NORTH Melbourne is so broken that even after three seasons of horrific results it may not yet be at its lowest point.
Another thumping loss, to Adelaide in Hobart on Sunday, all but guarantees a second consecutive wooden spoon. In the 53 matches since the start of the 2020 season, the Roos have won just eight games: three under Rhyce Shaw's coaching and five (four in 2021, and just one, against the then-listless West Coast in round two, this year) under David Noble.
It is impossible for Noble to publicly project positivity when seemingly every facet of operations is inept. But the reality right now is that there is nothing of substance that is positive.
Those running the club are out of answers, too, evidenced in the hiring of former CEO Geoff Walsh to, beginning on Monday, review the club's dysfunctional operations. Walsh has twice walked out on the Roos, once as CEO and once as the head of the football department. And now he is being paid, again, to walk back in to tell people what he thinks is wrong with the place. Surely there was another person somewhere out there in the football world who could have been assigned this task.
Paul Roos is already being used as a consultant, all the way from the United States. Maybe Walsh's first task could be to assess the impact of that arrangement, which began late in 2020.
Those familiar with my views on North Melbourne will have read many times that the problems with this club began with the disgraceful public handling of the forced retirements of loved players Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo in 2016. It is worth noting that in that season, after North had played in consecutive preliminary finals, the club was 10-1 after the opening 11 rounds.
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Decisions made largely by Ben Buckley and Glenn Archer after that – including the strategy to re-contract coach Brad Scott for three more seasons at the end of 2017 but then effectively sack him (and be forced to pay him) just halfway through that fresh deal, and also the appointment of Shaw (also exited under contract), and then Noble – have taken this club back to the hopeless pre-Ron Barassi era.
And so disastrous had the plight become that Buckley and Archer decided to part ways with the club themselves, leaving Sonja Hood with THE most difficult job on football.
North's best result in its past 10 matches was a 47-point loss; Sunday's was by 57. Roos forwards Nick Larkey and Cam Zurhaar would need to be Jason Dunstall and Brad Johnson to have impact given the way the ball is delivered to them. There is no obvious effective defensive system, apart from letting Aaron Hall play loose, and while his own numbers always look OK, there is no evidence his role actually assists the team. Tristan Xerri and Todd Goldstein always try hard. Paul Curtis is a genuine find. Jy Simpkin deserves a degree of slack to be cut.
The Roos' next match is against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium next Saturday night. More guaranteed pain. It's a weekly occurrence for the Roos.
'Beanpole' brothers keeping flag dreams alive
Of all the established star footballers on the Geelong list, the Cats’ premiership hopes may just rely on a 204cm beanpole with a mere 14 matches behind him.
Of all the reasons to believe Carlton is a live chance in the 2022 flag race, reason No.1 may be the impact of a 203cm beanpole with just 35 games to his name.
Sam De Koning, 21, and older brother Tom De Koning, 23 next month, are two of the most compelling storylines of this intriguing AFL season. They are certainly major points of difference for their respective teams.
Again in round 15, both De Konings played key roles in their teams’ big wins: Sam’s Cats defeating Richmond in one of the matches of the year, and Tom’s Blues grinding out another impressive, under-adversity win against Fremantle.
Both have defied inexperience this year to influence matches in ways that only elite talents are capable of. Both have been taking telling pack marks. Both read the play beautifully. Both understand their roles alongside their teams’ main players.
Crucially, both are being coached by people prepared to back them in, Chris Scott letting Sam play on his exciting instincts against the opposition’s best big forwards, and Michael Voss encouraging Tom to back his extraordinary skillset against the opposition’s best rucks.
It is mesmerising to ponder what these two players may achieve in the next 10 seasons, for they haven’t yet got near their peak years. It is equally transfixing to stay in the now – round 16 next weekend through to 2022 Grand Final day on September 24. Anything is possible with these two part of the mix.