We Are the Royal Blues: Five Roos I Love

Inspired by Litza’s rule of 5 at the blues, and to ward off the malaise of a couple of listless practice matches, I choose to think about North players I love, I’m nowhere near as funny as Litza, but present to the knackers the following list.

Lindsay Thomas:

See Lindsay flop looking for a free in front of goal. Flop, Lindsay, flop! See Lindsay fly for an unrealistic mark of the year attempt instead of waiting down for a crumb. Fly, Lindsay, fly! See Lindsay with outstretched arms give a bit of head wobble after a ridiculous goal from the pocket. Wobble, Lindsay, wobble!

All you other supporters hating Lindsay for his mug lair tendencies — yeah, we know. He’s infuriating. We agree. He’s also the guy who rescued his career after the most famous case of yips in the AFL era to become an almost automatic set shot, who can dance through thickets of defenders and get away ridiculous snaps, the shy indigenous kid from country SA close to his family and proud of his heritage who helps run a kids’ footy program.

On the one hand, it’s a bit galling to see him lumped in with so many other irritating small forwards who are so much less admirable on or off the field. On the other hand who cares, he’s our mug lair and we love him.

Ben Cunnington:

The self-effacing kid from the dairy farm is almost a footy cliché. The Almanac’s own JTH even put together a speaking tour based around the phenomenon. Ben 10 might raise the form to a new level though. Drafted at number 5, the range where kids are expected to have an impact immediately these days, Ben did anything but. The coaches tried to ease him in as a high half forward, doubtless to take advantage of his better than average skills overhead for his size, but ultimately a waste of his contested ball winning ability. Struggling to make his mark or find the right role, he found himself at North Ballarat, and maybe at the crossroads. The crossroads? At, like, 20 years old? It’s a harsh business.

Naturally, he tore up the VFL, showing once and for all he had nothing to prove at that level and whatever was going to happen would have to happen in the seniors. If there could be an upside to Jack Ziebell’s cruelly unjust suspension for an unavoidable minor coming together with Aaron Joseph, it’s that it was the making of Ben Cunnington, promoted back to the seniors to fill the vacancy.

He’s a honey badger. He’s watched Swallow and Ziebell put their heads over the ball for a few years now, and he’s got the hang of it. His ability to feed the ball out by hand is Cable-esque. Diesel-like, even. He has a knack of drawing a couple of tacklers to free up a teammate. At least two Selwoods can attest to the effectiveness of his fend-off. And he does it all with a cheeky grin.

Daniel Wells:

In form, Daniel Wells is worth the price of admission by himself. Is there a more graceful sight in football than Wells in full flight? In the dark years of list mismanagement and training out of portables, of holding up play in the back half with the ball held over the head, Wells was worth going to the footy for. When he was inconsistent, seldom fully fit, and not always good at defensive efforts, he was still always a chance to do something nobody else could do.

It’s been 11 years. The wide-eyed kid from 2003 is an elder statesman now. And he can still do ridiculous things: a goal from behind the centre circle in Adelaide; one lying on the ground in a tackle against Melbourne; look-away passes by foot for goal assists; torps off half back to set loose a running forward; and he still has a wicked sidestep. And he got us through some pretty lean years.

Drew Petrie:

Drew Petrie is an old pro. The one who, after the open training session runs long in the summer heat, greets the diehards around the fence with open arms and hangs around until the last autograph is signed. Who makes a show of remembering the 10-year-old kid from a school visit a year ago. Who gives the team a rocket at half time in a practice match. Who, just quietly, at the tail end of his career is the equal of Nick Riewoldt, Matthew Pavlich and Travis Cloke.

A quick diversion: there was a bit of bleating around the traps recently when some Champion Data rankings had Petrie ahead of Cloke, despite Cloke’s dominance in contested marking, marks inside 50 and shots at goal, generally thought of as the key requirements of a centre half forward. Champion data, as far as I can tell, broadly value winning the ball from disputes and not giving it back to the opposing team. This seems reasonable. It follows that by giving away frees and kicking behinds, Cloke gives it back to the opposing team _a lot_, and thereby does not do the job of contributing to the things that make a team win as well as the flashy contested marks and goals might suggest. Drew Petrie does all of the following things at a better clip than Travis Cloke:

Contested Possessions; tackles; effective disposals (count and %); fewer clangers; hitouts; frees for; fewer frees against; one percenters; rebound 50’s; even running bounces for heaven’s sake.

It is an entirely reasonable conclusion to reach that Drew Petrie does more of the things that help his team win than Travis Cloke does. And he’s a ripper bloke who doesn’t steal people’s parking spots.

Kayne Turner:

After the draft, after the end of the draft, after selecting Joel Tippett as key defence emergency backup in the rookie draft, almost as an afterthought, North picked up a skinny kid from the Ovens and Murray league who was eligible by virtue of having been born a few hours short of midnight on December 31 of whatever year it is that draftees came from this year. The club promptly posted a highlights video on their website and the sorts of people who obsessively check footy club websites over the offseason were instantly smitten. It’s a parade of repeat efforts, contesting hard and running to space to create options, and throwing himself at bodies twice his size. He came up wanting to play like local boy Jack Ziebell and came over with a glowing reference from Jack’s dad. That’s practically North royalty. We can’t help but think if he was overlooked and played another year of TAC Cup he’d go a lot higher than second round of the rookie draft, so we’re looking at this as getting an extra 2014 draft pick for free. And who doesn’t love free?

At training, in the intraclubs, and in his first VFL practice match he did nothing to belie his early reputation. He’s a bulldog puppy with nice skills. He’s the opposite of Drew Petrie in just about every way: at the start of his career rather than near the end; as skinny as Drew is imposing; as shy as Drew is gregarious. Can’t wait to see him play.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A good write up Rob yep some bias but overall pretty balanced and no need to panic about North they are only practice matches . I will be amazed if Trent Dumont is not a very very good afl player and it won’t take him long was excellent for Norwood in SANFL finals and loves the contest

  2. Loved your write up of Kayne Turner. No man ever shot himself with a yearling in the paddock.
    You can keep playing Drew Petrie against my Eagles for as long as you like. I know he’s been a faithful servant, but I have never seen him get a kick on Glass or MacKenzie.
    Wells and Cunnington are both good footballers and we are all allowed a ‘pet player’ like LT.

  3. On Jack Ziebell – who jumps into an opponent to contest a handball?

  4. djlitsa — I’m just grateful, as I’m sure all Carlton supporters are, that Aaron Joseph was able to make such a full and speedy recovery from what the medicos assured us was a near-death experience. Ziebell’s attempt to gain possession of a ball that was in dispute was clearly not in the spirit of things.

  5. This is what I should’ve done from the get-go. Just name my five and be done with it. Going through the entire list is exhaustive.

    The Ziebell incident of which you speak is the only time I’ve thrown my lot in with that of Aaron Joseph.

    I’ve a few North mates who cannot stand Petrie – that said, he (along with Lindsay Thomas) always seem to go alright against us.

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