Josh Walker of the Kangaroos lands awkwardly after trying to mark. Pic: Michael Klein
Josh Walker of the Kangaroos lands awkwardly after trying to mark. Pic: Michael Klein

How did Kangaroos pull that off?

A halftime against St Kilda, North Melbourne fans would have been scratching their heads in their loungerooms around the country.

A new season which promised so much was crumbling before their eyes.

New coach Rhyce Shaw had declared during pre-season it would be finals or failure for the Kangaroos this year.

At halftime, the Kangaroos looked like a bottom-four side at best.

They trailed the tackle-count 39-27, were being outworked in the midfield, were far too predictable going forward to Ben Brown and trailed on the scoreboard by 29 points having kicked just two goals.

After halftime, momentum swung like a pendulum - despite the Kangaroos playing much of the second half with just one available player on the bench.

This was a Shinboner spirit fightback in every meaning of the word.

Josh Walker (concussion) had gone down in the opening term after an ugly landing from a marking contest, Jack Ziebell (knee) went down in the opening minutes of the third term and Paul Ahern (hamstring) was on ice eight minutes after halftime.

Yet, North Melbourne found a way.

 

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Senior players like Ben Cunnington, Todd Goldstein and Shaun Higgins lifted, the pressure lifted and the Kangaroos went on to kick six goals to one in the second half.

Cunnington proved the matchwinner with two final-term goals, while a game-saving Jamie MacMillan smother on the goal-line also did not go unnoticed.

NEW FACES

It is not over-selling it to say St Kilda had half a new side play against North Melbourne.

Of the 22 players who lined up for the Round 1 clash, only 11 had played in the Saints' Round 23 match last year in what has been quite an extraordinary transformation.

Five off-season trade acquisitions made their debuts in Saints colours - Brad Hill (Fremantle), Zak Jones (Sydney), Dan Butler (Richmond), Paddy Ryder (Port Adelaide) and Dougal Howard (Port Adelaide).

Add to that Max King's AFL debut and Dylan Roberton's first AFL match in 708 days due to heart issues - among other changes - and it has been quite the summer of change.

 

Dylan Roberton dives for the footy. Picture: Michael Klein
Dylan Roberton dives for the footy. Picture: Michael Klein

 

Hill's foot skills and speed stood out, Jones was tough in the contest as we've come to expect, Ryder split ruck duties with Rowan Marshall, Butler showed his pace and pressuring abilities and Howard kept Ben Brown to just three marks and one goal.

While the Saints won both their pre-season matches, it might still take some time to come together.

But when it does, it looks like being exciting.

NEW KING

It had been a long time coming, but St Kilda fans finally got the chance to see exciting key forward Max King make his AFL debut.

Presented with his No.12 guernsey by former Saints champion Nick Riewoldt on Saturday, the 2018 No.4 draft pick had been limited to five VFL games last year due to knee and ankle injuries.

 

Ben Long flies to mark over Jy Simpkin of the Kangaroos. Picture: Michael Klein
Ben Long flies to mark over Jy Simpkin of the Kangaroos. Picture: Michael Klein

 

But fit again this year, he played in both of St Kilda's pre-season matches and did not take long to make an impact in his first official game.

King converted a shot from the top of the goalsquare after receiving a free kick for a hold at the 17-minute mark of the opening term.

 

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It was his second kick of the game, meaning he did not join the first kick, first goal club.

King booted a second clutch goal in the final term.

No doubt they were the first two of many goals to come in a prosperous career.

Originally published as How did Kangaroos pull that off?



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