There’s an old saying – the harder you work, the luckier you get. North Melbourne were the hardest working team in the first half, and boasted a 57 point margin over Hawthorn to show for it.
Though the Hawks would retaliate with an excellent third quarter, they spent just about all their petrol tickets, and The Kangaroos finished 28 point winners.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of the game.
I don’t think Cunnington is a star of the game – not by any stretch, but what he is, is a guy who will win the hard ball and get himself in the right spots to help his team out of a jam.
As the Hawks pressed in the third quarter, the ball bounced around between several players, each trying to tap it to their teams’ advantage. Only one player actually jumped, took possession of the ball and took complete responsibility for it. That man was Ben Cunnington.
He finished with 30 touches, of which 18 were contested, and was the man who steadied the Kangaroos when they needed it.
So, not a superstar, I said… but it was a super game.
The North Pressure in the first half
Alastair Clarkson is hailed as a coaching genius, but what you cannot teach is intent. North Melbourne came out with a strong intent today, and they ran hard at the man and the ball. There was no finessing, no lairising, and no selfishness. They operated as a team, and a well-oiled one, en route to completely dismantling the Hawthorn game.
When the Hawthorn mids went near the ball, they were hounded. When the ball dribbled forward, North Melbourne hands were first to it. Simply put, North wanted this game more, and they left no doubt in the minds of anyone as to how much they wanted this win.
Proving the doubters wrong.
Here’s a quick tidbit for you.
On the SEN radio station, their panel of experts predicted their wooden spooners for thus season. Eight of the thirteen panellists predicted North Melbourne to finish last.
So, Dr Turf, Tim Watson, Garry Lyon, Sam Edmund, Dermott Brereton, Liam Pickering, Adam Cooney and Andy Maher… you feel like reassessing your wooden spoon selection yet?
On a day where Hawthorn had very few genuine winners, Breust was excellent. He finished with five goals, taking his season-tally to 16 from the first five games. He also has 24 tackles, making him a genuine chance to be the first player ever to achieve 50 goals and 100 tackles in one season.
His conversion in front of goals remains excellent and he is in All-Australian form after a couple of seasons in the elite wilderness.
20 disposals and 16 marks is All-Autralian kind of numbers, and Tarrant owned his contests this afternoon.
He has really stepped into the role of leader across the North backline, and made life miserable for whatever combination Hawthorn threw forward.
Whether it was on Roughead, Tim O’Brien, or drifting across to aid the other defenders, the defensive 50 belonged to Robbie Tarrant.
I had Jacobs in my ‘Best’ category the other week for his role on Clayton Oliver, and the Demon fans lost their marbles because Oliver got a couple of junktime goals, as though that excused his defeat at a dozen contests earlier by Jacobs.
There were no late goals to Jaeger O’Meara today. There were no late goals to Tom Mitchell. Jacobs worked hard to nullify the influence of both Hawthorn guns, and did so very effectively.
His stoppage work was better than both Mitchell and O’Meara combined today. Yes, he received wonderful help from teammates at those stoppages, but it is the defensive effort he exerts that sets the tone for those guys. Great job, again.
The Ben Brown v James Frawley match up
What's that? You're questioning whether this was a match up, or whether Brown completely took the points in the first quarter and a half? It's a fair question.
Brown was enormous early, and monstered Frawley. I was beginning to think Big Ben could kick ten today, but he had four at half time and finished with... four. It was a good fightback from Frawley, although he was still miles behind on points for the day.
I am no Frawley fan - I think he is very one dimensional, but he did well after half time on Brown. If the first half wasn't such a complete Brown victory, I might actually be inclined to say well done to Frawley. However, the first half was a complete Brown victory, so I won't say it.
The “Can’t someone else do it?” Hawks
In the first half, the Hawthorn Football Club looked like a team bereft of leadership, and bereft of genuine grunt. They were beaten at stoppages, in ground-level contests, and in the air.
But it wasn’t that which got my attention – it was the way they’d look around at each other, as if to ask who was meant to do something. The answer, Hawks players, as you uncovered in the third quarter, was YOU!
They wanted to play like millionaires in a blue collar game. The team with their work boots on won the ball. That team was North Melbourne.
Inconsistent ‘Man in front’ mark rule
There were two instances of this today, and it had Hawthorn fans rightfully upset on both occasions.
The first saw Ben McEvoy pluck a mark 30 metres out. It would’ve provided a badly-required shot at goal for the ailing Hawks. Instead, it was awarded to Robbie Tarrant, who had a tenuous grasp on the ball for a split second.
Fast forward to later in the game, Dave Mirra stood underneath the ball as the man in front and should’ve been paid a mark against Ben Brown. Both had the ball simultaneously, and Mirra had much more of the ball than Tarrant had earlier. The umpire paid the mark to Brown.
As a footy fan, these are the sorts of inconsistencies that annoy. Interpretations are one thing – just make them consistent.
Harry Morrison misses the mark
No, not an aerial mark. He was grounded, and had the opportunity to do what North Melbourne players had been doing all game – run straight at the ball and take a body with him in the process. He’s a young guy, and he’ll have many more chances to rectify this error, but his decision not to put his body on the line had dire consequences.
The ball spilled from the contest, and spilled North’s way. It ended in the arms of Cam Zurhaar, after Ben Stratton caught him high inside 50. He slotted a goal from 40 metres out and squashed the Hawthorn uprising.
Dave Mirra and the fence
It looked bad because it was. Cam Zurhaar signalled the intentions of North with a punishing bump that sent Mirra careening into the fence, shoulder-first.
Zurhaar didn’t actually do much wrong, looking at it. His contact to Mirra was whilst the ball was still in play, and it was momentum that sent him into the fence as much as anything, but he knew what he was doing.
I hope he gets off. I also hope he thinks twice before doing that again.
Six Seconds of Carnage
On a day where Shaun Higgins welcomed a new addition to his family, he was also knocked out cold in the middle of Etihad Stadium.
Seconds later, Ed Vickers-Willis crashed to the ground after a collision with the Hawks’ Harry Morrison. It was a horrible look, with two bodies on the turf, and medicos all around.
The incident with Vickers-Willis looked innocuous, but Ryan Burton will probably come under scrutiny for the hit on Higgins. He opted to bump, and it was high. That’s about all the MRP requires.
I wanted to add Todd Goldstein’s deft taps to the ‘Good’ section, but they were isolated to the first half. That said, his ability to get the ball to his mids in that half made a quality ruckman, in Ben McEvoy, look second-rate.
The North forward line looks as potent as any in the league at the moment. Their three-headed monster of Brown, Waite and Ziebell are, and will provide some huge headaches if they can stay fit.
The decision against Robbie Tarrant for contact below the knees is NOT what that rule was designed for. Tarrant made the play. He was there first, and he was penalised. It’s against the spirit of the game to pay free kicks like that.
Waite is relishing the role at Ben Brown’s feet. He almost comes across as a cherry-picker at times. If he converted better, he’d be a very successful cherry-picker.
Goldstein’s tap to the back at a boundary thrown in during the early stages of the second quarter allowed Shaun Higgins to to set up a great forward entry that hit Ben Brown on the chest 20 metres out.
It took until halfway through the second quarter for James Frawley to get a clear one-on-one win against Brown, getting aa holding the ball free kick against him.
North’s kicking to position was excellent in the first half. Though the effective kicking stats were relatively even, the ‘eye-test’ told you who was winning that stat.
Great to see Billy Hartung get a goal against his old mob.
We often hear about the famed “Clarko adjustment” at quarter time. It took until half time today.
At half time, nine of the top 13 ball-winners belonged to North Melbourne.
Ed Vickers-Willis might be the most Monty Python-esque name in the league.
Jarman Impey provided the hawks a real spark in the third. His chase and tackle on Shaun Atley was a cracker.
The injuries to Vickers-Willis and Higgins really stilted the Hawks’ momentum in the third. First goal after the six minute stoppage saw Dumont goal. Great shepherd on the goal line from Ben Brown to make sure it went through.
The Sicily kick in to the centre, Roughead handball and Smith goal on the run was easily the best passage of play from the Hawks all day.
The Hawks six goals to one in the third quarter was impressive. It proved to be too little, too late.
O’Meara couldn’t get near it today, and whenever he did, he was under pressure every time. Credit North for causing perhaps his least-impressive game in brown and gold.
A couple of nice courageous displays from Taylor Duryea in the last quarter, running with the flight of the ball.
Majak Daw was proof of the old adage that small guys get tired, but big guys don’t get smaller. He took a couple of towering marks in defence late in the game.
Very un-Mitchell-like kick into forward fifty landed with Robbie Tarrant, who sent the ball back from whenst it came. It eventually landed with Waite, who should’ve iced the game, but missed.
Not sure if I am the only one, but I hate seeing Roughead going for overhead marks one-handed.
Waite finally gets another shot at goal, marking 30 metres out. He could’ve ran on but opted to milk the clock. This is exactly what coaches were saying Ollie Florent should’ve done last week against the Bulldogs, yet both the commentators seemed annoyed that he didn’t handball over the top to Ben Brown. Sometimes as a forward, you can kick the goal, ice the game and still not win.