The North Melbourne Kangaroos have shown signs of improvement in recent weeks but this statistic can’t be ignored.
North Melbourne has lost its past seven consecutive quarters of football, including all four against Fremantle on Saturday night at Optus Stadium.
That’s not the greatest form to take into a clash with an unbeaten side – and the Kangaroos face a Melbourne side with a 6-0 record next weekend.
But statistics can’t hide North’s improvement in some areas.
In their 51-points loss on Saturday night, the Kangaroos had more possessions than the Dockers.
The final margin flattered the winning side a little; the results coming courtesy of them being able to win all four quarters.
Norths lacked efficiency when going forward.
But, importantly, for the second week in a row, the Roos managed to control the bleeding, avoiding much greater losses.
In earlier rounds, that would not have happened.
The Kangaroos led Geelong by 10 points at quarter-time in Round 5, but then lost the next three terms against the Cats before going down by 30 points.
They failed to win a term against Fremantle, but weren’t blown away at any stage.
Those past seven losing quarters have been at an average of just 13 points each. Four of them have been by less than two goals; the highest by just 20.
In the previous four games, the Roos lost 11 quarters by an average of 28 points; eight of them by three goals or more; five of them by five goals or more.
A couple of times against the Dockers, North fought back late in quarters after it looked like the opposition were getting on top.
This pleased coach David Noble.
“In some of our earlier games we weren’t able to stem the flow, so I think our guys adjusted well,” he said.
“It puts us on the back foot. We can’t keep coming from behind; giving teams an opportunity to walk away and take the momentum.
“We are trying to win as many quarters as we can.
“We have work in front of us to learn how to be competitive and move up the ladder. That’s the bottom line.”
That bottom line is that North Melbourne has won just six of 24 quarters and are winless after six rounds, sitting on the bottom of the ladder with a percentage of 45.9.
But that percentage has increased in each of the past four weeks.
Fremantle had only one more scoring shot than the Roos in the final quarter (3.2 to 1.3).
Noble was happy with the improved level of intensity his side has shown and how they were able to still apply pressure late in the game against the Dockers.
“The game doesn’t care how old you are or what team you put on the paddock, so with that comes expectation that we’re going to stand up in terms of effort and intensity,” he said.
“I thought we battled reasonably well in the last quarter and we had chances to score.”
Any improvement will be tested next week when they play the unbeaten Melbourne.
Whether or not that game is played in Tasmania, as scheduled, will be played out between state government and the AFL as they deal with lockdowns and new community transmissions of COVID-19.
If the Kangaroos are to push the Demons and continue to improve, they need to control possessions of the football. Their ability to win the possession count against the Dockers helped. And it was the first time this season they have been able to do so.
Noble said that small win is something his side will work on ahead of the clash against Melbourne.
“One of the things we are trying to do at times is understand where the game is,” he said.
“The were slowing the ball down, taking a bit of heat out of the game.
“We seemed to be well organised when moving the ball forward. We ended up with nine inside 50 marks as well.
“And what that does is allow you to get your defence in shape.
“Earlier in the year when we moved the ball really quick, we got bounced really quick and we conceded a lot of turnover score against from the corridor.”