North Melbourne v Hawthorn - 2021 AFL Community Series
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 06: Jaidyn Stephenson of the Kangaroos warms up during the AFL Community Series match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Arden Street Ground on March 06, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

North Melbourne coach David Noble has sent a clear message to utility Jaidyn Stephenson this off-season, stating the 22-year-old has "ground to make up" in his return to the club for 2022.

Stephenson narrowly avoided surgery on a broken hip in August after crashing a mountain bike and soon requiring hospital attention.

It was revealed that Stephenson had been drinking prior to the incident, with the Kangaroos labelling their recruit's actions as a "real lack of judgement".

Having been involved in prior indiscretions at his former club Collingwood, including a betting scandal that saw him suspended for 10 matches and fined $20,000, Noble has looked to address the expectations he holds for Stephenson ahead of their new campaign.

Speaking on SENthe Kangaroos boss revealed he has already held discussions with the Eastern Ranges product ahead of their return to pre-season training in the coming weeks.

“I was really clear with him, he’s got ground to make up,” Noble said

“I wouldn’t say that he’s necessarily broken the trust, but those elements of what we’re trying to stand for and what we’re trying to get our guys to understand is it’s not being a professional nine months of the year. It’s being a professional 12 months of the year and understanding the benefit we’ve got.

“We only have to look at how our society, particularly here in Victoria, has functioned with the difficulties of lockdown and the privilege that we’ve had to still have our game played.

“I’m sure he’ll learn from this and we’ll be there to support him and step him through when it gets to that next point in making a decision, that hopefully he makes a better one next time.”

AFL Rd 5 - Geelong v North Melbourne
GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Senior coach David Noble of the Kangaroos addresses his players during the 2021 AFL Round 05 match between the Geelong Cats and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at GMHBA Stadium on April 18, 2021 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Despite the off-season distraction, Stephenson enjoyed a strong debut season at Arden Street following his infamous exit from Collingwood 12 months ago.

The versatile forward played 19 games this year in the blue and white, including a best-on-ground outing against West Coast to upset the Eagles in Perth, with Stephenson collecting a career-high 38 disposals.

With Noble's side undergoing a list re-build to heavily rely on their youthful stocks, Stephenson stands as a valuable asset to the Kangaroos as they look to steer their sights back toward the top eight.