Brisbane v North Melbourne – A Little Less Nonsense And A Bit More Footy

Gather round people, I’ll tell you a story. A two and a half hour long story of football and… more football.

Ok, so maybe the report of what happened between Brisbane and North Melbourne in the first-ever footy match at Mt. Barker won’t quite pack the same punch as the story of Vincent Lingiari as lyrical wizard Paul Kelly told it. But I think it’d be remiss of me if I didn’t at least try for a Gather Round pun, don’t you?





Forward half defence: The Lions are up and about, and seem wounded by some of the criticisms levelled at them over the course of the first few weeks. Their defensive structure and movement to cut off North’s ball movement in Brisbane’s own forward half is noticeably well-drilled and mechanical, with each player seeming to know his required position. If only they played with the same precision in prelim finals.

Trouble in the trenches: Brisbane have started off the season as the worst team at ground level defensively in the competition. And their defensive unit isn’t doing anything to dispel doubts about their prowess below the knees. (That sounds inexplicably euphemistic, but I assure you it’s not). On multiple occasions, Lions defenders overrun the ball, fumble, or are caught flat-footed as a North opponent outwits them. Nick Larkey provides the most humiliating example, running off Jack Payne and converting from the goal line.


North Melbourne:

Zone defence: The North defenders seem to have misconstrued the definition of zone defence as meaning that you can zone out and let your opponents do whatever they please. On a couple of occasions, a Lions key forward is found by a teammate inside 50 with so much space that you could build a small shopping centre around him. Now I’m no tactical expert, but I don’t think that’s the sort of defensive system that Alastair Clarkson had planned.

You’re a very good footballer, Harry: Alright, so it doesn’t quite have the same ring as Hagrid’s original line, but it applies nevertheless. Harry Sheezel, who has been imperious off half-back in all of his games for the Roos, gets a rare chance at going forward courtesy of a Dayne Zorko brain fade (shock, horror) and duly converts a roost from 50m for his first goal. It’s a great moment for him and befits the complete lack of accountability demonstrated by each team’s defensive unit.






Agility: There are some fleet-footed lads in the Brisbane side. On a multitude of occasions, a Lions player gets himself out of trouble with a sidestep or a lateral turn whilst a North opponent haplessly watches on. It’s a joy to watch if you’re a neutral. If you’re me, it’s horrific.

Scoreboard dominance: Twin Towers of Eric Hipwood and Joe Daniher are both deviating from their respective norms, kicking goals from all sorts of places and seeming to forget that their reputations as perennial disappointment merchants are at stake. It’s a very deserved reward for the effort of the rest of the team after they go up a couple of gears to lead by four goals at the main break. Although many would consider them unlucky not to be further ahead.


North Melbourne:

The hospital game was last week, lads: North Melbourne appear to believe that they’re still at the Royal Children’s promoting the Good Friday appeal, with players going down and putting themselves in dangerous situations all over the place. Jy Simpkin suffers a fracture to his finger that eventually subs him out, Sheezel cops a massive hit to the head from which he somehow comes away unscathed, Will Phillips has a shoulder issue that needs addressing, and young key forward Charlie Comben is like the kid who’s had too much red cordial and is just throwing himself around.

Is it really McKay and Logue out there?: Ben McKay and Griffin Logue have both supposedly come back into the team after missing last week, and boy is it evident. Miscommunication, poor efforts at killing high balls, and subpar disposal are all features of their games so far. Of course, we’re all well versed with the Ben-Harry conspiracy theory. I think it’s entirely plausible that Logue also has a twin who stands in for him when necessary. Perhaps Ben and Griff didn’t really feel like playing footy this week and went up to Bright for a nice little Easter getaway. For me, this is clearly the most logical explanation for why both ‘defenders’ are playing so poorly.






Could’ve done this back at the Gabba: The third quarter is when the game becomes a complete procession. Seven goals to two in Brisbane’s favour, marks inside 50 galore, and North are struggling to even get the ball past halfway. You’d forgive the Lions for wondering why they had to travel all the way to SA, given North were clearly planning on leaving at quarter-time all along.

Red carpet for Charlie: Charlie Cameron gets two rather soft free kicks in the space of 60 seconds (one for holding, one for a high hold) and converts them both. Both were technically there but such incidents go unnoticed by the umpires many times every game. I’m not one to allege corruption, but I think it’s undeniable that players with reputations as stars, like Charlie, get more favourable treatment from the officiators. Almost as if the umpire expects that a defender, who is presumably less talented than his star forward opponent, will illegally hinder the forward’s movement before it even happens. These calls have no bearing on the result whatsoever but it’s still frustrating to see.


North Melbourne:

Einstein rolls in his grave: Having famously given us his definition of insanity, the German genius certainly wouldn’t be happy with North’s decision-making this quarter, as they repeatedly try and bite off the corridor kick, only to see the ball go back over their heads with interest each time. Might be time to shake up the tactics, boys.

Simpkin absence hurts: Jy Simpkin might cop some unfair heat from North fans, but he’s an irreplaceable player, and not just because he has the only two-letter first name in the Western world that I can think of. His substitution really hurts the Roos, and there is little doubt that his defensive pressure and ability to get the ball out to a teammate in space is sorely missed in the face of the Lions’ midfield onslaught.





Commentators: The sting might be out of the game, but the commentary team seem in better spirits than ever, going on meaningless tangents about cows being painted during the Crows’ flag era, puns on Charlie Comben’s name, the locations of various pubs in the vicinity of Mt. Barker, and so on. It’s a beautiful display of unrelated waffle, and in a relatively uneventful quarter, the commentators get my three votes.



Neale shakes off some unique pressure: Even with the game dead and buried, and even with a big near life-size picture of him in the crowd, SA native Lachie Neale is still sidestepping, baulking, intercepting and spear-passing his way to an arguable best on ground performance. A mentality to admire.


North Melbourne:
Comben: Charlie Comben doesn’t disgrace himself in the least, kicking two goals for the term and providing contests to the bitter end. One particularly impressive moment was a flick of the ball up to Kayne Turner as he fell forward, resulting in a goal. On a dark day for North fans, he has all the makings of a gun, as long as his body cooperates. (Yes, I made sure not to break any mirrors or walk under any ladders as I wrote that sentence, don’t worry).


At full time, the scoreboard, which flattered the Roos for a good long while, reads a resounding and deserved 75-point win to the Brisbanes, 22.20.152-12.5.77, with Daniher, Hipwood and Cameron outscoring North between them. I would say that it was a metaphorical representation of what would happen if a lion ever encountered a kangaroo, but I found out the other day that kangaroos can actually drown other creatures by holding their heads underwater. That’s pretty nasty. Add to that the general power that kangaroos possess, and it seems plausible that the battle would be far closer than some of us would imagine. Going by my newfound kangaroo knowledge, it seems to me that North would have a better chance if they requested that the next game between the two teams take place in a billabong.



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