It seems as if North Melbourne keep telling the world they’ve arrived before they actually have, belief superseding the reality. Not that there is a need to be cynical about them, the talent is there; just the gelling hasn’t happened yet.
The Western Bulldogs after getting close at the end of the last decade to their first Grand Final appearance in nearly 50 years, have fallen away and have began the rebuilding process all again. On the West Side of town, regardless of current list deficiencies; the Dogs have something to work with.
In a game which will have importance in the terms of shaping who’s an outside chance to make finals this year, both sides will go into the game believing they’re a chance. Considering North’s average form since their victory against Geelong, they will be on guard and very weary of a youthful Dogs outfit that pushed Collingwood to the line last week.
WHY SHOULD YOU TUNE IN?
North Melbourne’s midfield is a puzzle. The individual pieces are of individual brilliance: Daniel Wells, Brent Harvey, Andrew Swallow, Ryan Bastinac, Jack Ziebell, Liam Anthony, Levi Greenwood and Shaun Atley, all have featured at some stage this year, but are yet to find out just what that correct combination is.
With a highly attacking gameplan, the midfield has been underwhelming to this point, often failing to win the contested ball and clearances and frustrating North Melbourne staff and supporters alike.
All over the ground North Melbourne face this issue, with attempts to establish youthful defenders (Sam Wright, Shaun Atley, Luke & Cameron Delaney; and now debutant Brad McKenzie) with it’s seasoned players such as Scott Thompson and Micheal Firrito. This, alongside the sub-par midfield work this season (bar Swallow and Wells), has seen large scores against them.
However, the positives for North outweigh the negatives; with intensity and disposal improving, alongside the re-births of Aaron Edwards and Lindsay Thomas as constructive forwards has seen the burden fall off Drew Petrie’s shoulders of being North’s lone goal scorer. Add the hardness of Ben Cunnington and silky skill of Kieran Harper; the Roos lack of predictability going forward plays straight into their hands.
When you have promising, fast youngsters (Luke Dalhaus, Mitch Wallis and Thomas Libertore) all playing important midfield roles alongside the experienced heads of Matthew Boyd, Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen and Daniel Cross; the Dogs can safely assume they are a massive chance.
Win enough ball against a Roos midfield which is yet to click, and they COULD give their forwards a chance to dominate. However, the omission of their only key target up forward in Liam Jones has left further questions to be asked of the Dogs forward structure. In a post-Barry Hall Bulldogs line up, they look directionless. Daniel Giansiracusa, Shaun Higgins and Jordan Roughead have to shoulder the burden of kicking the Dogs a winning score.
Injuries to key injury personal has severely hampered the Dogs defense, in which Tom Williams and Dale Morris missing has left the second and third tier forward options for sides playing the Dogs to run riot. The simple fact of the matter is, if the Dogs win the midfield battle, they should have no problem accounting for North. If they lose this battle, they will be scored heavily against due to a forward line with great variety.
The trip back from Perth may play a part if the game is close in the dying stages, but North’s forwards should have a better conversation rate than the Bulldogs; seeing them get over the line in the end in a high scoring contest.
North by 25.
B: Jamie Macmillan, Scott Thompson, Luke Delaney
HB: Daniel Wells, Michael Firrito, Kieran Harper
C: Shaun Atley, Andrew Swallow, Brent Harvey
HF: Ben Cunnington, Todd Goldstein, Samuel Wright
F: Aaron Edwards, Drew Petrie, Lindsay Thomas
Foll: Hamish McIntosh, Jack Ziebell, Ryan Bastinac
I/C: Leigh Adams, Liam Anthony, Cameron Delaney,Brad McKenzie
Milestones: Jack Ziebell – 50 games
B: Robert Murphy, Brian Lake, Ryan Hargrave
HB: Daniel Cross, Mark Austin, Dylan Addison
C: Liam Picken, Matthew Boyd, Shaun Higgins
HF: Tory Dickson, Jordan Roughead, Patrick Veszpremi
F: Thomas Liberatore, Ayce Cordy, Daniel Giansiracusa
Foll: William Minson, Ryan Griffen, Luke Dahlhaus
I/C: Jarrad Grant, Justin Sherman, Mitchell Wallis, Clay Smith,