“When analysing a team’s moves, we first have to acknowledge whether we truly know what their goals are. If their goals are different from our assumptions, our analysis won’t be correct.” – Ben Falk, Cleaning the Glass
This time of year is ripe for assumptions flying left, right and centre – including what’s littered from top to bottom here after Friday’s sledgehammer to North Melbourne’s list. Keep the above quote in mind because this could all look horribly out of date in a week or two.
Given the uncertainty around list sizes and the time afforded by North’s early finish to the season, a safe first cut would have made sense. After all, there are six weeks until free agency starts and more than two months before the first list lodgement.
It appears the word ‘safe’ must not exist in Brady Rawlings’ vocabulary. With a remarkable 11 delistings, a quarter of North’s list disappeared in one fell swoop.
To cut this deep, this early appears to mean plenty more wheeling and dealing to come. Time to put two and two together to try and figure out what it’ll be.
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All 11 delistings are perfectly reasonable decisions. It doesn’t mean all 11 are a lock to never see an AFL field again, but ultimately it came down to whether North was happy to keep a handful around as depth in 2021.
Jamie Macmillan and/or Jasper Pittard as a medium defender, Marley Williams as a small defender, Tom Murphy for one more year to see if the kicking skills could develop into a well-rounded game, Majak Daw as a ruckman/key defender, Paul Ahern as an onballer; the roadmap was there.
The decision was made to get rid of the safety net and thank them all for their service. A new era is really beginning.
The remaining players at risk
*Assumption: Those contracted for next year are safe*
As it stands, there are eight players officially without a contract for 2021 – Jed Anderson, Ben Brown, Taylor Garner, Kyron Hayden, Matt McGuinness, Kayne Turner, Ed Vickers-Willis and Will Walker. Keep in mind there likely have been deals done for players on this list and they’re just not public yet.
With McGuinness a category B rookie, let’s take him out of the equation for a moment. It’s surely only a matter of time until the announcements are made on Anderson, Hayden, Walker and Vickers-Willis. That leaves Garner, Turner and Brown.
There’s still an enormous hole on the list for genuine small forwards, which is likely why Turner is a chance to stay. Remember this could change depending on who’s being lined up elsewhere.
If there’s ever a player to take an extra chance on, it’s someone with Taylor Garner’s talent level. Maybe – probably – it ends with a flashing ‘what if’ sign after his laundry list of soft tissue injuries. But the reward if Garner does find a sustained run of health can be significant, and change North’s forward makeup. The theory is there to give it one more opportunity.
Which leaves one player yet to be highlighted…
Ben Brown’s situation
Regular readers will know my position on trading Ben Brown. Based on that it may be a surprise to read that – assuming reports are correct – I’m not overly fussed the big man is shopping/being shopped around.
Whenever rumours come out a player is attracting interest, there’s seemingly a default acceptance it’s only a matter of time before he’s gone.
But nearly just as often the player stays – Todd Goldstein and Shaun Higgins had suitors last year but stayed, while Tom Papley was courted during the 2019 trade period but decided to continue at Sydney.
If the market gives an unsatisfactory return for Brown, then ideally he stays and the hope is the relationship hasn’t been severely damaged. By the same token, if a club comes to the table with a godfather offer then it should be considered.
Now if the shopping turns out to foster a deal done for under
market value to North Melbourne, deeper examination will occur.
North Melbourne’s depth chart
This is subjective; 100 people can read this and there’ll be 100 different opinions. Nevertheless, this is roughly what North’s depth chart looks like across all positions as it currently stands.
This will change significantly by Round 1, 2021. For example Tarryn Thomas could move into the onballers category, Shaun Higgins could become a permanent winger, players can move from forward to back and vice versa, half backs can spend time on a wing; there’s hundreds of different ways to shift things.
Two glaring needs stand out – the need for genuine small forwards and further medium/tweener defenders. The latter is partially by design with the delistings of Macmillan and Pittard and the projected arrival of Aidan Corr’s versatility will go some way towards filling the hole.
At the other end of the ground, signs appear to point to going shopping to fill the hole, whether it be through the draft or elsewhere. There’ll always be a supply of small forwards, it’s just a matter of making sure you pick up the next Dan Butler over a dime a dozen state league player. Easier said than done, to be sure.
It’s also just as important to pick the right players for the medium to long term when in North’s situation. After all there’d be no point in delisting players from a particular age group only to restock with short term players in the same area.
North Melbourne’s list demographics
All going well, you’d assume at least nine of the 22 and under crew – Larkey, Simpkin, Zurhaar, Davies-Uniacke, Hayden, Walker, Thomas, Taylor and Scott – start 2021 in the best 22. Another off season of development and natural improvement is why things aren’t necessarily as bad as they’ve looked over the back half of the season.
Using the links towards Corr and Zac Williams as a guide, it appears any outside additions will be targeted in the 23-27 age range, filling out those holes in the demographic.
Anything to further populate the 28 and over range is unlikely at best and negligent at worst unless there’s a too-good-to-be-true offer.
The best case scenario is making shrewd signings in the 23-27 range who can contribute without giving up significant assets, then going into the draft with a strong hand to be creative and flexible.
If that happens it’ll complete an enormous list makeover, but one that rectifies multiple areas of need in just one off-season.
Patience. A free tip from me to you – don’t jump at shadows with every rumour, keep your list of trusted sources and ignore those who have a prior history of being wildly off-base. Like random Facebook pages.