The heartbreaking last minute loss to Geelong last week will mean nothing now as North Melbourne guns for its first win of 2017. But it won’t be easy against a red-hot GWS side fresh off a frightening 102-point thumping of Gold Coast. Captain Jack Ziebell will also play his 150th game.
Last Time We Met
GWS chalked up their first win against North in the final round of the home-and-away season last year. The game was the final outing in Melbourne for three of the Fab Four, Brent Harvey, Nick Dal Santo, and Michael Firrito. It was also Drew Petrie’s last game in Melbourne in North colours. The game was competitive until half time after which GWS kicked away to win 100 to 63. Jonathon Patton kicked five goals with veteran small forward, Steve Johnson, kicking four of his own.
There are two forced changes for North this week. Jy Simpkin will miss because of a quad complaint, and Scott Thompson misses through suspension.
Ruckman Todd Goldstein returns after an ankle injury kept him out last week. With Goldstein essentially replacing Simpkin, North goes into the game with a very tall line-up.
Thompson’s suspension hands 2014 draftee Sam Durdin his first game and with it, the distinction of becoming the 1000th player to represent the club. Durdin has had to wait for his chance at senior level with shoulder and foot injuries plaguing his first two years at the club. His development has also suffered from not knowing his best position but seems to have found it with impressive showings in defence in the JLT Series. He may be used as a genuine swingman option in the future and can pinch-hit in the ruck if required. Durdin was highly rated in his draft class and touted as a potential top three pick, but ended up sliding to North at pick 16.
Home Ground Advantage
Blundstone Arena is North’s home-away-from-home, and they boast an impressive 9-3 record at the venue to prove it. GWS has only played at the venue once before in 2012 where they went down by 129 points. Blundstone is a tough place for football with swirly winds from the Derwent River posing a significant challenge for unfamiliar teams. But a chance of rain early in the day should spice things up and nullify North’s height advantage.
The Big Matchup
While Goldstein will undoubtedly shoulder much of the rucking duties this week, it is a mouth-watering match-up between his deputy, Braydon Preuss and GWS ruckman Shane Mumford which will have most people talking.
With both players’ reputations for monster hits, it would not surprise me in the slightest if a crater forms in the middle of the stadium when these two come together at full tilt. Regardless, it will be an entertaining battle for ruck supremacy.
Assuming last week’s three-quarter effort was no fluke, North is much better than everyone expected. Reproducing that effort over a full game will go a long way to getting the desired result. But with quality all over the park, GWS are premiership favourites for a reason. Giants by 30 points.
Where And When
Saturday, 8 April 2017, 1:45 PM AEST @ Blundstone Arena, Hobart.