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North left to lament a wasted season

Damian Barrett  May 28, 2013 7:30 AM

AFL 2013 Rd 09 - North Melbourne v Adelaide

The Roos were left to rue yet another narrow loss after coughing up a 30-point lead against Adelaide

THE BIGGEST problem for North Melbourne – and there are myriad concerns right now – is that it must live with the damning realisation that a season of football has been wasted.

No matter what happens for North in the remaining 13 matches, the what-ifs, maybes and disappointments associated with the opening nine rounds will suffocate it and continue to play on already-damaged minds.

An ideal world for North after nine rounds would have it sitting equal top of the ladder on 28 premiership points, not 13th with just three wins, one more win than Western Bulldogs and two more than Melbourne.

Read more from Damian Barrett

Without context, one could look at the Roos' one, two, three and four-point losses this year (to Adelaide, West Coast, Hawthorn and Geelong) and come to the conclusion they were unlucky or unfortunate.

But with context, we know that assessment is wrong. The Roos, simply, have thrown away four matches of football because they choked. Not mentally tough enough.

It is a long, long way back for sportspeople whose minds have failed them. Some don't recover.

Almost certainly, coach Brad Scott - who is well aware there were decisions he could have made in those four games which could have changed outcomes - will overcome the choking stigma. His initial toil as a player just to get a place on a club list, then subsequent high-level team and personal success, is proof of a man who has overcome psychological adversity.

But he is almost certainly going to have to change parts of his coaching philosophy.

How the Roos can fix their fast-break woes

North Melbourne doesn't play a style of football in keeping with the way Scott played.

It is ranked 16th for one-percenters, 16th for tackles per match, ninth for contested possessions per game.

Of its six losses, it was beaten in the contested possession count on five occasions.

They are statistics out of alignment with how Scott played. And given those statistics have contributed to a game-plan which this year has proven to fall short in the toughest of contests, the style needs a lot of change.

The stats continue to damn. North has outscored opponents in eight of nine first quarters, but has also been beaten by opponents in six of nine final terms.

There is not enough 'mongrel' at North. In a bid to change the culture at Arden St, North went down a recruiting path where on occasions as much emphasis was placed on a guy's character as his football ability.

There's nothing wrong with that approach, and in adopting it, North has loaded up on footballers who are really good guys with great character.

But premierships are not won by teams which are exclusively comprised of nice young men. Loose, edgy, confrontational men are required, too.

Jack Ziebell is North's on-field 'mongrel' but he requires so much more help on this front. He should even demand of his recruiters and footy staff that in the 2013 trade and draft period that at least a couple of out-and-out ruthless and hardened players are targeted, men who will stand up when the heat in a contest reaches 10.

Maybe Ziebell should be made captain, too.

North has been 'up' for its nine matches of 2013. Even in its biggest loss, to Sydney by 39 points in Round 3, it led at one stage by 20 points.

History says a team will not sustain being 'up' for 22 matches, which means a natural lull is to come at some stage. And without a positive win-loss ratio to fall back on, that lull will doubly hurt.

In a season which is emerging as wide open, North would have been a live chance in the 2013 premiership race had it been able to control the controllables.

That's what Scott and his men must now live with. A season of footy has been lost before it even reaches its halfway point.