Most results have gone North Melbourne’s way so far this weekend, with Geelong and Port Adelaide losing while Collingwood didn’t gain a huge amount of percentage in its win over Brisbane – which could become relevant at the end of Round 22.
It means a win today will at worst have North out of the eight on percentage only, while a win combined with a Sydney loss will see North end the weekend inside the eight.
While the ladder may show the Bulldogs in 14th with only six wins for the season, all North fans should know ladder positions mean nothing when these two teams meet. The last three games have been decided by three points or less, with the last five under three goals.
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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Does North use Ben Brown as a decoy?
As covered in the Round 14 wrap, much of the Bulldogs’ game plan against North revolves around dropping numbers back around the deepest forward, which in recent time has been Brown.
With Jarrad Waite back in the side, the extra forward firepower should – in theory – make it tougher for the Bulldogs to carry out the same plan. Last week it was Waite who largely stayed at home, with Brown pushing further up the field.
Waite’s kicked 10 goals in his three games against Luke Beveridge’s Bulldogs, which raises the question of whether North will stick with the same forward structure as last week, or introduce more unpredictability with the forwards each spending time close to goal and as a link man.
Will the Bulldogs bring the same manic pressure as last time?
In the first half a few weeks ago, the Bulldogs’ pressure was tracking at all time high levels and North actually did relatively well to stay within reach at the break.
The intangible for today’s match is Dale Morris’ 250th, and how it affects the Bulldogs’ mindset. If it wasn’t for the milestone, you’d almost predict a letdown after their win against St Kilda last week, even though the Saints are barely moving at the moment. I would say more but I’m afraid of a potential karma bus in Round 23.
Nevertheless, you’d expect a strong start around the ball at the very least from the Bulldogs. North hasn’t had a good defensive opening quarter since Round 16; today would be an excellent time to right that wrong.
Will North have enough legs to run the game out?
To the eye test at least, Brisbane looked very tired in the last quarter and a half against Collingwood on Saturday night.
Perhaps it could have been lingering effects from playing in last week’s heat, which naturally makes me wonder how North will fare if the game is still up for grabs with a quarter to go.
Working in North’s favour is the Bulldogs’ horrendous record in final quarters; they’ve won just two all season and are -209 points overall.
What are the best results for North elsewhere?
Ideally Melbourne defeats Sydney today at the MCG. The Demons’ percentage effectively puts them an extra game ahead of North, making it much tougher to be overtaken.
Then next week before North plays – out of the realistic results possible – barrack for Collingwood to defeat Port Adelaide and GWS to beat Sydney.
The two unrealistic results are Fremantle to beat Geelong in Geelong, and St Kilda to beat Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium.
Of course the scoreboard watching means nothing if North doesn’t win at least two of its final three matches.
What’s up with this draw?
- Days since North last played Bulldogs: 50
- Days since North last played Adelaide: 463 and counting