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The Big Questions - North Melbourne v Collingwood

In a stunning mid-season boilover, the scorching Roos kept their finals hopes alive, as they ground and pounded the cold Pies into submission. Here are the big questions stemming from North Melbourne’s 44-point victory over a disappointing Collingwood.

 

Can North Melbourne make a late season charge?

Tonight’s victory proved that, at their best, North Melbourne has the game to beat anyone in front of them. Pressuring Collingwood into complete dissolution, it was very apparent that every Kangaroo could not be more in sync with each other or their role in the game plan. Rhyce Shaw’s men also seem to have a complete team, with North only really lacking a top line A-Grade talent like Martin or Dangerfield.

If not for Ben Brown’s goal kicking yips, the Kangaroos would’ve beaten Collingwood by plenty more than the final result, and their toughness through the middle is complemented by Jared Polec’s running ability down the wing. Their defence is vastly underrated, and although the majority of their list is young, the Roos play with an enthusiasm not seen since the early days of Brad Scott’s tenure.

The Kangaroos last five matches have produced four convincing wins, and with a soft fixture to come, North will still make the current finalists sweat that their positions in September aren’t set in stone yet. 11-12 wins should be enough to earn a spot, and on tonight’s performance, North Melbourne is more than capable of achieving this feat.

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Will injuries derail the Magpies?

With Jaidyn Stephenson already sidelined with suspension, Collingwood’s growing injury list is looking more dire by the moment. Another soft tissue to Ben Reid makes it now 10 first choice players on the sidelines. What will make Nathan Buckley the most nervous is the lack of set timetables for their respective ailments, with only Jamie Elliott looking likely to be back in the next few weeks. With a tough month ahead, Collingwood will need to start winning without their best 22 to ensure that when reinforcements arrive, they will have something to work with for the reminder of the season.

 

Is Rhyce Shaw the frontrunner?

When Brad Scott vacated the North Melbourne coaching position, many outside of Arden Street were surprised that Rhyce Shaw was elevated to caretaker so soon after his coaching career began. With a record of 3-1, and victories over premiership fancies Richmond and Collingwood, Shaw must be considered the leading candidate for the full time position. The rapport with his players is first class, he is well spoken and coaches with freedom, all of which will make it hard for the North Melbourne board to look past.

 

Who was best and worst on ground for both teams?

Collingwood:

Best – Adam Treloar

Simply superb from perhaps Collingwood’s best player, Treloar withstood a barrage of Kangaroo pressure to keep the Magpies in the contest for as long as they were. 40 disposals at 81%, Treloar’s tally of just 14 kicks was reflective of the constant pressure he was under, as Treloar was never able to get the space he needed. Seen by many media outlets as Scott Pendlebury’s heir apparent, Treloar will welcome the toughness and protection from Taylor Adams when he returns from injury.

Stiff: Scott Pendlebury

It continues to amaze that Pendlebury seems to never play a bad game. 33 disposals from the silky smooth mover, Pendlebury will go down as one of Collingwood’s greatest ever footballers. Much like Treloar, North Melbourne’s pressure affected Pendlebury’s efficiency, as only 68% of his possessions were effective, but Pendlebury has more enough talent to rectify that in the coming weeks.

Worst – Will Hoskin-Elliott

The much feared Collingwood forward machine has spluttered to a halt, and the Stephenson suspension has meant the Magpies medium forwards need to pull their respective fingers out. With his team only kicking five goals, Hoskin-Elliott’s contribution of zero goals zero behinds put pressure on his fellow forwards to step up even more, and North’s defence capitalised. Inconsistency has always managed to creep into Hoskin-Elliott’s game, and he will need to improve in this area if Collingwood want to cover Stephenson’s absence.

Lucky: Jordan De Goey

Much like Hoskin-Elliott, Jordan De Goey needed to step up his game even further to cover the loss of Stephenson. While the service from Collingwood’s midfielders could’ve been much better, De Goey simply wasn’t a factor at all. While he did touch the ball 17 times, De Goey’s disposal efficiency of 41% was the worst on ground of the players who stayed fit. A player of De Goey’s talent is capable of producing games of far more substance and impact than tonight, and for Collingwood to remain a premiership hope, De Goey will need to improve on the effort he showed.

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North Melbourne:

Best – Jack Ziebell

The fearless skipper was his tough as nails best, with equal effectiveness both forward and midfield. three goals from 25 disposals, along with five tackles, Ziebell consistently ensured his side would not be beaten. With Ben Brown suffering the yips, Ziebell stepped up to provide his midfielders a forward target, then as he ran through the midfield, his ferocious pressure inspired his teammates to physically and mentally beat the Pies into submission.

Stiff: Jed Anderson

Following the lead of his captain, Anderson’s pressure through the middle was a constant highlight. Hitting an equal game high 7 tackles, Anderson also contributed a valuable 26 touches. Now a bona fide midfield star, Anderson’s rise into one of North Melbourne’s most important players has been one of the many reasons for the Kangaroos rise up the ladder in the Rhyce Shaw era.

Worst – Cameron Zurhaar

In any other game, Zurhaar’s impact would not have seen him be named North Melbourne’s worst on ground. A young man playing in only his second season, Zurhaar can take comfort in the fact that he has found a role as a pressure forward and goalsneak, and with time, he will develop into a star player. Despite only gathering 11 disposals, Zurhaar’s lack of impact on the contest was more than made up for by his teammates, and he should remain in the senior side for the rest of the season to continue his growth.

Lucky: Ben Brown

It is very rare that North Melbourne wins by 44 points, and Ben Brown’s only contribution is four behinds. Suffering a heavy case of the yips, Brown’s overall game was very good, as he often presented well and took nine marks, including three contested. It is very hard to find a poor performer from such a dominant win, and Brown only finds himself in this category due to his horrendous night in front of the big sticks.

 

Stray thoughts:

-          Fox Footy ran a stat during their pre-game coverage, highlighting the lack of goals coming from the Collingwood midfield. Toinght, only one midfielder kicked a major (Tom Phillips), and it proved that although Collingwood’s forward group is as diverse and talented as they come, when they fail to fire, Nathan Buckley’s team struggles to get any kind of score on the board.

-          Even though he is no longer in the hot seat, North Melbourne’s rise should see that Brad Scott gets another opportunity to impart his wisdom at AFL level. Spending 10 years at Arden Street, it’s now obvious that a fresh start has helped both parties, and Scott is one of very few coaches to leave his club with a winning record, and a victory in his last outing. It is clear that Scott loves the development and mentoring side to coaching, and a younger team such as Carlton would benefit from Scott’s philosophies.

-          Collingwood needs to find a decent back up ruckman for Brodie Grundy. Shouldering the load mainly due to his unbelievable talent, tonight it seemed like the pressure was just starting to affect him. While tonight Grundy was among his side’s best, there were patches during the game where he looked physically and mentally tired. I’m sure Buckley would love to rest his dominant big man for a game or two before September, but there is no one on Collingwood’s list capable of full game ruckwork.

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