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Demonland

NORTHERN EXPOSURE by Whispering Jack

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If the late Jack Dyer were to describe the North Melbourne of 2017 he would no doubt call it "a good ordinary side". The Kangaroos started the season by losing the first five games on the trot before striking a purple patch during which they won four out of five (including a 10 goal thrashing of the Crows at Blundstone Arena and a hard fought 14 point victory over the Demons at the MCG). They then went on a downhill slide with a losing streak that now stands at seven games and sees them sitting equal last on the ladder, ahead only on percentage over the Brisbane Lions.

A very ordinary record indeed, although Captain Blood would have seen some good in it because the Roos have lost five of their games by less than a goal. They are now embarking on what can been seen as a rebuilding process, dropping or resting some of their stars and bringing in youth. The cynics among us might call this "tanking".

Melbourne, on the other hand, has been better than ordinary even if somewhat inconsistent so far this season. Part of the reason for the inconsistency has been put down to injuries and suspensions which have at times cut huge holes in the makeup of the team but, as we saw last week against Port Adelaide, when the A team is on the park it can compete with any other in the AFL.

Which brings us to the Demons' own losing streak of 16 straight games against the Kangaroos that stretches all of the way back to 2006 when a young Nathan Jones was just finding his way in the game. North has been good over most of that time and I would suggest that those wins were not really due to some magical advantage over Melbourne. Hoodoos and losing streaks only reflect this club's woeful standing over the past decade - it lost more often than not because it had inferior teams. As we've seen over the course of this season, that is no longer the case. Melbourne is on course for September action while North Melbourne is heading in the opposite direction.

The Kangaroos won their first ten matches last year including an early one where they eventually fell in against Melbourne at Blundstone Arena. They barely hung on to make the finals from which they made a quick exit. In 2017 they have been exposed like the emperor and his non-existent new clothes. Their cupboard is bare and I expect the Demons will also expose the so-called North Melbourne "hoodoo" this week in the same vein as the Hans Christian Anderson fable taught us that sometimes the things people believe in are nothing more than a myth.

THE GAME Melbourne v North Melbourne on Saturday 29 July, 2017 at Blundstone Arena at 1.45pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall North Melbourne 80 wins, Melbourne 83 wins 1 draw

At Blundstone Arena North Melbourne 1 win, Melbourne 0 wins

Last five times North Melbourne 5 wins, Melbourne 0 wins

The Coaches Scott 1 win, Goodwin 0 wins 

MEDIA

TV - Fox Footy Channel live at 1.45pm

RADIO - TBA

THE BETTING  

North Melbourne to win $2.85, Melbourne to win $1.43

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

North Melbourne 15.14.104 defeated Melbourne  13.12.90 at the MCG in Round 9 2017

The Demons started slowly and were 26 points down at the first break before closing to within two points at half time. North controlled the third term but Melbourne's again fought back to narrow the margin to two points midway through the last quarter before North kicked away. Todd Goldstein set up the win dominating the rucks with 61 hit outs.

THE TEAMS

NORTH MELBOURNE

B: Sam Durdin, Robbie Tarrant, Daniel Nielson 
HB: Aaron Mullett, Scott D. Thompson, Luke McDonald 
C: Shaun Atley, Sam Gibson, Ryan Clarke 
HF: Nathan Hrovat, Jarrad Waite, Majak Daw 
F: Shaun Higgins, Ben Brown, Taylor Garner 
FOLL: Braydon Preuss, Jack Ziebell, Ben Cunnington 
I/C: Trent Dumont, Declan Mountford, Jy Simpkin, Andrew Swallow  
EMG: Jed Anderson, Josh Williams,  Cameron Zurhaar 
 
IN: Braydon Preuss, Robbie Tarrant, Jack Ziebell 
 
OUT: Nick Larkey (knee), Josh Williams (omitted), Cameron Zurhaar (omitted) 
 
MELBOURNE
 
B: Jayden Hunt, Oscar McDonald, Neville Jetta 
HB: Christian Salem, Sam Frost, Michael Hibberd 
C: Jack Trengove, Jordan Lewis, Clayton Oliver 
HF: Christian Petracca, Jesse Hogan, Alex Neal-Bullen 
F: Jeff Garlett, Tom McDonald, Jack Watts 
FOLL: Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Mitch Hannan 
I/C: James Harmes, Jay Kennedy-Harris, 
Jake Melksham, Dom Tyson  
EMG: Corey Maynard, Cameron Pedersen,  Josh Wagner 
 
There's a certain amount of irony surrounding inferences of tanking raised about Melbourne's opponent for this week's clash in Hobart. No sooner had the Roos made their decision to drop former All Australian ruckman Todd Goldstein and rest skipper Jack Ziebell for last week's Essendon clash, than some segments of the media started raising eyebrows and when Robbie Tarrant was a late withdrawal, that was sufficient evidence for the commentariat that a conspiracy was on foot with the aim of securing soon to be out of contract GWS midfielder Josh Kelly. 
 
That sort of thinking is all too common in AFL circles and while it fills newspaper space and time on radio and television, it doesn't reflect reality. It dismisses the fact that North made a good fist of things and in fact led the Bombers until deep into the third quarter before the young side ran out of steam late in the game and it denies the club the right to blood young players late in a season when all hopes of playing finals have gone.
 
The Kangaroos have dominated the Demons for over a decade and they will be jealously guarding their record, particularly in front of the people of Hobart who they dearly want to bring into their fold. For this game, they have brought back Ziebell and  Tarrant along with ruckman Braydon Preuss who many at North consider a better ruckman than Goldstein. Three youngsters go out of the side and the changes automatically give the "home" side a much better look.
 
With the weather likely to be a factor (showers are predicted), anyone who really thinks that North are tanking has another thing coming - this week looms as a real danger game. Melbourne did fade last week after its opening blitz saw it go to a 44 point lead late in the second quarter and with four players returning from injury, this might be understandable 
 
The Roos will be coming into the game with the mindset that they can beat the Demons having prevailed earlier in the year on the MCG when despite losing the disposal count, clearances and contested possessions, they managed to prevail. However, back then they had Goldstein winning in the ruck and key forwards Ben Brown and Mason Wood booting eight goals between them. On Saturday, Goldstein and Wood will not be on the field and the cynics might also add that North is unlikely to be the beneficiary of a free kick count like the 22-10 that gave them the advantage of almost an extra player.
 
Earlier this season they had a big victory over Adelaide when the windy conditions played havoc with the game at Blundstone Arena but they have also lost this year at the venue where they once reigned supreme with eight consecutive victories from 2013-16. 
 
The end of another winning run is now on the cards against the Demons who have been strong in the clearances and contested-possession rankings all season and, with so much at stake, I expect their long running series of losses to become yet another part of history for the club on Saturday night.
 
Melbourne by 25 points.

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