Preliminary Final – West Coast v North Melbourne Preview: Difficult, not impossible

A plane has travelled west, carrying North Melbourne’s football team.  They’re said to be on a mission to beat West Coast in a preliminary final.


West Coast is fresh after a week off.  North Melbourne finished eighth.  That’s some mission.


After North defeated Sydney last week, I uttered famous words in homage to Rocco Lampone, a Mafia caporegime from the Godfather movies.


‘Beating West Coast,’ I said, ‘Difficult, not impossible.’


Rocco started off as a button man with the Corleone family.  When the boss said to press a button, he pressed a button and killed people at the behest of Michael Corleone.  Rocco racked up an impressive number of victims, namely Philip Tattaglia and Paulie Gatto.


Gatto reminded me of Richmond, a made man out of his depth who got killed.  Richmond are out of their depth in finals.


Tattaglia reminded me of Sydney.  He was a Don, which means he was successful and won premierships by killing people and collecting money.  But he was old and vulnerable and got wiped out.


North Melbourne remind me of Hyman Roth, who pretended to like Michael Corleone but really wanted to kill him.  Roth anointed Corleone as his successor, but botched an assassination attempt.


Months later, Corleone had his chance at revenge.  But there was trouble.  Roth was a wanted man kicked out of Israel and forced to return to America.


Corleone gathered Rocco, Al Neri and his consigliore, Tom Hagan, in the dark boat house for a coach’s meeting about Roth.


‘The plane goes to Miami,’ Hagan said.


‘That’s right, that’s where I want it met,’ Corleone said.


‘Mike that’s impossible,’ Hagan said.  ‘They’ll turn him over directly to internal revenue, customs and half the FBI.’


‘It’s not impossible.  Nothing’s impossible.’


‘It would be like trying to kill the president,’ Hagan said.  ‘There’s no way we could get to him.’


Corleone was chewing on an orange.  ‘Tom you know you surprise me,’ he said.  ‘If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, is that you can kill anyone.’


Michael turned to Rocco, his capo regime.


Rocco offered a fatalistic shrug.  ‘Difficult, not impossible.’


‘Good,’ Corleone said.


West Coast in Perth


A preliminary final.  A plane carrying North Melbourne footballers into Perth has landed.




That’s where West Coast want the plane met.


The Eagles remind me of Michael Corleone.  Slick, smooth, with an intelligent game plan.  Those chinks, when North defeated them in a gale in Tasmania, should be rectified.


From the moment North Melbourne exited the plane, they’re walking into danger.


No one expects them to win.  It is a team of stayers up against a team from nowhere.  North won two finals last year as West Coast finished ninth.


Their rise from ninth to second has been dramatic and unexpected.  Mid-season, people were saying the Eagles will falter. They haven’t. Their rout of Hawthorn in the qualifying final was as dramatic as it was unexpected.


Now the Eagles are favourites to win the premiership.  Knowledgeable pundits are declaring the winner of the second preliminary final will win the grand final.


They’re not talking about North Melbourne.  There’s a real fear it could be a blow out.


Two weeks ago, Hawthorn went to Subiaco and found no space or targets.  Under pressure, they couldn’t play keepings off.


The Eagles, with a similar game plan found space and targets and took a 50-point lead into three quarter time.


If a team like Hawthorn wilts under pressure like that, it is hard to imagine North succeeding.


A quick examination shows West Coast has the competition’s premier tall forward, Josh Kennedy.   A Brownlow medallist in the midfield in Matt Priddis.  And the second best ruckman, Nic Naitanui, in the centre.


They have a team of hard men, rested by virtue of excellence.  And they’re experienced.


West Coast last played a preliminary final in 2011.  They made the finals in 2012 but dipped in the past two years.  West Coast are not novices like the Bulldogs.


North finished eighth and knocked out Richmond in an elimination final.  It was good, but people said anyone could beat Richmond in an elimination final.


North also defeated Sydney, who were cruelled by injury and other issues, with four key players out.


It has been described as a soft finals win by people with sympathy for Sydney.  There was nothing soft about it, but history will show Sydney was decimated.


Perhaps North has been lucky.  Maybe it’s a mix of luck and maturity.  Maybe it’s preparation and determination.


Resting players has made North and Brad Scott targets for accusations of tanking, so they didn’t have to play the Western Bulldogs or Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval.


It is irrelevant.  North rested players in round 23 to win finals.  They’ve done that.


But they go in as underdog against West Coast, as they have in their past two finals.  It will take a supreme effort to win.


And if they don’t win it is difficult to figure out if North has improved.  Last year, after winning 14 games and finishing sixth, they won two finals and got hammered in the preliminary final.


This year, 13 wins secured eighth.  Two finals victories later and there’s another preliminary final.  If they lose, regardless of the margin, no one can say they are better than they were at this time last year.


So they go back to Perth, trying to be tough.  North got an idea how tough it was in 2012, when they ventured west for a final and the margin was 96-points…


Meeting Hyman Roth at the airport


When Hyman Roth was being marched through Miami Airport, he stopped to talk to journalists.  Rocco, masquerading as a reporter, shot Roth in the stomach at point blank range.


He ran off.  Two FBI agents ran after him and shot him in the chest and stomach.  Rocco, in executing his boss’s pledge, was himself executed.


Killing Roth wasn’t difficult.  Living afterwards was impossible.


North Melbourne, getting out of Perth with their season alive, is difficult.  It might be impossible…



About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Art imitates life imitates football. Brilliant creativity Matt.
    Of course there are limits to imagination. Hyman Roth is based on Meyer Lanskey the financier/accountant for the Italian Mob who owned a lot of Las Vegas. The bit in the movie about him being run out of Cuba after the rise of Castro is true, but the assassination is not.
    Lanskey lived to be an old man and was never convicted of anything more than minor illegal gambling charges. Which by extension makes the Kangas task impossible.
    Should be a great game. Enjoy (not too much).

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Matt, as the saying goes, we must start well. Obviously. Survive early onslaught, take sting out of crowd, keep in touch on scoreboard. If game is tight early in second half, WCE may get a bit jittery. If we’re goals down at quarter-time, it’s over. We match up well for size: Tarrant (fingers crossed he’s fit) will go to Kennedy, Spud or Thommo to Darling. Jacobs will run with Priddis, maybe Gibbo with Gaff. Our three talls will stretch their defence if they play wide of eachother. As we know, Brown and Waite only have to get it a few times and they will cause damage. Of course, game will be won from clearances. Goldy and Nik Nat is mouth watering. If North can control clearances and provide good supply – Jack, Swallow, Cunners – they will be in the game. If WCE are able to run outside, North will be cut to pieces. If, if , if.

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