Cast your mind back to Round 10 of this season on a drab Saturday afternoon. North Melbourne, a team with finals in its sights, was made to look like children against men as Lance Franklin’s unthinkable bag of 13 goals sunk the hapless Kangaroos to arguably their lowest low in the past few seasons.
Supporters were in a stupor, calling for the head of their coach Brad Scott, who at the time was touted to lack the strategic prowess that makes teams so great, amongst a number of players ranging from, but not limited to, veteran champion Brent Harvey and goalsneak Lindsay Thomas playing some poor footy. It’s needless to say that finals were well and truly off the cards.
Never before has there been such a turn of events in just nine games of football.
Battered by injuries, the Kangaroos held on against a desperate Essendon outfit, claiming their eighth win out of nine games since that bitter day against the Hawks. With their only loss coming against West Coast by two points, North Melbourne has claimed the scalps of Adelaide, St Kilda, Carlton, Richmond and Essendon, all of which are teams with finals on the radar in one fashion or another.
The biggest difference between the Kangas of then and now has to be the forward line. Drew Petrie has reached new heights, Lindsay Thomas was sent away to reinvent himself and returned a better man, Lachlan Hansen has made a successful transition from key defender to key forward and young Robbie Tarrant has also thrown his hat in the ring.
When you combine such a dangerous forward line with a good mix of experience, youth, quality and class in Brent Harvey, Andrew Swallow, Ben Cunnington and Ryan Bastinac, you’re sure to kick a winning score. That is exactly what North has managed to do.
The efforts of North Melbourne is a prime example of what can happen if you look internally, make some key changes and come out swinging. With only three games to play before finals, the Kangaroos find themselves nestled in sixth spot on the ladder with the challenges of Collingwood and Fremantle to come in the next two weeks. Their season will culminate with a game against GWS.
Although top four is out of the question, a scalp in the next two weeks could be enough to gift the Kangaroos a home final, which would be the icing on an exceptionally sweet cake considering the challenges they’ve conquered.
There’s still plenty of work to do for the blue and white, however their efforts to dig themselves out of a relatively deep hole shouldn’t go without recognition.