The disappointing display against Adelaide on Sunday isn’t how anybody involved or enamoured with the North Melbourne Football Club wanted the season to end, that fact is indisputable.
While the final margin was 44 points, inaccurate goalkicking from the Crows meant it could, and possibly should, have been more, with North outworked and outclassed around the contest.
The performances of Nick Larkey and Tarryn Thomas offered shining lights on what was unfortunately a darker day than desired, but it will be six long months before the Kangaroos can rectify the loss.
David Noble says there’s no excuse for the type of performance that was served up against the Crows.
“Fatigue, no, that’s not a reason. There’s been heaps of other clubs that have had to come over on a day like today and do the four hours. The season is long but … it’s long for everyone,” Noble said.
“The wooden spoon has nothing to do with it. Let’s not even enter into that discussion.
“The fact we didn’t work away off that first three or four seconds away from the contest, that’s not fatigue. That’s a mentality we didn’t bring to the game.
“To our fans and our members that came, and for those that left early I’m sure, it’s not good enough … extremely disappointing. We’ll have to go away and reflect on that to understand what happened.”
Despite the sour end to the 2021 home and away season, the growth and development of North’s young list over the course of the year should not be relegated to the back of the mind.
Although the season culminated in the loss to Adelaide, wins over Carlton, West Coast and Gold Coast were supplemented with a draw against GWS, and strong showings against other finals contenders.
With a full, strong pre-season now the focus of the North coaching staff, the ability for the team to improve in all aspects of the game is an exciting prospect for all fans.
“You have to remember, I landed in November,” Noble said.
“You don’t get much chance to put in place a lot of the intricacies you want with structures.
“I certainly didn’t take the job to take two or three years to develop and take our time … we’ll always be striving to go higher and push really hard.
“We’ve now got some offence, we’ve got some defence, we’ve got some more work into our stoppage work and contest. I think there’ll be some natural growth from the young group.
“Our players have a clear understanding of how we want to play, and we’ve been really disciplined internally to stick with what that looks like.
“I think they players have really appreciated that consistency and calmness around the messaging towards that. We’ll go hard at that, how it pans out next year, who knows.
“We’ve still got some work to do on our list, go to the draft again, get the guys fitter and stronger again and who knows, see how next year unfolds.”
Unfortunately, once again a defining factor of this AFL season has been how COVID has impacted the ability of the fans to get to games.
While the club has appreciated the added opportunity to connect with its Tasmanian fans, the inability to consistently play in front of a rocking Marvel Stadium has left its mark on the side.
Even with the uncertainty around both fixturing and on-field performance, the understanding and support of the Kangaroos’ fans and members has been a pillar of for the club to lean on across the year.
Noble says he appreciates the support given to him, both internally and externally in these trying times.
“I can’t question the trust the club has put in me, the support our members have shown myself and the coaching group has been unbelievable,” he said.
“I’ve mentioned it a few times but to have record membership is such a great sign of our members’ understanding of what we’ve done.
“From a footy sense, I’ve missed the energy of our fans, the lack of engagement we have and the charge that we can hear when a Cam Zurhaar takes a spectacular mark, or Nick Larkey or Tarryn Thomas kicks a freakish goal and our fans are up cheering.
“We had a little bit of experience about that, particularly down in Tassie. We’ve missed reconnecting with our fans, we’ve missed them greatly.
“I’ve really enjoyed the experience, and I still get up a lot of mornings and just thank the club that they’ve picked me to lead them, and I’m very humbled to be able to do that for the footy club.”