North Melbourne coach Brad Scott admits they will take longer than this AFL season to become truly consistent, despite being a more complete team.
They held off a strong challenge from Melbourne to win by 35 points on Sunday at the MCG.
The Kangaroos’ 19.13 (127) to 14.8 (92) was their fifth-straight and meant they improved by one place to sixth on the ladder, just ahead of Richmond on percentage.
After North broke the game open in the first quarter, Melbourne rallied in a pulsating contest and twice closed to within two points late in the third term.
Shaun Higgins and Lindsay Thomas kicked two goals apiece in the last term as North surged again for the win.
Scott said Hawthorn and Fremantle remain the benchmarks for consistent performance and he said it will take time for North to match that.
“Our players get frustrated with their lack of four-quarter effort, for sure,” he said.
“But as I’ve explained to them, we’re not going to change that this year.
“We’re going to have to do that over a long period of time, until we’re spoken about in the same sentence (as the Hawks and Dockers).”
Higgins was best afield and Thomas also kicked five goals.
Melbourne young gun Jesse Hogan again starred at centre half-forward, kicking four goals, and fellow key forward Chris Dawes kicked another three for the Demons.
While Scott argued their defence is better than last year, he acknowledged they needed to be better in one-on-one contests.
“I didn’t think we dropped off in effort, we just got beaten a couple of times in contests,” he said of Melbourne’s challenge.
“Against the good teams, you need to defend better one-on-one than we did today.
“If there’s anything out of today, there will be a fair bit of work on that.”
The close fight for the top eight meant over this weekend North dropped from seventh to ninth before Sunday’s win.
Scott said it is crucial that North keep looking forward, rather than try to protect their top-eight position.
“If you start playing defensive footy or start even thinking of protecting your position, you get opened up,” he said.
“The depth across our list is better than last year and the positional coverage is better.
“But I think our best footy is still ahead of us in 2015.”
Demons coach Paul Roos said his team showed resilience after the slow start, but were always in danger when they could not take the lead.
It was an entertaining contest and Roos said the ongoing debate about the state of the game was unnecessary.
“It’s a disgrace, the way we attack the game as an industry,” he said.
“There will be bad games, ladies and gentlemen – that’s going to happen.”
One Demon who will not look back on this game fondly is Jack Watts, who had a couple of turnovers that cost his side goals.
“The main thing with Jack today, which was unusual – his skill level was down,” Roos said.