Who would’ve thought North Melbourne would be playing off for a Grand Final berth after entering the final series in sixth place in 2014?
But, after causing the fourth straight-sets exit in AFL history during September, the club expect to go one further and firmly challenge for the title this season.
So far this season, things haven’t gone entirely to plan.
Before he could even play a game, key defender Nathan Grima injured his back during training and was told he won’t play for three months.
In a Channel Seven behind the scenes look into North’s first few weeks of the season, the 29-year-old said in February – one week after his back operation – he thought of giving the game away.
“I don’t even know what I’m feeling, if you had asked me a week ago I was going to quit. I still don’t even know what I want to do at the moment,” Grima said.
“I’m sure over the next few weeks I’ll want to get back and play but, at the minute, to be honest, I don’t really care about football.”
Thankfully, Grima’s motivation has returned and he’s on the comeback trail. But things haven’t gone well for his teammates on the field so far.
A heavy loss in the season-opener against the Crows was a surprise, given the completion of another strong pre-season which included the acquisition of free agents Jarred Waite and Shaun Higgins.
According to veteran Brent Harvey, the loss was an uncharacteristic performance.
“It was a long seven days in-between Adelaide and Brisbane, I can tell you,” Harvey said.
“To come out and play like we did was super disappointing. It wasn’t the North Melbourne team that I know.”
“It’s a little bit different because I went in with no pain and I’ve come out with a little bit of soreness” – Nick Dal Santo
The following week, North came out firing against the Lions at the Gabba. After a modest five-goal first term, the Kangaroos banged on eight goals in the second quarter to run out 82-point winners, with Waite booting a career-high seven majors.
But the game came at a price, losing skillful midfielder Nick Dal Santo during the match to what would eventually appear to be a torn hamstring.
Despite the club’s optimism post game, Dal Santo required surgery and will miss roughly two months of footy.
The 31-year-old spoke of the perplexity of the situation, given he had played out previous matches in similar circumstances.
“I feel fine. I can touch my toes, I can stretch and I’m honestly confused. I’ve come from playing the game Sunday and feeling alright Sunday night and Monday, to talking surgery on Tuesday,” he said.
“It’s a little bit different because I went in with actually no pain and I’ve come out with a little bit of soreness and just feel a bit stiff.”
The bad luck continued to roll on for the Roos with injuries to star midfielders Daniel Wells and Jack Ziebell resulting in an eight-point loss to Port Adelaide on the weekend.
They play the similarly-placed Cats on Sunday and, given the rivalry between the clubs in recent times, it could be the game that kick-starts the Kangaroos into gear in 2015.