Photo: Madeleine Green
North Melbourne has registered back-to-back wins to jumpstart its VFL campaign.
Playing for the first time since the enforced covid break, a late Ben Speight goal ensured North got over the line by just three points, after going into three quarter time with scores level.
Will Phillips stood up to be counted throughout the day in midfield, finishing with 30 disposals, 19 contested possessions, 7 tackles and 9 clearances.
Oozing class as he scythed through the contest, Phillips set the defensive tone for North with his hard tackling, as his side won count 68-46.
Adams says if Phillips can continue to produce performances of such a high standard, it’s only a matter of time until he earns a senior recall.
“He’s put together a good few weeks with us. After being the sub and playing half forward for the seniors he’s come down and shown what he can do,” Adams said.
“With his ability to just work through traffic and pick the right option I can understand what he was taken with pick three.
“What he’s doing is he’s setting his game up really well so that when he does get another AFL call-up, he’s right to go.
“If he doesn’t get a call-up this week then hopefully he can come back to us and play like he did today.”
Another of North’s young stars to make a valuable contribution was Eddie Ford, with the young forward kicking 2 goals for the day including, including 1 after the siren leading into half-time.
Ford is looking more at home in senior football on a weekly basis and is starting to knock on the door for an AFL debut.
With his contested marking ability being arguably his greatest asset, Adams says Ford playing well in a slightly unfamiliar position.
“The role he (Ford) plays is really underrated in our system. He’s a first-year player who isn’t a key position size, but he’s playing key position for us because we don’t have the talls to play,” he said.
“His ability to fight, compete and put some real defensive pressure on is fantastic. He’s starting to get a bit of reward on the scoreboard which will only do him good.
“Hopefully in the coming weeks we can get a couple of talls back so he can play as that third tall forward and lead up the ground a little bit more, but he’s doing a great job for us at the moment.”
Including his late winner, Ben Speight kicked four goals for the game, popping up with valuable contributions at important times.
Speight is a name that may be familiar to North fans, having played 10 senior games for the club from 2010-2013, and VFL coach Leigh Adams says the experience he provides this young team is invaluable.
“He’s not your typical key-position sized forward who’s going to set the tone with his marking or anything like that, but what he does do is he sets up our structure really well,” Adams told North Media.
“He really understands the game, he’s really smart to put himself in positions where he can kick goals.
“He also helps the young blokes on the ground. He lets them know what they’re doing well and what they’re not doing well which is fantastic for a young group like this.”
After playing seven senior games primarily as a defender 2021, Connor Menadue was played in the forward line against Coburg, and repaid the faith shown in him by kicking 2 goals and laying 6 tackles.
Often deployed on the wing or as a half forward early in his career, Adams says Menadue shows the natural forward craft that could lead to an opportunity at AFL level.
“At this stage of the year we have to look at where the best opportunity for players to get themselves to a point where they’re competing for AFL footy,” he said.
“Kyron Hayden was back today, Atu (Bosenavulagi) was really good again today, so there might not be an opportunity for him (Menadue) to play down back.
“Today at half-forward for us he used his pace and his kicking skills and he used the ball well to finish with a couple of goals.”
Ensuring your best ball-winners get their hands on the football goes a long way towards victory, and North will be happy Tyler Roos once again accumulated over 40 disposals.
The midfielder was everywhere during the game, easily finding space as he collected 12 uncontested marks over the course of the clash.
Adams says Roos’ ability to read play and slow the contest down cannot be undervalued in such a young side.
“He’s (Roos) one of those blokes that just pops up, in most games you’ll know he’s going well but you don’t really notice he’s getting that many touches,” he said.
“He’s a hard-worker who’s a smart enough player to pop up in the right spots. In VFL footy you get rewarded for that.”
Tom Campbell is a known quantity at VFL level after finishing third in the JJ Liston Trophy in 2019.
Often a dominant force in the reserves, Campbell looked set for yet another monster game before being hobbled by injury.
Adams says Campbell’s mentality to still be able to impact the contest while not fully fit went a long way to ensuring North tasted victory.
“His (Campbell’s) first quarter was unbelievable, I thought he was going to tear the game apart. I think he just tweaked an ankle and you could tell he just laboured through the game a little bit,” he said.
“He didn’t have much spark to be able to jump and compete like he usually does, but he still got his hands on the footy and because he’s such a good player, particularly at this level.
“He was able just to will himself to contests and get involved in it. He was a big part of why we won the game today.”
North Melbourne: 11.11.77
North AFL-listed players:
Will Phillips: 30 disposals, 19 contested possessions, 9 clearances, 7 tackles
Patrick Walker: 23 disposals, 10 marks
Tom Campbell: 21 disposals, 29 hitouts, 1 goal
Atu Bosenavulagi: 16 disposals, 1 goal
Eddie Ford: 16 disposals, 2 goals
Connor Menadue: 15 disposals, 2 goals
Charlie Ham: 9 disposals
Charlie Lazzaro: 9 disposals, 5 tackles
Kyron Hayden: 8 disposals
Best of VFL-listed players:
Ben Speight: 4 goals, 8 disposals
Tyler Roos: 41 disposals, 13 marks
Flynn Appleby: 21 disposals
Harry Jones: 28 disposals