Round 14 – North Melbourne v Collingwood (Floreat Pica Society)

 

North Melbourne v Collingwood

1:00pm, Sunday June 16

Docklands

 

 

by Steve Fahey

 

 

 

Since Fly took the reins, we have done the improbable, the incredible, the next-to-impossible and now the utterly unimaginable.

 

Game day started with me catching the train from Footscray with my neighbour and this week’s DRs writer Paul Russo (currently aka Sidey on his Twitter/X profile or whomever he judges took the better hanger today, Bobby or Kroooooger). Things were going mundanely until the train stopped at North Melbourne and a chilling wind and dark shadow entered the carriage. Yes, it was FPS’ Kiss of Death Moods, who reminded me that every time he has written a report since prelim final day 2018, we have lost. I thought little of it at the time, but thought a lot about it as North were piling on eight unanswered goals in the first quarter – does this man cast a spell of doom (which if you look closely enough you will see is Mood backwards!) even when he is in the presence of FPS match report writers ? Do we need to chip in a few bucks each and buy him a one-way ticket to Siberia?

 

Much like the train journey, the game went swimmingly for a very brief period; about one minute to be precise, when Bobby kicked the opening goal. We then were spectators, fumblers and clangermeisters for the next thirty minutes or so as the bottom team tore us apart. Yet again Larkey kicked goals for fun against us as we were outworked, outpressured and outplayed as their very talented mids LDU, Sheezel and Wardlaw presented Larkey and Zurhaar with plenty of opportunities. At the 20-minute mark we had recorded three tackles while barely touching the ball. Our backs were disorganised and panicky and North were playing a very smart game based on fast chains of uncontested marks. It seemed like, as for many of the fans, the early start had caught us napping. A late goal from Schultz after a big tackle by Krooooger at least broke the Roos’ run of eight, but a 35 point deficit was a staggering start to the game.

 

A reaction was required and we made some inroads into the deficit by kicking three of the first four goals of the quarter, the first from Crisp, whom was typically industrious and admirable. Unfortunately the margin then blew out beyond the quarter-time level through a combination of North’s excellent play and extreme goalkicking accuracy and a ridiculous number of Pie errors, some of which were created by North’s outstanding pressure, some created by us perhaps trying to bite off too much at times as we tried to reduce the hefty deficit and some were basic skill errors. There was also a bizarre free kick paid against our debutant TJ for an adjudged push. Frustration was evident on and off the field. Some of our more skilled players were leading the way with errors – Jaicos was working very hard and trying to create some drive, but had four kicks in the quarter marked by North, and a fifth was saved because of a very late whistle awarding a free kick to Naicos, whose tagger Will Phillips was doing a decent job. The highlight of the quarter from a black and white perspective (and there wasn’t that much competition) was Bobby’s MOTY contender and resultant goal. Things were looking very grim at 48 points down at the main break, which I spent most of trying to think of a nice way of excommunicating Moods from FPS. I groaned when I saw the stat that North had scored their highest score for the year…by half-time! Another telling stat was that scores from turnover were 13-61.

 

We swung some changes at half-time with Reef coming on for Fin, who, like many others, had been quiet. Howey went forward and Frampton went back. When Zurhaar, another who usually performs well against the Pies, opened the scoring we were 54 points down, and I jokingly wrote in my match report notes exercise book – we have them right where we want them! Naicos went forward and started to have an impact, but the Roos answered with a couple of their own and at the 22 minute mark the margin was still at 45 points and grim had become desperate. We kicked a couple from Kroooger and Naicos to make North nervous at the last break. Our 11 scoring shots for the third quarter, as well as our ridiculous record in close finishes and coming from behind buoyed the faithful who were greatly in need of buoyance after a testing afternoon to date.

 

Bewilderingly, North subbed off Naicos’ tagger. While Clarko says it was due to fatigue, I wonder whether the additional time Naicos spent as a forward, with a different opponent, played a role. Whatever factors played their reason, the experienced Liam Shiels stood Naicos at the first centre bounce of the last quarter and immediately gave away a free.

 

Nothing significant happened in the first few minutes of the quarter until HH hit the target and when we then won multiple clearances in a row, Bobby and Beau followed soon after. Everyone at the stadium could feel the momentum surge and knew that North were under siege and they became hesitant and nervous, their backs taking forever to kick the ball, even though there was a long way to go. They held us at bay for several minutes but it felt like we would score again and we did through Bobby to get the margin to a goal. Clearly North had to take the game on a bit more, and did, but our momentum continued and Howey put us in front, redeeming a quarter in which he turned it over forward several times.

 

After having worked so hard to hit the front, we made a meal of a contest on North’s half-forward flank in which we had the numbers and North then had numbers forward of the ball and strolled in to regain the lead, the goal kicked by Brynn Teakel, who spent the pre-season at the Pies and missed one of the places on the list offered to Sullivan, Eyre and Bytel. We had worked so hard to get back into it, could we take the lead again? (Spoiler alert – YESSS!) Sidey squared the ball on his left to the top of the goal square and BOBBBYYYYYY! We were back in front and the last five minutes were excruciating, much of it spent in North’s forward half. Watch it for yourself, here is the last two minutes. I love the commentator’s description of Bruzzy’s maniacal desperation – for much of the game it looked like his 200th celebration would be a fizzer, but fittingly he led the line in the dying minutes and we somehow won yet again after a couple of massive scares – a missed 50m penalty and their final shot for goal (from an ex-Carlton player in Zac Fisher) missing narrowly.

 

As always, there were some interesting stats that enlighten HOW we won. North’s pressure rating dropped from 204 in the first half to 183 in the second, while our rose from 173 to over 200 (I can’t find the number, but it was 205 in the third quarter). We nearly squared inside 50 at the end 48-51 after it being 3-15 at one stage in the first quarter.

 

Ultimately stats can’t explain this team – it’s all about belief and never giving up and we now have had six games this season decided by a goal or less and haven’t lost any of them (obviously two draws). I went home from the game VERY relieved, exhausted and enormously grateful, not only for this win, but for everything we have experienced since Fly has been at the helm. It has been a hell of a ride and long may it continue. Hopefully we will regain some of the injured talent after the break with JDG, Checkers and Pendles all likely to return when we travel to the Gold Coast.

 

To the votes for the prestigious Horsburgh Medal.

 

(3) Naicos – relatively subdued in the first half, but magnificent in the second half and swung the game. Ten score involvements, two goals and won a ton of contested ball. What a player!

(2) Bobby – his second-best game for the Pies, five goals and has x-factor to burn

(1) Crispy – our best four-quarter performer

 

The Sam Kekovich Medal goes to Naicos.

 

Honourable mentions to Schultz, Sidey, Bruzzy, and the big fellow in the ruck who has earned a rest next break with a herculean effort so far this season.

 

And a very honourable mention to Moods – it turns out he is not cursed after all. Maybe we will let him back on the writing roster…in 2032!

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. george smith says

    Why was Frampton forward? Put him on the backline where he belongs, maybe after all these years we are still searching for the next Leigh Brown, the forward/second ruck position which ended up being like Lassiters Reef, and drove both coaches and players to madness…

    Frampton is versatile, but a forward he ain’t. The big stoush with Mr Injuries is slowly coming to a close, and somehow, in spite of 4 losses and 2 draws we are within striking distance of the top 4. And anything can happen then. We still have our bogymen Carlton and Hawthorn to go, but don’t be surprised if all the other Long John Silvers suddenly turn into Jake the Pegs when they play Collingwood, no easy matches left!

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