Perhaps the most surprising non-selection of the season has come in Round 18, with North Melbourne choosing to omit Todd Goldstein from the team ahead of their clash with Essendon at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
While Goldstein’s place in the side has been rumoured to be in jeopardy for a few weeks, the timing of his omission seems strange, as his potential replacement in Braydon Preuss is currently injured.
Goldstein’s form has been poor, no doubt. Since Round 10, he has been beaten by the likes of Toby Nankervis, Tom Campbell, Jarrod Witts and Paddy Ryder. No longer is he one of the top ruckmen in the league.
At the end of 2016, North Melbourne cleared its list of a number of senior players. Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Michael Firrito were shown the door, as the club wanted to give their younger players more game time.
With this in mind, trade rumours about Goldstein were ever-present in the lead-up to October last year, however despite his high value and clear interest from opposition clubs, North Melbourne displayed steadfast loyalty towards Goldstein.
Fast forward to the opening month of the 2017 season and Kangaroos decided to blood young ruckman Braydon Preuss alongside Goldstein, which pushed the veteran out of his preferred position and forced him to adjust his game.
He has seemingly lacked confidence ever since.
Round 18 has seen North Melbourne use its team selection to announce that wins are no longer a priority in 2017.
The club has been non-committal towards its small group of veterans in its current squad, which means Todd Goldstein’s future must also be up in the air.
Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing. It allows us to ask the question, why wouldn’t North Melbourne trade Goldstein at the end of 2016, when they could have potentially received a first-round pick and either a player, or another later pick?
Goldstein’s value has depreciated far more quickly than anyone could have expected in 2017. The 29-year old may be contracted until the end of 2019, so one would expect North Melbourne to drive a hard bargain if he does get put up for trade, but realistically, the club won’t get the first rounder they would have in 2016.
While Goldstein may have wished to stay a one-club player and see out the remainder of his career at the Kangaroos, this may be a golden opportunity for him to chase some glory at a different club.
The most obvious is the Western Bulldogs. Goldstein moving across to a team that perhaps won a flag at the very start of its push for continued success, would be fitting for a man who has given his all without ever having the chance to play in a grand final.
Goldstein would give the talented Bulldogs midfield first opportunity, and the club has lacked a top-class ruckman for a long-time. Tom Boyd would be freed to play as a key forward and roam through the middle on occasion, and Goldstein would get exactly what he wants – a number one ruck role at a contending club.
A 2017 second-round pick (mid-20s) and a future second-round pick (early-30s), would be enough to do the deal.
Alternatively, the Bulldogs may choose to pick an out-of-favour player such as Clay Smith or Tory Dickson to package with a pick, or even ask for Goldstein and a pick in exchange for an established, yet tradeable player such as Tom Liberatore.
While the Bulldogs would loathe to lose him, perhaps Jordan Roughead could enter the conversation.
The Swans too, could be a potential suitor for Goldstein given the ruck position at Sydney is still an issue. Goldstein immediately improves the team and gives them an even greater chance at challenging for a flag over the next few seasons. He would be the ideal role model for Darcy Cameron, who, if backed in by the Swans, could become a damaging forward/ruck.
This season’s first-round pick, which may end up being in the mid-teens, could be exchanged for Goldstein and a later pick.
North Melbourne could also try to use Goldstein in any potential dealings with GWS regarding Josh Kelly, although given they have Shane Mumford, it is hard to see the Giants having much interest in him at this stage.
Ultimately, Round 18 has shown that North Melbourne and Todd Goldstein are in different stages of their footballing lives.
By omitting an All-Australian ruckman and one of the club’s most influential players of recent seasons, the Kangaroos have shown that they are looking towards the future and seeing which players can be a part of the club’s next push for final’s football.
Goldstein’s best interests shouldn’t lie with a rebuilding squad, but rather greater opportunities at a contending club.
North Melbourne have made a big call, and it has made Todd Goldstein an affordable target for rival clubs.
While 2017 hasn’t been Goldstein’s year, perhaps he hasn’t had enough confidence placed in him by the club, which has hurt the confidence he has in himself.
With a new club and a more positive attitude, he can prove that 2017 was an aberration rather than a downward trend.
Goldstein deserves a chance at success, and North Melbourne has helped speed up the process in leaving him out of the senior side this week.