2023 AFL Draft Review: North Melbourne

WITH five first round selections, North Melbourne opted for a variety of prospects on a busy opening night of the 2023 AFL Draft. The rebuilding Roos will hope they’ve accelerated the development of their young list with a bumper crop of developable youngsters to scatter across each line of the field.

>> UPDATED: Every Pick in the 2023 AFL Draft


2. Colby McKercher
4. Zane Duursma
20. Taylor Goad
22. Wil Dawson
23. Riley Hardeman


2. Finnbar Maley

>> ANALYSIS: Big winners, bolters & sliders

The Roos couldn’t really lose with picks two and three in the draft, which ended up being split by a bid on Suns Academy gun Jed Walter. What North Melbourne secured was arguably the best pure midfielder available in Colby McKercher, and a hybrid forward with enormous upside in Zane Duursma.

Some analysts and fans alike were slightly perplexed at the club’s decision to overlook Dan Curtin, given the club’s glaring need for a key defender, but the Roos backed their draft board to add to an already stacked group of young midfielders, and another avenue to goal early in the piece.

Having drafted small and medium types in bulk across recent intakes, the plan was to then go tall with North’s three remaining first-rounders. The Roos certainly did so with a pair of very raw but highly developable talls in Taylor Goad and Wil Dawson, before Riley Hardeman rounded out a diverse haul.

What McKercher offers is consistency and points of difference through the engine room. The Tasmanian is clean on the inside but thrives on the outside with his speed and sharp kicking skills. He accumulates strongly on the back of an endless yet economic running capacity and can carve up the opposition.

Duursma is just as dynamic, and even more threatening inside 50. The Gippsland Power product is a natural forward with high athletic upside, able to cover the ground with smooth movement and take one-grab marks overhead. He’s a capable pinch-hitter in midfield, too, and tends to step up in big games.

North Melbourne was the club to pull the trigger on a bid for Hawthorn father-son nominee Will McCabe. After the Hawks matched, it was time for the Roos to double dip into the pool of key position players by taking Goad and Dawson within a couple of picks of each other.

Goad, a ruck out of South Australia, has come from a long way back to finish the year as a top 20 pick. He raised eyebrows with a sub-three second 20m sprint time in preseason and backed it up at the National Draft Combine, having also helped South Adelaide take out the SANFL Under 18s flag.

The 206cm athlete, a former basketballer, has plenty of room left for improvement much like pick 22, Dawson. Another graduate of the Gippsland Power program, Dawson played in each key position post this year and excelled in a surprise move to defence. Still, he may yet develop as a ruck-forward.

Both talls have the required amount of athleticism and mongrel to come on strongly in an elite level environment. The query surrounds North Melbourne’s ability to nurture and enhance their talent, which if done right with these raw prospects, could reap grand rewards for the rebuilding club.

Running defender Hardeman ticked the box of another role for North Melbourne at pick 23, as arguably the best available player at that point. The West Australian Under 18 skipper rebounds at speed and sets up play with his raking left foot. He also has senior experience and can roll up to a wing.

The cherry on top of North Melbourne’s draft was the rookie acquisition of Finnbar Maley. Another key position player, though in the mature-age category, he was recruited out of the Northern Bullants VFL squad and dominated this year’s NFNL Division 2 Grand Final with six goals for the victorious Eltham.

Maley comes from strong sporting pedigree, particularly in the basketball space, and is very much still developing his craft. He’s an athletic tall capable of taking big marks and getting around the ground, likely to hone his skills as a key forward who rolls through the ruck.

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