Main content

Belief, and some tough football, is the Shaw way to success

Rhyce Shaw enjoys his debut win with the North Melbourne players after the game - AFL,North Melbourne Kangaroos,Rhyce Shaw,Tag-Analysis
Rhyce Shaw enjoys his debut win with the North Melbourne players after the game

EVERYTHING North Melbourne's winning caretaker coach Rhyce Shaw did this week was hyper-analysed, from the time he told reporters he wasn't Brad Scott.

"So what will you do differently, Rhyce?"

Shaw played a straight bat to that question on Tuesday at his public introduction as the Kangaroos' new coach, but he did confirm what we pretty much knew from his 237-game playing career.

ROOS ROUGH UP TAME TIGERS Full match coverage and stats

"I'm a little bit different and I'm a little bit quirky at times, but that's just the way it is," he said.

The interviews kept coming, including two of them on match day: a Roaming Brian-style chat in the Marvel Stadium carpark with Channel 7, then a more revealing on-field one with Fox Footy.

With the spotlight on Shaw like rarely before – possibly not since his 'Rat Pack' days, and in a carpark for God's sake – he stayed as calm as ever, through multiple security checks and flanked by two interviewers.

It was the type of performance where you wanted to reach into the TV and check his pulse, something we never had to do with the heart-on-his-sleeve Scott.

(We discovered at Shaw's post-match press conference that he went for a 15-minute run at the club before the game, because his nerves were getting the better of him)

Rhyce Shaw looked comfortable with the pressure through Friday night's game. Picture: AFL Photos

Watching Shaw throughout the night was more of the same, as he nonchalantly munched on lollies from a Gatorade cup, politely clapped goals and offered the odd sly grin.

On Fox, Shaw was, perhaps, more forthcoming on what he plans to do.

He wants young guns Luke Davies-Uniacke and Jy Simpkin in the middle more (they combined for 41 disposals), he's emphasised defence this week, and (paraphrasing) he believes the Roos were too handball happy.

 

The Roos had 197 kicks to 159 handballs on Friday night, contrasting with their season averages up to round 10 of 206 to 188, respectively.

However, much of this analysis is only what we see on the surface.

WATCH Big Ben's big night out inspires Roos

Somewhat lost externally among the strangest of weeks at Arden St was that North had a game to play against Richmond, the 2017 premier and a top-four team this year.

Our heads swiveled from side to side as the players moved into position before the opening siren, desperate to spot something that would define Shaw's impact.

Instead, we were treated to a first quarter of evidence that became a four-term portfolio, even as Richmond briefly snatched the lead before half-time.

The physicality was what first struck us.

Kayne Turner set the tone with a pair of early tackles, including chasing down Bachar Houli as he tried to clear the ball from defence.

The torch was quickly passed onto the one-man wrecking ball that is Cameron Zurhaar, who laid five crunching tackles to the first break and 10 in total.

Jed Anderson, as he does, crashed into anyone in sight, while fend-off king Ben Cunnington was simply magnificent in the contest and an inspired Simpkin wasn't far behind.

 

The tone was set for the night, with Shaw labelling his troops' tackling pressure as "elite", then the rest of the performance thrived from there.

The Roos kicked eight unanswered goals at one stage in the second half and comfortably won the contest by 37 points, yet still out-tackled the Tigers, 72-55.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick remarked that his men were "manhandled".

North visibly worked over Tigers power forward Tom Lynch with that aggression, along with repeated verbal barbs – something Shaw didn't shy away from afterwards.

WHO MAKES FINALS? Do the 2019 Ladder Predictor

"We went in with the mindset that we wanted to attack our opponents. That's what we're about," Shaw said.

"We're a physical football team and we've got physical players … and I wanted to encourage that in those players."

The mid-week tributes boiled down to Shaw's strong relationship with his players, whether at his previous stop at Sydney or in his seven months at the Roos.

It's too simplistic to suggest that was what sparked a proud Kangaroos group that's been underwhelming in season 2019 and had just watched the club's coach of almost a decade depart.

WATCH Rhyce Shaw's full post-match media conference

There were so many factors at play here, but Shaw's elevation to caretaker coach has coincided with a wave of optimism.

One of his first public messages to his players on Tuesday was this: "I don't think there's too much to do, to be honest. I think we've been playing some really good footy."

In effect, Shaw believed in them, as well as adding they were his No.1 priority.

He followed up by describing as "special" their effort to win last week against the Western Bulldogs – knowing it was Scott's last match in charge – then to back it up with an even better performance.

We can't see or hear what Shaw is saying behind the scenes, but his ability to galvanise through his messaging so far is striking.

The 37-year-old has repeated the line that his 25-year-old self never expected to be in this position, but he is quite clearly a clever operator and ready for the responsibility despite how it's come.

There will be tougher days and nights than this ahead to challenge Shaw, but as a first-up audition this was extremely impressive.

And he just keeps saying the right things.

"I couldn't be more proud of the playing group and the footy club," Shaw told us.

"Even though I've been here seven months, I feel as though I'm embedded in this place now and I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can do from here."

Find AFL Exchange on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.