RHYCE Shaw's big gamble paid off, and in a big way.
On a six-game losing streak, facing the winless bottom-of-the-ladder Adelaide, the North Melbourne coach pulled a selection shock when he dropped star pair Ben Brown and Jared Polec.
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In a game the under-pressure Roos couldn't afford to lose, it was a brave call. But it worked.
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North snapped its run of losses with a 69-point rout of the Crows at Metricon Stadium that gave Majak Daw the perfect return in his first AFL game in almost two years.
Shaw's men were dominant from the start, jumping to a 23-point lead at the first change. The Crows steadied in the second term but conceded three late goals before half-time to fall 34 points in arrears.
North's 19.5 (119) to 7.8 (50) win was the highest score by any side this season and bettered the Roos' previous highest total by more than five goals, underlining the gap between the sides.
The dominance was field-wide as Jed Anderson (28 disposals, eight clearances, eight tackles, one goal), Trent Dumont (24) and Aaron Hall (20 disposals, two goals) took advantage of a depleted Adelaide midfield and Luke McDonald (34) mopped up everything across half-back to provide plenty of rebound.
Ruckman Todd Goldstein was again instrumental, while the Roos' mix of options in attack – they had seven multiple goalkickers – should also serve as a confidence booster as Cam Zurhaar led the way with three majors.
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The Crows' potency was non-existent after the later withdrawal of veteran spearhead Taylor Walker through illness, with mature-age small forward Shane McAdam (2.2) creating some chances.
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All eyes were on Kangaroos big man Majak Daw as he played his first AFL game in more than 700 days after his fall in 2018. The athletic option started in attack but got more involved in the game in the second term when pinch-hitting in the ruck and floating into defence for some intercept marks. He had a long shot at goal before half-time but his kick sailed wide, however his efforts in creating marking contests also provided some opportunities for North's ground-level forwards. Daw got another chance at goal early in the last quarter and didn't squander it, slotting his shot and being mobbed by teammates.
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The Crows' woes continued against the Kangaroos and extended their streak to 12 games, including all nine this year. It is hard to see when their breakthrough victory of this season – and first under coach Matthew Nicks – will come. Their previous two games against St Kilda and Essendon had shown promise, but they were hammered by North who have had their own struggles and are without key midfielders Brad Crouch (hamstring) and Rory Sloane (hand) for at least a few more games. They face Melbourne on Wednesday, then Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs over the next two weeks.
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North Melbourne's Luke McDonald had some pre-game injury concerns, with the tagger having to prove his fitness due to a knee niggle. But after being given the all-clear McDonald went on to have one of the best days of his career, gathering an equal career-high 34 disposals and having full control from half-back. McDonald has done some brilliant run-with jobs this season and shutdown some of the game's best midfielders, but without that responsibility against the Crows he was among the best afield in a dominant display.
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.1 9.1 12.2 19.5 (119)
ADELAIDE 0.2 3.3 6.7 7.8 (50)
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 3, Davies-Uniacke 2, Hall 2, Higgins 2, Larkey 2, Mahony 2, Pittard 2, Anderson, Daw, Macmillan, Simpkin
Adelaide: McAdam 2, Atkins, Himmelberg, Laird, Murphy, Seedsman
North Melbourne: Anderson, Goldstein, McDonald, Dumont, Davies-Uniacke
Adelaide: Laird, Lynch, Seedsman, Crouch, McAdam
North Melbourne: Larkey (ankle), Taylor (left leg)
Adelaide: Walker (illness) replaced in selected side by Strachan