"They are a very good football team. They're good enough to be two games clear on top of the ladder. They've played in two prelim finals in a row, so you'd be naive to think the Kangaroos couldn't win the premiership. You're talking about a serious team."
That was said by club legend Wayne Carey following North Melbourne's resounding 67-point win over Carlton back in round 9. The win sealed a 9-0 hot streak for the Kangaroos - the club's best start to a season in 92 years putting them two games clear atop the AFL ladder. It looked as though only one team was on the tramlines to a premiership - what would have been North Melbourne's first flag since 1999 - but of course, premierships aren't decided in May. Fast forward to Saturday's elimination final and North Melbourne's rollercoaster of a season was finally ended in a 62-point elimination final belting against the Adelaide Crows. Where did it all go wrong?
The Roos crawled into the finals having lost nine of their last 11, including four losses from their last four starts. North Melbourne, according to some, had been gifted a soft draw in the opening half of 2016. Their first real test came against the Sydney Swans in round ten and they lost by 26 points. The rot set it in immediately.
Between rounds 10 and 17, when they were at the peak of their slide, North Melbourne were ranked 14th in the league for average disposals, 15th for clearances and were ranked last for percentage of scores once inside 50. There were also several injuries to key players at crucial times, with Jarrad Waite, Daniel Wells, Nick Dal Santo, Shaun Higgins and Todd Goldstein all suffering injuries to stunt their team's progress.
After a mid-year loss to Hawthorn, Roos coach Brad Scott sensationally claimed the umpires told his players that player Lindsay Thomas would not be awarded free kicks for high contact because "he's a ducker." The AFL hit back, slapping the club and Scott with $80,000 in fines for Scott's unsubstantiated accusations of umpire bias.
North Melbourne's biggest mistake came with the club sensationally axing veterans Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo from their playing list. After weeks of media speculation, the club announced the decision in the week leading up to round 23, where the Roos were belted by Greater Western Sydney Giants.
It was a kick in the teeth for 'Boomer' Harvey in particular, with the 38-year-old breaking the all-time games record this season. Saturday's loss to Adelaide was Harvey's 432nd game for North Melbourne, and he was still one of the best players on the ground.
After the Adelaide loss, Harvey and Petrie, with a combined 748 games for North Melbourne between them, were in tears as they joined their teammates in the quiet walk to the change rooms for what many think will be the final time in their careers. It was a harrowing image of what could've been for the Roos in 2016. With so much early promise came they moonwalked out of the finals with the quietest of whimpers.