AFL Round 2: North Melbourne v West Coast news, scores, stats

West Coast was forced to make 14 changes but the Covid-ravaged Eagles pushed North Melbourne all the way. Roos coach David Noble bristled in the post-game presser.

North Melbourne coach David Noble has bristled at suggestions a 15-point final margin was a below-par result against Covid-ravaged West Coast.

The Eagles made a staggering 14 changes to their side that lost to Gold Coast last week, with 12 of those forced as a result of players entering Covid protocols. Five of West Coast’s inclusions were Covid top-up players, and three were debutants.

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The Kangaroos needed a six-goal bag from young gun Nick Larkey to just get over the line.

“I think that’s a bit disrespectful to some of the players that have come in for the opposition, to be honest,” Noble said.

“(Aaron) Black has won a Sandover Medal, played over 200 (state league) games, he’s a very good player.

“I don’t know why there’s an expectation we should win this game by X amount.

“I think they still had six premiership players, they still had some dangerous forwards, they still had a couple of guys down back that intercept the ball pretty well.”

The Eagles dodged even greater exposure to Covid when their squad returned negative Covid results on Sunday.

It means the Eagles list was granted permission, on Sunday night, to fly home from Melbourne on a chartered flight back to Perth without any players forced to remain behind in seven-day quarantine.

Under the WA protocols for professional sportspeople Eagles players had to be triple vaccinated before returning to Perth or they would need to isolate away from training and playing.

But the Eagles had vaccine boosters for players as late as Friday morning to ensure their path back to Perth was eased.

Privately, some elements of the club were upset and bemused to have to field a team with an AFL-record 14 changes that exposed young players not-yet ready and senior players who were underdone.

But West Coast coach Adam Simpson’s public demeanour was of a senior coach up for the fight, despite the adversity.

Adam Simpson’s depleted side was up for the fight. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
Adam Simpson’s depleted side was up for the fight. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Simpson described the lead-up to the meeting with North Melbourne as “bizarre”, with five Covid top-up players and three debutants part of the upheaval.

“It’s been difficult to get synergy,’ he said.

“We’ve got some new coaches in, we want to play a different brand and create and grow our identity as a side, it’s just been hard to do.

“I can’t say it won’t happen again, it might happen next week, but we’ve just taken it in our stride as best as we can.”

The Eagles headed into the encounter without Nic Naitanui, Josh Kennedy, Tom Barrass, Josh Rotham, Jack Redden, Harry Edwards, Jake Waterman, Jamaine Jones, Zac Langdon, Isiah Winder, Brady Hough and Hugh Dixon, who all entered Covid protocols, as well as injured duo Andrew Gaff (foot) and Jackson Nelson (knee).

It compounded an already severely injury-disrupted preparation for the season with Elliot Yeo (calf), Dom Sheed (ankle), Oscar Allen (foot), Jamie Cripps (pectoral) and Tom Cole (ankle) also unavailable.

The Roos celebrate after the 15-point win. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images
The Roos celebrate after the 15-point win. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

As if things weren’t already bad enough for West Coast, Jackson Nelson was a very late withdrawal after suffering a knee injury in the warm-up.

Simpson was hopeful all 14 forced omissions for Sunday’s loss to North Melbourne would be available for their crucial Western Derby against Fremantle next week.

But even if all of those players can be selected to take on the Dockers, Simpson said it would still present a challenge for his side to claim their first win of the season.

“Some of the guys that are in the protocols will come out pretty late in the week so unfortunately the synergy won’t be there again, we’re going to chop and change,” Simpson said post-match.

“We made a fair few changes from the AAMI series to round one and then the same thing is going to happen next week. I think in the long run, hopefully it pays us back.”

Big Todd Goldstein wins a ruck duel. Picture: Getty Images
Big Todd Goldstein wins a ruck duel. Picture: Getty Images

Aaron Black, Declan Mountford, Angus Dewar, Stefan Giro and former Eagle Brayden Ainsworth were the ring-ins used by West Coast on Sunday, and a grateful Simpson labelled them “Eagles for life”.

“Their sense of belonging should be as strong as anyone’s,” Simpson said.

“We want to instil a real sense of belonging at our club, if you’re with us, you’re one of us, so doing that with guys we just met, that’s a challenge, but at the same time we must’ve had 30 (unlisted) players train with us in the last three months, and everyone of those players that have come in, we’ve tried to make them feel really welcome.

“It’s not ideal though, it’s not what we want, it’s not best prep, we’re not going to succeed if we continue to do this.

“I don’t think they’re excuses (for their 0-2 start), they’re probably reasons, if that makes any sense.”

Nick Larkey celebrates one of his six goals. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images
Nick Larkey celebrates one of his six goals. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

The match wasn’t a great spectacle, with the skill level scrappy for large parts of the game, but North did what they had to do to get the job done. To their credit, the Eagles never let the margin exceed 24 points in what was a spirited effort.

The win came at great cost for North Melbourne, though, with prime midfielders Tarryn Thomas (ribs) and Luke Davies-Uniacke (concussion) taking no part in the second half.

Willie Rioli, who was one of the best players on the ground, might come under match review scrutiny for the second week in a row for a dangerous tackle that led to Davies-Uniacke being subbed out.

Willie Rioli checks on Luke Davies-Uniacke after a bruising tackle. Picture: Michael Willson AFL Photos
Willie Rioli checks on Luke Davies-Uniacke after a bruising tackle. Picture: Michael Willson AFL Photos

North exploited the relative mismatch, finishing the game with sizeable leads in disposals (385-303), contested possessions (140-114) and marks (112-94).

The Eagles actually finished with level on clearances (34-34) and had more inside-50s (50-48), but their lack of class and polish cost them in the end.

Larkey was assisted greatly by Hugh Greenwood, who finished with 29 disposals (16 contested), 10 tackles and nine clearances, while Josh Walker (21 touches and eight marks) was outstanding in defence, keeping Jack Darling goalless. Rioli was the standout for West Coast with 18 touches (10 contested) and four goals.

West Coast got off to a positive start and thanks to their superior pressure early, managed to trail by just seven points at quarter-time. The cobbled-together Eagles struggled to maintain the rage in the second term, but were kept in the game at halftime largely due to North’s inaccurate goalkicking (3.7).

Jack Darling misses a shot at goal in his first game of the season. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images
Jack Darling misses a shot at goal in his first game of the season. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images

From there, both teams went goal for goal into the final quarter, and West Coast gave North one last scare as they put the hosts’ defence under enormous heat.

However, in the space of six minutes, Liam Ryan (twice) and Jack Darling missed set shots and Patrick Naish failed to score from the pocket. It proved to be the Eagles’ final chance at pinching an upset win, and when Larkey kicked his sixth goal five minutes later, it sealed the result for North.

North gift-wrapped goals

West Coast defenders Alex Witherden and Jeremy McGovern gifted North Melbourne a pair of goals for making late contact with Jack Mahony and Kayne Turner respectively after the Kangaroos pair took marks outside the 50m arc. The sloppy indiscretions made certainties of very tough chances from the goalsquare, and in such a tight game with the margin hovering between three and four goals, they were incredibly costly.

Cam Zurhaar makes sure Shannon Hurn earns the footy the hard way. Picture: Michael Willson AFL Photos
Cam Zurhaar makes sure Shannon Hurn earns the footy the hard way. Picture: Michael Willson AFL Photos

Thomas tumbles it home

Late in the first quarter while streaming through the middle of the ground, Thomas recognised that there was nobody inside North Melbourne’s forward 50, so from 80 metres out, he unloaded a long-range mongrel punt which dribbled, dribbled and dribbled over the goal line for a clever six-pointer.

Rioli provides some highlights

Rioli got off to a cracking start, kicking West Coast’s two first-quarter goals, both of which were rippers. He gathered the loose ball after a marking contest with Aaron Hall, baulked his opponent and dribbled the first through from the pocket with the outside of his boot. For the second Rioli intercepted an errant Hall handball and quickly snapped it home from 25m out while being tackled.

SCOREBOARD

KANGAROOS 3.3 6.10 8.11 10.14 (74)

EAGLES 2.3, 4.4, 6.6, 8.11 (59)

LERNER’S BEST

Kangaroos: Larkey, Greenwood, J.Walker, Xerri, Ziebell, Hall.

Eagles: Rioli, Shuey, Ryan, Naish, Petrevski-Seton.

GOALS

Kangaroos: Larkey 6, Turner 2, Thomas, Mahony.

Eagles: Rioli 4, Duggan, B.Williams, Black, Mountford.

INJURIES

Kangaroos: Thomas (ribs), Davies-Uniacke (concussion), Kyron Hayden (illness) replaced in selected side by Tom Powell.

Eagles: Ainsworth (knee), Jackson Nelson (knee) replaced in selected side by Declan Mountford.

Umpires: Foot, Stephens, Whetton

Venue: Marvel Stadium

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

LERNER’S VOTES

3. N. Larkey (NM)

2. W. Rioli (WC)

1. H. Greenwood (NM)

How Eagles lost another player — mid-interview

– Will Hogan

Selection woes at West Coast have continued with coach Adam Simpson told mid-interview of a late change with defender Jackson Nelson injured in the warm up in the match against North Melbourne.

Already heavily depleted with more than 10 players out due to the AFL’s Covid-19 protocols, what looked like a potential knee injury to Nelson is yet another headache for Simpson who was alerted to the injury by Fox Footy’s Kath Loughnan just minutes before the opening bounce.

“Well that was I think a developing story and I saw Adam Simpson’s face when I said that, that Jackson Nelson was in the hands of trainers,” Loughnan said.

Just moments later Nelson was confirmed a late out with top up player and former North Melbourne midfielder Declan Mountford a late in.

Fox Footy commentator Dermott Brereton said the scenes at Marvel Stadium were hard to believe.

Jackson Nelson was a late out for the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images
Jackson Nelson was a late out for the Eagles. Picture: Getty Images

“One of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my time,” Brereton said.

“I’m in the goods lift and I’ve seen that the game has started and there was a fella walking into the lift.

“His name – Declan Mountford. Still in his civvies going down to get changed at the 30-second mark of the first quarter.”

AFL integrity questioned as Eagles forced to play

—Sam Landsberger

Gillon McLachlan has warned the Covid crisis engulfing West Coast will occur at other clubs as the AFL’s decision to force the Eagles on to Marvel Stadium to play North Melbourne on Sunday draws heavy criticism.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson sarcastically quipped: “He’s so caring, Gill, isn’t he?” after McLachlan declared clubs would require resilience and depth to navigate 2022.

West Coast’s cluster quickly ballooned from two cases to 13 compounding what Simpson described as an “unprecedented” number of injuries as the club prepares to field a team filled with top-ups who met each other for the first time on Saturday.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson has 13 players missing through Covid protocols.
Eagles coach Adam Simpson has 13 players missing through Covid protocols.

The Eagles only had 25 fit players last week before their outbreak, with Claremont’s Declan Mountford named an emergency after just one training session with the club.

Players will undergo another round of tests on Sunday and anyone who turns positive in Melbourne are unlikely to be allowed to travel home.

The Covid cloud is suddenly hanging over the league again, with Carlton relocating meetings outside and mandating masks outside of exercising last week in a bid to minimise the spread.

Blues caretaker coach Ash Hansen praised his players for their diligence after only Jack Martin and Adam Cerra became infected in the lead-up to Thursday’s win against Western Bulldogs.

But with Western Australia’s virus peak hitting now, which Simpson said was similar to what the eastern states experienced in January when most AFL players contracted Covid, has the Perth clubs at far greater risk in-season.

About a quarter of West Coast’s list are fathers who have kids attending school where infection is hard to prevent.

The Eagles made 12 forced changes, losing Andrew Gaff to a foot injury and 11 to Covid, and had five of their 20 Covid top-ups unavailable because they have also tested positive.

The Kangaroos, who have won just five out of their last 38 games and collected last year’s wooden spoon, are at the unfamiliar odds of $1.18.

Dual West Coast premiership coach Mick Malthouse and former North Melbourne chairman James Brayshaw said on radio the game should be postponed.

“This is a competition that has to have great integrity,” Malthouse said on ABC.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan says clubs have to deal with the spectre of Covid and play on this season.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan says clubs have to deal with the spectre of Covid and play on this season.

“We have got byes in this competition. The integrity of the competition is at stake right now.”

Melbourne Stars missed Big Bash finals after losing two games with a team of mostly club cricketers.

Captain Glenn Maxwell suffered shakes and sweats and lamented returning immediately after seven days in isolation because of what it did to his body.

Simpson, retired for 13 years, joked on 3AW: “I reckon I’d still get 10-15 touches in the back half”.

He was surprised to be told there was no minimum number of available AFL-listed players required for a match to go ahead.

Simpson has calmly and impressively handled the crisis, giving his new players specific roles in a game where the pressure is completely off the Eagles.

An underdone Jack Darling returns after recently getting vaccinated and overcoming a foot injury while No.57 pick Jack Williams will make a premature AFL debut as an 18-year-old ruckman.

West Perth co-captain Aaron Black, the 2014 Sandover medallist, will also make his debut at 29 after 222 WAFL games.

Ex-Hawk Angus Dewar (formerly Angus Litherland), ex-Docker Stefan Giro and Brayden Ainsworth, who the Eagles delisted six months ago, are also set to take on North from outside the club’s 2022 list.

Originally published as AFL Round 2: North Melbourne v West Coast news, scores, stats

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