AFL: Forget wins-losses, the Roos are on the rise

AFL: Forget wins-losses, the Roos are on the rise

That old line about things never being as good or as bad as they seem has been attributed to a catalog of famous people, from Harper Lee, author of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, to, in an AFL context, the and legendary coach Leigh Matthews. .

In today’s highly volatile football environment, it seems more applicable than ever. And rarely has that been more obviously appropriate than now when we’re talking about North Melbourne.

If team ratings were based solely on the bottom line of wins, losses and ladder position, North Melbourne, who are on course for a fifth straight bottom-two finish, would be in contention, along with Sydney’s 1992- 92 and Fitzroy in 1995-96 as one of the worst teams of the entire AFL era.

The Roos have won just two of their last 35 games and 11 of their last 96, a dismal hit rate of just over 11%.

That’s borderline institutionalized uncompetitiveness, and if you’d looked at those numbers while watching North limp to another 10 goals against Port Adelaide in Hobart just five weeks ago, you could have made a case sustainable that you would have witnessed one of the worst. parts the game has ever seen.

Now pretend for a moment that you’re new to the game, with no knowledge of recent history and only arrived in the country in time for Round 13. You’d swear, instead, that the Roos were one of the most exciting and up-and-coming teams . in competition.

In fact, on second thought, I think that might not be far from the truth anyway, and I’ve been privy to Roos’ entire catalog of failures since 2020.

How can both premises be equally valid, one in May and one in June? Because the line between abject defeat and despair and genuine promise can be as fine as a handful of gifted kids shooting and a few players getting their hands on the football.

North Melbourne’s two narrow losses to Collingwood (after leading by 54 points) and Melbourne (after fighting back from 39 points down late in the third quarter) could have been heartbreaking this season moment, but both performances, alongside a win in Perth over a much-improved West Coast side, still add up to an incredibly stark contrast to what had gone before.

How did the Roos do it? Really just with a few basics, some of which started to come back even though North was still getting beat.

Same as eliminations. North won the shutout in just two of its first eight games, but has now won six in a row. The Roos didn’t win the contested ball count in any of their first 10 games, but have won it in all four games since.

They win it on the outside too, their possession uncontested in the 15thth in his first 10 games and his third in the last month. And the pressure? This is a great indicator, North Melbourne rated 16th for applying pressure in the first 10 games, but the second in the last month.

Winning more territory is the next statistical step the Roos need to take, but already their time in the forward half deficit has halved and defensively North isn’t open as much.

Up until the crushing win over West Coast, the Roos had unfailingly conceded over 100 points each week, but in the Perth win they allowed just 65 points to their opposition and Melbourne last week scored just 70. That’s a five to six goal difference and that’s huge.

But you don’t need a stat sheet to see the marked improvement, it’s right there in front of your eyes, mainly thanks to a group of young midfielders so prodigiously talented they could be the best in the AFL for years to come . And very soon.

Luke Davies-Uniacke plays his 100thth Saturday’s game against the Western Bulldogs, and in his third year of sustained form, is clearly one of the best players in the competition.

He and George Wardlaw, an absolute midfield gem, have been the most consistent drivers over the last three weeks and complement each other perfectly, as does the explosive Harry Sheezel, a first-year best and fairest winner who hardly he missed a beat in his second, the Nick Daicos comparisons fully valid.

There’s plenty more where they’ve come from too, runner-up Tom Powell, co-captain Jy Simpkin, old hand (but still only 26), Colby McKercher hugely impressive until injury but still he dips his toe into the middle of the field. mix, and Will Phillips becoming a key shutdown man.

Which doesn’t even touch on key long-term Kangaroos who are still there to play critical roles like Nick Larkey and Cam Zurhaar up front, a key long-term defensive prospect in Charlie Comben and a huge figure in this recent surge, perhaps the AFL’s most improved player, ruckman Tristan Xerri.

It’s a roll call of talent. And when you go through it, the apparent flip of the switch for the Roos in recent weeks seems a lot more understandable. Not to mention those statistical comparisons to the worst performing teams of the past 30 years, like measuring chalk against cheese.

We’ve never seen a team with a sloppy 1-14 record still have such a big lead, and maybe that’s why coach Alastair Clarkson has been a little more measured of late, despite the still-regular losses. He knows how good what lies ahead could be

And if you’re a North Melbourne fan, think about it. Clarkson looked just as untroubled in his largely unsuccessful early seasons with a very young Hawthorn line-up nearly two decades ago. And that didn’t end too badly for the coach or the club, did it?

You can read more about Rohan Connolly’s work at FOOTYOLOGY.