Harvey, Goodes to play key roles in cut-throat semi-final
LIKE most of the football world, North Melbourne assistant coach Josh Drummond is in awe of Brent Harvey.
At 37, and in game number 407, Harvey produced one of the most important performances of his 19-year career when best on ground in the Kangaroos' elimination final win over Richmond last Sunday.
He gathered a game-high 31 disposals and kicked two goals, the second to put his side back in front early in the final term, after bursting from a stoppage like he was in his early 20s.
"My footy career finished at 29," Drummond, the former Brisbane Lion half back, said to APN.
"I can't believe the ability of him to be able to get up and still play that level of footy at his age. He doesn't look like slowing down."
Harvey, who will play on in 2016, is now one of only six players to have gathered more than 500 disposals and kicked 20-plus goals this season, along with Dane Swan, Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield, Luke Shuey and Robbie Gray.
"His performance on the weekend was really pivotal for us," Drummond said.
"He still takes the opposition's tagger ... still has that respect from the opposition.
"To still deliver that sort of performance, it shows the type of character that he is but also his level of professionalism. He prepares like no other. He gets his body right, he gets his footy stuff right and the results are there to see."
Harvey will be a key again tonight when the Roos are hosted by Sydney in their sudden-death semi-final at ANZ Stadium with Harry Cunningham, 22, set to renew hostilities with the veteran after keeping him to 19 touches and helping his side win last season's preliminary final by 71 points.
But as the Roos' backline coach, Drummond will be more concerned with the opposition's resident legend, Adam Goodes, in game No. 372, who will be a focal point up forward in the absence of Lance Franklin (illness) and Sam Reid (hamstring), alongside Kurt Tippett and young Isaac Heeney.
"Goodes has had a pretty good record against us the last few times we've played them," Drummond said.
"He's obviously a really important player for them."
Goodes booted three goals in both the Swans' round 11-win over the Roos this season and last season's big preliminary final victory.
Drummond, therefore, does not believe the task awaiting his defensive unit will be made easier by the absence of Franklin and Reid as well as the drive provided by Kieren Jack (knee) and Luke Parker (ankle).
"We will be lulling ourselves into a false sense of security if we think it's just going to happen," he said.
"They (Heeney and Goodes) can mark it strongly overhead, but they are just as dangerous at ground level. We've certainly got our work cut out for us down there."
While Michael Firito is expected to shadow Goodes, Robbie Tarrant will likely get the big job on Tippett.
An injury-plagued forward who had only played 39 games between 2008-14, Tarrant has played 21 this season after being shifted to defence to cover the early retirement of Nathan Grima.
"We had been looking for another key position defender to help (fullback Scott) Thompson out.
"It's been great ... he's been able to play some consistent footy," Drummond said. "He's really starting to form a solid partnership with Thompson, Firito and (Lachie) Hansen. It's important to build that camaraderie in the back half."
The Roos head north unchanged and confident, with recruits Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins clearly making them a stronger outfit than the one "blown away" 12 months ago.
"We feel like we're in a lot better place than we were last year," Drummond said.
"We've learnt a lot from that whole finals experience. I think it will hold us in good stead going forward."
AMONG THE GREATS
Michael Tuck 39
Gordon Coventry 31
Wayne Schimmelbusch 29
Leigh Matthews 29
Bruce Doull 29
Shaun Burgoyne 29
Bill Hutchison 28
Chris Mew 28
Gary Ayres 28
Jason Akermanis 28
ADAM GOODES 27
MOST FINALS SERIES
Dick Lee 15
Michael Tuck 15
Rod McGregor 14
Gordon Coventry 14
Jock McHale 13
Jack Titus 13
ADAM GOODES 13
Michael Tuck 426
BRENT HARVEY 407
Kevin Bartlett 403
Dustin Fletcher 400
Robert Harvey 383
Simon Madden 378
Craig Bradley 375
ADAM GOODES 371