Round 11 – North Melbourne v Sydney: The lapse – two quarters of football?

It is always there.  Affecting a quarter.  A few weeks ago it was the third.  At the weekend it was the second.  The lapse has even affected the first and last.  No one can adequately explain why.  But it is there, every week.


The lapse means no lead is safe.  The lapse ensures a deficit cannot be retrieved.  It could be mental fragility.  It could be structure.  It is endemic to North Melbourne.  When the lapse is on, North can’t figure out the alterations their opposition has made.  North can’t alter their game plan to counter the alterations until it is too late.


In round 10 against Collingwood, a third quarter lapse resulted in nine unanswered goals.  At the weekend, a second term lapse allowed Sydney to kick five goals to one.


The lapse is brilliantly predictable without being predictably brilliant.  At some stage during a game, North will leak goals in a quarter.


People suffer lapses every day, forgetting what they were going to say, why they’re in a particular room, or how to use technology.  Lapses can be embarrassing and frustrating.  Our colleagues, friends and family get annoyed by our lapses.


I forgot or I didn’t mean it are the wrong excuses.


North’s lapses include forgetting how to man up, hit a target or move the ball forward.  It’s like they forget how to play for half an hour and by the time they remember it is too late.  What could’ve been becomes what isn’t.


When North forgot how to play against Collingwood, they gave up a 39-point half time lead.  Forgetting how to play against Sydney meant a five-point deficit at quarter time became a 29-point deficit at half time.


Game over, thanks to the lapse.


There was a fightback of sorts in the second half.  North was gritty, outscoring Sydney but inaccuracy let the Swans maintain scoreboard pressure.


Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins missed crucial shots at goal late in the last quarter.  Those men have kicked plenty of goals in their careers.


But Brent Harvey kicked 1-3.  Robin Nahas kicked 2-3 and Jack Zeibell kicked three behinds.  All those men are expected to kick goals.


That they didn’t mean Sydney was never in danger of losing.  They did enough to build and maintain a lead, as good teams do.


I listened to the first half on radio and wasn’t surprised by the half time margin.  Unlike losses to Hawthorn, Fremantle and Adelaide, I didn’t think North would get hammered but wouldn’t have been surprised if they did.


I picked Sydney to win.  A mate who supports North put money on a Sydney victory.  It was a low three-figure amount, enough to make me wonder why I haven’t had a bet this year.  I understood why he got on Sydney at $1:50.


He didn’t need to explain the blood money, not when North continue to be afflicted by these shocking lapses.


Lapses have been a problem for years at Arden Street.  Brad Scott, as coach, knows the lapse is there.  He can’t stop it.  Darren Crocker, the stand-in, couldn’t eradicate it either.


Lapses in concentration, adherence to the game plan and ability can be caused by tiredness and emotional stress.  At half time, North looked physically spent.  Their exhaustion could’ve been linked to the scoreboard, which presented its own emotional problems.


Psychological conditions, we’re bleeding goals again, also causes lapses.  Physical stress, or pressure from the opposition, is also to blame for these abhorrent lapses.


Maybe every North player suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at the exact same time, which usually lasts a quarter.  ADHD can lead to regression, where sufferers ignore what they’ve been taught and decide to do what they want, damn that playing as a team for the team.


Perhaps North’s players suffer from endocrinologic disturbances under pressure, which changes their cognitive functions and makes them kick the ball repeatedly to the opposition and give up awful turnovers in the corridor.


I’m just guessing, of course.  But I can’t help but wonder why North, in the past three years have just stopped playing for a quarter here, a quarter there, and blow a lead or get blown away.


I’m just guessing, of course, but I can’t help but ignore the brittleness.  I hate the lapse.  Great clubs win four quarters of footy.  Good clubs win games by winning three quarters.


Clubs can’t consistently win games of footy by winning two quarters, which is what North is trying to do.  North has won three or four quarters in a game just three times this season, against Brisbane, Geelong and West Coast.


That’s why the ledger sits at five wins and six losses.  North can’t play four quarters of football.


Who is to blame for the lapses?  The midfield?  Defence? Forwards?  The coach?


Those questions aren’t the answer.  The lapse is a collective problem no one at Arden Street has been able to answer.


The smarter question, how so many good players can lapse for a quarter, is the question that needs answering, because North’s opponents know the answers…



About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    lack of hardness and maturity ( I went too early in the season).

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