Round 12 – Carlton v North Melbourne: Friday Night Form

Josh Barnstable

For North Melbourne, playing Carlton on a Friday night is like trying to impress the new girl at school on the eve of the school ball: make one mistake, and your legs are pulled out from under you and you are laughed at by everyone in the school. Make a good impression, and you continue to tread water, until you finally land the date. In the Kangaroos’ case, if they were to be embarrassed on the big stage by Carlton, they would again be scheduled just the one prime-time fixture next season. Win, and win well, and they’ll go into Andrew Demetriou and Gillon McLachlan’s ‘maybe’ pile for possible Friday night match-ups in 2013.

Friday night footy featuring North Melbourne is somewhat of a rare event in this household. On one hand, I am envy of what Carlton, Collingwood and Essendon have with all of their Friday night matches, but on the other, I don’t think I could handle the hype, the excitement and the build-up. The day dragged on longer than usual for me. School holidays were coming to a close (far too sooner than they should have, I still claim that Year 12 students should receive two six month holidays for the year to cope with the pressure), it was a miserable day outside, and to top things off, my laptop charger had broken, meaning I had no access to the internet to do homework (and, most importantly, read up on the latest footy news and do Supercoach). So I went to the last resort for entertainment, which is actually a pretty good option. Popular footy forum website Bigfooty has a North Melbourne member who makes videos of every North Melbourne highlight from the start of 2011 to now. So I spent my Friday afternoon reliving Andrew Swallow’s first quarter against Adelaide last season, Drew Petrie’s match-winner against Essendon, Aaron Edwards’ haul of six against Melbourne, and, more recently, Jack Ziebell’s unbelievable performance against Geelong in Round 3 this season. Time passed quickly, and soon it was time to settle into bed and watch the match, live.

North Melbourne and Carlton have an interesting rivalry. From the 1999 Grand Final, to the 124 point demolition in 2003, to the sides meeting at Carrara Stadium for a game in 2007, to them returning back on the big stage in 2009, and Lindsay Thomas kicking seven and lighting Etihad Stadium up in 2010. I think it is fair to say that it’ll be a long, long time until we see these two sides playing anywhere other than Melbourne in front of a crowd under 40,000 people.

My mind was racing as Dennis and Bruce go throughout their usual pre-match routine. I wish I was there, amongst the crowd, in the electric atmosphere. How would our forward line compare against a depleted Carlton backline? I was confident all week we would kick a huge score, but with Lachie Henderson a surprise inclusion, I was suddenly worried. How would Todd Goldstein go against Matthew Kreuzer? I had argued with a Carlton supporter during the week that Goldstein was a better player in every facet of the game than Kreuzer. I was laughed at, but I didn’t know why. How would Shaun Atley perform in front of a huge crowd? The kid has quickly become one of my most hated players to my favourite. He’s a mix of David King with Daniel Wells. How would we combat the return of Marc Murphy, as well as Chris Judd and Heath Scotland? These questions swirled back and forth in my head as the umpire held the ball aloft, and 46,000 people cheered as the Etihad Stadium siren blared. Brad Scott, Leigh Adams, Atley, Jamie MacMillan, Lachie Hansen, Nathan Grima, this was the biggest game they have suited up for.

Adams starts well with a mark on the wing and a goal from a resultant 50 metre penalty, but Carlton respond with the next three, one of them from an Eddie Betts smother on Atley’s clearing kick from defence. I start to worry, but Drew Petrie calmed me. He kicked four goals in a row, and killed Michael Jamison’s confidence. Henderson is moved into defence, and Hansen now took Jamison. Kieran Harper showed plenty of flair and x-factor, burning off Henderson to goal from 40m out to take a 15 point lead into quarter time.

I was restless during the break. Fearful that any stop in play will stop the momentum North Melbourne had, I was pleased to see Atley kick just his second goal of the season to start the second quarter. A minute later, Hansen put salt into the wounds of Jamison by taking a strong mark and converting, and suddenly we were up by 27 points. My mind thought back to last weekend against West Coast. We led by 35 points in the second quarter, and lost by a couple of points. Coupled with the fadeouts against Port Adelaide and Brisbane, and you can never be confident when you’re supporting blue and white.

Judd led Carlton as they stayed in it, but he also raised the ire of MacMillan and Andrew Swallow by pulling Adams’ arm while he was at the bottom of a pack. Adams’ arm was chicken-winged, and MacMillan leapt over his injured teammate to remonstrate, pushing the Brownlow Medalist on the backside. A free kick to the Blues, but worth every bit of it. That is one thing that has changed in the second half of the season: teammates sticking up for each other.

The Blues fought to get it back to 16 points, but Hansen replied with another, before adding his third for the quarter by snapping one through on the behind line. I have never had so much faith in both Lachie Hansen and Robbie Tarrant. I predicted that both were destined for the scrapheap at the start of the season. Both players didn’t show the urgency to be an AFL footballer, Hansen wasn’t sure whether he preferred to be a defender or a forward, Tarrant wanted to be a forward but was forced to play in defence. And when he did play forward, he gave nothing. But now, something has clicked. When Petrie is bombarded with opponents, Tarrant bobs up to kick four. When he is covered, Hansen adds to the scoreboard. When Hansen gets taken, Petrie will assert his dominance, and so on.

A Petrie contest in the goalsquare led to a front-and-centre goal to Lindsay Thomas (he can’t miss them), but Carlton continued to stay at an arms-length, which was concerning. A late charge forward by Ryan Bastinac saw Petrie lunge at the ball and mark it when he was in no position to challenge for the contest, and it saw him put through his fifth. We were unbelievable in front of goal, and hadn’t missed a set shot yet. I waited for that good luck to start to turn in the second half.

The Blues got the opening goal in the third quarter to cut the North lead to 23 points, but they got the immediate reply with Petrie taking one of his trademark grabs after a great pass from Harper. His sixth was replied by Carlton with two majors of their own, and it was back to three goals. Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead, but again the number 20 came to the rescue by kicking his seventh goal of the night due to a holding free kick. I started to dream of big Drew kicking double figures, but that idea was knocked on the head as he was given the red vest due to an adductor injury. A massive bummer, but the end to the third quarter was anything but.

The Roos went from leading by 18 points almost halfway through the third quarter to leading by 54 going into three quarter time. They played some of their best football of the year in this period of time. Carlton wilted, and North flexed their muscle, a muscle that has claimed significant scalps in 2012, something it couldn’t do in years prior. Petrie attacked a contest looking for goal number eight, and it was Wells who bounced on the crumbs and snapped a top-shelf goal. A fist clench from me was met with a shout from Dad from the other room. I could tell that he, like me, was trying not to wake Mum up. But that was futile when Thomas crumbed another Petrie contest on the 50m arc on the boundary line, threw it on his boot and fashioned an ugly torpedo that swivelled inside the big sticks. The man who couldn’t kick a goal from 20m out directly in front last season had just kicked the goal of the year. Oh the irony! Swallow slammed through another after being copped high by second gamer Andrew McInnes. Atley fought off Mitch Robinson to gather, dance around onto his preferred kicking leg and roost a long ball inside 50 that fell into the harms of Brent Harvey, and he boomered into an open goal. Then Atley again earned the appraisal of the crowd, intercepting a ball that was destined for Jeff Garlett on the wing, linking the ball to Harvey, who was run down by Bryce Gibbs, and Carlton were given the ball. An errant kick into the corridor went awry for the Blues, and Harper pounced, slamming through his second from outside 50 to put an exclamation mark on an emphatic finish to the third quarter.

Still, leading by nine goals going into the final quarter, and I didn’t feel safe. Judd, despite the controversy he had caused, was playing his best match of the season, and leading the Blues to an early fight back in the final quarter. Bastinac managed to get free and mark unchecked inside 50, and he put the nail in the Carlton coffin. Robbie Tarrant added his name to the goalkicking list after receiving a free kick, and then Harper added his third with speed from Matt Campbell setting it up. For a team once labelled as ‘too slow’ and ‘blue collar’, this team had genuine speed, and class. Hansen finished the night with his fourth major, and North’s 16th straight goal from a set shot, a league record.

The final siren indicated a 53 point demolition of the Navy Blues, and most likely cutting short their finals aspirations. North Melbourne won, winning their fourth game in five matches, and come up against Richmond, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs in the next three weeks. If the Roos are going to be there in September, they will need to win each of those games. And even if they don’t make it, the faith in this team will be sky-high heading into 2013. But one thing is for certain. North Melbourne made a good impression on the AFL with their performance, and can rightly expect more slices of the Friday night pie for next season.

North Melbourne 6.1—12.2—19.4—24.5.159

Carlton 3.4—6.9—9.9—14.12.96

GOALKICKERS

North Melbourne – Petrie 7, Hansen 4, Thomas 3, Harper 3, Tarrant, Atley, Harvey, Wells, Bastinac, Adams, Swallow

Carlton – Judd 3, Betts 2, Armfield 2, Yarran, Garlett, Carrazzo, Murphy, McLean, Duigan, Robinson

BEST

North Melbourne – Petrie, Grima, Wells, Atley, Swallow, Hansen, Ziebell, Adams, Gibson, Firrito, Harper

Carlton – Judd, Carrazzo, Collins, Armfield, Robinson, Murphy

CROWD

46,423 at Etihad Stadium

VOTES:

3: Drew Petrie (NM)

2: Nathan Grima (NM)

1: Chris Judd (CARL)