HAVING set the pace in the first half of the season, things could go pear-shaped for North Melbourne very quickly.
While the wins came thick and fast for the Kangaroos – a club-record nine in the first nine rounds – they have lost two of their past three and are now counting the cost of a mounting injury toll.
It’s one that could spell disaster for a club that had been as well placed as any to win this season’s premiership.
By the completion of round 16, there is every chance they could be sitting as low as seventh or eighth on the ladder.
Renowned for being a proud club, it was, of course, brave against Geelong on Saturday night.
But, they simply ran out of manpower as at least six players battled injury.
First captain and tackling machine Andrew Swallow (concussion) went off before fellow star midfielders Ben Cunnington (corked quad) and Nick Dal Santo (adductor) became severely restricted.
Injuries to small forward Robin Nahas (compound fracture of his finger) and halfback Shaun Atley (ankle) only added the Kangaroos’ woes.
And let’s not forget gun ruckman Todd Goldstein who looked a little hobbled as he battled a knee injury, while the horror form of one-time flavour of the month, key forward Jarrad Waite, continued. He hasn’t kicked a goal in three weeks.
While the club’s fitness and medical staff were being revered in the early part of the season, they now have their hands full ... at the worst possible time.
North is to face three-time reigning premier Hawthorn this Friday night, then a red-hot Adelaide (in Adelaide) the following Thursday and finally West Coast (at Subiaco) after the bye in round 16.
Worst-case scenario, the Kangaroos don’t win another game until July 16 – and even then, that will be no walk in the park against Port Adelaide at Docklands.
The North Melbourne bandwagon has hardly been chockers, even through that opening winning run.
But it’s unlikely to pick up new few passengers any time soon.
Certainly bookmakers have Brad Scott’s men well back in the pack – out to $11 and on the seventh line of betting in most markets.
Scott says he and his boys thrive on continually being underestimated. They have done for years now.
“It’s really helped me throughout the year, in all seriousness. It’s been great,” he said after Saturday night’s loss.
“Because when you’re 10-1, you have to try and keep your players realistic and keep their feet on the ground and you guys (the media) a doing a perfect job of that for me.”
Well, he’s got what he wants.
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