North Melbourne has young talent across all lines at the moment, but nowhere more so than their midfield.
The likes of Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke were joined in midfield last season by Will Phillips, Tarryn Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson among others, and that list of youngsters has only grown as the season approaches. 2022.
Players to watch
Jason Horne – Francis
So far, the hype surrounding Horne-Francis has only been fueled by his performances in North Melbourne’s pre-season games.
While it might be remiss to name him as part of this young and emerging midfielder, given that manager David Noble has said he will play down the line ahead of this year Horne-Francis’ performances against Melbourne and the Swans are showing he can mix it up. in the middle of the park.
Against the Dees, he finished with 17 takedowns and a team-high six tackles, including a belter on Demon Christian Salem, and faced off in promising fashion against Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca. He showed his forward prowess against the Swans, finishing with two goals and two losses, but also spent much of the game in the middle, taking on the likes of Josh Kennedy and Isaac Heeney.
Whether he plays in midfield or on the forward line, it will be an exciting season to see the club’s first-ever No. 1 draft pick in action.
The club’s co-vice-captain took his game to new heights in 2021 by winning his first Syd Barker medal, and the absence of Ben Cunnington heading into this season means Simpkin’s teammates will look to him to lead again this season.
Simpkin showed great signs of versatility and growth while stationed on the wing last season, and excelled at finding the undisputed ball – something he has struggled with somewhat in the past.
Time will tell if he will make the next leap forward this season and perhaps start to find his name mentioned in conversations about the competition’s top flight.
Something of an unexpected arrival this off-season, Greenwood’s leadership, experience and sheer disputed quality will not only improve North’s midfield now, but help prepare some of the club’s young players for the future. to come up.
Despite missing the end of 2021 through injury, Greenwood ranked first in the competition in tackles per game (8.6) and eighth in save allowances per game (3.9 ) in the competition.
Moving north for, among other reasons, potential future training opportunities, his knowledge of the game has been on full display this pre-season. His grit, determination and class were on full display against the Demons, when he recorded 18 eliminations (11 over), six tackles and a record nine clearances.
Against the Swans in the AAMI Community Series, he showed why his size and strength also make him a solid scoring target when advancing. He completed 19 touches, one goal and a team record six clearances.
Callum Coleman Jones
Coming to compete with Todd Goldstein, Tristan Xerri and Jacob Edwards for a place as a ruck/striker in the senior squad, Coleman-Jones’ move to North Melbourne could also see him spending more time in midfield.
David Noble said he foresees a 50/50 split of rucking duties for the pair of talls selected, opening up the opportunity for Coleman-Jones to prove himself in a hybrid role.
Still just 22, Coleman-Jones has struggled to break into a strong Richmond squad and has played just nine games in four years for the Tigers, including eight in 2021.
With 11 goals in eight games last year, ‘CJ’ also proved he could hit the scoreboard when needed. North fans will be well aware of his quality, having pushed twice against the Kangaroos in Round 21.
After flirting with St Kilda in the October trade period, Xerri returned to Arden Street ahead of his fifth season of AFL football.
Seemingly competing with newcomer Coleman-Jones for second ruck spot, Xerri put together a strong pre-season which saw him race for a first-lap start, with David Noble and staff coaches impressed by his candidacy.
After missing the preseason clash with the Demons, Xerri was among North’s best on the ground against Sydney, finishing with 17 takedowns, six tackles and a game-high 29 hits.
A dominating ruck at VFL level, Xerri was pushed forward for much of his AFL career thanks to Todd Goldstein’s efficiency at North. However, with veteran Goldstein tipped to play much of his football as a key striker this year, Xerri could get the middle-of-the-park opportunity that has eluded him to date.
A breakthrough candidate?
Before being sidelined for pubic overload midway through last season, Tom Powell illuminated his first campaign. The young midfielder was somehow denied a nomination for NAB Rising Star despite still being among North’s top performers at the start of the year.
While no player wants to be on the sidelines for long, Powell has used his time off the team to hit the gym, and heading into his second season his body looks much more ready to withstand the rigors of football. AFL.
He spent time up front last season and scored North’s first goal of the year on his debut, but he’s certainly a full-time midfielder going forward. Hopefully he can maintain his fitness in 2022 and fans in the North can see the best of the young South Australian.
Can history repeat itself?
As the third pick in the draft, there was pressure on Will Phillips to come in and perform immediately in 2021. Although he impressed at times, the lack of football in his Covid-affected draft year showed.
Playing 14 senior games for the year, Phillips spent much of his time in the front line as he adapted to the pace and power of the AFL level, but when given the opportunity at the middle of the park in the VFL, he absolutely dominated.
He averaged just under 11 takedowns and three tackles in a first season that echoed a young Ben Cunnington.
Cunnington, the fifth pick in 2009, played in 18 games in his first season. In his first campaign at senior level, the now-star player averaged 13.8 takedowns and 4.7 tackles per game, playing mostly in midfield.
Cunnington’s incredible development at senior level has shown that natural midfielders who rely on their strength and power throughout competition can take some time to develop. Phillips’ natural ability, desire to improve and application on the practice track are certainly present, it’s just up to him to translate that to senior level, just like Cunnington did early in his career. .
The big question
With so many exciting young players capable of running through midfield, fans are wondering: Who will be North’s first-choice midfielder this season?
Jy Simpkin, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Hugh Greenwood all look certain to see plenty of rebounds at center this season, but add in Tom Powell, Will Phillips and Jed Anderson, all naturals inside midfielders, and the best structure of Kangaroos becomes less clear.
Tarryn Thomas played in midfield last season, while Jaidyn Stephenson, Charlie Lazzaro, Josh Goater, Jason Horne-Francis are all capable of contributing in the center of the field.
If Ben Cunnington recovers from illness and makes an appearance this season, he will provide another high-quality midfield option.
The most promising in this selection puzzle for supporters of the North? Seven of the 13 names mentioned are under the age of 24, and only Cunnington has celebrated his 30th birthday. This midfielder can grow and mature together.