As they’ve done in previous years, the Kangaroos started the season in style and for a fair part looked like finals material, but they fell away towards the pointy end of the competition.
None of the experts had expected them to perform well after the bloodletting of previous seasons, but they had enough seasoned players and an astute coach that enabled them to mix it with the best.
Remarkably the six current-day players who held positions on the club’s top-100 game-players list at the start of the year all managed to play every one of the 22 games played in the season, and this Richmond-like stability no doubt added to the strength of the North Melbourne’s performance.
It was negated somewhat by the fact that the now-retired Jarrad Waite, the second prong of the two-prong attack with Ben Brown, was able to play only 13 games for the season, thus blunting the Kangaroos’ goal-scoring ability. After a stellar year in his first year at the club in 2015, in which he played all 23 games, his attendance fell away with only 14, 10 and 13 games in his final three years at the club.
Waite finished his career on 371 goals, only 18 goals short of the total needed to break into the all-time AFL top-100 goal-scorers list, and it is interesting to contemplate what position he would have finished in if he could have played in even half of the 30 games he missed over the last three seasons.
Two new players made it into North Melbourne’s all-time top-100 game-players list and, although they could not match the perfect game record of the top six current day players, both Sam Wright (16 games) and Robbie Tarrant (21 games) made significant contributions throughout the season.
Gun forward Ben Brown has been outstanding, kicking 215 goals in his 99 games since breaking into the team in Round 14, 2014, including in the last two years, when he kicked 63 and 61 goals.
Shaun Higgins has also been a major contributor, kicking 82 goals in his four years at the club since being recruited from the Western Bulldogs, where he also appears on the club’s top-100 goal-kickers list. At 30 years of age, you would expect that he still has a number of good quality seasons in him.
North Melbourne played six debutantes in 2018 but have already delisted Billy Hartung. However, the other five players are all aged 22 or younger and include two teenagers, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Will Walker. If the club can snare the one or two experienced, quality free agents they are desperately seeking, their potential to make the finals again would be greatly enhanced.
With an outstanding captain in Jack Ziebell and a backbone of six experienced players in Scott Thompson, Todd Goldstein, Ben Cunnington, Jamie Macmillan, Wright and Tarrant, the Kangaroos are only one ingredient away from being a serious September contender.