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Footyology countdown: Roo rebuild not tale of rock-bottom

North Melbourne didn’t experience that winning feeling often in 2017. But there could be a few more this season than many believe. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Footyology countdown: Roo rebuild not tale of rock-bottom

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 6 wins, 16 losses (15th)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 16th
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 18th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 1st

Alex Morgan (Essendon), Luke Davies-Uniacke (Dandenong Stingrays), Will Walker (Sandringham Dragons), Kyron Hayden (Subiaco), Tristan Xerri (Western Jets), Billy Hartung (Hawthorn), Tom Murphy (Dandenong Stingrays), Gordon Narrier (Perth), Tom Jeffries (Werribee)

Sam Gibson (Adelaide), Aaron Mullett (delisted/Carlton), Lachie Hansen (delisted), Will Fordham (delisted), Matthew Taylor (delisted), Corey Wagner (delisted), Lindsay Thomas (delisted/Port Adelaide), Andrew Swallow (retired)

B: Sam Wright, Scott Thompson, Jamie Macmillan
HB: Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, Luke McDonald
C: Nathan Hrovat, Shaun Higgins, Billy Hartung
HF: Kayne Turner, Jarrad Waite, Taylor Garner
F: Mason Wood, Ben Brown, Jy Simpkin
Foll: Todd Goldstein, Jack Ziebell, Ben Cunnington
Inter: Trent Dumont, Shaun Atley, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Ryan Clarke
Emerg: Ben Jacobs, Majak Daw, Paul Ahern

No club in the AFL has changed its list profile as dramatically as has North Melbourne over the last two years.

At the end of 2016 season, the Kangaroos had the second-oldest and most experienced collection of players in the competition. Entering 2018, they’ll have the third-youngest and least experienced group.

Much of that change was achieved in one fell swoop via the winding up of Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo, Michael Firrito and departure out of Daniel Wells. But there’s more experience headed out the door this past off-season in Andrew Swallow, Lindsay Thomas, Lachie Hansen and Sam Gibson.

The result is North goes into the new season with only 10 players who have played more than 100 games and nearly 30 who are yet to play even 40. Does that make it the “lock” for a bottom two spot largely predicted? I’m not so convinced.

Sure, a large amount of inexperienced youngsters are going to need to click. But the signs shown by a large number of them in their tastes of AFL football last season were encouraging. And perhaps the Roos aren’t quite as far off the pace as many believe.

Whilst North went into its final game last year in contention for a wooden spoon, the considerable asterisk next to its name was that it had lost no fewer than five games by a total of just 14 points. That’s effectively three goals from an 11-win season.

The other big plus is their scoring potency. North finished a six-win season nonetheless having scored more points than any team bar Melbourne of those which finished outside the eight. Throw Jarrad Waite and Mason Wood into the mix for more than the 10 games each played last year (and yes, that’s a big if given their records) and there’s the potential for plenty more points yet.

It’s the midfield which has required the most attention, the accusations of a one-paced, plodding midfield probably fair enough, and to that end, Billy Hartung can make a bigger difference than a considerable army of sceptics believe.

So can a finally-recovered Paul Ahern and a draft pick in Luke Davies-Uniacke likely to play at senior level all season. Not to mention a proven quality ruckman in Todd Goldstein back in the right frame of mind. Ditto Ben Jacobs in a defensive midfield role, though his return to his full powers might require patience.

Even Jy Simpkin, as impressive as his work as a small forward has been, has the potential to make a difference with the odd rotation through the centre square.

The defence itself isn’t bad, though a lot depends on keys Robbie Tarrant and Scott Thompson staying fit, and the attempt at recasting Majak Daw as a key defender could prove a critical roll of the dice.

And talent-wise, the likes of Taylor Garner, Trent Dumont, Kayne Turner, Ryan Clarke have already shown a bit. Just a couple of that group going up another cog and the continued emergence of one or more of Ed Vickers-Willis, Sam Durdin, Daniel Neilson and Declan Mountford, among others, and the Roos’ list health, and perhaps results too, could surprise a few.

14th. Footyology thinks the wholesale predictions of doom and gloom for the Roos are a little overblown. They have the potential to pinch more wins than many think.

THE LADDER SO FAR (click on team to read)

1 Comment
  1. Good to see positive write up on North Melbourne Rohan !

    p.s Doing a top job on SEN with the cricket.

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