North Melbourne coach Brad Scott has boldly stated that 35-year old Jarrad Waite’s best football is in front of him.
The former Blue, who is the AFL’s fourth-oldest player, was named to the Kangaroos’ squad for Friday night’s inaugural AFLX competition.
Most sides, North Melbourne included, opted for more youthful, inexperienced sides, to avoid risking injuries to key players and to give up-and-comers an opportunity.
Waite played in just 10 senior games last year and was hampered by injuries and suspension, as has been the case for much of his career. Scott is confident that Waite can turn his recent fortunes around in 2018.
“Waitey wants to play every [game],” Scott told the media at Arden Street on Wednesday.
“It’s a strange thing to say about someone of his age, but he really feels, and I agree with him, that his best footy is ahead of him.
“We’ll probably manage his pre-season games to a certain extent, but I think the AFLX game will suit him. He wants to get out and play.”
Waite survived the Kangaroos’ full-scale rebuild, including a major list cull in recent seasons. After finishing 15th last season, North Melbourne is widely tipped to finish down the bottom of the ladder again in 2018.
Scott has committed to the club’s rebuild, signing a two-year contract extension late last year that will keep him at Arden Street until the end of 2020. He is excited by his young side’s prospects this year.
“Youth always brings exuberance and excitement,” Scott said.
“There’s a sense of the unknown in terms of what these guys can do. I’ve got a lot of faith and confidence in what our recruiters have been able to bring into the club, and what our list management team have done.
“There are some other players who have been around for a couple of years who are probably over the hump in terms of their development and ready to show what they can do at senior level.”
Scott said that the change in his list profile had made him more of a mentor coach to his players.
“[I’m] more of a factory floor coach now, trying to teach and educate,” he added.
“Probably back to when I first started as a senior coach … when you’ve got senior players and very experienced players, you’re looking to them to drive the standards, and to really direct the way you play. We’re back on the factory floor, which is where I enjoy it.
“We’ve got a great coaching team, and we’re going to have our work cut out for us because of that inexperience, but I think North fans will like watching these young guys there.”