North Melbourne are dangling off the cliff, just a month after standing at the top of the mountain.
Saturday’s 28-point AFL loss to resurgent Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium means they have dropped five straight matches and six of their past seven.
It is far removed from their 9-0 start to the season.
As late as June 17, the Kangaroos were still top before they lost a fierce clash to Hawthorn.
Now they are eighth, only two games ahead of the Power.
Saturday was the classic “eight-point” match – had North won, it would have just about settled the top eight – but the Kangaroos went down 16.9 (105) to 10.17 (77).
Asked if the dramatic slump could kill their confidence, coach Brad Scott conceded: “it has the potential to, no doubt.
“We can’t shy away from the fact that we’re not the team that was 9-0.
“But that’s what coaches are for and that’s what leadership groups are for.”
North took the unusual step of holding Scott’s post-game media conference in front of their top-level Shinboners coterie group.
He used the occasion to make a call to arms.
“Anyone can do it when you’re 9-0 and cruising – now’s the time we have to stand up and right the ship, get back on course,” he said.
“I still have great faith and confidence in us as a football club.”
The scene was set in the opening minute when umpire Justin Schmitt paid a contentious free kick against Kangaroos defender Michael Firrito for a deliberate rushed behind.
Port’s Jay Schulz kicked an easy goal.
Asked about that free, in the wake of his $30,000 AFL fine, Scott simply smiled.
“That’s my answer,” he said.
Scott was even more irked by Port’s second goal moments later, when North lost a ruck contest in defence and the ball landed in Chad Wingard’s lap.
“You set up a lot of things to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Those two goals unleashed an avalanche.
With part-time ruckman Jackson Trengove belting North star Todd Goldstein in the first term, Port walloped the ‘Roos 6.3 to 0.5.
The centre clearances in the opening term were 7-0 Port’s way.
North rallied and were in still in the game at halftime.
But they sprayed 2.9 in the third term as Port kicked 3.0.
Injuries certainly have hurt North – Daniel Wells and Jarrad Waite returned on Saturday and needed the run.
But they also played as badly on Saturday as Port were outstanding.
It was the first time this season the Power had beaten a top-eight team.
“Today, I thought there was some real growth in the way we did it and I was pleased with that,” said Port coach Ken Hinkley.
Port forward Charlie Dixon rolled an ankle in the last quarter, but Hinkley expects he will only miss one game at most.