Roos cause massive boilover by upsetting Demons
WHAT was that about tanking, again?
All week, North Melbourne had been at the centre of a "T-word" controversy, with its pick-one odds shortening with every loss.
All year, the Kangaroos' close-game troubles had been scrutinised.
But on Saturday afternoon, Brad Scott's men defied both external distractions in an epic show of defiance.
In the wake of tanking claims, the Kangaroos produced arguably their best and most inspired win of 2017 at a blustery Blundstone Arena, producing a four-point win over Melbourne in what turned out to be a sour afternoon for Simon Goodwin's men.
Not only did the Demons' top-four hopes take a hit, they also suffered a potentially major injury blow, with Jesse Hogan's availability for the rest of 2017 in jeopardy.
Prior to Saturday afternoon, North this season had lost all of its five games decided by less than a goal but had won every game played against Melbourne since Round 20, 2006.
Much to the relief of Kangaroos fans, the former streak ended against the Demons and the latter continued to make it 17 straight wins over Melbourne.
The Kangaroos only led by six points at three-quarter-time with the Demons to kick with a solid breeze in the final term. But telling performances from Ben Brown (four goals), Shaun Higgins (28 disposals) and Jack Ziebell (25 disposals, six final-term clearances) helped the Roos silence their critics, while a couple of clutch plays from Jy Simpkin helped seal a memorable win.
And it was a point Brown was happy to hammer after the game to those that had any doubts over the club's late-season intentions.
"We want to win," Brown told Fox Footy post-game.
"That's what Scotty has been saying to us from when we were out of finals calculations. We are not going to improve as a team and have these young guys come in to a culture if we are not looking to win.
"We're trying to get as many wins on the board as we can and build that momentum for next year."
If the four-point loss wasn't hard enough to take, the broken collarbone to Hogan looms as a crucial blow to Melbourne's finals hopes.
Hogan suffered the injury following a seemingly innocuous bump with young Kangaroo Luke McDonald inside the Demons' forward 50.
Hogan came off the ground at the start of the third term and went straight down to the rooms for further assessment before being quickly ruled out for the rest of the game.
Fox Footy analyst Gerard Healy believes a return within three to four weeks is the best-case scenario for Hogan.
"It's a savage blow to the Demons," Healy told Fox Footy.
"Given that they ruled him out so quickly and took him down, it was always a potential (for a broken collarbone).
"That's a really bad blow and a bad blow for him because he's had such a terrible year all-round on many fronts."
While Brown was influential, it was the ability of North's midfielders at stoppages that proved a decisive factor.
While the Demons won the overall clearance count (+1), the Roos won the scores from stoppages battle, booting 6.3 (39) to Melbourne's 2.5 (17).
"They got on top of the clearances and made it a scrap," Brisbane great Jonathan Brown told Fox Footy.
"I thought their workrate was better for that first quarter and a half and they were able to generate a lot of scores from this source."
The only sour note for North was a calf injury for Jarrad Waite, with the veteran wrapped in cotton wool during the second half.