A DEFENSIVE breakdown late in the game leading to Alyssa Bannan‘s match-winning goal as well as a lapse early in the second quarter that lead to back-to-back Daisy Pearce majors proved the difference in his side’s two-point loss to the Demons, according to North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker. Forward/ruck Emma King soccered through a goal late in the match to hand the Roos the lead at the MCG, but a late response off the back of a daring play from the Dees ensured the reigning grand finalists came away with the nail-biting 3.8 (26) to 4.0 (24) victory last night.
When asked about if the coaches had considered icing the game hen King’s major in the 10th minute put the Roos four points in front, Crocker said the thought had crossed their mind, but ultimately they came to the realisation there was too much time left to play.
“We were tossing around as coaches, there was still quite a bit of the game to go,” he said. “I think there was over six minutes when Emma kicked that goal, so it was probably too long to try to save the game and we didn’t have a big enough lead, they kick a goal like they did and they take a two-point lead. “If we’d been able to get another goal we might have tried to close it out.”
The decision whether or not to ice the clock in the final six minutes was not the concern for Crocker in hindsight, but rather the passage of play that lead to the Demons having numbers behind the ball and allowing Eliza West to kick into space for Bannan to run onto and snap truly a couple of minutes later.
“I think the bigger lesson for us is just how that last goal came about, and we’ll go back and have a look at it, I haven’t seen a replay of it yet,” Crocker said. “I do expect that there were a number of defensive errors we had to make for that goal to get scored and we do say that to the players. “For teams to score against us we need to make not just one defensive errors, but a number of defensive errors and I just detect that may have happened in that last situation.”
That goal, along with a quick couple of majors to Melbourne skipper Pearce in the opening moments of the second term were all that the Roos’ stringent defence let in, but it proved costly. For three quarters, Crocker was pleased with his side’s defensive structures, but those lapses meant the Roos went home empty handed.
“For three quarters we just spoke about we played the footy the type of footy that we’ve been encouraging to play, what we’ve worked on right throughout the whole preseason,” Crocker said. “You can see that come to fruition for large parts of first quarter, third and fourth. “But the second quarter really let us down.
“They got on top especially early and kicked two quick goals and a number of shots and they had the game looking the way they wanted it to look. “They are a very good team, they do challenge you with their ball movement and their handball and our pressure just dropped off early in the second quarter for the first half of the second quarter which hurt us in the end.”
Crocker’s back five managed to restrict the Dees from scoring for most of the match, but the Roos coach said it was not about matchups, but rather the team system put in place to ensure the blue and whites were difficult to score against, regardless of who was out there.
“We would prefer to consider ourselves a system-based team, we play more to a system than just direct matchups,” Crocker said. “It was more just making sure that we were able to hold our shape behind the football, and as I eluded to, that last one I don’t think we held our shape that well. “But also it relies a bit on being able to get pressure on at the source.
“I thought for the majority of the night we actually did some really strong pressure around the source. “There were occasions where Melbourne were able to chain the ball with their hands which opened us up a bit. But that’s something we’ll go and have a look at and continue to work on.”
Though they walked away without any premiership points, Crocker said it was a “step in the right direction for his club” and that he told the playing group to be “disappointed” but not “disheartened”.
“Where we’re at, we’ve spoken a lot about being a really hard team to beat or to play against,” he said. “You can’t become a good team until you become that team, and you can’t become a great team until you become a good team. “I thought again tonight Melbourne would come away rom that game thinking ‘gee North Melbourne were bloody hard to play against tonight and hard to beat’ so that’s a step in the right direction for us.
“But in saying that we came here to get the four points as well, big stage, Friday night curtain raiser to a men’s final on the MCG. “It doesn’t come much bigger than that. I know everyone’s pretty disappointed, but as I said to them, ‘absolutely be disappointed because we’re not coming away with the four points but don’t be disheartened because there were enough strong sides to suggest we could match it against a quality team who are well coached and have been thereabouts for a number of years now’.”
North Melbourne will not have too much time to dwell on the result, with a Round 3 clash against Adelaide on the road next up for the Roos.