Round 3 v Sydney: One step forward, one step back

After the GWS win, I made a point of stating that North Melbourne’s system clearly works.

It should make the Sydney loss a valuable teaching experience because it’s a show of what happens when the system isn’t adhered to.


As usual, housekeeping before we get on with things – today’s post will be much more along the lines of me dictating what happened rather than explaining with examples. It’s the complete opposite of how I’d like to do things; I’m of the belief that if I’m trying to make a point about on-field play, it should be done thoroughly with vision wherever possible so if people disagree at least they can understand where I’m coming from. As we go it’ll become clear why it has to be this way today.

And as usual, you can subscribe to The Shinboner via email on your right (on desktop) or below this post (on mobile). If you’re on Twitter you can follow me @rickm18 and to share this post on social media, you can use any of the buttons at the bottom of this post.


The ball has just been thrown up for a North forward 50 stoppage, allegedly

Throw away the team stat sheet for this one, because it provides a misleading account of how the game played out.

The reality is from about halfway through the first quarter to the shadows of three-quarter time, Sydney was much the better side in general play and in reality, should have led by much more than its game-high 33-point edge.

For those who missed Friday’s post about Richmond’s defensive failings, the general premise was about how just a little slippage when it comes to pressure can make an entire structure look like it’s falling apart. It was much the same here.

Dawson around somewhere out of sight getting ready to receive and goal uncontested on the run

A feature of North’s win against GWS was how it kept immaculate shape around the ball, which then prevented the Giants from getting outside and running.

It wasn’t a feature against the Swans, who were able to use that drop in intensity from North to get outside and hit the scoreboard regularly.

Florent probably holding a good spot somewhere which gives Kennedy an outlet to handball to

It was a regular occurrence and as much as I’d like to show rather than tell, it is what it is.

Much as North’s defensive setup was off, such was its ball movement. In Rhyce Shaw’s post-match press conference, he made a point of mentioning ‘we were really trying hard to peg (the deficit) back, but just not with the method we should’.

To hark back to last week once again, the feature was how players chose correct options, or made sure they didn’t bite off more than they could chew. A system falls when players outside of the very top tier venture away from it.

An example finally easy to illustrate came early in the third quarter. With players set up for a down the line kick, instead Shaun Atley’s handball went inboard to Jasper Pittard on his opposite side, who was then forced into a pressured, up and under ball into the corridor. Those were the passages absent in Round 2 and North was all the better for it.


Then when the right option was taken, too few numbers worked across to cover. After Aaron Hall works hard to win the ball while outnumbered here, he’s tackled well and forced to cough up possession. The inner circle surrounding the Sherrin is made up entirely of Swans because they’re working much harder than North. Naturally they win the ball and sweep forward.

Again, this wasn’t an issue last week.


To be clear, the disclaimer must be made that there could have been plenty more instances where North did take the right choice and it didn’t work out for one reason or another. For example, I’m relatively certain this was the right decision by Jy Simpkin – who was excellent again – to handball out, but it’s hard to tell for sure because there’s no way to be certain of what’s around the play.


The overarching theme to take away from what was possible to see should be how North isn’t as bad as it looked against Sydney and obviously not as good as the perception after Round 2, as I made clear.

It makes Round 4 against Hawthorn fascinating because the Hawks aren’t as good as they looked against Richmond and definitely not as bad as they appeared against Geelong. If you don’t believe me on that last point just ask Alastair Clarkson.

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