A Melbourne merger of the Kangaroos and Demons is an interesting prospect. This would be the best combined list of this speculative scenario in 2020.
Not even the best of punters would have picked North Melbourne’s head coach of ten years, Brad Scott, to mutually part ways with the club midway through the season.
After a promising 2018, finishing ninth and only just missing out on finals, North Melbourne was tipped to have quite a run in the 2019 finals.
But they started the season with three straight losses, including an 82-point loss to Fremantle. North finally notched their first win against the Adelaide Crows.
Not soon after a slew of losses and games they should have won, Brad Scott and North agreed on him walking out the door, but not before he would coach his last game.
It was a good farewell for Scott, who had put in ten long years for the club. The majority of North players were left in tears after the final siren, North having a comfortable 25-point win over the Western Bulldogs.
A lot of sources at the time were stating that the young assistant coach, Rhyce Shaw, would take over as interim head coach to see out the rest of 2019. Shaw, who was new to the club, took over as assistant coach at the end of 2018 after spending three years with the Sydney Swans as an assistant.
Shaw, who had little to no experience as a head coach, had few expectations, but jumped right into his new position and pumped some much-needed enthusiasm not only into the playing group but the fans and club as a whole.
The scene was set for the Shaw’s first game, a Friday night clash against the 2017 premiers, Richmond.
Straight out of the gates, the Kangaroos were putting the pressure on the Tigers and displaying some Shinboner Spirit which had yet to be seen this year.
North ended up defeating Richmond by 37 points. Ben Cunnington and Ben Brown led the way with 31 disposals and five goals respectively.
Round 12 saw the club flying up to Gold Coast to take on the Suns. After the performance the week before, North were hot favourites and, once again, Cunnington dominated with 31 disposals alongside Jared Polec’s 28 in a 27-point victory.
Round 13 delivered Shaw’s first loss on a Sunday against red hot Greater Western Sydney. The Roos were valiant in their 23-point defeat, being in the game in the second half.
Round 15 saw North’s best win under Shaw, with a dominant performance against 2019 flag favourites, Collingwood, defeating the Pies by 44 points.
North went on to back that win up with another great win against the Saints, defeating them by 39 points.
In one of the games of the season, North lost a very winnable game against rivals, Essendon. With a winning record of 4-2, Rhyce Shaw is quietly becoming one of the most successful interim coaches in AFL history.
Rhyce Shaw’s story is quite similar to another interim coach turned official head coach, Port Adelaide’s Matthew Primus.
Primus, a former five-season captain of Port Adelaide, became an assistant under Mark Williams for the 2006 season.
After four and a half seasons as an assistant coach, Primus took over interim duties in July of 2010 after Williams stood down.
Primus ended up going on an unprecedented successful interim coach run with five wins out of a possible seven. At season’s end, Primus signed on officially as the head coach.
Further success eluded Primus, as he went on to secure a record of 13 wins and 34 losses over nearly three seasons.
If the rumours of Shaw signing on as coach of North Melbourne are true, then Shaw would be hoping to take an uninhabited road to success for an interim-turned-head Coach of an AFL club.
The majority of interim coaches take over a club in turmoil with little to nothing to work with, in a playing squad capacity.
Shaw has a unique opportunity, with North boasting a very talented line-up of young guns and mature stars.
Cunnington, who is currently second in the AFL for contested possessions and an absolute clearance king, is having an incredible season along with recruits Jared Polec and Jasper Pittard.
Brown who was the Coleman medalist runner-up last year, booting over 60 goals, is in fine form to equal that feat this year, currently sitting second on 43 goals.
A lot of current and future assistant coaches would be hoping Shaw can turn this opportunity into a train of non-stop success.
If Shaw can do that, it will cement some confidence in assistants who do take over the reins in the middle of a season, that they can too turn things around shortly and secure a full-time job as head coach.