Having not won more than four matches in each of the past two seasons, North Melbourne made a marked improvement in 2023 to jump into the top half of the Smithy's VFL ladder.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 10-9 (102.3%)
Players used: 55
Played every match: Nil
AFL players used: 32
Debutants: 20 – Ben Bath, Tom Cappellari, Aidan Corr*, Ben Davis, Blake Drury, Jack Ellwood, Hamish Free, Hugh Greenwood, Josh Hamilton, Robert Hansen, Cooper Harvey, Jamie Hope, Cooper Keogh, Jason McCormick, Alex Noblett, Tom O’Sullivan, Tyler Sellers, Hayden Smith, Darcy Tucker and George Wardlaw (*previously played NEAFL)
Best and Fairest: 1st: Jack Watkins, 2nd: Tyler Sellars, 3rd: Ben Davis, 4th: Sam Lowson, 5th: Charlie Lazzaro
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Aaron Hall (9), Daniel Howe (7), Cooper Harvey (6), Charlie Lazzaro (6)
Coaches MVP votes: Daniel Howe (31), Charlie Lazzaro (28), Jack Watkins (27)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Nil
Goalkickers: Sam Lowson (34), Tyler Sellars (30), Cooper Harvey (21)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Aaron Hall (30.2), Charlie Lazzaro (26.6), Daniel Howe (26.5)
Kicks: Aaron Hall (20.5), Daniel Howe (14.1), Ben Davis (12.6)
Handballs: Charlie Lazzaro (14.1), Ben Cunnington (13.4), Daniel Howe (12.4)
Marks: Ben Davis (6.9), Josh Goater (5.7), Aiden Bonar (5.6)
Tackles: Hugh Greenwood (9.5), Charlie Lazzaro (6.1), Daniel Howe (5.8)
Hitouts: Cooper Keogh (24.9), Hamish Free (23.4), Jacob Edwards (5.5)
Clearances: Ben Cunnington (8.4), Hugh Greenwood (6.8), Daniel Howe (5.5)
Inside-50s: Charlie Lazzaro (4.7), Ben Cunnington (4.4), Jack Watkins (4.4)
Rebound-50s: Jarrod Lienert (5.2), Aaron Hall (5.1), Flynn Perez (4.0)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Playing in the post-season for the first time since they broke their alignments and decided to go it alone. A shock home win over Southport in Round 2 signalled their intentions and they won six matches in a row from Round 10-16. The Kangaroos also knocked off finalists Collingwood and Williamstown and ran preliminary finalist Box Hill Hawks to just five points. Jack Watkins proved an inspired choice as captain, winning the best and fairest, while Sam Lowson’s recruitment was also a win as he kicked 34 goals. Tyler Sellers looks a long-term prospect as a key forward booting 30 goals and finishing runner-up for the best and fairest. Meanwhile Hamish Free (until injured) and his replacement Cooper Keogh showed plenty as young rucks.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The thrilling loss to Box Hill Hawks at Arden Street Oval in Round 17 not only stopped the Kangaroos’ momentum, it derailed their season. They failed to win again, slipping from top four contention to only scrape into the top 10 when Carlton collapsed in its last game. Having still earned the right to play in the Wildcard Round, North then found out how high the next step is when it was obliterated by reigning premiers the Casey Demons at Casey Fields. When the Roos lost, they lost badly, with five of their nine defeats coming by more than 50 points. Injuries to Hamish Free and Callum Coleman-Jones didn’t help.
Having not won more than four games in each of the past two seasons, 10 victories and a Wildcard Round appearance must be deemed a success. They would be disappointed with the way their season ended with five-straight losses and the thumping in that Wildcard match in which they only fielded four AFL-listed players at Casey Fields of which three have now been delisted.