We’re heavy on intangibles today as North Melbourne looks to keep its season alive.
A win today against the undermanned West Coast allows the Roos some margin for error in a final month which has plenty of potential banana skins.
(Can you believe it’s Round 19 already?)
For any new readers on The Shinboner, the game day preview pieces are a primer for the action. It’s a series of questions and potential storylines to ponder as you watch today’s game.
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How does West Coast’s outs change the game?
Josh Kennedy (soreness) and Luke Shuey (personal) have withdrawn from the side, replaced by youngsters Jake Waterman and Jack Petruccelle.
At a ground where footy IQ is almost the most important thing you can have, needless to say those two absences will be keenly felt.
Waterman’s inclusion allows Jeremy McGovern to stay back, alongside Tom Barrass and Will Schofield to form the aerial presence which will be crucial when defending against the wind.
Shuey being out helps North, given the continued absence of Ben Jacobs and the general lack of depth through the midfield. More attention can be paid to Andrew Gaff now…
Or maybe they let him get 40 to show how hospitable they can be as guests, which then makes him think of North in a positive light at the end of the season. Either/or.
Will North approach it as a last chance for finals?
It’s hard to measure this. There’s the potential for a bounce back game after last week’s disaster. There’s also the chance the team has collectively run out of legs and there’s little left to give.
Mason Wood coming in gives North a chance to return to its most preferred structure, while a debutant (Will Walker) always provides teams with an adrenaline boost.
Funnily enough, we’ll probably know more about whether North is ‘on’ or not if its forced to go against the wind in the first quarter.
Does Majak Daw go back?
While Daw has been excellent in his last fortnight forward, I’ve always had the sense the coaching staff wants to keep him down back as much as possible.
Now Wood is fit and picked again, it’s a chance to swing Daw back once again, reuniting the trio of tall marking defenders which showed such positive signs as a unit earlier in the season.
A forward line of Ben Brown, Wood, Jack Ziebell and Daw is likely a little too top-heavy.
Can North stop West Coast’s kicking game?
West Coast has been able to cut swathes through sides by foot this season; the demolition of Richmond in Round 9 a standout example.
Assuming the natural Blundstone Arena wind turns up, it’ll be fascinating to see how the Eagles play the two quarters against the breeze.
We’ve all seen how at times its borderline impossible to move it by foot against the wind, and how teams can concede inside 50 after inside 50 when trying to kick it out of the back half while going from right to left on your TV screen.
Of course, the other side of things means when going with the wind, West Coast should be in its element, able to kick at will comfortably knowing it can break zones and structures relatively easily.
Will we see crazy wind or rain affected scenes?
We all remember the last time North faced West Coast at Blundstone Arena, when standard drop punts travelled 65 metres with the wind and about 25 into it.
The current weather forecast says there’s a 95% chance of rain, which raises the possibility of unique scenes. If it happens it should – should – help North given its familiarity with the venue and how to play it.