A final round game with nothing on the line sometimes feels like an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway, where everything the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.
And for the first 15 minutes it almost felt as if St Kilda was there in body but not in spirit … or in anything remotely resembling an AFL side.
Jack Ziebell put North Melbourne 25 points up with 11:45 remaining in the first quarter, and that was essentially ball game already. The Saints never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way and to me it never felt like they were a serious chance to take the lead.
So with that in mind, let’s jump around through a few different talking points to come out of the victory.
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Trent Dumont was best-on-ground, amassing a career-high 38 disposals to cap off a stellar last month of the season.
I’d be willing to claim Dumont has easily been North’s best player in the last four games; going from strength to strength while the team has had its struggles overall.
He’s been asked to largely play a role on a wing which doesn’t accentuate his biggest strength as an out-and-out ball winner in tight, but he’s still managed to make the best of it. That in turn has played an important part in allowing the midfield to develop over the course of 2018.
I’m fascinated to see what Dumont’s role will be next year and how he fits into the mix. If all goes to plan with Jared Polec and Andrew Gaff, obviously there won’t be many wing minutes available for him. Is there room to play inside, does that make the contested part of the midfield too one-paced, or can the extra additions mitigate that somewhat?
Jack Ziebell and his move as an almost-permanent forward has been a roaring success in my opinion, capping off the year with another three goals against the Saints. The move would have received much more attention externally had he not had an uncharacteristically wayward year in front of the sticks.
He finished the year with 35.29 + at least a handful more which didn’t score, but it was only 19.22 at one point. A handful of those early gettable shots converted and he’s knocking on the door of a 50-goal year and probably All Australian candidacy. We all know how media attention works; once a narrative is unearthed, it becomes a prominent story and suddenly it’s in the front of everyone’s mind.
Ziebell’s midfield minutes will become even more valuable next year. After the first few weeks of this season, he was largely called on-ball to try and change the game and turn momentum back in North’s favour. In other words, mostly used reactively.
In theory, next year’s midfield should be in a position where when Ziebell comes in, it’s North dictating terms and using the captain in a proactive fashion. It opens up all sorts of possibilities.
And finally, the farewell of Jarrad Waite. Could you have had a more perfect finish to sum up his career than a poster from deep in the pocket after the final siren?
60 North Melbourne games for 125 goals, and just about every time Waite was on the field he produced. His influence is quite simply outlined by the win-loss record:
- Waite in the side: 37 wins, 23 losses
- Waite out of the side: 8 wins, 24 losses
When discussing players who have played for multiple clubs, there’s a little game I like to play to measure their influence at each. It’s straightforward – when you say the player’s name, which club do you associate him with?
For example, if you say Nick Dal Santo, I’ll say St Kilda straight away. Brendon Goddard, I’ll still say St Kilda immediately.
Never did I consider I’d actually be pausing to consider Waite. After 184 games and 12 seasons at Carlton, he still had that much of an effect at Arden Street – in a relatively short period of time – where there was a genuine outpouring of emotion from North fans when he announced his retirement.
(And for the record, I’ll still say Carlton. But only just.)
And that is that for North Melbourne’s 2018 AFL season. Overall a season which exceeded expectations, still could have been more, but ultimately has the club in a good position for the off-season.
As for what comes next here on The Shinboner, I’ll be back very soon with a post outlining what to expect during the spring and summer months. We have Trade Eon not too far away, followed by the National Draft and the first AFLW season … unless the AFL doesn’t decide to make it a one-day multi-ball tournament beforehand.
Until next time.