AFL Draft

AFL Draft Preview: North Melbourne

List Breakdown by position:

Key Def

Gen Def Mid Mid/Fwd Gen Fwd Key Fwd Ruck

Total

7

7 9 2 7 4 2

38

 

Average Age: 24.2
Players In: Alex Morgan (ESS)
Players Out: Sam Gibson (ADE), Aaron Mullett (CARL)
Retired/Delisted: Will Fordham(del), Matthew Taylor(del), Lachie Hansen(del), Corey Wagner(del), Lindsay Thomas(del), Andrew Swallow (ret)
Draft Picks: 4, 23, 64, 76, 87

WHAT THEY GOT/LOST:

It’s no secret that throughout the 2017 Premiership Season the Roos were heavily linked to two elite midfielders of the competition, Dustin Martin from Richmond and Josh Kelly from GWS. North had reportedly tabled an offer of around 1.5 million x 7 years to the reigning Brownlow medallist and premiership player from Tigerland. After months of speculation, Dustin ended up re-signing with the Tigers for a further seven years, estimated at around 1.3 million a year. Things got worse for the Shinboners when young gun Josh Kelly also denied a monster offer rumoured to be close to 10 million over 9 years to Arden Street. Kelly eventually put pen to paper on a two-year deal at GWS at the beginning of their finals campaign. The failed attempts at luring both Josh and Dustin to the club hindered the chances of a quick rise up the ladder in 2018, forcing the Roos to look for options elsewhere. The trade period also did not meet expectations, with North virtually invisible during the 10 days.

An exchange of a third-round draft pick to net future points was all that North Melbourne could achieve. The club had reportedly shown interest in players such as Jake Stringer, Devon Smith and Darcy Lang who in the end, all nominated other clubs. However, North were able to snag Alex Morgan as a DFA from Essendon but is yet to make his debut at AFL level. Morgan was a high-rated junior who has elite foot skills and pace. Morgan was taken at pick 29 in the 2015 National Draft and looks set to take on a half back/midfield role.

The delisting’s of Aaron Mullett and Sam Gibson certainly raised some eyebrows from both the fans and the media. The club’s strategy is still being questioned in continuing to delist experienced and talented players in what is deemed as a “rebuild”. Gibson, at 31, wasn’t going to be apart of the future, but even so, they’ve lost one of the Competition’s elite runners. Mullett, at just 25, was perhaps a little more unlucky. The rebounding defender had a solid, if not spectacular, season, but seems to have paid the price of a poor finish to the year. The absence of both will give opportunities to bring some younger talent through.

WHAT THEY NEED:

The Roos seem to have a plethora of inside mids that include the likes of Ben Cunnington, Jack Ziebell and Trent Dumont. These players all lack that extra yard of pace and polish but all thrive in contested conditions. In saying that, Cunnington is one of the best in the business with his contested ball winning ability and clearance work – a perfect fit for an outside midfielder to feed off. Adding in a genuine midfielder will also benefit a player like Ziebell, who has a smaller tank than most midfielders and may be considered to play predominantly as a deep forward; a position he fits perfectly. Ziebell kicked five goals in a half of football in round 20 last year, showing that he is capable of spending plenty of minutes in the forward line whilst rotating through the midfield when needed.
With Scott Thompson and Robbie Tarrant nearing the end of their careers, there have been serious doubts surrounding the next generation of defenders. However, with the impressive development and improvement of players such as Dan Nielson, Ben McKay, Sam Durdin and Ed Vickers-Willis, the club seems to be in perfect knick to replace the two veterans when the time comes.
Without a doubt, North Melbourne are in desperate need of outside class, speed and goal kicking midfielders that can support their abundance of inside mids. After failing to lure in Josh Kelly and Dustin Martin, they now must put their full attention to the draft to find the next generation of A-Grade talent.

ON THE RADAR:

The Roos were actively trying to improve their position in the Draft throughout the trade period but were unsuccessful. They finished with just two decent picks, 4 and 23. Pick 4 could be an awkward pick as it may come down to taking the best mid available, top draft prospect such as Cam Rayner has been rumoured as potential flight risk which may result in him to slide. If Carlton passes at pick 3, he would be hard to pass up at 4.

A more likely suitor would be balanced midfielder Adam Cerra. Cerra may have been considered as number one pick if it wasn’t for injuries that have seen him spend his bottom age year and the end of 2017 on the sidelines. He has been compared to the likes of Scott Pendlebury with his exceptional ball use, calm head, decision-making and vision. Cerra isn’t the quickest bloke going around, nor the slowest, but he has class written all over him.

The Roos have also been heavily linked to Eastern Ranges revelation, Jaidyn Stephenson. Stephenson had an impressive second half of the year when given more midfield time where he was able to accumulate high numbers whilst also hitting the scoreboard; exactly what North needs. He possesses elite traits such as genuine goal sense, overhead marking, X-Factor and speed which, were all evident at the combine in October. Stephenson ran 2.95 second in the 20-metre sprint and it has also been speculated that he can run a sub 11 second 100 metre sprint. He also tested high in the Yo-Yo test and 2 KM time trial, making Jaidyn one of the best athletes of this year’s crop. If Jaidyn is able to improve his field kicking, he may turn out to be one of the best from this draft and considered a steal at pick 4.

At pick 23, North might also have several options available including players such as Lochie O’Brien. O’Brien will be highly considered if available as he has an exquisite left boot, great speed, is good overhead and can play in a variety positions such as a wing or half-back. He has the ability to open up games on a wing and can set up play with his pace, decision-making and left peg; which would be a great addition to North’s midfield.
With North only holding two decent picks, they may be obliged into pulling the trigger on taking a player earlier than expected, one being Charlie Spargo. Spargo suffered a shoulder injury at the start of the season and was also unable to perform at the combine, dinting his likely draft position. At only 174cm, there are obvious doubts on whether he can compete at the highest level. However, the ex-GWS academy pocket-rocket from Albury has similar attributes to Luke Dahlhaus from the Western Bulldogs. Spargo is as tough as they come, loves the contested side of footy, kicks goals, has a burst of speed and most importantly is a fierce tackler. Spargo has the competitiveness, skillset and work ethic to make it as a midfielder in the AFL and in my opinion, is one of the most underrated and forgotten players of this year’s draft. Other players that could also be on North’s radar for their second-round pick are Matthew Ling, Jake Petruccelle, Nathan Murphy, Ed Richards and Lachlan Fogarty.

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