Well. Where do you start with that?
Let’s get the negatives out of the way so we can focus on the positives: St Kilda was very bad. Not good. At all. Very one-dimensional.
Now for the fun stuff.
Before the fun stuff, a reminder to keep spreading the word about The Shinboner. You can subscribe via email on your right (on desktop) or below this post (on mobile). If you’re on Twitter you can follow me @rickm18 and to share this post on social media, you can use any of the buttons at the bottom of this post.
For all the gifs from the win, click here to enjoy.
The word ‘organised’ doesn’t leap off the page at you. But what I saw was the most organised team setup from a North Melbourne side for a long time. The Saints tried to move the ball sideways – nothing. Then they tried to go straight forward – nothing. They moved the ball backwards and sideways hoping to open up play – nothing.
St Kilda missed chances, that’s for sure. But consider this – only one of their goals was from within 35 metres. One.
The three scoring shots North conceded in the first quarter were all from 50+, and their structures were sound. The benefits of having Ed Vickers-Willis as a third tall was on full show; not only did he towel up Tim Membrey, but the backline as a whole looked flexible, looked ready to cover ground for each other and most importantly no-one looked out of place.
Not making the most of opportunities
But for all the good work, the score at the first break was still two points – points being the operative word – to the negative. To be honest, I was worried; the reason commentators always mention the cliché about being scored on after you’ve made all the running is because it feels like it happens 110% of the time.
I shouldn’t have been worried. The pressure was just phenomenal throughout the second term, even when St Kilda made what you would probably call their best run of the day with repeated forward 50 entries. This passage was instructive. St Kilda gets possession after a North kick-in – probably not a great surprise in itself – but watch the swarm around the ball to get possession back immediately.
It was the mark of a team which had done its homework and more importantly executed what was asked. They knew if St Kilda got to the outside there was trouble and they just didn’t let them get there.
(Also helped by St Kilda turning it over on the rare occasions when they did get outside)
Add another trick to the list
Finally, there was some scoreboard reward to start the third quarter, and I’ll use this to talk about our different forward setups seemingly throwing St Kilda for a loop.
For almost the entire afternoon, we started with only three forwards inside the 50 at centre bounces. The remaining forwards started on a wing, as you can see below – or running off the back of the square.
All afternoon, Saints trying to figure out who was on who and repositioning as the centre bounce was taking place. It was a snapshot of how out of sorts they were.
Those first three goals in the third quarter all came from Saints players dropping marks; either from their own players spoiling each other or a Roo desperately making a contest to bring it to ground. That sort of day.
We talked last week about how often Jack Ziebell plays forward and how often you trust the more inexperienced players to be on the ball. After St Kilda’s first goal of the third quarter, the next centre bounce had Luke Davies-Uniacke (although after watching the replay I believe it’s now pronounced Davis-Unicky) and Jed Anderson. The faith placed in those two will pay off down the road in big moments if it’s maintained.
What about that last quarter
Six days after playing in monsoonal conditions, how North would run out the game was anyone’s guess. However, there is a simple explanation for why it ended up being seven goals to zero.
Up the top here I talked about scoring against the run of play. The other side of that is when the team on top breaks the dam wall and floodgates open.
It took until the last quarter, but North broke St Kilda through its defensive organisation and the result was a dispirited Saints side when it was in possession across the last 30 minutes.
Watch the last quarter again (spoiler alert: I have) and look for any evidence of a spark from St Kilda. It’s not there, and that’s because of what North did to them. Tangible reward for effort is perfect for the side’s confidence for the next few weeks.
Five Questions, answered
Can North hold its defensive shape? – We touched on this in the main body of the piece, but the defensive unit was brilliant. All the finger pointing which can be frustrating in a loss? Here was the evidence of it all working.
How will North use the ball? – It’s not breaking any mindboggling news to state the ball use going forward was inconsistent. The thing is, it didn’t end up mattering because the defensive pressure caused so many Saints turnovers when they were trying to get out of their back half.
Can St Kilda momentum be halted in-quarter? – You don’t need to stop any momentum if St Kilda can’t kick straight.
Will the structure hold up across four quarters? – Did it ever. Seven goals to zero in the final term, Waite behind the ball late to avoid conceding those frustrating junk time goals, and somehow finishing full of run six days after playing in a swamp. It was the first time North had kept a team goalless in the final quarter since Round 9, 2016.
What will the crowd be? – My guess was 40,094. The end tally was 33,966 which wasn’t ideal, but hopefully enough to stave off too much criticism. Going purely on instinct, it felt as if there was a strong North contingent at the ground.
Next week’s schedule will have a Friday-Saturday-Sunday run of posts as we get ready for Round 3 against Melbourne.
Beforehand we’ll be back earlier in the week with a post that’ll either be a lot of fun, or a lot of fun until Melbourne wins and I’m blamed as a jinx. We’ll see.