The Kangaroos made waves three weeks ago when they announced that four aging club champions in Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito, Nick Dal Santo and AFL games record holder Brent Harvey were not going to be offered contracts next season. Leaving massive hole in a fragile team, what do the need to do this off-season to avoid this decision backfiring? Quite a bit actually.
The decisions to publicly announce the decisions to not renew the quartets contracts before the end of the season was extremely perplexing. Brent Harvey, despite his age, was still their best or second best player whilst Nick Dal Santo was coming off a brilliant first year and a serviceable second. However, Michael Firrito and Drew Petrie did show their age at different times this season. So, the decision to not offer the latter duo deals does make sense, but the former, that is what has people up in arms.
Yet, the decision has been made, and the club must move forward and work to fill the gaping hole that the four veterans have left, but it will not be easy. So, what should they do? Put faith in their youth? Test Free-Agency? Trade? Or look to re-build?
Well, all of the above are completely valid.
Put faith in their youth: North Melbourne’s list is scattered with good young players, not to the extent the likes of St. Kilda or Melbourne are, but they have a deep enough stock that they can build around going forward. The likes of Ben Brown, Mason Wood, Jed Anderson, Ryan Clarke, Trent Dumont, Kayne Turner, Taylor Garner and Sam Durdin are all players that will be looked at to shoulder the weight of expectation and responsibility that the four veterans have left behind. Among this young crop, there are the makings of a strong ‘spine’ with Ben Brown and Mason Wood already showing they can play a key role in the forward 50. Untested 2015 draftee Sam Durdin can also contribute there if called upon. Kayne Turner, Trent Dumont and Jed Anderson have all the potential in the world and, with opportunities can create a dynamic with experienced pair Andrew Swallow and Jack Ziebell which could cure their need for speed in the middle of the park.
Possessing a crop of youngster full of potential with less than 50 games to their name among the experience they already possess could stop the ‘bleeding’ believed to be coming.
Test Free Agency: North Melbourne have had success in this marketing since Its inception, luring the likes of Shaun Higgins, Jarrad Waite and Nick Dal Santo to Arden Street for little loss. All three have played key roles in certain stages of their tenure at the club and North would surely be looking to the Free Agency market once more to help cover the loss of experience. The likes of; Ricky Henderson, Nathan Brown, Matt De Boer, Chris Mayne and Brendan Whitecross could all prove to be assets to the Kangaroos. Henderson would add height, elite kicking and experience in the back line as well as another option in the forward line. Nathan Brown would be a good replacement for Firrito, should he be able to get his body right. De Boer and Whitecross could both cover the kicking and half back influence that Dal Santo provided whilst Mayne, a prominent goal scorer in his own right would be a good replacement for the output of Brent Harvey.
Trade: Should a usually fruitful free-agent period not be so this time around, North could also look to the trade period for help, but with little tradable commodities, it could be difficult. However, there are strong prospects available for little, the likes of St. Kilda reserve goal kicker, Cameron Shenton, surplus Sydney half-back Abe Davis, and Melbourne utility Mat Jones could all be acquired for little loss.
Re-build: An often dreaded word in AFL, a re-build means you’ve bottomed out, and with a stubborn coach likes Brad Scott, it could be hard to sell, but frankly, they aren’t far away from needing one. Surprising, given that just last year they reached a preliminary final from outside the top four and sent Sydney packing in Sydney, but, the reality is, they have played beyond their means for a few years now.
Currently, North hold one pick inside the first round, 12, with picks 30, 44 and 66 following. Slim pickings for a team looking to cover massive losses. Whilst they do not possess any standout talent which would drastically improve other teams, they do posses players who could be worth respectable draft picks. The likes of Aaron Black, Majak Daw, Brad Mckenzie and Lachie Hanson could all garner mid-range draft selections and aid a fresh start at the club.
Ultimately, it’s hard to know what North should do from here, but if not renewing the contracts of Firitto, Harvey, Dal Santo and Petrie showed anything, it should intent – and they have to continue to show it now, or they will pay for it, big time.