IF NORTH Melbourne wants to compete in big games against quality opposition, it needs to find a way to soak up pressure and return fire.
That's the view of Kangaroos' coach Brad Scott after his team lost to Collingwood by 35 points in what he described as a "poor performance".
Although he was not critical of the effort, he said his team's skill execution was not up to the standard required to beat the Magpies and demonstrated an inability to handle pressure.
"We were certainly on the back foot with the way we succumbed to their pressure early and couldn't respond," Scott said.
"We will be working on soaking up the pressure the opposition provides."
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Three turnovers in the first quarter must have put Scott's thick crop of black hair in danger of going grey.
Midfielder Daniel Wells was the first offender, allowing Tyson Goldsack to run him down as he sailed out of the defensive 50.
Soon after, defender Nathan Grima centred the ball and hit Scott Pendlebury on the chest. Pendlebury waddled forward and kicked a goal.
Then Luke McDonald, in just his fifth game, thought he had until Easter Sunday to kick the ball but the resultant tackle and smother led to another Collingwood score.
Scott did not mention any of the incidents specifically but it would not have taken Einstein to work out where his comments were directed.
"We were reluctant to go forward," Scott said. "We had players who had options going forward and we just held onto the footy and got tackled and then turned it over and got scored against going the other way."
Scott admitted North Melbourne's midfielders were outworked.
That, he said, led to Magpies Steele Sidebottom, Alex Fasolo and Heritier Lumumba being able to find space and hurt the Kangaroos on the rebound.
If North's midfielders held up their end of the bargain, then the ability of Collingwood's runners to find space would have diminished.
Scott allowed himself a wry grin when he noted that Collingwood's key forward Travis Cloke doubled, in one game, his tally of contested marks for the season after he took five for the match and kicked four goals in the first half.
To make matters worse, Cloke's opponent Scott Thompson was reported after hitting Cloke hard in the bread-basket during a marking contest.
The full-back, who has started the season in great form, looks likely to have a case to answer although his coach said he was just doing what defenders have done for more than a century.
"Scotty [Thompson] is an old school defender, brought up under the 'make them earn it' attitude. You'd be shattered if he got a week for that, wouldn't you?" Scott said.
With three wins and two losses – after playing at least four opponents likely to be around the mark at the end of the season – the Kangaroos are tracking just below par.
And Fremantle at Paterson's Stadium awaits.
"The effort is there, but we didn't perform well and we were outplayed," Scott said.