Five weeks into the 2021 AFL season, there have been plenty of unexpected storylines.
A number of teams that struggled during a COVID interrupted 2020 season have bounced back in spectacular fashion, whilst others have dropped in dramatic fashion.
Teams like Sydney and Adelaide have started the season in unexpected fashion, jumping the gun early with strong starts to the season. A heavy contrast compared to previous seasons, the young sides are showing plenty of upside and promise for success now and in the future.
This is heavily in contrast to sides with older lists. The likes of St Kilda, who have the oldest list in the competition, are struggling hugely with the new free flowing style of the game. With heavy losses to the reigning premiers Richmond (84 points) and young Bombers (75 points), the Saints find themselves 2-3 with a miserable 71.4% percentage.
It is starting to become apparent that the implementation of the new standing on the mark and interchange rules has made the game quicker, potentially suiting the younger, quicker players.
As such, we’ve highlighted the most promising young lists in the competition, emphasising that we aren’t necessarily predicting these teams will be successful, but simply stating that they possess the best young talent.
6. North Melbourne
Despite the 0-5 record and 45.4%, the Kangaroos look to be going in the right direction.
After many years in the middle of the road with no sense of direction, David Noble’s side have finally committed to a full rebuild. And that is news Kangaroo fans should be excited about.
The talent at the club is starting to build, led by the likes of Nick Larkey, Cameron Zurhaar and Luke Davies-Uniacke. The pair of Larkey and Zurhaar have the potential to become one of the scariest forward duos in the competition.
Larkey, after stepping into the role of key forward has ranked elite in goal accuracy in 2021 with a 87.5%. Zurhaar, who has started 2021 quieter than expected, still possesses an explosive attack at the footy, coming off the 2020 season as North’s leading goal kicker and 2019 22 under 22 team selection.
LDU has constantly shown signs of improvement since his debut season, starting the 2021 season averaging a shade under 20 disposals and 4 tackles a game.
The Collingwood list management saga also proved to be incredibly fortuitous for the Roos, as they were able to raid Jaidyn Stephenson and Atu Bosenavulagi from the Pies’ fire sale.
The upside on both former Pies is astronomical, with the Stephenson’s Roos debut resulting in a 33 disposal and seven score involvement day out against an elite midfield of Port Adelaide. Bosenavulagi has also shown promising signs for the future, with a 16 disposal (including 7 intercepts) effort against the Cats on the weekend. With his versatility to make an impact in multiple positions, the future for Atu is bright at Arden Street.
With the level that he has played to in the last season and a half, it’s easy to forget that Jy Simpkin is only 23 years of age. 2020 saw Simpkin take his game to the next level, averaging 20.2 disposals a game in shortened quarters.
Simpkin narrowly finishing second to Luke McDonald for the Syd Barker Medal, as well as being named in the 2020 22 under 22 squad. The young Roo has started the 2021 season with a career-high 24.8 disposals a game, looking to become an integral part of North’s future road to relevancy.
North have a treasure chest of young talent coming through to accompany the aforementioned names, with the likes of Tom Powell (17.4 disposals), Charlie Lazzaro and Will Phillips all showing positive signs early.
The future is bright at North Melbourne, with a promising bevy of young talent to come through. After committing to the rebuild and putting games into their youth, look to see the Kangaroos bounce back in the coming years.