North Melbourne’s spluttering AFL season has lurched forward again thanks to a solid 41-point win over Geelong.
A week after they were awful against Gold Coast, the Kangaroos played much more to their potential and beat the Cats 18.12 (120) to 11.13 (79) on Saturday night at Etihad Stadium.
They take 10th spot from Geelong with their 7-7 record and move to within half a game of the top eight.
It was Geelong’s first game in 20 days, with last weekend’s match against Adelaide cancelled after the death of Crows coach Phil Walsh.
North’s Todd Goldstein continued his stellar season with 47 hitouts, while captain Andrew Swallow and fellow midfielder Ben Cunnington were also prominent.
Shaun Higgins and Drew Petrie kicked three goals apiece.
In his first game since round three, Geelong veteran Jimmy Bartel racked up 41 possessions.
The game started with surely the two most experienced substitutes since the green vest was introduced four years ago.
Between them, North Melbourne veteran Brent Harvey (397 games) and Geelong’s James Kelly (265) had played 662 matches heading into Saturday night.
After a tight first term – the margin was never more than six points – North pulled clear in the second term.
With Jarrad Waite dangerous in attack and Goldstein taking control of the ruck, they kicked seven goals to one for a 33-point lead at the main break.
Cats captain Joel Selwood will probably come under video review for a tackle where he grabbed Sam Wright’s arm.
North players were clearly unhappy with Selwood immediately after the incident.
The Cats were trying to rally early in the third term when a goal to Andrew Mackie was denied.
The goal umpire could not see whether Robbie Tarrant had marked the ball over the line and the video replay was inconclusive.
So the goal was not paid, much to the Cats’ frustration.
Every time Geelong pressed, North were able to respond and they led by 38 points at the last change.
North key forward Drew Petrie could also be in trouble for a behind-the-play incident involving Mackie in the third term.
Saturday night marked a successful return to match-day coaching for North’s Brad Scott after he was forced out for four weeks because of back surgery.
Despite his players taking exception with Selwood’s tackle on Wright, Scott defended the Cats skipper.
“All players are coached now to try and pin an arm, because the umpires are so hot on illegal disposal,” he said.
“That’s almost second nature to players now.
“To me, Selwood couldn’t see where the ball was, he pinned the arm – nothing more, nothing less.”
Cats coach Chris Scott doubted that Selwood will be in any match review panel trouble for the tackle.
“That was a very minor incident,” he said.
Brad Scott added the win was close to their best four-quarter performance of the season.
The ‘Roos coach said Harvey was made the substitute after some frank discussions.
“While being the sub wasn’t a punishment, he needed to know that if he’s not going to listen to my words, he might listen to my actions,” he said.
Cats coach Chris Scott bemoaned his team’s poor defensive pressure – an unusual problem for Geelong.
“We had way too many players who were down,” he said.
“We defended tonight as poorly as I can remember.”
He stressed Mackie’s disallowed goal had minimal impact on the game’s result, but was adamant the ball had gone over the line.
“We’re certainly not crying foul … (but) it looked like a goal,” he said.
“I’m happy to be proven wrong.”