NORTH Melbourne has thrown its full and unequivocal support behind senior coach David Noble after another week of speculation and off-field departures that have rocked the embattled club.
The Kangaroos took the unusual step of letting CEO Ben Amarfio present to media before Noble's regular weekly media conference on Thursday, just days after three key members of the club's list management team all quit.
Long-time national recruiting manager Mark Finnigan, head of player personnel Glenn Luff and national recruiting officer Ben Birthisel all resigned on Tuesday, with a lack of support from senior club officials being cited as a common theme for their departures.
But Amarfio spoke of a united Kangaroos group and said there were no divisions between the playing group and the coaching group, nor between the recruiting staff, despite suggestions to the contrary.
"I speak to the players, our coaches speak to the players … the players are happy. They are happy. That's what they are telling us. They are highly engaged," Amarfio said.
"I can only go on what the players and the captain are saying to us. The coach has our backing, he has my backing, he has the board's backing and, as you've heard, he's got the players' backing. They're saying they're happy, they're saying he's created a great environment, they're saying they're enjoying coming here. He's our man."
Noble reiterated that he was also fully focused on seeing through the club's long-term rebuild, despite a shaky start to the season that has included a disappointing 1-9 record and an averaging losing margin of more than 10 goals in the last eight weeks.
The North Melbourne coach also lashed out at what he described as “misreported” stories from media outlets recently regarding an apology that he delivered to his playing group after a verbal spray following the side’s loss to Brisbane in round three, also correcting a version of events surrounding Jason Horne-Francis’ recent trip back to South Australia.
"I took this job on understanding that there would be difficult times. I'm here for the long haul. I want our club to be successful and strong," Noble said.
"All of the things that get misreported from outside, it's just not true … (things like) relationships between the players, relationship between the coaches, that I was directed by the club to apologise. They are all untrue. Substantially untrue.
"I wish people would stop reporting them, because they're not true. I don't know how many times I have to say it, that our players are engaged and our players are moving forward and our coaches are terrific.
"I've got a great relationship with our coaches in where we're going and I've got a great relationship with our CEO and the board, understanding exactly where we're going. For the last time, we are moving forward together. Yes, it's challenging. You know why it's challenging at times? Because building high-performance is difficult.
"Where we're building from, it needs to be rigorous. You need to have debate and you need to challenge. Players become unhappy when they're not in form and they're not in the team. We get that. We're clear with our information as to how you get better. But I'm here for the challenge and I'm not going anywhere."
Noble refuted suggestions that the three list management members quitting this week indicated 'instability' within the club, saying he would look to sit down and chat with Luff in particular regarding why he didn't feel supported in his position.
"I don't agree with that. Those three guys have done an outstanding job for our club. I want to put that on the record. I had a great relationship with those guys," Noble said.
"Ben has been studying to move into another industry, he's not been poached or leaving because he's unhappy. Mark is a high-quality guy that has had several approaches over recent years to be poached. Glenn has made a decision and we'll sit down with him in the right time to pull apart what his information is and how we can be better.
"It's not ideal, I get it. But a lot of clubs do lose personnel at different, varying times. It would be worse to lose three recruiters coming into the national draft, so there are worse times that you can lose people."
Amarfio, too, was drawn on the reasons behind why the key list management personnel opted to leave the club and said that he was 'disappointed' Luff might have felt unsupported in his position.
Finnigan, meanwhile, will take on a three-year offer to head up Hawthorn's recruiting department while Birthisel will step into a new role away from football after his time at the club.
"There are three different individual circumstances," Amarfio said.
"I don't want to get into too much of the detail, but what I will say is this … Mark has been with us for 17 years. He's a fantastic person, but he received a great offer. He received some security. We don't have that luxury to be offering fixed-term, long-term contracts to our staff. No one at this club has a fixed-term, long-term contract. Not me, not the coach. When you get an offer like that and you've done 17 years, you've got to put your family first.
"The same goes for Ben. Poor Ben has been stood down (during COVID-19), stood-up, put on part-time. He's been studying in HR, he gets a job in HR, he's got security, he's got a young family. It's a no-brainer.
"Glenn, well, we've all heard the noise about that. We were shocked about that and we were disappointed. I think there are a number of reasons why Glenn has left, and that (not feeling supported) is one of them."
Amarfio said that, despite reports of unhappiness at the club, regular checks are ensuring that the vast majority of North Melbourne's staff – both on and off the field – feel safe and secure in their jobs.
"The staff feel united, they feel happy. That's not just me saying that, we do biannual culture checks and we test the engagement and happiness of our staff. All of that tells us that our staff are united and happy," Amarfio said.
"We're disappointed that we're going through this rough trot at the moment, but that's expected. We're not performing on the field to some peoples' expectations. Not to ours, we knew it was going to be tough. But we're taking the blows, we get it."