Dear Smokie

Dear Smokie,

(I hope you don’t mind me calling you Smokie; “Mr Dawson” seems so formal.)

I was saddened by your letter of last week in which you decided to call an end to our relationship. I know we’ve been through some rocky times the last couple of years, but I’ve been trying hard to get better and make it up to you. Frankly, sometimes I think I don’t even know what you people want any more.

You complained that run-and-gun was entertaining but unsustainable, so I went and got a couple of well credentialled defensive assistants and spent the whole preseason trying to fix it up. Our average points against have gone from 87 to 74. We have the 3rd fewest points conceded. 3rd fewest! Not to mention we’re the hardest team to convert inside-50s against.

You complained that we tackled like turnstiles. This year we’ve had 2 games of over 80 tackles and been ahead on the tackle count every week but one.

You complained that we didn’t run out games or even quarters, that giving up late goals showed a fatal flaw in our game plan. We went away and tried to get better at that, and I think it shows. From the 20-minute mark of quarters onward, we’ve outscored the other guys by a total of 25.27 to 13.19. We’ve only been outscored in time-on 5 times out of 24, and two of those were by a point. We came from behind at some point in the 3rd or 4th quarter for 3 of the 4 wins. Port and Freo have each only lost one last quarter all year, both to us.

You complained that we played favourites at the selection table and left guys to stagnate in the VFL. We’ve already given Currie, Tippett and Nahas a run ahead of guys you can argue are more talented or established, and all of them based on VFL form. Heck, even Spud’s recall was on the back of great form in the twos. We’ve covered the absences of Swallow, Wells, Thompson, Macmillan and Tarrant. Daw and McKenzie are both coming along nicely. Can’t wait to give Garner, Wood and Dumont a run.

Look, as great a servant of the club as Firrito has been, I’d rather we didn’t have the outs that led to him getting a game too. To be fair though, he’s been pretty good. He’s fine when we don’t sacrifice him to horrible matchups like Cloke or (shudder) Kerridge. He’s a Goldilocks defender — can’t handle them too big or too fast — but was courageous and steady against Freo and if he keeps it up it will be good for young Macmillan to have to force his way back in past him.

Currie too. Love the bloke but I have to admit now he’s not an AFL forward. Still, if Daw or Tarrant or even young Tom Curran had been fit we wouldn’t even be talking about him.

You complained that we didn’t have enough leadership or composure, so we went out and got Nick Dal Santo. How good’s he? Best game so far against the Dockers I thought.

You complained that I was a dud on game day in the coaches’ box. I reckon we did an OK job of containing Pavlich the other day, though it’s a worry that Fyfe still managed to run riot. Still, he’s quite a player that Nat Fyfe.

I agree we still have work to do. It’s very disappointing to follow up great wins with performances like the Collingwood one. But it’s nice to follow up terrible performances with wins like the Freo one. I’ll allow though, that the new more demure North can be less fun to hang around with than the exuberant, extroverted 2012-13 model.

Yes, I know we need to get our attacking act together, and guys like Bastinac, Mullett, Atley and even Ziebell might be stalling a bit in their development. But there are also a few guys playing their best footy in the last two or three years; Wells, Swallow, Thompson, LT, and don’t forget Gibbo. Might have been his best game for the club that one.

Smokie, if you’re willing to give it another go then so am I. It’s … well … a bit hurtful of you to suggest that I’m not learning or growing in this relationship.

Yours in Shinboner Spirit,


  1. matt watson says

    Sounds like you’ve got a lot of thinking to do…
    Trouble with North fans is the rubbish we have put up with in recent history.
    We all have a bit of ‘victim mentality’ and whenever we lose, the horror immediately floods back.
    But, hey, no relationship is ever perfect.

  2. Dear Brad,
    Relationships such as ours are always difficult, and I am truly impressed at how you responded to my criticism in Perth last Friday.
    Although, and sometimes to my detriment, I am not a very forgiving person, I will be watching with interest your development.
    Yours etc,

  3. Oh I do hope they can patch things up – I love a happy ending.

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