North Melbourne’s Jack Ziebell celebrates a goal. Picture: Michael Klein
North Melbourne’s Jack Ziebell celebrates a goal. Picture: Michael Klein

Kangaroos rally to start Rhyce Shaw era on high

THERE is certainly no feeling of buyer's remorse at Arden St.

In the pre-game coverage on Friday night, North Melbourne great Wayne Carey said the work would now really begin for new senior coach Rhyce Shaw.

"It starts tonight. He's no longer a relief teacher," Carey said on Channel 7.

In other words, and with apologies to Chris Judd and David Teague, the training wheels were officially off.

And on Friday night he was fine, albeit after a shaky start.

The Kangas were jumped early with Hawthorn kicking four of the first five goals to dominate the opening term.

North Melbourne then rallied, propelled by Shaun Higgins, who was in everything.

They trailed by just five points at the main change and then hunted the Hawks to take the lead, and hold on to it when Hawthorn came late.

The 12.14 (86) to 9.10 (64) victory was the Roos'  eighth win of the season.

As for the Hawks, to borrow a line from coach Alastair Clarkson, they weren't hard enough or tough enough for long enough.

Shaun Higgins runs away from Hawthorn’s Ricky Henderson. Picture: Michael Klein
Shaun Higgins runs away from Hawthorn’s Ricky Henderson. Picture: Michael Klein

Shaw paid tribute to his players for their comeback and admitted it felt different being in the seat as the senior coach rather than the caretaker.

"It felt a little bit different, actually, that first quarter felt different," he said.

"We just didn't have out sea legs there for a little bit and to Hawthorn's credit they came out firing and made us look pretty silly for a little bit.

"But to the boys' credit they fought back pretty hard and we played our brand of footy again, which was really pleasing."

Clarkson said the Kangaroos scored a "comfortable and deserving" win, lamenting his side's ability to convert their inside-50 numbers into scores after quarter-time.

"The game started to slip away and towards the end of the third quarter we tried a couple of things, and none of them worked too well for us, unfortunately," Clarkson said.

50 FOR BROWN

The race for the Coleman Medal is well and truly heating up.

With the Giants' Jeremy Cameron on  57 goals, Kangaroo Ben Brown became the second player this season to bring up the half-century.

He should have reached the milestone right on half-time when he received a free kick after the siren.

A goal would have tied the scores, but it drifted wide.

He was able to reach it in the third term with a beautiful snap goal on the run that bounced its way through.

Brown would finish with four goals to take his season tally to 52.

He's coming.

THIS TEAM DOESN'T BOTTOM OUT

The song says they're a happy team at Hawthorn.

Maybe a line should be added that they also don't bottom out at Hawthorn.

Or, at the least, they don't under Clarkson.

Many thought this could be the year when the Hawks might finally vanish from sight, before reloading next year or the year after.

Instead, they have proven again and again their ability under Clarkson to rebuild on the run.

When there is a slight suspicion they may be about to fall off the cliff, the Hawks rally.

The loss makes their quest for a September berth that much harder, but you get the feeling they will be back in strong contention in little time.

And just quietly, they've found one in James Worpel, who finished with a career-high 37 disposals.

"That is pleasing," Clarkson said.

"He has been really consistent for us in that part of the ground, he is only a second-year player. And he has just flown under the radar a little bit but has been really important for us over the course of the year."

James Worpel was Hawthorn’s best player. Picture: Michael Klein
James Worpel was Hawthorn’s best player. Picture: Michael Klein

BLOW FOR BIRCHALL

Could we have seen the last of four-time premiership player Grant Birchall?

Hopefully that's not the case, but Hawks fans had their hearts in their mouths when he  came from the ground in the third term.

He went down to the rooms and soon returned to the bench, before ice was applied to his hamstring not long later.

The 248-gamer only recently returned to the AFL after a horror run of injuries the past two years.

BIG NIGHT FOR BURGOYNE

It was not the result he was after, but it was still a night to remember for four-time premiership Hawk Shaun Burgoyne.

The man known as "Silk" set a new mark for games by an indigenous player when he ran out for game 373, passing previous record-holder Adam Goodes.

The question now is just where will he be next year?

The 36-year-old has yet to sort out his future for next season after being on a series of one-year contracts in recent seasons, but all signs point towards him returning in 2020.

The Hawks are set to make a call on his future shortly, with Gold Coast reportedly hovering if that fails to eventuate.

Surely he will stay a Hawk, based on recent form, but it still remains to be seen.

Shaun Burgoyne is chaired off Marvel Stadium through a guard of honour. Picture: Michael Klein
Shaun Burgoyne is chaired off Marvel Stadium through a guard of honour. Picture: Michael Klein

SCOREBOARD

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 5.6 9.11 12.14 (86) HAWTHORN 4.4 6.5 8.7 9.10 (64)

GOALS

Kangaroos: Brown 4, Ziebell 3, Wood 2, Higgins 2, Zurhaar

Hawks: Lewis 3, Gunston 2, Birchall, O'Brien, Puopolo, Breust

BEST

Kangaroos: Higgins, Brown, Ahern, Polec, Cunnington, Goldstein

Hawks: Worpel, Wingard, McEvoy, Lewis, O'Meara

NICK SMART'S VOTES

3 - Shaun Higgins (NM)

2 - Ben Brown (NM)

1 - James Worpel (Haw)

INJURIES

Kangaroos: Nil. Hawks: Birchall (hamstring)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Deboy, Hosking, Ryan

Official crowd: 33,226 at Marvel Stadium