The Dockers came to the MCG for the first time this year to play their first ever game against North Melbourne in Melbourne. Freo were coming off a heavy loss to Adelaide, at Subi, the previous Monday, and it was never likely that they were going to win this one.
Despite my worst fears, the game was pretty even to start with. In fact, Freo were probably the better team in the first quarter - they got more of the ball, but their disposal was shocking. Wills, the star of last week's game against Adelaide, was one of the worst offenders. Well, to be fair, his disposals had pinpoint accuracy, but seemed to be directed towards North Melbourne players, rather than team-mates. Anyway, despite all this, the Dockers just seemed more interested in the game than North did, and they led at quarter time - albeit mostly due to better kicking at goals.
Yes folks, you heard right! Without Waterhouse in the team, and with Wills struggling to remember which way he was kicking, the Dockers were actually pretty accurate in front of the goals throughout the game.
The second quarter was an interesting one, with the umpires having plenty of involvement. The first controversy came when the Dockers scored. Every North fan in the ground was sure it was a point, but the goal umpire signalled a goal at first. After a bit of thinking, and listening to the boos, he decided to change his mind, and a point was paid. I wasn't paying enough attention to know whether or not it was really a point, but the method of deciding it seemed pretty dubious to me.
The highlight of the second quarter came when Peter Mann ran though David King. It certainly seemed to get the North supporters motivated, and closed off any options that Peter may have had about returning to North if things went awry at Freo. The umpires were also impressed with the maneouvre, with not one, but two, of them reporting him, and a 50m penalty being paid againt him.
While the decision against Mann was probably a fair one, the umpires paid a second 50 against Trent Carroll in the third quarter which had me absolutely livid. Carroll was basically pushed into the man as he took the mark, and sure, he did knock him down, but the guy got straight back up. What made it even worse was that the umpires took a good 30 seconds to make up their minds. The decision was wrong, and wasn't rushed, so there was just no excuse.
The highlight of the final quarter came pretty early on, when Heath Black, I think, was spring down the outer wing, got too about the 50, and set sail for goals. The ball dropped short, but fortunately, waiting at the back post was BenAllan, who was able to slide in, and kick the ball out of mid-air for a GOOOOOOOAAALLLL! A genuine soccer highlight, which is so rare in the AFL.
Apart from that, though, the fourth quarter was basically depressing. BenAllan's goal got the Dockers to within one point, but after that they struggled to score. Dale Kickett kicked into the man on the mark, and suddenly North were 7 points up, and Parker had hands in hips, signifying that the game was all over for Freo. Then it was 13 points, and Parker had his hands on his knees. Then the margin was over 20 points, and Parker was flat on his face on the ground. After that the Dockers actually rallied a little bit, pushing forward in the final few minutes. But it seemed like BenAllan and Brown were the only ones who even cared by this stage, and between the two of them they were unable to create a goal.
In the wash up of the game, Gerard Neesham criticised what he perceived to be the bias of the umpires towards the home team. Interestingly his criticism seemed to be not so much that the umpiring was biased against them over in Melbourne, but that they didn't get enough help at home. At least that was how I interpreted it. Neesham was fined $1500 for his comments, which were reported in The Age. Also in The Age was a classic Parker picture, with Shane at the front of a pack, which Jeff White is in the process of soaring over to take a grab.
Final Score : North Melbourne 15.15-105 defeated Fremantle 12.7-79
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