What I Love About My Club In 2024 – North Melbourne


We love it here at The Mongrel, and it is always best expressed by our writers for their chosen teams.

This year, as we head toward Round One, I hand them the ball and ask – what do you love about your team in 2024?

Let’s see what they come up with. JB Eddy and Max Ford combine to cover their beloved Kangaroos. – HB



Watching the young talent develop

Now, every team loves to tout their young talent, and fair play for that too. But North’s young players are already making an impact. Sheezel is coming off a debut B&F, Wardlaw is a human highlight reel breaking out of packs, Scott has been consistent and classy on the wing, Phillips seems finally over his glandular fever issues and ready to give some return on his glimpses of form, Ford looks like he’s ready to continue where he left off last season as a cheeky goal sneak, George is finally healthy, Duursma and McKercher are yet to play a game, but come with big wraps about them, and then there’s also Archer, Harvey, Hardeman, Dawson, and Drury.

I’m not saying all of them will be stars, after all, few things are as common as unrealised talent, but the mix of players that all bring some class, courage and aggression means that while the season may not be a winning one, there’s bound to be some exciting highlights to keep you warm.


A polite parting of ways

There is no sugar-coating the fact that North’s back line is undermanned and likely to be under the pump. Losing Ben McKay to free agency and Griffin Logue going down with an ACL is a nightmare for North’s back six. The silver lining is that McKay’s departure netted North pick 3 in compensation, which became Zane Duursma, and Logue’s injury came soon enough for North to expect him back during the season, while still picking up Toby Pink and Biggie Nyuon to hold down the tall defender role with a re-purposed Charlie Comben.

While having such an important key player leave would sting, North’s 2024 was never going to be one where finals were a serious chance, so adding in young talent will be better in the long run.

The other major departure was ever-youthful Todd Goldstein. Like McKay, he’s gone to the Bombers, but unlike Ben, North got nothing for him—well, except 16 years of hard work and toil that will likely put him into the legends category for the club when he does hang up the boots.

This may all seem like a negative, but… I actually liked how their exits were handled. Like most North fans, I’m still a little raw on the culling of Harvey, Firrito, Petrie and Dal Santo. Telling players their service is no longer required is probably the worst part of being in a footy club, but even so, those four might have expected a little more consideration in how they were managed.

But, overall it seems like McKay and Goldstein were handled much better. A solid handshake, a fond farewell, and a promise that they’ll always be welcome back at Arden st. No doubt that the first North v Essendon match will have some spark as their first outing against their old teammates, but I, for one, am glad that it seems like there’s no bad blood just because they both wanted to try and ply their trade elsewhere.


An inspirational effort by the ladies

I know most of this article will focus on the men’s teams, but the Kangaroos’ ‘one club’ approach was evident at the AFLW Grand Final. Most of the blokes turned up to support the women in their match against Brisbane, and while they ultimately fell short, you could see the boys cheering themselves hoarse trying to encourage the girls.

You could see that they wanted the success for the club. Even though it wouldn’t be ‘their’ premiership, it could have become the rallying point for everyone at North Melbourne.

With that in mind, you can expect an even hungrier womens’ team in 2024, as the girls dig in for a genuine expectation that not only can they match it with the top sides, when they’re on their game they can crush the life out of any team on the park.

They’ll train harder, study game footage longer, and give 100% to get that flag, and with that standard being set at the club, the boys will have to get on board quickly if they don’t want to cop too much shade from the other side of the lockers.


A slightly less shit half-back line

The half-back line has been an Achilles heel for North basically since the club’s most recent golden era. As the game has evolved over the last two decades and teams have moulded themselves to fit that evolution by stationing attacking-minded and damaging ball users at half-back, North have persisted with the highly unique and questionable approach of employing slow-middling paced players in this vital position. And often they haven’t been great kicks either. Well, there finally appears to be some change in this area at North, and by golly is it overdue.

Colby McKercher has the premium combination of blistering pace and an AFL-ready tank and should settle right in in the defensive half of the ground. I very much look forward to seeing him employ his line-breaking abilities. Even though his kicking has been described as a little patchy for a topline draft pick, if he’s going to be causing opposition structures headaches with his running, any mistakes will be palatable. Plus, it’s not a case of low floor, low ceiling in relation to his kicking. We already know he’s capable of some absolute pearlers with that left foot of his.

Harry Sheezel’s praises have been sung ad nauseam by anyone remotely associated with North but he still obviously warrants mentioning. He’s had a year’s more experience than this time last year when he debuted and immediately looked right at home, and by all reports he’s still very much going to have a role to play back there despite shifting around the field a bit more. Which means more sizzling kicks into the centre and more unruffled moments whilst under pressure that emanate that high footy IQ. Yes please.

The third bloke who will hopefully help change the team’s fortunes is new recruit Zac Fisher. I’m aware that he’s rocked up to pre-season in suboptimal shape, which isn’t an ideal start for his chapter at North, and to be honest I was already wary of his existing weaknesses (small, not a long kick, probably won’t be able to handle anyone with any forward instincts), but one thing that can’t be denied is his creativity with ball in hand. I noticed his tendency towards 15-30m angle-changing passes (an underrated kick that can slice a team apart if done at the right time) at Carlton and expect more of the same in the blue and white stripes.. Add in his reasonable pace and hopefully he can give some decent service back there.


A (fairly) healthy Clarko

A ton has already been said about the racism scandal that embroiled Clarko, Chris Fagan and Jason Burt in a series of confronting allegations, and I’m not here to comment on that or any ultimate outcome expectations. But for better or worse, until a resolution is reached that all parties are happy with, it’s very much relevant to North’s season, and their immediate future.

Clarko’s mental health deteriorated fast last year as the ongoing stress of the saga took its toll, and it was no coincidence that North’s onfield results plummeted concurrently. A full season of a functional Clarko, assuming that the current Human Rights Commission case doesn’t take an unexpected left turn, should work wonders for the team in many aspects; relationships, gameplan continuity, a desperately craved (for this fan at least) feeling of stability around the club.

All things being equal, if he’s at the helm for the full year and feeling reasonable as he does it, we should see regular spates of quality this year that yield more than two or three wins, that yield more than a quarter here or a half there. He’s a very good coach with a capable coaching entourage around him. I’m not expecting miracles but the natural progression of improvement combined with stability is a recipe that can only lead to good places.


Fitness? (Maybe? Please?)

Players on haunches, second half fadeouts, uninterrupted opposition scoring chains, a sense of helplessness as the stagnation once again took hold. These were common sights and feelings in games last year as North once again showed themselves to be well below the expected fitness level. Some blokes had an excuse for it, many frankly didn’t. Those still on the list in the ‘many’ category include Davies-Uniacke, McDonald, Bergman, Greenwood, Powell, Curtis, Coleman-Jones, Goater, Stephenson, Zurhaar.

I know that during pre-season, every team is training the house down, and every man and his dog are touted as elevating their fitness level, but for North, it might not actually be hyperbole. If Jy Simpkin’s presser and the general talk around the club is anything to go by, it’s that many of the lads have taken it upon themselves to actually run themselves sick this pre-season. Great swathes of seconds have been cut from time trial PBs, some blokes have trimmed down, and it seems that the demands of a professional league may finally be starting to manifest in their mentality. After all, the game is a running game now.

Richmond won three flags in four years off the back of a manic forward pressing gameplan. Collingwood over the last two years have been the most mentally formidable team I’ve witnessed in my admittedly short footy lifespan, simply believing that they can run over the top of anyone regardless of what’s unfolded up to that point (and often, this belief has come true). Fitness was the foundation of those successes.

The lads won’t be reaching Collingwood or Richmond levels this season, but an AFL-acceptable level of fitness across the board, where players aren’t bent over gasping at the twenty-minute mark of the third quarter would be a logical and achievable stepping stone on the long and arduous walk towards eventual success.