Three rounds down and already there are question marks hovering over both of last year’s grand finalists, Richmond and the GWS Giants, who have both failed to win a game between them since the AFL’s resumption.
A lot has happened in North Melbourne land since the last time I wrote about my beloved club.
24 hours after the club’s Round 10 victory over the Bulldogs, Brad Scott stood down as coach of the club, where he had been in charge for nine and a half years.
24 hours after that, I published an article calling on the club to bring the heart back to Arden Street. Bring in people who love the club and what it stands for (I believe I referred to these people as ‘North Nuffies’) and just get the club back on track.
The honest, hardworking track that has led them to success before and could lead that way once again.
It’s been almost six months since then and just about the entire club has been turned on its head.
GM of Football Cam Joyce, CEO Carl Dilena and assistant Leigh Tudor were shown the door and departed the club after Scott.
Rhyce Shaw’s position as senior coach was solidified by the end of July.
In 2020, he will be working alongside Darren Crocker, who has been at the club for about four decades, former Roos Leigh Adams and Jade Rawlings, Jared Rivers, Heath Scotland and Brendan Whitecross.
The new-look assistant coaching staff has one thing in common: they have all coached their own sides. Leadership in all forms is exactly what this team needs right now.
The club also managed to bring three-time Syd Barker medallist Brady Rawlings home to Arden Street, where he will start as GM of Football in December.
And finally, Ben Amarfio was announced as CEO, completing the overhaul.
There are plenty of North Melbourne names in that mix, but are they the right ones?
That’s the question the club has to answer, and it appears they may not have a lot of time to do so.
In the days following the finalisation of the club’s new direction, Damien Barrett penned an article for AFL.com.au outlining the club’s potential fate if they could not get themselves back on track.
It wasn’t a welcomed read by many North Melbourne supporters, but most of the time people don’t like the truth. He hasn’t pulled this from nowhere; it’s come straight from the AFL.
And it was a real wake up call.
It’s very easy to slip into a state of denial when something you love very dearly is potentially in danger, but what’s written in Barrett’s column simply reiterate messages that have already hit the club hard.
And I think it has the potential to spark a new era at North Melbourne.
This was made obvious by the tone set at the club’s Best and Fairest dinner back in October.
There was less celebration than usual and rather a hint of determination and dissatisfaction in speeches made on the evening by chairman Ben Buckley, captain Jack Ziebell and newly appointed coach Rhyce Shaw.
Something we haven’t really seen from the club before – or at least in a very long time.
When Ziebell took to the Syd Barker stage, his message rang loud and clear.
“We all understand that we didn’t reach our goals last year and sometimes that’s hard to take… we need to use that feeling of a bit of failure… to drive our season next year,” he said.
“In the back of your mind have the feeling that there’s unfinished business around.
“We haven’t won a premiership at this club for the last 20 years and on us, as current players, we need to fix that.
“So make sure, next month when we come back for pre season we are ready to go. We need to earn the right to put this club back to where it belongs and that’s playing in September.
“Realise that hard work is just around the corner and we all should be hungry for that as well.”
The message was bold, to the point and exactly what the club (particularly supporters) needed to hear.
To know the club isn’t satisfied with where it currently sits on field should be music to fans’ ears, as North hasn’t made finals for the previous three seasons.
It’s certainly a far cry to where the club was at just eight months ago.
North Melbourne’s 2018 season took plenty by surprise.
Expected to finish in for bottom four for another season, North won 12 games and finished ninth.
Certainly a better effort than what was expected of them…
Of the club’s 10 losses in 2018, half of them came against sides that didn’t make the eight either.
On reflection it appears like a lost opportunity, but in the moment there was a buzz around the club. An idea that they could really go on to do great things in 2019.
Instead the entire club has been turned on its head after ten years and is ready to start fresh next year.
On reflection, it’s exactly what the club needed as 12 months ago we were celebrating finishing ninth.
A club, that under the same coach in Brad Scott made finals four times in five seasons between 2012 and 2016.
A club that made back-to-back Preliminary Finals.
A club that now, two years on was ultimately celebrating mediocrity? Celebrating a finish outside of the top 8?
Sure, in context the revival was promising.
The outside noise was predominantly negative so to change its tune was a victory in the moment.
But failure to back it up and instead flip the entire club on its head?
That says to me that people other than Damien Barrett know this club needs a real change in gear. Whether that’s the reality supporters are looking for or not.
Ben Amarfio’s appointment highlights the club’s realisation that things have to change.
He’s an out-there character and he’s honest.
In his first letter to fans last week, he already said, “there’s a lot of work to do”.
Straight to the point. I like it. No one is beating around the bush here.
The time is now for North Melbourne.
Ben Buckley, Jack Ziebell and Rhyce Shaw know it and acknowledged it almost two months ago.
Incoming CEO Ben Amarfio knows it – it’s one of the first things he’s told supporters coming into the club.
And the outside noise has solidified it.
So there’s not much left for the club to do than to get a move on.
As a supporter, who loves the club from the bottom of my heart I can only hope they embrace the opportunity to start again and make the most of it.
Because I’d hate to know the reality if they fail to do so.