Ladder Position: 9th
The Kangaroos had to fight from the start in 2011. They lost Ryan Bastinac to a season-ending injury before a ball had been kicked. Jack Ziebell went down with another broken leg. And in particular, they were heaped with a tag of being unable to defeat their rivals, with Essendon the only finals-finishing side that they were able to defeat. Finishing 9th, with the disappointment that despite Essendon’s Rnd24 bye, they could not overtake them, was the result.
As such, there is an expectation on North for 2012. Their young midfield group is one of the best up and coming lots around – with Swallow, Bastinac, Ziebell, Cunnington and Anthony woven through with the experience of Wells. The expectation has clearly shifted onto this group as their time to shine, with the passing of captaincy from Brent Harvey to Swallow as a recognition of the future of this club.
Their draw, however, will assist them for the finals immensely. North face both Gold Coast and GWS twice, almost certainly guaranteeing three if not four wins. In addition, they will face the Western Bulldogs, fellow finals challengers Essendon and West Coast twice. This is offset, however by a staggering six interstate trips for away games – not including the two Hobart ‘home’ games that North will play.
Andrew Swallow – Swallow proved himself as a genuine midfield star in 2011 to the rest of the AFL world. Expect him to continue tearing games apart.
Drew Petrie – The North forward has the ability to muscle defences around and almost win games through the structure he provides to the rest of the forward line.
Todd Goldstein – Unlucky not to win AA honours in 2011, Goldstein will surely look to push onto a second season of dominating in the ruck.
Ryan Bastinac – While already fairly well recognised, Bastinac missing season 2011 has almost certainly stalled his development. A big 2012 would not be a surprise.
Hamish McIntosh – While certainly not young, McIntosh’s recent injury cruelties as well as the rise of Todd Goldstein will keep many eyes on North’s ruck division. If McIntosh performs, many will see potential trade bait to clubs that need rucks come the end of 2012.
Majak Daw – The question of 2011 was whether he’d play. He didn’t, but surely if his game continues to develop North will give him a go. Surely.
Finals has to be in the calculations, particularly with the GC-GWS double up. I’m going to say 13 wins as a minimum as well as wins against other contenders.