Much like the rest of North Melbourne’s roster, top descriptors of the Kangaroos attacking squad include ‘exciting’, ‘young’ and ‘high potential’.
To back that up, you just need to check out the club’s list of eligible forwards on AFL Fantasy. 19 players are included and the average age is just over 21. Jed Anderson is by far the oldest of the group and is the only striker over 23.
Goals win games, and it’s the strikers who will need to continue their ascent to help the Kangaroos win more games in 2022.
Players to watch
If Larkey was the unofficial leader of the forward line last season, there’s no questioning his credentials now. Having been sworn in as a member of the club’s management group ahead of this season, the 23-year-old looks set to take his game to new heights.
In 2021, Larkey’s fortunes turned with the rest of the senior team and after the goodbye he was almost irresistible. In the last 10 games of the season, he scored 29 goals and only went scoreless once – in Round 16 against the Western Bulldogs.
His rise from a late draft pick to North’s primary forward option has been remarkable, and his ability to improve from his non-elimination debut to his team’s man inside 50 has been remarkable. brilliant viewing for North fans.
After a 12th-place finish in the Coleman Medal last year, could this be the season Larkey puts his name to the competition and becomes one of the AFL’s most feared key forwards? After Round 19 last season, just ask Carlton and Jacob Weitering if it’s possible.
North Melbourne’s recent striking gold streak down the front line with late draft picks looks set to continue with Eddie Ford. After Nick Larkey in the 2016 National Draft and Cam Zurhaar in the 2017 Rookie Draft, Ford looks to be the next late selection looking to make his mark.
Selected with the 56th pick in the 2020 draft, Ford was forced to bide his time at VFL level last year before being selected as North’s medical backup in Round 16, before eventually surrendering. on the court for the first time in Round 20.
While competition for places in North’s forward 50 is certainly stronger than it was last season, Ford will be hoping its final four games of last season bode well for its further development at the level. of the AFL this year.
He’s impressed when called up so far this pre-season, particularly against Melbourne, but has been used sparingly against Melbourne and Sydney. Whether he’s in North’s top 22 from the get-go or has to work his way up the team again remains to be seen.
There is no player who defines the phrase ‘silent director’ on the North Melbourne roster quite like Jack Mahony. The pressure, structure and selfless attitude he brings to the North Melbourne forward 50 fly well under the radar.
After 10 games in his debut 2020 campaign, Mahony exploded to play 19 games in 2021 and quickly made himself an indispensable part of David Noble’s future plans as he found more ways to find football and influence the game at every performance.
The next step in Mahony’s development must be to gain the ability to hit the dash more. He averaged 0.3 goals per game in his first season and 0.47 goals per game in his second, so his improvement in this area has a positive trend.
He has scored multiple goals twice in his fledgling AFL career to date. His two-goal performance in the practice game against the Demons is certainly cause for optimism.
Tarryn Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson – midfielders or strikers?
Thomas and Stephenson have both shown their potential to become full-time winning inside midfielders, but both can also bring invaluable class and X-factor to the 50 striker.
Stephenson’s best performance of 2021 came where he mostly roamed midfield and picked up 38 eliminations in the win over West Coast, while Thomas scored four goals in a 23 elimination masterclass in the win over Carlton .
While both players are expected to roam the midfield and the line ahead of this year, the distribution of their time on the pitch could well define their seasons.
Can Charlie Comben make a faultless run?
Since Comben’s selection with the 31st pick in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, no forward on North’s books has had such a tough run with an injury.
After impressing in his first pre-season at the club, Comben’s debut campaign was put on hold after stress fractures were discovered in his back. His 2021 season was a similar story, with tibia stress fractures ruling him out of much of the campaign.
He returned midway through the year and after some impressive performances at reserve level, worked his way into the senior team on his long-awaited debut, in which he scored a goal against Swans in of Round 22. However, the following week in practice, he broke his collarbone. and his season ended early.
Comben’s future appears to be in the forward line rather than the ruck thanks to the promise he has shown as a true key forward. Although there is fierce competition to step into an already potentially large Kangaroos forward line, if he maintains fitness this season he could easily squeeze his way into David Noble’s plans.
Will the Larkey/Zurhaar partnership continue to thrive?
Larkey and Zurhaar are inseparable off the pitch, and perhaps it was their bond away from football that allowed their partnership on the pitch to flourish.
The pair topped North’s penalty shootout tally last season – Larkey with 42 to Zurhaar’s 31. No pair have scored more combined goals in the second half of the season, competition wide.
Zurhaar in particular is hoping for a quicker start to the season. ‘The Bull’ has been scoreless in his first five appearances in 2021 and he’s even been tested in defence. His ability to bounce back and become one of the best players in the team will have given him confidence heading into this campaign.
Opposing teams will know what to expect from the pair heading into this season, so it’s up to the Kangaroos forward line to evolve in order to continue getting the most out of their star men.
More AFL 2022 Season Guides: Defenders | Midfielders