Five Questions: Round 7 v Sydney

It’s game day at the SCG; North Melbourne’s first game at the venue since Round 10, 2016.

In a measure of how much the club has changed since then, 10 of the 22 Kangaroos from that night are no longer on the list.

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What happens when Todd Goldstein has a rest?

Without Majak Daw and Jarrad Waite in the side, it appears the only other player who can have a spell in the ruck is Ben Brown.

However, it may not be as simple as that. Dean Towers has come into the Sydney side this week, and he has been a ‘second ruckman’ of sorts in his games this season.

I say ‘second ruckman’ in inverted commas because Towers is only 189 centimetres, so it’s more of a ruck concession by Sydney rather than genuinely planning to win the hit-out.

So assuming Goldstein goes step for step with Callum Sinclair when they’re both on the ground, are you losing anything by putting someone like Mason Wood against Towers? What if Jack Ziebell’s stints on-ball are purely spelling Goldstein? There is plenty of room to get funky with the rotations.

Will Ben Brown be a stay-at-home full forward?

Putting aside whether Brown deserved eight-to-ten more free kicks last week (spoiler: he did), North’s inside 50’s were a little predictable at times against Port Adelaide.

With Brown being the only key forward for North tonight, the temptation will be to use him as the anchor – but this also makes it easier for the Swans to defend because they can plan around it.

If North can use Brown coming up towards the ball on occasion – it doesn’t have to be all the time – the entire feel of the forward line changes. Brown’s more likely to have success against Heath Grundy on the lead, the constant movement allows more room for Wood and Ziebell to work – particularly whichever one has Harry Marsh – and keeps Sydney’s defenders guessing.

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Is this North’s best defensive six?

While we shouldn’t expect miracles from Sam Wright in his first game back for almost two years, consider the flexibility and versatility in North’s back six – Robbie Tarrant, Scott Thompson, Ed Vickers-Willis, Wright, Marley Williams and Jamie Macmillan or Luke McDonald depending on matchups, possibly both if the plan is to have an extra defender.

From a purely defensive viewpoint, those players are versatile enough to cover any mix of talls, medium or smalls the opposition rolls out. The ball use is there as well – Wright has the best skills by foot of anyone at the club, and I’m predicting kicking out of the back half is going to become the best way to break the team press which is in vogue around the league.

Can North stop a Sydney streak?

Last week was one of the rare losses which come from a side simply chipping away for four solid quarters. Based on Sydney’s form so far this season, if North loses tonight it’ll be because of one burst it was unable to contain.

Sydney has only had more scoring shots than its opponents twice this year yet has four wins through six rounds. Each win has had a time period where the Swans have broke the game open:

  • Round 1 v West Coast: Five consecutive goals across the second and third quarters to turn a one-point deficit into a 30-point lead. Also four of the last five goals to win going away comfortably.
  • Round 3 v GWS: Seven unanswered goals either side of three quarter time to turn a six-point deficit into a 33-point lead.
  • Round 4 v Western Bulldogs: Five unanswered goals either side of half time to turn a 16-point deficit into a 14-point lead.
  • Round 6 v Geelong: Seven goal to one final quarter after only kicking one goal through the middle two quarters.

It sounds intimidating, but North should be looking at Adelaide in Round 5 as the way to withstand Sydney’s best punch.

In the third quarter that evening at the SCG, the Swans peppered Adelaide’s defence with repeated inside 50’s and it looked like only a matter of time before the floodgates opened.

Instead Sydney only managed 2.3 for the quarter, Adelaide was able to regroup and settle at three quarter time and kicked away in the final term.

Can someone stop Jarrad McVeigh from kicking goals?

I like to have the last of Five Questions a little more light-hearted. So you can imagine my surprise when I was researching numbers and figured out the leading Sydney goalkicker against North Melbourne since the start of 2016.

Jarrad McVeigh. Seriously.

Not Lance Franklin, not Isaac Heeney, not anyone else. McVeigh has kicked 15 goals in 40 games since the beginning of 2016, and six of them have been against North. Without subjecting myself to the vision, they’re probably all from 30 metres out strolling into an open goal.

Please stop him. Or if you’re that way inclined, he’d probably be at good odds for first goal scorer. Gamble responsibly.

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As always, thanks for reading. Until we’re back on Sunday morning with the game review, you can find me over on Twitter @rickm18, hopefully tweeting away positively during the night with plenty of gifs.

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