Round 11 – North Melbourne v Richmond: Witches’ Hats

Years ago, when I was playing footy, a match I was scheduled to play in was cancelled because the opposition did not show up. To be fair they phoned ahead and claimed that, for a variety of reasons, they were unable to assemble a squad of fit players. This did not assuage our suspicions that the trip from Eltham to Williamstown was a Westgate bridge too far. So, instead of playing a competitive match, our coach forced us out onto the field for a vigorous practice session – followed by an equally vigorous in-clubroom session which would now be referred to as “team-bonding”.


That distant memory was brought back into sharp focus whilst watching the Kangaroos go through their paces at Blundstone Arena in what amounted to little more than a training drill. Indeed, North had decided that this particular hit-out, on this chilly Hobart night, was so inconsequential that neither their coach Brad Scott nor their most valuable asset Todd Goldstein needed to partake.


Scott’s stand-in, Darren Crocker, deemed that proceedings should commence with goal-kicking practice. His charges duly obliged: rucking understudy Majak Daw’s hit-out started a chain of possessions which ended with Daniel Wells kicking the first goal within 40 seconds. Shaun Atley, lairising as players do only at training, executed a perfect banana-kick goal. But that sort of stuff will not cut it in a real match against real opponents. Next it was Brent Harvey’s turn, followed by a Lindsay Thomas brace. There were opponents throughout this initial period, decked out in black and yellow guernseys, but they offered only the token resistance that pretend opponents do at training.


At the first break, Crocker instructed the group that match simulation was the next order of business to be ticked off. Things became a little tougher and harder, the intensity grew and the in-and-under flourishes were more numerous (and as such this was the most even period of the entire game).


After a longer rest for some fluids, and possibly a group discussion on what should next take place, the Kangaroos re-entered Bellerive and played a type of half-court football – a drill in which the defenders were not involved. The ball ricocheted about the forward half until it seemed that an invisible whistle was blown and the North player in possession at that time took a shot at goal. In rapid succession Nick Dal Santo, Wells, Mason Wood, Daw and Harvey all finished off crisp set-pieces. Intriguingly, this drill also required an assortment of witches’ hats (tonight painted black and yellow) which were randomly scattered about the field. The final period was more of the same, with the witches’ hats only sporadically interfering with proceedings.


In my playing days, a favourite training drill was “circle work”, an unimaginatively titled drill in which you could run hard and gather plenty of possessions or, alternatively, rest on your laurels and bludge if you wanted. (I will leave readers to decide on which route was my preferred). This match in many ways resembled circle work, with the Kangaroos sometimes working hard, but at other times taking the foot off the pedal. The Tigers were as poor as they have been for a couple of seasons and after the match coach Damien Hardwick labelled them a “bunch of schoolboys”; but that surely is doing schoolboy football a dis-service?


On a bitterly cold night in Hobart – cold for training, cold for playing, cold for anything footy related – the Kangaroos continued to build upon an effective home-ground advantage at Blundstone Arena. It is just a shame that they had to settle for a glorified practice session tonight rather than a proper hit-out. Whilst I was left wondering if Richmond’s excuse for not turning up to play was more acceptable or less valid than that of my own opponents all those years ago.


NORTH MELBOURNE    5.4   7.9   13.13   18.16  (124)

RICHMOND                      1.5   3.8    4.10     7.12  (54)



North Melbourne: Harvey 4, Wells 3, Wood 2, Thomas 2, Atley, Brown, Daw, Petrie, Dal Santo, Cunnington, Macmillan

Richmond: Vickery 2, Riewoldt 2, Lloyd, Deledio, Miles



North Melbourne: Wells, Dal Santo, Ziebell, Swallow, Cunnington, Harvey

Richmond: Miles, Cotchin, Grigg, Rance


Umpires: Hosking, Chamberlain, Findlay


Our Votes: 3 Wells (NM); 2 Dal Santo (NM); 1 Harvey (NM).

About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Smokie, it seems you don’t get down to training sessions at Arden St much these days.

    I think you’re being a bit uncharitable about the workrate and hardness of North’s extended training squad.

  2. Middle Australia says


    Well put and I’m a Richmond supporter. Witches hats would have been more competitive.


  3. Luke Reynolds says

    For some reason I was looking forward to watching this game. That only lasted 10 minutes.
    Great crowd in Hobart, a full Bellerive Oval looks great. Should become something of a fortress for North over the next 5 years, looks like they are gaining plenty of support in Hobart.

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    Can’t recall the last time I saw a team less interested. Shameful.

    Surely, three Elim Final losses would have alarm bells ringing over the summer. Not at Tigerland. Carry on.

    Rob, great photo of Cabes.

  5. Peter Flynn says


    June 5, 1976 Princes Park.

    Malcolm Blight and Michael Williamson.

    It’s a big kick. It’s a mammoth kick…

    Seems like yesterday.

  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    10-1 Smokie. Loved Majak’s game. Seemed to show some self-belief along with many of his teammates. Next couple of weeks should reveal a fair bit about your Roos.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Entertaining Smokie and spot on

  8. Rob, mate, I am not being uncharitable, far from it – this whole palaver was a comment on the lack of opposition and effort which Richmond provided.
    M.A., Starkers, Tigers were extremely disappointing. Looks like a rebuild.
    Luke, the game was as flat as a night-carter’s hat. Hope we play Collingwood on Friday in Hobart next year!
    Phil, a huge three weeks for North.
    Flynny, I was actually at that game! Unforgettable.
    Rulebook, thanks mate.

  9. It was a cold and lonely night for us Richmond fans.
    Nothing to cheer.
    Sitting on the grass.
    Feet frozen.
    “Dad, why do they have more players than us?”
    Took my eldest sister down for the game, for her 50th birthday present, she’s a mad North supporter. At least she was happy.
    Caught up with Brent ‘Tiger’ Crosswell for a coffee on Sunday and he said North have always treated him well.
    We talked about the differences between North Melbourne and Richmond, the football clubs.
    I like North. Loads of value for money.
    They show my mob up.
    Go Tiges!

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