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.
40. Eddie Ford
4 games, 3 goals; 9.5 disposals, 5.2 marks, 1 tackle, 1 intercept, 4.8 score involvements per game.
North Melbourne’s final selection in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, the Kangaroos look to have unearthed a gem in Eddie Ford.
Selected with the 56th pick in the draft, much of Ford’s key development in 2021 occurred at VFL level, with the young forward only being sighted at AFL level for the first time in Round 16 as medical substitute.
Awarded his playing debut in Round 20 against Geelong, the number 40 didn’t look back once afforded his chance, playing the final four games of the year.
Playing as an undersized key forward at VFL level saw him adapt well to the pace and power of senior football, as he often competed with and beat the opposition’s best defender, while occasionally running through the midfield.
In the AFL side, Ford was utilised as a genuine mid-sized forward, and he impressed in his movement up the ground to find the football as well as his forward craft inside 50.
It was against Sydney though where fans truly saw the potential of Ford, as he consistently impacted the scoreboard and opened the ground up for teammates, finishing with 2 goals and a game high 10 score involvements.
After being given a well-earned taste of senior football at the back end of the year, the onus is now on Ford to cement his spot in the side and make himself indispensable to North’s forward line in 2022.
Round 22 v Sydney
11 disposals, 2 goals, 7 marks, 2 intercepts, 10 score involvements.
After impressing at VFL level for weeks on end, Eddie Ford was finally afforded his AFL opportunity late in the season.
He repaid that faith in spades, including achieving the dream of kicking his first goal at senior level.
The fans said:
Absolute Hidden Gem. Great stuff Fordy— Ben Tyler (@BenTyler13) August 17, 2021
The coaches said:
“From the start of the season, I think the biggest thing for the young kids is understanding AFL football has structures. When they play junior football they just go and play, and you get away with it. When you come up to the AFL and the VFL you have to play within the structure. I think Eddie took a little bit of time to grasp that, but once he did I thought he was fantastic. He’s a player that we’re going to see potentially take mark of the year with the way he flies at the ball. He’s really hard at it. He’s got a little bit to work on, but once he understands how to use his work rate in an AFL game he’s going to play a lot of football for us.” - Brent Harvey (development coach)
41. Matt McGuinness
After a strong pre-season with the VFL side, including a two-goal performance in the wind and rain against Port Melbourne, Matt McGuinness looked set to take his development to the next level in 2021.
A versatile, left-footed tall, McGuinness has experienced development across a number of positions in his time at North, whether that be key defence, key forward, ruck, or even on the wing.
After 18 disposals against Geelong in Round 1, he looked set to cement himself as a key cog in the VFL forward line, and even potentially push for a senior debut.
After suffering a Lisfranc injury against Frankston in Round 2 though, his season was unfortunately over, eventually undergoing surgery in July to fix the issue.
A rangy player with good footballing smarts, McGuinness’ time at North has been consistently interrupted by injury, and should he get a clear run at 2022, it will be interesting to see just how far he could develop.
The coaches said:
“He had a pretty interrupted season through injury. For him it’s all about getting a clean run at it. The off-season becomes really important for him in terms of getting his body right to give him the best opportunity in whatever position he plays. He’s versatile and has played a bit of key defence, key forward and ruck, so he just needs a clean run.” - Heath Younie (forwards coach).
9 games, 6 goals; 11.1 disposals, 3.9 marks, 10.8 hitouts, 1.7 clearances, 2.4 intercepts per game.
In his third season on North Melbourne’s list, 2021 offered Tom Campbell his most consistent run in the senior side during his time at the club.
After three games in two seasons, Campbell played eight consecutive games from Round 4 to Round 11, and played crucial role in the victory over Hawthorn as he registered 12 hitouts and 4 tackles.
Utilised in a support role behind Todd Goldstein and Nick Larkey, Campbell offered a secondary marking target and ruck option in the forward 50 for much of his time in the senior side, while he also contested centre bounces when Goldstein was resting forward or off the ground.
While he only played one more senior game after the bye, the intangibles Campbell brings to North’s list cannot be underestimated, with his professionalism and leadership proving crucial in the guidance of the young side.
He’s been a huge influence on the likes of Charlie Comben, Tristan Xerri and Jacob Edwards, and Campbell’s professionalism and team first mentality is helping mould North’s next generation of key position talent.
Round 8 v Collingwood
19 disposals, 84.2 per cent disposal efficiency, 8 marks, 3 tackles, 1 goal, 4 score involvements.
After being drafted in 2012, Tom Campbell reached the milestone of 50 senior games the hard way.
Utilised as a backup for much of his career, playing his 50th game against the Magpies in Round 8 is a testament to the hard work and graft he’s put in over his playing career.
The coaches said:
“It was great to see ‘TC’ get a block of games. When he brings is an aggressive nature, jumps strongly and follows the ball up, he performs really well for us. It’s just the consistency time and time again, week after week is something Tom is chasing. It’s about understanding the patterns and putting himself in a position to be able to compete depending on where the game sits.” - Jordan Russell (midfield coach).