North Melbourne’s loss today ends their season on a shattering note and with a drowning of sorrows to follow tomorrow. However, more worrying than the sombre Mad Monday drink up is the future doubts about the side’s ability to take the next step.
How can half a side look completely disinterested in playing a final when it has been 4 years since the club’s last appearance? Thomas, Goldstein, Wells and Anthony (to name just a few) ran around without having any influence on the game and played close to their worst games of the year if not career.
The last finals appearance for North was in 2008 and it resulted in a 35 points loss to Sydney in a year that should have ended with a top 4 spot and the double chance. With a few years near the bottom, the list has developed into a finals contender. However, could a 10th, 11th or even a 12th place finish been a better result than a 96 point loss?
Playing in the finals and gaining experience is what most will argue to be a better result but would a better draft pick and maybe a greater hunger for success be a better result for the future?
Four spots lower in the draft, better picks to trade off in hope of luring a player in the trade period and minus the expectations that will be cast on the sides 2013 hopes would have all been better outcomes for this young North Melbourne side.
Three out of the last four 8th place finishers have had huge defeats (Essendon 2009, 11 and now North 2012) and Carlton suffered a close loss in 2010 after finishing 8th. Other than Carlton in 2010, Essendon and North have been completely of out of their depth and have just been making up the numbers.
North Melbourne will get nothing out of today’s loss other than it is still a long way off being a threat in September. This group must now learn from today’s game and move on as quickly as possible.
It will now be a test of character for this group of players to bounce back from this demoralising defeat. Carlton and Essendon have struggled to deal with expectations of growth which has resulted in the two teams failing to put together a consistent year since their lists have promised so much.
The question now for North is: can they continue to grow and handle the expectations or squander their chances to become a serious finals contender in future years?
Find Jackson Baker on Twitter @JacksonBaker9