It’s game day in the Apple Isle, at Blundstone Arena where North Melbourne has won 10 of its last 12 matches.
The weather forecast calls for rain at times and … here’s the big one … becoming windy. We’ve all seen what that does to games in Hobart.
(If you answered, ‘make them 10x more fun’, you are correct.)
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What will North’s mentality be?
It’s the first time this season North has been favourites, a game where there hasn’t been anything extra on the line (season opener, Good Friday, Melbourne streak), and one where it’s expected to do the job with a minimum of fuss.
In other words, ‘just’ a normal game as favourites – and that’s a rare occurrence for this side. You have to look back to Round 16, 2017 v Fremantle for the most recent set of circumstances which match up to tonight. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I’ll ignore the result of that match, but if you want to look it up, feel free.
The point is North hasn’t experienced this kind of build up much recently, and sometimes it can subconsciously alter your preparation. You might not be as sharp mentally, and all it takes – upcoming cliché alert – is to be a fraction off and you get jumped. We should know after the first 15 minutes – whether going with or against the wind – if North has shown up.
How will North move the ball?
Regular readers of The Shinboner will have come on the ride with me as we’ve explained North’s preference on how to move the ball across the JLT Series and early rounds of the season. It’s been centred around attacking and picking gaps in opposition’s defensive setups.
It’s a risk-reward scenario which North is banking on being in its advantage. However, as we’ve seen in previous seasons, the ball movement changes at Blundstone Arena to fit the conditions – with great effect, mind you.
Does the side go back to the ‘normal’ Blundstone Arena mindset against the wind, or continue to focus on moving the ball aggressively and live with the results?
Is there going to be a late change?
The North 22 seems tall down back considering the opponent and conditions. Having all of Robbie Tarrant, Scott Thompson, Majak Daw and Ed Vickers-Willis against a Carlton forward line with only two marking forwards – Charlie Curnow and Levi Casboult – seems excessive, but there are positives to the decision if there is no late change.
When the opposition has the wind, the game tends to become more of an aerial one, which is where these talls will excel. In theory the talls have the chance to work well when North has the wind too – set up the wall across half forward to prevent Carlton from getting out of defensive 50 easily.
Then the dilemma centres around what to do if the Blues can run and carry against the wind, bypassing the air and beating North’s defensive unit with speed. The life of a coach; who would want it?
How long does it take Carlton to adjust to the ground?
In the 10-wins-from-12-match sequence, there has only been one team I’ve seen come prepared from the outset on how to play Blundstone Arena.
That was GWS in Round 3 last season. The Giants knew where to move the ball, where to stop North from getting to, and the hot points on the ground when moving with and against the wind.
Every other team has had to adjust after experiencing the conditions in-play, and some have simply never come to terms with it. Needless to say, it gives North a great advantage. Watch out for who wins the coin toss tonight and which end they kick to first. It’ll likely shape the flow of the match.
What’s your prediction?
I’m going with North Melbourne by 29 points, with Ben Cunnington best on ground after a 30 disposal, 10+ clearance game.
We’ll be back on Sunday morning with all the wrap up from Blundstone Arena, hopefully with plenty of positivity.