North Melbourne: season in review

by Josh Barnstable

Another season has gone and passed, and again it is a September perfectly suited for a three week break for North Melbourne supporters. We missed the finals, by six points, finishing in ninth position. The same as last year. The year before we ended up in 13th spot. We are slowly improving. The young kids are getting run into their legs, and they are starting to believe in the blue and white jumper. Todd Goldstein and Daniel Wells rose to put together career-best seasons, while Andrew Swallow and Drew Petrie took their best to another level. Here is a player-by-player review of 2011, from a die-hard North Melbourne supporters point of view.

#1 Hamish McIntosh

Forget 2011. A total write-off. Forget it happened, come back for pre-season and reassert your dominance in the ruck. The big man was struck down prior to the start of the season with a serious Achilles injury, and after he was almost recovered, a quarter of the way through the season, he injured his other one. He finally made his way back through the VFL with Werribee, and played his first game of the season against Richmond in the final round. On his 27th birthday and 100th game, McIntosh had 15 touches and kicked a goal, along with 10 hitouts. There has been much speculation throughout the latter stages of 2011 that he is the number one trade target of Richmond, who are in desperate need of an experienced ruckman. McIntosh, a two-time All-Australian nominee, has signed on with the Roos, who now have two star ruckmen in McIntosh and Todd Goldstein. If Hamish is going to keep his place in the team in 2012, he will need to play predominantly as a tall centre half forward.

#2 Ed Lower

Another year wrecked by injury. Lower suffered a broken leg last year, before returning to the team halfway through the season. He then broke his collarbone in the lost to the Western Bulldogs late in the year, and suffered from ankle injuries this year that kept him from adding to his tally of 42 games in six years. At his best he was a tough player who could hit a pack hard and come out with the ball, but injury occurred too many times in his career and thus, was delisted. May get a gig at Greater Western Sydney or Fremantle with his brother Nick, who rejuvenated his career in Perth this season.

#3 Brady Rawlings

The rugged, determined and unfashionable veteran pulled the pin on his 245 game career that stretches all the way back to 1999. The durable tagger was coming off a career-best season in which he won his third Syd Barker Medal after a switch to the backline. His form continued into 2011, still racking up huge amounts of possessions from defence, but his disposal was poor at times, with long, floating handballs catching teammates standing still on more than one occasion, while his kicking was sub-standard. Still gave his all, which is what we’ve come to expect from the number 3. Made a selfless decision to end his career when he clearly could’ve played on for one or two more seasons, but did the right thing by the team and will stay on as a development coach.

#4 Liam Anthony

The possession-accumulating machine took a step backwards in 2011, losing his spot to exciting youngster Kieran Harper in the second half of the season. 2010 was ruined by a season-ending shoulder injury in Round 7, and seemed to get all his strength back in the limb for the start of this season. Started to play more as a high-possession forward, and kicked 9.8 in his 13 games while averaging 18.5 touches. Booted an equal career-high of three goals against the Gold Coast in Round 12. May be traded to Western Australia this year or next.

#5 Ben Warren

Was in a three-man battle between himself, Aaron Edwards and new recruit Ben McKinley prior to the start of the season for the mid-sized forward role. Managed just three games for the year, and kicked one goal. Is even further behind the pecking order than he was at the start of the year, and may be moved on. A possible trade to his home state of Queensland beckons.

#6 Lachie Hansen

The much-maligned forward-turned-defender-turned-forward-turned-defender took a step backwards in 2011 after he seemed to have found his niche up forward in ’10. With the return of Drew Petrie to the goalsquare, Hansen struggled to get over a dozen touches in some games, and a subsequent move to the backline proved a catalyst for some good late-season form. Much better as a backman than a forward, but he is a handy player, along with Cam Pedersen, who can play at either end as well, to have on the list.

#7 Jack Ziebell

The star draft pick from 2008 hadn’t exactly set the world on fire prior to the start of the season, mainly due to two consecutive broken legs in his first two seasons, but really announced himself this season. A spate of good games around the midpoint mark of the season cumulated in a match-winning, career-best game against the Western Bulldogs in Round 17, where he collected 41 possessions, laid six tackles and kicked a goal in the win, forcing critics such as Paul Roos, who labelled Ziebell “slow and unfit”, to eat their words. Still only 20, so the sky is the limit.

#8 Daniel Wells

Often much-maligned for inconsistency and injury troubles, Wells is the Rolls Royce of North Melbourne. A number two draft pick from 2002, Wells finally put his best together for 21 consecutive matches (he missed the final round), averaging 23.4 possessions and kicking 17.15. Had career-best figures of 33 disposals twice in 2011 against the Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs. Building towards his first Syd Barker Medal, but he has competition. Will miss the entire pre-season and the first few rounds of the 2012 season due to blood clots being found in both of his lungs after Round 24.

#9 Andrew Swallow

The midfield wrecking ball produced yet another prolific season coming off two scintillating seasons. Put together one of the best individual performances of the year in Round 11 against the Adelaide Crows with an amazing 39 possessions, 18 clearances, five tackles and two goals. Swallow’s first quarter was one of the best half hours of footy in recent times, racking up 17 touches, 14 of which were contested, and 10 clearances along with a goal from 50m. His next best game came against a quality side in Carlton in Round 19, where he picked up 33 touches, laying nine tackles and booting a goal, all while being concussed for half of the game. A deserving winner of his second Syd Barker Medal if he claims it. Should be the skipper next year.

#10 Ben Cunnington

Ben-10 continued to struggle to have an impact on games, but the highly-touted youngster, only just 20 years of age, will start to show serious signs of improvement in the years to come. Never going to be a high-possession player, and a move to the backline may suit him in 2012. Showed signs of what’s to come in the last round against Richmond with a powerful display that saw him rack up a career-best 22 touches and lay nine tackles.

#11 Michael Firrito

It isn’t nice to be cruel to your players, let alone your veterans, but if GWS came and wanted one player off our list, Spud would be the first I would offer. He is a terrific servant of the North Melbourne Football Club, but he makes too many on-field mistakes with his disposal and brain fades. A favourite of Brad Scott though. Missed just one game for the year. Beaten too easily in one-on-one body contests, with two notable occasions being against Dustin Martin and Daniel Menzel.

#12 Lindsay Thomas

Had his most turbulent year of football since his debut in 2007. A pre-season away from the prying eyes of supporters looking to sink the boot into him is just what he needs, apart from some serious goalkicking practice. Booted a remarkable 21.36 for the year, including a three week stretch early in the season where he kicked 1.15. Always tried hard to keep the forward pressure on however, and after being dropped for four weeks late in the year, returned with a new role across half forward, where he impressed with a combined 40 possessions, 15 tackles and 4.5 in two of his last three games against Fremantle and Richmond. Interestingly, his field kicking is among the best at the club.

#13 Leigh Adams

The nuggety midfielder produced another superb season, missing just one game for the year and averaging just under 20 possessions a match, along with four tackles. Kicked 16.17 as well, and was very handy around the goals when needed. One of the best set shots at goal at the club, especially from beyond 40m. Sizzled in the final game of the year with 27 touches and eight tackles in the 13 point victory over Richmond. Minor heart scare suffered earlier in the year seems well behind him now.

#14 Gavin Urquhart

Managed just one game for the year, and seems to be slipping more and more out of favour with everyone at North Melbourne. Was the sub against Carlton late in the year, and came on for three disposals. Trade target.

#15 Ben Ross

Didn’t crack it for a senior appearance despite several outstanding VFL performances late in the year, and was subsequently delisted at the end of the season. A chance to get redrafted as a rookie onto the North list; if not he will get picked up somewhere else. Too much talent to be left running around in the local leagues.

#16 Scott Thompson

The niggling full back transformed his game into an inspiring enforcer across half back in 2011, playing every game and averaging 17.9 touches. Still one of the most hated men in football, he kicked two superb goals on the run from outside 50 against Sydney in Round 10, both within just minutes of each other. An All-Australian lock for next season.

#17 Nathan Grima

Took a considerable stride backwards this season, playing just the 12 games after a back injury in the pre-season. Returned, but didn’t have the same impact he did in the backline as last year. A fit and firing Grima is critical to North’s finals chances next year.

#18 Shaun Atley

North Melbourne’s first pick in the 2010 draft played 16 games in his debut season, and despite only averaging 13.2 touches, it was the things that can’t be sighted on the stats board that he impressed with. Skills such as the ability to break away from a pack with breakneck speed, hitting a pack hard and coming out with the ball ready for a quick flick-out handball and his evasive techniques. Massive upside.

#19 Sam Wright

Had his season cut short by a shoulder injury, playing just eight games after his promising 2010 campaign. Kicked 9.6, booting bags of three twice, against Essendon and Port Adelaide. Finally starting to get his body to that required of an AFL player, and will be a dangerous goalkicking midfielder if all goes well.

#20 Drew Petrie

The Roo Giant had a career-best season after a year wrecked by foot injuries. Started the season with a one game suspension, and was rusty in his first two matches, but exploded into form with a bag of six goals and eight marks against Richmond in Round 5. Kept proving himself to be a reliable target, capable of beating two defenders at once. Played the best game of the season against the Western Bulldogs in Round 17, gathering 23 possessions, taking 11 marks and booting five goals. A week later, he hauled in a career-high 13 marks on his way to booting three goals against the Brisbane Lions. Booted 48 majors for the year, a career-best, and a chance to captain the club next season. Selected in the All-Australian squad of 40 for the first time.

#21 Cameron Richardson

The number one fantasy pick prior to the beginning of 2011 didn’t fire like everyone expected him to, being a mature-age rookie. Played the first few games, but was eventually dropped for players who could have more of an impact. Was either used as a sub or subbed off more than a few times in the year, which affected his average disposal count, which sits at 11.1. Managed to have a good impact after being subbed on against Hawthorn in Round 20, and that will hold him in good stead going into the pre-season.

#22 Todd Goldstein

The 23 year old had an outstanding season as he stamped himself as one of the best ruckman in the AFL. With Hamish McIntosh out for almost the whole season, Goldstein was North’s main ruck for 20 out of 21 games, where he excelled in working his gut out. Averaged 35.3 hitouts a game along with 13.7 touches around the ground. Led the competition in total hitouts with a whopping top of 741. Had a career-high 53 hitouts twice in 2011, against Sydney and Port Adelaide in Rounds 10 and 14 respectively. Fighting it out with Dean Cox for the number one ruck role in the All-Australian team.

#23 Kieran Harper

The youngster taken with the Gold Coast compensation pick received in the trade week from Hawthorn had a good impact in his first year, playing 14 games and kicking 12.4. Played a ripper against Brisbane in Round 18, gathering 12 touches, laying nine tackles and booting two goals. His uncanny ability to hit targets by foot lace-out is what makes his so highly-rated. Has freakish ability, and talk is that he will be as good as Steve Johnson.

#24 Levi Greenwood

Missed a large chunk of the season due to an ankle injury sustained in the NAB Cup, and forced his way back for the Round 10 clash against the Swans. Averaged 15.5 touches in his 13 games. Had a season-best performance against Port Adelaide in Round 14, gathering 19 possessions, laying four tackles and kicking two goals. The mind keeps wandering back to his stunning 39-disposal game against Melbourne in 2010.

#25 Robbie Tarrant

The highly-touted brother of Chris finally seemed to be realising his full potential in Round 1 against West Coast, gathering 21 disposals and taking eight marks, but failed to have over 12 touches for the rest of the year in seven games. Trade potential.

#26 Ben McKinley

The highly-skilled forward in his first year at North Melbourne after being traded from West Coast failed to have an impact, playing just two games. He had 11 touches for the year, and booted two behinds. A year to run on his contract, needs to show promise or he’ll be moved on.

#27 Aaron Edwards

The maligned Samoan forward finally delivered after a few seasons of teasing his supporters. Proved a vital target up forward beside Drew Petrie, kicking a remarkably accurate 36.8 and averaging 6.1 marks a game. Booted a career-high six majors against Melbourne in Round 8, and slotted five against Gold Coast in Round 12 while racking up career-best numbers with 19 touches and five marks. Needs to back it up next year.

#28 Ryan Bastinac

Suffered a knee injury in the pre-season and thus missed a large chunk of the year but returned in Round 12 against the Suns, picking up from where he left off last year with 25 touches. Only just turned 20, impressed many in his debut season last year and showed he has increased his aerobic ability late in the year. Played a career-best game against the Lions in Round 18, gathering 29 touches and kicking two goals. Hugely important to the North Melbourne midfield.

#29 Brent Harvey

The North Melbourne skipper couldn’t quite back up his match winning performances last year that saw him win a fifth Syd Barker Medal, but was still hugely important in averaging 22.4 disposals and kicking 31.25. Has played a club-high 323 games with the club, and is likely to give up the captaincy over the off-season. Kicked a season-high four goals against the Suns in Round 12, and followed it up a week later winning the Archer-Hird Medal in the match against Essendon, gathering 27 possessions and kicking a goal. Finished the season on a massive high, taking out the Eureka Medal against Richmond with 31 disposals and two goals. Discipline still remains a problem in his game.

#30 Daniel Pratt

One of oldest players on the list, he managed just eight games for the season although he wasn’t disgraced in each performance. Gathered 26 touches and laid four tackles against Geelong in Round 7. Rumoured to have been delisted.

#31 Cameron Delaney

Didn’t crack it for a senior game in 2011, playing the whole season out for North Ballarat. Has arms like Dustin Fletcher, and is being groomed into a defensive beast.

#32 Cruize Garlett

Highly-rated by most North Melbourne supporters, but struggles to find a regular senior game. Played nine matches in 2011, and has 25 all up since making his debut in 2008. Likely to be traded to another club for a better opportunity. Would be one of the first picked in the midfield for a side like Brisbane or Adelaide.

#33 Matt Campbell

Was one of the spate of players that suffered season-threatening injuries in the lead up to Round 1, with a torn hamstring against the Western Bulldogs in a practice match. Returned against Collingwood in Round 16 and didn’t miss a game from then on, kicking 8.6. Was almost the hero against Hawthorn in Round 20, booting four goals in a row late in the  last quarter to give the Roos the lead before the Hawks regained the lead. Will need to fire next year, or may be traded.

#34 Jamie MacMillan

The teenager is one of the highly-rated youngsters inside the North Melbourne circle, and is tipped to take over the number 3 guernsey vacated by the retiring Brady Rawlings. Plays the rebounding defender role well, with his precise kicking a highlight of his game. Will need to make huge inroads next season.

#35 Aaron Black

Taken at pick 25 in the 2009 Draft, Black was one of the highly-rated forwards of that year, and after some impressive VFL performances, he made his debut in Round 24 against Richmond. Impressed in the first quarter, setting up two goals and kicking one of his own from 50m out, and should be a reliable target next season. A great size for a key forward.

#36 Ayden Kennedy

Forward who wrecked his knee in a pre-season practice game against Greater Western Sydney, and will find it hard to find a spot next season.

#37 Brayden Norris

Skilful midfielder was a fan favourite at North but was delisted after failing to make the big time, despite impressive VFL performances.

#38 Majak Daw

Probably the most hyped, popular rookie in the AFL. The Sudanese-born Roo, taken in the 2009 Rookie Draft, was seriously pushing for a senior berth late in the year but to no avail. Was a star performer in the VFL for Werribee, and was one of the favourites to take out the JJ Liston Trophy, the Brownlow Medal equivalent of the VFL. Is almost certain to crack a seniors berth next season, and how he performs will determine whether he becomes more than just a cult figure.

#39 Cameron Pedersen

Hard working big man recruited from the Box Hill Hawks in the Rookie Draft made an immediate impact in his debut season, playing 14 games and kicking 18.5. 24 years old, he has one of the wisest heads in the team; he was instrumental in the 98 point thrashing of Fremantle in Round 22 with 19 disposals, eight marks, five tackles and three goals. Will almost certainly be upgraded to the senior list.

#40 Ben Mabon

Tall teenager who is a promising ruck prospect. Behind Hamish McIntosh and Todd Goldstein in the pecking order, won’t get a game for a couple of seasons you would think.

#41 Aaron Mullett

Skilful teenager made his debut from the rookie list in Round 22 against Fremantle and held his spot for the rest of the season. Had 17 touches in his first game, and is one of the best kicks in the side. Could be groomed into a running half-back role.

#42 Scott McMahon

No-frills defender had an outstanding season down back, marking and spoiling everything that came his way. Is as poised as they come, has transformed from the coaches’ whipping boy to a coaches’ favourite. Played a career-best game against Hawthorn in Round 20, collecting 29 disposals, taking eight marks and applying six tackles. Would be highly regarded if he played for a side like Collingwood.

#43 Marcus White

Rookie who couldn’t add to his tally of two games last year, and was delisted.

#44 Matthew Scott

No relation to Brad. Was delisted from the rookie list.

#45 Luke Delaney

In the Mick Martyn mould, the brother of Cameron made his debut from the rookie list in Round 9 against the Brisbane Lions, with his first opponent being Jonathon Brown. Impressed, and played eight games, before he was nudged out by Nathan Grima and Lachie Hansen returning to defence.

#46 Ben Speight

Exciting youngster was elevated from the rookie list at the end of last year and played his first game of the season against Port Adelaide in Round 6. Had a goal on the board in the opening minute, such was the buzz he has around the ball. Kicked 6.5 in his eight games, and was used a sub five times, where he was used to the ultimate effect, gathering nine touches, taking four marks, laying two tackles and kicking 1.2 against the Western Bulldogs in Round 17 when subbed on in the last quarter. Also had a major impact against Adelaide in Round 11 when subbed on in the second quarter, collecting 23 disposals and slotting a goal.

It’s going to be an interesting year to come for the North Melbourne Football Club. There is one guarantee, however.

 It’s going to be exciting. Bring on 2012.




About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. Good work, Josh !

    it will be interesting to see what North do at the trade table.
    B Scott has signalled that they will be ative.

    It will be intruiging to see how the “Hamish” conundrum is resolved.
    I have always been a big fan of H, but in these days of subs, I remain
    unconvinced that both he and Goldstein can be in the same team.

Leave a Comment