Brent Harvey was back to his best to inspire North against the Dogs
FOR THE Kangaroos, it didn't matter how they got there, just as long as they did.
North Melbourne's 29-point win over the Western Bulldogs on Sunday won't go down as the most entertaining of Brad Scott's tenure as coach, and few at the game will have rushed home to watch the replay.
But for North, the 12.11 (83) to 8.6 (54) win was the most important thing on the back of their round-one belting at the hands of Essendon. In footy speak, it was more about getting the job done than doing a good job of it. Five talking points: Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne
The sides traded goals in the last term but it was ultimately a brilliant second half from veteran Brent Harvey that dragged North across the line.
The 35-year-old, in his 364th game, had 14 disposals in the second half (for a total of 24) and two of his three goals came in the final term, proving the Roos still rely on him in his 19th season at the club.
Harvey wasn't the Roos' only key contributor, but he was their most important player. Recruit Nick Dal Santo offered some class with 32 disposals, Scott Thompson was sturdy in defence and Shaun Atley gave drive through the middle.
Harvey's opposing veteran, Robert Murphy, was excellent for the Bulldogs with 25 disposals, while livewire forward Luke Dahlhaus offered plenty of energy in attack with 25 touches and a goal. Defender Liam Picken also nullified Lindsay Thomas' influence while gathering 25 disposals himself.
However, it was not a game tailor-made for individual highlights, with both sides determined to make it an inch-by-inch battle from the opening bounce.
Only four goals in total were kicked in the first half. Instead of run there were rolling mauls, carry was replaced by congestion, and scoring was bumped to the side in favour of swarms all over the ground.
"I don't think the first half is going to make any highlight reels, but we've played games in the last few years where we've kicked over 120 points and looked fantastic, and lost," North coach Brad Scott said.
"This feeling feels a lot better, I can guarantee you. As a side we needed to grind it out."
"They hung in there for longer than us and stuck at it," McCartney said.
"They've been through a lot of games like this themselves the last 18-24 months that we've all watched and that they've talked about incessantly, and they hung in there a bit better than us."
Things changed after half-time, and for the better.
After a classy finish from Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen moments into the third term, North got a roll on with three quick goals in succession.
Late inclusion Daniel Currie converted a set shot, Daniel Wells ran into goal and eased it through and stand-in skipper Drew Petrie goaled after marking strongly.
By the last change, the Roos had extended their lead to 10 points, thanks mainly to a shift in approach. The attack was back, Aaron Mullett ran down the wing, Dal Santo was composed with the ball, and Harvey did what he always does: run, give some burst, and hit the scoreboard.
North had signalled its intention pre-game to stretch the Dogs' defence by including Currie for his long-awaited debut, and he offered some support to fellow key forward options Petrie and Aaron Black.
But the Bulldogs' smaller defence battled hard, and 186cm Easton Wood, deployed as a key defender, fought well despite being undersized.
The fight was everywhere, occasionally complemented with a lick of class. When Jack Macrae spun onto his left foot and snapped a goal less than a minute into the last term, the Bulldogs were within four points.
Goals went back and forth but it was Harvey who had the biggest say on the result, again showing that where there's no space on a tight, crowded field, he will find some.
Twitter: @AFL_CalTwomeyNorth debutant Daniel Currie celebrates his first goal with Brent Harvey. Picture: AFL Media
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.3 2.3 5.4 8.6 (54)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.2 2.5 6.8 12.11 (83)
Western Bulldogs: Cooney, Jones, Griffen, Stringer, Dahlhaus, Stevens, Crameri, Macrae
North Melbourne: Harvey 3, Petrie 2, McKenzie, Currie, Wells, Greenwood, Ziebell, Black, Adams
Western Bulldogs: Murphy, Dahlhaus, Macrae, Stevens, Cooney, Picken
North Melbourne: Harvey, Thompson, Dal Santo, Gibson, Atley, Hansen
Western Bulldogs: Liberatore (corked thigh)
North Melbourne: Ziebell (shoulder), Hansen (sore), Black (sore), Grima (ill)
Western Bulldogs: Jake Stringer replaced by Daniel Giansiracusa in the fourth quarter
North Melbourne: Nathan Grima replaced by Levi Greenwood in the fourth quarter
Umpires: Margetts, Nicholls, Hosking
Official crowd: 28,512 at Etihad Stadium