As usual, North Melbourne lost the opening game of the year, this time to Adelaide by 77 points at Adelaide Oval. From there, the Kangaroos spent the next 10 rounds tracking even with the card and found themselves on 5 wins and 6 losses at the half-way point of the season. A softer draw through the latter half of the season helped the Roos to rediscover their mojo, piling on 9 straight victories with the last – and best – coming against the Dockers at Etihad stadium. Scott notoriously rested half his side in the round 23 loss to Richmond but they backed up a week later, defeating the Tigers in the Elimination final.
North then defeated the undermanned Sydney at ANZ stadium in the Semi-final but just fell short against West Coast in the Preliminary final, disadvantaged by some dubious umpiring and a lack of run after half time.
Another year, another lost Prelim!
B: Michael Firrito, Robbie Tarrant, Lachlan Hansen
HB: Shaun Atley. Scott Thompson, Sam Wright
C: Jamie Macmillan, Jack Ziebell, Nick Dal Santo
HF: Brent Harvey, Jarrad Waite, Shaun Higgins
F: Taylor Garner, Drew Petrie, Lindsay Thomas
Foll: Todd Goldstein, Ben Cunnington, Andrew Swallow
I/C: Ben Brown, Ben Jacobs, Sam Gibson, Daniel Wells
Fringe: Joel Tippett, Luke McDonald, Robin Nahas, Kayne Turner, Jed Anderson
The Roos are an odd team to review, with obvious talent and contested ball winning ability offset by two main areas of concern: the age of the list and the lack of speed.
The Roos believe they are in the much discussed “Premiership Window”, explaining their drafting of Dal Santo, Waite and Higgins in recent years. While these players are obviously quality performers, their advancing age and the lack of fresh blood into the best 22 has caused the Roos to have the second oldest list in the AFL. So they have the talent and experience to make back-to-back preliminary finals, but they are also flirting with disaster.
Up forward they rely heavily on Harvey (so old he owns a chainsaw), Waite (33), Petrie (33), Thomas (28) and Higgins (28) with Ben Brown the only young tall. A key injury or two and the Roos may not have a forward line.
The midfield is young enough with only Dal Santo over 30 but when the finals rolled around, the engine room seemed to lack pace and attacking flair. No doubt Ben Jacobs and Sam Gibson provide outstanding tagging (it hurts to write that) and Swallow, Ziebell and Cunnington are capable of doing the heavy lifting but they really need Wells fit or for Anderson to live up to his hype to provide some run.
The backline is certainly young enough, good enough and has enough depth in the tall man department, but the Roos really need Atley, Wright or new draftee Hibberd to provide much more run off of half-back.
And the ruck department? What’s not to love about the Todd?
So where do they finish in 2016? More of the same for mine – 5th to 8th, but that premiership window is closing fast.
Jamie McMillan – D – $478,700
2015 Av. 88.7 from 14 games.
Past: 58, 72, 62, 43, 41
2015: McMillan improved his consistency to post the best supercoach average of his career, playing a rebounding role off of half back. Unfortunately injury continued to be a problem with McMillan missing 8 games with Achilles problems early and hamstring problems late. At his best, he won a tonne of uncontested possessions and marks with a high of 29 possessions, 10 marks and 133 SC points in round 12 against GWS.
PROs: He wins a lot of possessions, averaging 20 per game in 2015 and posting 3 scores over 100 and 5 over 90 from 14 games.
CONs: McMillan puts in the odd poor game with 5 scores under 80 and a low of 51 for the year and due to injury he’s only played 23 games in the last 2 years.
Verdict: A bit too middle of the road unless he can push his average higher. Unless you know something I don’t, surely there are better defenders out there?
Mid-price Madness $200K – $450K
Luke McDonald – D – $284,700
2015 Av. 52.8 from 13 games.
Vests: 3 red: subbed off Q3 of round 8 (Fremantle), subbed off Q3 of round 9 (Collingwood) and subbed off 3QT of round 21 (Fremantle).
2015: The great white hope of 2014 fell back to earth in 2015, suffering what will be rated as second year blues. He started well but a leg injury disrupted his season in round 4 and when he returned in round 6 he struggled for form and was subbed in round 8 and 9 and then dropped to the VFL. When he returned again in round 17 his form was better but he still set no SC records, posting scores between 40 and 60 before he was dropped for the elimination and preliminary finals.
PROs: Entering his third year, McDonald should improve. In his first season he managed 8 games of 20 possessions or more and he posted 5 supercoach scores over 80 so he can find the ball.
CONs: Playing a defensive role, he’ll never post massive scores and he seems to have become more of a negating defender in his second year.
Verdict: If he returns to form, he may be a decent cash cow at only $284K.
Mitchell Hibberd – D/M – $117,300
2015 National Draft #33
Who is he?
Hibberd is a 19 year old running defender who missed the 2014 national draft with injury due to a knee reconstruction in 2013 following by a shoulder reconstruction in 2014. When he final returned he performed well enough to play for Tasmania in the U18 championships, rating well for kicking efficiency and disposals (24 per game). He received a lot of attention at the Combine where he excelled in the beep test, 3km time trial but also the 20m sprint. At 191cm and 85kg, he’s also strong overhead so he is almost the complete package.
Verdict: North has a lot of depth, so you would think he will only play if injury strikes players like Atley, Wright or Macmillan.
Ben Cunnington – M – $501,100
2015 Av. 92.9 from 22 games.
Past: 92, 96, 78, 53, 53
2015: Cunnington put together another strong season where he played all 22 games and lead the team in clearances, finishing second in the B&F. He increased his possession count from 21 to 23 per games but he lay 2 less tackles per game so his overall SC output didn’t change.
PROs: He’s durable, he’s a real workhorse of a midfielder and he seems a contender to finally push his average over 100.
CONs: If he doesn’t push his average higher as expected, you are stuck with a player pumping out 90s!
Verdict: The value in the midfield means we don’t have to take risks like Cunnington!
Jack Ziebell – F/M – $467,900
2015 Av. 86.7 from 21 games.
Past: 82, 95, 82, 79, 62
Vest: 1 Red, subbed in Q1 of round 3 (Port) on 4 SC points.
2015: Barring his one game suspension, Ziebell played every game in 2015 but he still couldn’t break his run of mid-level scores. He remained a contested ball and clearance machine with over half his possessions coming in a contest but he still only managed 19 possessions per game, in part due to his poor endurance that restricted him to just 92 minutes per game. His disposal efficiency remained poor and he again spent a lot of time on the interchange bench.
PROs: With the reduced interchange, he’s going to have to play more minutes. He has massive upside if he can improve his fitness.
CONs: Ziebell finds ways to miss games and he remains a risk to simply pump out more average scores like 2014 and 2015.
Verdict: As a pure mid? No!
Sir Todd Goldstein – R – $695,100
2015 Av. 128.8 from 21 games.
Past 5: 109, 113, 92, 113, 66
2015: Champion data altered how ruck contests would be scored for 2015 so when round 1 came around and Goldy was the only ruckman to score triple digits (100), we were worried that we had wasted money on premium big men. How ridiculous was that concern? In 21 games, Goldstein scored over 100 on 18 occasions. His three other scores were 98, 92 and 44, the 44 coming against his bogey team Fremantle (Sandilands). All up, Goldy increased his average by 21 SC points per game on the way to becoming the highest averaging player for the year. I salute you, Sir Todd!
PROs: 100, 154, 110, 154, 92, 100, 98, 44, 134, 128, 136, 150, 148, 140, 221, 127, 164, 155, 122, 116, 102. Do you need more? Did you see the 221? Did you see the final 116 in round 21? That was against his nemesis, Sandilands. He won’t score a 44 against Fremantle again.
CONs: He’s expensive. Really expensive.
Verdict: I thought he was too expensive but writing this review has changed my mind. Do you want to meet a team who has him as captain when he scores over 200 again? I don’t! He’s back in.
Shaun Higgins – F – $514,400
2015 Av. 95.3 from 21 games.
Past 5: 76, 59, 81, 83, 78
2015: Like Robbie Gray, we all knew Higgins had talent but with his injury concerns he had never put together a consistent season. That all changed with the move to North Melbourne. Playing a mobile half-forward role, Higgins managed to average 19 possessions, 4 marks and 4 tackles a game, along with 36 goals for the year. He had a couple of niggles but only missed round 23 with a knee concern, the round when Scott rested the stars anyway.
PROs: Higgins scored pretty consistently, only dropping below 80 on 6 occasions compared with 13 scores above 90.
CONs: He’s Shaun Higgins: Injury could still strike at any time. He offers little value – he’s not going to break-out any further at age 28.
Verdict: Kudos to those coaches who selected him last year. He’s not worth selecting this year.
Mid-price Madness $200K – $450K
Jed Anderson – F/M – $223,900
2015 Av. 41.5 from 4 games.
Past: 47 in 2013.
Vest: 2 Green, subbed on Q3 of round 1 (Geelong), subbed on Q4 of round 3 (WB)
2015: Anderson had a strong preseason, highlighted by a SC score of 110 against the Pies and 65 against the Saints but that didn’t stop him receiving the green vest in round 1. He played a full game against the Bombers in round 2 but he was not overly effective with 15 possessions and 5 tackles so he was again vested in round 3 and then dropped. He had one more shot in round 6 against GWS but with only 14 possessions and 7 tackles in a full game he was dropped for good. He was good in the VFL with several bags of goals, the best being 6 goals and 27 touches, but he rarely managed over 20 possessions.
PROs: North gave pick 15 for him so they must have plans for him, he loves to tackle and he has plenty of X-factor. His 2 vests make him almost rookie priced.
CONs: Is he locked in the best 22? He doesn’t win a lot of the ball, averaging only 61 SC points per game in his 2 full games with the Hawks.
Verdict: Preseason watch. Not sure if you’d be better with a rookie as he’ll be playing in the forward line for the Roos?
Daniel Wells – F/M – $243,900
2015 Av. 56.5 from 2 games.
Past 5: 73, 96, 97, 104, 88
Vest: 1 Red, subbed at half time in round 2 (Brisbane) on 63.
2015: Wells missed most of the year with Achilles and calf problems. It is interesting to note that when he was subbed at half-time in round 2, he was on 63 SC points!
PROs: Look at his previous scores! When he is not injured he scores in the 90s.
CONs: He’s a massive injury risk. That is all.
Verdict: If he’s fit, you have to consider him. At the time of writing this article, Wells had played one practice match, so the early signs are good.
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