Wooden spooners? Roos proving doubters wrong
THIS season was meant to be a write-off for North Melbourne.
Likely wooden spooners, we said.
A development year, more than anything.
But the truth is we have underrated them again, the Kangas.
This team we though was bottom-four material is sitting inside the top-four after posting one of their best wins over the past year over Hawthorn.
Down two men on the bench for the bulk of the second-half, Brad Scott's men delivered a white-hot first half and then hung on bravely after the main change to stun the Hawks by 28 points at Etihad Stadium.
They led by 57 points at half-time, but the game swung dramatically after losing Shaun Higgins and Ed Vickers-Willis to a pair of almost simultaneous head knocks in the third term.
On the same day his daughter was born, Higgins ploughed straight into Ryan Burton at half-forward, knocking out the Kangaroos' best-and-fairest winner before he hit the ground.
From there the tired Roos hardly looked like scoring as the Hawks rallied, piling on six goals in the third term to get within 19 points.
Hawks playmakers Isaac Smith and Luke Breust were instrumental in the comeback but they fell short when Cameron Zurhaar nailed a clutch set shot from 45m to ice the Roos' third win of the season.
For years it has punched above its weight, North Melbourne, and even with a list that looks genuinely light on for talent it has been one of the surprise packets of the year, giving its fan base something to cheer about. It's mostly always competitive. Always having a crack.
Alastair Clarkson looked furious in the coaches box in the early stages and after a commanding 67-point win over Melbourne last week it was hard to understand how they could serve up such a putrid first half.
You had to admire the Roos' blue collar midfield unit led by ruckman Todd Goldstein which upstaged the more highly-rated Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara.
The Roos came into the match ranked 17th for clearances but they trounced the Hawks in that department 24-14 at half-time.
Yes, Ben Jacobs put the tag on Tom Mitchell, keeping him to only 11 touches at the main change and despite the Roos' key injuries, the damage was done.
Gun Roos' onballer Ben Cunnington had 30 touches including 18 contested possessions and six clearances in a week he earned comparisons to Carlton legend Greg Williams.
Big the big story was Mitchell, whose Brownlow Medal hopes are in jeopardy after he elbowed Goldstein in the second term.
It was a strange brain fade from the ball magnet who had to reach high up to clock the big ruckman, gifting the Roos an easy goal.
But what won it for the Roos was their big men. They dominated the airwaves, North, and Majak Daw appeared to grow in confidence in his new key defensive role.
They fought tooth and nail to keep Robbie Tarrant from a move to rivals a few years ago and the gun centre half-back stood tall and veteran full-back Scott Thompson stood up magnificently in the second half under fire.
The defenders had 40 possessions and 27 marks between them to stifle the Hawks forwards who were missing star livewires Cyril Rioli and Paul Puopolo.
The other star of the show were Ben Brown who bagged four first half goals to take the lead in the Coleman Medal race.
He is a legit star of the competition Brown, who gobbles the ball at the highest point and, just as importantly, kicks straight.
Captain Jack Ziebell also enhanced his reputation playing an important forward role early.
The Hawks have had the wood on the Roos in recent times, winning eight of their last 10 contests.
But Ziebell put his stamp on the game early laying six first-term bone-crunching tackles and laying off two laser-like passes to give the Roos the jump start.
It was a sweet victory, too, for Billy Hartung who was delisted by the Hawks but kicked a clever goal across his body in the second term.