Round 23 – Richmond v North Melbourne: Not All Farces are Created Equal

In round 23 of 2014 Sydney rested a handful of senior star players against a rampaging Richmond. In the wet, the Tigers snuck home by 3 points, making the final 8 at the last gasp and denying the West Coast Eagles, only to be bundled out unceremoniously by Port. The Swans went on to get over Fremantle in the Qualifying Final on their way to a Grand Final berth.

In round 21 of 2015 the Western Bulldogs rested M Boyd and Picken  for the trip to Perth, pushing in all their chips on 6 ins the following week’s game vs North, which they won.

Two rounds later the Doggies went ahead and rested Murphy, M Boyd, and Morris against Brisbane, being upset by 8 points and handing Carlton the wooden spoon and #1 draft pick.

Ross Lyon reached deep — very deep — into his list to field a side against Port, who had their way with the Dockers in a game that was over before quarter time and jumped 2 spots past Geelong and GWS on the final ladder.

In 2013 Lyon sent the Peel 2nds over to get flogged by bottom of the ladder St Kilda. The freshened up Dockers upset Geelong at Kardinia Park on the way to a Grand Final berth.

And North Melbourne are the villains here.

Had the Bulldogs not managed players they may well have lost to North, who would then have been playing for a home final in round 23.

Had North gone for a relatively less controversial set of players — say, just Goldstein, Swallow and Higgins — nary an eyebrow would have been raised, Majak would still have tired in the second half and the Tiges would still have started waltzing out of stoppages, and Jack would still have padded the scoresheet with his usual assortment of junk time goals.

Had North played a full strength side we would have been subjected to a spectacle so bruise free as to make International Rules look like a high-stakes physical contest. Now that would have been a waste of a fancy seat upgrade.

What we seem to be quibbling over is whether Brad McKenzie, Aaron Mullett, and Aaron Black being in for Michael Firrito, Sam Wright, and Jarrad Waite constitutes tanking.

For all the bleating about the integrity of the game, in its default state there was Literally. Nothing. At. Stake. Less at stake than the Freo-Port game. Less than the Bulldogs-Lions game. Less than the Collingwood-Essendon game.

With the North Nine, at least for North fans, we got to see a contest with some meaningful stakes. McKenzie and Daw playing for their future whether it be at North or not, Kayne Turner pressing his claim to have the same sort of impact on finals that he had last year, the Aarons Black and Mullet trying to rediscover the touch that injury and confidence have robbed them of.

We saw a team half full of kids desperate to impress stay with one of the form sides of the top 8 for 3 quarters.

McKenzie had 18 touches, half a dozen clearances and kicked a nice goal. I’d happily leave him in next week at the expense of one of a few regulars.

Turner was probably the best small forward on the ground, finishing with 3 goals and a ton of defensive pressure.

And Majak, just as I was gently explaining to The Boy that a good enough reason to go to any game is the chance that you might see something extraordinary, did something extraordinary: jumped over the back of Maric for a speccy that would have been fine in its own right, but then hit the ground running with 3 tigers in pursuit, took a bounce and goaled from inside the centre square. Most exciting goal I’ve seen this year.

Not all the nine had days to remember, but they all had a crack and they all had something to play for.

By the end of the night, despite the inevitable dropoff from a bunch of guys more used to VFL work rate, we had fun. More fun than any of the outrage brigade wanted us to have, I’m sure.

Free the North Nine.




RICHMOND   1.4  2.7  7.11  16.12 (108)

NORTH MELBOURNE  2.3  4.5  6.6  10.7 (67)



Richmond: Vickery 3, Martin 3, Lambert 2, Riewoldt 2, Ellis, Maric, Newman, Houli, Edwards, Deledio

North Melbourne: Turner 3, Daw 2, Brown 2, Bastinac, McKenzie, Petrie


Umpires: Margetts, Stevic, Meredith.


Crowd: 40,461 at Docklands




  1. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Rob, “had North gone for a relatively less controversial set of players” then it wouldn’t have been controversial :-). The main player Sydney rested against Richmond was Lance Franklin, who is a superstar but Alex Rance often beats. If he played Richmond still could have won. The problem is the number of players North rested, which was literally half of the number of players on the field at any one time. They also had plenty to gain by losing ie avoiding an Adelaide final. Resting up to 3-4 players doesn’t draw complaints because it us usual and expected. Resting 9 or 11 is stretching the friendship.

  2. But Cheryl. this is my point: THE PROBLEM IS NOT HOW MANY PLAYERS YOU REST. As soon as you rest Goldstein and one or two starting midfielders it’s done. As well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.


    I’m far more offended by Lyon trotting out the 40th, 41s and 42nd players on his list with a pat on the head and no intention of being the slightest bit competitive than I am Scott giving guys a chance to put their names forward for finals selection. But I confess I’m easily offended by the things Ross Lyon gets up to.

    For what it’s worth, Franklin, Pyke, Kennedy could have returned but was held back. Those 3 are worth more than 3 points between them. “Rance is usually quite good on Franklins” is … um … finessing with your queen.

  3. Nice to read comment by someone who watches North. The Dogs game showed that North had to do something different – the regular group was going half pace and, for whatever reason, would have gone into the last round with less to play for and less chance of winning. Plus of course North supporters know (and no-one else seemed to bother checking) that almost all the ins have been senior players in 2915 and/or 2014, and have cetainly been playing well enough for another shot at the seniors this year.

    Cheryl says it’s about the numbers. Ok. Where is the line? Dogs six changes was no problem at all, for anyone – so the unacceptable line is obviously somewhere between there and nine. Is is seven or eight that should be the bar? If North had gone with six outs – which we all now know is totally cool and smart planning – and had two or three late changes, would that have been okay?

  4. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi Rob and Fiona. It is a grey area and I agree what Ross Lyon did was just as bad if not worse. People didn’t talk about the Dockers as much because it had no bearing on ladder positions. The way North did it was just so blatant and for Brad Scott to then demand that people who criticised his tactics apologise to him certainly didn’t endear him to anyone. The bottom line is we have to decide what is acceptable and what isn’t, and our views on that clearly differ.

  5. I like the cut of your jib, Fiona :-).

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