will not have to ruck

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