A glimpse into North Melbourne’s future

Some games of footy are a drama in 3 acts, complete with unlikely
heroes, plot twists, and a thrilling denouement. We’ve had our share of
those this year: getting the St Kilda monkey off our backs with Sam
Wright standing up to Brendan Goddard, and Wells’s sublime last quarter;
Boomer’s inspired 5 minutes stealing the game from Essendon after 3
injuries in the first quarter; Lindsay Thomas putting his yips to bed
once and for all in our only Friday night for the year. But most games
aren’t like that. Sometimes we just have to take from games what they
have to offer. And sometimes what they offer is a glimpse of the

In May, I sat through one of these in the top deck of the stadium at
Docklands, as the Kangas squandered a scintillating first half to run
out underwhelming 16-point winners over Brisbane. On the back of
disheartening results against Footscray and Port, the season was
starting to look like a wasted opportunity, and many of us were
wondering whether this group was ever going to come together. Is trying
to rebuild through the draft during an expansion era a doomed endeavour?
But there were 3 moments in that game that made me glad I was there to
see them for myself.

In the second quarter Aaron Black, playing just his second senior game,
came charging out on the lead, cleanly picked a tricky bouncing kick
into the 50 and handed it off to Harvey, streaking past him goalwards.
Wow, the kid’s tall, athletic and skilful.

In the last, with most of the interest wrung out of the game, Shaun
Atley took a regulation uncontested mark from a clearing kick at the
defensive end of the centre square … then turned and took off like a
startled rabbit. His Lions opponent just kind of stopped, dumbfounded,
and a little buzz went up around the ground. Geez, the kid’s quick.

That play started by Atley ended up with a contested ball in North’s
forward pocket. Kieran Harper dove into the contest, wrenched the ball
away from a couple of defenders, bounced up and kicked an improbable
goal across his body. Freak.

This weekend, North and GWS played out a game that almost gave new
meaning to “Underwhelming”. But fans of each side would have seen a bit
of future here and there.

Ben Cunnington. How Bloody Good Is Ben Cunnington Going To Be? Scoops up
a ball on the wing. Turns back toward the defensive side looking for a
handball option. Sees Aaron Mullet running to the wrong side of him,
so dishes off a no-look handball over his other shoulder. Mullet doesn’t
have to break stride, burns off his man and delivers into the forward
line. Poetry. I reckon Mullet might turn out all right too.

For GWS, it’s pretty much all future. Greene and Giles in particular
looked good, and we already knew Callan Ward could play. And Izzy Folau.
When he had every right to have put the cue in the rack for the year,
kept at it all day and rewarded the GWSites with a couple of nice
efforts for a goal and an assist. From the choppy video I was watching,
the home crowd seemed pretty appreciative. He’ll never have Cunnington’s
awareness at this game, but I hope it goes well for him. If he
comes on anywhere near as well as K.Hunt, it’ll be a good result for

Since the Brisbane game, Atley has made a bit of a name for himself as a
dashing half back. Black’s couple of midseason games turned out to be a
cameo appearance, but he still looks to have a bright future as a tall
forward. Harper’s still a bit in-between, maybe. But it’s unfair to
compare a forward flanker unfavourably to guys the same age whose job it
is to get a lot of the ball, especially when “the same age” is 19 or 20.

And so to finals. Not all that confident about the trip West, but let’s
see if we can’t at least throw up a few memorable moments.


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    Robc, it’s been a very interesting season thus far – to say the least. I’ll write my view on it when we finish (not for at least one week, I hope). whatever happens on Sunday, I’m very proud of our boys. At the start of the year, i was confident we’d play finals, but when we were 4-6 it looked like another mediocre year. For the club to turn it around, it has been a fine effort. We are the Oakland A’s of the AFL.

    Go Roos!

  2. Andrew, I like the Oakland A’s comparison; small market, getting good value out of — ahem — reasonably priced players and middling draft positions. A smart footy department outperforming some better-resourced ones.

    If we’re going to stick with baseball comparisons, how about Bull Durham? The scene where Crash tells a struggling Nuke that “This game’s supposed to be fun, dammit. Are you having fun?” comes to mind when the players talk about having to remind each other to enjoy their footy after the Hawthorn game.

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Spot on rob. would’ve been an interesting debrief on the Monday post Hawthorn. What a turn around!! Go you Rooboys!!

  4. Terry Barnstable says

    Josh has seen 16 matches live over the last three years without seeing the Roo’s lose, including the big three this year, without me, Geelong, essendon and best of all Collingwood

  5. Don’t underestimate the Roos They may turn out to be too fast for the ageing eagles We can beat them. Don’t be too surprised. I won’t be.

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