AN EMOTIONAL David Noble has revealed he had known his future at North Melbourne was hanging in the balance for a number of weeks, with the club deciding on Tuesday to end his tenure within two seasons.
His departure comes as the Kangaroos have vowed to get aggressive in pursuing playing talent this off-season, saying they have already begun informal conversations with the AFL about the prospect of securing a priority pick.
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The club reached a decision to end Noble's short stint at Arden Street after Saturday's narrow loss to Collingwood, which was its 14th defeat in a row and left it languishing with a dismal 1-15 record.
It's now facing the near-certain outcome of a second consecutive wooden spoon, with CEO Ben Amarfio saying the club would explore all avenues in improving its playing group ahead of next season.
"It's a great club, a great spirit, we've got some unbelievably exciting young talent and some good old fellas as well," Amarfio said.
"Do we need more talent? Absolutely. Are we going to be aggressive in acquiring more talent? Yes, we will. We'll have a real crack. We'll go to the AFL and we've already started informal conversations about mechanisms to bring more talent into the club through priority picks and such.
"The system of the AFL, it's all about ups and downs. You go to the bottom, you take your licks and you get more talent and you rise again. Teams that are at the top of the ladder at the moment, they've all had their time at the bottom as well. This is just a moment in time."
Noble, who was appointed in November 2020, had previously had a long and distinguished career as an assistant coach and head of football at Adelaide before helping to steer Brisbane back to relevance as its football boss.
However, he ends his time at the Kangaroos having won just five of 38 games and with the struggling club facing the prospect of claiming its second wooden spoon in consecutive seasons.
Noble said 38 games was "probably not" enough time to come to a decision on his future, but said he was aware that his position as senior coach was insecure before the club called upon a review of the football department led by Geoff Walsh.
"I've been wrestling with our performances now for a number of weeks," Noble said.
"I think, as mature adults, we were able to have those conversations and understand exactly where it sits. (But) I'm not surprised. The numbers haven't been great. We wanted to be competitive around the group we were sitting with, we wanted to challenge the group above us and really try to challenge the top-four group and we haven't been able to do it.
"At the end of the day, the buck stops with me. I haven't been able to get the performances and that's me."
North Melbourne will now begin its search for a fourth full-time senior coach in the last five seasons following the departures of Brad Scott in 2019, Rhyce Shaw in 2020 and now Noble in 2022.
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The club's former 104-game player Leigh Adams, an assistant at the Kangaroos for the last three seasons and the current coach of their VFL program, will take the reins as interim boss at Arden Street for the remaining six games of the year.
The Kangaroos said a search for the next full-time replacement will begin later this week, but blatantly rejected speculation that premiership coaches Alastair Clarkson and Adam Simpson had already been sounded out by figures at the club.
"I'm not even going to speculate on it. It's not right and I'm not going to speculate on what we'll do from here," North Melbourne president Dr Sonja Hood said.
Hood was also forced to guarantee the future of Amarfio following widespread speculation that he could also leave his post, flatly replying "yes" when asked whether he would still be at the club in 2023.
"I've spoken to Ben's entire executive group, I've spoken to all of our major stakeholders and sponsors and I've spoken to the AFL. I've got no issues with Ben remaining as our CEO," she said.
Noble revealed he had an emotional discussion with his playing group on Tuesday morning after the news of his exit filtered through, saying it reflected their mood following last Saturday's close loss to Collingwood.
"They were shattered," Noble said.
"If I'm talking on the players' behalf, there were a lot of tears and a lot of emotion. We put a lot of work in together as a group. I've experienced some personal tragedy with some of them and I've experienced creating some dreams with first-game players. It's been an honour to work with those guys, so it was bloody tough."
The Kangaroos said they would have preferred to retain Noble for the foreseeable future, but ultimately the weight of the club's results – 12 of its 14 straight losses were by margins of more than 47 points – ultimately became too much to ignore.
"I reckon we did (batten down the hatches) for a fair amount of this season," Hood said.
"But I think the extent of the performances was really difficult and we've been talking about that for a while. We'd have preferred to have stuck (with Noble)."