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Connolly rates North

Heath O'Loughlin  December 16, 2017 3:41 PM

North Melbourne will only strengthen its already potent scoring ability next season according to high respected footy writer, Rohan Connolly.

The Roos finished the 2017 season ninth for points scored with an average of 90 per game.

Connolly says with Ben Brown (third in the Coleman medal) firing and ably supported by a fit Jarrad Waite and Mason Wood, there should be plenty of room for improvement. He also cited a raft of experienced players set to return.

"North Melbourne also has a whole clutch of senior players who will hopefully play more football than during injury-interrupted seasons," Connolly said on his website Footyology.com.au

"Ben Jacobs and Sam Wright, neither of whom played a single game, Jamie Macmillan, Marley Williams and Kayne Turner. There is also now a considerably-sized group between the 30-80 game range, several of whom have the potential to improve quickly with the initial AFL developmental steps already taken."

A footy purist, Connolly identified a key group of young players that normally flies under the rader

"There’s more young talent coming through the ranks at Arden Street than a lot of people think," he said.

"Even after just 13 senior games, Jy Simpkin looks like he could be the pick of the lot. 

"An exciting, quick small forward, Simpkin has real “X-factor” about him, reads the play well and likes to show off his bag of tricks. There’s every chance he could find himself spending a lot more game time in the midfield set up in his second year."

Connolly also expects ruckman Todd Goldstein to return to his all-Australian form.

"The 29-year-old had, however, been dealing with some major upheaval in his personal life, and with those obstacles now essentially cleared, the Roos are confident he can get back to somewhere near his best," he wrote

"He’s certainly no shoo-in for the No.1 ruck role if he doesn’t, as Braydon Preuss showed some good signs in his eight games, and Majak Daw is also desperate to final deliver consistently in senior ranks, wherever that position may be. “Goldy” has shown just how good he can be, but in a sense, he needs to reclaim that No.1 role all over again in 2018."

With a big list turnover in recent years, Connolly says North has now addressed its perceived lack of speed and has plenty of options to choose from to fill its side.

"Even the Roos themselves might have some issues settling on a best 22 at this stage ... But pace and skill are musts," he said.

"Recruit Hartung offers the former, at least, and No.4 draft pick “LDU” is capable of playing all season.

"North is going to need all hands on deck in 2018 if it is to pinch its share of victories."

CONNOLLY’S BEST 22

B: Sam Wright, Scott Thompson, Jamie Macmillan

HB: Marley Williams, Robbie Tarrant, Luke McDonald

C: Nathan Hrovat, Shaun Higgins, Billy Hartung

HF: Kayne Turner, Jarrad Waite, Taylor Garner

F: Mason Wood, Ben Brown, Jy Simpkin

Foll: Todd Goldstein, Jack Ziebell, Ben Cunnington

Inter: Trent Dumont, Shaun Atley, Luke Davies-Uniacke, Ryan Clarke

Emerg: Ben Jacobs, Majak Daw, Paul Ahern