How your AFL team went this year and what they should do in off-season

With the season coming to a close over the next few weeks, draft and list expert Matthew Rendell is taking a look at each team’s season in 2021 and what they need to do with their lists over the off-season. This article will be updated daily with a new team.

18th. NORTH MELBOURNE

Was the season a success?
(17th in 2020) 4 wins, 16 losses, 1 draw in 2021.
North Melbourne were the best-performed wooden spoon team we have seen. They struggled early, partly because the appointment of new coach David Noble came late, so they had trouble bedding down the game plan. An excellent second half of the year coincided with Ben Cunnington playing his first game in round four and taking a few weeks to get up to speed. Their defence held up and they have found a gun key back in Ben McKay. Kayne Turner was great as a small defender, Jack Ziebell roamed half-back and Aaron Hall had a new lease on life running the ball. Against the odds, Nick Larkey was super as a key forward and he’ll receive help from mid-season pick-up Jacob Edwards next year. I love the new players from last year’s draft in Charlie Lazzaro, Will Phillips and Tom Powell. Phoenix Spicer we are yet to see, but he will light it up in 2022.

Aaron Hall found a new lease on life in 2021.

Aaron Hall found a new lease on life in 2021.Credit:Getty Images

What needs to happen during the off-season?
The Roos started their rebuild at the end of last year with high selections in the draft and prudent trades. Free agent Aidan Corr will be excellent and Jaidyn Stephenson had a good year. Though Stephenson has broken his hip doing stupid stuff, I expect him to recover well. They need to repeat the dose this off-season. It will be two to three before they seriously challenge, so they have to hold their nerve. I would put Jared Polec, Trent Dumont, Taylor Garner, Shaun Atley, Dom Tyson, Jed Anderson and Connor Menadue on the trade table. They are good players but not in North’s best 22 next year and might have currency elsewhere. They need to play their kids in front of these players. They probably need to keep Robbie Tarrant as they are light on for key backs. The player I would really test the market with is Cunnington. His health is the priority after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, but it was reportedly found early. I played with four players with the same issue and they are all in very good health many years on. He definitely has currency; his best is great, but importantly he is likely to be retired when North are challenging. If they could get a favourable deal, this is a trade I would entertain.

North Melbourne’s Ben Cunnington could be a good trade chip.

North Melbourne’s Ben Cunnington could be a good trade chip.Credit:Getty Images

How should they approach the November draft?
North have first selection in the draft and it is extremely valuable. The top two selections are likely to be Nick Daicos and Sam Darcy, both father/son selections. The likely next pick is Jason Horne-Francis from South Australia, who has played senior football for two years in the SANFL. At the moment he is clearly in front of pick four. He will play straight up, barring injury. North should take all their selections, maybe bring in a free agent who is cheap, and pre-pay their highest-paid players so they have a treasure chest to attack free agency next year.


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