Round 10 – North Melbourne vs West Coast: Against the Wind

It’s amazing how much angst can be washed away by one gritty, backs-to-the-wall win. Without their coach, badly missing some class in the midfield, North finally — finally! — came away with a win that I could enjoy without reservation. Flogged Brisbane, but should have been even more. Essendon and Geelong are at best just going. The Tiggers were sorely out of form. But this one, this one against the flying Eagles in a gale at Hobart, was one to savour.

With a strong wind at their backs, North started unsteadily, needing a couple from Ben Brown late in the quarter to look at all respectable. 3 goals up in a 6 goal wind doesn’t bode well.

And so it went, with the buffer as good as wiped out by two goals from Fraser McInnes. North seemed intent on hanging on for dear life in defense, and managed only the rarest of forays forward. Thomas from 25 out in the pocket watched helplessly as his shot curled back away from goals, and Higgins’ set shot 20 out straight in front didn’t even seem a sure thing to make the distance. But the Weagles wasted some chances, and should have gone in to the sheds ahead by more than 7 points (though their 5.11 did include 6 rushed behinds)

One reason I’m so perky about this game might be that I wasn’t able to catch the third quarter. Driving home from Woodend where we had been watching the first half after lunch at the excellent Pig & Whistle in Trentham, I was only allowed the occasional score check. At 12 points down 25 minutes in, I had conceded another one on behalf of the dumb, pea-hearted, inefficient Kangas, yet by the time I got back onto the couch for the last quarter, they had somehow managed to eke out a 7 point lead.

The last quarter frankly defied belief. North played hard and smart, running into the wind, kicking low, even along the ground at times, maybe getting lucky with a momentary lull in the wind now and then. Goldstein dominated as Naitanui tired. Petrie took the lowest altitude hanger of the season so far in the goal square, up as high as his 32 year old legs can take him this late in the game.  Ziebell shrugged off a couple of tacklers to nail a goal. Goldstein curled one in from about 35 on an angle. And Higgins’ pass out in front of Macmillan had ideas of its own and managed to roll through. Meanwhile the likes of Hurn and Wellingham just kicked it up high with the wind at their backs and let it carry from 70 or so metres out. Malcolm Blight never needed as much meteorological assistance to kick them that far.

But the Shinboners hung on, tackled like madmen, and brought home a win that looked unlikely 30 minutes before. Ziebell played, for at least the third time this year by my reckoning, another one of those games that North people can point out to try and explain why we love him, while Higgins proved the difference in the forward half. For the Eagles, I’d always considered Matt Priddis a pretty vanilla accumulator notable more for his hairdo than what he does with the ball (see also Heppell, D.), but he was terrific in this one. Maybe the conditions suited his style.

It’s easy to say that watching a mess of a game played in gale force winds is fun when you’re not out in it. But it is. All the carefully choreographed game plans go out the window, and animal cunning takes over. Back to basics. Back your instincts. keep the ball out of the air and out of the pockets. Anything kicked up into the wind stopped like it had hit a wall. I had to wonder whether the 15 metres for a fair mark could include 5 forward and another 10 in reverse.

Happy for Crocker, a good lifelong Shinboner filling in as coach, and not surprised that they found a way to lift in the absence of Brad Scott, which does not need to be a slight on Scott at all. Might turn out to be good for these guys to remind themselves that they had it in them all along.

Comments

  1. Very good Rob. Both sides played with a huge sense of commitment, but North were steadier and smarter under pressure.
    Ziebell was enormous and I really like Ben Brown as a mobile big man. Goldstein, Higgins and even my whipping boy Petrie were great.
    Eagles will have learned a lot about playing under pressure. We will flog the Bombers this Saturday, and then get to measure ourself again against the resurgent Tigers on the ‘G.
    Well played Rob and North (only took me 3 days to get it out – the dog was very scared on Sunday evening). See you in September.

  2. Gritty win indeed, Rob.
    Still a way to go to make up lost ground,
    but not a bad starting point.

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