10 years. 211 matches. Four finals series. Two preliminary finals. The Brad Scott era at North Melbourne has ended to a decidedly mixed reaction.
Let’s start with the negative part first and get that out of the way. I completely understand why there’s a section of North fans essentially celebrating Scott’s departure, and the groundswell of opinion against him which has been building for years.
But ultimately when it comes down to it, to celebrate a person no longer having a job makes me incredibly uneasy, and even more so when you consider the collateral damage which always comes with a coach’s departure.
It’s a touchy subject no doubt, and there are a number of different ways to approach it from the outer. I just hope there’s the required level of respect shown to a man who has devoted the last decade of his life to North Melbourne.
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There’ll be the usual post-mortems attempting to pinpoint where it all went wrong, highlighting a variety of areas.
Some will say the youngsters should have been played more. Some will point to ‘no plan B’, which is foolish given the variety of subtle in-game tweaks that we on the outer never pick up.
But as far as I’m concerned, it all comes down to the general game plan and style chosen to play with this season. Let’s summarise it with two quotes from previous posts. Firstly, looking back on the JLT Series:
In attempting to integrate the new arrivals of Polec, Hall and Pittard, the game plan shifted to a fast, high-possession, running style. And on the surface the decision can be defended. Why wouldn’t you want to play to their strengths and this new-found run?
There were patches against St Kilda and Port Adelaide where it clicked and looked promising. There were also patches when the ball use out of the back half and full-ground defending looked, to be blunt, VFL standard. A lot of architects…
It was, of sorts, a mini-fork in the road. Would there be confidence of the game style holding up when the first-choice personnel returned, or were there enough worrying signs to call for immediate tweaks?
“The one tactic you rarely see (to break a press) is taking a running start and attempting to burst through a press, time and time again with quick hands and kamikaze style short kicking.
It’s because for this to work, everything has to be close to perfect. There is no margin for error, and if one does come, guess what? The ball goes straight back over your head for goals, time and time again.
Turning the ball over in any dangerous area is bad enough, but turning it over within 70 metres of the opposition goal almost guarantees a scoring shot against.”
To put it as succinctly as possible, it wasn’t the right game style for the mix of players on the North list.
It happens more often than you’d think across the league – think Port Adelaide in 2018, Collingwood in 2017 and Richmond in 2016 just in recent memory.
The difference between those three sides and North in 2019 is the number 10. As in, the 10th season of Scott’s tenure.
There comes a point in every workplace, whether it be in life or sport, where something has to change.
When there’s a coach in his 10th season, trying to implement a changed game plan which is clearly not working, it’s human nature to start to doubt the process and whether it can get the supreme result.
Ultimately the mutual decision was made to part ways, and at a good time for the club as well. It allows the last 12 matches to be used to form a clear and concise idea of which steps to take next.
And hopefully it can allow the general fanbase to have an appreciation of the good Scott did for North.
Right from the outset, Scott took on the workload of being the public face of the club, all while he was finding his way as a first-time head coach.
The way Scott fiercely defended the players was probably his best and worst trait, but I’d much rather a coach who occasionally went too far to back up his club instead of the opposite. If it wasn’t for Scott, who else would have defended Lindsay Thomas from some of the rubbish he was subjected to?
Those emotional post-match scenes out on the ground were genuine, and it came from the players knowing there was a coach who had their back. Sure he had flaws, but all the decisions he made were through the lens of what would be best for North Melbourne.
On a personal level, I was lucky enough to be in the position to pick his brain on tactics and structures countless times.
This blog wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Brad Scott and the time he afforded me, answering what were probably inane questions to start off with.
The things you learn from sitting in on just one post-match review are insane, and I was fortunate to watch multiple. Then there were the follow up questions to most of the coaching staff from week to week on everything from individual roles to general setups.
That I was allowed to do these – and the line coaches gave me the time to answer – was because Scott allowed it when he quite easily could have put the foot down.
But he didn’t, and I’ll be eternally grateful because he – whether he knows it or not – gave me the foundation to build my football knowledge to where it’s at now.
All I ask is for Brad Scott to be remembered for the good he did at the North Melbourne Football Club.