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.
29. Will Phillips
14 games, 3 goals; 10.9 disposals, 2.2 marks, 2.3 tackles, 1.4 clearances, 2.9 score involvements per game.
As North Melbourne’s first top three draft pick since Lachie Hansen in 2006 and the first man to wear number 29 since Brent Harvey, the faith shown in Will Phillips by the club is clear to see.
After not playing any competitive football in his draft year due to the Covid disrupted 2020 season, Phillips came into the side to make his AFL debut in Round 3 against the Western Bulldogs.
Runs in and out of the side followed, with the young inside-midfielder made to earn his time at the coalface at senior level, often playing in an unfamiliar forward role to gain experience of top level football.
It was in his stints in the VFL where he really shone though, impressively leading from the front and shouldering the bulk of the load in the middle, despite his tender age.
He collected 33 disposals in a tight win over Essendon at reserve level in Round 6, before backing up with 31 touches in the win against Coburg in the following game.
It was no coincidence that the games in which Phillips performed well, North’s reserve side won.
At senior level, he impressed with his calm and composed delivery inside 50, evidenced by his 8 score involvements in the win over Gold Coast.
With another pre-season and more midfield time under his belt, Phillips should start to accumulate more of the football as he progresses through his career.
He’s already proven that he’s a classy and efficient user with ball in hand, and he has the mentality and drive to make it at the top level.
The 2021 season proved to be a great season of adjustment and development for the first-year player, who will be firmly looking forward to a step up in 2022.
Round 15 v Gold Coast
12 disposals, 4 tackles, 2 clearances, 8 score involvements.
Seeing the number 29 on the back of a royal blue and white jumper again was a privilege in 2021, and with goals like this, it’s easy to see why Will Phillips has been trusted to carry on its legacy.
The fans said:
@NMFCOfficial great to see Will Phillips improving. Thought he was awesome tonight, 1%'ers galore ??????— Knackers79 (@Woolxy79) July 12, 2021
The coaches said:
“We’ve got to remember Will didn’t play last year because of Covid at all. We had to give those guys a little bit of time to find their feet again. He’d come straight in from playing school and under 18 football to playing against men, with a year off. It was always going to take Will a little bit of time, but with him earning a bit more midfield time in the second half of the season, I reckon we’ve seen glimpses of why he was picked up so early. When he works out how to do that a bit more consistently through games I can see him playing a big, big role and having a huge future at our footy club.” - Brent Harvey (development coach).
30. Charlie Comben
1 game; 1 goal, 6 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 score involvements.
After stress fractures in his back derailed his 2020 campaign, Charlie Comben put together a strong body of work in the 2021 pre-season, to get his body ready for AFL football.
Unfortunately though, he suffered further stress injuries, this time to his tibia, ruling him out for the bulk of the season.
Utilising his time on the sidelines by working hard in the gym, he made his return in a practice game in mid-July, kicking four goals in just one half of football, showcasing why he is so highly rated within the walls of Arden Street.
His first competitive appearance in North colours followed, as he was named in the side that defeated Port Melbourne in the VFL.
While kicking two goals for the day, it was his ability to impact marking contests all over the ground that impressed, whether it be through taking strong, contested grabs, or bringing the ball to ground.
The key-forward’s effort to return from injury was rewarded with a Round 22 debut against Sydney, where he kicked a goal after the siren in the narrow loss.
Frustratingly, Comben suffered a broken collarbone in the final main training session of the year, ruling him out for the Round 23 clash against Adelaide.
Comben’s North journey so far has been filled with roadblocks, and the mental toughness shown to return from two serious injuries should not be underestimated.
He showed mountains of promise when he got on the park in 2021, and if the key forward gets a clean run in 2022, who knows what he could be capable of.
After being made to fight tooth and nail for his debut, Charlie Comben overcame his injury setbacks to become Shinboner #1037. While he didn’t get his dream debut win, he did kick a dream debut goal.
The fans said:
What an impressive young man . And going to be an impressive young player . Well done Charlie.— Gavan Wignall (@gavanwignall) August 15, 2021
The coaches said:
“It was fantastic for Charlie to get back from a long layoff to get a game this year. He put in an enormous amount of work to get himself prepared to play that game. For him, like all players, there’s no ceiling. It’s just about getting some continuity into his training and his body to allow him to perform at AFL level.” - Heath Younie (forward coach).
31. Connor Menadue
7 games; 14.7 disposals, 5.1 marks, 1.3 tackles, 2.3 score involvements, 4.7 intercepts per game.
North Melbourne added some AFL experience to its defensive stocks in selecting Connor Menadue in the rookie draft, and he came into the senior side to make an immediate impact.
A late inclusion in Round 1 due to the absence of Luke McDonald, Menadue impressed with 16 touches on his North debut.
He wouldn’t be seen at senior level again until Round 6, after which he played five straight games as North approached they bye.
He put in arguably the greatest performance of his career against Collingwood in Round 8, performing strongly in in the back six and on the wing, as he cut out attack after attack.
Menadue was omitted from the side after the Round 11 loss to St Kilda, and moved into the forward line for the remainder of the season at VFL level.
He was delisted at the conclusion of the 2021 season.
Round 8 v Collingwood
25 disposals, 88 per cent disposal efficiency, 6 marks, 3 tackles, 11 intercepts.
Former Tiger Connor Menadue may have thought his AFL career was finished, but then North came calling. He became Shinboner #1030 in Round 1 against Port Adelaide.
The coaches said:
“Connor had some experience coming from Richmond, so he knew what AFL football was about. He was able to show that when he had his opportunities. We were pleased with his ability to come into the side at the start of the year and perform.” - John Blakey (defensive coach).
32. Jacob Edwards:
Selected with the first pick in the mid-season draft, the second half of 2021 was always going to be a transitional six months for Jacob Edwards.
Still completing year 12, the forward/ruck prospect was unable to train with North Melbourne outside school holidays due to school commitments. Despite this though, he still integrated well into the playing group.
He impressed in his solitary VFL appearance and provided a strong lead-up and marking target inside North’s forward 50, kicking his first goal late in the game to seal victory.
After signing a contract extension in August, Edwards has committed his exciting future to North Melbourne, and will look to gain more open age football experience in 2022 following a strong pre-season.
After some impressive moments in his VFL debut, Jacob Edwards stepped up to kick the sealer against Port Melbourne.
The coaches said:
“He’s only a young boy still completing year 12 at school, so we didn’t expect too much from him. Coming in mid-season is very hard to do. For a guy who’s so tall, he needs to put on a little bit of weight, but getting him in the gym over pre-season will certainly help that. We saw a couple of glimpses in the VFL that he’s going to be a good player both forward or in the ruck, which is going to be nice for us.” - Brent Harvey (development coach).