AFL Round 17 – North Melbourne v Carlton: Too many demons

By Andrew Starkie

This was a bad game of footy.

A bad game of footy between two ordinary teams.

Carlton won by 1 point because they weren’t good enough to win by more. And because North did as they’ve been doing throughout this horrible season – rolled over.

Back from a two week holiday for headbutting a GWS schoolboy, Lindsay did what he usually does against Carlton and bluff three first quarter goals to get North underway.

‘We should win by 10 goals,’ I said at this point to Litza and Hughesy, two paid up citizens of the Evil Empire and my companions at The Dungeon. ‘But we won’t.’

North were bigger, more skillful, more capable and should’ve wiped the floor with Carlton.

But the Blues hung in and waited, knowing North would eventually succumb.

North’s 2013 fade-outs have usually come late in games. They didn’t wait that long this time. When Carlton challenged halfway through the first term, North sighed and meekly retreated, carrying the look of a team with too many demons.

Four late goals gave Carlton the lead and belief.

The second and third quarters were ordinary. All North needed to conjure was 20 minutes of grit to seize control. They tried, but their efforts were hollow. Their play lacked purpose for the inevitable was hanging over them.

Carlton sensed North hearts weren’t in the contest, so they knuckled down. Their skills and decision making weren’t much good, but hard work saw the lead stretch to an unconvincing five goals. Kreuzer was on top of a tired Goldstein, Garlett was nippy and dangerous, and Henderson, a strong target up forward, was too good for Grima.

Malthouse employed his version of Pagan’s Paddock. Carlton were able to rebound out of defence, get one or two out the back and run North ragged. It’s an unattractive tactic and unlikely to stand up under finals pressure if Carlton somehow scrape into September action, but it’s worked on occasions this season.

Brad Scott could’ve countered Malthouse’s game plan by keeping one or two defenders back when North were pressing forward. This would have forced Carlton to kick early when coming out of defence instead of enjoying the luxury of carrying the ball unopposed all the way to the forward line. Why he didn’t only he knows.

Scott’s refusal to consider a Plan B or switch to a more defensive mode when needed is costing North games. One hundred and fifty years of football history shows premiership teams have had strong defensive game plans. North won’t be a top side until they adopt one.

I was surprised when Scott – a relatively inexperienced and unproven coach – was handed a three year extension at the start of the season. Now I’m seriously worried.

Late goals gave North a sniff at three-quarter time. Litza and Hughesy were concerned, but like the North players, I was resigned to defeat.

‘You don’t know what I’ve been through this year.’

‘Yes I do! We’ve been there too!’ Hughesy yelled.

Fair enough.

The fact North got within a point at the end says more about Carlton’s inability to put this game away than North’s fighting spirit. Wellsy and Drew, quiet all night, rallied themselves and a few others. Lindsay kicked his sixth. Carlton had plenty of chances but wasted forward moves.

In the end, North could’ve snatched it. With less than a minute left, Black, who had a shocker, dropped a mark at CHF. Boomer pounced, but had lacked his usual smarts all night and went one handed, and Carlton cleared. Kreuzer, best on ground, took a match saving mark.

So, Carlton live to fight for eighth spot while North lament a wasted season in which they have failed to live up to expectation.

A conversation with a drunken Magpie on the way out of The Dungeon after North lost to a severely undermanned Collingwood in round 1 keeps coming back to me.

‘You guys have got it all, mate,’ he said, breathing stale beer and chips all over me. ‘Talent, skill, size. But you lack one thing.’ He pointed to his temple. ‘Belief’.

Next week, North face the woeful Melbourne. The Demons will fancy their chances.

North Melbourne 5.5 7.8 10.11 16.12 (108)
Carlton 6.0 9.2 14.8 16.13 (109)


North Melbourne: Thomas 6, Petrie 4, McKenzie, Bastinac, Ziebell, Wells, Harvey, Macmillan
Carlton: Garlett 4, Henderson 3, Yarran, Betts, Curnow, Tuohy 2, Murphy


North Melbourne: Thomas, Ziebell, Hansen
Carlton: Kreuzer, Garlett, Henderson

Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Mollison

Official crowd: 37,443

Our Votes: 3 Kreuzer (Carl) 2 Thomas (NM) 1 Garlett (Carl).


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Feel for you Andrew. Great report.

    Citizens of the Evil Empire. Carlton summed up beautifully.

  2. I always thought that Essendon were the evil empire!

  3. Interesting to see your coach refer to football in the 70s when talking about the retribution Tuohy may have received for his ankle tap. I say that as his coaching manual may also be from the 70s, what with him playing one ruckman and flogging him into the ground.

  4. Paul Young says

    2 votes for Thomas is very generous. Three first quarter goals (albeit very good goals), then he did stuff all apart from three goals handed to him on a platter by the hard work of others up the ground.

    Leigh Adams was a far better four quarter player than Thomas.

  5. Shane Lawson says

    We have been there mate.. I feel your pain

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