2018 Season Preview – North Melbourne

North Melbourne
2017 Recap

After the loss of many experienced players at the end of 2016, the ‘Roos were approaching season 2017 with the mindset of undergoing a complete list rebuild. With over 1,000+ games lost in experience and with many young players deprived of opportunities, the expectations of the Kangaroos dropped considerably, and rightly so.

With the rebuild noticeably underway by round 1 in 2017, North Melbourne started the season off 0-5. While this may look horrendous on paper, North could have been 3-2. They were heartbreakingly defeated by less than 5 points in three out of the five matches. In saying that, North was still competitive which was extremely encouraging for the fans, and it was one of the leading indications that the club was seemingly on the right path.

North only managed six wins for the year, finishing an ordinary 15th on the ladder. However, fans still had confidence that the rebuild wouldn’t be as sluggish and painful as many were expecting. North were able to blood 11 debutants throughout the season, with players such as Jy Simpkin, Ben McKay, Josh Williams, Dan Nielson, Ed Vickers-Willis and Cameron Zurhaar all showing promising signs for the future.

Best 22

B: Marley Williams – Robbie Tarrant –  Scott Thompson
HB: Ryan Clarke – Sam Durdin – Jamie Macmillan
C: Billy Hartung – Jack Ziebell – Luke McDonald
HF: Mason Wood – Jarrad Waite – Shaun Atley
F: Jy Simpkin – Ben Brown – Kayne Turner
R: Todd Goldstein – Shaun Higgins – Ben Cunnington
INT: Ben Jacobs – Taylor Garner – Nathan Hrovat  – Luke Davies-Uniacke
Emg*: Trent Dumont – Braydon Preuss – Ed Vickers-Willis – Cameron Zurhaar

Best 22 Analysis

Approaching season 2018, North Melbourne are shaping to have a relatively fit and injury-free side come round 1. Former Hawk, Billy Hartung has impressed throughout the JLT with his gut running, speed and goal kicking, with many expecting him to cement his own spot on the wing. Tagger Ben Jacobs has also looked solid all pre-season and is firming for a round 1 selection after missing the entire 2017 season with injury. Ryan Clarke is likely to resume his backline role from last year, where he impressed with his ball winning ability and carry. Number 4 draft pick Luke Davies-Uniacke has shown glimpses of his talent throughout the JLT, and the club will be eager to progress his development by providing him plenty of opportunities.

Preuss just misses out on the 22, but is likely to play some senior football this year. Whilst Majak Daw will perhaps spend a bit of time in the VFL this season to improve his one-on-one defensive work, and to further develop his backline craft before receiving a call up.

Key Games

Round 1 vs Gold Coast @ Cazaly’s Stadium/QLD
Round 1 will be a great indication on how well the Roos are progressing through their rebuild phase when they come up against a team in a similar position, the Gold Coast Suns. Both are projected to finish near the bottom of the ladder and this game will be crucial in gaining an understanding on where North’s list development is currently at. A Round 1 win will be a positive start to the season and the players will no doubt gain a lot of motivation, confidence and belief from it.

Round 8 v Richmond – Etihad Stadium/VIC

Round 8 shapes up to be another important match against the reigning premiers, the Richmond Tigers. The Tigers destroyed North by 35 points in 2017, with Dustin Martin clearly the most dominant player on the ground, collecting 38 disposals and booting two goals. Ben Jacobs, who is arguably one of the best taggers in the competition, has been successful in limiting the impact of players such as Jack Steven, Dan Hannebery, and Trent Cotchin in the past. He’ll play a pivotal role in preventing Martin’s influence when the two go head-to-head.

Breakout Player – Jy Simpkin

With pick #12 in 2016, North selected Murray Bushranger, Jy Simpkin. Simpkin debuted in 2017 and played 13 games in total, missing many games due to injury. He teased many of us with his clean ball use, speed, goal-sense and agility. Jy averaged 11 disposals, 2.5 tackles and 0.7 goals a game, which are positive statistics for a first year player. Simpkin has spent a large amount of the pre-season training with the midfield, and has worked extremely hard in the gym to build and strengthen his body to be able to compete with the bigger bodied midfielders of the competition. One to watch.

Fantasy Gold – Todd Goldstein

Goldstein averaged 95 points last year, his lowest outcome in five years. He recently admitted he was struggling off field with mental health and family issues throughout last year, which impacted his game. Goldstein has averaged 113, 128, 105, and 108 in the past, but selecting him will be heavily dependent on whether he shares ruck duties with Braydon Preuss.

 Ladder Predication – 14th

The rebuild may well be in full swing now and fans are still predicted to endure some further pain this year. In saying that though, I’m expecting North to improve on their six wins from last year, and to further surpass the likes of Carlton, Gold Coast and Brisbane by season’s end.

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