Allow me to start this post with a potentially controversial opinion: Of all the years in Brad Scott’s tenure as coach of North Melbourne, I believe 2013 was the one which produced the best week-to-week football…
For about 80% of a game.
Instead the team devolved into a punchline, a weekly storyline whose only interest was around whether another lead would be blown.
It’s doing a disservice to one of the most fascinating single season teams I’ve watched; one which was third in points scored, scored 87+ points in all but three of their games, had the eighth ranked defence by points against and still managed to lose more games than they won.
What I’m planning on doing here is diving back into the season, looking at the footage to find what went right and how it would often act as a catalyst for what went wrong.
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A roll call of Tier 1 losses relevant to this project:
Round 2 v Geelong: A 41-point lead in the shadows of half time, whittled away before a late Jimmy Bartel goal won the game.
Round 3 v Sydney: The forgotten loss in this season, winning three out of four quarters. An eight-point lead eight minutes into the third quarter became a 47-point deficit by the time the term ended after eleven goals from Sydney.
Round 8 v West Coast: From time-on of the first quarter to the final siren, North led for all but 10 minutes. And then they didn’t win.
Round 9 v Adelaide: Petrenko, Kerridge, a 38-point second quarter lead all but disappearing before earning another five-goal lead halfway through the final quarter.
Round 11 v Gold Coast: A game I distinctly remember for Matthew Richardson explaining on commentary how North were being pinned in their back half for so long that conceding a goal was the only way they’ll get out of there. And being 100% correct for an agonising quarter and a half.
Round 16 v Brisbane: A 33-point lead late in the third quarter somehow felt irrelevant as soon as Brisbane kicked a couple of goals just before the siren.
There’ll be plenty of good moments in those games to be highlighted, but it’ll also be important to contrast with the blitzkrieg moments in games North won during the season:
Round 7 v Western Bulldogs: A 10 goal to two burst in little over a quarter featured wave after wave of attack.
Round 10 v St Kilda: A nine-goal first quarter in which Aaron Black ended poor Jackson Ferguson’s career just as soon as it begun.
Round 15 v Richmond: Eight consecutive second quarter goals against a team which won 15 games for the year.
In addition to that, there are also key moments in the Round 19 win against Geelong and the pair of matches against Hawthorn to demonstrate that North was capable of matching it against the top teams* and what a missed opportunity the season ended up becoming.
(*Fremantle don’t count, North could have played 10 games against them and lost all 10, such was the way the two teams matched up)
Not every game will have its own dedicated post, even though the Adelaide loss probably merits a 10-part breakdown like The Last Dance.
We’ll jump around between key moments and by the end of this we’ll have nailed down just what caused North Melbourne’s 2013 to unfold the way it did. If I still have my sanity by that stage.