AFL Round 15: Wild weather at York Park

As a North supporter, I’ve frequently travelled interstate, but it’s generally been on the cheersquad bus.  A trip to Tasmania doesn’t allow such luxury, and I was happy to fly to Tassie, knowing that North could probably come up with an upset win against the reigning Premiers, as they had been thumped by the Bulldogs the week before, in what can best be described as an insipid performance.

Our Jetstar flight was delayed, but I didn’t care – North hard-man, and my mum’s favourite player, Daniel Pratt, was on board, and the delay gave me an opportunity of saying hello.  He should have been playing, but was rubbed out for a week for a careless action.

On arriving at Aurora Stadium, I saw Hawks great Peter Hudson being interviewed by local Tassie media, and then made my way to my seat, not too far from the entrance.  It was a cold day, but we had sunshine, and had no inkling of what the weather Gods had in store for us.

Hawthorn-North Melbourne games have recently been bruising encounters, and this one was no different.  Plenty of aggravation out there, and I could tell that North was going to be playing a determined Hawthorn outfit that had been humiliated the week before.  Cyril Rioli and Lance Franklin were showing their pace and skills, but that didn’t worry me early on.  What worried me was the torrential downpour, hailstones, lightning and thunderstorms to my immediate left, which sounded like F1 fighter planes, and I took note of some of the players freaking out as much as me.  The hailstones were as big as golf balls, and I saw a couple of TV cameramen on the top deck of the Stadium, make a hasty retreat.  An unusual case of OH &S.

Considering the weather, the players skills were pretty good.  I thought that in the torrential rain, if the players along with the 15,000 strong crowd didn’t come down with pneumonia in such weather, we never would!

Welcome return to footy for Cyril Rioli, who clearly displayed the skills he possesses, and which the Hawks had missed since his injury.

In atrocious conditions, Drew Petrie made an attempt at Mark of the Year, and would have taken the Toyota had he held onto the Sherrin.  North was kicking the ball into the forward-line often enough, but was lacking the crumbers around goal to make an impact the scoreboard.  Gone are the days of the nineties, when kicking the footy into the North forward-line meant sure-fire success.

The weather didn’t let up in the second quarter, rain came down, constantly, and us Melburians can only dream of such downpours.  Continual stoppages in the second quarter and players were slip sliding away, all over Aurora, including Corey Jones, who was playing his 150th game.  North has a habit of doing well in milestones, so I was optimistic for a victory.  Lindsay Thomas was a welcome return to the team for North, kicking a goal, and showing his pace, despite the weather.  Leigh Harding, still affectionately known as “Turtle”, was proving versatile at both ends of the ground, and his efforts in teaming with Thomas provided an exciting goal from Captain Brent Harvey.   The well-built Levi Greenwood (read: great six-pack!!) was a late inclusion for ruckman Todd Goldstein, and proved that he was no push-over either, frequently going toe-to-toe with Coleman Medallist Lance Franklin.  North’s tackling pressure on the ground was exceptional, and the Hawks’s inaccuracy in front of goal, was ensuring the game was going to be an entertaining one.

Questionable free to the Hawks for “too high” allowed Hawthorn to bridge the gap.  A knee injury to Gavin Urquarht ended his day early, and North was minus a player on the bench.

Hawthorn’s midfield must have copped a spray from the coach,  because they certainly lifted during the second quarter, and it was tough contested footy in the driving rain, both teams wanting a win.

Ballups after ballups, I’ve lost count, and a fabulous dual between Josh Gibson and Lance Franklin.

Towards the half-time siren, the wind had died down, and the skill level of the players improved as well.  A good old fashioned brawl erupted with Campbell Brown (surprise, not!) Brady Rawlings and Leigh Harding was good to watch, must confess.  Nine point difference at the long break, and I was confident of a North win.

The sun finally decided to return during the long break, when I went to get a hot coffee.  Standing in the coffee queue, I met several North supporters who had travelled from all parts of Tasmania to see North.  It was really good to see plenty of local Tassies supporting the blue and white, one family making a four hour drive.

The groundsmen came out with super soppers, and spent the entire half-time break clearing away the excess water.  It was funny to watch.

Very surprisingly, the third quarter saw no rain and Jarryd Roughead continue his inaccuracy in front of goal, going out of bounds, to the jeers of us North supporters.  North’s tackling pressure didn’t let up, and this led to more frustration from Lance Franklin, who had his number taken, for rough play.  Brad Sewell was gathering plenty of possessions, and he must have had B.O. because nobody was getting near him.

North’s mature-age recruit, Liam Anthony, was putting in a wonderful game, and would have been leading North’s possession count.  Excellent for a guy who’s only playing in his third game!

Another case of the yips from Petrie leads the Hawks backline to send the ball into their forward-line with great skills from Bateman and Franklin, and eventually allowed Roughead to kick a soccer-style goal.

North’s other youngster Leigh Adams played well, kicking his second goal, and the margin was never greater than a couple of kicks.  I was impressed with some of our young players, while a couple of the more experienced ones were grating on my nerves.  None more so than David Hale, who seriously needs some goal-kicking practice.  His inaccuracy in front of the big sticks cost us the win against the Swans in Sydney, and I hoped history would not repeat itself.

The Hawks cranked it up a gear, with a massive long bomb goal from Vice Captain Luke Hodge, and it was evident that the Hawks’ work-rate was considerably better than it had been, and North’s intensity had gone down in bucket loads.  I was happy when former Captain Adam Simpson kicked a wonderful goal, as I hoped it would stop Hawthorn’s momentum.  Jarryd Roughead was still spraying his shots at goal, and Franklin had yet to register a major, up till the third quarter, so I was still hopeful at three-quarter time.  Michael Osborne had kicked a “lucky” goal, due to a dubious umpiring free, but Leigh Harding’s third goal for North, right on the siren, still had me confident of a long-awaited win.

14 points separated the teams at the three-quarter time siren.  However, a strong contested mark and subsequent first goal from Lance Franklin, proved that the sleeping giant had finally awoken, just one-minute into the last quarter.  Taking his lead from Franklin, David Hale FINALLY kicked his first goal for the day shortly afterwards, to the sounds of relief from us North supporters.

Excellent battles going on around the ground between Gibson and Franklin,  and Hodge and Adam Simpson.  A shot on goal from Simpson was called “touched” but looked like a goal from my seat in the second row.  Hawthorn however, sensed the urgency, and the Sherrin was quickly in their forward-line, with Franklin, once again, taking another contested mark, and kicking his second goal of the quarter and game.  I could see the game disappearing into another loss, and we were still 9 points in front.

Luke “The General” Hodge was showing his skills, and combining with Franklin, helped the latter to kick another two goals, to end his quarter and game with four goals, and confirm North’s sixth loss in a row.  I can’t recall a time since we lost 6 games in a row.  Must have been during the 1980s.  Three minutes to go, and we were still in front.  If only the siren had rung earlier…

Plenty of highlights and funny moments during the game, including Michael Firrito throwing Bent Guerra’s boot away, after a mini-brawl, only to have it go in the direction of a Hawks official.  The near attempts at Mark of the Year from Drew Petrie and Leigh Harding were admirable, to say the least.  And the rampaging efforts of Lance Franklin in the last quarter in particular, were excellent to watch, I have to admit that.  He was like a bull in a china shop.

Three weeks under a new caretaker coach, and I could see a definite change in attitude towards North’s style of play, definitely more-attacking, and as a result, more exciting to watch, than the defensive style of footy we’d become accustomed to.  Next week Richmond, hopefully we get to sing the song!

About Roseann Testagrossa

Footy tragic, North Melbourne supporter and cheersquad member,but don't totally hate other clubs, except Carlton of course. Have a strong liking of Hawthorn, and hope to see my Roos improve in upcoming seasons.

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