AFL Round 2 – Geelong v North Melbourne: North lacks a winning culture

North lack belief. A killer instinct. A winning culture.


Not the type found on a boardroom whiteboard, an Arizona mountain track or inside a bottle of pills, but that which develops over years of discipline, shared vision, sustained success. Geelong have it, so do Collingwood and Sydney.


Despite entering Round 1 with half a dozen out and losing a few more during the match, Collingwood knuckled down, refusing to go under. Those brought into the team carried out their roles, established players lifted. Pendlebury, best afield, said it was one of the best wins he had been part of.


In contrast, North were indecisive and error ridden, looking nothing like a team expecting a top six finish. North laid 35 tackles for the match, paltry compared to Sydney’s 110 in last year’s Grand Final.


Across town the same day, Hawthorn led Geelong by five goals and few would’ve thought less of the Cats if they had lost. Instead, they reeled the Hawks in, claiming their tenth successive victory against them. Post-game, Chris Scott’s proud, satisfied smile said it all.


These hard facts about football life have dominated my thoughts all week and as I take my seat alongside brother-in-law Dean and nephew Lukey, top deck, city wing, I wonder how North will respond today. It’s a balmy autumnal afternoon with rain closing in from the north and a healthy, typically friendly crowd is in.


North open with intent, determined to right last week’s wrongs. Goldstein is getting his hands on the ball first and Ziebell and Swallow are making clearances. Pressure on the opposition is excellent. In possession, North are patient, switching wide and long, stretching Geelong’s defence. When a gap is spotted, delivery is neat to Petrie and Thomas who are on the move.


Geelong look sluggish. Perhaps due to last week’s heroics, they’re reactionary, happy to drop off, allowing North uncontested possession. Only Varcoe, Hawkins – too big for Thompson – and Christensen are standing out.


Leading by 19 points at quarter-time, North’s lead stretches to seven goals before a Geelong major on half-time reduces the margin to 35 points. Petrie has kicked four on Lonergan and North depart to a rousing ovation.


During the break, I leave an excited Lukey and wander downstairs to the ground floor where I run into Flynn and Harms of the Almanac. Both appear to have sunk more beers than Geelong have kicked goals and are quick to write their team off. Being a pessimistic Northerner, I’m not prepared to go the early call. We settle in for the second half.


From the first passage of play after the restart, Bastinac runs through half-forward and drags his shot wide. A straight kick may have determined the narrative of this game.


But, a sporting contest can turn on an instant.


Geelong seize the initiative and their intensity rises. Stokes, on as substitute, links through the centre, while Chapman, Kelly and Selwood, have an influence. North lose composure and under pressure turn it over in the middle corridor.


Seven goals to three for the quarter – again, one on the siren – sees North’s lead at nine points and Geelong supporters – Flynn and Harms included – can smell another come from behind victory.


A few poor umpiring decisions aside, the last quarter is a classic. Under quiet, steady rain, Geelong launch all out assault. To North’s credit, they counter attack instead of trying to save the game. It’s a frantic scrap with the lead swapping and chances wasted, particularly by Geelong, as exhaustion and pressure take their toll.


With less than a minute left, Grima panics and drives Bartel face first into the turf. Firrito kicks the ball away and is penalised 50 metres. Brought to the goal line, Bartel puts his team in front.


North go forward one final time but the siren sends Cat fans into delirium – except for Flynn and Harms, who thankfully, are gracious in victory.


Margin, four points.


Geelong prevailed because they believed they could, while for North, brave to the end, the cold reality is they coughed up what should’ve been a match winning lead.


North have the physical attributes, however, mentally, we’re not there yet.


GEELONG 4.0 6.4 13.8 16.16 (112)
NORTH MELBOURNE 7.1 12.3 15.5 17.6 (108)

Geelong: Christensen, Hawkins 3; Chapman, Motlop 2; Selwood, Podsiadly, Lonergan, Duncan, Caddy, Bartel.
North Melbourne: Thomas 5; Petrie 4; Tarrant 2; Bastinac, Mullett, Atley, Anthony, Adams, Wells.

Christensen, Selwood, Chapman, Kelly, Varcoe.
North Melbourne: Ziebell, Swallow, Thomas, Bastinac, Goldstein, Grima, Petrie.

Umpires: Stevic, Nicholls, Findlay

Official crowd: 34,152 at Etihad Stadium

Our votes: Ziebell (NM) 3, Swallow (NM) 2, Christensen (Gee) 1.








  1. “Good judgement requires experience. Experience requires bad judgement.”
    In football as in life. The more times you put yourself in danger, the more knowledge you accumulate about how to cope.
    I think I read the quote in one of Michael Jordan’s books – I think he attributed it to an early coach.
    Enjoyed your article Andrew. Games like this and the Perth final last year are a crucial part of ‘tempering’ your mettle. I remain more concerned about your lack of strong talls than your lack of temperament.

  2. Good summary Andrew.
    It is so very true that there is a lack of belief.

    What disappointed me was that, after being up and about early,
    in the second half North reverted back to the bad habits
    of the previous week. I tend to lay some blame at the feet
    of the coaches for this.

    R Tarrant has had plenty of chances and continues to tantalise,
    but I am just not sure that he has everything that it takes to make
    it at the elite level.

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Grima and Bartel looked like tandem sky divers.

  4. Good article mate. It’s a shame that a team that used to have such a great fighting spirit seems to have lost it :( The potential is there just gotta be more mentally strong!

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