In the lead up to the 2017 season, we will be assessing each club’s list and naming our best 22 for round one. Working our way up the ladder; following the analysis of St Kilda, the next cab off the rank is North Melbourne.
Zero Hanger 2017 ladder prediction: 15th
It was a tough call but North Melbourne did what they had to at the end of 2016. Discarding club legends is never a popular thing to do and although they should never have axed Brent Harvey, they were the oldest team in the competition and had already started to slide down the ladder. Cameron Joyce and Brad Scott identified that they need to get some young talent into this group, with 2017 reportedly featuring a strong draft will the Roos consider rebuilding in 2017?
With Andrew Swallow stepping down as captain, there has been a change of the guard in 2017 as Jack Ziebell takes over the role. Pick No.9 in the 2008 draft, Ziebell has taken a while to fulfill the potential he showed when joining the league. After his best season in 2016, including finishing runner up in the best and fairest, Ziebell could be set to take that next step this year. He has always been tough and seems from the outside to be a player that would thrive as a leader, it could be the making of the player. The question is will the other players step up with him?
North have always had a solid backline and this continues to be the case in 2017. Robbie Tarrant was a revelation last season, he fills in key position posts with the ever reliable Scott Thompson. Luke McDonald, Shaun Atley and Jamie Macmillan have all established themselves in North’s back six. Marley Williams is my replacement for Michael Firrito but I’m not completely sold on him just yet. He was unable to cement his spot in what was a pretty poor Collingwood defence last season. Sam Wright and Mitchell Hibberd will be putting pressure on his spot in the side.
1345, that is how many games of experience the Roos lost when Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo left the club. North now only have three players over 30 on the list, going from being the oldest list in the competition to one of the youngest. Naturally when youth replaces experiences, inconsistency will accompany their performances. For North, seeing young players fill the role of the departed veterans will hurt in the short term, but in the long term it might just set them up for a premiership.
Both North Melbourne and Jarrad Waite started the season on fire in 2016, but when Waite’s hip went, so did the teams form. The forward is in the last year of his contract and injury prone, so North can no longer rely on Waite to lead their forward line. Youngster Ben McKay is waiting in the wings, while Sam Durdin could be worth a shot up forward. If they can’t cut it, North could position themselves to have a crack at Connor Ballenden in the 2017 draft, he is the standout power forward. Either way, the forward line needs more assets to accompany Ben Brown and Mason Wood.
Projected North Melbourne 2017 round one best 22:
FB: Luke McDonald, Scott Thompson, Marley Williams
HB: Shaun Atley, Robbie Tarrant, Jamie Macmillan
HF: Shaun Higgins, Jarrad Waite, Mason Wood
FF: Majak Daw, Ben Brown, Lindsay Thomas
EMG: Jed Anderson, Mitchell Hibberd, Sam Wright
Not considered: Paul Ahern (ACL).