Any misplaced hope that one win would turn into a torrent for North Melbourne was swiftly snuffed out at Marvel Stadium late on Sunday afternoon.
Eight days after breaking their drought against Hawthorn, the Kangaroos found themselves 50 points down at half-time against an Essendon side that continues to be one of the feelgood stories of the season.
Zach Merrett looks to get the ball away for the Bombers.Credit:Getty Images
North belatedly found a semblance of accountability, having the better of the third quarter as they showed that at least in patches they too could move the ball freely and cleanly. The threat of a second triple-figure hiding at the venue inside 24 hours was averted, but by game’s end North fans had been reminded that the road back to relevance is often one of three steps forward, two steps back.
They could also derive some relief from the fact star ruckman Todd Goldstein (ankle) and spearhead Nick Larkey (corked thigh) both returned to the field after second-half injury scares.
Periods of regeneration – such as the one the Bombers were forced into after last year’s exodus – can be much more palatable to fans if their side is playing attractive and competitive football. Save for a couple of tough assignments away to Port Adelaide and Brisbane, Ben Rutten’s Dons have largely lived up to their side of the bargain.
Todd Goldstein is helped by trainers but later returned to the field.Credit:Getty Images
The half-time chasm on Sunday was built on the back of irresistible ball movement from the Bombers. Remarkably, North actually led the inside-50 count by one at the long break, but they were hopeless defending against turnovers, as Essendon cut through them like a warm knife through blue and white butter.
Having had the clamps applied to him seven days earlier by Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir, Zach Merrett was given close to free rein by North coach David Noble, with the free agent accumulating 14 first-quarter disposals. He slowed down a touch as the match wore on, but fellow midfielder Darcy Parish was outstanding again and did not relent.
Up forward, Cale Hooker, Peter Wright and Harrison Jones all had productive days, but the Dons were far from reliant on their tall targets, spreading the goals around far and wide.
North Melbourne’s Cameron Zurhaar.Credit:Getty Images
North forward Cameron Zurhaar hadn’t reached great heights this season until his four-goal haul against the Hawks last weekend and that effort might have springboarded him to bigger and better things. He provided the individual highlight of Sunday’s game when he soared onto the back of Jayden Laverde to take a screamer at half-forward midway through the third term, coming down with the ball horizontally. Zurhaar took another outstanding mark at full-forward moments later, leading to his first goal of the afternoon.
After the furore surrounding Collingwood’s appointment of Dr Bridie O’Donnell – who had previously posted a photo of herself wearing a Western Bulldogs jumper – to the Magpies’ board, Essendon made sure they got on the front foot on Sunday when they announced the appointment of former AFL executive Dorothy Hisgrove as a Bombers director. Hisgrove – who fills the casual vacancy left by former Dons president Lindsay Tanner – had in fact been a Collingwood supporter, a fact about which current Bombers president Paul Brasher was unapologetic in a statement on the club’s website. “Dorothy will bring a diversity of perspective different to those of the other board members, all of whom have been lifelong, passionate Essendon supporters. What Dorothy will have in common with her fellow board members is a total commitment to Essendon success,” Brasher said. Essendon also made sure to spell out that Hisgrove is a member of the club and therefore eligible to join the board.
Age might finally be catching up with Brent Harvey. The North great and VFL/AFL games record-holder was remarkably durable through his 21 AFL seasons and has cut a stunning ripped figure when appearing as the Kangaroos’ runner this year. But Harvey couldn’t fulfil his duties on Sunday, sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Essendon Parish, Merrett, Wright, Snelling, Langford, Ridley, McGrath, Hind
North Cunnington. Thomas, Garner, Hall
D. Parish (Ess) 8
Z. Merrett (Ess) 8
B. Cunnington (NM) 8
P. Wright (Ess) 7
W. Snelling (Ess) 7
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