AFL Round 9: North Melbourne v Fremantle: Resolute Roos hold out Dockers before paltry crowd

By Tim Ivins

The AFL has a problem, a really big problem, as we’ve all discovered. The stadium deals negotiated by Wayne Jackson and Co don’t make sense. I settle down on the couch for the clash of those crowd-drawing behemoths, North Melbourne and Fremantle, and my thoughts turn to how Eugene Arocca and James Brayshaw would not have slept a wink all week. The attendance break-even point for a club that needs every cent it can get is 30,000.
That’s a lot for the Roos, although they have the highest proportion of fans to members of all AFL clubs, according to AC Nielsen. Nothing in North’s performances scream “come and watch us”, they were smashed against the Cats, and they were very lucky to beat Port when they converted an absurd 80 per cent of their shots into goals for a five-point win.
Fremantle don’t inspire much either. Yes, they’ve shown vast improvement in the past month, winning three in a row. This included a rare away win, over Carlton on the Gold Coast, before being well beaten by the reigning premiers at Subiaco last week. Unfortunately for them and their Melbourne-based fans, “the old Heave-Ho” has only been played once in Victoria since 2006.
Sadly for North, it appears the fans haven’t come. Stadium management, saving costs no doubt, have closed off the entire western side of the ground and limited access to Level 3.
Fremantle dominate the first quarter but they break down inside fifty because of North’s pressure. Brett Peake finds a simple solution to this, marking and slamming it home from sixty. North, when they break free, stream through the middle but their execution is poor and turnovers abound. The Dockers take advantage. Pavlich kicks two as the Dockers take a strong lead into quarter-time, 26 points. Given North’s goalkicking woes, I think Freo have a foot in the door. Particularly if North continue to play like a rabble.
North are better in the second quarter; Hale, Petrie and Wells score consecutive goals. All of a sudden North hit targets. Ben Warren levels the scores halfway through the quarter while Sandilands is treated for split webbing in his right hand. McPharlin regains the lead for the Dockers before a Ziebell clanger late in the quarter gifts Hasleby a goal. Christmas comes early at Etihad as the umpires award David Hale a soft free kick and a fifty right on the siren. Hale kicks a goal. Fremantle go into half-time up by five points.
The third quarter is tit for tat. Sandilands is a colossus in the ruck despite his injury, while Edwards and McIntosh are spectators for the Roos. It’s a tough and tight quarter. Both teams struggle to find a target inside fifty. Late in the term, Dodd punches the ball through with nobody around him. Under the new rules, it’s a free-kick to Edwards (that’ll go straight on to Gieschen’s DVD). Scores are level.
Young Sam Wright crumbs well for another goal, bombing the ball into the empty third tier (enjoy the walk security guards), before hitting the post with a kick under pressure. Turnovers hurt Freo. The Dockers blow a kick-out and Goldstein kicks another for the Roos. After three goals to the Roos late in the quarter, they lead by thirteen points at the final change.
North Melbourne break away at the first bounce, Hale kicks his fourth, and the writing is on the wall for the Dockers. Desperate defence from the Roos holds out repeated Dockers thrusts. Ziebell comes off with an injured shoulder. Pavlich finally kicks a goal. Then McPharlin slams through his fourth, from fifty on the run, and the margin is back to a single kick. The five-minute warning (possibly the greatest innovation on TV) sounds. Fremantle attack in waves but the North defence holds strong. Thomas then finally hits a target (for what seems the first time all game) and Hale kicks his fifth, enabling the Roos to push the lead out to thirteen points. It’s a lead that they maintain.
While watching North sing the song, I reflect on that number, 30,000. There was never a chance that that many people would show up. In fact I wonder if 30,000 people will read the match review in the newspapers. In fact 15,436 showed up. Eugene Arocca and James Brayshaw must be disappointed, but at least they can sleep knowing the Roos have four points in the bank, dreaming sweet dreams of Princes Park.

North Melbourne      2.3   8.8   12.11    14.14  (98)
Fremantle                 6.5   9.7   10.10    12.13  (85)

North Melbourne: Hale 5, Warren 2, Goldstein, Edwards, Wright, Petrie, Harding, Wells, Rawlings.
Fremantle: McPharlin 4, Pavlich 3, Hasleby 2, Hayden, Headland, Peake

North Melbourne: Petrie, Hale, Gibson, Rawlings, Harding, Firrito, Urquhart.
Fremantle: Hasleby, Pavlich, Ibbotson, Sandilands, McPharlin, Hill, Dodd.

Umpires: McBurney, Stewart, Nicholls.

Official crowd: 15,436 at Docklands.
Malarkey Medal: Hale (NM) 3, Petrie (NM) 2, Sandilands (F) 1.


  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Yes Tim, the AFL has a big problem -but don’t worry, they’ll continue to blame other people for it! I watched the game on TV today and didn’t mind it – a reasonable contest.

  2. It was a reasonable contest Pamela. That said, i’ve been thinking about it and there’s a downside to better stadium deals. Where is the incentive to continue developing the game in regional centres? I live in Canberra and am deeply concerned that if the stadium deal is fixed we may not get any games anymore. This of course has a knock on effect at the junior level (my understanding is games have been pushed back a few hours to accommodate the Swans/Dogs game this weekend).

    Then there is Darwin, a place truly passionate about football. If stadium deals get fixed what incentive is there for the Dogs (who apparently had the brilliant suggestion to the AFL of playing back to back around the split round to run community events) and the Power to play interstate? Is the AFL as a whole truly richer by clubs not playing in regional centres?

    In hindsight, as someone who doesn’t live in a place with its own team, these stadium deals have been a blessing in disguise. The Kangaroos spurned Canberra and the Gold Coast and right at this moment I have very little sympathy for them.

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    Tim, you’ve highlighted the irony of poor deals. You can understand why fans feel like second class football citizens sometimes.It is a worry that clubs/AFL have made such poor judgement-re deals.Yes,you never know some of us may benefit from the fallout.

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