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.
43. Aaron Hall
20 games, 2 goals; 27.9 disposals, 7.5 marks, 2.2 tackles, 4.5 score involvements, 4.1 intercepts per game.
The AFL is a constantly evolving beast, and players have to evolve with the competition or risk being left behind, and the evolution of Aaron Hall in 2021 has been nothing short of remarkable.
After missing Round 1 against Port Adelaide and being named as medical substitute for Round 2, Hall has become an integral part of North Melbourne’s back six from both an attacking and defensive perspective.
A model of consistency over the season, he finished with over 100 ranking points in 14 of his last 15 games, and ranked first in the AFL for metres gained per game (637.35).
While it was his ball use that garnered the most praise from fans and media, Hall’s defensive output steadily improved as the season progressed. He was still learning on the job.
Traditionally an exciting forward or wing player, he grew into his role over the course of the campaign, increasing his averages for one percenters and intercepts per game after the bye.
One of North’s AFLPA MVP nominees, Hall put together the best season of his North career, and arguably his best season in the AFL. At the age of 31, that’s no mean feat.
After recently re-signing for the 2022 season, his leadership within this young group will not only help his teammates improve, but with a full season in defence under his belt, he could take his game to another level in 2022.
Round 13 v GWS
35 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 791 metres gained, 6 score involvements, 6 intercepts.
After a season filled with quality performances, Aaron Hall was given a just reward in the form of a contract extension.
The fans said:
Aaron Hall must be one of the favourites for the Syd Barker medal this year. ??????— Sue McLelland ?????????? (@SueRoo2) August 17, 2021
The coaches said:
“This would have to be one of Aaron’s most consistent seasons. He had a great year for us and he’s become a very important cog in our ball movement out of the back line. He has a great ability to break lines, link us up and create scores. It was a terrific year from him.” - John Blakey (defensive coach).
44. Cam Zurhaar
20 games, 31 goals; 11.8 disposals, 3.8 marks, 2.9 tackles, 4.8 score involvements per game.
With his early season struggles and eventual resurgence, there’s no player who more accurately represents North Melbourne’s season that Cam Zurhaar.
Going goalless for his first five games of the year, he was trialled through the midfield and even in defence to try to change his fortunes and lift his form, and once he got going he was almost unstoppable.
Two goals in Round 8 against Collingwood was the spark that set his season alight, and four goals in the victory over Hawthorn kick started his campaign.
Kicking a goal every game between Round 8 and Round 22, there are few players in the AFL who could consistently impact the scoreboard like Zurhaar did, and his one-two punch with Nick Larkey was lethal in the second half of the year.
Playing through a shoulder problem over the last few games, there’s no doubting that the ability to play through the pain and still impact the contest endeared him to fans more than even the most complete footballing performance could.
Setting the tone on the field with his consistent defensive efforts and hard, aggressive playing style, ‘The Bull’ is reminiscent of great Kangaroos players of the past, and it’s easy to forget he is still just 23 years of age.
After a full off-season of rest and recuperation, if Zurhaar can start next season in the manner he finished this one and maintain that consistency all year, he could become one of the most influential forwards in the competition.
Round 15 v Gold Coast
24 disposals, 2 goals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 4 clearances, 9 score involvements.
The game that kickstarted both North Melbourne and Cam Zurhaar’s season, our number 44 kicked four goals on the way to victory over Hawthorn.
The fans said:
Yep. Zurhaar will be even more dominant in 2022 with Comben and Larkey taking tall defenders and the fact Cam, at 190cm, is a bloody hard match-up.— Nick Ansell (@NickAnsell) August 9, 2021
The coaches said:
“Cam started to understand his game a lot more as the season progressed, and what his contribution to the team is made up of. I thought the biggest shift was his ability to be selfless and put the team first. As a result of that he was able to get some individual reward. After Round 5 he hit the scoreboard every week, so for 13 weeks straight he was able to kick goals. He also contributed to other phases of the game. It was a fantastic year by Cam, not just on scoreboard impact but how he contributed to the whole forward line.” - Heath Younie (forwards coach)