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North build depth in AFL finals quest

North Melbourne hope a deeper midfield can help them secure an AFL finals berth despite failing to sign West Coast free agent Andrew Gaff.

North build depth in AFL finals quest

North Melbourne hope a deeper midfield can help them secure an AFL finals berth despite failing to sign West Coast free agent Andrew Gaff.

ANDREW GAFF of the Eagles passes the ball during the AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers at Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia.
ANDREW GAFF of the Eagles passes the ball during the AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers at Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia. Picture:Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

Having again fallen short in their bid to lure a big fish to Arden St, North Melbourne believe a restocked midfield can propel them back to September action.

Jared Polec, Aaron Hall and Dom Tyson loom as timely additions to a Kangaroos midfield that looks set to be among the AFL's deepest this season.


And if they can help North improve from last year's ninth-placed finish, the Roos' failed multimillion-dollar bid for West Coast wingman Andrew Gaff - and GWS star Josh Kelly the previous year - might prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Quality has never been the issue for a Kangaroos engine room led by Shaun Higgins and Ben Cunnington but there is an awareness at Arden St that when their senior players weren't firing, the Kangaroos lacked midfield depth.

"We've tried to (add depth) over the last few seasons. It's easier said than done," coach Brad Scott tells AAP.

"In previous drafts going back to five years ago, we'd probably just been snipped a little bit when we looked to take some midfielders and they've been taken just before us.

"We've looked through all avenues to build our midfield and this year we've been able to bring in a couple of players that we think are really capable players and should help us."

Former Port Adelaide wingman Polec, in particular, will add some outside run that will complement the toughness of Cunnington, Higgins and Jed Anderson - although Scott bristles at his club being typecast as blue-collar battlers.

"We probably get stereotyped a little bit," he says.

"Even way back - it's always been a view that North's got good inside contested-ball winners but not a lot of outside class.

"You go back over time - (Nick) Dal Santo, (Brent) Harvey, (Daniel) Wells - they're pretty good outside class players. But that was still the stereotype.

"I think that's still the case now, that while we want to improve our outside run ... midfield depth, full stop, is important.

"The clubs who have that - Collingwood spring to mind - they can cover some injuries better than others."

The Roos' backline stocks will be tested early in the season with Robbie Tarrant (shoulder) in doubt for round one, Scott Thompson suspended and Majak Daw no certainty to play this season after falling from the Bolte Bridge in December.

North won't rush Daw, who is recovering well from injuries sustained in the fall and was in good spirits at the team's photo session last month.

There is also no timeline on the return of tagger Ben Jacobs, who only played 13 games last season while battling delayed concussion symptoms and sinus issues.

Scott expects highly-rated youngster Luke Davies-Uniacke to push for more time on-ball in his second season, while there is also plenty of excitement about top draft pick Tarryn Thomas - a dynamic midfielder who can also push forward.

"We've debuted more players than any other team in the last two years," Scott says.

"That doesn't mean that they're all going to go on to be really good AFL players. But we've worked really hard at trying to narrow the amount of time that it takes to identify whether players are going to be long-term players or not.

"That can lead to some pretty brutal decisions at times but we've been pretty clear about the fact that we don't want to go into a really long rebuilding process.

"We felt two years ago that we could bounce pretty quickly. Hopefully this year will be another step towards that."

NORTH MELBOURNE

Coach: Brad Scott

Captain: Jack Ziebell

Last five years: 6-8-8-15-9

Premierships: 4 (1975, 1977, 1996, 1999).

Key five: Shaun Higgins, Ben Brown, Jack Ziebell, Robbie Tarrant, Jared Polec.

One to watch: Jared Polec. Something of a tease during his time at Port Adelaide, the 26-year-old wingman can be a real asset at his best with his run and carry. Will he live up to expectations? Finished fourth in the Power's best and fairest count last season but had never previously been in the top 10.

Ins: Tom Campbell (Western Bulldogs), Joel Crocker (Sandringham Dragons), Aaron Hall (Gold Coast), Tom McKenzie (Northern Knights), Red Og Murphy (Category B rookie), Jasper Pittard (Port Adelaide), Jared Polec (Port Adelaide), Bailey Scott (Gold Coast Academy), Curtis Taylor (Calder Cannons), Tarryn Thomas (North Launceston), Dom Tyson (Melbourne), Thomas Wilkinson (Southport).

Outs: Ryan Clarke (Sydney), Billy Hartung (delisted), Mitch Hibberd (delisted), Tom Jeffries (delisted), Oscar Junker (delisted), Alex Morgan (delisted), Declan Mountford (delisted), Gordon Narrier (delisted), Daniel Nielson (delisted), Braydon Preuss (Melbourne), Josh Williams (delisted), Jarrad Waite (retired).

Best line-up:

B: Marley Williams, Scott Thompson, Jamie Macmillan

HB: Sam Wright, Robbie Tarrant, Luke McDonald

C: Trent Dumont, Ben Cunnington, Jared Polec

HF: Jy Simpkin, Mason Wood, Aaron Hall

F: Jack Ziebell, Ben Brown, Kayne Turner

R: Todd Goldstein, Shaun Higgins, Jed Anderson

I: Shaun Atley, Dom Tyson, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Paul Ahern

Predicted finish: 10th

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