Speaking at a function, the founder of Champion Data, Ted Hopkins, was asked if there is a statistical trend which shows how to win a game of football. The short answer was no. However, there is a statistic which shows the easiest way to lose a game of football … poor kicking across half-back.
Hopkins went further. He believes that modern football teams must field their elite kickers of the ball in the backline.
North Melbourne find themselves at 2-7 due in no small part to turnovers in the backline. Poor kicking is killing us. It raises the question, who should play in North’s defence?
Nathan Grima is one of North’s most composed players, with great decision-making and accurate kicking. The early form of ‘Car Keys’ Delaney looks solid. ‘Hunter’ S. Thompson has rediscovered his form as a rebounding defender, and ‘Spud’ Firrito’s penetrating kicks, combined with his consistent grunt work, make him invaluable.
That leaves Pratt, McMahon and Rawlings.
While I rate Rawlings as a club man, leader and negator, his disposal consistently makes all North fans nervous. He has an uncanny ability to get into the right spot, but too often undoes his work with inaccurate kicking. Even when on target, his looping kicks always give the opposition time to close down the defensive rebound. He has been one of the club’s most loyal servants, but at nearly 31 years, is it time he made way for someone else?
Both Pratt and McMahon have relatively strong kicking skills, usually taking the kick-outs from the goal square. But each are inclined to unexplained brain-fades. Whether it be an undisciplined act or choosing the worst option, they seem to infuriate Roo supporters at least once a match. How long can Brad Scott remain patient?
Daniel Well’s stellar form this season has been played largely on the wing, drifting back into defensive 50. His evasive skills and penetrating kick have enabled North to break the defensive zone on numerous occasions.
North need more of it, and recruited Cam Richardson from North Ballarat for this reason. Unfortunately, he looked like a rabbit in the headlights during his four AFL games and was dropped. He has found form at the VFL since – is it time to bring him back into the fold? Is Gavin Urquhart’s career over, or is he the answer to North’s rebounding accuracy? Has Jamie Macmillan’s recent form justified a permanent position, or is he better suited in the midfield rotations?
With a fully fit list to choose from, here’s my preferred defensive unit:
FB: Thompson Delaney McMahon
HB: Firrito Grima Macmillan
Sorry Brady, but I reckon it’s time.