NORTH Melbourne supporters are used to having their faith tested on several levels, but even the most devout among them might not have given two bob for their immediate future only a month ago.
That was after Hawthorn had pulled their team to bits down in Launceston.
The Roos were smashed by 115 points, sat 12th on the ladder, two games out of the eight, and were about to endure the resignation of chief executive Eugene Arocca and another round of public barbs and insults about not only their capacity as a team, but their AFL worth.
It’s fair to say things have changed more than a little since then. A scrappy subsequent win on the Gold Coast did little to change the popular view.
But the shooting down of pacesetter Adelaide last week raised eyebrows.
And last night’s impressive eclipse of St Kilda has completely changed the final-eight ball game.
While up to six teams are still jousting for this year’s last spot in the finals campaign, it is now the Kangaroos very much in the box seat for the berth, a game clear of five rivals and with as good if not better a run than any of them.
More than that, though, it is the way North Melbourne has recaptured its early-season run that should leave the chasing pack anxious indeed.
At their best, conspicuously absent pretty much ever since that much-vaunted round-three win over Geelong, the Roos are as damaging on the burst as any side. They were certainly too quick last night for St Kilda thanks to the leg speed of Daniel Wells and an accompanying army of runners.
Most don’t have nearly Wells’ toe, but as a group just continue to link up with great effect. Handball was again a feature last night, and North ended up with 44 more uncontested possessions than its opponent.
Quick, clean delivery to its forward targets makes life a hell of a lot easier for the likes of Drew Petrie and Lachie Hansen, who shared seven goals against the Saints. And for a second week in a row, this was a result achieved without a major contribution from Brent Harvey, significant in itself.
As is the Roos’ run home. While West Coast next weekend, even in Hobart, is a major challenge, North has a change to shore up its own spot and seriously dent the hopes of two rivals in Carlton and Richmond over the following fortnight. And of its remaining six games, it will start a clear favourite in four.
The Kangaroos have, literally, run themselves back into not only finals contention, but favouritism. And they might just take a bit of catching now.
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