For the fourth week running, North Melbourne turned in a performance with promising signs before falling short of the ultimate prize.
While the ‘so close, yet so far’ theme can be frustrating when it’s a constant, it makes for an exciting mix when there are clear signs of growth with equally clear focus areas of improvement.
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.
In the absence of Jy Simpkin and Hugh Greenwood, and with Luke Davies-Uniacke still recovering from injury, it must have been the youngest on-ball rotation in some time for North Melbourne.
The next generation were almost entirely trusted with the heavy lifting, Liam Shiels the only veteran involved. By contrast GWS were able to enjoy a settled rotation, employing the same group for a third week in a row.
|22||Will Phillips||Tom Green||23|
|18||Liam Shiels||Stephen Coniglio||20|
|18||Tarryn Thomas||Callan Ward||19|
|18||George Wardlaw||Finn Callaghan||13|
|5||Harry Sheezel||Toby Greene||8|
**not included: Harry Rowston at the last three, Toby Bedford at one
I couldn’t help but think back to the last game North were without Simpkin and Davies-Uniacke; Round 3 v Hawthorn in Launceston.
Comparing the two afternoons is instructive to see how much has changed:
|CBAs||North Melbourne R13||North Melbourne R3||CBAs|
|22||Will Phillips||Will Phillips||17|
|18||Liam Shiels||Ben Cunnington||16|
|18||Tarryn Thomas||Tom Powell||12|
|18||George Wardlaw||Cam Zurhaar||9|
|5||Harry Sheezel||Hugh Greenwood||7|
|4||Tom Powell||Darcy Tucker (sub)||6|
Phillips has taken a major step forward since then, Wardlaw’s introduction – more on him in a moment – has changed the midfield, Sheezel has slowly been handed more midfield time, and Thomas – although still far from full match fitness – has shown plenty in his first fortnight back at AFL level.
It’s a very different looking unit and considering the GWS midfield is better than Hawthorn’s on that day back in Round 3, it would have been fair to assume a tough afternoon in store.
But for the most part I thought the midfield held up relatively well until it was clear the tank ran out about halfway through the third quarter.
When the stat sheet says nine goals conceded from stoppages, it normally means the on-ballers have struggled. In this case my read was a handful of those goals can be put down to errors from the defensive group. For the most part – although not exclusively – it didn’t appear to be breakdowns from the midfielders which led to clean shots on goal from stoppages.
This is the part where I’ll briefly touch on Aaron Hall’s game, although there isn’t too much reason to go in-depth because it won’t result in anything constructive. It wasn’t a great defensive game, with several miscues and missteps. There were also moments when he was a value add with ball in hand – an example of that still to come – although ultimately the balance between the two ended in the negative.
That’s what Hall’s game is, with potentially a couple hints of his body not cooperating with him – although it’s impossible to tell for sure from the outside. When the balance between positive offence and defensive faults ends in the negative, it’s time to look at what’s in reserve, much like after the Melbourne game in Round 7.
By all reports Flynn Perez had a solid game at the VFL (which I have not watched yet at time of writing), but Miller Bergman is also in need of a rest. Whether the latter can hold on for one more week and Perez comes in for Hall remains to be seen.
But back to the positive side of the ledger, the couple of minutes which stood out most to me were early in the second quarter. GWS had just kicked their fifth goal in a row, turning an early 12-point deficit into a 17-point lead.
Wardlaw had a three-clearance stretch where he basically single-handedly changed the momentum of the game and got North back into it:
Long-term, it’s incredibly exciting to see a player take it on himself like this – and succeed – in just his fourth game. How a fully functioning midfield works in tandem, which we’ll hopefully see immediately after the bye, is going to create all sorts of discussions.
If you’ve missed any recent North match analyses, you can catch up on the last five here:
The interesting part of Sunday was North managed to defend relatively well after turnovers.
There were a lot of turnovers, but it’s important to stress part of that was because of the Giants. GWS force plenty of them when they’re clicking, which they were on Sunday.
But based on points conceded per turnover, this was comfortably North’s best defensive performance of the season:
|Round||Opponent||Points conceded per 100 turnovers*|
Normally when a team is under the pump as North were at times, the pressure tells and players get slower and slower in snapping back into defensive shape.
Whether it’s an anomaly, a one-week improvement, or something else entirely falls very much into the ‘watch this space’ category for now.
If I had access to behind the goals footage this section would be able to explain whether those numbers are real or fake. In the meantime let’s hold until Sunday against the Western Bulldogs.
It also doesn’t cover why North were forced into so many turnovers in the first place, but hey, baby steps.
Now the mid-season draft is in the books, all the relevant list demographics, contracts, and depth chart pages have been updated to play around with.
The depth chart pages are available for those on the $5 and $10 tiers. Hopefully everyone finds the tool as useful as I do.
To finish, here’s a passage of play which I thought signified a growing game sense in the group.
The few minutes before this had been manic in open play, the ball pinging back and forth rapidly. Late in the quarter, both teams looked exhausted by the time North found an intercept mark.
For a minute, North owned possession before picking the right moment to go and find a soft spot in the defence.
When Brett Ratten says, “I think we’re getting about 100 (minutes) right and we’re getting about 20 wrong,” the above clip, all the points made today – and everything in the last month’s worth of posts, really – illustrates what he means.
Hopefully there can be one more good performance going into a long-awaited week off.