The afternoon started with so much promise.
There were early signs of issues rectified, and the influence it had on North Melbourne’s performance was easy to spot.
It was arguably North’s best quarter since the second term on Good Friday. A 16-point lead at the first break was ample reward for effort; the first time all season they’d led by double digits at that stage of a game.
Then the wheels fell off.
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At quarter time, few would have predicted a full-time inside 50 count of 81-36 Gold Coast’s way.
Through 30 minutes North actually led the count 16-15, surely their highest single term tally for many weeks.
Those who read last week’s post are well aware of my opinion on how North set up to defend: too deep, too passive, inviting pressure.
That – in the first quarter at least – was rectified and the results were on show for all to see.
Of North’s 16 inside 50s, seven ended in scoring shots. From the other nine – assuming my manual recording is somewhere close to correct – only one made it into Gold Coast’s 50.
It wasn’t an overly complicated adjustment. Just a case of North players coming up at the ball carrier, blocking exits, giving Suns less time to breathe with ball in hand, and ultimately forcing a rushed possession.
The perfect example came late in the quarter with the passage that led to Luke Davies-Uniacke’s goal.
When we watch it through, we don’t see anything out of the ordinary from North. It’s simple, logical football based on making sure opponents don’t have easy options to pass to:
In the first quarter alone, North created seven turnovers in their forward half. That’s the same amount as the entire game against St Kilda.
And then, for the next 45 minutes, the ball barely went into North’s forward half.
For those who have missed any posts/podcast appearances over the last week, here are links to catch up:
Friday 3rd: What To Watch For: Round 12
Thursday 2nd: On the Hashtag Kangas podcast
Monday 30th: From The Notebook: How Fremantle beat Melbourne
Monday 30th: North’s Round 11 Review
Friday 27th: What To Watch For: Round 11
If you’re squeamish, look away now. From here to the end of this post, it’s an exclusive focus on the second quarter. By half time it was game over, and unsurprisingly so given some of the numbers in Gold Coast’s 7.7 to 0.0 run:
• Disposals: 96-65 Suns
• Contested Possessions: 46-29 Suns
• Clearances: 16-10 Suns
• Inside 50s: 28-5 Suns
There are quibbles here and there which have merit. For instance, Ben McKay wouldn’t have been concussed if the umpires did their job:
Along with a string of 50-50 decisions which went against North, as things tend to do with sides on the wrong end of general play.
Nevertheless, in the overall scheme of things North capitulated because of a total meltdown around the ball at contests.
Right from the first centre bounce, there wasn’t enough touch on Matt Rowell by Tarryn Thomas, which left Jason Horne-Francis in no man’s land:
It all got worse from there.
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Izak Rankine’s goal was a textbook case of ball-watching and a team-wide lack of communication.
Rankine slips out the back of the stoppage and no Roo notices until it’s too late:
From the next centre bounce, Davies-Uniacke is a half-step slow recognising the state of play, allowing Alex Davies the easiest of handball receives and clearances:
The same Davies-Uniacke and Davies combination is repeated from Gold Coast’s forward 50 stoppage moments later, North lucky to escape with only a behind.
Wil Powell’s toepoke on the goal line to put the Suns in front is only made possible by Curtis Taylor not recognising the threat until too late:
At the next centre bounce, two Roos go to the ball carrier when clearly only one is needed. When the ball spills out, obviously the result is a Gold Coast clearance. Because of that initial confusion, the flow on effect is Touk Miller stealing a march on North’s on-ballers, earning a shot at goal:
From one of North’s rare forward entries, Ben Ainsworth is one of the only players to realise the ball stays in play, sprinting to create an outlet while Roos stand around:
There were a handful more passages which likely would have qualified for inclusion here if I saw it unfold at the ground with a full-field view, but in working only off broadcast view I played it safe and stuck to ‘just’ the obvious ones.
Depending on your viewpoint, the second quarter can be interpreted with a range of different opinions.
Personally, and it’s a theme I feel I’ve raised more than ever in the last few weeks, this doesn’t present as an invested team.
It’s important to clarify I’m not saying it’s a lack of effort. More so there’s a disconnect somewhere and as a result the message isn’t getting through.
Every week it’s been a different problem. This week it was a complete breakdown around the ball. Last week it was the half backs. The week before that, mulligan because it was against Melbourne, but back to Round 9 v Port Adelaide and they were able to control tempo far too easily. In Round 8 it was ball movement.
Playing whack-a-mole is eons more worrying than select areas of significant weakness. The fact there’s no area of consistency – on any line – with what they’re being asked to achieve speaks to a muddled team, with muddled thinking.
It’s not as if North’s list profile screams a team that should be comfortably outside the bottom four and pushing higher. But what there should be is some signs of progress 12 games into season two of this regime. Right now, from a structure and style point of view, very little offers confidence that progress is happening.