A masterful performance by North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein is the only thing that saved Friday night’s drab affair between the Kangaroos and Essendon from being tossed on the scrapheap of AFL history.
It’s unlikely even the 34-possession performance by evergreen midfielder Brent Harvey in his 399th game would be enough to tempt the most ardent Kangaroos’ fan to revisit their side’s uninspiring 25-point win over the decimated Bombers.
But Goldstein’s dominant 27-possession, 55-hitout display has every chance of being highlighted at this year’s Brownlow Medal ceremony when AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan propels the imposing ruckman further up the leaderboard with a maximum three votes.
“I said at the start of the year that he really wants to stamp his authority on the competition and put his hand up as one of the premier big men in the game – I think he’s well on his way to doing that,” coach Brad Scott said after the 14.9 (93) to 9.14 (68) win.
“He’s just been a really dominant player for us all year and he’s been really consistent. I think he’d be right up there with a couple of others (in the Brownlow running).”
It was just as well North had Goldstein to push around elevated Essendon rookie Shaun McKernan and pinch hitter Joe Daniher in the first half at Etihad Stadium.
A Bombers’ line-up lacking the likes of Jobe Watson, Adam Cooney, Paul Chapman, Jake Carlisle and Heath Hocking outworked the listless Roos, who trailed by eight points at the main break.
North’s forward line, minus suspended full-forward Drew Petrie, looked disjointed but eventually found some sort of rhythm – led by four goals from promising youngster Ben Brown.
For the Bombers, Brent Stanton and Brendon Goddard worked hard for 30 and 27 touches respectively, while Michael Hurley did his All-Australian chances no harm with another polished display.
Coach James Hird was pleased that his side was able to reproduce the effort that propelled them to a morale-boosting win over Melbourne last week.
Hird admitted Goldstein’s performance was the best he’d seen from a ruckman in a long time, but defended his decision to leave former Greater Western Sydney lead ruckman Jonathan Giles in the reserves.
“We’ve asked for more competition from him and he’s given us that at training,” Hird said.
“Unfortunately for Jonathan, he didn’t get to play last week because there was a bye in the reserves. He is a chance to come in.
“We just want a more competitive effort from Jonathan. He’s starting to give us that. Our expectation of the way he plays, he’s got some really good attributes particularly up forward.
“But we’re coaching him to be the player we want him to be and that sometimes takes a bit of time in a different system. It is not a six-month program. It’ll take us time but he may play next week.”