The coaching of North Melbourne has come under a bit of scrutiny after suffering a 9-point loss to St Kilda.
The main criticism has been around the selection table. North dropped three of its quicker players – Atley, Richardson and Harper – and brought in four mid-sized plodders – Pratt, McKinley, Hansen and McMahon (Delaney was also out injured).
The match committee’s justification suggested they were looking for experience and hardened bodies to play against the mature St Kilda team.
It’s debatable whether it worked. That Pratt and McKinley had virtually no impact on the game didn’t help. But if you look at the flow of the match, it was in North’s control for all bar the last 10 minutes of the first half. North simply couldn’t kick a winning score. Whether this was due to a selection issue or not is unclear.
Secondly, Brad Scott allowed two of St Kilda’s key play-makers in Goddard and Fisher to roam freely off half-back. Both had a significant impact on the game.
But a clear factor in North’s failure to kick enough goals was the forward set-up. Petrie, in career-best form, was double and triple teamed by St Kilda. Yet North continually bombed it long in Petrie’s direction. And the crumbs were swept up by the loose Saints’ defenders.
North could’ve done two things: (1) push Petrie away from goal, hopefully dragging an extra defender with him to free up space in the forward line, or (2) chosen a better option. They didn’t, and they lost.
The flip side of this is that Brad Scott plays to win, not to adapt. His mantra is clear: North Melbourne must win on their terms, not the opposition’s. He is teaching them footy that will win finals.
But his inflexibility in this instance could’ve cost North Melbourne a finals berth.
Should he have adapted the game plan a little, pinching a short-term win but risking some long-term pain? Or was he simply unlucky that North couldn’t quite execute? I could swing either way.
But I think it’s fair to say that Brad Scott would’ve learnt a lot from Sunday’s game. And I doubt he’ll make the same mistakes again.