North Need To Toughen Up

This was the moment. I looked on, nervously. Could we do it? I swung my leg back and forth, trying to stretch it out as much as I could. I turned my eyes to the middle of the field. The pivotal contest was about to finish. Who would come out unscathed? It happened. Waaia were undefeated. Against the reigning premiers. We cheered, rejoicing with high-fives all round. Spectators looked on in disbelief, they underestimated our ability, but we sure showed them.

Not only did we win the coin toss, keeping our winning record intact for season 2011, but we also won the first quarter. And the second quarter. Onlookers were starting to get even more startled. Not only could we anticipate which side a coin would land on, but we could also match it with the bigger bodies of Dookie United, the premiers of season 2010. 6.1 to 4.9 at half time. And we did a Port Adelaide. We stopped, to a grinding halt. Dookie (Gold Coast) kicked nine consecutive goals to run out convincing winners, 13.18.96 to 6.3.39. I needed to get changed quickly, due to having work at OneFm. I planned to tape the Geelong v North game on TV, but Mum broke the news to me that we can’t record anything with the new digital layout. That threw a massive spanner in the works.

So how did I find myself lying in bed waiting for the start of the game? Well, I landed on my knee pretty awkwardly during the game and yeah, pulled a sickie. I felt bad, but I hadn’t seen North on the telly at all in the first seven weeks. How can I follow my team when I rely on a bunch of journalists judging how well a player went via their Supercoach scores? Plus, I had a feeling about this game. Chris Scott v Brad Scott. The coaching oracle v the coach who has lost plenty of supporters since last year. Yes, they are twins, but I don’t think anything else needs to be said about it. The media jockeys have done enough of that this season, let alone this past week.

The Roos run out in their new clash strip. This is the first time I’ve seen it, apart from a little picture with bad quality in the Herald Sun a couple of months ago. It looks good, better than the Argentina one. I wonder if Mum and Dad will let me update to the current clash guernsey? Geelong run out. They look big, big in the hips. Paul Chapman and Josh Hunt are wider than Shaun Atley, Sam Wright, Kieran Harper and Ben Speight standing side-by-side. Whoever coined the phrase that Geelong played like a bunch of girls only need to look at Chappy and Hunt to see they are one of the strongest teams in the league, physically. They look like they could rip a football apart and feast on the insides of it. North’s worrying turnovers are costly early in the game, with Nathan Grima’s clearing kick out of defence chopped off by Jimmy Bartel, who passed to a leading James Podisadly. He kicked the first goal, before Geelong won the next clearance with ease, resulting in a goal to Joel Selwood. Harper is starting on the bench. I remember back to when I went to Skilled Stadium during the NAB Cup with a group of Almanacker friends this year. I remember when Mike shouted out to Harper repetitively as he strutted around the boundary line. Three months on, in his second senior game, you could tell he looked a bit edgy on the pine, waiting to hear his name screamed out again. Looking at the ground, I felt really familiar with Kardinia Park. I remember walking up those steps on the broadcast side of the ground when the camera pans in on the bench. I remember sitting behind the Geelong faithful as they comfortably beat the Western Bulldogs in the tri-series. What I don’t remember is North Melbourne showing any fight that day. To my relief, it looked like they brought some this time. Jack Ziebell earned a free kick at half forward, and his pass cut through a pack, landing in the lap of a leading Drew Petrie. The shot by Petrie was as good as the Ziebell pass, the ball floating straight through the goals. I heard something outside. I pulled the curtains back. Two beady little eyes looking at me, horns protruding, eating the plants lined up on the path outside my room. The goats were out. Mum was already out there trying valiantly to get them back in. I came out to help, and we managed to get all three back in their paddock. One jumped straight back over the fence, into the backyard again. The process repeated, without me however. I’m watching the game again. From what I can gather from the commentators, I didn’t miss much, but North were starting to compose themselves and Petrie was leading hard and looking dangerous. Lindsay Thomas, finding it impossible to nail goals from straight in front, somehow snapped a miraculous goal from the forward pocket, before Mathew Stokes got on the end of an unselfish Travis Varcoe pass. Stokes goaled, before Podsiadly made the Roos pay after Petrie wasn’t awarded a mark that would’ve been paid for any other team. He didn’t lower his head though, and after a good pass by Daniel Wells, booted his second to reduce the quarter time margin to just seven points. I didn’t feel confident.

It is fair to say that North were formerly portrayed as a tough team. The type that would bury you in a tackle, rub your face in the dirt and ‘accidentally’ knock you in the ribs after untangling themselves with you. Those days are gone. Archer is gone, Stevens gone, Simpson gone. Who epitomises toughness at North Melbourne these days? I have no idea. No one as far as I know. Swallow lays tackles and fights and attacks the ball, but he’s beaten by better opposition too often. Harvey’s never been tough, he’s been cunning, but never the type to rough other blokes up. Fair enough too, he’s the size of the new year 7 students at school. Scott Thompson has lost his mojo, which was his mongrel, since the Barry Hall episode. He could’ve been the tough player we lack. Michael Firrito is, in the eyes of many North supporters, the heart and soul of the club. He’s medium-sized, but his legs are the size of tree trunks. He’s solid, and has a fair bit of mongrel about him. Two weeks ago, Dustin Martin, a teenager for god’s sake, put Firrito on his backside with one hand. In this game, Firrito was one-out with Daniel Menzel in the goalsquare. The ball was coming their way. Both had their arms linked, pushing for best position. 27 years of age and 94kg v 19 years and 79kg. Menzel got to the front, stuck one arm out and took the ball into his chest. That’s not tough. I felt disgusted to have watched that happen. But I felt better afterwards. North started to get a feel of the ball. Each kick to their teammate seemed to increase their chance of running over the top of the Cats. Many onlookers watched in either elation or horror, depending where they held their allegiance. Petrie morphed into Wayne Carey momentarily as he ran back into a large pack of players in the goalsquare, timing his run perfectly, plucking the ball as he crashed into the pack. He held firm, he looked as if he’d just taken an easy uncontested mark at training. Words couldn’t describe how I felt watching it. I felt like the real North Melbourne was back. Petrie booted his third. We were back within a goal. I remembered back to Easter Tuesday though, at the ease Geelong flicked the switch and ripped the game away from Hawthorn’s grasp. I looked on in horror as the momentum shifted. Geelong won the ball back, they played keepings off, they kicked goals. Five of them, all in a row. Wright managed to sneak a late one, but the damage had been done.

The switch wasn’t close to being flicked back off, sadly. Geelong booted another five in a row. 10 out of the last 11 goals. Leigh Adams embarrassed himself, not taking advantage of a free Swallow running through the midfield, instead opting to keep the ball in his hands, thus being tackled and the resulting free kick ending in a major to Mitch Duncan. Firrito made me even more angry when he didn’t attack a contest inside 50, which ended in Chapman snapping a clever goal. The power went off momentarily, when it came back on it was a replay of a Selwood goal. It went back off. I got frustrated, however I didn’t even want to watch the game anymore so maybe it was a good thing. When it finally came back on, Selwood had another shot, but it was touched on the line. The Roos found their fighting spirit, with Wright taking a strong mark and kicking his second, before Harper and Wells both bobbed up to boot majors. It was back to 44 points. Doable? I doubted the Roos. Especially after Varcoe immediately pegged one back from the next centre bounce. Three quarter time came, and the game was over thanks to another withering burst by the Cats.

I want the margin under 50 points. Completely giving up and conceding a 15 goal defeat was not an option. Percentage has always been a major issue for the Roos. We suck at killing teams, and we suck at getting within 10 goals of good sides, which is a recipe for a shoddy percentage. Last weekend’s ten-goal victory over Port Adelaide was impressive, but all the good work was about to be undone. Stokes kicked his third goal before retiring to the bench to have a chuckle with his mates. The Roos make a cutting play from defence to the attacking goalsquare in the only highlight of the final quarter, Harvey finding Cam Pedersen alone at the 50m arc, before putting it over Speight’s head in the goalsquare to put through North’s ninth. Podsiadly kicked his third, and Bartel joined the list of goalkickers with a clever goal while lying on his side. That was what this game was about, Geelong could do everything we could, but 10 times better. They could kick goals while lying down. We couldn’t spot teammates standing 20m away.

Yes, the current issue is circled around Port Adelaide and the Brisbane Lions, both are seemingly at their lowest ever ebb. North isn’t far behind. The depth I was so impressed with in the pre-season is non-existent. Hamish McIntosh, Levi Greenwood and Ryan Bastinac need to get back into the side ASAP. For all the bashing Lachie Hansen gets, Petrie found it hard to beat two opponents in the second half. Having Hansen deep in the forward line would’ve solved this problem. Aaron Edwards kicked 10 in the curtain raiser, he will be given another run in the seniors. I like the look of Jamie Macmillan, future captain screams out at me when I watch him play. The highly touted future captains such as Ziebell, Cunnington and Firrito, however, didn’t have an impact on the game, and haven’t for quite some time, if at all in Cunnington’s case.

Sure, Brad Scott has invested in a lot of that sports science crap, and an expensive trip to Utah for a gruelling pre-season workout, but for heaven’s sakes, buy some dumbbells and lock a few of these boys in the gym.

Geelong 4.4—10.5—16.11—19.13.127

North Melbourne 3.3—5.5—8.5—9.7.61


Geelong-Stokes 3, Podsiadly 3, Selwood 2, Menzel 2, Varcoe 2, Hawkins, Bartel, Kelly, Mackie, Milburn, Duncan, Chapman

North Melbourne-Petrie 3, Wright 2, Speight, Thomas, Wells, Harper


Geelong-Stokes, Selwood, Kelly, Bartel, Varcoe, Podsiadly, Corey

North Melbourne-Goldstein, Pratt, Atley, Wells, Petrie, Harvey


23,699 at Skilled Stadium


3: Mathew Stokes (G)

2: Joel Selwood (G)

1: James Kelly (G)

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. smokie88 says

    Excellent summary. I agree with evrything you have said. Even when North was battling, their physical toughness was a hallmark.
    For me, the big worry is that North have not been able to improve their competiveness against the very best teams. I was not expecting a win yesterday, but was very disappointed by the big losing margin, and the fact that the Cats were able to rest players along the way (really treating North with contempt).
    Despite Brad Scott’s statements that his team is on the right track and improving, it would appear that Richmond and West Coast (to name two) have overtaken North this season.
    I get frustrated in North’s inability to put the brakes on in games that are spiralling out of control. It appears that there is no Plan B. And that is very worrying indeed.
    Smokie Dawson.

  2. Danielle says

    Geelong played like a bunch of girls? -_- wat you trying to say Barnstable?

  3. Smokie,
    I like the way they try to go into the middle every chance they get. Very anti-Collingwood style, and it looks very attractive when it works. Had my doubts about him in the pre-season but I think Scott McMahon’s been one of our best so far this year, which speaks for itself. I still think we’re better than Melbourne, next week will tell.

    Geelong USED to play like girls, they were nicknamed the handbag wearers or something. Susie or Mr Flynn could expand on that more.

  4. Peter Flynn says

    G’day Josh and Danni,

    I’ll have a go at answering your question. I thought that the term ‘handbaggers’ was coined by Lou Richards, possibly in the ’70’s.

    I believe the term represents physical and mental softness.

    Geelong was a bit of a flaky side back then.

    Not now.



  5. I thought North were ok, some way off but my posse and I were very impressed with the likes of Petrie, Wells, Pratt, Kevin Pederson ok too.

    But carn the Cats!!

  6. John Butler says

    Hi Josh

    Nice work.

    Those goats behaving themselves yet?

  7. Thanks for that Flynny.

    North were ok for majority of the first half, but went off the rails in the second. Once again it looks like they will only be capable of beating teams below them on the ladder.

    No, they are still wanting to jump the paddock fence into our backyard, but I came up with a cunning plan of blocking the fences with deck chairs, which seems to have stopped them. Will post more if any havoc comes from that.

  8. Marcus Holt says

    Nice work John, loved the goat interlude and you had me well and truly sucked in with the Waaia coin toss victory.

    I was at the (Cats) game and it’s always interesting to “see” a game through someone else’s eyes, it changes things entirely. I thought Petrie was great until Lonergan and Taylor started to get on top, they’ve become very effective this season, cf. Riewoldt Rd 1, Franklin Rd 5.

  9. And Waaia lost to Dookie Josh. Bad weekend.

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