Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium, Perth
Perth has been in the grip of a never-ending summer. On a day that should have been pleasantly autumnal, the North Melbourne Kangaroos arrived to face 97 degree heat and a parochial crowd of nearly 36,000. To make matters worse, the Kangaroos' premier ruckman Goldstein came down with a stomach virus before the game leaving the lion’s share of the work up to first gamer Cameron Pederson.
As for most of last season, the Eagles' problems lay not with getting the ball but with finding targets once they did. Veteran Captain Brett Harvey kicked the Kangaroos' first goal when he read the ball off hands in the goal square. After missing an easy shot in front of goal early, Lachlan Hansen followed up with a second goal. North Melbourne played as much of the game as they could through the middle of the ground and, in spite of the scorching heat, they looked full of run. The Eagles were having trouble sticking their tackles and were playing under the fall of the ball. Lindsay Thomas kicked the third goal for the Kangaroos after a smart, crisp piece of full field play. It wasn’t until the 16 minute mark that Matt Priddis kicked West Coast’s first goal after a shocking kick in by North’s Jack Ziebell. The Eagles followed up with goals to Brad Ebert and Andrew Embley to get back into the game, before Liam Anthony steadied the visitors once more. North Melbourne took a slim two-point lead into the second quarter.
Josh Kennedy had had a very ordinary game to this point but he took a strong mark in front of goal and kicked the Eagles into the lead. Mark LeCras added to the tally with a kick that traveled a full 30 yards end over end on the ground and the Eagles found some extra spirit and intensity. North’s Daniel Wells’ handball receipt and run to deliver a kick to Thomas in front of goal was a spark that lifted the Kangaroos. Aaron Edwards kicked another and the home crowd fell silent until young Eagle Jack Darling was rewarded with a free kick after some fierce forward tackling pressure on Ziebell. His goal put the home team up by five points at the end of the half.
As a concession to the heat, the AFL agreed to extend the half time break by five minutes and the extra rest seemed to benefit the Eagles. LeCras kicked the first goal but, in an unusual incident, he fell to the ground and was stretchered off with a suspected torn groin. Darling kicked the Eagles' next after marking a bullet-like pass from Beau Waters who had run from half back to make the play. The heat was sapping leg strength from players of both sides. With only three players and a substitute this year instead of the four rotational players available last year, cramp is becoming a factor late in games. North’s Thomas was in wonderful form and kicked the next two goals when he teamed up with Harvey and then Wells. Leigh Adams finished the quarter with a goal that resulted in the Kangaroos going into the final quarter with a two-point lead.
Mark Nicoski was fired up to start the last quarter and kicked two of the next three goals for the Eagles. Tireless ruckman Dean Cox added another and it looked as if West Coast would run away with the game. North Melbourne was not to be denied and clawed back into the game with goals to Edwards and Leigh Adams. The Kangaroos were suffering more in the heat and began to cramp up making chasing their opponents problematic. Goals were traded as time ran out and the Eagles limped home with a four-point win.
It may be early days but the Eagles find themselves in the top eight for the first time in years. North Melbourne is in twelfth position facing the Collingwood juggernaut next weekend. See David Woodley's photos of this match at:
Scoreboard West Coast: 3.7 6.10 9.12 13.14 (92) North Melbourne: 4.3 6.5 10.8 13.10 (89) Best Players West Coast: D Cox, A Embley, W Schofield, M Priddis, M LeCras North Melbourne: L Thomas, L Hansen, C Pedersen, M Firrito, D Wells
Article last changed on Saturday, April 02, 2011 - 2:56 AM EDT