When all is lost, I alliterate

By Andrew Starkie

North Melbourne versus Collingwood
7.40pm, Friday, 1May
Etihad Stadium

There are times when emotions are best expressed through alliteration.  When feeling romantic, we’re amorously aroused.  When our car is broken into in a Northcote carpark, we’re bloody bummed. When Barry Hall is angry, he is Big Bad Barry.  And so on.

Bewildered befuddlement is the only way to describe my thoughts on the train journey home after Friday night’s thrashing.

My head was an unmade jigsaw puzzle.  A nightmarish jumble of unmarked Magpie players running everywhere; of Kangaroos turning the ball over; the Collingwood cheer squad going up again in celebration; and poxy faded blue and white uniforms better suited to the von Trapp family.  It was positively painful.

I sent a confused and desperate text to Wally, my mate from the NMFC 1869 site*: “Where do I start?”

Reply: “It was horribly frightening.”

Wally’s the most eloquent texter.

In pilates class on Saturday morning, I was still in shock.

“What went wrong last night?” asked Peter, a scholarly Melbourne supporter, during leg exercises.

“Not too sure.”

“Ah, not to worry,” he chuckled with the wisdom of someone happily accepting of regular defeat as part of life’s swings and roundabouts. I envy his poised perspective.

That afternoon, to make myself feel better, I bought a new rug for the living room floor. Successfully stimulated, Mr Rudd.

Forty-eight hours after the final siren, my thoughts have realigned to the extent I can organise them under the following categories.

Shaky Skills.  Collingwood’s skills were excellent, ours awful.  The Magpies carried the ball smoothly from end to end.  Kicks hit leading targets and handball was used to clear play and mount attacks. Davis, Thomas, Corrie and Pendlebury were standouts.

Like last week, North’s kicking was sloppy and we overused the handball.  All three of Collingwood’s third-quarter goals came from North turnovers.  Acting captain Petrie was gallant. However, he missed two easy shots at crucial times.  Gibson attempted to kick on his opposite side and missed targets.

Target Troubles.  Collingwood had a number of goal-kicking forwards and we didn’t.  The withdrawal of Rocca before the match did not adversely affect the Magpies.  Jack Anthony was dangerous on the lead and Lockyer constantly dropped in behind Anthony and Cloke.  His three-second quarter goals helped create a match-winning lead.   North missed the injured Hansen in defence.

Edwards was our only workable target.  In his second senior game for the year, he led and marked well.  A confidence player, Edwards goaled from a tight angle in the first quarter and had four by half-time.  Although goalless in the second half, he had a good game.  Hale’s poor form continued.  Delivery to him was ordinary, but he was beaten by Presti.  When the ball hit the ground in the forward line, Collingwood were able to sweep it out too easily.  Eleven goals for the night were never going to be enough.

At the start of the season, I feared our goal-kicking would be a problem and this is proving to be true.  We are averaging just over ten goals a game.

Pace Problems.  Except for a twenty-minute period in the first quarter when we played attractively through the centre corridor, we lacked speed.  A swifter opponent carried the ball neatly from stoppages or switched play in order to open up the game for runners.  North were overwhelmed.  Wellingham’s goal early in the last quarter was an example of the Magpies’ pace dominance.  Part of a passage of play that saw the ball carried up the outer wing, he ran at least 150 metres with opponent Swallow always trailing.  Try as he might, Swallow couldn’t catch Wellingham, who finished off with a fine goal on the run.

Onballers Simpson, Harris and Lower could not keep up with opponents who were outrun by Essendon last week. With Harvey, Wells and Campbell missing, an already sluggish outfit is looking downright cement-footed.  Gracious God, grant us gallopers.

Pulverising Pressure.  We panicked under physical attention and made poor decisions.  We constantly kicked to outnumbered team mates.  Strong body work from Swan and Maxwell broke packs and tackles and cleared paths.  North were physically over-powered and beaten into submission during the Magpies’ eight-goal second quarter.

Testing Transition Time.  It’s going to be a long year.  The retirements of Grant and Thompson have decreased our goal-kicking options and injuries have robbed us of pace and stability.  The careers of Ziebell and Warren have begun well, but they can’t yet be expected to carry responsibility.  Simpson, proud and courageous as ever, was again our best on Saturday night.  Who is going to carry the load with him?

Friday night left me confused and concerned, but I’m relieved to have articulated (hopefully) my scattered thoughts.  You could say I’m rightly reconciled.

North Melbourne
4.1    7.2    8.6    11.9    (75)

4.6    12.8    15.11    19.13    (127)

North Melbourne: Edwards 4; McIntosh 2; Warren, Petrie, Harding, Thomas, Firrito.
Collingwood: Lockyer 4; Anthony 3; Corrie, Davis 2; Macaffer, Swan, Thomas, N. Brown, Maxwell, Medhurst, Wellingham, Cloke.

North Melbourne: Simpson, McIntosh, Edwards, Ziebell, Petrie.
Collingwood: Swan, Davis, Lockyer, Pendlebury, Anthony.

40,087 at Etihad Stadium

Simpson (NM) 3, McIntosh (NM) 2, Edwards (NM) 1.

*See links.

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