AFL Round 10: North squander chances while Simon Black takes his

North Melbourne 12.9.81 lost to Brisbane 15.9.99

2.10pm, Saturday, May 30

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

by Andrew Starkie

The Preston Market is my late Friday afternoon ritual. Ham and Cheese from the Greek deli. Salmon from the Vietnamese fish shop. Piped James Taylor floating above the friendly din.

Looking down proudly like a portrait of the queen in a bush town hall, a WEG poster from the ’99 premiership adorns Italian Dave’s family fruit stall.

Dave and I conduct weekly pre-game talk. He shakes his head frequently when discussing North.

‘Dunno this week, Andy. Just dunno…’ he regularly concedes.

Dave’s brother gave up on footy’s possession game a few years ago, turning to the less mentally demanding NRL and Melbourne Storm. He smiles like a prisoner who has just jumped the back fence, or someone who has discovered the secret to eternal happiness.

‘Laidley ain’t got the cattle,’ he likes to proclaim.

Dave and I are agreed this week. Win the clearances, limit supply to Brown and Bradshaw and we’re a chance against Brisbane. And another thing: Ziebell has the hair and the game to win a brownlow. Dave’s cutting the heads of corn and wiping his knife on his leather apron.

I share this summation with Wally as we take our seats on the flank in the Medallion Club (Yes, I delivered on my promise this week). He agrees, North are a show today. We’re joined by assorted family, including Wally’s son Darcy and my nephew, Lukey. It’s Saturday afternoon footy and I’m surrounded by friends and loved ones. Where else would you want to be? Come on, North!

Alas, my confidence is soon shaken with the announcement of Grima’s withdrawal. His two games in defence have been impressive and his big body will be missed. Harris, who must do a good job washing the coach’s car, replaces him.

Gibson goes to Brown. If he cleans up Brown today, he’ll do the same on Melbourne’s dance floors tonight. Thompson picks up Bradshaw and all of our defenders are smaller than their opponents.

Brisbane start well. They look sharp; their skills clean. Sherman kicks the first and celebrates like he’s won a flag. Adcock drives through the middle and kicks another.

Our forward pressure is encouraging. Harding and Petrie are throwing their bodies around. However, Brisbane playing an extra man on Hale causes confusion. Our ball use lacks efficiency and we keep turning it over. A diligent work ethic brings two late goals and Brisbane’s lead narrows to five points at quarter-time.

Our tackling and intensity unsettle Brisbane early in the second quarter. Simpson is winning the clearances and goals to Warren and Thomas give North the lead. Come on! Attack and press home the advantage.

No! We’re decreasing speed and tempo and attempting to over-possess. We don’t have the skill to play possession footy. Don’t they know that by now? Our delivery forward is terrible.

We’re letting Brisbane back in. They’re seizing the momentum again with slick, direct ball movement. Thomas won’t chase McGrath who is running free. Rich and Power are controlling the middle. Brown and Bradshaw kick their first. Hooper, his second.

We’ve had our chance and didn’t take it. Brisbane by thirteen at half-time.

Though quiet in the first half, the third quarter belongs to Simon Black. He boldly and artistically demonstrates the two great facets of our game – courage and skill. In separate passages of play, both leading to goals, he hands the decisive advantage to Brisbane.

In the first passage, midway through the term, Black displays his bravery. He throws himself at a contest, intercepting a North forward move. The ball spills to Sherman, who kicks his second.

At the following centre-bounce, Black’s superb talent emerges. He roves the ruck contest, surfs through a blind turn and delivers beautifully to a moving target. This piece of pure footy starkly illustrates the difference between the two teams. Suddenly Brisbane lead by four goals.

Petrie’s long goal on the siren brings North within nineteen points. However, Simon Black has decided this game.

A quick study of the scoreboard during the break provides an accurate description of the match to this point. Four goals to three in each quarter represents the edge Brisbane have had all day. Our endeavour is great, our execution is not.

The final term passes quietly. Black and Rich continue to dominate. Rich has the game and hair as well. North persist, but turn over possession regularly. Huddled under a hoodie and scarf, Lukey’s been quiet all day. Now he wants to play ‘rock, paper, scissors’. I’m tempted, but decline the offer.

Brisbane breaks the scoring pattern by equalling North’s three goals for the quarter. Hooper and Warren each kick their fourth and Brisbane win by three goals.

The train journey home offers time for reflection. We won the clearances and held Brown and Bradshaw to three goals between them. Yet, we still lost. I wonder what Dave will have to say next week. His brother may be right about North this year.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Love your reports Andrew

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