It’s almost time for the Kangaroos to start using the F-word. At 7-4, they are looking like a team ready to see some September action, and their defeat of the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium shows just how far the club has come since 2017.
Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly of their great win.
He’s not called the Rolls Royce because he’s slow to accelerate and bulky. He’s as smooth a ride as you’ll get in the AFL currently. I’ll go into the way he shrugged tackles later, but his 38 disposals included 12 contested touches, and he topped it off with a goal as well.
Higgins had ten score involvements, and was instrumental in North’s early dominance. He had 26 disposals to half time, and has really established himself as the class of the North midfield.
He is the perfect complement to the blue collar Roos engine, which includes Ben Cunnington and Ben Jacobs. If they provide the horsepower, Higgins provides the beautiful handling that makes the car feel like it’s gliding around corners. As long as Higgins can get his hands on it, the Roos will look great.
What a debut. Hearing the commentators barracking for him to pick up his 30th touch gave an indication of just what a good news story he is.
The former Giant, recovering from two knee reconstructions deserved this chance, and he made the most of it. you’d think that after a debut like that, he probably won’t be a one-hit wonder in terms of games played.
Ahern finished with13 contested disposals amongst his 29 touches and had seven score involvements. A great debut, by anyone’s measure.
This is what you want from a running defender. 34 disposals and two goals as he snuck forward were just what Doctor Brad Scott ordered from his half back.
McDonald is now averaging over 20 touches per game in 2018, and is the sort of player opposition teams will need to start putting a bit of work into when planning to play the Roos.
He had one error on the day that stood out to me, scrapping the ball out of 50, right to Daniel Rich, who found Beams inside 50 for a goal. Still, that is a small price to pay for what he gave to the Roos in return.
Not only did he kick a couple himself today, he set up Ben Brown for one of his two goals, and had nine score involvements and six inside fifties.
In a game like this, you’d look at the score line and think “Ben Brown must have had a day out.”
Well, Harris Andrews put paid to that. He was terrific when isolated one-on-one against Brown, and when the leader of the Coleman medal, in a game where the result is settled at half time, has only had two shots at goal for the entire game, you know the defender has done a great job.
I’m showing my age here, but I remember a young Alastair Lynch playing on Jason Dunstall on a day where the Hawks absolutely obliterated Fitzroy. Lynch was able to nullify Dunstall (for that era, anyway) and restrict him while the Hawks ran rampant over the Lions.
This was by no need a destruction of that magnitude, but to see a full back stand up, take on the best full forward in the league and not give up for the whole game, was a joy. Those calling for Andrews to be considered for an All-Australian slot were nodding sagely this afternoon.
The Kangaroo run
Run from the backline is an effort thing. It’s easy to sit back, stay where your opponent is, and say you’re doing your job. It’s another thing entirely to get on your bike and provide a genuine option through the middle as your team runs forward.
We spoke about Luke McDonald earlier, but he had a lot of mates running through the guts today. Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, Jamie MacMillan… they all took off whenever the ball was turned over, and provided North with a group of runners creating options for their forwards, or in Tarrant’s case, kicking goals himself.
He was by no means dominant, but you have to consider the calibre of the opposition.
Stefan Martin has been excellent this season, but Goldy well and truly had the better of him today. Usually, I’d look at this match up and think Goldstein would get him at ruck contests, and Martin would get him around the ground.
Not so, today. Goldstein worked hard at ground level as well. His clearance work, in particular to Ziebell to set up a scoring chance in the second quarter was indicative of his endeavour. There was a time last year I thought Goldstein was well and truly past it, but his effort today, and the results of that effort indicate that he may have a little left in the tank yet.
It must be catching at Arden Street, but it’s a condition North coaches would like to see epidemic proportions amongst the players.
I saw Shaun Atley take on a tackle and shrug it, and I reckon Shaun Higgins smiled the smile of a contented mentor. Higgins just stands up in tackles and waits for them to fall off him. Ziebell and Cunnington do the same, and all of a sudden North look like a team that will take your best, stand up, and deliver the ball to the next in line.
Maybe it was that they were playing against younger bodies of the Lions today, but the Kangaroos’ ability to get their hands free, swivel the hips, and run out of the tackle was a real highlight today.
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Kicking across goal coming undone
It happened a couple of times tonight, and when it pays off, it opens up the whole game.
When it doesn’t pay off… it means trouble. If there was any question as to whether North would sustain the effort in the second quarter, it was answered emphatically when Jack Ziebell ran as hard as he could back towards a contest. The ball hung in the air a little too long, and he crashed into the Lions’ defender, making contact with the ball.
It resulted in Ziebell running into an open goal, and it set the tone for the rest of the quarter – North Melbourne would not be letting up.
Kane Turner almost did the same in the third quarter, as he chased down another cross-goal kick. You could imagine an old-school coach like Ron Barrassi, or Denis Pagan screaming at a player for an error like that, but this is the modern game. It’s risk v rewards, and today, it was the Kangaroos getting the rewards whenever the Lions took the risk.
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Indigenous stars hurt in Indigenous round
You never like to see a player hurt at any time, but watching both Charlie Cameron and Allen Christensen sitting on the bench, unable to have any say on proceedings on a day that was so important to them… you’ve kind of gotta feel for them.
Cameron has had a ripping year, and Christensen has looked dangerous at times. Sadly, two indigenous stars sat out the game in Indigenous round. Unfortunate.
Witherden’s kick ins
This bloke has had huge wraps on him, and was rewarded with a recent Rising Star nomination – his second. Well, today he should’ve had it taken off him. He had two deplorable kick ins from full back that resulted in two North Melbourne goals.
The first one went to Jy Simpkin who turned around just in time or it may have hit him in the back of the head. The other went straight out on the full, and Higgins was never going to waste the opportunity, kicking to Wood who goaled. Maybe hand it to someone else for the next little while.
I’m always interested in how Luke Hodge goes with the Lions. He was good without being great today. He makes some good decisions under pressure, but either I didn’t notice it, or he wasn’t in full ‘general’ mode today. I loved seeing him and Cunnington testing each other.
Mason Wood may not have been a big influence on the scoreboard, but his work up the ground saw him contribute to eight scores on the day – two of them direct goal assists.
When Hipwood puts some weight on, he will be a force. Well done me, for stating the obvious, right? He’s got to keep that mobility though. It’s not as easy as it seems.
McStay showed a bit today. That launch from 50 was a ripping goal. He looked a lot more comfortable when he could sink his boot into it. The ball use of the Lions in that passage was excellent. Rayner to Hipwood to McStay. The future – right now.
For a great kick of the footy, Daniel Rich sure does hack it a lot.
Majak Daw makes for a good part time ruckman. He put it down Cunnington’s throat in the first quarter… the ball, not ‘it’. Not long after, he set up Simpkin for a shot at goal with another nice tap.
Sad to see Hodgey getting booed, and in Indigenous Round of all times! I’m not sure what that means…
I’m not sure what else Majak Daw could have done to stay out of McStay’s back as the first quarter came to an end. If it was in the back, it was the softest, most drawn out in the back of the game.
Ben Brown had two good wins in the air over Harris Andrews early in the second. The first came pretty quickly and resulted in a goal. The second came minutes later at half forward. It’d be the last win he’d have for a while.
Wonderful chase down by Kayne Turner, catching Cam Rayner holding the ball in the second quarter. The Lions looked like they were out, but Turner caused the turnover and it ended in a goal for Ben Jacobs.
Cunnington’s ability to buy time by feigning the handball and changing direction was instrumental in setting up a goal for Atley in the second. Just brilliant awareness and the ability to put opponents back on their heels.
Great to see some reward for Sam Wright this week. He got two goals, but the one he kicked whilst laying on his back in the goal square might get him a nomination for goal of the year. He has had a couple of indifferent games since returning, but he was a functioning part of the machine today.
Zac Bailey was one of the few Lions showing desperation as the Roos were hurting them. His tap back into play in the forward pocket almost gave Hipwood a chance to score but he couldn’t break a tackle. Bailey seems a little one-speed, though. He was chased down by Hartung way too quickly early on.
I like what I’m seeing from Rayner. He looks like a guy who is willing to take responsibility for a risky kick, or a shot at goal. He’s always looking inboard when he gets a touch between half back and the wing. Teams will be ready for that pretty soon.
Loved the way North trusted their handballing skills under pressure. When the Lions tried the same thing, it came undone. So, are North better at handballing? Are Brisbane poor at pressuring? Or are the Lions poor at handballing and North better at pressuring? Or maybe it’s a weird combination that doesn’t make much sense?
Really confusing call from the umpire, yelling out “play on” and then penalising the player 50 metres when he did play on. The ump claimed he claimed play on in the marking contest… well, you don’t need to call play on before the ball gets there, do you?
I reckon Daniel Rich looks a bit heavy. Not fat – just too solid. Has lost pace.
Great falcon on Mitch Robinson. He was involved in some good physical clashes, but I like that about him. Plenty of Mongrel in Mitch.
How telling was it watching three and four North defenders breaking through the centre together to create options? If you’re a North fan, you don’t want to be booking holidays in September with that sort of footy on display.
Ben Brown didn’t get an obvious free against Andrews in the third quarter. Clearly interfered with when trying to contest a mark.
No talk from the Lions, with Rayner and Martin spoiling each other.
Mitch Robinson’s desperation afforded the chance for Ben Keays’ first goal. He made two consecutive contests to get the ball to the youngster.
Ben Brown really bought that candy Hodge was selling in the back pocket.
A little concerning to see Marley Williams isolated on Oscar McInerney and Eric Hipwood in consecutive forward entries. Who wasn’t putting their hand up to take the big men?
The fourth quarter was basically the Dane Beams show, as he worked across half forward to kick 4.2 for the quarter. It must be noted that Ben Jacobs was NOT playing on him at this point.
Great body control by Ziebell to out-manoeuvre Gardiner and run into the open goal. Ziebell is underrated as a forward because he hasn’t been converting, but he creates opportunity, and a bag of five or six is not beyond the realms of possibility.