REALLY hope Ben Buckley knows what he's doing.

The North Melbourne chairman sacked Brad Scott as coach after 10 rounds of 2019, and the club committed to paying out the remaining 18 months of that contract. 

THE LADDER Where is your team sitting?

Eleven matches into the ensuing season, the Roos are in an even more dire predicament. 

Sunday night's loss to Melbourne – minus Max Gawn and Jack Viney – was simply embarrassing, arguably the worst any team has dished up in this obviously difficult and trying year. 

North's 57-point deficit could very easily have been 80-plus – again, against a team minus two of its best four players and one which is battling to stay in touch with the top eight. 

Yes, Ben Cunnington is missing. But North's insistence that he play in a round five match, despite barely being able to walk in the warm-up, proved how desperate this club had become to have access to its best player. 

THE FULL INJURY LIST Who is racing the clock?

Yes, Ben Brown was missing against Melbourne. But the club had chosen to axe him for a round nine game against Adelaide, and – despite what you have heard and will hear in the next few weeks – it doesn’t want him part of its future plans anyway. 

And in true North style, where it will second-guess itself the moment it is in the spotlight it craves but doesn’t actually want, that doesn’t mean he won't be on the list in 2021. 

Remember the debacle in list management decisions after the hard decisions were made on Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Michael Firrito in 2016? The rebuild was starting then. Now it might be starting now. 

Have said it before and will say it again, this is actually not new coach Rhyce Shaw’s problem. He has only inherited it. Under Shaw, the Roos are now 10 wins, 13 losses. The seven “dead rubber” wins last year mean nothing, and again that is not directed at Shaw.

This club is in as big a mess as Adelaide.

The ex-skipper that has never led his men better

TRAVIS Boak has been in the AFL system for 14 seasons. His impact on his team has never been more profound than 2020. 

It is testament to him that after 275 matches, two Virgin Australia AFL All-Australian jackets, two Port Adelaide best and fairests and a power of work in making teammates both better players and people that his most telling work is coming in this most extraordinary of AFL years. 

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The 2020 premiership is going to be won by the team with the most resilient players. There are none more resilient nor loyal than Boak. 

There are far younger men at the Power who are helping to influence and shape a very special season for this proud football club. Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters are special, emerging talents. And the man with the most presence on an AFL ground when he is fully fit, Charlie Dixon, is having a massive year. 

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But it is Boak, the club's captain for the six seasons of 2013-18, around whom this premiership campaign is being mounted. 

Against Richmond on Saturday night, Boak was the most assured player on the ground in another 2020 match that deserves to result in Brownlow Medal votes. Don’t assume Lachie Neale has that award at his mercy. Boak is going nearly as nicely. 

In a normal season on an early August Sunday night or Monday morning, a lot of footy attention would be focused on a high-end clash looming the next Friday. But in 2020 there's five matches to be played before then, including an equally intriguing Cats-versus-St Kilda game on Monday night.

ROUNDS 11-13 Check out the full fixture

Regardless, Port Adelaide versus Geelong on Friday will be massive. The ladder leader against a team beautifully positioned for a high-end finals berth, yet again. Boak's team versus the one based in the region in which he was raised, and the one which was so desperate to lure him back that in the 2012 season, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood and coach Chris Scott brazenly flew into Adelaide like gunslingers from a western movie to convince him to do so.

Boak said no, and became Port Adelaide captain the next season. In 2020, two seasons after he chose to stand down as official captain of the Power, he has never led his men better.

Don't write off the Dons

OTHERS seem adamant they're no good, but I'm not yet prepared to write Essendon off in 2020. 

They were very good against GWS on Friday night, might have been unlucky with the free kick paid against Shaun McKernan in the final minutes, and were a player short just minutes in when Jacob Townsend was concussed.

Dyson Heppell, Jake Stringer and Cale Hooker have missed big chunks of this condensed season, as has Orazio Fantasia (although that happens seemingly every season), and Joe Daniher hasn’t been seen – but that's a given these past few years. 

Essendon is 5-4, with the postponed round three match against Melbourne yet to be played. If it can maintain the form of Friday night against the Giants, it can claim to be well poised for its remaining eight matches. 

Dylan Shiel's output was down against the Giants, but he has compiled a solid season, as has Zach Merrett, Andrew McGrath and Jordan Ridley. 

The 2020 wins have been against Collingwood, Sydney, Fremantle, North Melbourne and Adelaide. While it has won two of those games by six points, it has lost another two narrowly – by four points to GWS and one to Carlton. 

Essendon's credentials will now rest on the three matches to be played from Wednesday through to Saturday week – Gold Coast, St Kilda, Richmond.