SIXTEEN consecutive losses, the last eight of 2020, the first eight of 2021. Twenty-two losses from the past 23 games, the only win in that stretch coming against the team that saved it from last year's wooden spoon.
That's the North Melbourne form line, which is entering all-time historic worst lists.
The latest loss came against the team immediately above it on the ladder upon entry to round eight, Collingwood. It was a match which was there to be won, for the Magpies and their coach had been under siege.
That Jordan De Goey, the one player who simply had to be stopped under all circumstances from a Kangaroos' perspective, was allowed to kick six goals was head-shaking.
North's round nine match is the same scenario as round eight – it will be playing the 17th placed team, Hawthorn.
North coach David Noble should abandon, publicly at least, the "process over win" narrative he volunteered before the Collingwood game. I fully understand what Noble was saying and totally grasp the context in which his statement was delivered. And the problems at his club run far deeper than his own coaching.
But an actual win – a result in a game of football that had North Melbourne in front of an opponent at the final siren – would do more for "process" than anything else Noble could teach right now.
There comes a time when even the historically worst teams need to stand up and secure victory. For North Melbourne, that time will arrive at 2.10pm next Saturday at University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston.
Why Bont is No.1... and why the Blues are still battling
Of the 32 disposals Marcus Bontempelli racked up in another best-afield performance on Sunday, the 35m pass in the final quarter on the Marvel Stadium outer wing to Jason Johannisen would not have been the most memorable to many.
But it may just be Exhibit A in the now very strong case that he is the competition's standout and most impactful player.
Degree of difficulty was 10 as he deftly weighted the ball over oncoming opponents and into the arms of Johannisen, who in turn kicked to Aaron Naughton, who in turn booted the goal which regained, after a 27-point deficit, the lead for the Bulldogs against Carlton.
Among so many impressive team bursts, it was arguably the key passage in a dominant final quarter performance for the second-placed Bulldogs, who now face Port Adelaide next Sunday in what will be their next audit of their premiership credentials, having failed the previous one in round seven against Richmond.
As for Carlton, it is always same old, same old. They may have got too comfy with themselves after their win against Essendon in round seven. They became complacent when they surged 27 points against the Dogs. Sure, it was a nice performance against the Bombers, and for three quarters at least, a good one versus the Bulldogs. But the Bombers have won two of eight this season, and by the final siren on Sunday more harm than good had unfolded. Again.
The Blues, despite regular verbal promises of improvement, proved incapable of producing a big result. Despite leading by five goals in the third quarter, they lost by three goals.
It even got a season-best performance out of Eddie Betts, who booted five goals, while Harry McKay kicked four.
At 3-5, Carlton again finds itself in common territory – seemingly out of finals reach before even the halfway point of a season. It has a Sunday match against the unbeaten Demons next.
Test looms for new concussion rules
It was inevitable a loophole would emerge on the AFL's concussion protocols. There's always a loophole with AFL rules.
Collingwood will this week argue that Nathan Murphy and Jordan Roughead, both taken out of Saturday's match against North Melbourne by club medicos for concussion reasons, should not have to serve a mandatory 12-day sideline period.
Pies coach Nathan Buckley said post-match that both players had passed concussion tests, clearly indicating he would like them available for selection against Sydney next Saturday.
This will be a massive test case for the 2021 season. AFL chief medical officer Peter Harcourt will ultimately have the final say on the matter.
If the Pies players are cleared to play, lock it in that such claims will become regular. And a near-certainty in Grand Final week, if a key player is concussed in a preliminary final.
Big Ben's the real deal, and so are the Dees
Couldn't believe the amount of football people prepared to dismiss Ben Brown's importance to an already-rampant Melbourne team, after his body finally allowed him to play with the Demons in round seven.
Sure, he had little impact in that game against North Melbourne, but having not played since round 10 last year, it was of most importance for him and the Demons that he emerged unscathed.
His second game for his new club was much better personally, where he kicked three of his team's 10 goals in a great win against an impressive Sydney. Equally importantly, he beautifully fitted in to a forward-line structure that continues to reinvent itself every week.
Brown was the only player in the AFL to boot 60-plus goals in each of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons, before breaking down last year. The stricken Roos then staggeringly off-loaded him to the Demons.
Brown's new forward line partnership with Tom McDonald will become a key feature of the Demons' now-very-real premiership tilt, which was enhanced greatly with a gritty win on Saturday night.