Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is North Melbourne.
- Ladder position: 12th
- Win-loss ratio: 10-12
- Percentage: 99.5
North Melbourne Football Club AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
A season of upheaval at North Melbourne finished on a positive, with Rhyce Shaw having a major impact on the club after replacing Brad Scott as senior coach. Shaw initially replaced Scott on a caretaker basis after the Kangaroos won just three of their first 10 matches, and the ex-Sydney and Collingwood defender led his side to four wins from five. The swift upturn in the club’s fortunes saw Shaw offered the job and after a brief lull, North hit back to win three of their last four matches to fill supporters with hope heading into the 2020 season.
A 44-point win over Collingwood at Docklands in Round 15 was a notable triumph but it is hard to look past North’s demolition of Port Adelaide in Round 22. The Power still had hopes of playing finals football but was blown away by the Roos in a 12-goal-to-three first half. The Kangaroos were simply irresistible, with Shaun Higgins, Ben Cunnington, Todd Goldstein, Jamie Macmillan, Jack Ziebell, Jy Simpkin and Jared Polec all having over 30 disposals in the big win. Key forward Ben Brown kicked 10.1 and Nick Larkey also chipped in with five goals as the Roos produced a statement performance. They could have relented in the last quarter, too, but added a further five goals to record an 86-point victory.
Just one week before the big win over the Power, North Melbourne was held to the lowest score in their 95-year AFL history. The Kangaroos kicked just 1.8 in what was a 55-point defeat to Geelong at GMHBA Stadium, with Goldstein kicking the club’s only goal in the second quarter. In stark contrast to what was to unfold one week later, Ben Cunnington was the only Kangaroo to win 25 disposals or more on a dirty night for the club. Gryan Miers and Tom Hawkins both outscored the Kangaroos on their own, as Geelong’s 9.15 (69) proved more than enough.
The best and fairest
Midfield bull Ben Cunnington won his second Syd Barker Medal in 2019, finishing 15 votes ahead of defender Robbie Tarrant. Cunnington was the third-best clearance player in the competition in 2019, while he also ranked fourth for contested possessions. Cunnington also won North Melbourne’s best and fairest in 2014. Tarrant enjoyed a strong season, too, while Goldstein pipped Trent Dumont for third on a countback.
He finished eighth in North Melbourne’s best and fairest but Shaun Higgins was easily the club’s best vote-getter at the 2019 Brownlow Medal. Higgins finished equal 11th with 18 votes, well ahead of both Cunnington and Ziebell, who won 10 votes each. Brown was also recognised with eight votes, while promising youngster Cameron Zurhaar polled six.
Cunnington and Brown were both named in the provisional 40-man squad, but neither player made the final 22.
The goal kickers
Only one player – Giants forward Jeremy Cameron – kicked more goals than Ben Brown in 2019, the Kangaroos forward finishing with 64.34 from his 22 matches. It was Brown’s best year in front of goal, following on from 63 majors in 2017 and 61 in 2018. His bag of 10 against the Power was a highlight but he also booted six against Essendon in Round 17 and added five on two other occasions. Zurhaar booted 26.12 for the season and Larkey kicked 26.8 from 17 matches.
The reason to be hopeful
If Zurhaar and Larkey can continue to improve, North’s forward line has a more potent look about it. Cunnington is still only 28 so has plenty of football left in him, while the acquisition of GWS midfielder Aiden Bonar in the trade period looks a smart one. But the main reason for North Melbourne fans to be excited is the fact Rhyce Shaw has a full pre-season to implement his game style and work with his players. Shaw’s early body of work suggests North Melbourne’s future is bright.