When you compare the 2011 season narrative of St Kilda, Melbourne and North Melbourne you get three very different stories. But the fortunes of each club are all intrinsically linked to one key factor: on-field leadership.
Tag Archives: Andrew Swallow
North Melbourne: 1.5 3.6 7.8 9.11 (65) lost to the
Western Bulldogs: 3.6 4.10 8.13 11.14 (80)
With the advent of Docklands, it seems like a rarity to watch wet weather football. But both sides had to reassess normal game plans today due to intermittent downpours at the ‘G, with slippery conditions creating problems for everyone involved.
The first half, where most of the rain fell, was riddled with errors – both teams fluffing a number of chances. But North seemed to take longer to adjust than the Dogs, playing a bit too cute at times resulting in some punishing turnovers. Brad Johnson’s polish was the difference at half time, kicking three of the Dogs’ 4 goals.
The second half continued with similarly lacklustre skills, penetration and finish; and soon the Dogs were 28 points up. But then something started to happen. North lifted. Campbell, Thomas and Wells – all inside North’s forward 50 – started creating. All of a sudden the gap was just 11 points at 3 quarter time with the crowd sensing momentum with North.
And the last quarter delivered the cracker football the fans smelt. All the run was with the Roos – Footscray’s kicking into the forward line was errant, and North’s rebound was exhilarating to watch. All of a sudden it was a 2 point ball game. The Dogs turned it over on the wing, North were on the counter-attack and Scotty McMahon – solid all day – dropped what he should have taken 45m out on a slight angle. And that was the ball game. The Dogs kicked the next two in quick succession and North’s run stopped.
Post Match Thoughts:
- ‘Hunter’ S. Thompson – A bit patchy in the first half, but did some great stuff thereafter. Kept Johno goalless after half-time and provided some run from the backline.
- Matty ‘Flash’ Campbell – Won’t feature on the stats sheet, but gee he was creative. Was often the marking option against 2-3 talls, but still managed to make something of it.
- Lindsay Thomas – See above. (Sorry, I know they are two very different people, but their contribution today was almost identical.)
- Hamish McIntosh – Backed up last week’s BOG with a strong around the ground performance.
- ‘Boomer’ Harvey – It’s not often he’s well down on his best two weeks running, but that’s what’s happened. I’m tipping some anger against the Hawks next week.
- ‘Spud’ Firrito – I love seeing him playing through the middle like he did today. Didn’t dominate, but he’s bloody handy when you need a pack broken open.
- Andrew Swallow – Again proved himself a must-have clearance player.
- Jack Ziebel – Did enough in the second half to want him back next week.
- Adam Simpson – Keeps doing what he does best.
- Todd Goldstein – his selection seems a little perplexing. While he wasn’t terrible, playing 4 big men always seemed a weird choice against the Dogs, and with the weather the way it was, almost ridiculous. Ben Ross seemed a more likely game breaker.
Laidley seemed happy with the showing. And in many respects, I was too. A shame not to grab the points in the end, but there was nothing in it. It was frustrating to wait for two and half quarters before seeing North take the game on, but frickin’ great to watch when they did. With such an inexperienced lineup (which the Junk Yard Dog keeps emphasising) it is understandable.
At the end of the day, North were able to sort out their structures and gameplan in time to win the match – fate just bounced the ball the wrong way a couple of times. Their fitness and decision-making was solid in a frentic final quarter and a half, and the new defence did well once settled. Given a few more matches and more consistent 4 quarter efforts, I’m thinking we’ll see North beat most teams this season.
Everyone probably expected North Melbourne to walk all over Melbourne this round. And despite only really putting them away in the last quarter, I took a lot out of what I saw on Sunday:
- Structures – As was predicted, NMFC have changed up their defensive and midfield units. Firrito, Gibson, Harding and Urquhart spent more time in the middle and on the wings, requiring a new look set-up down back. It seemed to work surprisingly well, despite signs to the contrary during the pre-season.
- Defence – ‘Hunter’ S. Thompson looked good deep in defence: read the play well and used good options on the rebound. Laidley was particularly high in his praise for Hansen, who gave Miller a towelling at CHB. These two are key to North’s success this year. And while the signs are good, it’s difficult to take much out of it until they line up against a quality attack.
- McIntosh – Best on ground for me, and possibly the best game he’s played. Got a fair piece of the ball in general play, predominantly in the corridor – not like the junk possessions he used to clock up on the wings. Could improve his tap ruckwork, but otherwise great signs. (Tough for Goldstein to get a look in now.)
- Swallow – Lucky to get the call up after Liam Anthony was cruelly robbed of his debut (stress facture in the foot). Laidley thought we’d have struggled to win without him in the end, and I reckon he’s right. Looked hungry and used the ball much better than his reputation suggests.
- Josh Smith – First time I’ve really got a look at him, and despite seeing little Sherrin, I loved his presence in just his 3rd game. Worked hard, contested everything that came his way and showed enough to warrant another week or two at least.
- Gibson – played in the middle and had a couple of clangers. I love his work in defence and think he should stay there. He’s given Buddy a towelling a few times and will no doubt get first crack at him in two weeks time.
But most of all, North won without any of its stars really firing. Harvey, Petrie, Pratt, Wells and Hale all contributed, but were down on their best. It was the second tier that won the game: Harding, McIntosh, Swallow, Urquhart, Thomas and Power all putting in good performances.
While you can’t take too much out of a Rd 1 win against last year’s wooden spooners, I liked what I saw. The team looked very settled despite the change ups. And if the coaches persist with the set-up, and players are given the opportunity to hold down there positions, North could be real contenders in 2009.
But we’ll see how we go against an in-form Footscray first …