No. It couldn’t happen.

 

 

After the First Third

In early March, I wrote to Gigs: Who is going
to beat North Melbourne this year?
Adelaide (–10),
Melbourne (–5) and St Kilda (–7) have at least

made a fist of it … or, in Adelaide’s case, two fists.
In Round Nine, Carlton has the chance to poke
its fingers into the eyes of this ageing bear.

North won’t have Higgins or Hibberd but Wells
may return. Carlton will be without Kruzer,
Casboult and maybe Cripps. Surely Ben Boulton’s

dream run will come to an end. Thus, maybe
Sydney will pause North’s march in Round 10.
Lance Frankin is playing as if he’s making up

for lost time; Sydney’s little men – Hannebery,
Parker and Heeney are writing their own scripts;
Tippett, the awkward basketballer, is finally

starting to pay his way. Sydney are the real deal.
If they can’t beat North in Round Ten, maybe
Richmond can in Round Eleven… but I don’t

think so. Richmond’s one-point Round Eight
victory over the Swans after the siren was cloak
and dagger stuff – some grit but mainly the sheer

luck of a bouncing ball. Strange things happen
if the opposition blinks for one or two seconds
these days. That victory saved the Richmond coach

and the club from its next leak of gastric pain,
but no one is fooled. Richmond’s blowtorch
sits on the desk and it’s still warm. In Round 12,

Geelong might wipe the smile from the ladder leader.
The Cats have answered the only question in their summer
recruiting: How could two egotistical midfielders

share one centre stage? The answer is: Easily; next
question, please.
Dangerfield and Selwood have melded
as if they were Siamese twins rudely separated at birth.

They are an opposition coach’s nightmare. Last Friday
at Adelaide Oval, they had 57 disposals between them
(24 kicks, 33 handballs) but Guthrie (13 and 23)

and Motlop (19 and 5) were the ones who broke the lines
and did the damage. Guthrie had speed; Motlop had
sublime intelligence. You can’t catch four fast smart cats

at the same time in a room full of open doors.
If you don’t believe me, try it some time. If Geelong
can’t knock off North in Round 12, Hawthorn

will try in Round 13. This will seem like a seniors’
bowling green – a waiting room of septuagenarians.
North has seven players who have played over 200 games.

Three (Harvey, 417, dal Santo 308 and Petrie 301)
have played a staggering 1,020 games. Meanwhile,
Hawthorn’s squad of 46 have played over 4,000 games.

GWS’s squad, currently third on the ladder, have played
less than 1,500 games as I write, tonight. Round 13
will be a battle between two very old teams. They should

bring out wheelchairs in the fourth quarter. The AFL
lacks many things but it doesn’t lack a sense of humour.
North and Hawthorn, the first teams needing a rest,

won’t have their midseason break until Round 15.
Until then, both of these two teams will be gasping
for new air. Let’s say, Hawthorn falls over. In Round 14,

Adelaide has its second chance to stop the butchers.
The Crows will be fresh from its bye and, this time,
it will play North in Adelaide. That will help them

but it may not be enough. Maybe West Coast,
in Round 16, will be good enough to beat North
in Perth. We will see. Port, away, in Round 17,

won’t do it at Etihad; Collingwood in Round 18
will still be a running joke in most parts of the republic;
St Kilda, in Round 19 might come closer. In Round 20,

the Bulldogs’ manic hunger will be slower and harder.
As the tough grind of the long season exerts its toll,
they may find themselves wanting more but getting less.

It’s inconceivable that North will go through the season
undefeated. They are not that good. No one is.
Will Hawthorn manage it, in their second meeting

in Round 21? Maybe. Maybe not. Both sides will need
wheelchairs in the third quarter and not just the last.
No one can predict that one. If Hawthorn fail again,

Sydney, away from home, will have a chance in Round 22
to stop the rolling ball. That’s on the cards. If they fail,
it will come down to GWS to pull one out of the box

in the last round of the year. As far as North will be concerned,
it will be a dead rubber. They’ll have secured top spot by plenty
and the only sensible thing to do would be to rest every player.

It might even be better to pay the fine and not turn up.

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