North Melbourne’s trade and free agency period was quieter than most expected.
Only two players made any sort of movement, with veteran defender Robbie Tarrant departing for Richmond, while key pillar Callum Coleman-Jones came back the other way.
The Roos received picks 42, 47, and a future fourth round pick in addition to the tall, while sending a future second round pick and pick 40 to the Tigers.
While it sees the club set back a touch in the 2022 draft, it will now have greater versatility moving into the third round.
Coleman-Jones’ addition leaves coach David Noble with a strong depth of options across the ruck and forward lines. He joins a group including Todd Goldstein, Nick Larkey, Charlie Comben, Jacob Edwards, Tristan Xerri and Tom Campbell (who is currently uncontracted).
General Manager of Football Brady Rawlings described Coleman-Jones as the club’s “main target”.
“We identified the ruck position going forward as a real need for us,” Rawlings told media on Thursday.
“Especially a player that can go forward and mark it as well. We got him as a ruckman, so we’re going to put a lot of time into his ruck craft.
“We think the combination that he can have with Todd or with Tristan is going to be a really good combination for us. Moving forward for the next five or 10 years, we think he’s going to play a lot of ruck time for us.”
Where this leaves Xerri in the side in 2022 remains to be seen.
The 22-year-old ruckman requested a trade to St Kilda which inevitably fell through. He’s only played 12 games for the club after being selected late in the 2017 draft.
He was rewarded with a senior call-up in Round 13’s draw with GWS after an impressive showing at VFL level. As the number one ruck in a struggling side, he averaged 21 disposals, five marks, three tackles and 26 hitouts.
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Still contracted until the end of 2022, Rawlings assures that Xerri is part of the club’s short term plans.
“I was pretty clear with Tristan the whole way along, understood that he felt he could get more opportunity at another club,” Rawlings said.
“He certainly wasn’t looking to leave because of any ill feeling towards the club or his teammates. He’s a very popular member of our team.
“We weren’t going to give him away for the level the Saints were prepared to give, it was as simple as that in the end. As soon as the trade didn’t go down at 7:31pm, I called him straight away and said ‘mate, we clearly rate you higher than the other team.’
“We’ll get back to pre-season, and things will be business as usual.”
Key posts at either end
The loss of Robbie Tarrant sees obvious quality depart the North Melbourne backline.
After 174 games, the Roos will be without the key defender for the first time since 2014, when leg surgery ended his year.
Tarrant only played 10 games in 2021 after missing the beginning of the season after having surgery on his kidney. He won the club best and fairest – the Syd Barker Medal – in 2016.
Forever a popular figure amongst fans and players alike, Rawlings believes that life without Tarrant at the start of the season prepared the club for what the backline might look like in 2022.
“We obviously had Robbie out for half of a season, so we did get a look at a different type of backline at the start of the year,” he said.
“We had Jack Ziebell back, which we trialled over pre-season. He ended up coming top three in the best and fairest, so he had a great year down there.
“We only got two games out of [Aidan Corr], and he was injured for the rest of the year. He’s up and running, he’s moving really well, so we’re really excited by pretty much getting a new recruit to the club in Aidan.
“With the emergence of Ben McKay over the last couple of years, he’s a player that as a key defender we can build our backline around.”
McKay’s drastic improvement was one of the stories of North Melbourne’s season.
He averaged career high numbers in disposals (9.55), marks (4.32), rebound 50s (1.64) and one-percenters.
Alongside Walker, he grew in confidence with every passing week in both a lockdown and intercepting role, and will once again be expected to take the best forwards every week alongside Corr.
Rawlings adds that Josh Walker will continue to stay in the backline, while Ziebell is still required in defence after a fantastic switch down back this season.
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