Upcoming free agent can't understand why anyone would leave North
By Nick Bowen
LACHLAN Hansen might have the option of exploring free agency at the end of next season, but the key defender says he'd be "silly" to leave North Melbourne.
Hansen enjoyed a career-best season in 2013 after a serendipitous mid-season move to defence saw him emerge as one of the competition's best intercept marks.
The 25-year-old Roo stands out as one of the best long-term key position prospects in next year's free agency pool, alongside 2006 draft contemporaries Ben Reid, James Frawley and Justin Westhoff.
But when Hansen spoke with AFL.com.au he had not even thought about exploring free agency.
"I love playing at North, so hopefully I can play some good footy and they'd like me to stick around," Hansen said.
"Hopefully that all just takes care of itself and I can concentrate on playing some good footy with North."
Hansen joined North at a time when the club had decided to abandon big-name trades and invest heavily in youth at the draft.
The No.3 pick in the 2006 NAB AFL Draft, Hansen was the first of a raft of youngsters plucked by the Roos from 2006-10.
The players who joined him at North in that time included Todd Goldstein, Lindsay Thomas, Scott Thompson, Robbie Tarrant, Jack Ziebell, Ben Cunnington, Ryan Bastinac, Aaron Black and Shaun Atley.
North's draft investment is paying off in two ways, according to Hansen.
Starting out in the AFL together – and sharing the inevitable growing pains – has made the Roos' core of emerging players a close-knit bunch.
Just as importantly, North recruiting manager Bryce Lewis and his team have assembled a talented group.
After teasing Roos supporters over the past two seasons, North looks set to deliver over the next few seasons.
It promises to be an exciting era, one Hansen wants to be part of.
"You'd be silly if you wanted to leave North, I reckon," Hansen said.
"Hopefully, we're going in the right direction and there are bigger and better things to come.
"Everyone's pretty much best mates at the club.
"Most of us have been together for at least six or seven years, so the camaraderie with all the boys is really good – we play for one another."
Hansen's shift to defence last year seemed an inspired move after he averaged 7.8 marks a game, (fifth in the AFL among players who played more than one game), was equal 15th in total contested marks and recorded his first top-10 finish (eighth) in North's best and fairest award.
Lachlan Hansen says he is more than happy at North Melbourne. Picture: AFL Media.
But Hansen's football transformation might not have happened but for a chain of unrelated events.
Hansen started 2013 up forward alongside fellow talls Drew Petrie and Robbie Tarrant, as the Roos reprised the three-pronged attack that had been so successful in the second half of 2012.
But after Hansen was a late withdrawal from North's round five clash with Hawthorn with a minor knee injury, Aaron Black came in and started to deliver on the prodigious talent North had patiently nurtured over the previous three seasons.
Hansen was ready to return two weeks later but the good form of Black and Majak Daw, who had come into the Roos' attack in round four to replace the injured Tarrant, meant he was set to come back via the VFL.
But fate smiled on Hansen and the Roos when Taylor Hine was a late withdrawal from the round seven clash with the Bulldogs, clearing the way for Hansen to return in defence.
"'Blacky' came in and played unbelievably well so there was no way I was getting back in up forward when he was playing like that, and Majak had come in and done exactly the same," Hansen said.
"I was just lucky enough Taylor Hine came out as a late withdrawal against the Bulldogs and I was able to take his spot and the rest is history from there.
"I was lucky enough to play all right and stay down in the backline because the way Aaron, Majak and (later) Robbie Tarrant were playing up forward with 'Drewy' (Petrie) I wasn't needed down there."
North coach Brad Scott has consistently said he expects his key-position players to be able to play at either end of the ground at a moment's notice.
Hansen realises that means he could easily spend time in attack in 2013, something he would be more than comfortable with.
However, you suspect that won't happen. Not when Hansen finally seems to have found his football niche.
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