Twenty years ago I was living in an apartment with a mate.
We were young, dumb and full of stupid ideas. One of those stupid ideas was the decision to get a dog.
We went to the refuge and took home a scrappy terrier named Harvey.
Harvey had a rap sheet. We were warned. He wasn’t great with kids, cats or really, humans. He’d been in and out of the pound five times. Harvey had more red flags than a Trump rally.
Within a few hours he’d bitten both of us, chased the neighbour’s cat up Charles St into traffic and peed on the carpet twice.
That first night, he pooped, turned around, ate the poop, threw it up immediately, then ate the vomit.
Living with Harvey was like living with the 2007 version of Lindsay Lohan.
Still, we loved that dog. Harvey was an a…hole, but he was our a…hole.
Should we have adopted him? Absolutely not.
Two 19-year-old blokes, living in a shoe box. You’d think someone would’ve stepped in and stopped us — the real estate agent, the dog refuge people, our parents — but that’s not how the adult world works. You’re responsible for your own decisions, it’s not anyone’s job to bail you out. You don’t get a do-over.
Someone needs to explain this to the people running North Melbourne and anyone at AFL House remotely considering handing the Kangaroos a priority draft pick.
There aren’t many industries where incompetence is met with charity.
This isn’t kindergarten, where everyone gets a turn and a cuddle if things don’t go well. This is the AFL. This is cut-throat. It’s supposed to be hard.
This week, the Kangaroos sacked David Noble. After 38 games, the guy they brought in to turn things around, got turned around.
North Melbourne have gone through four coaches in five years. Something tells me Noble — a guy who’s got universal respect in the footy industry — isn’t the problem.
That doesn’t mean he should still be in the job. But it does mean if you don’t change a lot of other things, you’ll be doing this all over again in 18 months.
This is a whole club issue — and the most crucial element is football. It’s not hard to track where they’ve gone wrong in that space.
Making the right draft choice is always easy in hindsight, but good clubs get it right more often. The last five years of North’s list management has been the football equivalent of Harvey eating his regurgitated poop, twice.
In 2017 they took Luke Davies-Uniacke at pick four. He looks good, after a shaky start.
North then selected Will Walker at pick 23. He played six games. Tim Kelly, Noah Balta, Liam Ryan and Sam Taylor all went within the next handful of picks.
In 2018 they used an academy pick on Tarryn Thomas, who I like, but has stalled. They then traded pick 11 for Jasper Pittard and Jared Polec, below (and gave Polec an absurd amount of money). Port used that pick on Zak Butters.
In 2019, North traded pick eight to Melbourne for a future first rounder. They could’ve kept that pick and taken Caleb Serong.
Picks in the 30’s are tough, but North had three that year. They went with Charlie Comben at 31, Jack Mahoney at 34 and Flynn Perez at 35. Swans young gun Chad Warner went at 39.
In 2020, they passed on Logan McDonald for Will Phillips, and used the Melbourne pick — the one they got for trading the Serong pick — to take Tom Powell. Dockers defender Heath Chapman went the next pick.
Last year, they turned down a trade offer from Adelaide — two first round picks — for Jason Horne-Francis. JHF will be a star, but noise of unhappiness is already brewing. The Crows used one of those picks to take Josh Rachele, who looks fantastic. The other is looming as a top four selection this year.
As I said, easy in hindsight, but there’s a world where North have Davies-Uniacke, Thomas, Nick Larkey, Serong, Butters, Taylor, Warner, McDonald, Rachele, plus a pair of top-four picks this year to come.
North have put themselves in this hole with ordinary drafting, terrible trading, and awful hiring. They either dig themselves out, using smart people, avoiding desperate moves or stay in the hole.
The AFL should not — and cannot — throw them a rope. When the question is asked ‘should North receive a priority pick’, the answer must be no.
When did we decide that the best way to help a club that has spent the better part of five years butchering draft picks, was to give them more picks?
That’s like saying the best way to kick alcoholism is to skull a bottle of tequila. North need help – but help in the hiring process. They need assistance to get the right people in the right jobs. The right development coaches, the right recruiters and footy brains.
The priority has nothing to do with picks at all.