When Josh Kelly’s eight-year extension at GWS was announced on Tuesday evening, my instinctive reaction was ‘happy with that’.
That was immediately followed by something along the lines of, ‘am I insane being happy with Josh Kelly not at North Melbourne?’
When I’m confused, my solution tends to be writing it out and finishing with a sense of clarity. So without further ado, trying to make sense of being happy with North not having Kelly.
We’re back in action! After a wildly entertaining – and hectic – few weeks on Olympic duty, it should be normal business resumed from here on The Shinboner (with the possible exception of finals dossiers).
Unless something pops out during the week as I catch up on action I’ve missed, it’s doubtful there’ll be any full-scale posts looking back on the last fortnight, remembering this Twitter thread covering Round 19 v Carlton.
However there are a couple of things, largely North related but not exclusively, which I’m hoping will be ready for the bye week before finals. Just need to brush up on Excel formulas to make sure I’m getting the right numbers.
Jy Simpkin. Luke Davies-Uniacke. Tarryn Thomas. Tom Powell. Will Phillips. Jason Horne-Francis (I’m assuming).
They’re a list of players 23 and under who, presuming continued health and fitness, will command first-tier on-ball (not to be confused with wing) minutes for much of the decade. The first three are already established, the next two on their way, and the last one looks as close to ready-made as you’ll get.
Without opportunity, the latter three players will fail to develop into the best version of themselves, which is what has to be weighed up when considering any moves to bring in first choice players on a different age profile.
Look around for a real-time version of this happening and you can see it across the other side of the city at the MCG. Ben Brown’s introduction has significantly hampered chances for Sam Weideman to make Melbourne’s forward line his own in what was a crucial year for his career path.
Now 24 years old and in his sixth season, Weideman is rapidly approaching the time where projected improvement ends and limitations take hold.
The difference between Melbourne and North Melbourne? Melbourne made a move for Brown believing – correctly as it turned out – they were a top side; a level North are clearly not at. As harsh as it sounds, when you think a move can put you into that tier, you make it and deal with collateral damage later.
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To win a prize for most obvious comment of the day, Josh Kelly in blue and white would have undoubtedly made North a better team in 2022.
A fit and firing Kelly for 20+ games may have even had North on the fringe of finals if combined with the expected levels of improvement elsewhere.
But what it would have done is elevate expectations to an unrealistic level while also taking away a crucial opportunity – there’s that word again – to develop key areas on the list which need urgent focus.
Midfield is not North’s weak spot. There’s a pressing need for another key defender, a rebounding defender, a genuine small forward and also a key forward; the last option perhaps not as critical depending on the internal faith in Charlie Comben and/or Jacob Edwards.
A team is only as good as its weakest link, and right now North have their best chance in literally decades to build a list which doesn’t have any glaring weak spots.
Committing to the money it would have taken to lure Kelly over – to be clear, money which would have been justified and repaid through on-field performances – would likely have cost North the chance to use it on those aforementioned list holes, having to look at options closer to budget level instead.
In a way you could almost compare Kelly at North to Chris Judd arriving at Carlton in the summer of 2007. Judd instantly made the Blues a much better side, but the cost of his arrival meant the Blues instantly shifted into a different list build*, either unable or unwilling to evaluate their list with the same clarity Melbourne did when moving for Brown, as mentioned earlier.
(*Some would argue that points to greater issues with how the Blues have historically been run, which … would be fair enough too)
Given there may have been things slip through my sight over the last few weeks, if there is anything you’d like to see covered – or at the very least touched on briefly – the lines of communication are always open on Twitter @rickm18.
Patience is the key word here when looking at player acquisition. We’ve seen all the promising signs throughout 2021, young players getting game time in key roles and blossoming, foundational pieces being locked in.
But the list rebuild is far, far from complete. Roughly 30 percent of available minutes this year have been played by Roos in their age 29 year and above. While some of that will naturally resolve in time with understudies ready to go, there are vital pieces in there which need attention.
Finding solutions to those as soon as possible are much more important for North than picking up a high profile midfielder from another club. Even if he is one of the best in the competition when firing.