North Melbourne’s best form had better be in front of them, because their AFL season of great expectations has ground to a halt.
Kangaroos coach Brad Scott remained upbeat about their prospects after Sunday’s 32-point loss to West Coast at Subiaco.
It meant they have lost five of their last six games and plummeted from top spot on the AFL ladder to eighth.
Scott said they had to rediscover their best form and regain players from injury.
“Our best footy is in front of us,” he said.
“We have played some really good football this year and we have had some challenges put in front of us. Some challenges we haven’t been able to overcome.
“We have played four pretty good teams in the past month (Geelong, Hawthorn, Adelaide, Eagles) and really I didn’t walk away discouraged that our best wasn’t good enough to win those games.”
Indeed, their situation is not catastrophic – yet.
North’s nine-game winning streak at the start of the season means they are only one game plus percentage outside the top four.
And the Kangaroos have a three-game buffer over Port Adelaide, Collingwood Melbourne and St Kilda, who will need a lot to go right if any of them are to push for the finals.
But of North’s 10 wins this season, only two have been against other teams currently in the top eight.
Their form slump makes next Saturday’s home game against the resurgent Power a big clash.
The Eagles’ 16.8 (104) to 11.6 (72) win was their first this year against another top eight team.
West Coast improved from eighth to fifth, leaving them just one win adrift of second.
Also on Sunday, Adelaide extended their winning streak to seven with a regulation 10-goal win over Carlton at the MCG.
The 16.11 (107) to 7.5 (47) win sent the Crows rocketing from fifth to third.
Across town, St Kilda’s four-goal run in the last quarter meant they survived a scare against lowly Essendon and won by 11 points.
Jack Steven was supreme for the Saints in the 17.7 (109) to 14.14 (98) win.
Geelong and GWS were the big losers in round 16, with the Cats falling at home to Sydney on Friday night by 38 points.
As Geelong dropped out of the top four, Sydney replaced them in second spot and set up a ripping clash next Thursday night against top side Hawthorn at the SCG.
The Giants were also ordinary at home, falling to the Magpies by 32 points to drop from third to seventh.
Richmond gave the Western Bulldogs an almighty scare on Saturday night, but the ‘Dogs won ugly by 10 points to improve from sixth to fourth.
Only two games separate top side Hawthorn from North in eighth.
The Hawks beat Port Adelaide on Thursday night by 22 points in a rugged clash.
Melbourne beat Fremantle in Darwin and Gold Coast won the Q Clash over Brisbane.