NORTH Melbourne faces the unenviable task of replacing the decade's best intercept player in season 2020.
A mainstay in the Kangaroos' backline over the last 10 years, veteran Scott Thompson retired at the conclusion of last season after a highly respected 241-game career at Arden Street.
His best of those campaigns perhaps came in 2013, when he was crowned both the North Melbourne best and fairest winner and handed a place in the All-Australian side.
Thompson's importance to North Melbourne can be defined in a number of ways, but are perhaps best highlighted by the rock-solid backman leading a number of key defensive stats between 2010-19.
With help from Champion Data, here is the first in our three-part 'decade in review' series.
THE INTERCEPTORS – MOST INTERCEPT MARKS THIS DECADE
461 – Scott Thompson (North Melbourne)
457 – Harry Taylor (Geelong)
444 – Alex Rance (Richmond)
Thompson just shades three-time Geelong premiership hero Taylor for most intercept marks, with a fellow premiership star in Rance narrowly behind. Given the Tiger missed almost the entirety of the 2019 season due to a knee injury, he otherwise might have pipped the duo into first place.
THE CHOP-OFF MEN – MOST INTERCEPT POSSESSIONS THIS DECADE
1604 – Scott Thompson (North Melbourne)
1464 – Alex Rance (Richmond)
1460 – Heath Shaw (Collingwood/GWS Giants)
Thompson again leads this key statistical area – and by some margin. He had more than 100 intercept possessions more than Rance in second place, with Pies premiership player Shaw in third. Given his ability to play either tall or small at 193cm – and, clearly, given his ability to drift off and intercept – he will be sorely missed in the North Melbourne backline next season.
THE GOLDEN FISTS – MOST SPOILS THIS DECADE
1283 – Daniel Talia (Adelaide)
1282 – Alex Rance (Richmond)
1209 – Josh Gibson (Hawthorn)
If there's one man you don't want to get stuck in a contest with, it's Talia. He successfully completed the most spoils over the last decade, with Rance only one behind. In all likelihood, the Tiger would have skipped ahead had he played in 2019. Gibson, a triple premiership player with Hawthorn, is third despite retiring in 2017.
THE KICK-IN KINGS – MOST KICK-INS THIS DECADE
1386 – Shannon Hurn (West Coast)
1197 – Heath Shaw (Collingwood/GWS Giants)
648 – Zach Tuohy (Carlton/Geelong)
He has one of the most precise right boots in the competition and that is why Hurn has been trusted to take the most kick-ins over the last decade. The Eagles' premiership captain is some way in front of Shaw in second place, with an Irishman in Tuohy a long way back in third.
THE REBOUNDERS – MOST REBOUND 50s THIS DECADE
1278 – Heath Shaw (Collingwood/GWS Giants)
861 – Shannon Hurn (West Coast)
769 – Dane Rampe (Sydney)
If there's a man you want kicking the ball out of your defensive 50, it's Shaw. The former Giant leads the League in rebounds quite comfortably over the last decade, with Hurn second. Just behind them is Swans co-captain Rampe.