Halfway: where to from here, North?

North Melbourne’s goal for 2013 was simple: win a final. Put last September’s Subiaco massacre behind them. Build belief. Look to go top 4 next year.

This is the first time under Brad Scott North have had real expectation follow them into a season. This has weighed heavily.

Eleven games in – four wins, seven losses – finals are out of the question.

The easy answer to ‘what’s gone wrong?’ is to point at the four narrow losses and claim bad luck. To do so is to ignore the truth.

North were in winnable positions against Geelong, Hawthorn, West Coast and Adelaide. They also led Sydney by 4 and Gold Coast by 5 goals. Losses in all of these games came from a lack of killer instinct, belief, on field leadership, skill, and the ability to adapt from the coaches box.

Against Geelong, North led by 6 goals at half-time and when Bastinac ran through CHF straight after the resumption, he could’ve put the game beyond doubt. He didn’t and the mood shifted. Geelong knew they could win. North only hoped to hold on.

North were the better team against the Hawks but couldn’t put the game away. Majak missed three set shots in the third term, while Drew and Wright – as they have done on a number of occasions this season – missed important late goals.

Done over in the West by poor umpiring, North still should’ve put the game to bed. They couldn’t hold onto the ball in the dying minutes and instead of slowing things down or switching to open spaces out of defence, kept on banging long to packs where nervy umpires obliged the home crowd.

The same problems occurred the following week. North kicked the first 2 or 3 goals of every term, twice opening up 30 plus leads. The Crows hung in. They surged and North lost composure and folded. And Brad Scott didn’t place a player behind the ball at the death as myself and those around me were screaming at him to do.

Amidst the shock and nausea of that loss, I felt a pinch of relief (just a pinch), for I hoped North would finally admit something I and many others who watch them closely have been saying for years: they lack the ability to put a team away. Fade outs like we’ve seen this season have been happening for a long time. Remember the 98 GF?

I only saw the last term of Saturday night’s match. Not frustration and anger, my main emotion was sadness. North were out-played, out-muscled and out-bossed by a team of kids belonging to a club not three years old.

GC were hungrier and better. Led by Ablett, they were clean, assured and direct in the wet. Once they got going, the result was predictable.

Despite Gibson’s goal early in the last term, North looked resigned to defeat. All 6 defenders played from behind and skills were appalling with too much handball in the conditions.

North lacked leadership; someone – like Ablett – had to grab the game. Swallow was on the bench, Drew was led to the ball and on one occasion deliberately went to ground trying to milk a free. Wells had a go, as did Cunnington. There was little support.

Scott sat with his chin on his hands or his arms folded while Black battled two opponents. A North player should’ve been sent to a forward flank or far wing to even up the situation.

This was North’s most disappointing loss for the lack of fight and hope.

Wins this season have been typical: predictable victories over middle of the road or bottom teams. The Lions were terrible at Etihad – I could’ve got a kick. Victory over Port in Hobart was unnecessarily laboured, while the Bulldogs were the better team for periods but couldn’t finish off. St Kilda bottomed out in Boomer’s 350th.

North have failed to live up to expectations this season and one question stands: where to from here? How will Scott and his coaching team approach the remaining games? Do they talk about ‘mathematical possibilities’ or ‘look to 2014’? Whatever line he chooses, Scott needs to get players and fans believing again. It’s going to be a long two weeks at Arden St.

North must decide on the futures of Hansen, Tarrant, Wright, McMahon and Firrito, who, after having 6 goals kicked on him in the second half against Adelaide, is coming to the end of a fine career. Majak has shown enough and should be used as a third forward and second ruckman to help Goldy. Boomer can go on if confined to the forward line or a wing. Harper was dropped after round 2 but must be brought back and allowed to play to his strengths – speed and carry – not in a defensive role as appears to have been the case.

An ironic side note to the season is the form of individuals. Thompson, Swallow, Wells and Thomas are in all- Australian form. Ziebell has been brilliant but must change his ways and avoid suspension. Atley, Black and Cunnington have secured spots.

North will not play finals this year, but they can play a strong hand in deciding who does.

(I shouldn’t have mentioned that nightmare day in 98. I won’t sleep tonight.)


  1. Well done Andrew, the leadership at North and the attitude is one of a circus team that performs on occasions. It is becoming a laughing stock and it hurts me to the core. They don’t want to win enough. Some people and players feel they have been to the top of the mountain and have achieved all. If that is their attitude, they should leave. It starts at Brayshaw and the other self satisfied leaders who lack killer and it is infectious all over the club. Real change is required on and off the field. Harvey’s 350 game was great, but if we don’t make the finals it will be no consolation that the club turned it on for an individual, as it is all about team success, not individuals. I support the success of the team , not individuals. I want North to have a steeliness and professionalism that is a Geelong, but we behave like amateurs in comparison. I really hope things change and North and the fat cats get the hell out of there. Go North

  2. Just one thing about Thomas. A very gifted player, but if he continues to act up and play for free kicks like he did last week, I’d rather he was wearing a red vest and give someone else a go, I don’t care if he is leading the Coleman medal, remember its the team tha matters , not individuals .

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Paul, as I said, I only watched the last term on Saturday night, so can’t really comment on Lindsay’s behaviour, but yes, diving for frees is one of his traits. Two seasons ago I was screaming for his head, but he has completely turned his career around and is a credit to himself. I don’t know for sure but I think he’s had his share of personal issues ad the club has stood beside him. He is repaying that faith now. He’s come a long way from the Cwood game in 2011 when he sat under his towel after the game and cried. I hope Lindsay continues to kick goals and is rewarded with all-Aust. honours.

  4. I’m not suggesting he hasn’t been an asset this year, as I said he is a very talented player with lots of footy smarts, but he, or anyone for that matter, who dons the north guernsey should be really switched on, or they quickly can become a negative to the team. And we all know the team is what counts. I too was at that Collingwood game and yes he is killing them, but Lindsay must drive the coach crazy as in any one game he can be totally brilliant and then go missing for whatever reason I don’t know. Possibly Lindsay doesn’t know how brilliant he could be and I mean he could be kicking 8 goals on a regular basis, he has that talent to do it. don’t get me wrong I really like Thomas and I want he and north to taste the ultimate glory one day soon

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    I hear you. And feel your passion and pain.

  6. Thanks, I really liked your original post. North peoe need to make noise at times and tell the club we see what is happening and we don’t like it. We are pretty perceptive at north and sometimes we don’t make enough noise about obvious problems. Losing games after being in winning positions in nothing other than disgraceful and smells of deeper problems on and off the field. I sometimes worry there is a disparity between the older and younger players at north. I feel they may not get along and there is a lack of respect there. This has been my feeling for a couple of years now.

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    Yes, we are too quiet at North. I haven’t picked up on a rift among the players although Boomer did publicly sledge Wright a few years ago. I think our inferiority complex goes back a long way.

  8. Last week’s loss to the Suns was the worst of the season. Raced out to a 5-goal lead and then were outplayed for 3 quarters by a younger, more desperate team.
    Some of this season’s issues:
    1. Brad Scott must take much of the blame for this season having gone pear-shaped. He has been out-coached on match-days, selections have been questionable at times, he talks in cliches to the media, and his body-language in the coach’s box has been terrible.
    2. Coaching support staff: with all due respect, Shane Watson, Josh Drummond, Darren Crocker, Brett Allison et al don’t exactly instil me with confidence. There has been no real improvement from last year.
    3. Utah is obviously not working if they are continuing to fade out of games.
    4. Where is the Shinboner spirit? Oh, that’s right, someone got rid of it.
    5. James Brayshaw. For a number of reasons.

  9. Good stuff smokie, I’m tired of mediocrity and our team in danger of becoming irrelevant. Enough at North, if the club won’t act, then the north people have a duty to shake , rattle and roll the damned club into action. Go North people, enough BS

  10. Pamela Sherpa says

    Some people have boring jobs where they are happy to turn up , mind their own business, put in the minimum effort required and take home their pay check. Perhaps football has become just a job.

  11. Yes Pamela, but if they are the type of people walking around north melbourne I’d like to see them out the door. I don’t want my club to entertain any individual other than people who are hell bent on team success. If not, then those people are not required at north Melbourne they are wasting space

  12. So many thoughts to try and cram into one comment …

    This season always had the possibility of going pear-shaped like this. Setting aside the Adelaide and GC games, they played like a top-6-quality list that still needs to learn how to put the foot down, and at 6-5 rather than 4-7, I would have felt like we were still heading the right way.

    Realistically, we needed all the kids to keep progressing to take the next step, and it looks pretty clear that so far it’s about a 50% hit rate. Ziebell, Cunnington, Black, and Mullett have been great and Goldstein has responded superbly after last season, but it would be fair to say Atley, MacMillan, Harper, Wright, and Bastinac have stagnated at best. Gibson and Sierakowski, despite their virtues of hard work and persistence, look to be fundamentally limited players. I hope Lachie going down back turns out to be the making of him, but only time will tell. I have to keep reminding myself to be patient regarding Jacobs and Gysberts given where they’ve come from, and I’m sure they’ll play some good footy for us. And then there’s LT. So close to being the player he can be, but still so, so prone to messing up. I’m pretty sure he’s a net positive, but it’s maddening when you see him keep doing things he should be able to easily take out of his game.

    The established senior players have pretty much delivered what we knew they could, so it’s probably not entirely fair to pot them for the team’s problems. Except that …

    On field leadership is a big question mark, agreed. Swallow, for all that he’s great at, isn’t a game-breaker. He’s an inside extractor. I’ve been excited by the few times I’ve seen Ziebell take games by the scruff of the neck this year, and I reckon we’ll see more of it. And Cunnington just oozes class. Scooter has been brilliant, and Drew is, well, Drew. Boomer and Wells … love them, but they’re also doers rather than generals on the field.

    I agreed with you last year that Firrito looked done, and he turned around and proved us both wrong, at least for the time being. This time around though, I’m wondering what the cost to overall development is of picking him every week, and honestly, how many games are we going to lose because we gave Kennedy or McKenzie a run ahead of him?

    While I’m concerned about Brad’s performance this year, I’m not ready to write him off as quickly as some. He’s shown a willingness to be honest with himself and adjust before now, and there’s no reason that can’t continue. At this point I doubt he’ll ever be a great instinctive match-day tactician, and he needs to do something about that, and if he’s got this far with the nice guy act, he needs to turn around and balance it with some tough love, not just in the post-mortems but at the selection table.

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