Round 12 – North Melbourne v Brisbane: A shinboner by any other name is still noble in defeat


I don’t know if I am sceptical or jealous of those who attempt to define an ideology into a simple word, phrase or slogan. I’m dubious, but I respect it at the same time. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of words, connotations and metaphors, far from it. It’s just that I think, to paraphrase a former prime minister, there must be some iceberg underneath the tip. A slogan without substance or strategy is like a fortune cookie. Even so, running out to play against the Swans is a much more daunting prospect since they redefined themselves as ‘The Bloods.’ But there was more to it than just clever branding. It was culture change with a slogan attached, not the other way around. Back in the nineties, even if North Melbourne had called themselves the ‘Snowflakes’ or the ‘Happy Little Elves,’ with Carey, Archer and co, they would still have played like hardened warriors.


Footy is at least bringing a sense of poetry into its doublespeak. There is something evocative about the moniker ‘shinboner.’ It’s a term that makes me wary that it does indeed speak to an intangible force that when, under siege, may just result in the Lions losing today. In my industry, the education sector, there has been an increasing tendency to incorporate corporate euphemisms over the last ten years. Consider the sentence you just read again to see what I mean. The same corporate branding that turned Kentucky Fried Chicken into KFC has brought to educational discourse directives like ‘rationalise the key areas of pedagogical priority’ and created a world where teachers, students and parents are referred to as facilitators, stakeholders and clients. We didn’t just start remote learning again this week, we branded it ‘RL 2.0.’ It’s generally verbalised as ‘two point oh’ and not ‘zero’ for some inexplicable reason. I much prefer the urban vernacular that has turned McDonalds into ‘Maccas’, Fagan into ‘Fages’ and Robinson to ‘Robbo.’ I think that ‘shinboner’ sits in the latter camp, but it’s still just a word. Nothing to fear. That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.


It is definitely a ‘should’ win for the Lions today. Shinboner spirit or not, it has been a pretty wretched year for North. This week, their coach Rhyce Shaw has been quite savage at the selection table. Pittard, Polec and Daw have all been overlooked in favour of a bunch of kids. Many of their big names are out injured as well – no Jack Ziebell, and Robbie Tarrant was also a late withdrawal due to injury. Ominously for some, particularly those not playing today, it seems that he will be using the rest of the season to have a look at the list with a red pen and ruler in hand.


For Brisbane, the stakes are much more glass half full. Geelong took a blowtorch to the top of the table Port Power last night which has meant a win today will see the Lions sitting equal top. Top of the ladder does seem like a mathematical technicality with Geelong in the form that they are currently in. They are like the AFL version of Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s recently announced running mate who pundits are predicting will be a much more powerful vote getter at the bottom of the ticket than the presidential candidate himself. Just like Trump will be having more sleepless nights over Harris, it is the Geelongs and Richmonds in the lower parts of the eight that will be most worrying Fagan and his coaching staff.


All of Brisbane’s games have been starting like Auskick matches lately. Lots of dare and adventure from the middle which creates missed scoring opportunities aplenty. Fagan was careful with his choice of words to not say we have a problem with goal kicking accuracy. He’s a wise man, as soon as he articulates it, the problem becomes even bigger. It’s like telling Basil Fawlty to not mention the war or me telling you now to not think of a pink elephant. The misses would be comical if they weren’t my team. The only thing that gives us an early lead is the fact that North are equally wasteful. It has been fortunate that in recent weeks, Brisbane has been able to drag teams down to their level. The teams split seven behinds before Larkey finally finds a goal for the Kangaroos. Soon after, Dan McStay does the same Brisbane. Larkey looks like a long-term anchor for North’s forward line, he runs in straight lines, marks well and clearly has Harris Andrews alert, if not yet alarmed. McStay, like Larkey, has all the tools to be a great key forward as well, apart from his kicking accuracy. He hits marking contests with a force that can only be compared to Mahler symphonies and has a sharp initial burst of pace. If it wasn’t for his kicking, he’d be one of the great forwards in the game right now. Just like, if it wasn’t for the way I looked, I could launch a successful modelling career.


North really dictate the tone and tenor of the play. Goldstein’s tap work is taking Lachie Neale out of the game or at least ensuring that he is not getting the centre clearances that he normally does. Not for the first time this year, I marvel at our opposition’s ruckman. Oscar McInerney is effective around the ground and his gameplay and quirky mien are making him a beloved figure for us this year, but with Stef Martin on the injury list the ruck is an area of weakness for the Lions at the moment. If the Kangaroos are indeed playing for the future and not the now, it does look like it will be a bright one. Jed Anderson is clearly the best man on the ground today and Zurhaar and Davies-Uniacke play like Vikings. It is Brisbane’s less heralded players who will be able to meet their coach’s eyes most clearly after the game. Lyons is the Brisbane midfield’s Tonka truck, less deserving seasons than his have been rewarded with All Australian honours and Linc McCarthy is again the most threatening forward for the Lions.


If I was to give some corporate commentary to the final quarter, I would suggest that Brisbane acquire some of their gains from what could be called speculative investments. McCarthy draws a professional free kick from his inexperienced opponent in a marking contest which gives us a three-goal lead and Big O finds a goal roving from the back of a pack not long after. Neither are gameplays that will lead us to the promised land in the finals.


It ends up being a one-point win to Brisbane, but it is surely the least aesthetically exciting one-point win in history. Zurhaar brings the margin back from seven-points with an after the siren goal after missing an easy shot only minutes before which would have really set some panic amongst the Lions.


What was learnt? North did everything right apart from win and the only thing Brisbane did well was get the four points. For me, personally, I’m going to be much less cynical about the shinboner brand going forward. Take away the word ‘brand’ and replace it with ‘culture’ and it becomes a much more laudable concept, one that should have the Kangaroos looking to the future with optimism. North were the moral victors today and I’m glad we won’t have to play them in the finals.



NORTH MELBOURNE             1.3       3.3       4.3       8.4 (52)

BRISBANE                               1.5       3.6       5.9       7.11 (53)



North Melbourne: Larkey 2, Xerri 2, Zurhaar 2, Scott, Murphy

Brisbane: McCarthy 2, McInerney 2, McStay, Hipwood, Bailey



North Melbourne: Anderson, Simpkin, Goldstein, McDonald, Zurhaar

Brisbane: Lyons, McInerney, Zorko, Neale, Birchall, Bailey 



To read more from Shane Reid, click here.


Read more Brisbane reports HERE.


To return to the Home Page click HERE


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE



To find out more about Almanac memberships CLICK HERE

About Shane Reid

Loving life as a husband, dad and teacher. I'm trying to develop enough skill as a writer so that one day Doc Wheildon's Newborough, Bernie Quinlan's Traralgon and Mick Conlon's 86 Eliminatiuon final goal will be considered contemporaneous with Twain's Mississippi, Hemingway's Cuba, Beethoven's 9th and Coltrane's Love Supreme.


  1. A “relief” win by the Lions, Shane. They’ll need to improve for finals on that performance.

    “The Bloods”, as you probably know, has been around for yonks. It was used as a nickname by South Melbourne fans way back, and “reinvented” back in 2002 when Stuart Maxfield, Brett Kirk and Paul Roos combined with Leading Teams to bring about the now well-known and respected “Bloods Culture”.

  2. I agree with so many of your observations, Shane. It was almost like a race to drag one another down to their level for patches of the game. LDU and Cam Zurhaar were unstoppable; you could only admire their games (I might be phrasing it differently if Zurhaar’s kick after the siren was taken with a five point margin rather than seven…)

    The kicking is incredibly frustrating; I do think the psychological nature of goalkicking plays a part though. We’re brought up to value high marks, brilliant runs along the wing and goals that sail over the umpire’s hat at a premium; I do think that in general the mythos of “bad kicking is bad football” is a tad overblown in terms of winning matches (Don’t mention the 2019 Qualifying Final…) and in the case of Brisbane, I believe that Fages has done his best with the pieces at his disposal, which has led to a very good Lions side playing (mostly) very good football. For now, that means kicking deep/wide to the pocket and scoring from either that inside 50 or subsequent attempts. I love Eric and Dan, but I’m not sure they’re ready to play the role of Franklin and Roughead no matter how much we’d love to see it.

  3. matt watson says

    I watched this game while making ice-cream and blueberry muffins and butter.
    Always thought the Lions would win.
    Despite the closeness, they never looked like losing.
    Afterwards, I described the relief they must have felt as I tried to ignore my disappointment.
    North played okay. It would’ve been great to pinch it.
    I like the Shinboner spirit moniker.
    Why not remind supporters of the past. Why not have something to tag into?
    Maybe next year, North will be full of Shinboner Spirit!

  4. Phillip Hill says

    Eric and Dan do indeed stand between us and a flag. I lost it when Eric allowed Zurhad to run through him. Eric wasn’t going to stand between a determined North player, half his size, and the goals.

    Loved the write up of that game because there was absolutely nothing to write about but it was worth the read.

  5. Phillip Hill says

    Shane your 3,2,1 votes?

  6. Pretty fair cop Phillip, I will say though when Zurhaar is running through someone, he’s generally going to run through someone. Particularly so when young Hipwood looks about 85kg dripping wet (officially he’s listed at 92kg, but I have my doubts).

  7. Shane Reid says

    Thanks for reading everyone. Jan, as an old Royboy I have read all of Roosy’s books. He seems to be really thoughtful about branding and the defining characteristics of the cultures he tries to implement. One line made my ‘heart beat true’ in his last book, he said that “At Fitzroy we didn’t have leadership groups or agreed principles, we just watched Garry Wilson and Bernie Quinlan.” It;s a real shame that Maxfield didn’t really see the onfield success that came Sydney’s way.
    Jarrod, Matt, Phil, I agree with all points. I think Brisbane are one quality KPF short. They are hard to find though.
    Matt, there was definitely a spirit in North on the weekend.
    Phil, I’m hopeless at judging that. I thought Anderson was probably best on, Zurhaar next then I’d probably toss a coin for one vote to either Linc McCarthy or Jaryd Lyons. Lachie is probably a bit of a victim of his high standards, not his best game but he was good. It was interesting to look at the stats and see that Goldstein and Oscar broke even in hitouts. Watching the game I thought Goldie was incredibly influential – maybe he tapped them to better places.

  8. A good report, Shane. You are in better form than the Lions.

    I was pleased that a young Shinboner outfit showed much more fight and grit this week, after the horrors of the previous week. The elections showed that Shaw has made his intentions clear.

    As for the Lions, I will reserve my decision. But their inconsistency is an issue.

Leave a Comment