Over the coming weeks, North Media will analyse the 2021 seasons of every player on the list.
To see all the reviews so far, click here.
26. Tarryn Thomas
21 games, 24 goals; 18.2 disposals, 14.6 marks, 3.4 tackles, 2.7 clearances, 5.5 score involvements, 2.3 intercepts per game.
In the not too distant future, fans may look back at the 2021 season as the year Tarryn Thomas truly arrived.
After earning the midfield time he has so craved, Thomas has not only proved his worth as an exciting, unpredictable threat at the coalface, but he’s retained and improved his ability to make and impact in the forward line.
After a number of strong but inconsistent performances across the first half of the campaign, the 21 year old truly stepped up a level after the bye, playing key roles in a number of strong team performances.
Only registering fewer than 18 disposals once in his final ten games of the season, and over 20 touches in six of those, Thomas has found ways to accumulate possessions like never before.
Popping up with a pair of goals in the draw over GWS, Thomas turned provider three weeks later against the Western Bulldogs, registering career highs in clearances (8) goal assists (3) and score involvements (10).
It was against Carlton though where his improvement and potential truly shone, with his all-around midfield showing only being outdone by Nick Larkey’s 7 goal haul on the day.
With everything seemingly starting to click for the number 26, who knows where his game could go in 2022.
Round 19 v Carlton
23 disposals, 87 per cent disposal efficiency, 4 goals, 5 tackles, 4 clearances, 9 score involvements, 3 intercepts.
Tarryn Thomas achieved the unthinkable and incredible countless times over 2021, but his Mark of the Year nomination in Round 23 showcased the best of his x-factor and athleticism.
The fans said:
Been a tough year to be a Roos fan but I want to express my undying admiration for #TarrynThomas ????— Brian The Ruminator (@lynchonswan) August 22, 2021
The coaches said:
“‘Nobes’ and Heath Younie spent a lot of time with Tarryn in pre-season around standards both on and off the field, pushing himself higher, bettering his expectations and wanting more. To his credit he took every challenge on and he’s succeeded in what he wanted to do. For him it’s just building on his fitness level. To play in the midfield at AFL level you have to have an elite tank, so that’s something he’s identified as something he wants to improve and get better at. Getting more stoppage craft, working on how to use his body and his skillset around stoppages to make him even more damaging. Tarryn had an unbelievable season and there’s only going to be bigger and better things to come from him.” - Jordan Russell (midfield coach)
27. Will Walker
After returning to AFL football for the first time in 18 months in mid-2020, it was hoped Will Walker would be able to put his injury woes behind him and kick on in 2021.
Unfortunately though, injuries once again impacted the young forward’s progress through the season, with thumb and calf issues impacting his campaign.
Suffering a thumb injury in Round 3 of the VFL, Walker was set to return to reserve action in Round 7, however a bad corky to his calf put that return on hold.
Like many players, the stop-start nature of the VFL season did not help him press his case for selection, however his elite football smarts were on display when he did play.
A leader in a young VFL side early in the year, he finished with 20 disposals against Geelong 23 touches and a goal against Frankston, and 17 disposals with 3 behinds against Casey.
Walker was delisted at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
The coaches said:
“He’s really mentally strong, and I think as these unfortunate situations happen he becomes mentally stronger and tougher every time he goes through it. He’s a positive kid and he’s got a really good footy brain. We just wanted him to be able to stay on the park and continue to train and perform well.”- Jordan Russell (midfield coach).
28. Kayne Turner:
22 games, 2 goals; 11.8 disposals, 3.1 marks, 2.7 tackles, 1.9 one percenters, 3.5 intercepts per game.
After forging a reputation as a pressure forward through much of his career, Kayne Turner has reinvented himself as something of a utility man for David Noble, first as a tagger and, more recently as a defender.
Elected to the leadership group at the beginning of the campaign, Turner’s never say die attitude and team first mentality has offered great leadership by example to some of North’s young up and comers.
Playing every game for the year, it was in Round 7 where he truly came alive in the midfield, taking on the likes of Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca to finish with a career-high 27 disposals.
A move into defence followed, with Turner often tasked with blanketing the opposition’s most dangerous forward.
Whether it be restricting Charlie Cameron to just 5 disposals, or keeping Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti goalless and to 4 touches, the number 28’s transition to defender was undoubtedly a successful one.
The ultimate team man, Turner finally received some more than deserved recognition as he brought up his 100th game for North in the Round 22 clash with Sydney.
After missing 2020 through injury, seeing one of the toughest Kangaroos on the list throughout 2021 was a sight for sore eyes, and with a strong, consistent year under his belt, all eyes will be on his impact in the defensive end of the ground as he moves into next season.
Round 7 v Melbourne
27 disposals, 5 marks, 6 tackles, 5 clearances, 3 score involvements, 2 intercepts.
100 games for any club at AFL level is a rare milestone to reach. As one of North’s unsung heroes for much of his career, the marker was a deserved celebration of Kayne Turner’s contributions to North Melbourne.
The fans said:
can we also please talk about how much I love kayne turner as a tagger, he is 25yo and coming into a scrappy benny jacobs type - absolutley here for it ??????? https://t.co/h4C7QpCMqL— Clare Cosy (@ClareCosy) June 27, 2021
The coaches said:
“Kayne’s just a competitive beast. He just has a great ability to win himself to win contests, and that’s what makes him a great defender. He’s still learning the craft himself with it being a new position for him, but his work ethic and desire to win each week certainly comes to the fore. He had a great year.” - John Blakey (defensive coach).