There are not many people who predicted North Melbourne to make the finals in 2018, and you’d be a supreme optimist to contemplate they would now, even after a 52 point belting of St Kilda on Good Friday.
But spare a thought for St Kilda supporters – they’re the ones who were eyeing a finals berth in 2018. They may want to start thinking about alternate plans for September. Today proved, on current form, they’re nowhere near it.
With that, here’s the good, bad and ugly of the game.
Ben Brown’s second half.
I’m not sure anyone really had a good first half, to be honest, but Brown really came to the fore after half time. His five goals in the second half put the Saints to the sword. Game highlight for him came when he marked overhead, at full stretch early in the last quarter, and slammed it home from outside fifty. As the tempo lifted, so did Brown.
When the Kangaroos finally clicked and finally got the ball into their forward line quickly and cleanly, Brown showed the kind of form North fans were hoping for this season. The Coleman is in play for the big man.
Yep, old man Waite looked good today. He threw down the walking frame, and worked right up the ground to collect 24 touches (though yes, he did grab a few cheap ones late in the game).
He demonstrated superior vision several times, including a moment in the first quarter where, after bombing long to a Ben Brown contest, the ball rebounded to him. Instead of going back to the well, he looked wide and found Billy Hartung 35 metres out. Sadly, Hartung could not convert – neither could anyone else at that point.
Waite also was able to out-body Jake Carlisle in the first quarter for a rare one-on-one mark against the Saints backman.
He had a couple more excellent moments we’ll touch on a bit later.
Now you see, when there’s someone who is capable of accumulating a lot of possessions, it’s a good idea to put someone on them who can limit their influence. So, in that regard, how much smarter is Brad Scott than Nathan Buckley?
Jacobs did an excellent job on reigning St Kilda Best and Fairest, Seb Ross, en route to winning 18 disposals of his own, and kicking a goal.
It was Jacobs’ pressure, or the threat of that pressure, that got to Ross, with the Saint seemingly looking to dispose of the ball immediately every time he touched it. It was as though he was expecting his shadow (Jacobs) to be on top of him immediately.
Commentators questioned whether Jacobs should be moved onto Jack Steven, who was starting to inflict damage, but North, and Jacobs stayed the course. Even though Ross finished with 23 touches, many of them came after the game was decided.
Blake Acres’ goal
Ben Brown aside, the game wasn’t one full of highlights. Blake Acres’ goal in the third quarter was easily the best moment of the game to that point.
Marley Williams’ awkward, and failed attempt to mark set in motion a chain of events that saw Acres collect the ball on the half forward flank. He put the foot down, ran to 55 metres out and went bang, sending the ball through from a difficult angle.
In a game where goals were difficult to come by at that point, it was an absolute gem.
The North Melbourne defence.
We’ll get to the St Kilda forwards in a moment, but to just say they were poor is not giving enough credit to the North defenders.
Robbie Tarrant and Jamie MacMillan were very hard at it for the whole game, and despite Tarrant dropping a couple of very get-able marks, they controlled the air for the most part of the game.
MacMillan’s desperation at the ball and body was one of the keys in sparking the Kangaroos’ third quarter blitz.
Key moment for Tarrant came in the third quarter. He made enormous ground to make a spoil on the waiting Paddy McCartin at half forward. Tarrant hit the ground running, received a quick handball and passed long to Jack Ziebell. He got the ball over to Shaun Higgins, who found Ben Brown all by himself for a goal.
That was Tarrant’s goal. I hope they get around him for that.
St Kilda forwards
So if the North defenders were good, my guess is that it means the Saints’ forwards were simply bad. Let’s have a look at their output.
Combining the stats of Paddy McCartin, Tim Membrey and Josh Bruce, what we end up with is 31 disposals and 9 marks between them. Three marking forwards averaging three each for the game. That’s terrible, but it’s not the worst stat.
Between those same three players, they did not register a major. Yep, goalless. They did add three behinds. Big win to the North backs.
We’ll get to the overall standard of the game in the ‘ugly’ section, but let me run this past you. The top five in disposals for the day were all St Kilda players. Jamie Webster had 30, David Armitage had 27, Shane Savage had 26, as did Jack Steven, and Jarryn Geary had 25. So, what’d they do with it?
None of them really hurt North with anything they were doing, with Steven the only one who looked dangerous with the ball at times. The best in terms of numbers for North had 24 touches, and that was shared between Billy Hartung, Shaun Higgins and the aforementioned Waite.
If this game taught us anything, it’s that accumulators can have games where they don’t influence the result. So many missed targets...
The entire first half
OK, it’s not often we get to the end of the first half and think “what the hell was that?”
Today was one of those days. Kicking 2.10 each in the first half was bad enough, but it was the fundamental skill errors that dragged the game down.
I’ll single out one person who is so much better than what he displayed in the first half, but is probably best positioned to take a whack because I thought he was very good in the second half.
I’m a bit of a wrap for Jack Ziebell, but in the first half, he was a complete butterfingers, which I suppose is better than being a complete fingers butt, but still not great. During one stretch in the saints forward line, he handballed seemingly to no one, received the ball back, fumbled it again, gathered it and was tackled as he attempted to kick. It was not his greatest sequence. He was much better and cleaner in the second half, but that first half will definitely not be making his highlight reel.
The kicking for goal
Well, we touched on the 2.10 each in the first half. It was bad – real bad. In some cases you see games where people are taking difficult shots and the scores reflect that difficulty. That wasn’t the case here.
Misses from Higgins, Hartung, McDonald, Anderson (terrible miss), Waite, Dumont and Hrovat were all very, very kick-able. It’s scary what North could’ve done to the Saints had they converted in the first half like they did in the second.
Alas, a win’s a win.
The roof open at Etihad makes for a very unpleasant viewing experience on TV. With half the ground bathed in sunlight it is difficult to see. I can only imagine what it must be like at this start time for the players to be in complete shade and then move five metres to be hit with full sunlight. .
The Kangaroos bombarded the forward fifty in the first ten minutes, but that goal to Carlisle to give St Kilda the lead after the Roos had all the play must’ve stung a little.
Check Jed Adnerson’s lack of second effort with 9.40 remaining in the first quarter. Disappointing.
McCartin’s dropped marks are such a concern. When compared to an “old-school” full forward, he is nowhere near it. A couple of times today he just flat out dropped marks he should’ve taken. Saints fans are being patient, and he is really stretching the friendship.
At times it sounded to me (neutral) as though the commentators were actually barracking for McCartin.
I thought Jarryn Geary was really good in the first half. As panic reigned around him, he kept a cool head.
The patience of Shaun Higgins in North’s forward fifty, where he didn’t blaze away, and instead turned, looked inside and spotted up Trent Dumont, was a beautiful piece of playmaking. Sadly, it went unrewarded on the scoreboard.
Jack Steven’s “nothing” kick in the second quarter was shocker. Saints got the turnover from a terrible Ben Brown kick and Steven went darting inside fifty. He was well in range, but looked as though he was caught in two minds as to what to do. The result – a slow kick in the direction of Jack Billings, five metres out, was thumped through for a behind.
I loved Ziebell’s effort to make a contest in the air against Jake Carlisle in the third quarter. It looked as though Carlisle would gobble it up, but Ziebell’s spoil brought the ball to ground, where Jed Anderson capitalised with a ripping snap for goal.
Jack Steele’s goal against two Roos against the flow was a genuine highlight for the Saints. Great strength to hold off two opponents and get his foot to the ball.
The Saints were really trying to aid Seb Ross in breaking the Jacobs tag in the third. At one point, their determination to get their B&F involved saw them go from having the ball on the wing to a throw in right in the same spot due to North’s pressure and an errant handball?
Intelligent use of the interchange bench in the fourth quarter meant that Waite entered the game and immediately created an overlap. Cunnington was able to get the ball to him, and he then got it onto Ryan Clarke, who gave off to Hrovat for the goal in the goal square. Really rate that – using the system to your advantage.
Waite’s ruck tap at half forward in the last quarter was the best piece of ruck work all day. The tap went straight to the loose Hartung, who slammed it home.
What is it with modern players not bothering to shepherd for their teammates? Jack Billings, I saw you neglect to shepherd in the fourth quarter. There was about 8.45 remaining, if anyone wants to have a look.
Finally, on today’s form, if either of these teams ran into a side that was clean, they’d be in huge trouble. Saints, if you think you’re going to make the finals playing the way you did, you’ve got another thing coming. North… I was glad to see you guys get on the board early.