Round 8 v Carlton: Viewing through a long-term lens

It’s interesting the different perspective you can have on a game when watching with a long-term view.

Instead of figuring out how North Melbourne is playing trying to beat Carlton, it’s more about how a player could fit into a side 18-24 months down the road.

And rather than wondering why a player is performing well or badly, it’s about whether that reveals anything which needs urgent fixing.

Then a shot on goal for a potential three quarter time lead goes up in smoke and the long-term lens is shattered for a little while.


The last month of North Round Reviews: Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7

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Jy Simpkin receiving a tag and how to separate good from great

There are normally three stages in finding out the level of a player:

  1. Break out with a series of good games
  2. Opponents increase their focus on you
  3. Can you handle that focus or not?

If there needed to be any further confirmation Jy Simpkin has moved from stage one to two, it arrived with an Ed Curnow tag on Saturday.

Simpkin is already a good AFL player, that much is indisputable. Whether he can be great relies heavily on how he deals with a tag and that process has started.

It may take four weeks, two months or a year. But if Simpkin can learn how to adapt his game and go to another level in response to what’s coming from opponents, he becomes not only a B+ player, but a foundation A-grade piece for North Melbourne’s next decade.

Bailey Scott, LDU and minutes into inexperience

When the aim is to get minutes into players who project as long-term midfielders, a common battle is how best to give them that exposure.

In the cases of Bailey Scott and Luke Davies-Uniacke, the consensus seems to be through half forward, with shorter stints around the ball or on a wing until they’re capable to match more experienced bodies for longer spells.

Scott, who has all the tools and IQ to be a promising winger, has had 89, 85 and 73 percent game time over the last three weeks alternating between half forward and the wing. Jared Polec starting on-ball may have had just as much to do with Scott getting more time on the wing as it did anything else.

Meanwhile Davies-Uniacke got through the game unscathed; likely the first, second and third priorities with anything else a bonus – hence just the two centre bounce attendances.

As the two spend time at half forward – not their natural positions – it means opponents potentially have the chance to transition easier than if they were playing against permanent forwards; players who intricately know what’s required in that position in terms of pressure and defensive running.

However, it’s a necessary trade off in the short term for what ideally becomes two first-string rotation midfielders for a long time to come.


If you missed it during the week, over on Stats Insider I penned a piece all about North Melbourne’s list, where it’s at and basically how the next 12-18 months are arguably the club’s most important since the 2000 National Draft. Well, except for late 2007 obviously.

You can find the piece here and also be sure to keep note of all the good things Stats Insider are doing.


Kyron Hayden and the importance of different development paths

Some youngsters can be thrown into the fire and emerge unscathed, better for it. (Not literally)

Others have to be nurtured along, taking time before they’re ready to blossom at AFL level.

Kyron Hayden is most definitely in the first category. Consistently tasked with dangerous opponents each week, there’s something about his mental strength which allows him to keep coming back for more.

Example: Recovering from dying seven days prior to hold Eddie Betts to just five disposals and scoreless. Of course, Betts is at the tail end of his career, but you have to go back to Round 18, 2017 for his last game not hitting the scoreboard and Round 15, 2013 for the last time he had fewer than five disposals.

Regardless of whether Hayden stays as a small defender, graduates into a rebounding half-back or perhaps even reprises the midfield role from his debut, there’s definitely something there to work with. And it’s been apparent right from those first minutes against Collingwood.

Compare Hayden to someone like Ben McKay, in his fifth season on the list yet only managing his fifth and sixth games over the last two rounds.

Yet in these last two matches McKay has looked a different player to the shaky, often lacking in confidence one we saw during his first four appearances.

It’s not to say McKay is now an automatic lock for the foreseeable future. But the extra development time, followed by a clear role and playing alongside a rock solid Robbie Tarrant has allowed the 22-year-old to look far more comfortable than ever before.

Which leads us to…

Youth v experience and finding the tipping point

If North’s injury list ever dips into single figures, there’s every chance we’ll see a host of players fighting for places in the last five to six matches of the season.

It raises the question of how best to balance the likes of Will Walker, Aiden Bonar and perhaps even someone like a Lachie Hosie or Flynn Perez while not asking them to do too much.

To use a fairly obvious example as a hypothetical, bringing in Hosie to play as a defensive forward on Sam Docherty instead of Jasper Pittard would have been asking way too much, and not managing to accomplish anything but feeding a debutant to the wolves. Although maybe Hosie wouldn’t have had a brain fade on the three quarter time siren, but that’s a different story.

But when Kayne Turner is ready to return, should he be in over Jack Mahony, giving the youngster a rest?

If Perez and Bonar are both ready to play and duelling for a half back position, who gets a nod? Can someone make way so they both pull the jumper on, or does that leave the side in a no-win position?

All these potential decisions are just the tip of the iceberg, a big reason why player development is such a tough skill for clubs to nail.


If you’ve missed them, every Monday night since the season restart, I’ve posted weekly ‘From The Notebook’ pieces, taking a look around the league at things which caught my eye.

For the next few rounds, they’ll switch to the morning after a round finishes, given all the fixturing madness. In the meantime, here is the last month for those who have missed any: Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7


Luke McDonald’s growing confidence and what it means for flexibility

After three weeks in the middle as a tagger, Luke McDonald returned to the backline at the Gabba and it was immediately apparent how much the added responsibility improved his game.

While an 88.9% disposal efficiency hinted at part of his improvement, it was the assuredness and confidence when defending close to goal which looked to have come on in leaps and bounds.

The tagging role looks to have locked McDonald in on what’s required defensively against the top tier of players, with the added bonus of now being able to push up into the midfield for a job if the game situation calls for it.

McDonald might not ever become part of the first-string midfield rotation, but he’s arguably just as valuable to be part of the second string – if required – while continuing to be a part of the back six as a medium and/or small defender for the long-term.

5 thoughts on “Round 8 v Carlton: Viewing through a long-term lens

  1. Thanks Rick, another interesting read – alongside the breakdown of the list earlier in the week. With Ben McKay showing some promise down back, do you see an obvious role for Majak in the team? Would you bring him in at the expense of Ben (or Walker)? If not, what would you do? Would you find a role for him?

    1. I think so, I’d love to see him as a swingman depending on matchups – can you play Tarrant, McKay and Daw in the same backline, it’s probably a little too big to do every week.

  2. Look forward to your emails everyweek Ricky. Awesome piece. Don’t really get to see a lot of this on TV. Love how you explain and break games down. Terrific

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