Stand-in coach Darren Crocker has signalled a change in momentum for North Melbourne after his side’s 10-point win over West Coast.
Battling fierce winds at Hobart’s Blundstone Arena on Sunday, Crocker said the Kangaroos handled the conditions better than their opponents to hold on and win the closely fought battle 13.7 (85) to 10.15 (75).
“This is the start. We really need to build momentum from this game and get the ball rolling,” Crocker said.
The Kangaroos now have a 5-5 win-loss record for the season, while the Eagles are 7-3 and slip one place to third on the ladder.
In a see-sawing game, North Melbourne led by 18 points at the first break, trailed by seven at halftime, and took a six-point advantage into the final term.
“The second quarter I thought we just tried to defend a lead and do everything we could to do that, (and it) didn’t really work for us that well,” Crocker said.
“Whereas in the last quarter because we didn’t have much of a buffer we needed to keep attacking.”
A trio of quick goals late in the third term to Ben Brown, Brent Harvey and Shaun Higgins proved crucial for North Melbourne.
Half-forward Higgins, who was top goal-scorer for the Kangaroos with four, drew praise from Crocker.
“He was just super-important to us.
“He brings an element of real class, composure, but also the ability to get forward and get to the fall of the ball.”
Jack Ziebell was also valuable with 24 disposals, 11 clearances and a goal.
His was one of four final-term goals for the Kangaroos which Crocker said was a “super” effort in the strong gale.
“Any high balls that got kicked into that wind some of them were nearly going back toward the kicker,” the coach said.
“Our guys as the game went on, just played the conditions a little bit smarter.”
Sunday’s result helps calm the nerves of Crocker, who is sitting in the big chair for Brad Scott who is recovering from back surgery.
The pair kept in close contact by text message throughout Sunday’s game.
“Brad was well aware of what was getting spoken about in the box,” Crocker said.
“It worked pretty well: he was able to text in from time to time with his thoughts and from my perspective it wasn’t distracting at all.”
A disappointed Eagles coach Adam Simpson said North Melbourne were “ruthless” and deserved to win.
“We are not going to win every week,” he told reporters, adding that he’s still happy with how the team is placed.
For West Coast, Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis finished with 32 disposals and four clearances while ruckman Nic Naitanui won 30 hitouts, but was inaccurate in front of goal and finished with 0.4.