Exactly a year after Sydney thrashed them in an AFL preliminary final, North Melbourne will run onto ANZ Stadium again with much stronger self-belief.
The Kangaroos’ 17-point elimination final win over Richmond on Sunday plunged the Tigers into fresh September despair and earned North a semi-final next Saturday night against the Swans.
It is also 12 months since North’s semi-final win over Fremantle meant a rare “straight sets” exit for the Dockers.
The ‘Roos will fancy their chances of doing the same to Sydney next Saturday night, which will be a year to the day that the Swans ended their season with a 71-point belting.
While the Swans were mighty in their qualifying final loss to the Dockers on Saturday, they are riddled with injuries and Lance Franklin will not be ready to return.
North coach Brad Scott also said his players are growing in finals confidence.
“There’s definitely more self-belief because you only get self-belief doing – you don’t know you can win a final until you win one,” Scott said.
“Now that our group have won three of our last four finals, you couldn’t say that there’s anything but more self-belief.
“But that doesn’t get it done on the night so we’re going to have to go and give a better account of ourselves than we did this time last year.”
North received plenty of criticism for resting players last week, but Sunday’s 15.15 (105) to 14.4 (98) win vindicated the policy.
“We didn’t start planning a month ago just to get to the finals, we were planning to play our best football in the finals and hopefully that’s ahead of us,” Scott said.
Sunday’s match featured five lead changes in the second half and capped an absorbing opening weekend of the finals series.
Sub Lindsay Thomas kicked the sealer for North, but he is also on report after crudely lashing out with his foot at Richmond defender Dylan Grimes.
On Saturday night, Adelaide continued to ride a wave of emotion as they rallied in the last quarter to beat the Western Bulldogs in their elimination final.
Adelaide coach Scott Camporeale said Phil Walsh, who died tragically earlier this year, was definitely with them and they wanted to do their former coach proud.
The AFL moved a step closer to its first Western Derby grand final as Fremantle and West Coast won their qualifying finals.
The Dockers kept holding the door open for Sydney, who were gutsy, but could not take the lead at Domain Stadium and went down by nine points.
Sydney lost Sam Reid with a hamstring injury and the only player they are likely to regain this week is defender Nick Smith.
West Coast moved into premiership favouritism thanks to Friday night’s 32-point win over Hawthorn.
The Eagles were outstanding, while the Hawks were unusually sloppy and failed to match West Coast when the game went into high gear.
Adding to the Hawks’ woes, forward Jack Gunston suffered an ankle injury.
Gunston and Reid might not play again this season.