I know I've used the word weird to describe a number of the games this year, but I'm going to have to use it again. This was a weird game for a whole bunch of reasons.
Firstly it was Round 23. Now that's not new. For while now the AFL has stretched a 22 round season into 23 by giving teams a shifting bye. (My own solution to this is to have 2 byes. One mid year and every team has it. For one weekend no AFL team plays and you can promote the lower levels of the game. That way it doesn't require mucking around with the fixture and every team returns on an equal footing. The second one is after the final round of the season. You can hold the Brownlow on that Monday night and it gives the finalists a week off before the finals).
Secondly it was held in September. September is generally reserved for finals, but because the Cricket World Cup forced the season to start later and the AFL have to have that mid season bye, it pushed the regular home and away season out to September.
Thirdly the final 8 was set. The only question was the order of it. Quite often games in the final round can determine who makes the 8 and who misses out. For instance last year, Richmond HAD to beat Sydney in the final round to make it into the 8.
Lastly, and this is partly driven by the previous point, North Melbourne coach Brad Scott:
Have you ever seen a more sooky looking person?
Had decided to rest 9 of his best players. He had little to lose. They couldn't be knocked out of the 8. However he may have felt he had more to gain by losing than winning. If they lost they'd wind up 8th, and then face Richmond again in the first round of the finals, if they won they could face Adelaide in Adelaide or maybe the Western Bulldogs. They've had a hold on the Tigers for a fair while, so clearly see us as less of a threat than the other teams.
Due to Brad Scott's controversial selection policy, Ivan Maric wound up facing off against Majak Daw, rather than Todd Goldstein. I actually felt a bit sorry for Daw. He tried his heart out and probably won the contest in the first half, largely due to his athleticism (he can mark and kick fine, but doesn't read the play well), but big Ivan prevailed in the second and Daw never had any chance of playing in the first round of finals.
Early on the inexperienced Roos outfit had the ascendancy, but Richmond steadied and were all over them in the second half. Returning skipper Trent Cotchin led his Tigers to a 41 point victory.
Even though it was an undermanned Kangaroos we've broken the hold they had on us. They're going into the finals with 2 losses in a row, and as the game isn't played until Sunday, the Tigers still get a decent break and the rested Roos have put themselves in danger of being rusty. I'm never confident, but these Tigers seem a bit different to the ones of 2013 and 2014.