North Melbourne’s 2020 off-season, and what comes next

Just a little bit has happened since the end of North Melbourne’s 2020 campaign.

Coach change, significant list changes, essentially a whole remodel meaning there’s now little remaining from what we’ll call the Brad Scott era.

With a such drastic transformation it’s easy for pieces of information to slip through the cracks. What we’ll do here is go from the ground up, looking at how all parts of the off-season has left North set up for 2021 and beyond.

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List Changes

Let’s start with the obvious and the straight list turnover.

Nine of the 11 inclusions are 21 years old or younger, with only Aidan Corr and Connor Menadue older than that.

It’s a clear focus on rebuilding from the ground up, not putting an enormous amount of stock in covering gaps across the mid-tier age range and relying on existing experience to shield youngsters through growing pains.

List Demographic

The cleanout at the end of 2020 had the effect of evening out North’s list demographic and resetting expectations.

Compare the 2020 demographic to 2021 and the difference is stark:

Or to break it down another way:

  • 2020 list, % of players 28 and over: 33.3%
  • 2021 list, % of players 28 and over: 23.8%
  • 2020 list, % of players 22 and under: 37.8%
  • 2021 list, % of players 22 and under: 50%

Given where North are at – and an already established senior core who will play every week in 2021 assuming fitness – it makes sense to load up with youth and you can see the change in those two graphics.

Although the post-draft high has everyone believing all their club’s picks will be stars, odds suggest otherwise. North giving themselves as many opportunities to find core players for the middle and latter parts of the decade should hold them in good stead for a rise up the ladder.

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This will be the last post until the AFLW season, barring anything extraordinary at least, so a couple of months downtime on here. Thanks for all who read throughout the year, and hopefully more of the same coming your way in 2021.

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Contracts

Even with all the changes over the last couple of months, North still has only pennies committed, relatively speaking, for the long term.

Only three players are contracted past 2022, close to the perfect situation to be in at this stage of a rebuild:

If anyone knows the length of Bosenavulagi and Young’s contracts, shout out

Undoubtedly that will change in the near future, with a string of players in the 2021 column certainties to be extended. I’d be stunned if the likes of Luke Davies-Uniacke and Luke McDonald weren’t extended early on.

Nevertheless, the overall flexibility it provides gives North a chance to move in any direction they feel necessary, not having to wait out any untradeable contracts or needing a Collingwood-esque fire sale to straighten up a wobbling salary cap.

Depth Chart

After going through list changes, demographics and contracts, now it’s time for the fun part – a depth chart. An early projected look for 2021:

For me, two things immediately stand out when looking at this subjective take:

a) That is a lot of midfielders
b) That is a lot of general/mid-sized forwards

By using nearly the entire 2020 draft capital on midfielders, there’s a possibility it’s set up the engine room for a decade to come.

In theory a couple of players listed here as wingers can easily slide towards a half back, toggling between both roles and bolstering depth. And in much the same fashion, it should be a lock for plenty in the general forward category sliding up to provide second-string midfield minutes.

Again it comes back to the same word, flexibility. It’s obviously not a team aiming for top four contention next year, so keeping options open as new coach David Noble finds out about his list is the smart thing to do.

This depth chart should, in theory, look close to unrecognisable this time next year. There’ll be plenty of changes given there’s been minimal indication of how North will set up under Noble. Which brings it to the final point…

The Unknown

It only took me about 30 seconds of thought to come up with the following questions for North’s 2021 setup:

– Could North’s preferred set up only feature one key forward?
– Do all the mid-sized forwards mean there’ll be a setup without a genuine small forward?
– Will North follow the Brisbane model of playing a second ruckman?
– How much will North ape from the Brisbane style?
– Where does Charlie Comben fit into all of this?
– What positional changes will be made? There will be positional changes made.
– Does all these medium forwards mean a fast moving game style?
– Will all these midfielders mean new setups around the ball and being able to defend in transition?
– Who will be squeezed out of the side early? There are always a couple of surprises.
– What will be the main goals to achieve in 2021? Is it finding players, or locking in a style? Can it be both?
– How will Noble approach situations in his first year?

Anyone who’s read this far will have dozens more unanswerable questions not mentioned above. About the only thing that’s for sure … is nothing’s for sure. 2021 is going to be fascinating.

2 thoughts on “North Melbourne’s 2020 off-season, and what comes next

  1. The list change is huge. Because of the list size reduction, a third have been let go or traded. They were mainly fringe players who needed to have elite by their age. Only a few of those were draft picks in the last three years but even they were fringe. Of course Higgens and Brown were great players once. Higgens was clearly short term by Geelong in their Premiership window and designed to be a like for like replacement for Gary Ablett Jnr. Brown is a great forward but doesn’t bring ball to ground and certainly doesn’t suit North’s need for speed. I was at The Gabba for the Grand Final and Richmond are very very fast. It’s why they’re relentless in defence and spread so we’ll in attack. North are taking a leaf of the Richmond playbook. I am glad we stocked up on hard ball midfielders to support Cunnington.

  2. I’m a shinboner for life started barracking in 75 first flag I was 7 never looked back ,great club all I want to see is that mongrel we’ve been missing , we want sides to think ahh north again this is gunna be a scrap

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