Round 9 – Collingwood v North Melbourne: Apocalypse, how?

It was a night of fitful sleep following the apocalyptic third-quarter events of Sunday, May 31, 2015. And there was a part of me that was expecting two royal blue and white-clad supporters to knock at the door and rouse me from my semi-conscious half-drunken-ness, throw me under a shower, and escort me to Arden St. In fact, part of me was hoping that that would happen.

There are questions. So many questions. In the harsh light of day, I have now decided to re-live those events at the MCG on that fateful day. For I realise that it is no accident that I got to be the caretaker of Coach Bradley David Walter Scott’s memory. In fact, there is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story is a confession, then so is my own.


* *


In what may come as a surprise to most, I was prepared to cut him slack. Until I saw his performance at the post-match press conference, in which he rightfully apportioned blame to the players, but did not once question himself or his coaching staff. I thought to myself: “If your message is not getting through, surely some of the blame must lie with you?” I so wished I had been at that presser. I had plenty of other questions I wanted to ask him. For this is Brad Scott’s sixth season as coach of our club. This is his team. And we are going nowhere.

I would have started with a question along the lines of:

“The club was renowned for losing big in finals under Dean Laidley. Why haven’t you been able to change that?” I would have cited the 96 point humbling in Perth (’12), and last year’s 71-point drubbing by Sydney in the preliminary final.

I would have followed up with:

“In hindsight, do you think it was right of you to abandon the concept of ‘Shinboner spirit’ in your first season as coach?” I would have stressed that I was aware of that the ‘Shinboner spirit’ was a load of rubbish. But it was our rubbish, and not something that a new coach should have summarily dismissed.

I then would have asked, with a straight face:
“Did the recruiting of Jarrad Waite mean that you and the recruiting staff actually believed that North were in contention for a flag? Is it true that he was recruited because ‘he always played well against us’?”

Maybe I would have asked some player-specific questions:

“Why can’t Sam Gibson kick properly? Why does he turn the ball over so regularly?”; “What has happened to Drew Petrie’s set-shot kicking?”; “Why has the development of Ryan Bastinac, Aaron Mullett, Jack Atley, Ben Jacobs, and others, stalled?”; “Are you ever going to play Majak Daw? If not, why is he still at North?”

And of 2105:
“Why are we unable to close down a game and stop ourselves from being thrashed by the good (and not-so-good) teams?” I would cite the 77-point loss to Adelaide in Round 1, the ten-goal loss to Hawthorn in Round 5, and the 73-point pantsing by Freo in Round 8. “Why is this now part of our DNA?”

Then I would have progressed onto more game-specific questions, particularly:

“Given we were 39 points up, and owning the game, why did you choose to go defensive from the start of the second half by playing an extra man behind the ball?” “Was this an error on your part?”

There are many other questions I would have asked. But I would have finished with:
“Do you admit that you have made mistakes? Ever?”

At this point, he would say “You are really specializing in busting my balls.” Whereupon I would reply: “It’s quite possible that I think the same of you”.


* *


The third quarter performance against Collingwood at the MCG on 31 May, 2015, was as poor as I have witnessed in a lifetime of watching North Melbourne. And the announcement on the following morning that Brad Scott will not coach the club for the next four weeks due to back surgery has left me with a strange sense of hollowness. I sincerely hope he uses his time away from the coach’s box to consider how he might become a little more rational while coaching (Alan Richardson might be a useful reference point).

Or Brad’s command will be terminated – with extreme prejudice.

This season is not turning out the way anyone associated with North thought that it would. For a while now it has felt like we are travelling up river on a PBR – or a barbed wire canoe – heading for some heart of darkness.

I just hope that when I close my eyes tonight, I will not be thinking of the horror. The horror.


About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Smoke – I watched the second half of this game whilst sipping on a few luscious pints of Guiness. At home. On the couch. I was warm and dry and cosy. I couldn’t believe how North caved in. But is it modern footy? Is a 7 goal lead the new 3 goal lead? Probably not, but it baffles me how momentum shifts these days are so brutal and so instant. North’s inability to detect the shift and do nothing about it was the most disturbing part (The Cats are similar).

  2. No roof, no North.

  3. I’m sorry Smokie, but while reading this, I couldn’t stop thinking of you in Hobart on the bear skin rug. That image is going to take some time to shake.

  4. Having said that, I agree re: the pressers. Why aren’t the questions so obvious to the fan asked? And when coaches don’t answer, why can’t the journo respond with: Sorry, you didn’t answer the question, merely danced around it.

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Geez Smokie,
    Unbelievable turnaround. The 39 point margin flattered the Pies at half-time. Lots of unhappy North faces in the Members’ Reserve, including a Gore Tex clad Andrew Starkie who disappeared before I could offer my commiserations.

  6. Time to call in the air strike Smokie. “PBR Street gang, this is almighty, over…”

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’ve just watched that third quarter again.

    Why did Thomas try that feeble soccer instead of picking it up?

    Why wasn’t someone on the line when Fasolo kicked his goal?

    Why wasn’t Firrito closer to Elliot twice in a minute?

    Was there a phone in the Norf box?

    Why Waite?

  8. Indeed Bakes.

    Brad may soon say, “Arden Street. Shit. I’m still only in Arden Street.”

  9. E.regnans says

    Ahh, Smokie.
    Great rant.
    The trouble with this idea, though, and it’s common, is that is assumes you’re in control of everything (which you’re not) and that you are playing only against yourself and your own demons (which you’re not).
    (I.e. Had B Scott made those changes, other events would have unfolded, the outcomes of which we’ll never know (Collingwood by 6 goals instead of by 2?)).
    Lots of moving parts.
    Including a whole opposing team/ coaching staff/ club.
    Collingwood too good on the day.

    Why no letter to Brad?

  10. matt watson says

    Our season has gone up in smoke…
    Leads are no longer what they used to be, but North seem to be giving them up more than most.
    It is infuriating.
    Scott said he tried a few things and it didn’t work.
    To be fair to him, some players were hopeless in that second half.
    It’s got to be a mental issue.
    I am embarrassed still by that performance.
    And embarrassment is a mental issue…

  11. Taking players like Wells, Dal Santo and Swallow out of the midfield must put a hole in the side that played finals last year. I know there is the “another soldier steps up” credo, but I reckon that the middling sides struggle with critical mass of quality midfielders who can run and compete all day.
    Just can’t cover for too many outs, and those remaining run themselves ragged trying to cover.

  12. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    ‘Our rubbish’ … love that. Every supporter should be able to identify their team’s ‘our rubbish.’

    And how about this concept of one knowledgeable supporter per press conference? I loved this press conference!

  13. Callum O'Connor says

    And Footy Almanac Title of the Year 2015 goes to…

  14. Andrew Starkie says

    I still can’t get me head around……

    I’m sorry, I’ll try tomorrow…..

    Phil, I was thinking of you on the train going in. Ya shoulda grabbed me I needed a hug. Catch ya for lunch soon.

  15. John Butler says

    Smoke, remember what I asked you last Friday? How long until your ritual mid season Brad Scott rant? Turns out the answer was approx. 48 hours. :)

    If you are considering coaches, I believe Michael Malthouse is at somewhat of a loose end.

    PS: Apocalypse Now, the gift that keeps on giving.


  16. Matthew Naqvi says

    Smokie, those are some brutally spot on questions. The lack of mental strength is disturbing and Scott needs to be accountable for a fair amount of our efforts this year. The development is another scary prospect. These players have been so promising over the past couple of years but are stagnating right now.

  17. As Peter B said; there were three very good players missing from the Kangas engine who would have kept level headed and played out the game. I have seen so many times for the Pies recently the lack of experience in a key area leads to inconsistency and fade outs.

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