THE rookie has got one up on the master, with North Melbourne defeating Hawthorn by 22 points at Marvel Stadium on Friday night in what was Rhyce Shaw’s first game in charge since receiving the full-time role at Arden Street.
The Hawks jumped out of the blocks and appeared to be on course for a percentage boosting win, but the Kangaroos set about chasing down a 27-point deficit late in the first term, taking the lead early in the third and extending it to a 12.14 (86) to 9.10 (64) triumph by the time the final siren had sounded.
The result keeps North Melbourne in the finals mix, but they will need to win their remaining three matches and hope other results fall their way if they’re to feature in September action.
For Hawthorn, the loss was compounded by a hamstring injury to injury-prone veteran Grant Birchall that could spell the end of his career.
Shaun Higgins overcame a slow start to finish with 28 quality possessions, two goals, seven clearances, five inside 50s and two goal assists in an effort that will surely see him earn the three Brownlow medal votes. He received great support in the clinches from Ben Cunnington who complemented his 21 disposals with eight clearances, while Paul Ahern was also a strong contributor with 26 touches.
Ben Brown was the most dynamic forward on the night with 14 possessions, six marks – five of which were inside 50 – and four goals – while captain Jack Ziebell chipped in with three valuable majors.
Hawthorn young gun James Worpel was on record pace with seven clearances in the first term, but finished the night with only 11 clearances among his 37 disposals in a performance that was emblematic of the Hawks’ inability to maintain the rage for the full four quarters.
Chad Wingard produced his best game in Hawthorn colours, stuffing the stat sheet with 29 disposals, five clearances and five inside 50s, while Jaeger O’Meara (26 possessions, five clearances) continued his fine season.
Mitch Lewis (three goals) was lively early, but like the Hawks he struggled to find the big opening after quarter-time.
With Worpel doing as he pleased at the coalface and Hawthorn moving the football with purpose, the Hawthorn forward line dined out on an endless supply of quality ball.
Lewis was the chief beneficiary of the Hawks’ territorial dominance (17 to nine in inside 50s), taking three strong grabs and kicking two goals to help Hawthorn to a 20-point lead at quarter-time.
After being hammered at the clearances 12 to six in the opening stanza, North Melbourne lifted their rating at close quarters in the second term with Higgins and Cunnington continually getting their hands on the footy at the centre.
Higgins kicked truly from a tight ankle to get North rolling and then set up Brown for a major as the Kangaroos grabbed the ascendancy to close to within five points at half-time.
A Cameron Zurhaar major put North in front for the first time at the three-minute mark and a further two majors from an uncharacteristically inaccurate Brown put the home team 10 points clear with one term to play.
The Kangaroos headed into this contest 7-0 when leading at three-quarter time and looked set to make it eight when Brown converted from an acute angle for his fourth.
But Jack Gunston had other ideas, the Hawthorn veteran producing a snap straight out of the top-shelf to spark the Hawks.
The men in brown and gold continued to press hard but couldn’t find an avenue to goal, with Ziebell running into an open goal to clinch the gritty triumph.
The win sees North Melbourne close to within four points of an eighth-placed Adelaide outfit that is terribly out of form, while Hawthorn could drop to as low as 14th at the conclusion of the round.
Next on the schedule for the Kangaroos is a Saturday night contest against the League’s benchmark in Geelong at GMHBA Stadium, while Hawthorn will head to the nation’s capital to square off against Greater Western Sydney at Manuka Oval on Friday night.
NORTH MELBOURNE: 1.2 5.6 9.11 12.14 (86)
HAWTHORN: 4.4 6.5 8.7 9.10 (64)
NORTH MELBOURNE: Brown 4, Ziebell 3, Wood 2, Higgins 2, Zurhaar
HAWTHORN: Lewis 3, Gunston 2, Birchall, O’Brien, Puopolo, Breust
NORTH MELBOURNE: Higgins, Brown, Cunnington, Ahern, Polec, Zurhaar
HAWTHORN: Worpel, Wingard, O’Meara, Smith, Burgoyne, Lewis
NORTH MELBOURNE: Nil
HAWTHORN: Birchall (hamstring)
ATTENDANCE: 33,226 at Marvel Stadium