Rick Browner reporting from AFANA from Subiaco Oval
North Melbourne entered their Round 21 game against West Coast knowing their chances of playing Finals had slipped away the day before when Hawthorn trounced their opponents to take a hold on eighth position. As for the Eagles, their only motivation was to give themselves a chance of getting off the bottom of the Ladder. It was Brent “Boomer” Harvey’s 300th game for the Kangaroos and they were up and about to try and win for his milestone game.
North's plan hit trouble when the Eagles kicked the first two goals. A turnover saw Chris Masten run in from 40 meters to score and a strong lead up the middle for a mark had Callum Wilson converting. When inexperienced Eagles players made errors in the midfield, Andrew Swallow made good on the turnover to score North’s first major. The Eagles suffocated the Kangaroos' flow through the middle with tight pressure and much of the quarter was played in the Eagles’ attacking half. A huge shepherd (a bump which takes the opponent out of the play) by Beau Waters in the back half saw Leigh Adams down for the count with Waters facing a possible report and sanction for high contact. The game continued after North players reacted to the shepherd and converged on Waters for a bit of push and shove. Goals to Shannon Hurn and Beau Waters put the Eagles in front by three goals at the break.
West Coast's Callum Wilson kicked a snap goal from the pocket to start the second quarter. An interception in the midfield saw Ben Warren goal in reply. An end-to-end play by North soon after gave Aaron Edwards a mark and goal to keep the Kangaroos in the hunt. Edwards was on fire and scored a further two goals, one of which came from an uninterrupted flow of play through the center corridor. Three possessions followed by a mark and goal - pure football poetry. North's dominance at the center clearances was hurting the Eagles but they still managed to score goals through Scott Selwood and Mark LeCras. Daniel Wells roved a ball off the pack one meter out from goal and kept North within two points at the half time break.
Throughout the third quarter the game flowed evenly. Swallow scored first for the visitors after a free kick from a Waters' throw. Wilson converted the next two goals for the Eagles and was showing himself as a capable forward in the place of LeCras and Josh Kennedy, both of whom had had little impact to this point. Warren made a strange play that saw the pundits reaching for the rule book. He gathered the ball and then collided with the behind post to stop himself from going out of play. The resulting rebound saw him kick a goal. Was it out of bounds or play on? The umpires decided on the latter and let the goal stand. In the final stages of the quarter, pressure by the Kangaroos saw Eagle Ashley Smith become either the victim of a rookie mistake or of a bad bounce when he overran a ball right in front of the opposition goal. Leigh Adams pounced and kicked the easiest of goals to take the Kangaroos to a three point advantage as the siren sounded for three quarter time.
Early in the final term, Nic Naitanui was bumped out of a contest and goaled from the resultant free kick to put the Eagles back in front. This was followed by an old style Eagles goal to Andrew Embley. His, run, carry and sweetly timed kick from 50 meters out had the home team looking poised to run away with the game. This ascendency was short-lived as the Kangaroos kicked the next four goals in a row and effectively put the game out of reach for the Eagles. All the goals were a result of strong marks and more skilled play than the Eagles were displaying. There was a glimmer of hope when LeCras booted a 50 meter bomb after a turnover, but in the end time ran out with the Kangaroos winning the game comfortably.
Mistakes cost the Eagles the game. Two or three turnovers at critical points in the match had them chasing tails instead of making the play. North Melbourne won the game but did not dazzle and it is clear that neither of these teams will be good enough to play Finals for some years to come. With one more match to play the Eagles will finish last while the Kangaroos will finish in the middle of the bottom half of the Ladder and look to improve in 2011.
Scoreboard West Coast: 4.4 7.6 10.10 14.10 (94) North Melbourne: 1.4 6.10 10.13 16.14 (110) Best players: West Coast: B Waters, S Hurn, C Wilson, A Embley, C Wilson North Melbourne: B Rawlings, R Bastinac, L Harding, S Wright, A Swallow
Article last changed on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 6:27 AM EDT