#5 – North Melbourne Kangaroos
Join in the chorus. North Melbourne’s on the ball.
At least, they’d better be.
My beloved NMFC are swimming in territory they haven’t swum in for a long time, the uncharted waters of expectations. For years the underdogs, written off by commentators, fans and pundits, it was easy to be a North fan. You have a chip on your shoulder, believe in your team more than everyone else does (not hard), scream, “Shinboner Spirit” loud enough that the puzzled responses of, “what on earth does ‘Shinboner Spirit’ mean” can’t be heard, then go for long sad walks after you get thrashed by the good teams and flame out in the first round of finals.
But this year, North are actually good. I don’t know how to deal with this. Not since the halcyon days of Carey, Archer, Martyn and Stevens (and McKernan! Remember him? He almost won a Brownlow!) have we been actually good. Yet here we are.
The big problem for North? We’re not good enough.
We’re not good enough to be consistently better than Port, Hawthorn and Sydney. Fremantle is a stretch. Geelong look to be beatable these days. Yes, we’re a top 6 team on paper, but without elite players we can’t be premiers and North lacks elite players and an elite coach. North Melbourne’s on-ballers are renowned for being hard at the ball and the likes of Swallow, Ziebell and Cunnington are going to need to continue that head-over-the-ball mentality and get clearances if the Roos are going to win games. The forward line is looking pretty stacked, with the aging but pylon-like Drew Petrie anchoring a line-up featuring another two talls (Bouncing Benny Brown and Dr Jekyll & Mr Waite) and two smalls (Boomer in game 5,632,432 and Lindsay Slippin’ Thomas) and Shaun Higgins as the floater. But the ball has to get there first. The backline has potential – at their best, Hansen, McDonald and Thompson are some of the best players in their positions. But end of the day, the North line-up still features the odd ‘Nahas’ and ‘Robbie Tarrant’ that mean there are significant holes, even as the half-forward line and centre line remain tough to break into from the outside.
Not Boomer, not Cap’n Swallow and not even Wells or Ziebell, the best player at North Melbourne is Todd Goldstein. Goldy is arguably the best ruckman at the AFL these days, regularly a league leader in hitouts and a surprisingly agile ball-getter around the ground. Only Goldstein, Scott Thompson and perhaps Lindsay Thomas can honestly say they are among the league’s best at their position. Ziebell at a stretch.
In honour of Rhyce Shaw, who at least for a while was the lesser brother in his family, the spud on the Roos is Joel Tippett. Being a bigger spud than his brother Kurt is quite the achievement. Watching him attempt to corral Tex Walker in round 1 was one of the sadder, more upsetting things I’ve seen. And I support a team that regularly tries to move interstate.
Most interesting off-field?
Without Wayne Carey, a man who as captain was caught having it off with his vice-captain’s wife in his deputy vice-captain’s bathroom? It’s tough, but Majak Daw has done an admirable job filling that gap. Whether it’s pioneering in breaking through racial and cultural barriers, or, unfortunately, getting into some trouble off-field, Majak’s impeccable upper body always comes through just fine. His pecs would make The Rock cry.
Luke McDonald very quietly almost snatched the rising star away from Lewis Taylor and The Bont™ last year and looks set to cement his place in the Roos’ best 22 as an elite rebounding defender this year.
Easiest player to hate?
I assume it has to be Lindsay Thomas. I LOVE Lindsay Thomas, but he dives more than Diego Costa, showboats, plays dirty and plays the umpires like a puppet with middling success. However personally, the player I find most dislikable is new boy Jarrad Waite, who seems to be a team cancer of the first order. We shall see.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING A PREMIERSHIP:
Oh man. Expectations are the worst. Honestly, most Kangaroos fans should be happy that we’re simply afloat financially and that James Brayshaw’s stubborn long-term plan of forcing the Roos to stay in Melbourne seems to be working (sorry, Dogs, Demons and Saints fans). And if Brad Scott can remain the most gif-able man in football, that’s just a bonus.
The Roos can win this season if they stay injury-free, if Brad Scott can have a more dynamic gameplan (smh), if Daniel Wells can play hard all game, every game, if Ziebell can play more than 18 games (if you have to get reported AND injured Jack, have you thought about multi-tasking?), if Jarrad Waite can be more 7 goals vs Brisbane and less team cancer vs Adelaide and if Hodge, Mitchell, Boak, Gray, Hanneberry and Franklin all get into a collective barfight with no survivors. I believe in you Lance. You can start something here.
My honest hope for this season is that we make the prelims and put in a good showing. Obviously I would love a premiership but unless players like Atley, Cunnington and McDonald take another leap it ain’t gonna happen.