Tale of two halves for Crocker’s Roos

NORTH Melbourne was able to fight off an early challenge from expansion side Port Adelaide to come away with a “really good” Round 8 AFL Women’s win in a “hostile environment”. Coach Darren Crocker said he was pleased his side was able to regroup after half-time – having trailed by five points at quarter time and only lead by three points at half-time – to boot 3.7 to 0.3 to win, 7.12 (54) to 4.5 (29) yesterday.

Crocker said he had admired what Port Adelaide had been able to do, saying the Power had been “pretty good” when being able to get the ball on their terms.

“That was a big message to the group throughout the week,” Crocker said. When they’ve been able to get the game looking the way they want it to, their pressure has been really high which they brought and their contest work has been really strong.

“If you go back to all their stronger performances, that’s where they’ve actually been really, really strong, so we knew what to expect. Playing at home here, I probably wasn’t aware the hostilities. It’s a pretty hostile environment, the crowd were right behind them. Really good for especially our younger players to be exposed to that type of environment and still be able to find a way to win.”

Beyond the score on the board, Crocker was more pleased with the momentum shift in the forward half possession. In the opening half of the Round 8 match, Port Adelaide racked up a massive 20 inside 50s, before the Roos restricted them to just eight in the second half.

“I think it’s a sense of real maturity that we were able to reset at half-time,” Crocker said. They had 20 inside 50s to half-time where against what I consider one of the best teams in competition Brisbane last team, we kept them to 23 inside 50s for a whole game. We were leaking badly early in the first half, but after half-time we absolutely corrected that.

“The game so much more we wanted it to look. We felt in the first half there was a real disconnect between every line. Whether it was the forwards not getting the pressure on and the midfielders sitting back too much which then meant we were disconnected to our defence, but after half-time our ability to set the ground up and defend the ground so much better, that was pretty much a real big difference in the two halves.”

Captain Emma Kearney was thrown on-ball in the second half to provide extra experience at the stoppage, something Crocker has been continuing for stints throughout the season. However the North Melbourne coach admitted it was a “luxury” to have such a versatile team.

“It’s obviously really handy having an Emma Kearney that you can just take from half-back and put her around the footy,” Crocker said. If you’ve been watching us closely over the last month of football we’ve been doing that on pretty regular occasions. Just throwing her in for a burst, probably once a quarter, once a half.

“It wasn’t something that was foreign to her or the rest of the midfield, but as I said to be able to have that luxury as a coach to get Emma King into the ruck, Emma Kearney around the football with a Jas Garner and an Ash Riddell and still have a Jenna Bruton who can go out to the wing. It’s a nice luxury to have.

“In saying that though, Kim Rennie has been terrific for us throughout this year, as has Mia King. I thought Mia King was very important especially later in the game with her ability to come forward and pressure and work hard to try and get the ball back off Port Adelaide when they got it around the contest. We feel like we’re building a lot of depth through the midfield and it’s given us quite a few options.”

Bruton was celebrating her 50th game, and Crocker paid tribute to the midfielder who is “pretty quiet by nature but just gets it done”.

“Trains with great intensity, probably sets an example with more her actions and what she does rather than with what she says,” Crocker said. “All the girls just love playing with her, she’s been so good for our program and she’s been a pleasure for me to be able to coach.”

North Melbourne is eyeing off a top four spot, but needs to win its final two games against Collingwood and Richmond – both sides above the Roos – in order to do it. Crocker said the playing group knew its finishing position was in its “own hands” and would be doing everything to come away with the eight points.

“The next two weeks both Collingwood and Richmond, we haven’t shied away from the fact,” Crocker said. We spoke about it after the Brisbane game last week that the destiny is in our own hands where we finish. It was a disappointing loss last week against Brisbane, but we took the positives out of it. We learnt from it as well, which again is credit to the group, they’re such a coachable group.

“After last week’s game just our forward 50 connection was a little bit off. I know we kicked a truckload of points, but I think we went at 53 per cent scoring from our forward 50 entries, so that’s a really high percentage and that was something that we needed to address after last week’s game.”

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