Three that got away

Reverend Shinboner looks at three recruits that slipped through North Melbourne’s hands.

Aaron Davey

North were semi-keen on the gun Indigenous player from Palmerston Football Club in Darwin back in 2003, allowing Davey to train with the club during the pre-season. Overlooked by clubs in the national draft, North were faced with the choice between Davey and Shane Harvey – Brent’s younger brother who had been discarded by Essendon – in the pre-season draft. They went with Harvey and Melbourne picked up Davey cheaply in the rookie draft.

Davey has gone on to play nearly 150 games for Melbourne, winning the best-and-fairest in 2009. Shane Harvey played three for North Melbourne before being delisted.

In hindsight, North’s 2003 draft was nothing short of disastrous, the best performed recruit – Eddie Sansbury – playing only 40 games.

Cyril Rioli

In the lead up to the 2007 draft, North had their eye on the Tiwi Islander ripping it up in the APS competition for Scotch College. In a momentous season where North were widely tipped to win the wooden spoon, Dean Laidley got the boys up to knock off Hawthorn in the semi-final. History shows that North got wiped off the park in the preliminary final the next week and Hawthorn snaffled Cyril Rioli with their first round pick – the one North would’ve had if Hawthorn had beaten them. North took Robbie Tarrant with their first pick.

Rioli won the 2008 rising star award and played a critical role in Hawthorn’s surprise premiership that year. Tarrant has yet to reach his full potential after losing nearly two full seasons to injury.

Liam Jurrah

What could've been: this image still breaks my heart

The freakish Walpirri tribesman from the Yuendumu Magpies was first brought down to Melbourne by the Industrial Magpies, a coterie of the Collingwood Football Club. But the club which showed the most interest in Jurrah was North Melbourne. Jurrah himself wanted to play for the Roos, drawn by the possibility of playing alongside central desert compatriot and Arrente man Matty ‘Flash’ Campbell.

But due to a tragedy in his homeland, Jurrah failed to get the appropriate paperwork signed and missed the cut-off for national draft nomination. Rupert Betheras, a former Pie and key figure in the Industrial Magpies, managed to convince the AFL to make an exception and allow Jurrah to nominate for the pre-season draft, doing everything short of forging Jurrah’s signature to make it happen.

Melbourne picked up Jurrah with pick #1 in the pre-season draft. Once again, North were left high and dry. If Jurrah’s paperwork had been up to scratch, who knows where he’d be right now?

Jurrah has gone on to play 27 scintillating games of football for Melbourne and is one of the most exciting players in the AFL.

It’s fair to say that all three of these Indigenous stars would fit straight into the current NMFC line-up, adding pace, skill, flair and x-factor. But of equal significance, their natural footballing talents would’ve given a massive boost to the club’s marketability, bringing punters through the turnstiles.

It’s difficult not to think about what might’ve been.



Filed under On Field

4 responses to “Three that got away

  1. Unsure if they would make too much of a difference. Cyril Rioli yes but you already have inconsistent players in Thomas, Campbell and Wells….

    Also while it is fun, need to remember that every club could do the ‘what if’. For example if Fremantle did not trade their #1 pick in 2001, they could have selected Chris Judd at #1 and someone like Steve Johnson/ James Bartel at #4. OR if Richmond picked Lance Franklin at #1 and then someone like Deledio/ Griffen or LeCras at their next pick #4.

    • I agree that retrospective draft speculation is quite a ridiculous pursuit. However these three are different – they were in North Melbourne’s sights and only just slipped through the club’s hands.

      Re: Wells – I’ll defend him til the end. His season has been fantastic, and with a solid midfield around him he’ll continue to cut sides up. Campbell has never been inconsistent – he is simply susceptible to soft tissue injuries. And Thomas’ inconsistency this season has been limited to his conversion, which is admittedly deplorable.

      • I agree Wells has been very impressive this year, I like the fact he gets his own ball. We know he is brilliant on the outside but to see him get his contested ball, he has vastly improved.

        You know your team better than me but I see Wells (before this season) inconsistent as well as both Thomas and Campbell.

  2. Natasha

    I see Aaron Davey as our biggest “what if”….. from what I’ve heard along the grapevine, a certain captain insisted we draft his brother… who was quite useless, in his many… ahem… correction, 3… games. I had no idea about Jurrah – wow, he would fit right in nicely.
    Wells is having a brilliant year. I’m so glad he’s reaching his potential.
    Thomas – everyone complains about him – but apart from his woeful conversion, he’s actually a really good competitor. His tackles and his follow up in the forward line is exemplary

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