AFL Finals: North Melbourne team preview

6 September 2012

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Home and away review

It has been a tale of two contrasting seasons for the Kangaroos. After an absolute drubbing from premiership favourites Hawthorn, which had Buddy Franklin kicking a record 13 goals, the North Melbourne boys have done a complete-180.

Source: AFL

The Kangaroos have had one of their most dramatic seasons yet, with heart breaking losses to Essendon in the first round, Hamish McIntosh inability to seal the winning goal after the siren and two point losses to both Port Adelaide and West Coast in games they should have won.

Despite this, Brad Scott continued to back his young brigade and was rewarded with some amazing wins against Geelong in round 3 (always good to get wood over your brother) Adelaide in round 13 and St. Kilda and Carlton in the following rounds.

Scott had been adamant all season that his team was mentally and physically ready to play finals this year with the big boys. Talk is cheap though and nobody knows that more than Scott.

He let his impressive North Melbourne outfit do all the talking against rival Essendon in round 20, in a famous victory that saw the Kangas only play with a two man bench when Daniel Wells and Leigh Adams went down.

But the most impressive win of the season came at the expense of Collingwood in round 21. Arguably a team that has bullied North for the past couple of years, the Pies had no answers against the pace and polish of the younger Kangaroos. North Melbourne displayed genuine grit and guts, to the sheer delight of its fans and coaching staff.

Drew Petrie would be very unlucky to miss AA selection after his outstanding year. He fell just shy of the Coleman with 57 goals. Leading a three-prong tall-attack and provided those clutch goals when need be. Look no further than his five goal last quarter against Richmond.

Mature aged rookie Sam Gibson has proved his worth with some outstanding individual and team performances this year. Scott couldn’t upgrade the ex-Box Hill captain quick enough and now the footballing world understand why. Gibson was the in-and-under player North needed while Jack Ziebell was out, also providing them with great spread and run in attack.

Key Finals Player – Lindsay Thomas

It would be easy to slot in Petrie, Harvey or Swallow in this category but their talents are no secret. Thomas may just be the secret weapon the Kangaroos have up their sleave come finals time.

Whilst the big three go about their own business (Petrie, Tarrant and Hansen), Thomas roves the pack, hunts the ball and kicks those goals you didn’t think were possible. Long gone are the days when Thomas swung at fresh air. He has become a decent set shot and handy on the run.

Thomas is a bit of a barometer for the Kangaroos, when he is up and about, so too are the playing group. He is an interesting matchup due to his small forward type height and pace, teams normally play a rebounding defender on Thomas.

However Thomas has laid 64 tackles this season, the fourth highest among the North Melbourne playing group. His defensive pressure is severely underrated and finals football is all about pressure intensity.

If Thomas can sneak a couple of goals, just watch the Kangaroos sneak further into September.

Why the Kangaroos can win the flag

The Kangaroos are going in a as the massive underdogs, the expectations of them making the second week of finals are very slim. However, North Melbourne relish this tag and have played with it for most of the season.

At their peak, North play an excitingly quick and polished brand of football. They break lines, attack the corridor and back there youngsters such as Atley, Macmillan, Harper, Garlett and Wright to take on the opposition with no hesitation.

Originally criticized for their lack of depth and speed, North have covered those areas with a strong midfield unit boasting Swallow, Wells and Ziebell, a solid back six led by the league’s best interceptor Scott Thompson and an impressive attack starring Petrie, Tarrant and Hansen.

It’s the Kangaroos second tier of players that can see them claim the biggest scalp of all: Cunnington, Bastinac, Anthony, Ziebell, Harper and Wright have proven what they can do. If those players come with the same hunger and skill into the finals, backed up by the talents of Goldstein, Harvey, Swallow and Petrie then anything is possible.

Why the Kangaroos can’t win the flag

Playing such an attacking brand of football has its consequences.

This was evident when North played Ross Lyon’s defence orientated Fremantle in round 22 of this year. They were able to stop North’s run and momentum. They negated Petrie’s influence and rebounded well from turnovers.

Teams can expose North’s game style by shutting down their run and uncontested ball game. The Roo’s like to hold the ball as long as possible until they release a free player up the field. This has led to much speculation over whether the Kangaroos overposses the ball.

North Melbourne are the second highest team to score this season, just behind premiership favourites Hawthorn. But can this sort of shoot-out game really hold up in finals? As they say, goals sell tickets but defences win premierships!

Best Possible Result – Semi-Final

If North Melbourne play their best football there is no reason they can’t provide an upset and beat the Eagles at home.

That would see them play the loser of Collingwood and Hawthorn, and all though they have beaten the Pies this season, their lack of finals experience could become a factor.

But who knows, stranger things have happened and the Roos could go all the way.

Clare Cosgrave is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter at @ClareCosy.