First published in The Age on August 29, 1998
Roos claim top spot
North Melbourne produced a seven-goal last quarter to snatch victory from the Western Bulldogs by five points at the MCG last night. The Roos retained first place on the ladder, denying the Bulldogs that honor for the first time.
North again demonstrated its ability to win from seemingly hopeless positions. Out-paced and outplayed in the first half, the Roos trailed by 21 points. A five-goal third quarter reduced that to eight points, before the two teams slugged out a thrilling final term that produced 12 goals.
Wayne Carey and Matthew Croft fight for the ball.Credit:Vince Caligiuri
It was hard to believe that nothing hinged on the outcome but top spot. Under the final-eight system, first place had no automatic advantage over second provided both teams won in the first week. The 68,050 crowd roared as the game swung first one way and then the other.
The lead changed hands five times in the final term, and three times the scores were level. Wayne Carey and Chris Grant kicked two goals apiece as the two champion centre half-forwards struggled to get their teams over the line. Each finished the night with four goals.
The turning point came 26 minutes into the quarter when James Cook crashed into Robert Scott after the North man had marked on the wing. Cook was reported. A groggy Scott goaled after receiving a 50-metre penalty. The scores were level.
A minute or so later, Byron Pickett got to the ball 15 metres out from goal and handballed to Shannon Grant for another goal and North led by six points. The Bulldogs thrust forward again, only for Leon Cameron’s long left-foot snap to swing into the post.
Finally, Carey marked on the half-forward flank, bombed it long, and Brent Harvey gathered the crumbs and snapped the goal that put North 11 points up and top spot out of the Bulldogs′ reach. Rohan Smith’s late goal reduced the deficit to five points, but North held out for the final 30 seconds to win.
Players clash over the ball.Credit:Vince Caligiuri
North coach Denis Pagan again was able to shuffle his men around to counter the Bulldogs′ pace advantage. Carey played in the midfield in the third term, winning a fair amount of the ball. Byron Pickett and Winston Abraham provided vital pace in the central corridor at either end.
North began the game in first place after eight straight wins. The Bulldogs, while not quite as impressive in the past two months, have been at or near the top for the whole season and had prevailed in close encounters with Sydney and Essendon in the past two rounds.
David King normally provides much of the Roos’ run, but he was closely checked by Tony Liberatore for much of the first half and then hurt his knee when pinned in a strong tackle by Liberatore and Jose Romero. He did not take much part in the second half.
In the third term, Harvey got two goals and Corey McKernan one and suddenly North were within two points. Steven Kolyniuk, Grant and Michael Martin replied for the Bulldogs before North closed the term with further goals to Matthew Capuano and McKernan. The last, from a strong pack mark and kick from just outside 50, was the big man’s most significant contribution on the night.
Carey and Grant were both winners for their sides. Carey was paid close attention by Matthew Croft, but his ability to break loose and create chances for teammates was crucial. His four goals came in bursts of two, the first pair early in the second term, the second at the start of the last.
At the other end, Jason McCartney at least broke even with Grant for most of the first half, particularly in contested situations. When Grant had room to move, however, it was a vastly different story. Glen Archer went on to Grant for a good part of the second half, apparently to get the dangerous Roo further up the ground.
Paul Hudson matched Grant’s contribution with four goals.
The Bulldogs, as part of their first-half ascendancy, found a way to get men back into the so-called “Pagan’s Paddock”, denying Carey the space he has enjoyed in some of North’s best recent wins.
Matthew Capuano airborne.Credit:Joe Armao
2.3 5.4 10.8 17.11 (113)
4.6 8.8 11.10 16.12 (108)
North Melbourne: Carey 4, Harvey 3, McKernan 2, Pike, Stevens, Blakey, Capuano, Freeborn, Sholl, Scott, Grant.
Western Bulldogs: Grant 4, Hudson 4, Cameron 2, Romero, Dimattina, Martin, Cook, Kolyniuk, Smith.
North Melbourne: Stevens, Carey, Pike, Blakey, Simpson, Pickett, Archer.
Western Bulldogs: Grant, Romero, Johnson, Hudson, Cameron, Dent, S West.
INJURIES – North Melbourne: King (knee), Scott (collarbone), Abraham (dislocated finger). Martyn (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Hewitt.
REPORTS – Western Bulldogs: Cook for allegedly charging Scott (North Melbourne) in final quarter.
CROWD: 68,050 at the MCG.
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