That really sounds like a negative headline, doesn’t it? ‘Mate, just look at the state of it.’
Nevertheless, what this post is all about is to outline where North Melbourne’s list is at as we prepare for Trade Eon from October 5.
It’ll be through three methods: a depth chart by position, an age profile, and contract lengths.
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1. Depth Chart
For regular readers of The Shinboner, you’ll have seen both the pre-season and mid-season depth charts, sorted by position.
This is my best attempt at sorting out a post-season version as we stand today, with the most updated version of the list and the (hilarious) assumption of everybody being fit. This will be out of date by the end of next week, but regardless…
A fun thought process to carry out is identifying the players on that list who are proven at AFL level.
My count is at 25, with several (McKay, Davies-Uniacke, Walker) as an inevitability to add to the tally with a few extra games under their belt.
Add in the rumoured additions and there’s the basis of a strong list with much more depth than in the previous two seasons.
However, as we’ve discussed multiple times during the year, the lack of a (healthy) small forward with genuine goal sense is a hole on the list.
My theory is that if Polec, Gaff and Hall all come and contribute well to the midfield mix, that in turn will go a long way towards remedying the small forward situation.
It’s because then with a deeper midfield, the likes of Simpkin and Higgins can spend time closer to goal, and even Hall himself has the capability to hit the scoreboard if his output is consistent enough.
Instead of targeting an elite player in the small forward category, it appears the approach is to work by committee, which I don’t mind. If you have enough rotation through there, you’re bound to have one or two smaller types bob up most weeks.
2. Age profile
Look back through history, and a prime reason for clubs finding themselves in holes is due to chasms between the ages of best 22 players on their list.
This is what North’s age profile will look in 2019 at this stage. A housekeeping note for how I’ve categorised it: If a player is 26 during the season and turns 27 in November, they’re listed here as 26. If they turn 27 during the season, then they’re listed here as 27. And so on, up and down the list.
It should go without saying the below is without the National and Rookie draftees, which are arriving next month.
Players & their age during the 2019 season
20: Hayden, Walker, Xerri, Davies-Uniacke
21: Zurhaar, Larkey, Simpkin, Murphy, Watson, McKay
22: Clarke, Mountford
23: Ahern, Morgan, Durdin, Vickers-Willis, Turner
24: Preuss, Dumont, McDonald
25: Garner, Hrovat, Anderson
26: Wood, Williams, Brown
27: Jacobs, Atley
28: Macmillan, Cunnington, Ziebell, Daw
31: Goldstein, Higgins
For the record, if you’d like to place Polec, Gaff and Hall on the above list, they’ll be 26, 27 and 28 respectively.
There are two key areas which jump out at me when categorising the list in this way.
First is finding games for the next batch of tall defenders. Tarrant (30 in 2019), Thompson (33 in 2019) and Daw (28 in 2019) are all in the second half of their career, which could leave holes if the second tier don’t take their opportunity when the time comes.
Second is the 22-25 age range. If reports are correct about Clarke, Mountford and Morgan being right on the edge or going elsewhere – plus Melbourne’s interest in Preuss – a bit of a hole begins to open up in terms of potential best 22 players.
It’s not panic stations just yet, but most definitely something to keep an eye on.
In theory you could get away with a gap there for the next couple of seasons while the 26+ brigade carries the team. Then when the 22-25 range has become 25-28, it’s right in the sweet spot for potential free agency pickups. But all that falls into the wait-and-see basket at the moment.
3. Contract status
The contract status of players comes into play during Trade Eon essentially as a form of leverage.
Very rarely will you see North delist a contracted player, while if an opposition club comes knocking for players who are locked away, they’ll have to pay more to prise them out.
All simple stuff, but handy to keep in mind anyway. The following is from a combination of Footywire, BigFooty and general news reports:
NMFC contract status
Uncontracted: Sam Wright, Jed Anderson, Ryan Clarke, Declan Mountford, Alex Morgan
2019: Todd Goldstein, Ben McKay, Majak Daw, Sam Durdin, Trent Dumont, Marley Williams, Nick Larkey, Kyron Hayden, Declan Watson, Scott Thompson, Nathan Hrovat
2020: Ben Cunnington, Mason Wood, Jy Simpkin, Ben Brown, Braydon Preuss, Jamie Macmillan, Shaun Higgins, Tristan Xerri, Kayne Turner, Taylor Garner, Ed Vickers-Willis, Tom Murphy, Cam Zurhaar, Paul Ahern, Will Walker, Ben Jacobs
2021: Jack Ziebell, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Robbie Tarrant, Shaun Atley, Luke McDonald
With the exception of Anderson, who I don’t expect to be going anywhere, the remaining uncontracted players’ fate at Arden St appears to depend on who North brings in during Trade Eternity.
It looks like a relatively quiet 2019 in terms of the quantity of best 22 players looking to play on into the new decade. To me that indicates the internal list profiling is beginning to settle on a medium to long term plan.
So that is how it all looks – depth chart, age profile and contracts – it’s how North stands heading into the next two weeks of madness.
Stay tuned later in the week for the next post on The Shinboner; your Trade Era survival kit.