Round 22: North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: What do we make of this match?


North Melbourne versus Western Bulldogs
4.35pm, Saturday 29 August
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
by Andrew Starkie


With the final eight decided by Collingwood’s win over Geelong on Friday night, I arrived at the Dungeon expecting an unshackled and high scoring match. However, for most of the first three quarters, myself and the healthy, buoyant crowd were served the opposite. The fact both teams doubled their goal tallies in the final term demonstrates how dour, and at times frustrating, this game had been to that point.

Large periods of this match were played between the two centre-half forward areas, with rolling, crowded scrums reminding me of lunchtime at St Pius X, West Warrnambool, 1978. North were the better team for the first quarter and a half thanks to the Goldstein-Swallow double act and tall forwards, who were marking a few if not always converting. When North’s lead pushed out to a few goals, it appeared they would do enough to win a confusing and ugly game.

What was most surprising is that both teams allowed the game to be played this way when their natural styles are more attacking.

Sensing trouble, the Dogs freed up their play, releasing the likes of Picken, Hunter and Bonts to carry through the middle. Suddenly, they held a 9 point lead at half-time. North could do nothing to stop them.

North pressed hard during the third quarter, however the Dogs were better, cleaner when needed and increased the lead by two points. North’s forwards took marks when the ball was shoveled out of packs, however crucial goals were again missed. The Bullies continued to make more clearances and their mobile, mid-size forward line obviously concerned Brad Scott who substituted Hansen for Gibson, hoping for more run.

By the last break it appeared the Dogs had handled the best North could offer.

Perhaps due to fatigue or North’s need to chase the game, play opened up again in the last quarter. In his 150th against his old mob, Higgins roved a pack brilliantly and brought the margin back to five points and Waite threatened to make a hero of himself with two goals.

But again, showing how they have matured, the Dogs produced good footy when required. Bonts and Stringer combined thrillingly with run and strength, breaking tackles and getting the ball to Picken who scored on the run. More goals flowed from midway through the term, mostly from their midsize fleet, including Biggs, Johannisen, able to run unchecked off half-back by Nahas, and Honeychurch. All three finished with two each. Stringer moved to defence and ran through the middle, burning off opponents and kicking truly.

In a flash, this game was dusted. Final margin, 23 points.

This was a weird match; difficult to get your head around. Both teams appeared content to arm wrestle until the Dogs freewheeled.

The Dogs’ structures worked well. Features of their play included the line of defenders always between opposition forwards and the goals, while up the other end, a wave of onballers and wings forced play through the fifty metre arc.

This is a team well coached. They are also capable of winning at least one final, however the wider expanses of the MCG will test the Etihad based game plan and their smaller, less experienced bodies may also be found out.

North produced the best win of its season last week in defeating Freo, however on Saturday was unable to respond when the Dogs started to run. Maybe this was the loss North needed in order to reset for September, or perhaps it was a dose of cold reality. An early finals exit maybe all they can expect from a season in which other teams, Bullies included, have overtaken them.

The Kangaroos continue to be a mystery; especially to those who follow them closely.


NORTH MELBOURNE  1.5  3.8  5.11  10.13 (73)

WESTERN BULLDOGS  1.3  5.5  7.10  14.12 (96)



North: Waite 3, Higgins 3, Petrie 3, Harvey.

Bulldogs: Dickson 2, Crameri 2, Honeychurch 2, Johannisen 2, Biggs 2, Stringer, Roughead, Picken, Bontempelli.


Umpires: Dalgleish, Rosebury, Findlay


Crowd: 37,299 at Etihad Stadium




  1. Yes, what do we make of this encounter. True it’s been a while since North had won more than 7 in a row but looking at the form iline youds be reasonably confident. The week prior they had beaten the top side,whilst the Bulllies had been caned in Perth with only a six day turnaround. Surely North should win this clash ! Not to be however. So Andrew what does this mean in the context of the finals ?


  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Time will tell, Glen! WOuldn’t mind getting Dogs again on the G.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Might suit you to rest a few this week Starkers and reload for a rematch with Richmond the following week. Goldstein a smokey for the Brownlow?

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    Put 20 on him at 21 back in July.

  5. I think the Bulldogs will falter in the finals.
    And North had won seven in a row, so the loss seemed inevitable.
    But losing to a team bound for finals is a bad sign.
    And if we lose to Richmond…

  6. Starkers, as we discussed at the Carlton game, your mob shouldn’t be known as Shinboners, they should be the Method Actors – “what’s my motivation for this quarter coach?” Scott must be sick of having to rev them up.

    They could give a shout in the finals. But they probably won’t.

  7. Starks,
    Apologies for not getting there on Saturday arvo.
    Mrs S (WB tragic) decided that the most comfortable way for
    her to watch this encounter was from the couch.
    Happily there was not (too) much gloating from her
    end of the couch post-game.
    Let us not be blinded by the previous week’s Freo result:
    North just are not up to it when the whips are cracking.

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    JB, is your team in the comp still?

    Smokie, you may be right.

  9. John Butler says

    Barely. Do you fancy a game Saturday afternoon? I hear we’re struggling to raise 22.

    You’re in better nick than I am.

    And Navy Blue would suit you.

  10. Nice succinct write up. Have to admit the North tall timber had me worried. Maybe we won’t have it all our own way come September but hey, this is all a fairytale for a dog who was expecting 6 or 7 wins this year.

    Smokie, Mrs S may not be so relaxed if North and the ‘Scray meet again in a couple of weeks time. Hopefully a repeat of the Semi in ’85.

  11. Andrew Starkie says

    JB, would should captain the Blues;

    JD, if we meet again in the finals, it will be a return to the glories days of the mid to late 90s

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Starks what do you think of the roos virtually deciding they would like to play the tigers in the finals ?

  13. Andrew Starkie says

    Disappointing. flirting with form, not treating fans well. But, understandable?

Leave a Comment