AFL Round 9 – North Melbourne v Adelaide: Brad Scott and the God of the Old Testament

The God of the Old Testament was rather vengeful. When fired up, his wrath knew no bounds.

I’m not sure what Brad Scott got up to over the summer but I’d say it was dastardly at least: it was obviously worse than fraternising with women in fig-leaves, worse than the eating of forbidden apples, worse than the building of large towers and golden calves.

God knew Brad Scott, being a Scott, would handle pesky gnats, frenzied flies, crook livestock, festering skin sores, damaging hailstorms, swarms of locusts, and general darkness. He would deal with aimless desert-wandering, and general pestilence would have been of little concern.

Instead God made Brad Scott the coach of the North Melbourne Football Club.

Not only has he made Brad Scott the coach of North, he has then toyed with him.  God has blessed Brad Scott’s charges with loads of talent, and then taken the capacity to think clearly from every single one of them.

The psalmist David would drop to his knees and weep, “Why me? Why are you doing this to me?” And he was a king. Imagine the morbid lines he’d have written if holed up at Arden Street.

Brad Scott had to face it. He thought he was through it all. He thought the depths had been plumbed. He went to Docklands last Sunday believing his lot could not get worse; that Mark Neeld was lucky by comparison; that all he wanted to be was a simple man with an alibi as well, instead of the burden of unfulfilled talent.

He got one of the most remarkable ten  minutes of footy you will see.

We had dinner guests and, as we were preparing the Mexican slop and chicken burritos, the wireless was on. North, easily. The guests arrived and it was turned off. Just before we sat down to dinner we checked the score: North by 30 points with about 7 minutes of playing time left. All over.

Kids dispatched Mexican food to all parts of the dining room table and floor. They were very hard to set a field to and at one point, while topping up the guac, Lorenzo (a North supporter), turned the TV on. The final siren was just sounding. “The Crows have won,” he exclaimed.

“Oh know,” was the general call, especially from anyone who had a knowledge of The Fall. My mind turned immediately to Brad Scott: what atrocity has he committed! And what of those young men? This is Geelong of ’06, only worse. These guys are talented. But there is something fundamentally wrong.

Later that night, with the kids all down, and the Mexican cleaned from the far-flung reaches of our home, I sat down, with the remnants of the bottle of red, and watched the replay.

It’s a superb study. If you listen to the commentary, Bruce and Dennis knew it was on. The discourse is a discourse of brittleness, and almost inevitability. Footy games have moods. Footy crowds have moods. The commentators nailed this one.

They suspected it was a chance. But a couple of things confirmed it.

Scott Thompson, an outstanding defender, highly-regarded by Cats fans from his days in the Geelong seconds when he looked like Matty Scarlett and occasionally played like him, made a terrible blue. A simple chip pass – he just had to pop a soft kick in the air from 25 metres – sailed over his teammates head. If your rock is wobbly?

With about six minutes to go young Wright could have taken the air from the Crows sails. But didn’t.

Then Kerridge doesn’t miss, snapping across his body to cut the lead to 17.

Wright gets another chance, and misses again.

Douglas goals on the fly quite spectacularly in that way that would have the joint rocking at a country footy game.

There’s already a sense the Roos are in strife. What is troubling is the amount of open space there seems to be – all over the ground. Have some of the players started a poker school in the forward pocket? Why the space?

It is now a complete and utter frenzy. Lynch sidesteps and shoots for goal. As his kick drops short Kerridge (who is this bloke?) takes a mark in the goal-square. An uncontested mark?  It’s now just a goal the difference.

Dennis is almost amused in the way you’d expect of a man with his sense of humour. Bruce is feeling like the Crow he tries not to show, but this is a near-impossible test for him. Cameron Ling has got the Oh-no of a man who has experienced a semi-final loss in Sydney.

Dangerfield gets the clearance – as Lingy predicts. Petrenko crumbs and snaps. A point. There’s still a minute and a half to go and the Roos are a study in jelly. They are elite jelly. I think that makes it worse.

Petrie marks at half-back. But they can’t hold the footy.

The Crows win the footy and force it forward. They fly for the mark and the footy spills over the back to…to Petrenko. What’s he doing there?  He can reach down and pick it up. It’s all so quick and yet…he has time. Instead he opts for the mid-air kick on the left. He hits it sweetly and the odd-shaped ball never deviates. It’s a goal.

The Crows win in a memorable match.

I watch the last ten minutes again. If you watch it closely it is an example of the combination of the elements which make this game so compelling: skill and chance. There are numerous moments where the ball falls perfectly for Adelaide, where it bounces perfectly, where somehow a single Crow surrounded by four Roos winds up with the footy. But then, once that has happened, the Crows used their skill – and they never gave up.

Even Petrenko’s kick is a victory over Chance.

Brad Scott was a study of ostentatious why-me in the coach’s box. He looked resigned to it all. This I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening approach. Well, shake your fist at the Heavens and do something about it.

Yet, I feel terribly sorry for him. I know how he felt. We knew it at Geelong for decades. We wondered what atrocities we’d committed to deserve such wrath. Such grief.

But something happened at Geelong.

And I’m not telling you what it is.

The main reason: I don’t really know.




About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH
    You nailed it when you said the commentators “knew it was on”. Normally, I hate it when the callers are clearly barracking for one side (usually the underdog), but this time they sensed what was happening early and went along for the ride. Fair play to them.
    I must say that Lingy’s call, ten minutes from time, that North should use the game as “match-practice” for playing tempo-footy was bewildering to me at the time. Bruce, Denis and I all knew that the match was far from over.

  2. The main reason Harmsey was the aligning of the planets and stars—Scarlett,Ablett,Johnson, Bartel, Kelly,Ling, Enright, Ottens et al and of course the launching of your young family and The Almanac in 2007. and the question on our lips is–“Is the handicapper pregnant yet?” :she will have to be very prem if not. Maybe pregnancy accounts for the Sloppy Mexican or maybe the thought of you launching at her is the reason.

    See you at the Cattery on Saturday Night.


  3. Hugh O'Brien says

    Thanks for a great article. Yes, the last ten minutes was a great example of skill and chance.
    As a Kangas fan since 1965, I am heartened by your comparing North with the pre-2006 era Geelong.
    Let’s hope the “something” that happened to the Cats can happen to the Roos.

  4. I almost sent a tweet to all and sundry when they were six goals up that North Melbourne supporters could rest easy. Then Adelaide kicked the next two – I thought ‘this can’t be happening’ but I knew it was going to. I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen. Superb TV.

  5. JTH Norths issues are indeed taking on Biblical proportions. Fair comparison to the 2006 Cats.

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Harmsy, as I’ve been saying for years – my whole life, actually – North lack a killer instinct and belief. I said as much to you at half-time against the Cats. Half way through the second term on Sunday when we led by 7 goals I said to bro-in-law Dean, ‘We should win by 100 points, but won’t. Maybe 4 goals.’ Well.

    if you want a typical North victory – based on 40 years of research – have alook at this year’s win over Port. Led by 7 goals, fell in by 2. Messy, laboured.

    In every NM game, there’s a point, moment, period when you can almost see a collective exhale from the players. They can’t maintain intensity. Sydney play even, composed finals footy every week. That’s the level we need to get to.

    There’s so much to say about Sunday’s last term. Here’s a bit of it: it resembled the finish of the WCE game – Wright missed chances to ice the game and Drew took marks on half-back and turned it over by bombing to packs; North players drifted under the ball allowing it fall over the back to Crows; Crows went oneoneone late and North lacked patience to slow build-up; interestingly, North went oneonone llate in the second term on Sunday, but the Crows were patient, waited for openings and scored; Spud had 6 goals kicked on him by a kid in his 6th game.

    I could go on.

    For North, it’s time to close the door on the shrinks, asst coaches and bullshit and say, ‘Let’s keep it simple. Let’s just get back to winning games of footy with 4 honest quarters.’

  7. I believe in a just and compassionate God – albeit overstretched and short-sighted like most of us of advancing years. He is trying to do his Karma thing, but he can’t tell the Scott twins apart either.
    “Hey Judas, is it the striped one or the hooped one that is overdue for the smiting? What do you mean the IT system is down again##!!*** I’ll take a stab and smite the angry looking one in the stripes.”
    “Remind me to check the recovery disk on the hard drive when you get the system back up – next millenium.”

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    As a crows supporter my favourite game of , 2013 but as a footy person , North were a amazing side this year a combination of bad luck , lack of composure , disgraceful
    lack of defensiv structure and a lack of a game plan to close out . Brad Scott and the coaching panel must take a huge percentage of the blame , North should have finished at the end of the minor round in the top , 4 . Nathan Bassett with his ability to teach defence would have made a huge difference
    Bomber Thompson and the cats came thru while overall there is not the greatness in this side as in , Geelong surely , Brad Scott enters , 2014 under enormous pressure they must make the , 8 and top , 4 in my book

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