Fighting Roos start to find their true North
North skipper Andrew Swallow heads forward from a centre bounce. Photo: Paul Rovere
FOR a couple of years now, North Melbourne has been the ultimate definition of the mid-table team. Not only have the Roos finished ninth, but consistently beaten the teams below them, only to consistently fall well short of the teams they aspired to match. Until now.
The 17-point defeat of Geelong last night is the club's most significant win since it reached a preliminary final in 2007, and a timely reminder to the sceptics that it isn't merely a battler with ideas above its station.
The Roos had lost 11 games to top four teams in Brad Scott's tenure. It seemed determined right from the outset against a strangely listless and fumbling Geelong not to let that figure reach a dozen.
North stun Geelong
The long-feted young Kangaroos midfield looked to have finally emerged as a force after they eclipsed Geelong's on-ballers. Photo: Paul Rovere
North should be 3-0, and isn't only because of a narrow post-siren miss by Hamish McIntosh in round one against Essendon. But the big ruckman is a pretty good example of the steelier resolve that seems to be running through Scott's team this season.
Questioned about both his mental fibre, and his effectiveness as part of a ruck tandem with Todd Goldstein, McIntosh, like his teammates has responded in fine style, last night playing with genuine impact up forward.
So did the sometimes flaky Aaron Edwards, the pair sharing six goals as North managed 20 even without any sort of contribution from Drew Petrie. That in itself is a comment about the extra strings to the Roos' bow in 2012.
So was the tremendous game from Jack Ziebell, in his first game of the year, a 27-possession, four-goal performance providing the extra bite and power North lacked last year as it was consistently chewed up and spat out by the competition big boys.
Ditto Ryan Bastinac with 26 touches and four goals, another reason for the Roos to do everything in their power to keep him from the clutches of the money-laden Greater Western Sydney.
This was still a win driven as much by the more seasoned campaigners, Brent Harvey unstoppable, Daniel Wells brilliant when most required, skipper Andrew Swallow his usual reliable, hard-burrowing self.
Another, Michael Firrito, who looked to be on the downward slope at the start of this season, has hit back hard. He curbed Essendon young gun Michael Hurley in round one, backed up last week, and last night not only negated, but provided tremendous attacking drive. It's been some renaissance.
But for the Roos, there's now also critical support coming from several quarters, as the kids in which the Roos have invested so much start to produce more consistently. The bottom line is the top-four monkey is off the back, and with that, neither might North's status as merely a "wanna-be" last much longer, either.