Roos season that was

Here’s my take on the season that was for the Rooboys:

Season highlights:

Our best win of the season came against Carlton in round 12.  Friday night, big crowd, season on the line.  I sat with a couple of typically arrogant Blue mates behind their interchange bench and rejoiced with every Lindsay Thomas goal and Scott Thompson run out of defence.  It was as close to heaven I’ve been since the ’99 GF.

The ANZAC Day victory over Hawthorn in Launceston was full of character, particularly considering we surrendered the lead late in the game.  The come from behind win against the Eagles in round 21, Boomer’s 300th, again showed a developing maturity in our young team.  Levi’s wobbly match winner from the boundary in the dying seconds against Brisbane provided the opportunity for a full-throated roar, while the late season win over Freo at a sunny Etihad showed we are now capable of free-flowing, attacking and attractive footy.

Brad Scott has brought a positive and aggressive game plan.  This is a relief after the defensiveness of the Laidley years.  His ability to maintain the positivity and focus in the group when our season threatened to unravel on a couple of occasions was impressive.

After a poor start to the season, I feared for the worst, however, to finish with eleven wins, missing the finals by percentage only, is an extremely encouraging result.  2011 brings great hope.

Season lowlight:

Any loss to Essendon is the ‘season lowlight’.  This year especially as the 3 point defeat in round 17 ended our finals hopes.  Not that I’m making excuses, but we already had a long injury list when Pratt and Grima pulled out an hour before the game and Wells tore his quad while running onto the ground.  We started the match a player short, before Hale, who had played for North Ballarat that arvo, and was in the stands scoffing hotdogs, had to borrow a pair of boots and get out there.  Meanwhile, the Bombers had kicked three early goals and we never closed the gap.  And we had a goal disallowed late in the last term.  Not that I’m making excuses.

Our meek performances against the top teams were troubling.  St. Kilda beat us by 104 points at Easter time.  We almost lost nephew Lukey that night.  He was mercifully put to bed at half-time.  We were thumped by 12 goals twice by the Bulldogs.  The first occasion included the embarrassing schoolyard bullying of Barry Hall.  Our first goal came late in the second term when Barry retaliated and gave away two 50m penalties.  Before that, we didn’t look like scoring.  The Cats did what they usually do and toyed with us at the Cattery and the Saturday night encounter against the Pies at the G was over early.  The limp effort away to Freo round 10 was considered our worst by many observers.

We allowed the top teams to push us around in 2010.  To compete with the best in September, North need to believe they’re good enough to be there.  Simple.

Our scoring ability remains a problem.  Thomas was our leading goalkicker with 29 and half of those came in three or four games.  Hansen has emerged, however, we need more from him next year.  And, of course, we need Petrie back up forward.  Whoever (coach or doctor) was ‘responsible’ for his three broken feet in half a season should have their bums kicked.  Let’s hope Drew’s career  is not over.

As mentioned above, Scott’s game plan is attacking and empowers the players to back themselves.  However, at times, we over used handball in defence.  In the last game against the Demons, we turned it over a lot and a better team would have beaten us.  Our new style reminds me of Geelong.  I applaud this approach, however, Scotty needs to be cautious; we aren’t as good as the Cats just yet.

Finally, we’re still a bit slow in the midfield.  Personally, I don’t consider this as big a problem as some.  Remember, we won premierships not long ago with slow onballers.  You only look slow if you haven’t got the ball in your hands.

The improvers:

There’s much good to say here.  Swallow has learned to combine goal kicking with his natural strong body work at stoppages.  He may claim back-to-back B&Fs.  Grima had an injury interrupted season, however, established himself as our best defender.  He is strong and athletic and his effort on Pavlich in round 19 – again after returning from injury – was superb.  Alongside him is Thompson, who, despite embarrassing himself against Big Barry, had another good year.  He’s a passionate Roo, is more than an annoying, negating defender and his long running goal in Boomer’s 300th, sealed the win and his own season.

Greenwood is developing into a leading defensive onballer, consider his job on Juddy, who can also go forward, as shown against Brisbane.  He’s tough and proud and produced his best game round 22 against Melbourne.  As predicted preseason, Rawlings moved into defence and produced one of his better years, serving as a link man out of trouble.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think he was in the 40 man all-Australian squad.

Goldstein surpassed Hamish as our best ruckman.  A goalkicker, surprisingly agile and able to pick the ball up from the ground, he was a pleasure to observe gain in confidence.  2011 should bring further progress.  Wright and Bastinac kicked late season goals.  As mentioned above,  the persistence with Hansen paid off and he should play many games at CHF.  Anthony and Ziebell showed good early form before injuries finished their seasons.  Both young men have suffered big injuries which may hinder their careers long-term.

Fourteen players have debuted for North in the past two seasons and nearly all have contributed.

I can’t include Boomer in this section as he didn’t improve.  He was just himself, producing his usual brilliance with some of the best goals (and points) of the year. Boomer is a legend of the game.

The sliders:

Hale and Urquhart have been the big sliders.  Both enjoyed excellent seasons in 2008, however, have disappointed since.  Hale lacks intensity and competitiveness, while Urquhart’s kicking, once penetrating and accurate, has become erratic.  He no longer drops the ball correctly onto his boot.  Although the rumour is Hale wants out of Arden Street for another Melbourne club, don’t be surprised if both players head home to the GC.

Tarrant’s persistent injuries have hampered his development and Benjamin and Josh Smith have been delisted.  Corey Jones has retired.

Giggle moments:

Aaron Edwards: hangers, clangers, dropped chest marks, inability to read the play, screaming leads to nowhere that are thankfully ignored by teammates, and most of all, his uncanny ability to score in junk time and save his spot in the team for next week.  Aaron’s only in the team because of Drew’s injury, but now I’ve learned to accept him, he makes me laugh.  Although I’ll never be able to accept he wears Keith Greig’s number.

Lament:

I say this with trepidation and expect to be shouted down for the obvious reasons, however, I have to say, my lament is our fixture.  I won’t call it a draw, because it’s not. The AFL season is fixed and determined by priorities such as potential crowd size and TV audience.  We all know and live with this.  And as a Roo, I know we always get the wrong end of the stick.  That’s life, but I’ll have a gripe anyway.  Round 1 was away to Port Adelaide.  Our first home game wasn’t until two weeks later – against the Eagles.  We played Carlton, Essendon, Geelong and Collingwood only once each.  We had four Sunday twilight games – including the final three rounds.  Try doing that to the Pies.

Having said all that, I enjoyed the many Saturday games we had.  Very old school.

What next?

Finals in 2011.

Comments

  1. Good season review Andrew, read it not too long ago on the NMFC website you have going.

    Would love to have a couple of my North Melbourne articles posted on there.

    Bring on 2011.

    P.S. Thoughts on North getting Ben McKinley in trade week? He seems to be the person we are targeting, can’t wait to get him into the blue and white stripes.

  2. Andrew,
    Some excellent observations, most of which I whole-heartedly agree with.
    The fixture was a big bug-bear of mine all season, and I would complain
    about it to anyone who would listen (and not many did listen!) It really
    was terrible, and I reckon even Collingwood’s crowds would be sharply down
    if they were forced to endure a “draw” comparable to North’s…it would
    make an interesting thesis!
    Interestingly, early in the season Eugene Arocca publicly voiced his disgust
    with the fixture and was quickly slapped down by Demetriou. It just proves
    my long-held belief that the fixture is one of the AFL’s great weapons in its
    battles with miscreant clubs.
    For me, Goldstein was the improver of the year. I think next year he will be
    a revelation. Swallow improved as expected. I am surprised Edwards is still on
    the list, but I guess you cannot de-list everyone. If North get something
    tangible for Hale it will be a good result.
    Josh, I am undecided about McKinley’s worth. It would depend on what is given
    in exchange.
    Smokie Dawson.

  3. I think with Hale possibly being traded to Melbourne or the Hawks, we give him off for free. Why? We don’t need Hale, we have Goldstein and McIntosh, and even Petrie for back-up Ruckman, and extra room in the salary cap doesn’t hurt, and it’s not like we would get a star for Hale.

  4. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Agree with you about the fixture being a fix. The competition lacks credibility because of it. Can’t do much about it other than believe in football karma. I’d love to see an even draw and as the new teams enter the competition the AFL has a responsibility to treat all teams fairly if they expect the national audience to take the game seriously.

Leave a Comment

*