It’s been a special week for Brent Harvey. This round, the North Melbourne legend will break the all-time games record, notching up his 427th match for the blue-and-white.
While the attention has been deservingly on Boomer, there is still a game to be played on Saturday night. But it feels more important than just any other ordinary match.
After all, it’s almost a final in itself.
North are at the edge of the eight. They have severely dropped off since their blistering start to the season where they won nine on the trot. The Roos have now lost six of the last eight matches and look in doubt to make the finals, let alone have an impact in September.
And while the Saints have been far from consistent, the young side has been somewhat of a bogie team this season.
Yes, St Kilda has had a shocking interstate record this year, losing all five matches outside of Victoria. But they have been quite impressive at Etihad Stadium – winning their last seven at the ground, and racking up significant wins against top-eight teams Geelong and the Bulldogs.
This week they’ll find themselves again at Docklands, so can St Kilda come out firing and spoil Boomer’s party?
Recent history suggests probably not. In their past five encounters, the Saints have lost to the Roos by an average margin of 41 points. St Kilda hasn’t won against the Roos since Round 23, 2011.
But as this round is testament enough, records are made to be broken.
Now seems a better time than ever. The Saints are in fine form, winning seven of the last nine matches. Only Hawthorn and Adelaide, with 8-1, have been better.
They also have the best disposal efficiency in the league at this point in the season, averaging 75.3 per cent. North, on the other hand, are ranked eighth with 73.6 per cent.
The Saints are also ranked third in the competition for uncontested possession while the Kangaroos come in at 15th.
Add in the dash and talent of their young stars, like Jack Stevens, and a definite edge goes the way of St Kilda.
But North Melbourne are the older statesman in this match. The experience of Harvey, Swallow, Ziebell, and the back-in-form Drew Petrie, could prove too strong for the younger Saints.
Ultimately, North Melbourne need to win this match to stay in contention. Their remaining draw – against the Dogs, Hawks, Swans, and Giants – is undoubtedly tough. If they lose against the Saints this weekend, they’ll be far from finals’ certainties.
They have every reason to win. After all, Boomer’s milestone certainly adds some extra incentive.
But the Saints have made a habit of winning games they shouldn’t. And they too have something to play for – they win on the weekend and their finals’ chances are still open.
So while the Roos should be winners, it looks more likely that St Kilda will be the one’s leaving Etihad with the four points.
(First published on The Roar on July 29th 2016)