20/04/2024

Daria Bannister's two goals set up North Melbourne's dominant victory over GWS. (Photo: North Melbourne AFL/Twitter)

Despite a last quarter Giants surge, North Melbourne's defensive press suffocated any and all play of opposition defensive 50 in a comprehensive win.

A willingness to run hard and cut off every Giants avenue out of defensive 50 highlighted a dominant North Melbourne victory at Arden Street.

The stats told the story, with the Roos going into the half time break 21-6 up for inside 50s, keeping the Giants scoreless.

Daria Bannister led the charge, kicking two goals in the first half and having multiple further opportunities. She played a higher role out of the arc than she had previously, finishing with 12 disposals and two marks.

But adding to this was a relentless forward half team pressure effort. Sophie Abbatangelo had six tackles to three quarter time, as did Jenna Bruton, while Nicole Bresnehan and Ash Riddell had five each.

The Roos were similarly dominant around the contest, very nearly walking the ball out. No player exemplified this more than Ash Riddell, who is steadily becoming one of the competition’s best midfielders.

She finished with six clearances, but didn’t register any after three quarter time.

Coach Darren Crocker spoke proudly on the way that his side managed to win in almost every key area of the ground, a much needed return to form.

“The first three quarters were terrific. It was a really good week, we came out of the Adelaide [loss] and looked at a few areas we need to work on,” the coach said post-game.

“I thought the execution in the first three quarters was super. It went away from them in the last quarter, which was a bit disappointing.

“There’s been some good halves and some really good quarters where we’ve been getting our game looking very close to where we want it to look. Defensively we held our shape really well, around the footy we were winning the ball around the contest.

“I thought our key forwards in Tahlia Randall and Emma King… were able to make a really strong contest and we were able to lock the ball in our half.”

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The tide shifted in the final term, as the Giants, backed by the breeze, kicked 3.2 to the Roos’ 0.0. This was kicked off when GWS finally broke its scoring deadlock with a goal to Chloe Dalton off a 50 metre penalty towards the conclusion of the third.

Rebecca Privitelli got on the board for her second goal of the season in what has been another slow start to her year. The key forward still hasn’t kicked more than three goals in the first three rounds of a season.

But it was Swans Academy captain Jess Doyle who stole the show, kicking her first goal on debut after a brilliant lead up mark.

This was followed by Irish dynamo Cora Staunton for her fifth of the season, completing the Giants’ highest scoring quarter since Round 7, 2021. They kicked four goals straight in the first term in that match against St Kilda.

After being unable to break through the high pressing defensive line of North Melbourne in the first three stanzas, Alan McConnell’s side showed off a significantly higher willingness to run and carry the football.

It wasn’t enough to pull back the 27-point margin, and they still lost inside 50s, contested possessions, and tackles, but that term showed what the girls in orange can do at their best.

“If you look at the numbers, the things I said the game was going to go on changed,” McConnell said.

“We won contested ball in the last quarter, we got the ball into space, and we found our run. Nicola Barr is another one, in the game before that she crumbled or got pushed off the ball, and then in the last quarter they [North] couldn’t keep up.

“That’s symptomatic of our team. The game isn’t always on your terms, and when it’s not you’ve got to fight better than we fight in those moments.

“As a coach I’ve got to give them techniques and strategies. Against the real good teams, that’s where we’ve been found wanting.”

The Giants’ second loss in a row has shown that they are a level below the best teams in 2022. Last week’s loss against to the Dockers was to the tune of 32 points.

In those two games they’ve lost by an average margin of 29.5 points, have scored an average of 23.5 points, and have given up an average of 53 points.

However, next week presents an opportunity to right those wrongs, with a home game at Henson Park against the Western Bulldogs, who haven’t played a match in two weeks due to COVID postponements.

“It’s fair to say I was disappointed in week one [against Gold Coast], it was a bit of a circus,” McConnell said.

“But since then, no excuses. Game’s what it is. You’ve got to play where you need to. We’ll look forward to playing at home, that’s for sure.”

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