Right from the outset, it looked like a flat North Melbourne outfit on the Gold Coast.
Disappointingly for such an important game in club history – Todd Goldstein becoming just the sixth Kangaroo to 300 games – there were few winners across the field.
There were several reasons for it. So, while last week’s post was hyper-specific on one topic, today’s is going to jump around from place to place.
For a second season, The Shinboner Patreon is up and running. Of course, the North Melbourne match reviews will remain free for all, posted the morning after each game. But if you’ve missed all the other features, you can find them here.
There are a handful of new features to enjoy, plus a refresh of some favourites, and simplified tiers. Here’s the link to the Patreon page.
Leading off with this probably implies I believe it’s the main reason for Sunday’s performance. That is not true, but it is something I’ve been tracking closely while waiting for effects to show…
The travel through the first six weeks has been tough. Even allowing for Gather Round, North has had four trips/away interstate games in six weeks. Along with Brisbane and Sydney it’s the equal most (subtracting Hawthorn from the equation given their two trips to Launceston for home games).
At some point it catches up with a side finding its way. From start to finish Gold Coast were able to – surprisingly, it must be said given their normal game style – control tempo in racking up an uncontested possession differential of +71, their highest* since at least 2019.
(*I’ve only tracked game-by-game logs for this since the start of 2020)
Then with ball in hand, North really struggled to move. They only had 60 uncontested marks of their own, comfortably a season low.
When a team’s sluggish both offensively and defensively, it manifests in situations like this:
Subconsciously everything is a half-step slow, which results in a reactive mindset rather than proactive. Normally a team should be coming up at the ball carrier instead of dropping back.
It’s the first time North has been passive defensively, very much out of character for 2023 so far.
(Note: Not to be confused with Round 3, when Hawthorn’s change had North chasing shadows rather than retreating)
One of the new features on here in 2023 is the ability to create your own positional depth chart for every club.
It’s available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers, and hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.
At the start of the season, I figured the key defenders – as opposed to the full-ground defensive system, an important distinction – would be the bedrock of the team.
I was off on that, because on early evidence it’s going to take a little longer for all three to gel.
What I’m about to highlight is a complete 180 from normal fare on the blog, but I want to look at Aidan Corr and Griffin Logue’s body language here after the contest. To me this isn’t the vibe of two players on the same page:
Hopefully I’ve completely misread it because that interaction doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. Or any confidence, to be precise.
Meanwhile Ben McKay is still rusty, his familiar starting position in front being made to look out of place thanks to turnovers further up the field (but not too far up the field).
In addition he hasn’t quite grasped the right times to go further forward and intercept. It’s made for teething problems and hurts the overall setup, particularly while his normal bread and butter of one-on-one contests is below par.
But it’s important to remember in McKay’s case, adding this extra aggressive intercepting ability to his repertoire basically completes his defensive game once he comes out the other side. Given he’ll never be an offensive threat with ball in hand, it’s important for him to work through this learning period.
Although there’s no question McKay’s been out of sorts his first two games, it’s still easy to visualise how this setup makes him a better defender with time if he sticks at it.
And the overall mix between the three is going to take longer than I thought.
On a separate note, a trend which amuses me greatly is how Gold Coast have precisely one team they beat regularly. That team is North Melbourne:
Take out the Suns’ first two seasons and the record becomes 10 wins to just five losses. North have lost to them from positions of strength, in monsoonal weather, under a roof, in the open, been terrible from start to finish, you name it. Every box ticked in the space of those 10 games.
And the reason it amuses rather than irks me? Because in a different world, North Melbourne v Gold Coast wouldn’t exist. Instead the Gold Coast would have a soulless shell of a 140-year-old club, playing in front of next to no-one, a Kangaroo on their jumper the only remaining nod to what came before. I’ll take the current world over that one every day of the week.
If you’ve missed any of North’s match analysis posts this season, you can catch up here:
Round 5: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Brisbane
Round 4: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Carlton
Round 3: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Hawthorn
Round 2: North Melbourne’s match analysis v Fremantle
Round 1: North Melbourne’s match analysis v West Coast
It would be remiss of me not to let the week go by without an ode to the 300-gamer Todd Goldstein.
For ruckmen in the 21st century, in my opinion he’s behind only Dean Cox, definitely, and maybe Max Gawn too (depending on what day you ask me).
It can’t be emphasised enough how Goldstein’s ability shaped every part of North’s side through the best years under Brad Scott.
Having Goldstein allowed North the luxury of playing one ruck, all the time.
Without Goldstein, North’s midfield – heavily slanted towards contested, clearance-winning types – would have struggled mightily having to work without first use time and time again.
Without Goldstein, the team balance would have been forced to change, robbing North of their strengths up forward.
With Goldstein, it meant there could be three genuine tall forwards. Or an extra spot for a midfield runner. Or defensive reinforcements. Few opponents could afford to do the same thing and if they went with one ruck, Goldstein would normally run them off their feet by the closing stages. Usually earlier than the closing stages, to be fair.
One game in particular stands out to me: a Friday night against Essendon in 2015. I’ve rarely seen any ruckman be so far best on ground that he deserved all six Brownlow votes, but on that night, Goldstein fit the bill.
He had 27 disposals, 56 hit outs (20 of them to advantage), 8 clearances, 8 marks, 4 inside 50s, a goal, and at one point it looked like he was playing a different sport to everyone else – key position size or not.
And maybe I got a little carried away as a result:
Sometimes longevity, on the sporting field or in life’s achievements, can be used as a substitute for greatness. In Goldstein’s case he’s achieved both. He deserves to be talked about amongst the top tier of players in North Melbourne’s rich history.