Round 9 – Collingwood v North Melbourne: Is it time to use the S word with North?

Collingwood versus North Melbourne

3.20pm, Sunday 31 May

MCG

Thursday lunchtime. Four days post-match and I still don’t know what to make of it. Like all Northerners, I’m shattered and deflated. But not surprised; we’ve been here before.

Some matches pass from memory quickly, while others stick in your head. Sunday falls into the latter category.

To make things worse, I’ve been off work since Tuesday with the mother of all migraines, so I’ve spent the last few days sitting in darkened rooms and vomiting salada biscuits, or reading, or catching up on Phryne Fisher. But mostly dwelling on Sunday.

Memories from this match are so vivid. Images in my head, rotating like Father Bohen’s slide show from his trip to the Vatican mum made us sit through when we were kids, while Uncle Alan and dad, half-cut, sat up the back on the good table and chairs, making smart-arse comments. Mum was fuming.

I can’t get out of my head Drew and Waite missing set shots in the first quarter and despite Higgins’ goal on the siren, feeling the 20 point margin was no reward for the marking dominance of our talls. I feared we would regret those misses.

And even though Collingwood were undisciplined and witches hats for much of the second term, they weren’t punished. Boomer was running off halfback and Dumont was very good in his third game, but North should have led by more at half-time.

There was little chance Collingwood would play poorly for the whole game. They would always come at North, not only because they’re a decent team, but also due to North’s reputation for fragility and for keeping the door open.

I’m so used to being worried, at half-time I moved from the standing room area front of the ground floor members’ seating because the loud, stupid Magpie sitting behind me was going to be unbearable if Collingwood made a charge. I found a seat in the pocket.

Two goals would have finished this, but North started the third on their heels. They sat back and watched what the opposition had to offer. As I’ve said for years, North do not have the killer instinct.

Collingwood awoke and surged in waves from half-back while our forwards let them run. As forward move after forward move came, North’s defenders, so willing to attack the game earlier, stood stunned and fumbled.

Williams went onto Boomer and closed him down.

North’s onball stocks were so depleted; Bastinac, Dumont, Gibbo and Lindsay were never going to be any match for Swan or Pendlebury. Goldy and Jack battled on.

Waite had another Carlton Moment and passed inside from the wing. Crisp intercepted and goaled on the run. The Magpie Army went nuts. I felt sick.

I couldn’t see who was on Elliott. He became a target and kicked three for the term.

There was reaction but no response. What was the coach doing? Did he try to close the game down? Why not get more players at stoppages?

North had one effective kick in the final ten minutes of the quarter. One. In ten minutes. Panic in the spotlight. They were waiting for the siren.

Nine goals to none and Collingwood led by 14 points at three-quarter time.

North kicked four unanswered goals in the last, but Gibbo and Nahas missed set shots. The former looked like a school kid who just did not want to take the shot.

The door was open. Collingwood kept it simple, played wet weather football, held marks and kicked straight. No one went near Elliott who kicked his fifth and MacMillan fell over, allowing Swan to mark top of the goal square.

Over.

Standing in the rain on the Jolimont platform waiting for a South Morang train to arrive, a Northerner with a guileless, trusting face shook his head, puffed his cheeks and stared without seeing at the darkness.

‘That hurt,’ I whispered, amidst a swarm of jubilant Magpies.

‘Yeah, it did,’ he replied, shaking his head again. ‘But we still love ’em.’ He was wearing a scarf knitted by his Gran in 75.

Yeah, but that’s what makes it hurt.

What occurred Sunday night has happened far too often recently to claim coincidence. Sure, North have injuries to onballers, but who hasn’t? Is it time to use the S word with North? Are they soft? Not the refusal to put their head over a ball soft. I mean the inability to put teams away. To concentrate for four quarters. To stand their ground. To respond at crunch time.

The belief that arrived at North during last September has, for the time being at least, disappeared. This is a club whose character is being severely tested and questioned. I’m sure there are plenty of migraines at Arden St this week.

And questions remain about the coach. A month off with back surgery may be good for all.

Our votes: Elliott (Cwood) 3, Swan (Cwood) 2, Sidebottom (Cwood) 1.

Comments

  1. That would have hurt. I could feel it in your words. But for objective observers it was a great study in football psychology. I’d love to do a PhD that analyses the phenomenon that is “momentum”.

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Dips, should have included something like: ‘Where are the leaders?’

    Still hurts.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Mental toughness ( lack of ) and lack of leadership are relevant questions to be asked re the roos ( and coaching ) basically this has happened way 2 many times in last few years.Norwood FC were astounded that Dumont fell so low in the draft he is about to make a lot of recruiters look stupid will be a very very good afl footballer

  4. I can feel your pain… but those of us with our heart still at princess park are in a much darker place….

  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Starkers,
    Caught a glimpse of you fleeing from the rain. Thought you’d wrestled the game back after Petrie’s goal. Lots of passengers in the 3rd qtr waiting for someone else to do the work.

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Phil, I neededa hug;

    Shane, good to hear from you; yep, it still hurts; Blues go from worse to worse;

    Malcolm, veryhappy with Dumont; plays well everytime;

  7. Terrible terrible terrible, AS.
    I will not forget that third quarter in a hurry!

    When are guys like Bastinac going top take the next step?
    What has happened to that next group coming through?

    So many more questions. We have gone backwards.
    Lose to West Coast and Sydney and it’s time to start planning for next year.

  8. McDonald and Turner as yet the only casualties????

  9. Andrew Starkie says

    Yep, thought more heads would roll. Spud? Fortunate to be there. A great warrior but keeping Grima’s seat warm. I was surprised Jacobs was dumped recently.

    They way they started the third term was so disappointing, but so North. As I said, we were two goals from finishing it, yet Cwood were able to seize momentum so easily. North’s lulls are so painful to watch. They always leave the door ajar. How often in recent times can you recall sitting comfortably at a North game knowing we had it in the bag?

  10. Andrew Starkie says

    They must come out smoking against WCE. Anything less will send a message they’re preparing to turn their toes up on 2015.

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