FOR THE first time in 34 years, North Melbourne is debt free after a landmark announcement made Friday morning.
The Shinboner Spirit was truly alive and well at Arden Street as the club declared a systematic eradication of a debt that peaked at a monumental $9 million in 2012.
Club executives Ben Amarfio and Ben Buckley were flanked by current players and former coaches, including Dani Laidley, who made her return to North Melbourne HQ for the first time in years.
Speaking on her time at the cash-strapped club - that included 99 games as a player and 144 as senior coach - Laidley recalled times where she had to maintain the Arden Street Oval and the adjacent grandstand, and assist other staff to help keep the club afloat.
"What I learnt very quickly was North's greatest resource was their people … that's held the footy club in really good stead, we’ve always been really rich in regards to the cultural bank," Laidley told media.
Laidley was met with a financial baptism of fire when she first accepted the head coaching role, needing to wipe $1 million from the salary cap in her first month, helped largely by a senior player taking a $300,000 pay cut.
"That player was playing for minimum wage, that’s just what the footy club did. I'm very proud, it's a significant day, it's the first time I've represented my old tribe and my new tribe today."
After re-buffing a firm relocation offer from the AFL to move to the Gold Coast in 2007 - despite the lucrative financial incentive - North Melbourne set about the huge task of maintaining financial independence.
And just 14 years later, the club is in the black with powerbrokers past and present doting on the collaborative effort that brought the club off-field success.
Former chairman James Brayshaw, who was one of a raft of people returning to the club after a significant time away, was particularly thankful towards club benefactor Peter Scanlon's contributions.
Scanlon was approached by then club chief-executive Eugene Arocca for a cash investment of $100,000, only to hand over ten times that amount.
"[We had] the worst funded footy department in the game. It was a big task, none of this would be here without Pete so we never forget that. Back then, this day seemed a long way away."
It is the first time the club has been debt free since 1987. Despite COVID interruptions, a bottom-placed finish, and, for the main, crowdless stadiums in 2021, the club has just recorded its 13th profit from the past 14 seasons.
Former players John Blakey, Brent Harvey, Brady Rawlings and Darren Crocker all watched on as panellists beamed about the club’s resurgence, the board making a commitment to improve football department facilities, media facilities and The Huddle (the club's community program).