North Burn Those Friday Night Lights Again

The AFL loves to celebrate the game’s great traditions… as long as it doesn’t interfere with business.

North Melbourne have been rightly lauded as the club responsible for popularising Friday night footy. With the 25th anniversary of the near riot that launched the first Friday Blockbuster, we have been regaled  with tales of the King’s heroic feats, the Krakouer’s magic. And rightly so.

But as North are celebrated on this anniversary, the brutal reality of season 2010 is that this will be their one and only Friday night appearance. If you want to see them play, but can’t get to the ground, then you better get yourself a Foxtel subscription, because that’s the only place where more than half their games will be available.

In today’s Animal Farm League, if your box office appeal is suspected of slipping, then you quickly realise some clubs are definitely more equal than others. Welcome to a world where commercial realities trump sentiment every time.

All of which should have served warning to Carlton that the Roos would be well and truly primed for this match. If ever a point was needed proving…

Not that the Blues really seemed aware of the fact, as North jumped all over them in the opening term. About the only thing the Blues could win was the odd clearance, as the Roos seized the initiative and were only held back by their wastefulness in front of goal.

Lindsay Thomas gave early evidence of proving a Blue nightmare with a couple of early goals, and generally giving Aaron Joseph the run around. The only time the Roos failed to dominate possession was when they picked the wrong option in attack. A reactive Carlton were trying to share the ball, but there was little purpose to their movements. Bryce Gibbs typified their troubles by kicking out straight to Warren. The normally cool Gibbs served up several clangers in the opening term, and he had plenty of mates in that regard.

By the time the promising Bastinac soccered his first career goal, the lead was 27 to 1 and alarm bells would have been ringing loud and clear in the Carlton box. A late Betts goal saw the Blues fortunate to only trail by 21 point.

Boomer Harvey had loudly advertised the Blues’ harassment of Aaron Davey last week, so it was highly predictable that any funny business off the ball was being pounced on by the umps. It took both teams most of the night to adjust to this reality.

Term 2 saw Thomas with Jordan Russell for company, but still on a roll. Another Thomas snap shot fell just short, but Warren cleaned up for a goal. Bastinac then stuck through one on his left foot. Daniel Wells seemed to have bounced through another, only for the ball to discover some magical back spin inches from the goal line. This break didn’t seem to help the Blues though, and when Thomas out bodied Russell to mark and kick his 3rd, the score was 47-9 with a rout in the offing.

By now it was apparent to all that the Roos were dropping extra men back in defence and completely freezing up Carlton’s forward line. As well, their defenders were consistently dragging the Blues attackers out of position. So when Garlett made a zig-zagging run down the wing, it was typical that by the time he was forced to kick, there was no Blue forward at home to receive.

Desperate times demanded a change, and Carlton rang many. They went taller up forward, threw Gibbs into the centre and picked up those loose North defenders. The results proved startling. Gibbs won some centre clearances, and Waite started to haul in some grabs up forward. All of a sudden, momentum was going Carlton’s way.

Eddie Betts had been the one early forward beacon for Carlton, providing a small forward counterpoint to Thomas, and kicking the Blues’ first 3 goals. When Judd wrested a centre clearance and gave Betts his 4th, the margin was dramatically narrowed to 10 points.

It was now North’s turn to try and regroup with some possession footy. After a lull, Thomas twice out marked Russell again, to extend the Roos half time advantage to 17 points. Carlton had surged, but were still playing catch up.

The break would have found the Blues searching for answers to the Thomas conundrum. Russell didn’t seem the answer. Perhaps a baseball bat was required? Sadly, the Carlton property steward was lacking, so Russell had to persist.

The Roos began the second half as they had the first. H Mac dragged down a mark and goaled, Thomas kept firing away, and despite Hansen’s spectacularly woeful shooting, the lead stretched beyond 4 goals. The game was locked in North’s forward half, and Blues supporters were wasting their breath screaming about umpires. They should have been directing their ire at their flat footed team.

When Rawlings won the ball brilliantly, baulked, and gave to Wright for a goal, the lead was out to 31 points again.

The mysterious alchemy of the coaches box is often beyond this correspondent, but by some means or other, the Roos had re-established those loose defenders again, and they were again wreaking havoc. Firrito in particular was influencing the pattern of the game by freeing himself at critical moments. Brad Scott was calling the shots off field, as his team delivered the goods on it.

The largely unsighted Kreuzer was suddenly gifted 50 metres with another of those incidents where someone’s toenail had intruded on the “safety zone”. He goaled against the flow, then Judd surged and was dealt with after disposal. Somewhat confusingly, Waite ended up with a shot from the goal square. Carlton seemed to have figured out how to get one on one again, and when Waite marked in a goal line pack, the Blues breathed loud and clear.

Gibbs had assumed control in the centre, and fed Eddie his 5th out the back of a pack. With the Blues in touching distance, Mr Thomas stepped up again. With his 10th shot at goal he nailed his 5th major, and North led by 13 at the final change.

Carlton were entertaining thoughts of another surge, and North would have been thinking of recent fade-outs. But the Roos have still won most of those games despite fading, and they soon reasserted their terms on proceedings. The North defence is not highly praised in comparison to others, but they clearly outthought and outplayed the Blues forwards on this night, with Grima pantsing Setanta, and Eddie alone flying the flag consistently. Waite had his moments, but spent much of the night looking frustrated. We already have Thornton to play that role.

After an arm wrestle played largely in North’s forward line, it was inevitable that Thomas roved and snapped his 6th. Russell had seemingly been replaced by a committee, but it made little difference. Boomer had, after a busy start, been largely preoccupied in a niggle-fest with Carrazzo, but he was to have the last laugh when he broke free to score a typical running goal. Although the margin was still only 22 points, this turkey felt cooked.

Fittingly, Thomas capped a stellar performance by banging through his 7th goal. It was one of the more dominant efforts by a small forward in recent times. In particular, his body work in marking contests  was phenomenal. Russell and Joseph have been good players for the Blues this season, but they won’t remember this night fondly. Baseball practice may be in order for the next encounter.

Nor will many Blues care to revisit their efforts, apart from Gibbs and Betts. Many of Carlton’s better performers this season had stinkers. The Blues have been relying on burst football of late, but the only thing to burst tonight was any top four aspirations they might have been harbouring.

North called the tune on and off field, and there could be no complaint with their win. Like all young sides, they’ve had some shockers this year, but when they get it right they are dangerous. They continue to fight the odds on the field.

But with a comparatively small supporter base, and the AFL now consumed by thoughts of expansion, you get the feeling the Roos are going to have to fight it out largely on their own. Provided the off field stakes aren’t too loaded, you fancy they’re up for it.

North Melbourne  4.5  8.8  11.11  14.13 (97)
Carlton  1.5  6.3  10.4  10.8 (68)

GOALS
North Melbourne:
Thomas 7, Bastinac 2, Warren 2, Harvey, McIntosh, Wright
Carlton: Betts 5, Waite 3, Kreuzer, O’hAilpin

Votes: 3- Thomas (give him all 6! – Ed) 2- Firrito  1- Gibbs

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World’s Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. Great read JB,

    What a match. The pre-game festivites were fantastic (except for the smoke billowing around after the fireworks) and I think they really pumped up North.

    Noticed in the last quarter that a scuffle had suddenly erupted in the Carlton cheersquad between an angry (and drunk) Carlton man and a handful of North supporters. The security guards were right onto it, Boomer’s goal on the run shut those Blues’ supporters up.

  2. John Butler says:

    Well done by your boys Josh

    Just too good all-round for us last night.

    People who can’t hold their booze just shouldn’t drink at the footy.

    I’m sure you enjoyed yourself anyway.

    I look forward to your take on events.

    Cheers

  3. Danielle says:

    great piece JB :)
    No offence intended but i knew Carlton was going to lose.
    Brad Scott had caused such a hype so i thought he would have drilled into the players and that pump them up for a win.
    Told dad in the car that morning and explained my reason, although i dont think he believed me. lol
    Then luckily i didnt change my tip after my Carlton supporting friend almost talk me into it!
    Got 7 last week btw, Freo screwed me!
    Oh well, i guess you can understand the small piece of joy i get when Carlton gets beaten, am i a Magpie or what? :p

    Danni

  4. John Butler says:

    Danni

    I wish you’d given our boys that tip. They might have been better prepared for the game. :)

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