The Kangaroos are one of the real mysteries of the 2019 season. How good are they?
In 2018, they finished just outside the eight with 12 wins and were aided by having 12 of their better players play every game.
The loss of Jarrad Waite to retirement left a big hole in their game plan, and they traded Braydon Preuss to Melbourne. Waite had proved a huge success in his first year (2015) playing 23 games and kicking 42 goals. But with a lack of discipline and injuries, his last three years yielded only 37 games, and although his 83 goals shows his worth as a goal-kicker, he was not able to provide enough support for rising star Ben Brown as part of a two-pronged attack.
In Waite’s first year at North, Brown kicked 41 goals but he scored 60-plus in the following three, and now finds himself in equal 15th position on the Kangaroos’ all-time goal-scorers list with dual premiership player Arnold Briedis, who topped the club’s goal kicking in 1980.
If Brown can maintain his 60-goal effort again next year – and his star is still on the rise – he should climb to just outside the top ten goal-scorers at North, and pass along the way such champions as Lindsay Thomas, Shannon Grant, old-timer Syd Dyer and former captain Allen Aylett.
Armed with a bag of money, but unable to promise the finals success that most footballers crave, North Melbourne were able to attract three players from other clubs to boost their stocks: Jasper Pittard (Port Adelaide), Jared Polec (Port Adelaide) and Aaron Hall (Gold Coast).
Both Pittard and Polec honoured their contracts well, played every game for the year, and improved the team. Hall’s output was disappointing and consisted of six games (the same number that he played at the Gold Coast in 2018) and four goals.
The end of 2019 saw the retirement of Scott Thompson, the Kangaroos’ top current elite game-player, as well as their all-time number 74th greatest game player, Sam Wright. Both have been valuable servants of the Kangaroos, but not core to the success of the club.
Remaining players like Brown, Jack Ziebell, Ben Cunnington, Todd Goldstein, Shaun Atley, Jamie Macmillan and Robbie Tarrant form a great nucleus for new coach Rhyce Shaw to build a strong team around.
Add to this list the talented Shaun Higgins and Mason Wood and the up-and-comer millennium babies Tarryn Thomas, Curtis Taylor and Bailey Scott and the Kangaroos will settle into a game plan that will worry most teams next year.
However, to be a serious finals contender, the club will need to follow up last year’s recruiting effort with a similar one for 2020 that will deliver a quality midfielder and a quality rover to Brown and Wood.
With Wood joining the Kangaroos’ top 100 goal-scorers, they now have six players listed in their top 100 goal-scorers of all time and – if the load can be shared – they are capable of a much greater goal output in 2020.