AFL 3 years ago

The sweet and sour of the AFL Drafts: North Melbourne Kangaroos

  • The sweet and sour of the AFL Drafts: North Melbourne Kangaroos
  • The sweet and sour of the AFL Drafts: North Melbourne Kangaroos

 It’s a good thing we’ve been starting this sweet and sour draft series from the 2001 AFL Draft, because otherwise, anyone involved with North Melbourne’s first two draft picks in 2000 might want to look away now. They had pick 6 and pick 8, and let’s just say it’s not a sweet memory.

However, if you’ve been keeping up with the analysis of the other AFL clubs’ drafting, you’ll know the draft selections below will be labelled either sweet or sour depending on how that player’s career turned out. This could include playing 250 games, asking for a trade, captaining the side or being delisted after two games.

North’s had big free agency signings, they’ve dealt with club divisive scandals and battled off-field finances, but how has their drafting been? Let’s get the ball rolling.

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Top five sweets

1 – Andrew Swallow

The Kangaroos received the pick which they drafted Andrew Swallow with via the Jade Rawlings trade, which saw Rawlings and pick 43 go to North, in exchange for pick 46 to the Dogs. That’s right, Andrew Swallow, the North Melbourne captain, was drafted with pick 43 in the 2005 AFL Draft. Don’t give up on your dreams kids.

He’s not flashy. He’s not high profile and he’s not the best player to have ever pulled on a North Melbourne jumper. But, week in and week out, Andrew Swallow plays tough, he plays selfless, he works tirelessly and he leads from the front.

He was meant to be drafted higher in 2005, but he was overlooked, and North Melbourne would have to be feeling pretty sweet with the player they got out of an original mid-table draft pick. 173 games on, three best and fairest and the captain of the Kangaroos, Andrew Swallow has led his team out of the slumps, and into the finals picture.

2 – Goldstein & Thomas in ‘06

In 2006, North Melbourne’s first two picks in the draft were picks 3 and 21. Now, we’ll get to those later, but it’s hard to believe the Kangaroos have received a boatload more of value from their two other picks in that same draft. Todd Goldstein – with pick 37, and Lindsay Thomas, with pick 53.

Goldstein’s career has peaked this season, but it’s definitely been a slow journey since he was drafted in 2006. In his 136 games, Goldstein has gradually developed into the elite ruckman he is today for North. Perhaps starved of opportunities earlier in his career, Goldstein has gone from one of the cheer squad’s whipping boys, to a much valued, and much loved Kangaroos player.  His second and third efforts on ground level are inspiring for his size, and Goldstein’s ability to push up forward and kick a goal, or push back and relieve his defence of some pressure, are some of the qualities that have elevated his reputation these past few seasons. His ruck work of late has been phenomenal, and his name will be pitted against Shane Mumford for one of the All-Australian spots at the end of the year.

Now to Thomas. He’s a polarizing player to say the least, But Thomas’ career with North Melbourne couldn’t of turned out sweeter. He’s the perfect fit for a team that lacks a bit of grunt and toughness at times. For pick 53, 164 games and 271 goals as an unorthodox small forward should not be swept aside. At his best, Thomas is one of the top three small forwards in the game, but at his worst; it’s headaches galore for Brad Scott and North fans. Needless to say, that his controversial reputation of ducking, diving, dipping and whatever else, has made Thomas one of the best characters in the AFL. 

2013 was a career best year for Thomas; he kicked 53 goals and finished seventh in the Coleman race. He has led North’s goal kicking twice in his career. He has been one of the more sweeter draft picks for North, who has been crucial to their push up the AFL ladder.

3 - Jack Ziebell

When a player is drafted in the top ten of any AFL Draft, the expectations of how that players career should turn out, rises almost immediately. And in 2015, Jack Ziebell is delivering on his. 

Drafted with pick 9 in 2008, Jack Ziebell has emerged as North’s superstar player and quite possibly, their next captain.

His 111 game career has been stalled by injuries and suspensions, but don’t be surprised if by the time he hits the 200 milestone, Ziebell has a few best and fairest medals and a few All-Australian selections next to his name.

He’s tall, he’s tough, he takes no prisoners and his attack on the football is second-to-none. Ziebell endorses our great game better than anyone. He tackles relentlessly, he gives second and third efforts, and he’s a contested ball winning and clearance machine. An improvement in front of goals would sweeten him up a bit, but I think North fans couldn’t be happier with their future captain.

4 - Daniel Wells

It’s unfortunate to think that we have probably seen the best of Daniel Wells. Injuries have ruined the latter part of his career but let’s not get sour about it. Wells will always hold a very sweet place in the hearts of the North Melbourne footy club.

He was drafted in 2002, with pick 2, the highest draft pick in North Melbourne’s history. Wells’ best moments include bursting through the packs, lighting up the game with his blistering speed, kicking goals on the run (or in the air) and for the most part, delighting North Melbourne fans with his resilience, loyalty and buzz, through a career that has peaked and dipped more times than you can count on your hands.

His career has included 224 games and 145 goals, two best and fairest medals, the Goal of the Year in 2004, and once he finishes, he will retire as one of the best Indigenous players to play our game in the modern era. Here’s hoping he gets to play to 250 games and beyond.

5 – Michael Firrito

I had two defenders to choose from for the last ‘sweet’ spot. Firrito or Thompson? It was a tough decision, but ultimately, the fact that Michael Firrito was a rookie-drafted player edged him over the line.

After being overlooked in the 2001 AFL Draft, North Melbourne drafted Firrito via the 10th selection in the 2002 rookie draft, after he had a strong year in the VFL with Box Hill. 241 games later, the veteran defender has been a reliable defensive force for the Roos for over a decade.

He encapsulates the great Glen Archer’s ‘shinboner’ spirit better than anyone in the line-up, and he fittingly wears Archer’s old #11 guernsey. Firrito is a versatile defender who has provided North with a great amount of rebound football throughout his career.

He’s tough, he’s a hard-nut and he thrives on a physical contest. He’s carved out a very respectable career and there’s no doubt he’ll receive a great ovation when he runs out for his 250th later in the season.

Worthy Mentions

David Hale (#7, 2001 ND), Hamish McIntosh (#9, 2002 ND), Daniel Pratt (#74, 2004 ND), Josh Gibson (#7, 2004 RD), Scott McMahon (#38, 2004 RD), Aaron Edwards (#82, 2006 ND), Leigh Adams (#3, 2006 RD), Matt Campbell (#34, 2006 RD), Robbie Tarrant (#15, 2007 ND), Levi Greenwood (#32, 2007 ND), Scott Thompson (#37, 2007 ND), Nathan Grima (#14, 2007 RD), Sam Wright (#27, 2008 ND), Ben Cunnington (#5, 2009 ND), Ryan Bastinac (#21, 2009 ND), Aaron Black (#25, 2009 ND), Jamie McMillian (#37, 2009 ND), Shaun Atley (#17, 2010 ND) and Sam Gibson (#63, 2011 RD).

Top five sours

1 – David Trotter

David Trotter and Jack Ziebell were both drafted by North Melbourne via a 9th selection in the AFL Draft. Ziebell’s career has been oh so sweet; Trotter’s was not.

Drafted in 2003, Trotter managed only seven games across four seasons with the Roos. He was delisted by North in 2007. David Mundy, Michael Rischetelli and Shane Tuck are all midfielders who were drafted after him.

2 – Ashley Watson

It’s a sour coincidence that Ashley Watson, like David Trotter, only played seven AFL games in four seasons with North Melbourne. He was drafted in 2001 with pick 14, and there’s no doubting if North had that pick again, they would go in a different path. Remember now: James Kelly, Stevie J, Sam Mitchell and Dane Swan were all drafted beyond the 14th pick in that draft. Ouch.

3 – Jesse Smith

Jesse Smith was meant to carry on his father’s legacy at North Melbourne. His father, Ross, played over 200 games with the Roos. Jesse joined North in the 2004 draft, via a father/son selection (with pick 42).

Unfortunately for Jesse and the club, injuries crippled his career, and he managed only 27 games in four seasons with the Roos.

In 2009, Smith openly vented his frustration with North Melbourne’s facilities and it’s inability to provide appropriate rehabilitation to his injuries. Smith declined the contract the Roos offered him and asked to be traded. No trade was made, so Smith was delisted and St Kilda drafted him in the 2009 AFL draft. North Melbourne were not happy at the time about Smiths’ comments.

Unfortunately, history repeated itself for Smith, and injuries limited him to only four games with the Saints. He retired in 2010.

4 – Kris Shore

In 2002, Wayne Carey infamously joined Adelaide, from the Kangaroos. He didn’t come cheap for the Crows, who traded picks 2 and 18 to the Roos. We know pick 2 landed Wells, but do you know who was drafted with pick 18?

Ok, the sub-heading gave it away. But you wouldn’t of known otherwise. Kris Shore is the man we’re talking about. But you’ve probably never heard of him because he never registered an AFL debut with the Roos in three seasons on the list.

That’s got to leave a sour taste, doesn’t it?

5 – Gavin Urquhart

Urquhart’s career is one that never really took off. He had moments, but that was it. Originally drafted in 2006, the Roos used pick 21 to select the defender.

Injuries and an inability to consistently break into the senior side led him to only 41 games in four seasons with the Roos. He was delisted in 2012. Kurt Tippett, Bachar Houli, Will Schofield, Robbie Gray and a host of other names were still available at pick 21.

(Not) Worthy Mentions

Rod Crowe (#30, 2001 ND), Callum Urich (#25, 2002 ND), Joel Perry (#31, 2002 ND), Blake Grima (#38, 2002 ND), Chad Jones (#24, 2003 ND), Matt Riggio (#28, 2005 ND), Kasey Green (#43, 2005 ND), Liam Anthony (#43, 2008 ND), Nathan O’Keefe (#59, 2008 ND), Ayden Kennedy (#41, 2009 ND) and Tom Curran (#40, 2011 ND).

Both sweet and sour – Lachie Hansen

I was prepared to shift Hansen over to the sour section, but I’ll give North fans the chance to plead his case.

Lachie Hansen – pick 3 in the 2006 AFL Draft. He was a highly touted draft prospect, and the Roos drafted him using their second highest draft pick (after Wells) on him.

It’s been a rollercoaster career for Hansen who has battled injuries and inconsistencies in form over the nine years at the club. He’s played 123 games, mostly as a defender but he can play the swingman role well.

The number two pick in the same draft (Scott Gumbleton) was hit by the injury curse, but did North and pick 3 get some of the leftovers of that same curse?

Over to you North fans. Would you redraft Lachie Hansen if you had the chance in 2006 with pick 3?

Final Words

It’s been a very interesting period of drafting for the Kangaroos since 2001. Some of their higher draft picks (McIntosh & Hale) played over 100 games for the club, but still left for other clubs when they got the chance. The injury curse has hit them hard, but I guess it does for every club.

It’s great to see that North have drafted players in the mid-late rounds, and have developed them into core, quality players. 2002 was a hit and a miss, they had so many draft picks, and failed badly on four of them.

Can the 2009 & 2010 draft groups (Cunnington, Bastinac, Black, McMillian and Atley) carry them over the line and continue to keep North situated on the top half of the ladder?

The future looks very positive. Ben Brown is going to be great. Garner, McKenzie, McDonald, Dumont and Turner will be the players who drive this club into the future. 

And the question mark still hovers over Majak Daw. A rookie drafted player in 2009; can he become the star player they want him to be? 

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