When Drew Petrie was selected with pick No. 23 in the 2000 National Draft the club that chose him, then known simply as Kangaroos, had just finished their eighth consecutive finals series. Petrie could be forgiven for thinking he was recruited to play at a club that were to enjoy a sustained period of success.
In his first game for the club, Round 1, 2001 vs Essendon, his side contained no less than 10 premiership players. However, it also featured five players in their first game for the club and the Roos were flogged to the tune of 85 points. It was the beginning of what would become a very disappointing season for the club. The Roos were ordinary and missed the finals for the first time since 1993. Far from a period of success, North Melbourne were about to enter their least successful period since the late 1980s.
It is said that players make their reputations in finals. While this is true for some, where does it leave those that had the misfortune to play in less successful teams? Would Petrie be more highly regarded if he had been drafted by Brisbane and had the chance to play in a couple of flags? Or if he had been picked up by Geelong and developed with the core that led to their late 2000s domination? Quite possibly. Instead, Petrie has been seen as a very good, but not great, player in a mostly ordinary team.
If I were given the opportunity to speak on behalf of North Melbourne supporters, though, I would say that Drew Petrie has been a marvellous player and a joy to follow. He almost personifies North as a club: solid, reliable, honest and not too flashy. Seen specifically as a key forward these days, he has spent some time as a No. 1 ruckman and as a very good key defender. He is one of the strongest marks in the competition and a textbook straight kick. He has also developed into a great leader and teacher. For those of us that have spent the best part of 15 years anchored in mediocrity, Drew Petrie has been a genuine highlight.
To celebrate Drew Petrie's 300th game I've selected a few games and moments that I consider among his best, and most memorable. Here they are in chronological order.
In Glenn Archer's 300th game North, sitting ninth on the ladder, came up against the Dogs, who were seventh and only ahead of the Roos on percentage. Archer's standing at the club cannot be overstated and the players seems determined to celebrate his milestone with a win. None more so than Drew Petrie, who started the match with six goals in the first quarter. While he managed only one for the rest of the game, the damage was done and the 40,000 in attendance were witness to one of the most dominant quarters in history.
North Melbourne would go on to finish in the Top Four and reach the Preliminary Final, while the Dogs would have to wait one more year.
North went into this match half a game out of the eight, while Collingwood had an eye on the Top Four. In a game that seesawed all night, Petrie was the difference between the sides, playing as the No. 1 ruckman. He finished the game with 26 hitouts, 20 disposals and two goals as North went on to win by three goals, in front of a massive Docklands crowd of 46,000. They would finish Round 16 in the eight and not give up their spot for the rest for the season.
Particular attention should be paid in the following video at the 6:00 mark, when Petrie takes a contested mark in defence, stopping the Pies from kicking their fourth goal in a row, in turn setting up a chain that ends with a North goal to level the scores.
Another game in which North were looking to nab a spot in the eight and coming up against a team with similar ideas. This time it was against Richmond, who were a game behind the Roos and 11th on the ladder. North had the better of it in the first half, kicking seven goals to five, but Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin turned it on in the third quarter and Richmond went into the last change with a seven point lead.
Enter Drew Petrie. He had been well held by Alex Rance, only kicking one goal in the second quarter and one in the third. From the first minute of the last quarter it was all Petrie as he kicked five goals for the term, finishing with an equal personal best of seven for the match. Despite a few late goals for the Tigers, North would win by four points and go on to secure another finals appearance.
This game also featured in a four week stretch in which Petrie kicked 23 goals. He kicked 58 for the year, his best ever goal tally for a season.
North Melbourne were hoping for their first finals win in seven years against Essendon in 2014 and it started terribly. North went in at halftime having kicked only two goals to Essendon's six. Things changed in the third quarter though. While Petrie remained fairly quiet he and his protege, Ben Brown, started providing a contest and North kicked seven goals for the term and trailed by just seven points at three quarter time.
With North finally in front in the last quarter, Petrie found himself in Essendon's forward line in a marking contest with his opponent, Paddy Ryder. The resultant mark and goal to Ryder put the Bombers back in front. Stung by this, Petrie made the most of his opportunity at the other end five minutes later, snapping his first goal for the game to put the Roos back in front. A minute later he had another and the match was sealed. North had progressed to the second week of the finals for the first time since 2007.