18 Teams in 18 Days: North Melbourne Kangaroos

2017: 15th (6 wins – 16 losses)

Key Acquisition:

Luke Davies-Uniacke (AFL Draft – Pick #4), Billy Hartung (from Hawthorn)

Key Losses:

Andrew Swallow (retirement), San Gibson (to Adelaide), Lindsay Thomas (to Port Adelaide), Lachie Hanson (retirement)

Million Dollar Question 

Is this really the most talent-ridden list in the competition? Plenty of people in the industry believe so, and the Kangas will be out to prove otherwise in 2018 and beyond. Heading into last season, many footy pundits had a similar view on the state of Brisbane’s apparent “talentless” list. Yet, 12 months on, the Lions have a few young players that many can’t wait to see they how they fair in 2018. North will be looking to do the same this season, and there will be plenty of opportunities. Not many teams have gone through a more rigorous list shakeup over the last 18 months than the Roos. Regardless of the perceived lack of talent at Arden Street, they sure did find themselves in plenty of games last season. Could the so-called experts have it all wrong in regards to North Melbourne this year?

Case For

There doesn’t seem to be too many in footy circles willing to make a case for North Melbourne, at least as far as season 2018 is concerned, but here goes. Despite the fact the Roos finished a lowly 14th in 2017, they averaged a respectable 90.1 points per game and kicked more goals (290) than any other of the non-finals teams last season bar Melbourne (302). The real kick in the guts for the Roos last year was 6 games they lost by a combined 19 points, including 2 games by the smallest of margins. While pessimists may look at this team as the 4th worst from last year, optimists may try to argue that Brad Scott is a coaching genius. After all, the Kangas comfortably beat the Lions in the final game of the season last year in what was supposed to be a battle between the leagues two worst sides. It certainly didn’t look like it. Make no mistake, there are some hidden gems on this list. From injury prone yet clearly talented Indigenous winger Jed Anderson, to the high flying, mercurial half forward Taylor Garner, even to crafty second-year forward Jy Simpkin. You also can’t forget the first-year midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke, North’s highest draft selection (pick 4) since they took onballer Ben Cunnington at pick 5 in the 2009 AFL draft. They may not have the sheer talent like some, but the Kangas certainly posses plenty of rough diamonds, and it’s Brad Scott’s responsibility to make sure they shine and surprise this season.

Case Against 

While there may not be a more honest team in the competition than the Roos, they are out of their depth at times when they come up against more clearly talented teams. This is evident in the fact that North yielded, on average, more than 100 points in every game last season (102.9). While they are a team that can get a run on in regards to the scoreboard themselves (see 10 goals to zero against the at the time undefeated Crows in round 7), being so easy to score against is something that must change before any rise up the ladder materializes. Being a team so heavily reliant on gun forward Ben Brown to kick all their goals (Brown kicked 63 goals last season to finish 3rd in the Coleman Medal, while Jarrad Waite was the next best with 22 having played only 10 games), they must quickly morph into a stingier team defensively, or it could be another long, long season for the Kangas.

One to Watch

There’s a reason North spent such a high pick on young Luke Davies-Uniacke. With optimum midfielder size of 188cm and a knack for finding and efficiently using the footy, “LDU” is set to please the masses at Arden street for many, many seasons. LDU will, in time, become a damaging two-way player, capable of turning a game in the middle and also resting forward and using his big frame and fantastic overhead marking talents to impact the game in the forward line. LDU will add some class to a Kangaroos team that has been criticised for lacking such talent for quite some time. North fans are going to love LDU. He’s a ripper.

Bold Prediction

Predicting finals in 2018 would be a foolishly irresponsible prediction for the Roos, but the same could have been said to those who predicted the Bulldogs to play in September in 2015, or Port Adelaide a few seasons before that. The point is, strange things can happen in the current volatile AFL climate. Would North making the 8 really be that much more shocking than Richmond going from 13th to Premiers within the space of 12 months? Surely it wouldn’t. Stop sleeping on North Melbourne.

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