Rick Browner reporting for AFANA from Patersons Stadium in Perth
North Melbourne faced the West Coast Eagles in the second Elimination Final at Patersons Stadium with temperatures in the mid eighties and the sun shining brightly. It was always going to be a tough assignment for a team visiting from Melbourne to play in the West and the Kangaroos found out the hard way. The Eagles ran all over them in a one sided contest with the domination starting early in the match.
West Coast was full of running and kicked seven unanswered goals in the first quarter to effectively put the game on ice. Jack Darling was on fire with three goals while the Kangaroos could not buy a goal, hitting the post on numerous occasions and butchering chances that would then rebound up to the Eagles’ end of the ground for a goal. With a huge crowd of nearly 42,000 fans cheering them on, the West Coast players were quick at the ball and light on their feet. Back liner Eric McKenzie added to his highlight reel, kicking the first goal of his 78 game career. Andrew Swallow was tireless in his efforts to get the Kangaroos into the game and his competitiveness and delivery of the ball was outstanding. It wasn’t until late in the first quarter that Lachie Hansen had North’s first deliberate set shot on goal, but like his teammates his kicking was way off the required standard. West Coast humiliated North by keeping them to their only goalless quarter for the season and held a commanding 43 point lead at the break.
In a benign incident in the opening minutes of the second quarter, champion West Coast defender Beau Waters suddenly stopped as he approached a contest and took himself over the boundary line clutching his foot. He was carried to the change rooms and then transported to hospital with a sesamoid bone injury in his right foot that will require surgery. Waters was replaced by substitute Jacob Brennan but his departure didn’t stop the rout as West Coast continued to pile on the goals. Old campaigners Quinten Lynch and Andrew Embley showed they still have what it takes when they kicked a goal apiece. North Melbourne finally scored its first when an errant kick in by Shannon Hurn was swooped upon by Matt Campbell and booted through the middle of the goals. In a display of precision football, the Eagles answered with slick passing and running in a coast-to-coast play from one end of the ground to the other. Patrick McGinnity did the honors by finishing off with a great goal. The Kangaroos finished with their second goal of the match when tireless veteran Brent Harvey roved the ball off a pack in the forward line and scuttled away from the pack to kick truly. The goal saved some face but the Kangaroos were still trailing by a massive 54 points when the half time siren sounded.
North’s coach Brad Scott was a firebrand when he played the game in Brisbane and his address at half time must have scorched the paint in the locker rooms. The Kangaroos came out with renewed vigor to start the second half with Captain Swallow and teammate Jack Ziebell leading the charge. North delivered its first aggressive and skilled passage of play when a series of accurate hand passes and kicks moved the ball to Hansen who goaled after a rare turnover by the Eagles at half back. Not to be outdone, the Eagles did exactly the same thing minutes later to have Josh Kennedy finish off with his first goal of the match. North was gaining in confidence with a few goals on the board and when Campbell popped up in an unguarded space in their forward line to take a mark and kick a goal, hope was still alive. The Kangaroos started to win more than their share of contested ball and make an impact on the game. Robbie Tarrant was substituted out for Kieran Harper to provide fresh legs in the tiring conditions. The move had the desired effect because North kicked three consecutive goals as the quarter wound down to win. The margin was still a paralyzing 43 points but North appeared to have some momentum going into the last quarter.
Unfortunately the Kangaroos needed more than momentum, as it soon became party time for the Eagles. Dean Cox kicked the opening goal of the final term in his 250th game. Kennedy added two more to take the Eagles out to their biggest lead of the game and the floodgates opened. A consolation goal was all that was allowed to North Melbourne’s Harvey, before the Eagles tore them apart, kicking nine goals to one and recording their biggest ever win over North Melbourne, as well as their highest score in a Finals match. In the end the Kangaroos fell to pieces and the home crowd was jubilant, perhaps sensing that West Coast looked powerful enough to make a Grand Final. They celebrated spontaneously with a Mexican Wave, a spectacle not seen at this ground for some years.
When the final siren sounded the Eagles had won by 96 points. They meet Collingwood next Friday night in the first Semi Final while North bows out to prepare its 2013 campaign. Many commentators are tipping that the Eagles could go all the way this year and their display against the Kangaroos will have opponents wary of what they can deliver at their best.
Scoreboard West Coast: 7.4 11.8 15.11 24.18 (162) North Melbourne: 0.3 2.8 8.10 9.12 (66) Best players West Coast: Darling, Cox, Hurn, Naitanui, Gaff North Melbourne: Swallow, Ziebell, Harvey, Cunnington
Article last changed on Monday, September 17, 2012 - 9:34 AM EDT