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Opinion

Five reasons to watch the Kangaroos in 2020

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Roar Guru
18th March, 2020
10

Seeking an in-depth analysis of each club’s chances in 2020? You’ve come to the wrong place. Looking for an off-kilter and slightly unhinged reason to watch each club in 2020? Step into my office.

Ben Brown
‘Sideshow Bob’ ended Ariel Steinberg’s career before it even began. In the 2014 elimination final, in just his ninth senior game, Brown lined up on third-gamer Ariel Steinberg. With the Kangaroos 27 points down at halftime, he sent four arrows through the hearts of Essendon (and Steinberg) to drag North to a 12-point win. The Little Mermaid played just seven more games before being delisted.

If you’re ending careers from the get go, you’re something special. His vanquishing of Steinberg was clearly a result of Hawaii being overlooked for three drafts before being delivered to North with pick 47 in 2013. Patience is clearly a virtue of his. At the very least, his run-up certainly tests supporters’ attention spans.

Samson-esque, he no doubt has a “no haircuts” stipulation in his contract. In the last three years he has kicked 63 (third in the Coleman), 61 (second) and 64 goals. Season 2019 was especially cruel as the AFL gods allowed Jeremy Cameron to run riot against the Gold Coast Suns (the equivalent of a regional junior representative side at that stage) to snatch the prize in Round 23.

Brown once picked a redhead team of the modern era. Seventy-plus goals and snaring an elusive Coleman in 2020 should allow him to re-pick the side with himself at full forward.

Ben Brown

(Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Ben Cunnington
He was described as having “extreme levels of hardness” in a pre-draft profile. That’s an intense way to introduce a teenager, but I’ll allow it. He can out-squat anyone at North Melbourne.

In 2018, he had 32 contested possessions in a single game. To put this into perspective, in 12 games played in 2013, Lewis Jetta had 41 contested possessions. In total. Jake Lloyd played 22 games in 2019 and had just 106. Not casting aspersions. Just saying, 32 is a lot of contested possessions for one man to get in one game.

In 2011 Paul Roos dubbed Cunnington as “unfit for AFL level” and “next to useless” following a loss to Richmond. I like to think from that moment on he’s marked himself Erik Killmonger style with every hardball get while incessantly muttering “Who’s useless now Paul?!?”

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Off the field, he finds solace in fishing. Often. Seriously. The man’s Instagram has 142 posts, and 78 of them involve him holding fish. Another 16 are linked to fishing. All up, that’s a good 65 per cent of his socials – a far better strike rate than North’s attempts at landing a big fish in recent years. Let’s hope he catches a few wins for the Kangaroos in 2020.

Shaun Atley, Mason Wood, Jy Simpkin, Jed Anderson and Trent Dumont
The aforementioned players walk into a bar. You probably don’t recognise them. They take it in turns launching into brief starring dance cameos, replete with crisp renditions of best mates, orange justice’ and heck, even the Carlton before settling into a Napoleon Dynamite-esque showcase.

Unlike Jon Heder, however, results are not great. I dare say I could list quite a few of North’s squad here – a host of players who turn on the afterburners a few times a year, but soon settle back into mediocrity.

Except Shaun Atley. He’s my boy, courtesy of me owning an autographed Draft Pick Future Stars Select AFL card of his. DM me for offers, obviously. Can this group ever be cool? Or consistent? More so, do they want to?

Shaun Higgins
Aside from the odd exception to the rule, most players start to slow down when they pass 30. There’s something different in the water at Arden Street, however. I mean, how else do you explain Brent Harvey? Clearly, it’s witchcraft. Or Pagan sacrifices. Geddit?!

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Now, the 32-year-old, 220-gamer that is Higgins isn’t quite in Boomer territory yet, but since hightailing it out of Whitten Oval and nearing – and hitting – his flirty 30s, he’s score two Syd Barker Medals, an All Australian blazer, and in 2019, a career-high in possessions per game book-ended by two 38-disposal outings.

Shaun Higgins North Melbourne Kangaroos AFL 2017

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Not bad for a player destined – at one stage – to enter the record books as an under-performing, injury-ravaged high draft pick. The only frustration Higgins will cause this year is to opposition players attempting to quell his influence.

Speaking of big fish…
As Captain Ahab famously espoused: “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” Call him Ishmael.

Or Josh Kelly. Or Dustin Martin. Or Adam Treloar. Or Isaac Heeney. Or Andrew Gaff. Or Jordan de Goey. Or Luke Breust, Sam Docherty, Cale Hooker, or the 28 other players North Melbourne have allegedly attempted to recruit since 2013.

North Melbourne’s hunt for a famed white whale to rescue their middling fortunes has seen multiple fanatics (or, as they like to be known, list managers) try their luck. All have fallen against the AFL’s equivalent of Moby Dick (in case the analogy wasn’t quite clear).

In 2020, Glenn Luff steps up to the helm. Will he too be driven to madness?