North Melbourne has marked its first match under the formal leadership of Rhyce Shaw with a 22 point win over Hawthorn, the new coach telling his men to “relax” after a horror first quarter.
The Kangaroos won 12 14 (86) to 9 10 (64) after Hawthorn kicked away to a 27-point lead in the first quarter. The game evolved though for the Roos as they pressured the Hawks around the ball and forced errors.
North’s Shaun Higgins was full of praise for the new coach, who was appointed after a two month period in a caretaker capacity.
“It was a big weekend for the footy club. A huge game for is on a Friday night, we don’t get the opportunity too often.”
Forward Ben Brown – who booted four goals – also acknowledged the work of former coach Brad Scott.
“Scotty built something great at this club and Rhyce, Rhyce Shaw, has carried that on,” Brown said.
“He has his own coaching style and everyone is getting around that and loves having him as part of the club. He has endeared himself to us and will make a great coach.
The Roos are this weekend marking their 150th anniversary and while Higgins was quiet early with just two touches in the first term, he finished with 28 possessions, seven clearances and two goals in a match-turning display.
The star veteran had plenty of willing helpers after a sputtering start to the contest, Paul Ahern (26 disposals), Ben Cunnington (21) and Jared Polec (23) all influential.
Ben Brown booted four goals and skipper Jack Ziebell three in a win that improved North’s record to 8-11, while the Hawks slipped to an 8-11 record that most likely ends their slim finals hopes.
James Worpel was the best player on the ground with 37 possessions and 11 clearances, with Chad Wingard (29) and Jaeger O’Meara (26) also important.
In his 373rd AFL match, Shaun Burgoyne set a new mark for the most games played by an indigenous player, passing Sydney champion Adam Goodes.
The four-time premiership star amassed 23 touches in his milestone game.
Further souring th Hawk’s night, Grant Birchall’s comeback after missing all of 2018 through injury stalled in the third quarter when he limped down the race clutching his right hamstring.