Sydney v North Melbourne – akin to what cliché for the Roos?

It is easy to imagine the clichés coursing with the blood through Brad Scott’s brain.  North Melbourne are about to play Sydney in a preliminary final.  What is his message?   Just another game, just another team, we’ve proved they’re beatable, we’ve proven our best is good enough…


Clichés are often motivational, but they’re nothing not heard before.


Brad Scott must realise no one seriously expects North Melbourne to win.  Sydney finished on top, ranking first in defence and fourth in attack.  They lost five games for the year, including one to Richmond in the last round where victory was meaningless.


The Swans have the best team extra money can buy.  The bookies have them favoured, at $2.25 to win the premiership.  North is rated at $15.00, a long shot.


Brad Scott’s clichés go on – doesn’t matter where we finished, the home and away season is irrelevant, if we keep our structures in place and win the contested ball, the round four result is meaningless now…


It is easy to believe that North Melbourne, the club, playing group and supporters, are clinging onto these clichés like a man clutching at straws.


But no one outside the top four has won a preliminary final since Carlton in 1999 and the Blues bombed out in the grand final, which proved they were making up the numbers.


North’s task is massive.  Sydney is the benchmark.  Armed with a swathe of top-tier talent, they are the team to beat.  North is unavoidably the battlers.  A club in a slow moving industrial area.  No money.  No fans.  No hope.


Cinderella story?  The underdog?  How about another cliché, like no chance?


Is playing Sydney that bad?  Check out the fearful names, Buddy Franklin, Josh Kennedy, Kurt Tippett, Adam Goods, Kieren Jack, Sam Reid, Jarrad McVeigh and Mike Pike.


Is North already beaten, before the game starts?


Is playing Sydney like fighting Mike Tyson at his peak, when the baddest man on the planet wasn’t just knocking opponents out, he was sending them into retirement, or worse, ruining them forever.


Is it like facing the West Indies at their peak, from 1980 to 1992?  When the only way to avoid getting hurt by Holding, Marshall, Garner, Croft, Ambrose and Walsh was to get out?  And knowing that Richards, Lloyd, Richardson, Gomes, Lara and Greenidge were going to blast you all over the field.


Is it like cycling in the Tour de France against Lance Armstrong, knowing he might not be a better athlete but he had a better drug program?


Or would North regard Sydney as the Corleone family at their peak under Don Michael, when every assassination was nothing personal, it was simply business settled with bullets or a garrotte?


How about Luke Skywalker facing his father, Darth Vader, who was more machine than man, twisted and evil.  Would Darth have played for Sydney?  Is Buddy Franklin learning about the Dark Side of the Force?  Is Franklin using the force to kick goals from 68-metres out?


Is playing Sydney as embarrassing as Daryll Cullinan facing Shane Warne and expecting the humiliation, it was just a matter of time?


It is as nerve wracking as a play-off against Tiger Woods when he was thinking about golf instead of the nineteen other holes?


Is it as pointless as winning the opening set in a major against Roger Federer?


Can it be that daunting going into a game against the premiership favourites?   Or is it just another game, a preliminary final against an opponent North has already beaten.  Just men on men.


Brad Scott should forget the clichés.  There are better ways to inspire people.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one.  James Buster Douglas is another.  Kenny Rogers completes the trio.


No one liked Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because his red-nose shone brightly.  He was picked on, teased and disrespected until that foggy night, when Santa needed to deliver his gifts through a heavy fog and asked Rudolph for help.


Based on the bullying he’d received, Rudolph could’ve told Santa to get stuffed.  Perhaps he should’ve.  Instead, he took the chance Santa was offering and helped deliver all those presents.  He has led the team of reindeer ever since.


James Buster Douglas was a rank outsider, 42-1, when he fought Mike Tyson in Tokyo in 1990.  Some Las Vegas bookies actually suspended betting, figuring Douglas had no chance.  During the build up to the fight, Douglas was unperturbed.


‘What do you think your chances are?’ a journalist asked.


‘I’m not sure,’ Douglas said.  ‘But as long as I’ve got some chance I can win.’


Some chance…  Douglas got up off the canvas in the eighth round then knocked Tyson out in the tenth round.  It remains the biggest upset in the history of heavyweight boxing.


Kenny Rogers began his music career in the mid-1950s.  From 1958 to 1976 he became a journeyman, moving from band to band, never hitting it big and getting divorced four times.  In 1977, Rogers went solo.  His single, Lucille, sold more than five million copies.


Years later, when Rogers was asked the secret to his success, he offered a simple explanation.


‘I never went away,’ he said.  ‘I kept presenting myself when I was unsuccessful.  When I became successful I kept presenting myself through tours, new albums and being accessible to the fans.’


North can beat Sydney.  Like Buster Douglas, they have some chance.  Like Rudolph, they need to take that chance.


Like Kenny Rogers, they have to keep presenting themselves even when they’re not successful, because the harder you work, the luckier you get

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Just pray no-one says ‘we’ve got nothing to lose’. Then you know you’re in trouble!

  2. Well Matt, we have more chance of beating Sydney tomorrow night than 14 other teams.

  3. My guess is that North will be the next member of the Bum of the Month Club. Geale V Golovkin. But I will be barracking that this quote from Angelo Dundee comes true for the Kangas:
    “I resent that because if a kid’s a fighter, he can’t be a bum. You’ve gotta be a special individual to be a fighter. I blow my stack when I hear that because it’s one on one; anything can happen. Any bum can get lucky. There’s no bum of the month.”
    It was interesting to Google the term and find that it had its origins in a series of Joe Louis bouts in the early 1940’s.

  4. Peter, you’re right.
    You don’t make a preliminary final unless you deserve it.
    But the Swans are better than Geelong, Essendon and everyone else North has played in the past six weeks.
    I agree with Angelo Dundee too. What a great trainer, and he never had a fight…

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