North Melbourne 2012 Season Preview

INS: Tom Curran (national draft), Brad McKenzie (national draft), Will Sierakowski (Hawthorn).

OUTS: Ed Lower (delisted), Brayden Norris (delisted), Daniel Pratt (delisted), Brady Rawlings (retired), Ben Ross (delisted).

YEAR IN REVIEW: We expected them to take the next step, they didn’t. The Roos finished ninth again, recording one less win but a significantly better percentage. The damning statistic was that the Kangas recorded just one win against a side that would ultimately finish above them on the ladder – a 21-point victory over Essendon in round 13. Brad Scott desperately wanted his young side to be competitive against the big boys in 2011, but they again struggled in that regard. Granted, there were some good signs. Todd Goldstein arrived as an elite ruckman, Drew Petrie overcame his horrid injury run to return as a force, Daniel Wells had his best year yet and Jack Ziebell played 21 games.

GAME BREAKER: The real X-factor in 2012 could be scatter-gun forward Lindsay Thomas. The 24-year-old livewire contracted a debilitating case of the yips last year, kicking 21.36 for the season. The word out of Arden Street is that he’s sorted his head out, but we’ll see. If Thomas can make that 36.21 it could translate to a couple more wins and a finals berth.

RISING STAR: All signs point to a breakout season from 21-year-old warrior Jack Ziebell. The injury-plagued midfielder seems to have been pencilled into North’s best 22 since draft day back in 2008, but, until now, hasn’t had the fitness base to match his appetite for the contest. After a strong pre-season – during which his name was mentioned among the key candidates for the captaincy – he looks ready to average 25-plus disposals in 2012.

KEY ARRIVAL: Not many to choose from after a surprisingly quiet trade/draft period, but you have to think the Roos see a niche for 21-year-old Will Sierakowski. The former New South Wales scholarship holder spent three seasons on the rookie list at Hawthorn without cracking it for a senior game, but showed some promise across half-back in the VFL last year. Will get his chance, but can he take it?

COACH FACTOR: A lot of credit for last year’s ninth-place finish should go to Brad Scott. Sure, he missed finals again, but after a 2-7 start the turnaround came out of no where. They were still a chance to sneak into the eight with a couple of rounds remaining despite a horror early run with injuries and constant skill errors that plagued them. Scott’s winning percentage sits at 48 after 44 matches – that should climb above 50 for this season to be considered a success.

STATS THAT MATTER: Less wins, better season. It doesn’t make sense but the Kangaroos made steps forward in 2011. Their points for lifted by eight points per game and their points against dipped by six. These are measurements that mean more than the win-loss breakdown. This is a young group, too, with the average games played ranked 15th in the competition. They can spike.

THE VERDICT: 8th. Don’t need too much improvement to make the eight and expecting them to just sneak in in 2012. Ziebell, Bastinac, Greenwood, Grima, Goldstein, Hansen, Wright and Cunnington have all now been in the system for a few years and should be stamping themselves as walkup starters. With games against GWS, Gold Coast, Port Adelaide, Brisbane and the Bulldogs in the first nine rounds, the Roos have a chance to get away to a formidable start.

BEST 22

B: Thompson Grima Firrito

HB: McMahon Hansen Wright

C: Wells Bastinac Anthony

HF: Thomas Tarrant Harvey

F: Campbell Petrie Edwards

Foll: Goldstein Swallow Ziebell

I/C: Pedersen, Harper, Atley

SUB: Sierakowski

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