Round 15 – North Melbourne v Geelong: Is Redemption Inevitable?

The most infuriating thing for a North supporter about this convincing, even impressive, win over Geelong was how inevitable it was. North off a bad loss have been almost invincible in the last few years. Infuriating because not only have there been so many bad losses to provide evidence for this, but the desire and application to prove themselves seems to come only from embarrassment, not from the will to excel for the entire tough grind of a season.

When they get their heads right, this is a good team. Swallow, Cunnington and Ziebell are tough inside. They swarm through the corridor. They have a spread of goalkickers. Scott has developed a game plan that’s effective without relying on being carried by stars.

When they don’t it’s a horror show. The core of the side was recruited when Sydney, West Coast and Geelong were dominant, contested footy and ball movement the order of the day rather than so much speed and athleticism. Now the Gold Coast and GWS have build their lists around speed, and Sydney spread ferociously from contests once they win it. The Hawks owe as much to Smith’s and Rioli’s dash as to Lewis’ and Hodge’s contested work. Gold Coast give North fits in a way the previous generation of top sides don’t. When they’re not on North can look very, very slow.

This win was build around a 7 goal to 1 second quarter. Geelong threatened early but couldn’t kick straight enough to take advantage of their command of general play. North hit back with a succession of flashy goals. Swallow and Garner snapping from stoppages. Some nifty body work by Cunnington. Higgins hitting Petrie in stride a couple of steps goal side of Taylor with a 50 metre pass. Goldy threading a needle to find Waite on the lead. Sam Gibson hitting a target with his left foot. All built on Swallow and Cunners owning the clearances.

Geelong offered more resistance in the third, but North’s pressure around the ball was too much to let them back in it. Murdoch goaled, Turner answered; Selwood goaled, Goldstein answered; Walker goaled, Waite and Higgins finished off the quarter.

And in the fourth, after a couple of quick goals to Walker and Hawkins looking suspiciously like the start of one of those comebacks, North steadied through Gibson and Swalllow, with a sealer from Macmillan.

After the disgraceful loss to Collingwood I had put a line through this team. Blow it up. Play the kids. See what we’ve got on the list worth keeping. If this side sneaks into the finals will they still have the stones to make the hard calls they need to? I still feel a bit that way, so I’m picking out hope where I can get it:

Shaun Higgins has been a revelation. I honestly had no idea how good he was. He’s a marvellous player, just never wastes a possession.

Todd Goldstein has elevated his game, adding more possessions, clearances, tackles and marks to his tapouts. He’s become a real handful for pretty much everyone except Sandilands.

Great to finally see Taylor Garner back in the side after a 63-week hamstring. Kid’s got a bit of X factor.

Aaron Mullett has finally worked his way back in and though he took a while to get back up to speed, showed a bit of his old dash.

Ryan Bastinac seemed to need a couple of weeks in the twos to get his motor running, but finally did. Got plenty of it, and even showed some of the evasiveness and decision making he promised a couple of years ago.

I’m still resolutely on the fence regarding Waite, but this was as good an all-round game as he’s played for North. Worked up and down the field, pressured and tackled, kicked a couple.

For Geelong? Selwood is still Selwood, and Blicavs is becoming a very handy player. Hawkins and Taylor demand respect. But their next tier of young midfielders has to show they’re capable of being more than role players from my perspective. It’ll be an interesting few years ahead for them.

So I’m going to hope North smash Essendon this week, and that they make the finals getting more games into the kids. But mostly smash Essendon.

Comments

  1. Rob,
    I remember watching to watch a title fight in the nineties.
    There was a fighter on the undercard, can’t remember who it was but he was a man who’d been in prison for armed robbery and assault or something similar.
    He’d emerged from prison and focused on boxing.
    The commentator, when mentioning the fighter’s past, said ‘there is redemption in sport.’
    Being good is the only redemption. It doesn’t have to be in sport.
    North Melbourne redeemed themselves, if only for a week.
    Being good and winning is the only way to do it.
    You’re right about Higgins.
    I like him.
    And I want to smash the Bombers…

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