George Wardlaw and Harry Sheezel are set to join North Melbourne.

Following yet another season at the wrong end of the ladder, North Melbourne are once again entering the draft with one of the more enviable draft hands available. With their first two selections signed, sealed and delivered, will the club have any scars 12 months on from drafting Jason Horne-Francis?

Holding picks two and three, the Kangaroos will walk away from the draft with elite talent who will no doubt be ready to run out for round one. They also should be making the bid on Will Ashcroft with GWS widely expected to be taking their man Aaron Cadman at pick one.

This year’s draft has a definitive top 12 talents, with the following players being relatively even through to pick 40. The kangaroos have additional selections in the second and third rounds where they’ll be able to take players that will round out their list as Alistair Clarkson starts to shape the North Melbourne list in his image.

Clarkson has emphatically said he’s not going to accept players who ‘might’ be AFL quality footballers, he wants players who he believes are capable of playing in a premiership. That should give great confidence to anyone drafted to the Shinboners that one of the best coaches in modern history has faith they’ve got what it takes.

North Melbourne’s draft hand: 2, 3, 23, 40

READ: AFL Draft Power Rankings: The top 50 prospects in 2022

2022 AFL Draft: Picks two and three already pencilled in for the Roos

With GWS expected to give the pick-one bonuses to Cadman, North Melbourne should force Brisbane to take Ashcroft at the second pick. This leaves the Kangaroos with picks three and four, and the players’ names are already etched into the Arden Street lockers.

In any order, North will be taking Harry Sheezel and George Wardlaw with their first two picks of the draft. Two Victorian boys with no risk of being homesick, they’ll be the perfect replacements to mitigate the pain from Horne-Francis’ departure.

Ashcroft’s teammate at the Sandringham Dragons, Harry Sheezel is the prodigal forward of the draft. He’s got elements of Zac Bailey about the way he plays, a mobile forward who knows how to find the goals and is more than capable of holding his own in the midfield. He averaged 2.6 goals per game over 14 games for Sandringham, and reached heights of 37 and 33 disposals when playing as an inside mid.

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Sheezel will come into the Roos’ side as an x-factor forward with the capabilities to turn games on their head. He’s not shy of the big stage, kicking four goals in the Dragons NAB league premiership to cap off his dominant season.

He’s an exciting prospect with elite goal sense and skill execution, demonstrating footy smarts well beyond his years. Playing as a half-forward in the Kangaroos’ side, he’ll act as the connector between the two lines with his field kicking a large strength in his game.

Consistency was the marker of his success in 2022, he was only held under 10 disposals once and was able to kick four or more goals on five occasions. Sheezel is an elite talent who will have no struggles finding his way into the North Melbourne line-up.

Wardlaw has endured a frustrating top-age campaign with injuries, however the Kangaroos are confident there’ll be no lasting impact from his multiple hamstring issues. When on the park, he had no problems showing why he was one of the best all-round midfielders in the draft.

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Wardlaw only managed three NAB league appearances this season, averaging 20.7 disposals, 5.7 tackles and five marks. It was enough to put the emphasis on top of his bottom-age development to convince clubs he’s still good enough for a top-five pick.

Although he doesn’t have the endurance of other top-five midfielders such as Ashcroft and Elijah Tsatas, his work at the contest and explosive running out of stoppages more than makes up for the slight lack of running capacity. It’s always something he’ll be able to develop further once his hamstring is ready to go.

He earned selection in the AFL Academy for their game against the Collingwood VFL side earlier this year where he won the best on ground medal. Ashcroft and Sheezel both took part in that game as well.

He’s one of the best defensive midfielders in the draft class, his insatiable desire to tackle can be seen at stoppages where he can be seen pushing past teammates to lay tackles. Once he has a hand on the opposition they don’t get away, his tackling technique is textbook where makes sure to pin the arms and wrap up the ball.

2022 AFL Draft: Key defenders on the watchlist

With their second-round pick, the Roos will be hoping some of the key defensive talents will slide from the 15-20 range so they could pick them up with pick 23.

Josh Weddle is a key defender out of the Oakleigh Chargers program who could very well be taken in the early teens, but has the potential to slide on draft night. One of the most consistent defenders throughout the NAB league, standing at 192 he’s shown he’s more than capable of playing on both medium and talk forwards

His athleticism is unlike most other defenders in the class, being able to jump with the forward and ensure the ball comes to ground – that is, if he doesn’t mark it himself.

Lewis Hayes is a more likely prospect to be available at pick 23, a key defender all through his junior years and looks comfortable at NAB level. The Eastern Ranges product comes in at 197cms and can read the incoming ball earlier than attackers, resulting in large tallies of intercept marks.

Not just a lockdown defender, he was also used as a distributor for the Ranges, averaging 20.7 disposals over 11 games. His reliable ball use is a strength when under pressure delivering from the backline.

A more likely pick will be Tasmanian Tom McCallum, who plays above his size and has an outstanding athletic profile.

2022 AFL Draft: Son of club legend returns home

Roos fans will be able to rejoice as they finally recruit Cooper Harvey, son of Brent. Built slightly taller than his father, Cooper has the capabilities to be a strong inside midfielder with the same forward craft as the AFL games record holder.

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Through eight games with the Northern Knights, Harvey averaged around 20 disposals and five marks while going at almost a goal a game. He’s a hard-nosed midfielder with clean skills below his knees and contested work that could almost rival anyone else in the draft class.

His first game for North Melbourne has the potential to draw their biggest crowd since Boomer’s retirement in 2016.

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