North Melbourne has big plans for their 2018 season and one of them is to silence the naysayers who seem to think they are in for another struggle of a campaign. The Kangaroos finished in 15th place last season and it was the first time their supporters had to go without finals footy since 2013.
Although the team is not primarily focused on what some pundits are predicting, utility Shaun Atley says the side have heard the suggestions flying around and are using it to motivate them and prove the critics wrong. Atley said that rather than buy into the talk of how their team will fare in the premiership next year, it was focused on their own opinions of themselves and what they could achieve internally within the organisation.
The young players are getting excited about the challenge of next season and young talent Jy Simpkin has been very impressive in pre-season training. Â There’s been a huge improvement from all of the younger squad members so far in camp, and everyone is eager to kick off the start of the campaign.
Majak Daw is another who is motivated to get the team back to winning ways and is taking on his new defensive role with extremely positive signs. Fellow teammate Jamie Macmillan had nothing but praise for the former ruckman/forward, and is confident he will turn a few heads in his newly adopted home at the back.
The last two premiership winning sides also provide North Melbourne with hope, with both teams struggling before finally coming together to win the Grand Final. The 2016 winners, the Western Bulldogs broke their 62-year hoodoo in 2016 after winning their first flag, just two years after finishing in 14th place.
Current title holders the Richmond Tigers, started last year under heavy criticism after a 13th-place finish in 2016. Coach Damien Hardwick silenced many pundits when he took that side all the way to the finals and destroyed the Adelaide Crows by 48 points in the big dance for their first trophy since 1980.
It just shows how fast things can turn around for a club in such a highly competitive league. A win in their first-round matchup with Gold Coast would be the ideal way to show their fans they mean business this year. With the Suns also a fellow struggler from last season and having lost key playmaker Gary Ablett to Geelong during the AFL trade period, it could very well be on the cards. Bookmakers seem to think they’re in with a solid chance and currently have them at $1.95 according to the latest AFL odds on bet365, with Gold Coast just marginally ahead on $1.87 due to the Suns’ home ground advantage.
When you look at the stats from last year, the Roos were unlucky to finish so far down the ladder. They played six games that were won by a goal or less, and could’ve easily picked up some more points from those matches if lady luck had been a just a little kinder. The team ended up in the battle of the wooden spoon, but they were a much better side than Brisbane, Carlton and the Gold Coast. Their percentage of 87.6% was at least ten percent higher than all three teams and even 13.2 percent higher than Freemantle who finished one place above.
If the young players can gel this season and the team can get some points out of those close games, North Melbourne could surprise a few sides this year, and even make a push for finals footy in September.