Harry Sheezel celebrates a goal against Sydney in round 10, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

HARRY Sheezel was long touted as a special talent before North Melbourne selected him with pick No.3 in the 2022 Draft. But his start to his AFL career has exceeded those expectations.

Sheezel chats with Cal Twomey for Cal's Q&A on backing it up, being a best and fairest winner aged 18, his captaincy ambitions, his mega contract, Colby McKercher and George Wardlaw, training his mind and what utopia looks like at Arden Street.

Just over a year ago to the day – on March 18 – you played your first AFL game and had the most disposals on debut in nearly 40 years. Do you look at all the things that have happened in the past 12 months?
It is crazy. Before I got told I was playing half-back, all I wanted to do was nail that half-forward role. I knew it was a hard role so I wanted to do the best I could and get as many games as I could, keep my spot in the side and show what I could do at AFL level. Then it all happened pretty quickly, I had a pretty good first game and went from there. I did have time to reflect after the season. I was fortunate enough to win the Rising Star and the best and fairest but after what seemed a really quick year I was able to reflect and take some time to appreciate it.


When did you do that?
The first few days after it all I did that with my family. My family is really big on keeping me grounded and staying level, which is important. Then I got away and was in America with Blake (Drury) and George (Wardlaw), which was good fun to get away from Australian lifestyle and also learn a lot in America in the way they go about it and how big sport is over there.

It was an extraordinary debut season – best and fairest winner, Rising Star winner, record-breaking disposal count. What did you think was capable at the start of it?
I never used to set too many goals. I do now, but honestly if you asked me that last year I would have said just to play as many games as possible. But then I played week to week and as the year went on I started seeing what could happen and I set more goals. I wanted to go well in the best and fairest, that was the main one because it means so much about what you're doing for the team, and the Rising Star was a nice bonus.

Alastair Clarkson's decision to move you to half-back changed things for you. Did you have any doubts having never played there before?
Not really, to be honest. I was excited by it straight away because I saw what Nick (Daicos) did the year before and for some reason in my under-18s year I was always asking my coach if I could just have one game at half-back just to see how I'd go. I felt like I could utilise my skills back there well. When 'Clarko' gave me the opportunity it was more just excitement that I was getting a crack at it at AFL level.

Harry Sheezel poses with the Rising Star award during the 2023 AFL Awards at Centrepiece on August 30, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

How was best and fairest night?
It was good fun. I had a lot of family there. They had two extra tables. I was a bit embarrassed going into the night, I was like 'Why are you guys coming?', but in hindsight it was pretty special having them there and sharing that special moment with them.

Did you have a speech ready to go?
Nah, nothing. I didn't at all, but it helped when Bailey Scott got called out for third and he spoke and then 'Souv' (Nick Larkey) got called out for second and he spoke. So I had about 20 minutes there. When Souv got called out I was listening to his speech but I wasn't really, I was just trying to think about what I was going to say.

The whirlwind continues for this year after being elevated to the leadership group. Were you nervous about taking that on?
Not at all. I have a lot of confidence put in me by the older guys at the club. (Co-captain) Jy (Simpkin) has been massive for me and my leadership. We had a chat late last year and he said to me that he sees me as a leader of the club and he said it can happen straight away and age doesn't have to make me wait a few years. I was excited by the opportunity. When we came back to pre-season we had a camp and Jy and I spoke again and he's been a big mentor for me in that space. He's taken a big leap in his own leadership and I've seen that growth in him over the last year and he's so good at making everyone feel important and giving back to everyone. It's brought out the best in me in terms of that leadership. My motto's really just to be myself and not let age stop me from doing anything. If I see something I'll say it, I back in my knowledge of the game and that's really important. The last thing is that we have such a young group that I think it's great for us to have a leader who is younger because it bridges that gap between the first-to-fourth year players and the older boys.

Is it an odd dynamic being one of the youngest here but the reigning best and fairest and a leader?
It doesn't really feel like that. In the day to day of footy, it feels right for me to speak up and say what I need to say. I don't feel uncomfortable doing it and that's a reflection on the group, the coaching staff and the culture that we have here. Everyone has a voice and everyone should have the confidence to say what they know.

Do you want to be a captain of the club in the future?
Yeah, I do. Not at the moment, obviously. I've got a lot to learn and a lot of things to grow in that space. I haven't really thought about it too in-depth but being a captain sounds nice.

You've always struck me as being really confident in yourself, but balancing that in the right manner. How do you walk that line?
The belief comes from just doing the work every day to just be the best you can be so you're ticking all the boxes. That gives me the skills to do what I need to do, but the most important thing is the confidence. My biggest strength is my mind and my mindset. The confidence I get from doing all the stuff I need to to prepare for a game – recovery, nutrition, extra training, skill work and mindfulness as well – makes sure I am prepared and it gives me confidence that I don't even need to think about it. It just becomes natural when I'm doing that.

Harry Sheezel celebrates a goal during North Melbourne's clash against Sydney in round 10, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

What work are you doing on your mind now?
I'm doing quite a lot of reflection. I've started journaling and doing a lot of goal setting and then just daily processing. I've been reading a lot of books and that has really helped my mindset. There's so much knowledge out there for you to grow and learn. I've picked up some things on goal setting and how there's some high level goals, mid-level goals and low level goals. The high level goals are things I want to do long-term and I don't go away from that and everything I do below that is part of the process to get there. So I'm always sticking to that process and you can't let anything distract you or get you off track. I like having goals that help you get to the long-term goals and help you accomplish something every day.

What about the team? A tough opponent first up last week and Fremantle at Marvel Stadium in round two. What's possible for North Melbourne this year?
I'm not really sure what's possible but I know if we get it right a lot of success is possible. We've done a lot of work in trying to create evidence and belief in this group because it obviously hasn't been there the last few years. We're looking for all these different ways to give the boys a bit of evidence that what we're doing is right and give us belief going into every game that we can win and knock anyone off. I think we're going to do that as the year goes on. We're going to get better and better as we play each game together because we are so inexperienced. Similar to how the Giants went last year, it's never going to be linear and you can have a few rough games and then it clicks. We're not sure when that's going to happen, but it's definitely going to happen.

Harry Sheezel (left) is tackled by Luke McDonald during North Melbourne's training session at Arden Street Ground on March 21, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Your belief in that was obvious in re-signing recently through to the end of 2030, when you'll be a free agent. How much did you weigh that up?
It was a no-brainer for me. I'm just happy here. I see the future, I have a great relationship with the boys and coaches, and I'm a pretty loyal person. It excites me the potential progression of this group to come from where we're going to come from to reach success would be the best thing ever and that's what I want to do and work for every day.

Is signing on long-term something you'd speak to Colby McKercher about in time as well? Everyone looks at Tasmania coming into the competition and him being at the front of their mind.
We've actually spoken about it a little bit. He doesn't see it as a factor at all. He's a Launceston boy and I think the Tassie team would be based in Hobart so it's not like he's going home anyway. I think he's going to hopefully follow me.

Colby McKercher (centre) with Luke McDonald and Harry Sheezel during the 2023 AFL Draft at Marvel Stadium. Picture: AFL Photos

How excited are you about George Wardlaw hopefully having a good run at it this year?
Very. He's just going to get better as he plays more AFL footy and understands the level. He's had a really good pre-season, he's got a lot of confidence in his body now, and hopefully he can get a good run of games together. Both you and I know what he's capable of and I'm sure everyone else will find out soon.

Everyone's face lights up with a smile when they talk about George.
One hundred per cent. He's just different. He's different in a very good way. You smile because he just adds something else to a group. Off-field he's always positive, very funny and a laidback type of person and always good to be around. Then on-field nobody goes about it the way he does. People say there's contested players in the League but George is just different the way he does it. You can't really describe it, it's just an impact he has.

You two travelled to America together at the end of last season and have driven the club to bring in songs after goals at home games as well?
Yeah, we were talking to the media team about stuff we could do and that came about.

Assuming Sheez Will be Loved will be your song?
If we could get your edit of it, I reckon I would. But no one will understand if it's just the Maroon 5 version. We should get your copy. I've chosen Chase The Sun just from the darts for that atmosphere.


You weren't always a Roo though. You were as big a fan of any team I've met come through the draft. How quickly did you leave the Hawks behind in 2022 when the Roos came for you?
It actually surprised me how quickly I got off them because straight away as soon as I got picked I felt no attachment to them at all. I never thought it would be like that but even playing them didn't feel different at all either.

In our first interview that year you spoke so warmly about having the Jewish community behind you. How have you felt that in the time since and is there any pressure that comes with that too?
I haven't felt any weight at all. Like I said back then in that story it's still the same – they're so supportive in everything I do. I see people on the street and they're all so happy for him and that's the great thing about it. Everyone is just so happy to see someone in the community succeed in football. I think it's really important for the community to see someone there, especially for young kids and it's refreshing to see that it is achievable and that we can have an impact in the wider world.

One of the enduring scenes from your draft was the Ajax Football Club when you were selected and the room erupted.
It just made me smile because I didn't know half the people in the room, which was amazing. They're so happy to see someone succeed from the community and that's what's so special about it and I definitely feel that support.

You said before you'd become a long-term goal setter. What's the utopia of your career look like when you look ahead, if you can share some of the things?
Yeah, I'll say some. I want to play as many games as possible, so somewhere around 300 would be nice, at least. If I keep the same passion and perseverance to be the best I can be, which I'm confident I will, then I'll keep working hard on the process and hopefully be playing for a long time. Consistent footy is the main thing. I'm massive on consistency. And the number one is a premiership. That's all I want to do. To do it with this group, from where we're going to come from, and I'm pretty confident we'll get there, would be so special.

You walk past the club's four premiership cups every day at the club. Does that add to that push?
Yep for sure and even just being at the Grand Final last year and seeing how much work goes into it. You also see from our perspective how hard it is to get there being at the bottom of the ladder last year. It is so hard to win enough games of footy to make the finals, then so hard to win big finals, then even harder to win the premiership. And we haven't experienced that yet, which shows how hard it is, but that pathway excites me.