North Melbourne’s end of season list analysis

The actual season has finished for North Melbourne, and now it’s time for the silly season.

Before that begins though, it’s time for an in-depth look at the list:

– Contract status
– Age demographic
– Depth chart
– Minutes played by age

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With content on The Shinboner ramping up for finals and the trade period, Patreon is how to get early access to it all.

Overall there are four different tiers. It starts at $2.50 per month and goes up to $10 per month for all the benefits, running through to October 31.

Here are all the details and how to sign up.

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A season (quickly) summarised

The dividing line here is pre-Collingwood game (first 16 rounds) and everything from there (last seven rounds).

As I covered in the match analyses, instantly it was evident how North looked to play more in their forward half, actually troubling opposition defences as a result.

Inside 50 ticked up from 40.9 per game in the first 15 to 49.3 in the last seven, and you could see the outline of a modern method.

The natural consequence of starting from scratch at the back end of a year means mistakes are punished at a high rate against well-oiled machines. In an ideal world much of those teething problems are ironed out in pre-season.

But the last seven games provide enough evidence of the way forward for North. For as much as the first 15 games were wasted, at least the year finished with something to hold on to, however late it came.

If no image appears here, head to the List Management page for the most up-to-date graphic

I’ll be honest, half the reason for waiting until Friday for this post was hoping delistings had already happened.

Instead we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for list management moves to be made public.

Overall the books are relatively clean, with only six players tied down past 2024. You’d assume that would give North an advantage over other clubs for long-term deals, but it turns out their situation is not unique.

Players contracted past 2024 (as of August 25)

Adelaide7Hawthorn2
Brisbane6Melbourne9
Carlton10North Melbourne6
Collingwood7Port Adelaide6
Essendon5Richmond5
Fremantle8St Kilda8
Geelong3Sydney8
Gold Coast11West Coast6
GWS7Western Bulldogs5

Of course, not all contracts are the same. The Bulldogs’ five (Bontempelli, Treloar (partial), Daniel, Dale, Macrae) are surely worth more than North’s six (Coleman-Jones, Corr, Curtis, Stephenson, Xerri, McDonald).

From a long-term point of view, there are key signatures coming up for North. Cam Zurhaar is the obvious standout from those in the 2022 column, while Ben McKay, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Jason Horne-Francis are going to have offers coming from everywhere next year.

Importantly though, there is enough flexibility for Alastair Clarkson to tweak the list to his desires.

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For those who have missed it, the Finals Dossiers for each of the top four teams dropped during the week. They’re at varying stages of Patreon subscriber access, and here are the links to catch up:

Thursday 25th: 2022 Finals Dossier: Collingwood (4th, 16-6, 104.3%)
Wednesday 24th: 2022 Finals Dossier: Sydney (3rd, 16-6, 127.9%)
Tuesday 23rd: 2022 Finals Dossier: Melbourne (2nd, 16-6, 130.5%)
Monday 22nd: 2022 Finals Dossier: Geelong (1st, 18-4, 144.2%)

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If no image appears here, head to the List Management page for the most up-to-date graphic

A hypothetical: let’s pretend for a minute North don’t pick up anyone older than McDonald and Turner, and everyone currently in that category stays on the list. That’ll leave 11 players in the 28 and over basket for 2023.

In my book, there are a maximum of five stone-cold, best 22 locks – McDonald, Anderson, Corr, Cunnington and Goldstein – not considering the rumours of Anderson not being offered a new deal.

It’s why the rumours around experienced, 28+ players coming in make sense. In an ideal world they’re either a one-year rental or someone who fills an immediate need while younger players develop.

For instance, if you believe the likes of Miller Bergman, Josh Goater, or Flynn Perez are your half-backs of the future but aren’t quite ready yet – and you’re not enamoured with Aaron Hall – then finding someone to fill the role for a year or two makes all the sense in the world.

Because as we’re about to discuss, there are obvious areas to strengthen.

This is an attempt to marry how the season ended with a realistic lens of what’s to come. It’s a touch messy and shouldn’t be taken as gospel: I’d imagine most people reading this see half a dozen changes they’d make. It genuinely took me about 15 minutes to settle on Jaidyn Stephenson’s placement.

(The usual note for every time I post a depth chart: I recommend taking the time to do your own. It really helps clarify where you stand on issues)

With the news that forwards coach Heath Younie has departed, that’s the area I want to focus on here.

In pre-season, my hope was by the time we got here there’d be a clear hierarchy and reason behind who played where. That turned out to be wishful thinking and instead the forward group went backwards as a unit.

For me, this is the area of the ground which can improve the quickest with a coherent strategy and links with the midfield rotations.

– If there’s two talls (Larkey-Comben) + a resting ruck, is there room for the sixth forward to be a rotating midfielder? (Think of what Carlton did with Sam Walsh and Adam Cerra at times in the back half of the year as an example)
– Can Comben play as the second ruck consistently or is it too risky?
– What do Clarkson and the new forward coach want to achieve with their smalls?
– If the smalls are playing alongside three talls and Zurhaar, how much ground can they realistically cover?
– Is the best format two talls, Zurhaar, Thomas and two smalls?

The questions go on, and on, and on.

This is, word for word, what I wrote on the same topic at the end of 2021. While it may seem lazy to copy-paste, it’s still relevant because of how little progress was made in 2022:

I’d imagine much of pre-season will be spent simplifying roles and responsibilities for the ground level forwards and midfielders. How they coexist and rotate with each other – i.e. how much time Tarryn Thomas spends on-ball compared to forward, Jaidyn Stephenson’s wing time – then dictates their requirements.

A summer spent repeating those requirements until the players are sick of them will see enormous benefits extremely quickly.

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During the free agency and trade period, the extra pages for Patreon subscribers will come in useful. A reminder:

– For those on the $7.50 Patreon tier (and above), there’s exclusive access to the Stat Suite page summarising the season and key trends, strengths and weaknesses
– For those on the $10 Patreon tier, they have exclusive access to the List Management page. Contracts, demographics and minutes by age for every single team

Here are all the details and how to sign up.

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Only Adelaide had more minutes by those 25 and under, which naturally meant they were also the only team with fewer minutes by those 26 and over.

Place this hand in hand with the depth chart and it shows North aren’t heading the most important roles to those in the twilight of their career. Todd Goldstein is the notable exception, but at this point he barely seems like he’s slowing down, even at age 34.

There were times this season when younger players were forced to learn at the highest level instead of developing steadily in the VFL because there simply wasn’t anyone else available. Whether that has caused long-term damage only time will tell, but there is room for those experienced players to come in and make everyone’s life easier in the short term.

Buckle up, because it’s going to be a fascinating couple of months between now and the National Draft. Just, for the love of God, please don’t jump at shadows with every half-baked rumour that’s ‘reported’. For the sake of your sanity.

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