Round 4 – North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: The good things from a heartbreaking Friday
I’ve been supporting North Melbourne for 15 years. My dad is a diehard and he trained me up from a very young age. After making my debut at (what was then) the Telstra Dome as a seven year old, little did I know I was about to commence the longest and toughest relationship of my life. There would be happiness, disappointments, sheer euphoria, anger and above all, heartbreak. The desperation to see the club do so well, and to have them let you down once again. However, upon this rollercoaster ride – there’s always love, there’s always dedication and there’s always pride.
I felt all three of those things on Friday. Twenty-five years after Good Friday was first put on the cards, the dream and the vision had finally become a reality.
While the signs were good, once again the result was not. North are in much better shape than their 0-4 suggests, however a gallant effort means little in this game, and a Hawthorn victory this weekend could see North in rock bottom.
I am very emotional when it comes to football. While I went through moments of disappointment, anger and heartbreak – after I calmed down, all that remained was pride.
While North didn’t win the game, they won the battle. The AFL did not lock in the game as a permanent ‘Good Friday’ fixture, so they left both clubs to make that decision for them. A crowd of close to 43,000 flooded the Docklands to witness an outstanding game of football. Everyone on the edge of their seats, audiences across the country were treated to what should be the first of many Good Friday specials.
Off the field, both sides did an incredible job raising money for the Royal Children’s Hospital. In what was the most important focus on the day, it was done to perfection. North’s feature on Jedd Arrowsmith was heartwarming; there were few dry eyes under the roof. His story touched the hearts of everyone, and his beaming smile as he walked onto the field to toss the coin was priceless, and the winning moment from the game. Both sides were welcomed onto the field by a guard of honour, featuring kids from the Royal Children’s Hospital. Their energy and excitement blew everyone away. Finally, Zane Tomey stole the show during Brad’s press conference, and once again the public were reminded about the true meaning of Friday’s game. A huge some of money was raised, and contributed to the grand total of over $17 million.
The game reached heart stopping heights, and once again it was left to the kids to inspire the Roos. Jy Sympkin was influential – in just his third game, he kicked two opportunist goals, threw himself at every contest, and despite going out of bounds, sold some very good candy. If those are the signs of what’s to come, North fans can get very excited. The same goes for Kayne Turner and Trent Dumont, who both were brilliant once again. Going from strength to strength in 2017, the young duo impressed crowds. Add the marking strength and grit of Taylor Garner to the mix, and you’ve got an electric combo.
In the absence of Waite, Ben Brown once again proved his capabilities and importance in the side and the future. Kicking four goals on Friday, he passed 100 career goals and his imposing presence kept North in front and on fire in the first half.
Todd Goldstein’s future at North was a huge talking point this week, with the emergence of Braydon Preuss putting pressure on the number one ruck man to perform… and his response was perfect. 21 disposals, 7 marks, 29 hit outs and a goal – he was one of the best on ground. So too, Ben Cunnington. His strength proving too much for the opposition once again, and he’s enjoying the best start to a season he’s had in years.
But frustrations grow amongst the North fans, as questions continue to surround the experienced heads. While Ziebell stood up and inspired in the final quarter, his poor disposal early on was uncharacteristic. Swallow was better than previous weeks, but struggled to have an enormous impact. And upon return, Scott Thompson struggled to have the impact of Hansen and Tarrant.
Haunting memories of 2013 are also starting to surface, with North giving up another big lead, and losing their second game by less than a goal.
The positives are there, and we are well aware the future is bright – but in the heat of the game, and the peak of emotion – all you see is red. Despite another brave effort, that’s still a winless North Melbourne in 2017.
Their efforts, however, may see them lock in the Good Friday fixture – for now at least. Money raised, a cracking game and high numbers there to see it in action or from home, it was a winning formula.
North now march on to round five and have eight days to prepare for Perth. For the first time this season, the Roos will play a bottom ten side from 2016 and you can be guaranteed it’ll be another hard fought contest.
For supporters, hang in there. The short term pain will result in long term gain, and North will reap the rewards of a very bright future.