With the 2019 AFL draft in the rearview mirror and club lists finalised for 2020, we decided – despite overwhelming popular opinion – that it’s not at all too early to start speculating about the season ahead.
The AFL’s NAB Cup pre-season competition may provide nothing more than a chance to blow out the cobwebs for some teams, but for others it means more.
There may be no premiership points on the line, the best players may be taking a break, and the crowds may be small, but the competition is far from meaningless.
Take North Melbourne’s win over Geelong on Sunday.
We know the Cats save their best football for September, but the Kangaroos, a team starved of success in recent seasons, had every reason to celebrate. And you couldn’t blame them for doing so.
The Kangaroos are perhaps the AFL’s least glamorous club. But they have done plenty to try and change that stereotype. The appointment of Brad Scott – a premiership player with Brisbane – was met with optimism from the Kangaroos’ supporters.
Since Scott entered the club, he has constantly talked-up the young talent on the North list. A good coach is also a good marketer. Whether Scott is a good coach is yet to be seen, but many tip his union with the Kangaroos will be a successful one.
Those youngsters will only improve this season. Two names to look out for – in their second seasons – are Jack Ziebell and Liam Anthony.
There are also big wraps surrounding Levi Greenwood, Todd Goldstein and Sam Wright – all in their first or second seasons.
We know who the big names are, but it is often the youngsters who give supporters real reason for hope. Watch the progress of those five players closely.
A win in the first week of the NAB Cup is hardly going to place the Kangaroos in the list of premiership contenders.
But, for the club, the win could be the start of a mini renaissance. The Kangaroos have a low membership base and they can always use a boost to the bank balance.
A win in this year’s NAB Cup would provide the club with a handy winner’s cheque and, logically, it should mean an increase in membership numbers. See, the NAB Cup can mean something – it just depends how you view it.
Suddenly, there is some spunk back in the Kangaroos outfit, and much of this, I believe, is due to Scott. He comes from a winning culture and you get the impression he won’t let his players take short-cuts this season.
Aside from Hawthorn, the Kangaroos, in my opinion, look to be the best prospect of last year’s bottom-eight teams. That has nothing to do with a “meaningless” win over Geelong. It may also mean North still misses the top-eight.
Hopefully the club’s supporters can see the light, too. But, that said, Scott won’t be letting his players get too excited about a pre-season victory.
It is only the beginning of the journey as North Melbourne aspires to, once again, be a powerhouse of the competition.