North Melbourne’s VFL side registered its fourth win of the season on Saturday, overcoming a spirited Port Melbourne side 77-60 on a blustery day at Arden Street.
In a game full of momentum changes, North’s six goal to one third quarter proved crucial in setting up the win, with the likes of Charlie Comben and Patrick Walker proving the difference in the decisive term.
After his four-goal half of football in Brisbane two weeks ago, Comben made his first competitive appearance for the season against Borough, and was effective both forward and in the ruck throughout the day.
He finished with 11 disposals, 5 marks and 2 goals.
Leigh Adams says Comben will continue to improve as he finds fitness, after his extended stint on the sidelines.
“He (Comben) was brilliant today with his ability to get the ball to ground. If he doesn’t mark it you just know he’s giving our smaller guys that opportunity to get in and under,” the North coach said.
“He could have kicked five or six today, but he couldn’t quite convert as he would have wanted to … but he looked a step above today.
“Now he’s starting to get his confidence and fitness to a level where he can compete for four quarters. He’s covering the ground well, getting to and impacting contests - he was super.”
Mid-season recruit Jacob Edwards made his VFL debut on the day, with the young key-position player spending most of his time in the forward line, as he looks to gain experience of men’s football.
Finishing with an impressive 4 marks for the day, Edwards provided what was possibly the highlight of the afternoon, converting a tough kick to seal to win for North late in the final term.
Kicking against a strong breeze from almost 50 metres out, the forward judged the wind perfectly to split the big sticks.
“You can see every now and then he (Edwards) just shows something that makes it look like he could really be a good player for us,” Adams said.
“Clearly a full pre-season is going to be massive to get him to a level where he can compete against the bigger bodies a bit more, but some of his movements are really good.
“You can see from that clutch goal that nothing really fazes him. To kick that from 45 plus out and into the wind, it was a really big goal for us.”
Charlie Lazzaro continues to string together a good run of form at VFL level, with the young midfielder’s effectiveness by hand a hallmark of his strong performance.
Finishing with 24 disposals, 5 tackles and 1 goal, Adams says he was pleased at Lazzaro’s ability to find the football throughout the game, despite being tagged for much of the contest.
“He got a bit of attention today, but his high workrate meant that he was still able to really get his hands on the footy,” Adams said.
“He’s going really well and he’s just getting better every week. He’s just got to keep playing with that intensity and confidence when he gets his next opportunity at AFL level, because he’s doing a great job at this level.”
While he was drafted as a defender, Patrick Walker is making the most of his opportunity to play further up the ground, kicking a goal and finishing with 20 disposals and a team-high 8 marks, as he played primarily on the wing.
Walker showed composure and good forward nous to convert his goal from outside 50, bouncing it through an unmanned goal square with great precision.
“He’s (Walker) been really super. He’s been shifted onto the wing because of his huge running capacity and beautiful kick, and he’s playing the role really well,” Adams said.
“He’s starting to gain a really good balance of inside and outside footy, and he’s been using the ball well. It was another super performance from him today.”
Aiden Bonar continues to push his case for an AFL recall after his return from injury, and the versatile midfielder/defender looks to have added yet another string to his bow.
After thriving in the first half in his familiar role in the defensive 50, injury to key personnel forced Bonar to play as a key defender for much of the second half, a role Adams says he performed admirably.
“His (Bonar's) first half in particular was super, but in the second half he had to play a bit taller because we lost Mark Baker to injury,” Adams said.
“He wasn’t able to get involved quite as much offensively in the second half, but he still played a really good role for us in the defensive unit. He was another who was really good.”
In the absence of captain Flynn Appleby, it was some familiar VFL-listed names who stepped up in a tight and contested first half.
Harry Jones was arguably the best player afield over the first two quarters, collecting 22 disposals in just the first half alone, while vice-captain Kade Answerth finished with a team-high 9 tackles for the game.
Louis Cunningham pitched in with 19 disposals and 6 marks, while Hamish Murphy stood tall in defence.
“We’ve got a good bunch of VFL guys and they all stood up again today,” Adams said.
“Louis, Kade and Harry are probably the three that just have great ability to play like AFL players … I love having those three in the team, especially with ‘Apples’ out at the moment.
“They play their roles well, do whatever is needed for the team and just play good footy … I’m happy with the win but it was pretty ugly.”
North Melbourne 11.11.77
Port Melbourne 8.12.60
Aiden Bonar – 19 disposals, 6 marks, 5 tackles
Tom Campbell – 19 disposals, 17 contested possessions, 32 hitouts, 9 clearances
Charlie Comben – 11 disposals, 5 marks, 2 goals
Jacob Edwards – 6 disposals, 4 marks, 1 goal
Charlie Ham – 7 disposals
Kyron Hayden – 11 disposals, 3 tackles
Charlie Lazzaro – 24 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 1 goal
Connor Menadue – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 1 goal
Phoenix Spicer – 13 disposals
Patrick Walker – 20 disposals, 8 marks, 1 goal
Will Walker – 9 disposals, 4 tackles, 1 goal
Lachie Young – 17 disposals, 4 tackles
Best of VFL-listed
Harry Jones – 29 disposals, 7 clearances
Kade Answerth – 25 disposals, 9 tackles, 6 clearances
Tyler Roos – 23 disposals, 6 marks
Louis Cunningham – 19 disposals, 6 marks.
Comben 2, Jones, Lazzaro, P Walker, Menadue, Byrne, Dick, Speight, W Walker, Edwards