The Kangaroos Fab Five (plus two)

Earlier this year, in one of the duller weeks of the offseason, I shamelessly stole Litza’s “5 players to be emotionally invested in”. I was going to leave this until it was all over for the season, but after this weekend’s stirring comeback and full of piss and vinegar, I’m going to do it now.

So. With a final in the bag, what’s the emotional return on investment for my 5?

Drew Petrie

Warrior or flat-track bully? Leader or choker? It’s been a week by week proposition for Drew this year. Let’s be honest; if you’re the full forward coming off a pair of 50-goal seasons and the coach has to continually defend you by talking up your workrate off the ball, you’re not really having a great season.

To Drew’s credit, he got amongst the goals in a big game against the Hawks, and has ended up with 43 with at least one game still to play, but this season he has looked like a player on the decline. Missing crucial set shots. Overcooking a cross instead of backing himself to kick the winner against Brisbane. A notable lack of big contested grabs. His leap is all but gone, and thank God we don’t need him to ruck much any more.

Beaten by Hooker all night, he tried to work up the ground in the hit-up role, where passes bounced off his chest and hands. Outmarked by Ryder in the dying minutes to put the Bombers back in front, he looked disconsolate. Moments later he handled a bouncing ball from Ziebell 30 out, turned the ship around and slotted the long snap to put North back in front. Dreeeeewwwwwyyyyyy! And followed it up with another inside-out snap after being set up by Wells. The last 2 goals in a 2 goal win are good enough thanks Drew.

Ben Cunnington

It was the 23 year old Cunnington who took the 32 year old Petrie aside after Ryder’s goal and gave him a rev up.

Cunnington who alongside Greenwood dominated the inside battle in the second half.

Cunnington who waited down as Ziebell drew 2 defenders to a marking contest and calmly collected the spilled ball and slotted it.

Cunnington getting away handballs lying on his back to release runners.

Cunnington stopping time as Gibson’s defender got stranded in no-man’s land before setting up Gibbo to put us within a goal.

Geez this kid’s good.

Daniel Wells

Oh how we’ve missed you Wellsy. One of the most complete performances of his career; one of the few to have any influence across 4 quarters. (And speaking of influence, let’s talk about Dyson Heppell for a minute. I get that he’s a decent player and still young. But I have to go against the grain. To me, he’s just not … damaging. He’s probably a nice young man. Works hard, runs hard, is a good accumulator and usually looks composed. But he goes at 58% by foot without being particularly inside, and I don’t recall him winning a big clearance or setting up a scoring chain once for his 34 touches. That makes him more Sam Gibson than the next Ablett or Jobe. I like Sam Gibson a lot, but he wasn’t picked in the top 10 of any drafts and he’s no Ablett or Jobe.)

Wellsy crashed contests, ran, created, had 28 disposals and 4 goal assists, all of them poetry. Threaded the needle from the flank to find Greenwood straight in front. Gave up a straightforward open goal to Ben Brown to get the kid’s confidence up. Gave one to LT. And in the frenetic final minutes only 5 points up, deked Dempsey out of his shoes before drawing Hocking away from Petrie, handballing over the top and laying the shepherd on Hocking to give Drew just enough space to get the snap away. Oh my. Now that Lenny’s retired we can use the phrase on someone else: If you don’t love Wellsy, you don’t love football.

Lindsay Thomas

Ah, Lindsay. How good was that dive against the Cats? If you’re going to dive, just bloody do it. A sag at the knees and shrug of the shoulders is no way to draw a high free. Take it on. Be like Jack Darling and throw your head back when you get a tap in the chest. Jimmy Bartel, the game’s handsomest role model, knows the value of a good dive. And late in the last, with the game on the line, Lindsay did it again. Threw himself into a pack, knew where the tacklers were, and made sure the contact was high. Not a dive, exactly, not quite a duck, but an expert bit of in and under work. The bomber fans around me were livid, but LT’s gotten away with far worse over the journey.

He’s had a funny sort of year. Only went into God Mode once, in round 1 where he was about the only good performer against the bombers, but held up his end most of the season. Still bleeds for the jumper, still a mug lair. And I still love him. 3 goals in a final from limited opportunities a good return.

Kayne Turner

Called it.

Did you know he’s still at school? Had you heard that he came to the club at 67 Kilos? That he’s the youngest listed player in the league? That his attack on the ball is second to none? That in his first training session he put himself in the path of Jack Ziebell without flinching?

If you’d told me at the start of the season that North would finish 6th with Turner getting a game thanks to injuries to Taylor Garner, Kieran Harper and Robin Nahas, I’d call the men in white coats. But boy, he’s been so fun to watch. Without necessarily being in everything, had a key part in two of the goals of the 3rd quarter comeback. Lobbed a lovely pass into Brown for his second, and laid a jarring tackle on Dempsey that spilled the ball loose for Thomas. The rest of the time he ran into blokes then hard into space, then back into blokes. The kid just knows where to be on a footy field. Love him.

Bonus Favourites

The loose fries in the bottom of my favourites bag this week are Sam Wright and Levi Greenwood. Both of them looked to be on the scrapheap at the start of the season, playing out the last year of overly generous contracts. Both were immense against Essendon. It’s been the good Sammy Wright for a month now. His cat burglar’s nerve to steal that pass between Watson and Goddard started the comeback. He’s impossible to corral because he just swings nonchalantly onto his left and kicks it 50 with his wrong foot. He’s got a decent pair of hands and a bit of mongrel. Good on the kid for pulling it out of the fire.

And Greenwood has just been the story of the season for North. Was unstoppable in the last quarter with 15 disposals, alternating between smashing in and running off his man. Whatever I said last year and over the offseason was wrong. Nice work, Pig.

I’ve been lucky enough to be at 3 great North comebacks this year: against Port, Richmond, and now this one. Can’t even choose a favourite. I kind of don’t care what happens now. Geelong feels like a free hit after this. Go Roos!


  1. Nice one Rob. Saturday night was the really exciting game of the finals for a neutral. The other games had their moments, but this one kept me glued to the sofa (after half time anyway).
    Daniel Wells is elite. His field kicking is Hartlett class.
    Turner has that irrepressible energy of youth. Great competitor.
    Petrie and Thomas are both definitely flakey, but enough crumbled the right way and you got the choccies.
    I reckon with that win under the belt, you can beat the banged up Cats. How does Thompson cope with Hawkins, who will be on the angry pills this week after Lake did him over?

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great passion , Rob as a Norwood man to say I am a massive , Trent Dumont fan is a understatement he will be a very very good player when finally given a opportunity I hope it is at the roos

  3. Rob,
    It was Vintage Wells.
    Greenwood has been under-rated this season.
    Cunnington is only a step or two away from being elite.
    Re Drew: I sincerely hope that 5 minutes of brilliance shakes him from the funk he has been in. We will need him on Friday night.

  4. My missus was watching a replay of the game with me.
    During the third quarter she said, they look like pros.
    That’s exactly what North looked like – pros, but only in the second half.
    And we have to remember, we were only playing Essendon.

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    You called KT? Genius.

    The spread of effort got us the win. Finally, everyone contributed.

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