North Melbourne v St Kilda - The Good, Bad and Ugly

The Roos dropped the feisty Saints in the last round to send Jarrad Waite into retirement in style.

Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.

 

THE GOOD

Trent Dumont

Breathe easy, North fans – the new guard has put their hand up, and they’re led by Trent Dumont.

Dumont had a career-high 38 touches, including 13 contested, as he became the workhorse of the North Melbourne midfield this afternoon. He had a mammoth 13 score involvements, two of which were direct goal assists, and pumped the Kangas inside 50 on seven occasions.

The North midfield is a unique bunch, and they have been crying out for a fourth player to complement their garage of Rolls Royces (Higgins), beaten up four wheel drives (Cunnington) and battering rams (Jed Anderson) all season. Though Dumont has shown glimpses, including 33 touches against the Crows in Round 22, this week he put it all together for four quarters to be North’s second best.

Todd Goldstein

And Todd Goldstein was the reason Dumont was North’s second best. Big Goldy worked his tail off today, with his ability to cover the ground putting some running midfielders to shame.

One moment he was kicking for goal and they next he was deep in defence, applying the pressure at that end. He had a blindingly good patch in the third quarter where he marked, defended and goaled all in the space of a couple of minutes.

He had 27 hit outs for the game and eight of these were to his team’s direct advantage. He also pulled in seven marks to go along with his 20 disposals, and slotted two goals from acute angles in a clear best on ground performance.

A pair of Jacks

Pick a Jack, any Jack.

No, actually just pick two. Jack Steven and Jack Steele. You can keep the rest.

These two blokes combined for 69 touches between them (Sounds erotic, but it’s not) as well as four goals, 29 contested touches and 16 clearances.

They were in large part responsible for the Saints clawing their way back into the game in the third quarter, with both their relentless run (Steven) and their defensive pressure (Steele) throwing North off balance and allowing the Saints multiple opportunities to run forward. With these two firing, the Kangaroos midfielders took on the role of dears in the headlights, standing and watching as this pair of Jacks rampaged through the middle.

In the end, it was not enough. I’ve called Jack Steven a poor man’s Dane Swan on a few occasions. He was a little better than that today, and I can’t help but admire the work ethic of Steele, who was matched up with Cunnington at many stoppages in the second half, and took the chocolates.

Jarrad Waite

So North didn’t get Ben Brown to the Coleman, but they did celebrate the career of Jarrad Waite in style. With Brown occupying all the attention, Waite did what Waite does, and that is sneak under the guard of the opposition.

He started in the guts and got his hands on it often early, before pulling the trigger and heading forward in the second. Lo and behold, no sooner than he moved there, he was able to double back toward the centre and lose his man to mark on a nice pass from Ahern. He duly converted.

Watching Waite today, you have to wonder whether the desire to play another year was still there. The skills are there. The endurance is there, but if the desire isn’t, then it’s all for naught.

He had a very productive afternoon, kicking three goals, and it was a shame he couldn’t convert after the siren to make it four.

Jack Ziebell’s first quarter

I really liked the way Ziebell sensed opportunity in the first quarter today.

With the eyes of the football world on Ben Brown, it was as though he looked around, saw a bit of leeway to do his own thing, and took the game on. Four shots at goal and three goals later, he had owned the first quarter.

Ziebell is a tank of a man, and I reckon had he not been reported so many times, he’d be even harder at it than he is. He is the perfect third forward, and doesn’t mind a) taking the hit when it’s his turn to take possession (take note, Marley Williams), or dish it out when the opportunity arises. His collision with Jack Steven late in the third quarter was crash and bash footy at its best.

As the Saints looked like they may come at the Roos, he was the one who stepped up, physically. It was as though he was eyeballing St Kilda and saying “You think you’re gonna steal this game? You have to go through me to do it.”

And no one wanted to have to go through Ziebell. No one could.

 

THE BAD

Early inaccuracy

This might be a bit of a stretch, but watching the Roos kick 6.7 in the first quarter, I felt as though they should really have been eight goals up and the game should’ve been over. Had they converted even one or two more goals, it may have been enough to cause the Saints to drop their heads.

In a game where the focus was on Ben Brown kicking goals to either tie or win the Coleman Medal, the Roos put themselves in the awkward position of having to actually play win the game rather than feed their main man after putting the game beyond reach. Had a few of those early shots went through, including one from Brown himself, it could very well have made the job of feeding Big Ben easier as the game went on.

All it takes is for a team to drop off by five to ten percent and the wheels can completely fall off. To look up at the scoreboard and see a nine or ten goal quarter would’ve absolutely demoralised the Saints… as if the rest of their season hadn’t done that already. Once they drop off, the chases aren’t as hard, the help-defence isn’t as consistent, and the opportunities to capitalise multiply.

North had the chance to put St Kilda to the sword early and they blew it, and in doing so, made it more difficult to get their full forward the chances he needed to win the Coleman later.

It was a shame.

Marley Williams… take possession of the ball!

I reviewed a North game a few weeks back, and Marley Williams took one of the worst dives I’ve seen this year. After barely being touched, he crumpled to the ground like an anaemic soccer player. You’d think that the ensuing criticism would be enough to ensure that every time your turn came to take possession and take the punishment that comes with it, you’d do your part, right?

Not if you’re Marley Williams, apparently.

At a point in the game where St Kilda were just staggering back to their feet after North’s first quarter barrage, Williams had a ball come into his area (again, sounds erotic, but it’s not) via a handball from Sam Wright. He had to jump to take possession. He jumped all right – jumped like a cat that just got a fright! Instead of grabbing the ball and taking the tackle that inevitably would’ve followed from big, scary third gamer, Ben Paton, Marley tapped the ball away in the direction of… someone (he hoped) and was out of the play.

Jack Billings read the tap from Williams, fed the handball to Jack Sinclair and he snapped a goal around the body from 35 metres out.

Go back and have a look if you like – it happened with 3.20 remaining in the second quarter, and it’s the second time in recent weeks that Williams has cost North a goal due to failing when something physical presented.

In short, it’s not good enough. Once is an anomaly. Twice is the beginning of a pattern of behaviour.

THE UGLY

The price of the shinboner spirit

In the last round of 2017, the Kangaroos beat the Brisbane Lions, and fell a couple of spots in the draft as a result. Whilst I have little doubt that Luke Davies-Uniacke will be a player in this league, there was the potential to snare the number one pick had they lost.

But that is not the North Melbourne way.

Again today we saw the Kangaroos play the last game of the year with guts and determination, and once again they won in the last round. The net result is that they finished ninth, with 12 wins and had they not played poorly against the disappointing Western Bulldogs a couple of weeks ago, would’ve been playing in September.

But they’re not playing finals, and will pick 10th in the 2018 AFL draft as a result (before any compensation picks are awarded). Had they lost today, they would have secured the 7th pick in the draft.

I ask you, North Melbourne fans; which do you prefer? Should you have taken the loss and grabbed pick seven? Or do you prefer playing every game like it’s more important than life or death?

I know which one I prefer… gimme the Shinboner spirit any day. That’s what builds culture – not high draft picks. I admire that.

 

OTHER BITS

Cunnington was prolific early in the piece. 11 touches in the first quarter after a less than stellar outing last week against Adelaide which I thought was his worst game for the year.

I reckon the expectations on Ben Brown to kick seven or eight to win the Coleman were a bit high. He’s only ever kicked seven goals once in a game. He’d never kicked eight.

Anyone notice Rowan Marshall give Majak a little nudge into the fence in the first quarter? I thought daw handled it pretty well.

I don’t really have too much of a reason, but I just cannot bring myself to like Jake Carlisle’s way of playing footy. Half the time he seriously looks like he could not give a damn about the game. Maybe that’s just the way he is and it’s my perception that’s all out of whack – wouldn’t be the first time – but I just think he looks like a lazy footballer. Heaps of talent and not enough dirty work.

I’m not sure many players go from complete standstill to top speed quicker than Shaun Higgins. A couple of times today his acceleration reminded me of Chris Judd. Very different players, I know, but in terms of the way they take off from a stoppage, the comparison is not too unfair.

Brown had his chances early. It wasn’t just the goals he missed in the first and early in the second (which was an absolute soda!), it was the missed marks as well. I can’t blame him for starting to search up the ground for the ball. As soon as he went inside about 35 metres of goal, he had two defenders contend with.

Seb Ross – 34 touches at 77% efficiency, six clearances and seven inside 50 disposals… how can I still feel like he wasn’t really a huge factor in the game?

Have St Kilda made an announcement on David Armitage as yet? I reckon it won’t be far away. Was a star for a few years.

The Majak Daw-Jack Lonie collision on the wing in the first quarter was brutally beautiful. Pretty sure there was no contact to the head, but having Daw zero in on you at full speed as you try to gather the ball…man, that’d be terrifying.

Logan Austin had a solid day at the defensive office. Given the supply coming into Brown early, I thought he did an excellent job repelling the attacks. He’s only got 20 games under his belt. Will be interesting to see how the Saints develop him. Or how they don’t.

Interesting style of kicking for goal from Saints’ captain, Jarryn Geary. He almost made the ball do a right hand turn in mid-air as he kicked for goal in the second quarter. Maybe it hit a rather large fly or something. Amazing swing on that ball in flight.

A bit of hope evident in the Coleman chase in the second quarter after Brown slotted a beauty from the boundary and then somehow managed to get boot to ball whilst being tackled for his third. That’d be it, though. From that point, it became the Waite show. Hey, that sounds like the Late Show. I’m like a poet and I didn’t even…

… realise.

Loved the recognition from Jack Steven when he marked 55 out, saw he had Jarrad Waite in front of him and thought ‘screw it’ and took him on to finish with a lovely goal from about 40 out.

Another Waite and Steven moment ended up with one of the craziest non-decisions of the season. The umps, and the AFL have been all about the protected area all bloody year. So Waite marks in the guts, and Steven runs into the protected zone and just drops to the ground like he forgot to face Mecca or something earlier in the day and needed to make up for it, and what does the umpire do? He tells players to “reset the mark”. Yep, no 50 metre penalty even though Steven just threw himself at the feet of Waite. We get to reset the mark. What does that even mean? Pretty gutless decision from the ump – clear 50 metre penalty.

Three direct goal assists for Shaun Higgins today, but he was bettered by Jack Lonie, with four. But wait, Lonie had seven score involvements. How many did you have, Shaun? Ohhhh, just the lazy 16… nothing to write home about. He’s right – nothing to write home about, but very worth writing about in the review here. 16 score involvements is massive.

Really felt like the game was changing half way through the third. You could feel St Kilda wrest the momentum from the Kangaroos and it actually felt like they had the potential to run over the top of them. Instances like Jamie Macmillan grabbing the ball at half back, running, taking three bounces and having no one to kick to spoke in no uncertain terms as to how North had slowed to a walk in regards to running to position. As soon as Macmillan turned it over, the saints were out, and the ball went to the other end where Membrey marked and goaled.

Rowan Marshall really came into the game in the last quarter and a half. His mark in front of Tarrant and subsequent conversion drew the Saints within 17 points.

I thought Higgins’ kick at goal after the three quarter time siren was going to get home. About 50 centimetres short in the end.

So, Marshall’s tackle on the unsuspecting Higgins early in the last quarter – how easily would it have been for him to do exactly what Ryan Burton did earlier in the year? When you hear people argue that Burton had nothing else he could do, point them in Marshall’s direction – that’s what he could’ve done.

Scott Thompson’s roost down the middle from the kick in was the perfect remedy for the struggling Roos in the last. Anderson, Goldstein, Higgins and Atley all played a part in getting it to Waite, who converted, but that kick from Thompson took guts.

Any idea why Saints fans were booing Majak Daw? Surely not for the Lonie collision?

If you ever want proof as to how a little fumble can cost, check out Jack Steven in the last. He made all the play, worked hard three times and then the ball came his way and he double grabbed at it. I was enough time wasted to allow Atley to arrive, put the pressure on and Steven knocked it over the line. It was called deliberate. One fumble caused it.

I reckon the game went about five minutes too long today – it should’ve ended as Higgins found Waite all alone inside 50 and delivered his third goal to him.

And that’s it for North and St Kilda fans for the home and away season. I have to say, I have LOVED covering North this season. Exciting team, proving the doubters wrong, and I really wanted to see them make finals. St Kilda was also a team I covered… I like their uniforms.

 

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