Photo: Maddie Green

Tristan Xerri has once again impressed at VFL level this weekend and continued to push his case for an AFL recall, finishing with 26 disposals, 21 hitouts and 10 clearances against Southport.

Taking sole ruck duties against the strong ruck duo of Fraser Thurlow and Ben Crossley was no easy task for North’s number-38, but Xerri’s ball use around the contest was the standout attribute of an impressive body of work.

North Melbourne VFL coach Leigh Adams says the mentality with which Xerri approaches his football meant it was a matter of time before he produced such a quality performance.

“He (Xerri) was huge yesterday. I think he played 100 per cent game time, and about 95 per cent of that was in the ruck against two quality players,” Adams told North Media.

“It’s definitely the best game I’ve seen him play and his effort to just keep fighting and fighting was unbelievable.

“I think he felt he had the opportunity to nudge the opposition ruck under the ball a little bit, so when he had the chance to grab it out of the contest he did. It wasn’t anything we went into the game telling him to do, but it worked and he was super impressive today.”

Midfielder Trent Dumont got through the game unscathed for the second week in a row, finishing with 24 disposals and 9 tackles in a strong personal showing.

Adams says the coaching staff were careful to nurse Dumont through the clash, but it won’t be long before the number 14 starts banging down the door for a return to the AFL side.

“We wanted to look after him (Dumont) and make sure he got through the game OK,” he said.

“In the second half he spent some time in midfield and then he played as a really deep forward, but he was really good again.

“He looks like he ran out the game well considering he played more game time than he would have expected. He’ll be putting his hand up for AFL. He might play another one with us, I’m not sure, but he looks like he’s pretty much ready to go.”

With the likes of Taylor Garner and Eddie Ford struggling to find the football in recent weeks, the duo were moved further up the ground in an attempt to get them more involved around the contest.

The move worked as Garner finished with 19 disposals, while Ford’s grit and strength meant his presence was felt at every stoppage he attended.

“We probably felt in the last couple of weeks the boys that aren’t genuine midfielders haven’t probably had the opportunity, particularly Eddie Ford and Taylor Garner having not really having had the supply over the last couple of weeks,” Adams said. 

“Before the game we spoke about wanting to get our AFL-listed boys around the footy a little bit more … there was a concerted effort to try to get their hands on the footy and get them involved a little bit more.

“‘Fordy’ has a nice big body and got a couple of clearances. I thought he did some nice things when he went in there, so it might be something going forward we try a little more.”

North’s first interstate VFL trip ended in a disappointing 107-point loss.

A number of freak injuries led to North playing most of the second half with just 17 players, as Will Walker, Mat Walker, Ben Speight, Flynn Appleby and Josh Clayton all went down and were unable to finish the game.

VFL coach Leigh Adams says the chaos caused on the interchange by these injuries is like nothing he’d seen.

“We had absolute carnage yesterday … at one stage there for about ten minutes we only had 16 players and we played basically the whole second half one down. It was unbelievable,” Adams told North Media.

“Will Walker will get a scan today on a thumb injury … he didn’t take any further part after the first quarter, Josh Clayton had tightness in his hammy and it was too big a risk to send him back out … Ben Speight did a hammy and tried to get back on but couldn’t. Mat Walker copped one in the ribs and had to go to hospital and at the same time Flynn Appleby got a concussion.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before … just chaos.”

After suffering a difficult defeat to Casey in Round 3, Adams challenged his players to continue their levels of effort and desire.

He was impressed with the fight shown by his side to keep working hard in the face of overwhelming adversity against Southport.

“The effort of the boys was unbelievable. They were working so hard to try and pressure and move the ball and were out on their feet,” Adams said.

“They were able to kick three goals in the last quarter with 17 blokes on the field. We started the game with six blokes 19 or under. The effort they showed was just incredible.

“The scoreboard still looks horrendous for us, but I couldn’t be prouder of the boys to fight out the game the way they did yesterday.”

Southport 24.9.153 defeated North Melbourne 7.4.46

AFL-listed players

Tristan Xerri - 26 disposals, 21 hitouts, 10 clearances
Trent Dumont - 24 disposals, 9 tackles
Will Walker - 4 disposals (injured)
Eddie Ford - 10 disposals
Taylor Garner - 19 disposals, 7 marks

The best of the VFL

Harry Jones - 37 disposals, 10 marks, 3 tackles
Jacob Heron - 26 disposals, 9 marks, 6 tackles
Kade Answerth - 24 disposals, 4 marks
Cooper Smith - 20 disposals, 9 marks