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Club Legend
Mar 17, 2002
AFL Club
North Melbourne

ROUND 1 Essendon Town

North began the season with a comfortable win. These two sides had been involved in controversy the previous season when they played a draw, after a goal kicked by North was disallowed by the field umpire because he didn’t see the North player kick it even though the goal umpire signaled a goal.North protested and Essendon Town retaliated by complaining of two North players for striking.
This season, however, the Dreadnoughts had lost three good players from 1902 and were destined not to win a match in 1903. They did not score a goal until the last quarter due to selfish play on their forward line. North were far better organised, their better players being Stewart, the Noonan brothers, Carlton, Graham and Considine. A new player for Essendon Town was Bill Busbridge, who would be taken by the VFL’s Essendon next year and become a star.

North Melbourne 10.8-68 Essendon Town 2.5-17

ROUND 2 Footscray

A railway workers strike made it difficult for North fans to get to the Footscray ground. They used every means of transportation they could find. Footscray residents could not get to town so had nowhere else to go but the football, so the match was well attended. North won a good match by 15 points. Their handball, marking and kicking were superior. Trailing by 16 points in the last term, Footscray scored a goal and had a chance to get a second to make the difference 4 points. But instead of having a set shot, the Footscray player attempted to pass to a teammate who was on a better angle. The ball was intercepted by North and swept to the other end where they scored a goal. The local sports writer for The Independent (Footscray) said North played the most systematic game he had seen since Footscray were premiers (1900). Best for North were Stewart, Martin, P & D Noonan, Considine, Graham and Kennedy.

North Melbourne 7.4-46 d Footscray 4.7-31

ROUND 3 West Melbourne

The only two undefeated teams met at the Arden St ground they shared. Flamboyant player Mick Londerigan came into the side for the first time this year. It was a close match with the scores level until well into the last quarter. Then with fifteen minutes to go North scored three quick goals for a match winning lead. North admitted after the match they had received a shaking up and attributed their flurry of goals at the end to the staying power shown by some half dozen of their players. Best were Considine (four goals), Jamieson, D.Noonan, Stewart, Martin, Graham and P.Noonan.

North Melbourne 10.9-69 d West Melbourne 7.6-48

ROUND 4 Brunswick

Hector Milne, who had earlier sought a clearance to South Melbourne, came into the side as well as a new player, Hynes. North had a rather easy win, and had they kicked straight it would have been a massacre. Brunswick failed to score until the start of the last quarter. P.Noonan and Graham were easily North’s best; also Considine, Kennedy, Londerigan, D. Noonan, Barnes and Jamieson. North followed Richmond’s custom of awarding three prizes for unselfish football.

North Melbourne 5.13-43 d Brunswick 1.0-6

ROUND 5 Williamstown

North suffered their first setback when they played a draw at Williamstown. In an exciting game, the home side shocked North in the first quarter to lead by 13 points. Then North clawed their way back and scores were level at three quarter time. Early in the last quarter each side scored a goal, then Williamstown got a point and strove hard to keep the lead. Just in time North got in a shot that was close to being a goal but just missed. Two members of parliament attended the match, one being the North president. Best players for North were D. Noonan, Barnes, Londerigan, Kennedy, Carlton, Graham, Morrison and P. Noonan.

North Melbourne 6.9-45 drew Williamstown 6.9-45

ROUND 6 – Preston

North and a trainload of their fans traveled to the ground of the newly admitted Preston team and had another excitingly close game. After an even first half, North got the upper hand in the third quarter when, kicking against the wind, they scored a goal and kept Preston goalless to lead by nine points at the last change. But Preston came back in the last quarter, twice leveling the scores before North, by sheer force and desperation kicked two quick goals to win by that margin. Best for North were Londerigan, the Noonans, Kennedy, Milne, Morrison, Graham and Carlton.
North Melbourne 7.10-52 d Preston 5.10-40

After six rounds North headed the table:




Club Legend
Mar 17, 2002
AFL Club
North Melbourne
1903 (Cont)

ROUND 7--Prahran.

Michael O’Brien made his debut in this match as North had an unexpectedly difficult time disposing of lowly Prahran. Goals were scarce, only five being scored in total. North missed several shots but finally prevailed. Carlton, Stewart, Londerigan, P.Noonan and O’Brien were North’s best.

North Melbourne 3.12-30 D Prahran 2.7-19

ROUND 8—Port Melbourne

North had a very easy win over Port, who had only two players from the previous season and thus lacked experience. Port did not score in the first half and did not kick a goal until the last quarter. North tried two new players in Armstrong and McIntyre. Armstrong got two goals and would keep his place for a few weeks. McIntyre never played again. North had many good players including Londerigan, who was learning to use his head and thus enhancing the value of his flamboyant play, P.Noonan, Kennedy (4 goals), English (3 goals), Considine, Martin, Stewart, Barnes and Milne.

North Melbourne 12.11-83 d Port Melbourne 2.3-15

ROUND 9 --Richmond

This match was eagerly awaited by fans and a huge crowd of around 10,000—believed to be a record—turned out at the Richmond ground. The day began badly for North when Londerigan, who had been selected in the team, failed to appear. He would be missed. The match was an exciting one with Richmond, having the aid of the wind in the first quarter, taking an early lead although North missed three relatively easy shots. It was Richmond’s long kicking and high marking against North’s clever hand passing and short kicking. North fought back in the second quarter to draw within two points. North were playing the more skillful game and looked like they could win. Their was plenty of vigor in the game and North’s captain D. Noonan lost his temper in this quarter. In the third quarter, O’Brien kicked a goal to give North the lead but Richmond quickly reclaimed it. Then Milne was felled, accidentally kicked, and had to leave the ground. Playing a man short, North became disorganised, and Richmond put on two more goals to lead by 14 points at the last change. In the final quarter, Milne unwisely came back on but scored a behind. The Richmond full-back delayed the kick-in for so long that the umpire took the ball off him and bounced it in the goal square and Martin goaled from the scrimmage. Another rushed behind reduced the difference to one straight kick. But the heavy ground had taken its toll and play became congested, which suited the bigger Richmond players, and they scored another goal to seal victory by 12 points.

Better players for North were P.Noonan, Graham, Considine, Jamieson D.Noonan (despite his rough play), Carlton and O’Brien.

Richmond 8.6-54 d North Melbourne 5.12-42

The loss cost North top position. They fell to second place half a game behind Richmond and half a game ahead of Footscray. To make matters worse, Richmond lodged a complaint to the VFA about North’s captain Danny Noonan claiming he had struck one of their players. There was no tribunal as such and the matter was not heard until the VFA’s next meeting on 10 July. Noonan admitted striking Rudd, the Richmond player, but only because Rudd had struck him. The committee recommended both players be disqualified until 10 October, effectively ending their season. At a subsequent special meeting on 24 July, Rudd was disqualified for the same term for kicking Noonan. Paddy Noonan took over the captaincy from his brother for the rest of the season.

Londerigan, in the meantime, faced the North committee four days after the match for his unexplained absence. There were discreditable rumors in connection with the absence. One newspaper source reported that he was at Arden St watching the West Melbourne-Preston match. The committee recommended to the match committee that he not be selected again unless instructed by them. This would only last for one week.

ROUND 10—Essendon Town

North brought in W.Dalton, a former Fitzroy player and Henry Crisfield, Boer War veteran and former Carlton player, for their first games. They had a relatively easy win, although their kicking left a lot to be desired, scoring 0.7 in the second quarter. But Essendon scored only 0.2 after half-time, although their final score of 2.4 was their highest for some weeks. Jamieson, Carlton, P.Noonan, Stewart, Dalton and Armstrong were North’s best. Crisfield, in what would be his only match for North, kicked four goals.

North Melbourne 8.16-64 d Essendon Town 2.4-16

ROUND 11—Footscray

The club and its fans were extremely confident of winning this home game with Morrison, Milne and Londerigan back in the side. But they were soon in for a rude shock, as Footscray got off to a good start and virtually won the game in the first quarter when they kept North scoreless. The systematic play North depended on was broken down by Footscray playing close and spoiling their passing. Only in the final quarter did North rally, but the lead was too great. Some in the crowd took the defeat very badly, and some of the Footscay players were “hustled” as they left the ground. Although the papers reported that umpire O’Loughlin was escorted off the ground by police, he wrote to North secretary Woodham saying he in fact left the ground with four North players and was not molested and thanked the club for their manly conduct.
As a result of the defeat, North slipped to third on the table, six points behind Richmond and two behind Footscray.

Footscray 8.11-59 d North Melbourne 6.3-39

ROUND 12—West Melbourne

Without D.Noonan, Londerigan, Milne and Martin, North defeated their co-tenants by 22 points. West made the mistake of playing to the wrong wing when they had the wind in the first quarter so that despite keeping North scoreless, they only scored two behinds themselves. By contrast, North kicked four goals straight in the second quarter, and after that each side scored two more goals each. Paddy Noonan was best on the ground. Other good players were Barnes, Jamieson, Boyle, Carlton, Considine, Bretherton, Dalton, Stewart, O’Brien and Armstrong. The win allowed North to reclaim second place owing to Footscray’s loss to Richmond.

North Melbourne 6.3-39 d West Melbourne 2.5-17


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Club Legend
Mar 17, 2002
AFL Club
North Melbourne
1903 (cont.)

ROUND 13--Brunswick

After a close first half, North broke away with a 5.3 to to 0.1 third quarter.Brunswick closed the gap slightly in the last quarter but never looked like winning. North had far more system and was always slightly the better side. Paddy Noonan was once again best on the ground, with assistance from Graham, Stewart, Considine, Morrison, Dalton, Bretherton, Boyle and C. Smith.

North Melbourne 10.9-69 d Brunswick 6.5-41

ROUND 14—Williamstown

In one of the fastest matches of the year, North’s coolness and the precision with which they played to each other stood out. But their first half shooting for goal was astray so that their half-time score was 1.14, including four posters, to Williamstown’s 4.1. In the second half, however, this was rectified and North ran out easy winners. Williamstown declared that North’s play was the finest they had seen all season. Paddy Noonan was best once again. Other good players were Morrison, O’Brien (3 goals), Boyle, Bretherton, Dalton, Jamieson and Smith. Londerigan reverted to his bad habit of running too far with the ball, under the impression that no one could catch him, and thus was not effective.

North Melbourne 9.18-72 d Williamstown 6.7-43

ROUND 15—Preston

North tried three more new players in McCann, Whelan (juniors) and Bufford from Rutherglen. McCann showed promise, kicking three goals, and would keep his place in the team for the rest of the season. Preston had some good players in their side, but were outclassed by North on the day. Best for North were P.Noonan, Stewart, Whelan, McCann, McDermott, Graham, Morrison, Considine and Smith.

North Melbourne 12.12-84 d Preston 2.8-20

ROUND 16—Prahran

North, resting some of their players, arrived at Toorak Park a man short, so Secretary Alf Woodham was pressed into service. There was a strong wind blowing and Prahran, having first use of it, led at quarter time. After that however it was all North. So dominant were they that they abandoned their usual exchange system and started playing as individuals—great to look at when a side can afford to take risks. Even Woodham managed to score a goal.Best players were Londerigan, Boyle, Noonan, Carlton and Considine (five goals). Footscray unexpectedly lost to West Melbourne, putting North six points clear in second place.

North Melbourne 11.20-86 d Prahran 4.8-32

ROUND 17—Port Melbourne

North went to Port Melbourne expecting an easy victory, but Port’s dash and determination astonished North and, had they been more accurate, North would have been in trouble. But the kicking of both teams was abyssmal. North, with the wind in the first quarter, scored 3.4 while Port couldn’t cross the centre. It was North’s turn to be scoreless in the second quarter, but Port only managed 1.9. Only a total of three more goals were scored for the match, North being slightly more accurate. Both sides used weight rather than skill, and the umpire was somewhat lax in controlling the players.
The “Argus” writer said it was no coincidence that both matches that round involving the two leading teams (Richmond and North) were unpleasant, and he had heard that “amusement seekers” who didn’t usually go to the football, would be going to next week’s clash between these two to see a free fight. Best for North were McDermott, Boyle, Carlton, Londerigan, Graham, Considine, Bretherton and Noonan.

North Melbourne 5.12-42 d Port Melbourne 2.16-28
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Club Legend
Mar 17, 2002
AFL Club
North Melbourne
1903 (Cont)

ROUND 18—Richmond

The last home and away match of the season—a rematch with Richmond –was eagerly looked forward to. The Arden St surface was rolled especially for the match. Both sides were at near full strength, North missing Milne and Barnes. A large crowd attended, a few hundred getting in without paying by rushing the Macauley Rd gate. A strong wind favoured the northern goal, and Richmond had first use of it. But they managed only 1.6 including three posters. They also lost one of their ruckmen. After a scoreless first quarter, North kicked 3.2 with the wind to lead by eight points at half-time. Kennedy, one of North’s best defenders in the first quarter, was moved forward by Noonan and kicked two goals. In the third quarter, North took charge by scoring 2.1 to 1.1 against the wind, the only score at that end of the ground. Richmond also lost another player to injury. North scored two more goals in the last quarter while Richmond were scoreless.

The defences of both teams played well, constantly defending their goals when the wind was against them. Best North players were Stewart, Kennedy, McDermott, Carlton, Whelan, Considine, Morrison and Noonan. Sports writers of “The Age” and “The Argus” were scathing in their critism of Londerigan, saying he always lost the ball by trying to be too clever, falling into old habits and thus no help to the team when he could be the best player in the State if he chose. English was also mentioned for his playing the man instead of the ball, but besides him, the game was played hard but fair, contrary to expectations

North Melbourne 7.4-46 d Richmond 2.7-19

North finished the home and away matches in second place, half a game behind Richmond. In years past Richmond would have been declared premier. But this year, for the first time, the VFA decided to follow the VFL’s example and have a finals series. There would be two semi-finals—1st v 3rd and 2nd v 4th. The two winners would then play each other in a final for the premiership. However, if the team that had finished on top was beaten in a semi-final or the final, they could challenge the winner of the final to a grand final.

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Club Legend
Mar 17, 2002
AFL Club
North Melbourne
1903 (Concluded)

SEMI FINAL—West Melbourne

The two sides met at the neutral venue of Port Melbourne before a relatively small crowd as it was thought that North would win. This proved to be the case. With Martin and Armstrong back along with a new man, O’Meara, North put in an all round performance to eventually win easily. West could not make use of the strong breeze in the first quarter, and in fact did not score until the third quarter. Only then did they show any glimpse of form when they scored three goals.But North ran away in the last quarter with five goals to one. Londerigan answered his critics with a best on ground performance. Others to excel were Stewart and Bretherton on the wings, Kennedy, Boyle, Carlton, Jamieson, Morrison, Considine and Noonan.

North Melbourne 9.10-64 d West Melbourne 4.4-28


Footscray had defeated Richmond in the other semi-final and so were North’s opponents in the final. The match was set to be played at the East Melbourne ground. North received a setback when their captain Paddy Noonan could not play due to a death in the family. Dalton was omitted and Barnes and Smith came in. Morrison took charge of the team.
Footscray had the use of a strong wind in the first quarter and scored 3.4 to nil. North wiped off the deficit in the second quarter and led by eight points at half-time. Londerigan sustained a head injury in this quarter but was able to play on. In the third quarter, the wind changed direction and North kicked the only goal of the quarter. Then the wind dropped and it was a fierce, even struggle as North led by fifteen at the last change. Footscray started the last quarter with a goal and a behind to narrow the gap to eight points. Then a set shot for goal by Footscray hit the post, and North took the ball to the other end and scored a goal to seal the match.
High marking was a feature of both sides, and the play became quite “willing” but not spiteful. Players went in hard and some hard bumps were given and taken. Londerigan was again best on the ground, making some brilliant runs, although at times running too far. Other good players for North were Boyle, Stewart, Carlton, Considine, Bretherton, Morrison and Kennedy.

North Melbourne 7.11-53 d Footscray 4.9-33

North now readied themselves to face Richmond in a Grand Final at the East Melbourne ground.


With the VFL season completed the previous Saturday, a large crowd was expected at the East Melbourne ground to watch the VFA Grand Final. North made two changes to the team that had defeated Footscray in the final. Paddy Noonan returned and Dalton was recalled. Armstrong and Martin made way for them. Armstrong appeared to be unlucky to lose his place considering he had scored a total of five goals in the past two matches.

Heavy rain had fallen the previous day and soaked the ground, but a strong wind on the day of the match dried it out nicely. Around 20,000 attended, overtaxing the ground’s capacity. The play was exciting, with many exhibitions of good individual play and clever passing, especially on the North Melbourne side. But the predominant features of the match were roughness, hustling, pulling, pushing, holding and hauling which gave the umpire an unenviable task. For many players on both sides, the ball was of secondary consideration, with the prime objective being to down any opponent who came within reach.

The strong wind that had dried out the ground continued to blow straight into the parade goal and all scoring was done at that end. North had first use of it. For the first six minutes or so, Richmond prevented North from scoring, but eventually Considine gained possession and scored first goal. A further 2.4 was quickly added. In the second quarter, Richmond made poor use of the wind and eighteen minutes passed before they got their first score. North’s passing was much more expert and accurate than Richmond’s and they did well to restrict them to 1.4.

In the third quarter, Richmond improved their play and kept North in check for the first ten minutes. However, North then prevailed and rattled on four goals to lead by 38 points at the last change. Richmond were a beaten side in the last quarter taking eighteen minutes to score a goal from a free kick, North’s defence being too good. They managed another goal before the final bell and North had won their first premiership.

North Melbourne 7.6-48 d Richmond 3.9-27

Despite the unpleasantness, most agreed that the better side had won. The Argus writer deplored the amount of tripping, infringements and the several fights that broke out. He named North’s O’Brien as the worst offender. Londerigan was the most prominent player on the field, having handled the ball more than anyone. But he undid a lot of his effectiveness by “playing to the gallery” and often losing the ball before he could make good use of it.

Stewart was as brilliant as Londerigan and far less selfish. All the defenders played well especially Carlton and Boyle. Considine (three goals) Smith and McCann all played well on the forward line. Noonan played well and was one of the chief sufferers of the roughness. Full back McDermott kicked off brilliantly against the wind.

Many old players and supporters were at the match---T. Marshall, J.H. Gardiner, H. Fuhrhop, W. McLean, A. Neely, J. Shaw, J. Tankard, E. Bean, H. Hems, H. Alessio and others. They finally saw their old team succeed. The current players were given a banquet by the club president Cr Prendergast as promised. There was much rejoicing at the club and the district.

A tinge of sadness ended the successful season. Vice president George Stewart died after a short illness a week after the match. The following week, at a VFA meeting on 2 October, the committee disqualified M. O’Brien for life for rough play. This would be lifted in 1913. W. Carlton was also disqualified for a year.

North had Paddy Noonan to thank for their success. His leadership and tactics were superb, and he would surely have won the Best Player award if the VFA had one that year. Other good players were G. Barnes, R. Boyle, W. Carlton, P. Considine, W. Graham, J. Jamieson, P. Kennedy, M. Londerigan, P. Martin, H.Milne, L.Morrison, D. Noonan and J. Stewart.

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Premium Platinum
Aug 21, 2012
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Posted by Rohan Connolly | Jan 5, 2021 | Previews with Punch | 0 |
Flashback: Inside North Melbourne in 2009

It’s 2009, and North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley fills in his players on what to expect. Photo: SEBASTIAN COSTANZO
It’s 9.30am, Monday, the first game of North Melbourne’s new season is now just six sleeps away, and at Arden Street, the schedule is packed.
The Age is here to spend the week inside the Kangaroos’ inner sanctum, and there’s more than a little going on. Today, there’s a long, hard session on the track, weights, a team meeting, a match committee meeting. And for a smaller group of Roos, media training.
Media manager Heath O’Loughlin is in a meeting room with half-a-dozen of the Roos’ younger faces, going through the video interviews he’s recorded with all of them. Not just your ordinary TV grabs, mind you. O’Loughlin, a former Channel 9 sports reporter, has asked the pretend questions from hell.
A teammate on drink-driving charges, a report, a controversial umpiring decision, the coach’s contract, why didn’t the Roos recruit Ben Cousins … the only curly one O’Loughlin has left out is about global warming.
The players have handled it pretty well, too, save for some awkward body language, Scott McMahon even giving former Carlton president and dial-a-quote John Elliott one to go on with on the relocation matter.
It’s just as busy in the coaches’ offices as well. While Dean Laidley is preparing for the pre-training team meeting, assistants Darren Crocker, Anthony Rock, back at Arden Street after time spent at Hawthorn, Melbourne and St Kilda, Darren Bewick and Danny Daly are already going flat chat.
Daly, the Roos’ opposition strategist, is talking with Bewick (forwards) about the Demons, while Crocker (defence) and Rock (midfield) go through the video edits they’ll be showing their groups of players.
At midday, there’s the first team meeting of the week. Laidley, a host of other football department people, and most of the senior list, file into the meeting room.
After some housekeeping matters courtesy of chief of football Donald McDonald and property steward Greg Ryan, it’s strength and conditioning coach Paul Turk’s turn. Attention to detail is his theme. “Whatever preparation you need, plan it well in advance, and make sure you’re aware of your requirements,” he says.
Daly steps up to the front. He’s prepared video edits of Melbourne’s stoppage work and various zone set-ups for the players. Depending on which part of the ground each player is in, they’ll run between eight to 12 minutes. “It should give you a really good understanding of how Melbourne play,” he says. “Make sure you watch it, don’t come to the opposition meeting on Thursday and not have done your homework.”
Now it’s “Boris” Bewick’s turn. He’s not holding notes, but a rubber chicken, known affectionately as “Little Boris”, and, among much ceremony, awarded each week to the player (or anyone else) seen to have committed the week’s biggest blunder.
Star rookie Jack Ziebell, only recently turned 18, is today’s lucky “winner”, having failed his driving licence test. Well, at least there’s something the gifted kid struggles with.
The giggles over, Laidley then addresses the troops. The season’s here. How are you feeling, he asks various players in the group.
“Excited,” new skipper Brent Harvey shoots back. “Pretty keen to get it started,” says Daniel Wells. Daniel Pratt hopes everyone’s covered the bases they need to for Sunday’s opponent.
“And the Demons, how would they be feeling?” asks Laidley. Veteran Adam Simpson, notes the long pre-season Melbourne has been through, similar to the Roos two years ago, his point implicit. They’re just as ready, just as excited.
It’s an exciting time, but don’t get too caught up in it all too early, Laidley warns. The Carlton-Richmond blockbuster, Friday night’s grand final re-match between Hawthorn and Geelong. “Don’t get caught up watching the footy all weekend, get out and do something.”
“Yes, make sure your physical preparation is spot on, but sometimes you can get caught up in the physical stuff and don’t pay enough attention to the mental stuff.
“Sixteen clubs have been going at it for six months. How much difference between them in conditioning? F… all. The biggest area you can gain an edge this week is to be hard, tough and uncompromising when you run out on Sunday.”
Meeting over, it’s time for weights. Then, at 2pm, training. It’s a big session, too, about two hours worth, a long time on the track these days. And it’s highly competitive, particularly so after Laidley calls the Roos in after only 10 minutes, demanding a more “in your face” approach. “Put some f…… pressure on! Use your voice, use your voice!” And during end-to-end chains ending with shots on goal: “Finish off your work”
Rookie Cruize Garlett goes down early, and for a few minutes it looks like he may have broken his leg. He hasn’t. It’s an ankle injury, but one which will keep him out for a few weeks.
It’s a wonder there’s not more casualties during the “six-point handball” drill, a high-intensity number in which three Roos from each side and two “opponents” clad in orange vests charge flat-out at each other.
It’s pretty willing in there as the Roos go again and again, and even the coach gets caught up in it, giving young Lachie Hansen a fair bump to go on with. “Good pressure Lindsay (Thomas), that’s why you’re in the team,” he yells after a fine smother by the nippy forward.
It doesn’t end till 4pm, and for Laidley and his coaching panel, it’s straight into a match committee meeting. One which runs just as long, and is just as intense as what the training track served up.

North Melbourne’s match committee discusses the line-up for the first game of the 2009 season. Photo: SEBASTIAN COSTANZO
After a brief discussion about who needs to sit where in the coach’s box on Sunday, it’s down to business for Laidley, Crocker, Rock, Bewick, Daly, McDonald and list manager Cameron Joyce.
The side’s almost there, but there’s still perhaps a couple of spots up for grabs, and one very big debate looming.
Daly runs through his analysis of Melbourne’s style, and how it’s changed from last season to this, then the Demons’ likely line-up, and their probable rotations, the white magnets with the Melbourne names already up in position on the board.
“All right Boris,” Laidley tells Bewick, “pick a team.” Bewick starts putting the Roos’ blue name tags in spots. There’s a few points of interest. Michael Firrito, outstanding last year in defence, is earmarked for midfield. So might be Josh Gibson, if midfield coach Rock gets his way.
But the crux of the debate soon becomes clear. There’s an interchange/midfield spot to fill, and it looks like coming down to the seasoned Daniel Harris, the 40-gamer Andrew Swallow, and the classy kid Ziebell, who’d be making his AFL debut.
Ziebell’s exciting, but hasn’t shown a lot since his eye-catching NAB Cup game against Carlton. With another first-gamer in Liam Anthony, and forward Josh Smith having played just two, will the Roos have enough hardened bodies? Laidley has his doubts.
The room is fairly evenly split on the question. It goes back and forth as various on-ball alternatives are examined, and contingency plans hatched should the likes of the Demons’ Brad Green and Cameron Bruce get off the chain.
And continues as the candidates keep getting thrown up. “I think we’re getting off the point,” says a frustrated Laidley at one point. “We can’t play with 21, and we can’t play with 23!”
It’s getting warm in here, too. Laidley turns the air conditioning on. “Better get your overcoats ready. It goes from the Sahara to Antarctica in here in about a minute!”
There’s yet more debate, a quick discussion about Melbourne’s kick-ins, and then, with heads about to explode from information overload, a halt is called. It’s past 6.30pm. And that spot? “OK. The kid’s in,” Laidley smiles.
The $15 million redevelopment of Arden Street is underway, signs of construction everywhere. There will be new training and administration facilities, a community gymnasium, sports hall and a life and learning centre for migrants. Work is due to finish by the end of the year.
Until then, the Roos will put up with the same pokey, cramped rooms they’ve known their whole footballing lives. To call them crowded would be something of an understatement.
But it doesn’t stop the sorts of activities footballers love to pursue while they’re getting prepared. Like games of indoor cricket and soccer which endanger the life and limb of anyone in the vicinity.
This Tuesday morning, there’s a casualty. It’s “Digger”, the model solider, who’d been presented to Sam Power, and rests on top of the lockers. Well, did. Michael “Spud” Firrito lets one fly and manages to separate Digger’s head from his body. Undeterred, Power grabs the head, and respectfully puts it back on top of the lockers.
There’s an open media session at 10am, before which O’Loughlin goes through the drill. Be respectful of Melbourne. Bring the talk around the Roos’ youth. Play the straight bat to any curly questions about Laidley’s coaching contract. And don’t forget to wear your sponsor’s caps.
Both major newspapers are here. Radio and television crews. Harvey is their No. 1 target. But they also want to speak to Western Australian mature-age draftee Liam Anthony, who, along with Ziebell, is also scheduled to debut on Sunday.
At least a dozen Roos stand up on the benches behind to watch Anthony strut his media stuff. He does so with aplomb. “He’s good, just about the best there is” says one, admiringly. When it’s done, the players burst into applause.
Now, another meeting. AFL umpires’ coach Rowan Sawers has come by armed with a DVD to run through the two new rules which come into effect for round one, the rushed behind rule, and the free kick and 50-metre penalty for players taken out of play after disposal.
There’s only a handful of questions to Sawers about the interpretations from players, but one example leaves Laidley perplexed. “I’m glad you blokes are playing and not me,” he quips. Sawers leaves, and there’s a quick chat to discuss the stoppage and set-ups North is about to run through out on the track.
With the video going, Rock runs through runs through some throw-in, ball-up and kick-in scenarios. In the forward 50. Midfield. And in defence. Daniel Pratt pipes up with some encouragement for teammates about the kick-in drill. “We did this against Hawthorn (last year) and got it past the centre every time.”
It’s complex stuff, the dots representing the players with abbreviations like QB (quarterback), TF (tall forward), MF (medium forward).
The players need to remember where to run and where to stand for more than half-a-dozen different stop plays. It’s all a far cry from the simple message “Long bombs to ‘Snake’ (Baker)” that a previous North Melbourne coach, Ron Barassi, had scribbled on the board before the 1977 grand final.

North Melbourne coach Dean Laidley runs through some training drills out on the track with the Roos. Photo: SEBASTIAN COSTANZO
The key Demons are reinforced, as is the single fundamental principle which the coaching brains trust believe will win them this game. Ignore it, and as Laidley chips in, “they’ll cut you up”.
Just before the group heads out to the track to work on all the theory, former skipper Simpson speaks. “Boys, this is the type of thing that wins games of footy, not the skill, just the mental application. Do it well. Make sure it’s automatic. I can tell you, the first thing that drops off with us is our structured stuff, and that f…. us.”
The session lasts just under an hour, then the players head off in groups for boxing and pilates. In the weights room, Drew Petrie is doing some serious bench-pressing. The loads these days, however, he notes, are 20 to 30 kilograms lighter than a few years ago, when the Roos were a lot bulkier.
Too bulky, it eventually became clear. “We looked great on the beach. We just couldn’t run,” the amiable vice-captain chuckles. For the coaches, meanwhile, there’s another match committee meeting to be had.
“Do we need to do some ‘what ifs’?” asks Crocker. The names go up on the board. There’s a different look about this North line-up, some new faces midfield, some young guns forward and back, a couple of debutants. Laidley looks happy with it. “If you go with the same old, same old, you cop the same thing,” he says.
The focus is again on match-ups and rotations. Who needs a breather, and when? Who can be swung on to Melbourne’s danger men if they get out of control? The options seem obvious and plentiful.
About the only pieces of the jigsaw left to fit are the three emergencies. They’re injury cover only. “But it’s important to them,” says Laidley, recognising that those named will at least know their within touching distance of the senior 22. Five or six candidates are thrown up, their merits discussed, but there’s no consensus.
By now, it’s getting late again. Laidley calls the three names. “Come on, it’s a democracy, but someone’s got to make a decision,” he laughs.
Come Wednesday morning, club psychologist Greg Buck has a meeting with North Melbourne’s “performance unit leaders”, a system the club has now had in place for several months.
Michael Firrito, Corey Jones, David Hale, Daniel Wells, Sam Power and Leigh Harding are the half-dozen senior players working under skipper Brent Harvey and vice-captain Drew Petrie, each entrusted with nurturing a group of players.
Buck has photocopies of two newspaper articles he’s given the group about the Sydney Swans, famous for their on-field leadership, and Carlton captain Chris Judd. The contents are discussed, then each of the half-dozen gives a brief summary about how their work with their group is progressing.
Harding says he finds it difficult at times to keep an eye on what his players are doing on the track. “How do we find a way of monitoring it,” Buck asks. There’s a balance to be struck between mentoring the junior Roos and being able to concentrate on your own game. Firrito has rookie Garlett, injured in Monday’s training session. “We’ve got to give Cruize a bit of love, because he’ll be out for a few weeks,” he says.
There’s a discussion about the state the rooms are being left in by the players. It’s a recurring cause of complaint from the staff. “Yesterday, it was a pig sty, like a bomb had hit it,” says Buck.
“One of the great myths is that when the new set-up is ready, everything will be OK. Unless we change the behaviour, it will happen over there, too, because the novelty will soon wear off. I reckon over the next couple of weeks, we need a strategy to address it.
“We might have to foot the bill for a cleaner,” says Jones, seriously. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time the Kangaroos’ players had had to dip into their own pockets to fund something the richer clubs take for granted.
Out on the ground, meanwhile, there’s goalkicking practice for selected players. They’re going through their kicking routines with earphones plugged in. A bit of Coldplay, some early ‘Chisel’? No, just ear-splitting background crowd noise, the idea to replicate match conditions as closely as possible.
Inside, they’re doing it hard, too. It’s a merchandise signing session, and groups of North players are walking around tables spread with about 200-odd jumpers, armed with permanent markers. Todd Goldstein has worked up a healthy sweat. He reckons it’s from doing weights, but this is taking a toll as well.
“Your signature looks pretty different by the end of it,” he jokes. Which makes you wonder how former Roo champion Wayne Schimmelbusch must have felt by the end of one of these things!
Thursday’s another big day at Arden Street, with training on, and the rooms packed with the volunteer staff that have always made this club tick. There’s tributes to several on the Roos’ “Wall of Fame”, like Aub Devlyn, Judy Francis, John Castle and Ron McIntosh, the latter three all now having passed on.
George Cormack’s here, too, having made his customary trip up from Bairnsdale to help distribute the water bottles, the lollies, anything that needs doing. George loves it here. He’d need to after having been inadvertently locked in for a whole day once a few years back.
Right at home in the players’ lounge with Foxtel going, George was quite content until the alarm system was set off and property steward Greg Ryan received a late-night call from the local constabulary about a Mr Cormack they had in their custody down at the cells.
At 9.30, there’s another team meeting, specifically focussed on the opposition. It’s Danny Daly’s territory, and the former Balwyn player and bank manager turned scout turned AFL assistant coach is in his element as he runs once more through Melbourne’s style, its key playmakers, significant statistics about the Demons.
Daly, highly respected around AFL circles, first met Laidley when he was scouting for Collingwood while Laidley was an assistant coach there, and was one of the first people he brought on board with him when he won the North senior job for the 2003 season.
Daly might not have the elite playing background of most of his peers, but none can top his knowledge of what makes different teams tick, noted last year when Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams got him on board to help coach the “Dream Team” against Victoria.
Daly makes sure the Roos are switched on to their opponents, shooting quick questions at them. “Who’s their third man up? Who is their quarterback? Who are their first possession players?” There’s a sense of satisfaction on his face when the queries are answered promptly and correctly.
With the last training session before the game about to start, you can sense the spring in everyone’s step. Laidley’s particularly.

Veteran Roo and club captain Adam Simpson gets a pre-training rubdown in the rooms. Photo: SEBASTIAN COSTANZO
He has some specific words of encouragement for Lachie Hansen, who after two years developing, looks ready to hold down centre-half back. Laidley has compared Hansen, with only 13 AFL games under his belt, to Hawthorn star Jarryd Roughead, at the same stage. Hansen’s stats measure up well.
“We believe you’re on the right track,” he tells Hansen in front on the playing group. As, he believes, is his team.
“We’ve got new focuses, new goals,” Laidley says to the meeting. “If you do the same, you stay the same. Well, we’ve done nothing the same. We’ve changed the way we play, we’ve tried new things, we’ve got new people, and I think that mix has had a really positive effect on this footy club.”
With the players out on the track, Laidley does a quick media conference. He talks about the debutants, about the season ahead, about the annual critical “writing off” of his team. Finally, he’s asked how he’s feeling on the eve of a new journey for his team. “I’m excited,” he shouts, to much laughter, before bounding off towards the centre square and his charges.
Friday is a day off for the players, and, ostensibly, the coaches, too. It’s also Laidley’s birthday. He’s turning 42, and looks forward to spending some time with his family. But there’s one last problem to tackle, and it’s not trifling.
Liam Anthony has pulled up sore after training, and scans have revealed he has stress fractures to his foot. It looks like a six-week layoff. That AFL debut will be put on ice, and the Roos have some recasting of the line-up to do.
Anthony would have provided an important midfield presence despite his novice status. That’s down to Andrew Swallow now, the young Western Australian’s replacement in the selected side.
The matter settled, the coach grabs what time off he can before Saturday’s final team meeting and light skills session. In his job, in a purely physical sense, that’s very little time. In a psychological sense, it’s zero. Football weighs heavily upon the minds of everyone involved all the time.
Laidley will have pondered the match-ups and moves for Sunday even whilst he was blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. So will the rest of his coaching crew, not to mention the 22 players who will kick off the club’s season against Melbourne.
For the likes of Ziebell, it’s the beginning of hopefully a long and prosperous ride in the AFL. But even for Simpson, about to enter his 15th season of senior football, there’s those extra little butterflies that come when six months of hard pre-season slog are about to be put to the test.
It all starts again for North Melbourne at 1.10pm on Sunday. The wait has been lengthy, as The Age has seen first-hand this week, the planning enormously detailed. Now, there’s just the small matter of its execution.
TOMORROW: We spend the first game of North Melbourne’s 2009 campaign inside the coaches’ box.


Premium Platinum
Aug 21, 2012
AFL Club
North Melbourne
That’s from RoCo’s Footyology site. It’s a bit long but an interesting time capsule. He’s a good journo it’s a shame he’s been lost to mainstream media while some more questionable folk get AFL backing.

Ashley B

Premiership Player
Mar 3, 2003
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
North Melbourne
It is probably in this thread somewhere , but i reminisced today . One of my favourite Finals , I was not at the game but was listening in my room yelling the scores out to my Dad in the last quarter as I listened on the radio. What a win. Do yourself a favour fellow Roos and watch it again.
Go The Mighty Roos
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Club Legend
Mar 17, 2002
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Time to review another past season:

1874---First season as a senior club.

The North Melbourne football club entered its fifth year of existence as a leading junior club. They had had a highly successful 1873 season, winning seven and drawing six of their fourteen matches. The only loss was to Albert Park, a senior club. Even better, the second twenty team had not suffered one defeat. This was enough for the club to be afforded senior status, along with St Kilda. They joined Melbourne, Carlton and Albert Park as the five senior teams in the metropolitan area. Geelong, outside the metropolitan area, was also a senior team.

At the AGM in March, the club was reported to be financially healthy. Dr S.J.Burke was elected President, Harry Fuhrhop reelected captain and William McLean vice-captain. It was also announced that the club would adopt a uniform. With the formation of the VFA still three years away, the six club secretaries met at Nissen’s Cafe, Bourke St to arrange the season’s matches and make some alterations to the rules.

The season would be a relatively successful one for North, who won seven of their eleven official matches, with one abandoned. However, over the course of the season, North managed to tread on a few toes, which would have repercussions over the following two years.

To be continued..............
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