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North Melbourne (Last year 10 wins) – 13.5 wins – $1.80 Over / $1.95 Under
Looking back: North Melbourne had a tumultuous year in 2013 with a heartbreaking run of close games going against them. Whether or not that will leave some mental scars will be intriguing going into this season. On paper the squad looks ominous and if they can get a breakout season from one or two of their up and coming young stars it should bode well for a better season and a spot in the finals.
What went wrong: A glaring weakness seemed to be their defence. They lacked the ability to stop other teams from scoring heavily. You can see from their opposition points totals in losses how poorly they were defending. Granted, they do play on Etihad Stadium which tends to be free flowing and high scoring but if they want to be prominent in September they need to have a better mix of offence and defence.
Points Allowed in their Losses
0 – 70 – twice (in torrential rain against Fremantle and Gold Coast)
70 – 80 – once
90 or more – 9 times
Losing close games was a strong suit for the Roos last year which is not a good thing. Of their 12 loses they had 10 under 17 points and of those there were 5 games that they lost by 4 points or less. That is heart wrenching stuff for fans.
Games Lost by under 17 points
Collingwood – 16
Geelong – 4
Hawthorn – 3
West Coast – 2
Adelaide – 1
Gold Coast – 15
Brisbane – 12
Carlton – 1
Adelaide – 9
Hawthorn – 14
Player movement: In what can be described as a calculated off-season, the Roos scooped up Nick Dal Santo from the Saints as he was a Free Agent. Dal Santo will add some extra class into the midfield and should complement their tough inside midfielders like Ziebell and Cunnington. The Roos also used their first pick to select father son prospect Luke McDonald. McDonald has starred at VFL level and should play double digit games in 2014 from all reports. At this stage of their list’s development, no big losses were felt and the stability going into next season is appealing.
What to expect: North Melbourne will put themselves in practically every game this season as they did this year. Last season the two losses over 3 goals were to Fremantle and Sydney who played off in a preliminary final. If their skipper, Andrew Swallow, can come back from an achilles injury and they can get big seasons from Goldstein in the ruck, Petrie and Thomas up forward and Thompson down back they will be in good stead. A worrying trend for the Roos is their reliance on Harvey and Wells to provide that X-Factor. They don’t seem to have star quality game winners outside of those two who are senior players. If Dal Santo can take on some of that work load and players like Mullet and Black continue to improve they should be in the finals hunt.
Draw: North Melbourne have 10 seemingly very winnable games (against WBD, PA, GC, BRIS, MEL, STK, GWS, WBD, ADE, MEL). The next tier of games will decide their season. If they can get another 4 or 5 wins (against ESS, COLL, WCE, RICH, ADE, BRIS, HAW, CARL, GEE) they will push for a top 4 spot. North Melbourne only play Hawthorn, Sydney and Fremantle once this season which looks favourable. With 11 games at Etihad Stadium they should be a very difficult match up for any team under the roof and with 2 more games in Hobart and at the MCG, it looks like a reasonable draw overall for the Roos.
Final Word: I have heard Scott say that he is sticking with his game plan and that the players need to execute better under pressure. Whilst I agree in some respects, there is no doubt, quality defence wins big finals matches. The all out rebound/slingshot turnover football that they like to play under the dome is not conducive to big September games at the MCG. I think they can be a nuisance come September without seriously pushing for a flag.
As for 14 wins to win an over bet here, it looks like the bookies also see North Melbourne as a big improver given their penchant for losing a close game or two in the past. If they can get on the favourable side of that ledger there is no doubt they are headed to the finals and if they are over the mental scars in close finishes they should be able to hold their nerve enough to get to 13 or 14 wins. 7 teams (including Essendon) were good enough to gather 14 wins last season so if forced to pick I would lean to the over 13.5 without seeing much value there at this stage.
North Melbourne OVER 13.5 wins – $1.80