Saturday’s game will hold extra significance for North Melbourne coach David Noble, when he goes up against his friend and fellow Tasmanian Chris Fagan.
Noble and Fagan spent four years together at Brisbane as General Manager of Football and senior coach respectively, revitalising the club and transforming it into a contender.
After joining the Kangaroos over the off-season, it’s fitting that Noble’s first game against Fagan would be in the pair’s home state and in Fagan’s 100th game as coach.
Adding to the occasion is the parallels and similarities between their respective journeys, with the duo taking the road less travelled to end up where they are.
Both of them built their resumes outside of the AFL, before entering the league as assistant coaches.
They were both hired as AFL head coaches after being General Managers of Football, a rarity in a system where most new senior coaches were last assistants.
Ahead of Saturday’s game against Brisbane, Noble said he was looking forward to coaching against Fagan.
“Fages and I have had a long coaching history from TAC Cup, to AFL reserves and now at AFL senior level,” Noble said.
“It’s a great acknowledgement of two Tasmanians with North/South rivalry, to be able to go back home and coach against each other.”
Noble admitted that he had thought about and reflected on the significance of the occasion throughout the week.
“By the time we get through our coaching cycles and careers we’ll probably reflect back, this is a fairly poignant time for both of us.
“I’m very proud to be able to go back home and coach against Fages, who’s back home in his 100th game down there.”
In the past, head coaches who have gone up against their old side have enjoyed success.
But Noble was unsure what type of advantage his time at Brisbane may or may not give his side.
“You probably have a more intimate understanding of the (Brisbane) players. Whether or not you can get that execution into the game, we’ll wait and see,” Noble said.
“It doesn’t necessarily follow, but I’ll obviously have a more detailed understanding of how they were playing last year. They’ve adjusted a few things, so we need to be on top of that.”
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Last Sunday’s game between North Melbourne and GWS in Hobart only drew a crowd of 3,462, Tasmania’s lowest ever attendance for a home-and-away AFL game.
But Noble hoped that his side’s improved effort would draw more locals to Blundstone this week.
“We’d like to think so,” he said.
“The way that we played last week, maybe there’s a few that will come out and hopefully we can deliver the same level of intensity and performance.
“It would be great to have some more numbers around, even though the crowd (last week) was great, we had some great support out there.”
Noble also talked up two of his players who will be returning home to Tasmania as well.
Ever since his move to half-back, Aaron Hall (Hobart) has been experiencing a career resurgence as a vital veteran presence in North’s young side.
“We were looking for some rebound and bounce out of the half-backline. We know that Hally’s got great balance, he reads and predicts the ball very well,” Noble said.
“Guys have become accustomed to him being in those positions, so we can release the ball to him. He’s certainly done a terrific job across that area.”
Former top 10 pick Tarryn Thomas (Launceston) has been in rare form in his third season, making an impact in the midfield and kicking the sixth-most goals (15) among midfielders this year.
“I think he’s a young man who’s worked on his craft internally really hard, it’s a credit to him. He spends a fair bit of time with Benny Cunnington, Ben’s been a bit of an internal mentor for him,” Noble said.
“He’s got some capacity to the read the ball going forward, where he can score some goals coming out of that midfield.
“I’ve been really impressed with what he’s been able to pick up and deliver in the last month since we’ve shifted him into that role in the midfield.”
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