North Melbourne season review

by Josh Barnstable


Season highlights:

The highlight of the 2010 season for North Melbourne was the period in the middle of the season where they won three games in a row against Brisbane, Carlton and Port Adelaide, all at Etihad Stadium. The win against Brisbane was a heart stopper, with the Lions fighting back from eight goals down to snatch the lead in the dying moments only for Levi Greenwood to mark on the boundary line, 45m out and tumble through a shocking kick for six points, putting North in front and giving them the win. A week later, North celebrated 25 years of Friday night footy with a big win over Carlton by five goals, with Lindsay Thomas starring with seven goals and announcing himself on the big stage. With the season gaining momentum, the Roos came up against an undermanned Port Adelaide on a drizzly Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium. Under the roof, the Roos powered away in the second half to win by 36 points, with Lachie Hansen showing ability in the forward line, kicking five goals. Another highlight was the Round 22 match against Melbourne at the MCG, where two young teams locked horns and produced a terrific, high-scoring game of footy that North won by 10 points to send Corey Jones off on a high.

Season lowlight:

The lowlight sticks out like a sore thumb. Round 2 against St Kilda. Coming off a disappointing Round 1 loss to Port Adelaide, the Roos came up against the Saints who were still smarting from the upset defeat they suffered at the hands of North Melbourne in Round 21 2009. The Saints made their intentions clear early in the game, kicking 8.1 to 0.0 in the first quarter, and running away with a huge 104 point win. Brent Harvey managed just five possessions in his worst game of his career, and overall the team played very poorly and questions about Brad Scott’s coaching ability were already being questioned.

The improvers:

It was hard to see Brady Rawlings improving his game, but he defied the odds and racked up a huge amount of possessions from the backline on his way to a career-best year, being selected in the All-Australian squad and being a real leader in the backline of youngsters. Of those youngsters, Nathan Grima and Scott Thompson again improved on their stellar 2009 campaigns, with Grima holding down the centre half back position and gaining plenty of scalps, none bigger than Matthew Pavlich in Round 19, where Grima kept Pav from having an influence and also kept him from hitting the scoreboard. Thompson showed courage beyond his years when he ruffled the feathers of Barry Hall in Round 9, and learnt from the experience, and has become a better player from it. He racked up plenty of touches from the backline, including 30 against Melbourne in Round 22. Ben Warren became a focal point up forward, impressing with his strong marking and cat-like reflexes, while Aaron Edwards flourished in the absence of Drew Petrie, taking strong marks and becoming a real team player, while also kicking 25 goals to finish second in the goalkicking equal with Brent Harvey. Lachie Hansen finally found his position in the forward line, and played his role admirably, kicking five goals against Port Adelaide and four against quality opposition in St Kilda and Geelong, finishing with 23 goals for the year. Sam Wright also finished with 23 majors in a breakout year for him in just his second year. He finished the season with a flourish, booting 12 goals in his final four games, including four in Round 21 against West Coast which earnt him the Rising Star nomination for that week. Leigh Adams cemented his spot in the North Melbourne midfield, starring regularly and kicking handy goals along the way and looks primed to be a star in the next couple of seasons. Daniel Wells got his body right for the first time in a while and delivered some great performances throughout the year, but still managed to go missing a times. Michael Firrito returned to defence and became North’s best drive out of the backline, and also the toughest, most determined player in the blue and white stripes. Lindsay Thomas improved his game, kicking 29 goals to take out the leading goalkicker award, with bags of seven and five in Rounds 12 and 10 respectively the highlights of his year. Cruize Garlett showed his midfield tenacity in many games, laying tackles and collecting plenty of the ball while showing a great knack of knowing how to use the ball. Todd Goldstein flourished as the second Ruckman, and was also handy around the big sticks as he has a good set of hands and a nice kick. Levi Greenwood stamped his authority in the North Melbourne midfield with a great season, and ended it with a bang, collecting 39 possessions and laying seven tackles with a goal to cap it off in Round 22 against Melbourne.

The sliders:

Gavin Urquhart lost his spot in the side late in the year and could be offloaded to the Gold Coast or the Brisbane Lions, while Ben Ross played the first two games of the year before not making another appearance. Josh Smith also cracked it for a few games midway through the year, but he’s a useless as a potato and should be delisted. Leigh Harding found it hard to keep his spot in the side and looks like he could lose it to the impressive Sam Wright, and Harding would be worth something at the trade table if he requests to be traded, otherwise he’ll most likely be delisted. David Hale had a great start to the year, kicking regular goals in the first part of the season before trailing off and looks certain to be going back home to Queensland, while Matt Campbell struggled at times and may lose his spot to the up-and-coming Cruize Garlett.

Giggle moment:

When Lindsay Thomas lost his boot in a contest at half forward in Round 11 against the Brisbane Lions, you would’ve expected him to handball it off instead of having the shot from just inside 50. But he let fly with an almighty thump and the ball never deviated from the goals, an amazing kick considering it was with the foot instead of the boot. Would’ve left an almighty red mark on Thomas’ foot, however.

Lament:

Jack Ziebell breaking his leg yet again for the second time in two years. He did it in Adelaide last year, this year he collided with a Geelong player at Kardinia Park and got helped off the field, not returning for the rest of the year. Liam Anthony also dislocated his shoulder in Round 7 and didn’t reappear, but those bad luck stories didn’t compete with the Drew Petrie curse. Three breaks in his foot in the one year. It almost got laughable at one stage. After breaking his foot on the eve of Round 1, he didn’t make it back until Round 10 against Freo, where after the game, scans revealed that he had broken the opposite foot that had just healed. So he spent another few weeks on the sidelines before returning in Round 14 against Sydney at the SCG. A few days later, he was ruled out for the rest of the year with ANOTHER break. Oh how things could’ve gone this year with a fully fit Drew Petrie…

Farewells:

Corey Jones retired from the AFL in Round 22 against Melbourne at the MCG after playing just two games for 2010. Brad Scott couldn’t stress enough that Jones had earnt his spot and wasn’t just given a farewell game. Scott’s words were justified when in a tense final quarter, Jones bobbed up to kick two goals to help North skip away from the Demons and win. He will be missed by all North supporters. Also bidding North farewell are Warren Benjamin, Alan Obst, Conor Meredith and Josh Smith, while the futures of Gavin Urquhart, David Hale, Ben Ross and Matt Campbell are yet to be decided.

What next?

Finals in 2011. I can say that without any hesitation or doubt. North Melbourne WILL play finals in 2011, along with Melbourne. They have a great list, and all of those youngsters mentioned above are great, but the likes that weren’t mentioned include Jack Ziebell, Liam Anthony, Ed Lower, Andrew Swallow, Ben Cunnington, Ryan Bastinac, Ben Speight, Marcus White and Jamie Macmillan. Expect all of those players to play a significant role in 2011, while the old heads of Harvey, Rawlings, Petrie, Firrito and Wells will push for the unlikely September appearance, and it’ll be a well deserved one.

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:

    Good stuff Josh

    Concerning the Roos, an issue which I’m sure is close to your heart springs to mind.

    They seemed largely consigned to a Foxtel broadcast ghetto during the season. With 13 matches not on free to air, it must make it difficult to attract sponsors, not to mention fans from out of town.

    The Roos have a big presence in Ballarat. They would all need to travel to Melbourne if they wanted to see their lads.

    Hopefully you don’t suffer further next year as the AFL pushes the Gold Coast bandwagon.

  2. Thanks JB.

    I am concerned with the number of free-to-air games we get (or don’t get), but when I think about it, in the first 13 rounds of the year I was able to watch North Melbourne (either off the TV or live at a game) 9 times, which is a very good record. We didn’t get many other free-to-air matches in the second half of the year but I think we got a satisfactory amount of games on TV. I would like to see more in 2011 though. Anything to get Collingwood off the telly.

  3. Josh,

    Quite impressively, you managed to mention 32 different Roos. Surprisingly, Hamish McIntosh, Daniel Pratt and Scott McMahon didn’t get a gig, and Andrew Swallow (in my opinion a BIG improver this season) only got a passing mention at the end.

    I think you’re a bit harsh on Josh Smith, from what I’ve heard he is a very talented shot blocker and a skilful slam dunker. Not something many potatoes could claim to be able to do.

    Adam

  4. Well he doesn’t have a brain because he’s PLAYING THE WRONG SPORT!

    Swallow was great last year, and followed it up this year so he didn’t really improve to a big degree, but he still enhanced his game. Same with McIntosh and McMahon, although I could’ve named McIntosh in the big improvers as he had a few issues last year.

  5. Steve Healy says:

    great report Josh, yeah it’s hard to say how much Swallow’s improved cos looking at his stats he is averaging quite a few more possessions and tackles but he still won the best and fairest last year and this year he has a few others to contend with

  6. Thorough analysis Josh

    I think it says a lot about the lack of profile that the Roos have that everyone is predicting great things for Melbourne next year but conveniently forgetting that North beat them twice this year and finished ahead of them on the ladder. I only saw North live once – against the Tigers in the wet – but I was most impressed at their evenness and attack on the ball. We constantly underestimate North.

  7. Andrew Starkie says:

    Great report Josh. Spot on. I can’t recall being so satisfied when missing the finals. We’ll go one better next year. All of the young players mentioned above willcontinue to improve. Getting Drew back is the key. Go Roos.

  8. John Butler says:

    Stainless

    I think you’re right. I also think expectations relate to the out of sight out of mind syndrome you can suffer if confined to Foxtel too much.

    I really think the club needs to fight this issue with broadcasters for next season.

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