Nearly four years ago at Dallas Brooks Hall, James Brayshaw made the boldest statement in North Melbourne’s history. He rejected the Gold Coast and stated in no uncertain terms that we are the North Melbourne Football Club. A club of history and culture, from Arden St. The era of the ‘Kangaroos’, marred with quick fix solutions to cash-flow problems, was over.
It’s now time Brayshaw made another bold statement. And it needs to happen soon.
Here are the key initiatives I want to see happen:
1. Stop whingeing
At Dallas Brooks Hall in 2007, Brayshaw made a poignant statement:
“We are a niche (club), a boutique club. We’re not Collingwood or Essendon and the sooner we realise that and cut our cloth to that and make our business tailored to that the better off we’ll be.”
At the moment, North Melbourne are still trying to operate like Collingwood and Essendon. We play all 11 home games in Melbourne, and rely on membership, attendance and sponsorship to survive.
But we can’t compete. We’re given the fixture of a small club with few Friday nights, no blockbusters and little free-to-air coverage. Rightly or wrongly, we’re branded as whingers when we point this out.
We need to change our thinking, and we need to shut up.
2. A bold vision
I want a vision for North Melbourne Football Club for 2019 – the year the club turns 150. What will it look like? Where will it play? How does it compete?
The Tasmanian vision of 2010 was bold. Seven home games a year in Hobart and Launceston, a VFL team with a direct feed from the isle, 11 (great) games in Melbourne guaranteed, a 7-10 year commitment. Not all supporters were enamoured with it, but I loved it. Sadly, through no fault of the club, it was scuttled by Jeff and a spineless Tasmanian government.
The battle for Ballarat was lost in the 2010 Victorian election, but the war isn’t over. $25-30m needs to be found for a stadium upgrade. Can North pull together a cocktail of funding (AFL, Ballarat, the Commonwealth, Victoria)? Is there a business case for buying the ground outright and doing it largely on our own (with a bit of help)?
Regardless, it’s time to put our balls on the line. Are we playing in Hobart for a good time, a long time or not at all? Is Ballarat achievable?
We are a boutique club – we’re the best boutique club in the world – but how are we going to leverage that?
We need a bold new vision, and we need it now.
Emboldened by the vision for 2019, let’s bring everyone on board. And I mean everyone.
I want a peoples’ function: “Beneath the blue and white we stand”. A night free-of-charge for members, with the greats of the club, united as one. I want the club to announce to the world their bold new vision; to make a statement.
I want old tensions put aside – Carey, Archer and Stevens; Aylett, Brayshaw and de Rauch – all standing side by side. I want the great administrators: Miller, Joseph and Mantello; the outspoken: Kekovich, Blight and Barassi; the great Indigenous players: Cable, the Krakouers, Pickett, Wells; the premiership heros: Grieg, Pike, Crosswell, Grant, Dench, Martyn, Schimmelbusch; all mixing with the real heros – the members who have stood by the club through thick and thin.
I want North Melbourne – my North Melbourne – as one. And I want the world to stand up and take notice.
James Brayshaw’s North Melbourne has achieved a lot, but we cannot be complacent. If his board cannot deliver on these three points, at least in some form, the members must hold them to account – the club’s future depends on it.