AFL Round 16 – North Melbourne v Hawthorn: Go for the throat

OK, so …

… um.

Right then.

Still trying to make sense of this.

The story of the game is simple enough.

Even given North’s tendency to get up for good sides this season, there was no real reason to think they were in with any sort of shot against the hawks no matter how embarrassed they were about the Brisbane debacle. Already missing a half dozen of their best 22, North would be without Ziebell again, a precautionary week off for a sore knee. This surely would more than offset the missing Cyril, Gibson and Hill on the other side, especially with Mitchell back and Clarko returning to the box.

Of course they came out breathing fire. Jumped the hawks in the first quarter, held on in the second. When Hawthorn came out intent on physical intimidation in the third, stepped it up again with a thrilling 15-minute burst to get out to a 6 goal lead. Meanwhile, Brad Scott’s half time instruction to “go for the throat” carried through the dressing room walls and confused Brian Lake. An early goal from our Gibbo — the good Gibbo, not the preening metrosexual turncoat, the other one — in the 4th stopped Hawthorn’s last real shot at any momentum, and the good guys ran out an improbable 20-point win.

Drew Petrie continued his form revival with 5 goals. At the other end Lachie Hansen drifted across and back into packs, marking everything he could reach. Swallow, Boomer, Dal and Levi were industrious, while Black and Brown rounded out the least dysfunctional tall forward group we’ve seen this year.

The outs of Cyril and Hill were probably telling after all, with next in line tagging targets Smith and Bruest proving easier assignments for Ben Jacobs and Sam Wright, both of whom have struggled to prove their senior level bona fides so far this year. The Hawks never got enough easy uncontested ball or outside run to impose themselves on the game.

Gunston was terrific for Hawthorn with 6, and didn’t look like missing. Hard to think of another Hawks player to win his position. Roughie maybe, but faded out after a bright start. Ceglar was good in the ruck (though Goldstein was better).

What it really got me pondering was where it fits into the question “Can Brad Scott coach?”, an ongoing source of angst and disagreement for us North types.

The case for the negative rests on his inability to get them up two weeks in a row, his tendency to back the group to redeem themselves time and again rather than show any tough love, leading to complacency. Anti-Scottists also like to point the finger at his game day performances, trotting out the old “No plan B” chestnut.

His press conferences are maddeningly repetitive, and too often are filled with tough talk that isn’t backed up at the selection table.

The pro-Scott position goes a bit like this:

He’s good at long term strategy more than short term tactics. He backs his gameplan and the playing group to execute it (see for example, his reluctance to tag very much). He believes in preparation and planning more than game-day tricks.

His gameday failings are overstated. Granted, he doesn’t seem to be great at changing things up within quarters, but he gets matchups right more often than not, and has started to show more ability to turn around bad performances in the breaks.

Every year he has been there, the team has got better. If we’re going to be 9-6, it might as well be on the back of a handful of performances against the top 4 that are better than anything we’ve seen in the Scott era. Had they lost those 4 but beaten Brisbane, Essendon, Adelaide and Gold Coast, it would be a whole different sort of frustration, and I reckon a lot more doubt about what they were capable of.

We’re probably all agreed that inconsistency is North’s single biggest problem right now, and that the coach has to put his hand up as being part of the problem.

But …

To make the logical leap that he’s a terrible coach, I think you have to believe that the inconsistency of motivation and effort is all his fault, and that it’s a permanent, irredeemable flaw. I don’t happen to believe either of those things right now.

Ask me again at the end of the season.


  1. My theory with Scott is that when he doesn’t try to coach too much he’s a good coach. North are a good running, attacking side. Whenever Scott or circumstances have forced them into being a chipping/slow the game down/defensive structures side they are shit.
    When the Hawks came at them early in the third quarter you could see North players getting nervous and going back into their shells. Lake’s brain fades saved North’s from themselves. Other Hawks like Hodge started to join in, and North said “we’re not going to be bullied, we’ll show them” and kicked 5 clear by taking chances again.
    There is a big lesson in Friday night for North, which explains how and why they beat good sides (they have nothing to lose) and trip over themselves against poor sides (they think themselves up their own arseholes).
    Maybe you could encourage Brad to get a rare disease and vacate the box for a couple of months.

  2. matt watson says

    I’m not sold on Brad Scott yet.
    I think our development has been too slow and there does seem to be no plan B.
    I think the issue many people have with Scott is related to the list.
    It doesn’t appear anywhere like a premiership capable list – no stars, no game breakers – just a solid list without frills.
    But, 9-6 is a reasonable effort.
    It is what happens from here that will define his legacy.

  3. Rick Kane says

    Hi Rob C

    It was a good win to the Roos. They played in front and hard contested footy and the Hawks played catch up footy most of the night. i reckon Clarko captured it neatly when he said, the Roos had the run of the green and they made their luck.

    The game was there to be won in the Third. Hawks hit the front but the Roos didn’t blink. Then Lake did whatever the f**k it was that he did (he won’t be around next year) and it unsettled the Hawks. As you would expect. It unsettled me and I was sitting next to a fire watching on telly. The Roos stayed focussed. To their credit.

    PB, I don’t agree with your assessment of Hodge. He has always been hard at the footy but by and large he plays the ball. When he took Swallow (I think it was Swallow) down he immediately stopped and checked that he was okay. In stark difference to Lake behaviour.

    As for Scott. Any coach that can beat the 4 top sides is an excellent coach.


  4. Rob,
    As I have, ahem, mentioned before, I am firmly in the anti-BScott camp. I thought he coached terribly in 2013, even though this year has been better.
    Like Matt, I am really concerned at the slow pace of player development at North – it cannot always be blamed on the lack of dollars.

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