Round 18 – Collingwood v North Melbourne: What have we learnt?

What have we learnt?


After 18 rounds and much to-do about North’s record start, then the fading out when the going got tough, I’m not sure we’ve learnt much of any consequence.


After 11 rounds I thought, despite a loss away to Sydney, that we’d learned they had finally become a team that doesn’t drop games they’re not supposed to. Close wins over St Kilda and Essendon looked worrying, but the optimist would point out that it was only wasteful kicking for goal at important times that let those ones stay close enough for a comeback to be mounted. The pessimist’s rejoinder would be that bad kicking is bad football.


After 12 rounds it was clear that missing the league’s best tagger among half a dozen important outs and being 3 men down by quarter time doesn’t give you much hope of containing Dangerfield and Selwood. But we didn’t have to learn much to realise that.


After 13 rounds it was clear once again that bad kicking is bad football as a side now missing about 11 of its best 22 played the jockstraps off Hawthorn for no reward.


After 14 rounds it was clear that the league can be vindictive pricks when they want to be, and if they want to send you to Adelaide on 2 6-day breaks while your hosts rest up with a bye, there’s not much you can do to stop them.


After a week off and 2 rounds later we already knew that if you’re going to Perth to take on the Eagles you’d better bring not only your best side but your best game.


Round 17 taught us, somewhat to my surprise, that Port aren’t that good. The fixturing department can still be vindictive buggers and if they want to give you a 6-day break coming back from WA there’s not much you can do to stop them. Bad kicking continued to be bad football as North, amazingly, probably should have nicked it at well below their best.


With the season slipping away, all we could do was lament terrible injury luck, bad kicking, the inability to get the chocolates in at least one or two of the 50/50 games in that tough run, and a deplorable first quarter against Port.


Finally, in round 18, I think I might have learnt something, though I’m not sure exactly what. It’s either that there is still a glimmer of hope in this even season, or that Collingwood aren’t as good as I thought.


On paper, this is exactly the sort of outfit that should give North fits. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the midfield can tend to be workmanlike, and in ordinary form they come up against the sublime Pendlebury, smooth Sidebottom, terrific Treloar and … ok, Greenwood. While Cloke and White won’t set the key defenders quaking, Moore is mercurial and Blair and Fasolo are exactly the sort of small forwards North struggles with. The Pies’ defence frankly looks pretty dire, so if we can somehow break even through the middle we’re actually a decent show I reckon.


And then Daniel Wells happened. Short of a run and tagged  the previous week, he had no influence. But this week, oh my lord. Was everywhere in the first half, untouchable. winning the ball, linking up, gliding, bursting, setting up scores. North had their kicking boots on for once and went in to the main break six and a half goals up.


In an uncomfortable echo of last year’s game against Collingwood, the Pies got back into it in the 3rd. Sidebottom damaging, Pendlebury making things happen. But never quite good enough to get a real run-on this time, and by 3/4 time had only pegged back 2 goals worth of the margin. Frankly we might as well not have bothered with the 3rd if not for a Sidebottom goal after turning Gibson inside out the boundary and that mark from Majak. Lordy, what a mark. As one of the commentators said, “it was all leap”.


In the last, it was the kids to the rescue for North. Ryan Clarke in his 3rd game ran and ran and ran, gathering a dozen of his 27 disposals for the day. Trent Dumont, who is developing a bit of a knack for the big moment, snapped the goal that broke the stalemate after Collingwood had got the margin to less than 3 goals. That circuit breaker was the trigger for North to pile on 3 more in the last 3 minutes, the last of them Lindsay Thomas’s 5th. 40 points was about where this one should have ended, and so it did.


Is there really a glimmer of hope? Wright, Jacobs and Higgins will be back soon, Waite will play his part, McDonald and maybe even Wood not far behind. If they can get enough run into them in time for finals, sure, why not?


  1. I like your optimism, Rob.
    Yep, the injury situation has been disastrous – as has the in-game injury situation (for example the Geelong match, which we led at half time).
    And your point about the fixturing is well made. There was much made of North’s “soft” draw in the first ten rounds, but we still travelled to Queensland twice and to Hobart. And those 6-days breaks – not good enough from the AFL.

  2. Thanks Smokie, I guess the point was that there was enough bad luck in the last couple of months that we didn’t really learn whether North are good enough or not. They’re probably not good enough to win it from outside the top 4 and this run of luck has probably wrecked the season (and possibly the best shot for this group). I doubt that the returnees will have enough time to run into the form they’ll need, which is a bummer.

    But while there’s life there’s hope, you know?

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