Round 23 – North Melbourne v GWS: Resigned To Their Fate

Regardless of the result, and with all due respect to the GWS Giants, this match was always going to be viewed through the prism of North Melbourne’s mid-week announcement that it would not be re-contracting for 2017 four of its ageing veterans. I had been under no illusions that Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Michael Firrito would be ‘retired’, but the decision to move on Brent “Boomer” Harvey had in equal parts surprised, angered and saddened me. Brad Scott – a long-time whipping-boy of mine – had incurred much of the fans’ wrath, but I was realistic enough to acknowledge that the responsibility for cutting the footballer who has played the most games in AFL/VFL history does not rest with the coach alone.


Prior to the game, my curiosity lay in how the Kangaroos players would respond to the mid-week turmoil. In an ordinary week it would be difficult to see North overcoming the AFL’s very own Frankenstein, let alone following a four day period in which the afore-mentioned de-listings had dominated Melbourne’s airwaves. But maybe the players’ emotions could be harnessed and, in the immortal words of Maxwell Smart, be used for good rather than evil. The pre-match atmosphere inside the Docklands stadium was a strange mix of resignation and funereal. North Melbourne supporters, myself included, were mourning the imminent departure of Boomer and co whilst digesting the club’s message – expected to be read between the lines – that this particular group were out of contention and that it was now time to rebuild. Despite the fact that they were about to embark on a finals campaign.


In what was an entertaining first half, the initial response from the Kangaroos players was encouraging; Ben Brown was a threat up forward, and hard nuts Sam Gibson and Jack Ziebell were involved in everything. North were in the lead for much of the first half, but two goals just prior to half time gave the Giants an 11-point lead. I had the sense that GWS needed only to get their slick running game into action and it would be an uphill battle for North in the second half. I had the feeling that many of the Kangaroos supporters felt the same way. And so it proved. With Jon Patton an imposing presence up forward, runners Scully, Shiel and Smith exploited North’s long-time and obvious weakness – it’s lack of pace. Steve Johnson, continuing to relish his reincarnation as an elder statesman of the game, added another four goals to his career highlight reel. The North players look resigned to defeat; and why wouldn’t they, given they had effectively been told by their club that as a group they were no longer good enough? The coach was singing quite a different tune after round 9.


The final siren signalled a 39-point loss. North had been no match for the most frightening collection of young talent and high draft picks ever assembled on an AFL list. The Giants were bounding into their first finals series; the Kangaroos, with two wins from their past 11 matches, had scraped in by percentage only. The giants are going places, but whither North Melbourne?


For the second week in succession, Brent Harvey (26 disposals, 2 goals) was North’s best player. Surely, if nothing else, North Melbourne are not so good that they can let go one of their best (both current and all-time) players? Watching the luminous Stevie J gave me cause to think about how I would respond to seeing Boomer trotting out in the colours of another club next season. And although I would not begrudge him for doing so given the manner of his dismissal, I decided that I would not like it one bit. For is there not something amiss with our game when even a champion such as Brent Harvey, still kicking goals and exquisitely hitting up team-mates inside the 50-metre arc, is not permitted to choose the timing and of his departure?


In his 431st match, Harvey was worthy of many more spectators than the 22,295 who were in attendance to witness probably the second greatest of all Kangaroo players in surely his final home appearance. And if North’s administrators had expected a big crowd in to farewell their departing heroes they would have been sadly disappointed. But not as disappointed or as sad as I was when, for the last time, I watched him trudge solemnly from the field.




NORTH MELBOURNE                       3.1       5.3       6.8       9.9 (63)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY        2.5       6.8       10.11   14.16 (100)


NORTH MELBOURNE: Brown 3, Harvey 2, Ziebell, McDonald, Daw, Cunnington.
G.W.S.: Patton 5, Johnson 4, Smith 2, Cameron, Hopper, Ward.


NORTH MELBOURNE: Harvey, Ziebell, Gibson, Brown, Mullett, Tarrant.
G.W.S.: Patton, Johnson, Smith, Scully, Shiel, Shaw.


OUR VOTES:  3) J. Patton (GWS);     2) S. Johnson (GWS);  1) B. Harvey (NM).


UMPIRES: Donlan, Schmitt, Meredith.
OFFICIAL CROWD:   22,295 at Etihad Stadium.


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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Smokie it is the timing while we no the players wanted to no re next season surely the answer we are not making list decisions until the end of the season.What if the Roos suddenly refound there early season form ? The club in reality announcing we are not a contender with finals to be played is bizarre and surely
    Harvey deserved better.Smokie interesting re both clubs if honest will drop veterans for a final,Petrie and
    Scott Thompson re the Crows thanks Smokie

  2. Smokie, correct me if i’m wrong but by Harvey kicking two goals, hasn’t he equalled his best ever season goal kicking wise?

    If he goes elsewhere in 2017 will he follow in the footsteps of his brother across to Windy Hill ?


  3. E.regnans says:

    Smokie – I was bewildered with the timing of the announcement, too.
    “You’re not part of our future” must be a strange thing to hear when you’re about to play finals.

    The group psychology angle of this is intriguing.
    Do players respond by raging against the fading light?
    Do they become angry at perceived injustice?
    Or do they resign themselves, as you heading suggests?

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  4. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of keeping or cutting Boomer, I just can’t go along with the idea that it would have been better or more respectful to string him, Drew, Spud and NDS along for a month when they asked for the truth. I’m sure the club would like their time over again, but with the season falling apart and the grind of trying to manufacture a damn win, they just didn’t have the luxury of calling it early and going into Farewell Tour Mode.

    Having just seen Brisbane sack a coach over the phone and let the players know by email, Brad made sure to look each one of them in the eye, going out of his way to one player’s home. And once it was done there was no keeping it under wraps. I had already heard rumours a few hours before the club announcement.

    But yes, funereal is a good description, through 22,000 is still 9,000 more than NM’s average home crowd vs GWS.

  5. Dave Brown says:

    Yeah, feel your dismay, Smokie. The announcement smacked of panic and if they had their time over surely they would handle it differently. I suppose we’ll see at Adelaide Oval the effect it has on the team. The reality is that the season is effectively over – under the current finals system no team has won it from outside the four, let alone eighth. Nonetheless it’s odd to see a club effectively run up the white flag or act in a way that can be construed as such. Right up there with Essendon putting ‘Nothing to lose’ on their banner when they came over here.

  6. gary robb says:

    I have no issue with the retirement of the other three but , like you ,am surprised ,saddened and angry (mostly angry ) with the Boomer decision and the appalling way in which his `farewell` was handled.
    For a club which keeps going back to the well of ` Shinboner Spirit `when times are tough (particularly financial ) the treatment of one of the club`s most iconic players defies belief .and sends a terrible message to the supporters .The venting of hurt , anger and bewilderment on social media suggests that the message has been received !
    The manner in which Dane Swann and Matthew Pavlich were farewelled simply highlighted how incompetently the matter was handled by the North administration ( Scott shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame ) Surely the brains trust would have considered the real possibility that Boomer wouldn’t be offered another contract and put an exit plan in place ? Apparently not !
    Instead we have a media strategy which seemed to be made up on the fly and sought to shift blame onto the four players for wanting an answer ! It achieved the worst of both worlds -a botched farewell to the club`s most loved players whilst at the same time managing to alienate most of the supporters .
    Having followed North for almost 60 years ,I am not about to burn my membership and stop supporting them .Nevertheless , this episode may have damaged the bond between the club and its loyal supporter base . In this instance ,it is the club which ,for the most spurious of reasons ,has denied Boomer the opportunity to go out on his own term .And for what benefit ?
    The players did their best to get the club off the hook -the statements released by Boomer and Drew Petrie were conciliatory and very professional .All this did , however , was reinforce how shabbily the club had handle the whole affair .

  7. Hit the nail on the head Smokie. North have gone much deeper into September the last 2 years than I (and most other scribes) thought possible. Why put up the white flag and say “our list is not good enough” before the finals battle has even started.
    Surely you just maintain the public line of “we make list decisions after the finals are over and all the evidence is in”. If Petrie, Firrito or Dal Santo wanted to go on, why not give them something to strive for by being BOG in a final?
    Sacking Harvey is just ridiculous. You keep giving him one year contracts until his form no longer warrants it. The numbers on a birth certificate are irrelevant.
    Misbah-ul-Haq at 42 has just led Pakistan to a memorable 2-2 series draw in England. His players would walk over broken glass for him. Tom Watson at 59 was a gust of wind on the 18th green from winning a British Open at Turnberry in 2009.
    The Age Discrimination Commissioner should sue North’s board and Eddie Jnr President before the fans do.

  8. kath presdee says:

    The worth of a senior player/statesman on a list is not just in terms of what he does on the field himself; it is what he does with the younger players around him.

    Not going into the rights and wrongs of the announcement, but Boomer deserved something far more dignified than what he’s gotten so far. Not only can he still play; he can still play well.

  9. Thanks for your comments, one and all.

    I still cannot get my head around Boomer’s delisting. He is still a valuable player. Unfortunately Brad Scott has a history of NOT playing youngsters (2 debutantes in 2016, 1 debutante only in 2015, not 1 player in the AFL’s 22 and under squad). So it is quite disingenuous for him to imply that to keep Boomer would be to deny a younger player a spot in the team. Rookies Nahas and Ray will be moved on, as well as one or two others, so there will be plenty of spots on the list for youngsters anyway.

  10. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    I feel your frustration Smokie. At 9-0 top 4 seemed a real possibility. Not sure about the timing either. Was it to stir the old warhorses to gear up for a few more epic battles? Something about it was off. Agree with PB, seems like white flag was raised a tad prematurely. The supporters , Boomer, Spud and Petrie deserve a bit better for their service, loyalty and durability. How much longer can Scott be given until their is a call for a change of coach?

  11. Andrew Starkie says:

    Watching Carey play for the Crows was extremely painful.

    Watching Boomer do the same would be worse.


  12. Luke Reynolds says:

    Staggeringly poorly handled by North. Harvey may have more than one good season left in him. Who knows?

  13. John Butler says:

    Smoke, it was an emotional week of emotional decisions for North. And a lot of emotional reactions that didn’t necessarily make much sense. The club was probably damned either way.

    Harvey is stiff, but he can hardly claim he hasn’t been given a fair run. None of the others did a thing on Saturday night to suggest the club had made the wrong call.

    The timing can certainly be argued, but sometimes you just have to make a change and stand by it. There’s more courage in that than procrastination.

  14. Smokie, how long has Dean Laidley been back there as a leadership mentor. I certainly hope it hasn’t coincided with the last half of the year fade out. I don’t want him at my club, I feel he is a divisive influence. That is how I feel. Many other clubs like St Kilda and Carlton have moved him on quickly..Why?? The other thing about Scott is that maybe he is trying to rev up the team for a last crack at the finals. There may be an element of rope a dope in their actions, to get the other finalists thinking they are a pushover and then, hitting them with everything. The other possibility is a first gamer debut against Adelaide, this could happen.

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