Only a few years ago, new presidents took the reins of Melbourne and North Melbourne, seeking to rebuild their respective clubs. In the seasons since, the chosen path for each president has been very different. And the results are stark. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Melbourne Football Club
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.
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 …
One of North’s big improvers of 2008, Matty ‘Flash’ Campbell, continues to look the goods, this time for the Indigenous All-Stars in their win against Adelaide. Awarded the Polly Farmer Medal for best on ground, Campbell has come a long way since carving up the dirt in Alice Springs for the Pioneers.
The transition for Indigenous players from the bush to big city football can’t be easy. Campbell has Arrente (Alice Springs region) and Arabana (around Lake Eyre) heritage and spent a fair bit of his childhood living on his grandfather’s land outside Alice. English is still his first language, but there would be plenty of other cultural barriers to be confronted with in the big smoke – many of which us whitefellas don’t even think about. ‘Sorry business’ (death in the family/community) is the most obvious, but even the simple Aussie ritual of going to the pub can present issues.
But if the barriers for Matty Campbell are big, spare a thought for Melbourne’s newest recruit, Liam Jungarrayi Jurrah. Liam is an initiated Warlpiri man from Yuendumu, a traditional Aboriginal community 300km north-west of Alice. Liam had never seen a gym until he came to Melbourne. His journey is an amazing one already (Martin Flanagan tells it as well as anyone) but far from complete. It has the potential to go anywhere.
I’ve previously written about the contribution Indigenous players have made to footy. But it’s fair to say that footy’s contribution in return is immense. It is perhaps the only aspect of mainstream Australian culture which offers real hope for Indigenous Australians (given the exploitative nature of commercialising traditional Indigenous art).
Liam Jurrah is the AFL’s biggest test yet. I worry about what might happen if things don’t quite work out.
But then again, what are the possibilities if they do … ?