AFL Round 17 – North Melbourne v St Kilda – The Dal Santo-Delaney Medal

North Melbourne vs St Kilda

2:10pm, Saturday, 12 July

Blundstone Arena, Hobart

 

The scallop pies in Cygnet are glorious.

Too big to eat with your hands, bright golden, full of plump curried scallops. Matt Preston’s thesaurus would get a workout over one of these. A Tasmanian curiosity along with Hartz soft drinks, Praties baked potatoes, fish and chips in a paper cone from Fish Frenzy, and exotic varieties of Cascade not exported to the mainland.

We’re in the Huon Valley after North’s regulation dispatching of St Kilda, a game that started in bright sunshine on the deck of the Waterfront Hotel in Bellerive, and ended in the gloom with a call over the Blundstone Arena PA for me to collect my two lost boys from reception. A game that manages to be at once the entire reason for, and an incidental detail of, a long weekend in Hobart.

Flipping through the Sunday papers, the previous day’s game is on the front page, back page, and has a double spread in the sports section, giving the lie to its place in the scheme of things league-wide.

On the morning of the game, the Mercury was similarly footy dominated, with feature pieces on the 3 Tasmanian players. Nick Riewoldt returning in his dotage to play in Hobart; despite having left at age 9 they still claim him. Maverick Weller has been rescued from the Gold Coast and is making a go of it with the Saints. And Ben Brown, Sideshow Bob, eldest of 6 brothers, is North’s latest cult hero.

She Who Must Be Obeyed has refused outright to go on the grounds that she’s still thawing out from the 2012 game against GWS. So Irish import Eddie is the ring-in. Despite ominous forecasts all week, the weather is fine and sunny if a little cool when Eddie, myself and the boys arrange to be dropped off at the pub instead of the ground. The club has some activities down here — a handball target, player appearances — and a mass walk to the ground led by Ron Barassi. Our pints are still mostly full when the walk heads off so we go it alone a bit later.

I’ve developed a theory that you can shelter from either the wind or the rain at Bellerive, but never both. If you’re under cover, the wind off the Southern Ocean’ll get you coming in across the face of the grandstand; in the lee of the wind is the un-covered hill. We’re under cover behind the goals at the river end, with the hill to our right and unfinished new grandstand to our left. A couple of showers early on vindicate the decision, though it’s mostly fine. Not that you’d know from the skills on display.

The Bellerive crowd is subdued compared to last time we were here. Some blame must go to the game, but it feels like it’s more to do with the unfinished new grandstand. I’m a bit surprised there aren’t more Saints fans. It’s the first time two Victorian sides have played here, but with only 11,000 tickets available the North members must have had first dibs. Not that I’m complaining; being in a sea of blue and white is a rare pleasure. In keeping with the media coverage, the most excited the crowd gets is when Ben Brown is involved in the play. He’s not particularly influential, but going decently for a rookie. Snaps a nice goal early in the last quarter, and misses a chance to make it two from a set shot a few minutes later. This game would be defined more by misses than anything else in the end. The Saints missed 15 times to go with only 3 goals, including some shockers. North managed 1.7 in the fourth and missed a chance to drive home a thumping win instead of almost exactly hitting the bookies’ line. Eddie observes that they’ve left five goals on the table in that quarter alone.

Notable performances come from some unexpected quarters as well as the usual suspects. Boomer beats Montagna head to head; Goldstein was always going to be too good for Hickey; and the Saints’ midfield of Lenny, Armitage and not much else is outgunned by Swallow, Cunnington, Dal Santo, Greenwood and Bastinac. Fingers crossed we can add Wellsy back in time for finals. Dal Santo and Delaney, each playing against their former club, do pretty much what their new clubs got them for. Sammy Wright from Katamatite is fun to watch when he’s in good form; smooth mover, dual-sided to the point you don’t know which is his natural foot. When he’s not in form and goes into his shell it’s a bit of a horror show, but today it’s good Sammy giving a hiding to young Billings. I’m happy for him and hope he’s done enough to earn another contract.

While it’s obviously a tough year for St Kilda, I can’t really feel sorry for them. They’ve had a good run, and they’re reloading with some good kids. Billings, Dunstan, Shenton all look likely, and Armitage and Steven are already quality. They’ll be fine even without Lenny, who it was nice to see one more time on his farewell tour.

The boys, pleased with themselves being allowed to negotiate the snack bar unsupervised earlier on, get overconfident at the final siren and get way ahead of us heading for the exits, barely even waiting for the song. We think we’ve spotted them a couple of times but they’re artful dodgers. It’s getting genuinely chilly when the announcement comes that they’ve handed themselves in.

They’re good kids. I was never really that worried.

NORTH MELBOURNE  5.3   8.4    12.7    13.14   (92)
ST KILDA         0.3    1.9    2.11    3.15   (33)

GOALS
North Melbourne: Goldstein 2, Bastinac 2, Thomas 2, Harvey 2, Adams, McMahon, Black Petrie, Brown
St Kilda: Armitage 2, Riewoldt

BEST
North Melbourne: Wright, Goldstein, Harvey, Dal Santo, Greenwood, Cunnington, Bastinac
St Kilda: Armitage, Hayes, Riewoldt

Umpires: Foot, Jeffrey, O’Gorman

Official crowd: 10, 641 at Blundstone Arena

Our votes: Wright (NM) 3, Armitage (StK) 2, Goldstein (NM) 1

Comments

  1. Witty and passionate report Rob. I take it you are a Tassie local?
    The last line about “never really that worried” about finding your boys was presumably inserted to calm their mum, and ensure they could be entrusted to you for future adventures (a GPS tracker ankle bracelet is the other alternative – the Corrections Department has garage sales).

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Rob, great piece. A really easy read. And yeah, losing the boys should go into the ‘Top Secret: Don’t tell mum’ file. Mine is bursting at the seams after two years of being a dad.

    What a crazy year we’re having. Have you ever seen a team with such a gap between its best and worst? Last year we couldn’t close games, now we can’t bring it each week. I suppose you call it going through the phases. There are times I can see the progress, planning, building, while on other occasions I struggle to see any light on the hill. I wrote after the Geelong loss we are in the mid-ladder bunch and I still believe that. We’re being helped along by a susprisingly favourable fixture (it’s not a draw, it’s fixed) which is probably AD’s leaving present. All things going well we could slip/fall into fourth and be up against the big boys in September. If that happens, at our best we may grab a final win, however bang, bang is a good chance. If we face an elimination final, I would back our boys against any of the other 5-8 teams, even Cwood and Geelong who have rag-dolled us in recent years.

    In terms of our squad, besides Wells, MacMillan and Grima (any others?) we’re pretty much at full strength. Brad’s persistence with Wright is interesting. I’ve written him off a number of times and still not convinced he’s in our top 22, yet the coach still sees something in him, obviously. maybe it is his ability to play at both ends and undoubted talent. I met JB during the off season who said Wright had one instruction for the summer: get bigger. From where i sit, he doesn’t appear to have put on much weight, but it may take a few years of consistent gym work. McMahon’s another one. Again, I’m not as big fan, but he’s playing for his career now and responding well. Spud has been a revelation. Again, coming to the end, he’s playing like a man with nothing to lose. Gold has had an up and down year. He started poorly, but is working his way into the season. Best ruckman in the leagur over the last few seasons, he’s very important.

    So much more to say, but I better do some work. Let’s hope we continue the good form against the evil mepire this week.

  3. A great read, Rob.
    I haven’t been to a North game at Bellerive yet, but maybe next year….

    Sam Wright could be considered North’s barometer at present.

    Andrew, re finals: if we get to play in that first week, I fear that we will either be thrashed, or do the thrashing. There will be no in between.

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    Oh yes, and Jack z. His season has also been a bit stop start, but he is the sort of player who could really break out during a finals series. He is serious brownlow material if he can stay fit and clean for a full season.

  5. Peter, I’m a Melbourne boy but married to a Tasmanian expat, so a frequent visitor over the last 20 years and know the joint fairly well. Always like going down. The last line was supposed to tie in the lost kids to nerves about North not showing up against bad teams but that got lost in an edit. Always find the ends of pieces harder to write than the starts.

    Andrew, I think you’re underrating the injury list a bit. I reckon Wells, Grima, Macmillan, Ziebell and Tarrant would all be established best 22, Garner and Cam Delaney would have expected to push into the seniors, and Tippett and Nahas would probably be picked ahead of a couple of guys currently getting a run. I share your uncertainty about where this group will ultimately end up though.

    Wright’s a funny one. It’s easy to see the skills that the club likes in him, but he’s going to have to work with a lack of speed and strength. At least the latter he can do something about if his shoulders hold up.

    Smokie, I can heartily recommend taking in a game down there. Hobart’s a great place for a long weekend away and Bellerive is a nice place to watch footy as long as you rug up. Next year we should try and coordinate some sort of Almanac function down there to coincide with a North game maybe? I reckon Cookie would be up for it.

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