With North Melbourne’s night of nights fast approaching, who will follow Luke McDonald’s 2020 victory and add their name to the list of club greats to win the Syd Barker Medal?

Will Ben Cunnington add a third medal to his cabinet, or Todd Goldstein a second? Could Jack Ziebell or Aaron Hall’s moves to the backline result in the ultimate club recognition? Or could one North’s young midfield stars in Jy Simpkin push through and rise above the competition?

All will be revealed on Friday, with the event streamed on the club website and app from 7:30pm.

The main event

Syd Barker Medal:
The Syd Barker Medal is awarded to the player who is judged to have been the best and fairest over the past football season, and is the highest individual playing honour available at North Melbourne.

Reigning champion - Luke McDonald

The voting:
The voting system consists of each player earning up to 20 votes in a match, with votes from all home and away games counting towards the final total.

The senior and assistant coaches provide separate votes for each player per round, ranging from 0-10. One vote means a player played their role, and ten votes denotes an exceptional performance.

The countback method will be used in the case of a tied position except in the case of dual-winners, where the player with the most higher polling games will supersede.

The favourites

Presented in number order

Jack Ziebell:
Season stats: 21 games, 2 goals; 25.2 disposals, 7.4 marks, 1.9 tackles, 7.2 rebound 50s, 3.2 one percenters, 6.5 intercepts, 476.4 metres gained per game.

A change of role this season brought out the best of the skipper, with the former midfield/forward player locking down a spot in the back line for every game he was available this year.

Like a general marshalling his troops, the new defensive role amplified the best of Ziebell’s leadership throughout the campaign, however he led by example as much as he led by direction.

A brilliant kick and composed, intelligent ball-user. His accumulation of the football allowed him to launch attacks and set the pace of the game for his young side.

Previous highest finish: 2nd - 2016

Ben Cunnington:
Season stats: 15 games, 9 goals; 26.8 disposals, 4.9 tackles, 7.5 clearances, 15.6 contested possessions, 5.8 score involvements, 4.4 intercepts per game.

The club’s leading vote winner in the Brownlow Medal with 15 votes, Ben Cunnington’s average of one vote per game ranks behind only Gary Ablett Jr for a player in the bottom finishing side.

Cunnington’s experience and quality in the contest not only allowed the likes of Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke to shine, but he was an imperative part of the team’s best performances.

Although he missed seven games for the season, the number 10’s consistent brilliance over the season was enough to still be well and truly in the running for the award.

Previous highest finish: 1st - 2014, 2019

00:57 Mins
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Enjoy Ben Cunnington's finest work in congestion with the ultimate compilation of his best stiff-arms.

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Jy Simpkin:
Season stats: 22 games, 2 goals; 26.9 disposals, 3.8 tackles, 5.1 clearances, 10.7 contested possessions, 4.8 score involvements, 3.1 intercepts per game.

Promoted to co-vice-captain ahead of the 2021 season, the absence of Jack Ziebell in Round 23 saw Simpkin lead the team out for the first time. At the age of just 23, it shows just how highly he’s rated amongst his peers.

A midfield constant for the season, he played every game of the year and never failed to have an impact on games, often being the man his teammates looked to if momentum needed to be turned.

After throwing his name into the realm of elite midfielders in 2021, he set career highs for most major statistics, and could improve on his second placed Syd Barker finish from last season.

Previous highest finish: 2nd - 2020

Aaron Hall:
Season stats: 20 games, 2 goals; 27.9 disposals, 7.5 marks, 2.2 tackles, 4.5 score involvements, 4.1 intercepts per game.

Much like Ziebell, a change of role for Aaron Hall brought the best out of his game in 2021.

Undoubtedly the side’s playmaker out of the back line, his teammates looked to get the ball in his hands as much as possible to allow him to launch the ball forward with power and efficiency.

After missing the first game of the season, and being named medical substitute for Round 2, Hall’s ability to put together a career-best season represents an incredible turnaround for the veteran.

Previous highest finish: 16th, 2020

02:25 Mins
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Hall signs new deal (September 1, 2021)

After a career-best season in defence in 2021, Aaron Hall has committed to the Kangaroos after signing on to stay at Arden Street.

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The ‘smokeys’

Presented in number order

Luke Davies-Uniacke:
Season stats: 20 games, 6 goals; 21.9 disposals, 4.8 marks, 3.2 tackles, 4.5 clearances, 9.6 contested possessions, 2.3 intercepts per game.

‘LDU’ took his game to another level in 2021, adding a level of consistency to his game that hadn’t been seen before.

With the physical power and dancing feet to break out of packs, Davies-Uniacke became a bona fide midfield threat over the season, working in tandem with fellow midfield guns Ben Cunnington and Jy Simpkin.

Some huge performances against Hawthorn and Richmond have the potential to poll exceptionally well, and the young star is a certainty to improve on his previous best placed finish of 12th.

Previous highest finish: 12th - 2020

02:16 Mins
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Davies-Uniacke in action (Round 21, 2021)

Midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke was brilliant on Saturday against Richmond on his way to a career-best 38 disposals.

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Nick Larkey:
Season stats: 22 games, 42 goals; 9.6 disposals, 3.8 marks, 1.2 tackles, 1.1 contested marks, 4.7 score involvements per game.

Much like the rest of the forward line, Nick Larkey struggled early in the season, but he turned his campaign around to finish as North’s leading goal kicker for 2021.

While a key forward’s effectiveness depends largely on the quality of service, his unwavering accuracy saw him register at least one goal in 18 of his 22 appearances, including kicking multiple goals in 10 of his last 12 games.

It can’t be argued that Larkey didn’t play his role well in most, if not all games of the season, and his consistency over the year could see him climb up the leaderboard.

Previous highest finish: 17th - 2020

Todd Goldstein:
Season stats: 22 games, 12 goals; 14.3 disposals, 29.6 hitouts, 3.6 marks, 1.9 tackles, 3.5 clearances, 3.9 one percenters, 3.8 score involvements per game.

Todd Goldstein is like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better with age.

Once again playing every game for the season, his consistency and longevity in one of the most brutal positions on the field has been incredible, and that consistency is why he’s, once again, a strong chance to win the Syd Barker Medal.

After overtaking Aaron Sandilands for the most hitouts in AFL history, he’s already reached one major milestone in 2021. Could adding his name to the ranks of multiple Syd winners be the next?

Previous highest finish: 1st - 2015

Ben McKay:
Season stats: 22 games; 9.6 disposals, 88.6 per cent disposal efficiency, 4.3 marks, 1.4 tackles, 7 one percenters, 4.7 intercepts per game.

There is perhaps no player on North’s list that plays their role as perfectly and unassumingly as ‘Buckets’, with the key defender once again taking his game to the next level in 2021.

With fellow key defenders Scott Thompson and Robbie Tarrant both winning Syd Barker Medals in the past decade, the award is by no means biased towards goal kickers and midfield maestros. The defenders get their deserved praise too.

An ever-present in the side, he often silenced the opposition’s most dangerous key forward, and elite performances on the likes Tom Hawkins and Tom Lynch could see him poll well over the season.

Previous highest finish: 9th - 2020

Tarryn Thomas:
Season stats: 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. 

Fans have run out of superlatives for Tarryn Thomas over this season, with the young forward’s transition into the midfield reaping huge benefits for the exciting youngster.

A slow start to the season could limit his potential to be amongst the leaders early, but his strong finish to the year could see him shoot into contention.

As North’s second leading vote winner in the Brownlow Medal, he could well have enough high-polling games to, at the very least, challenge those at the top of the count.

Previous highest finish: 12th, 2019

01:17 Mins
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Tarryn Thomas highlights (2021)

Midfielder Tarryn Thomas took a giant leap forward in his development in 2021, take a look at some of the highlight's

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The other awards

Glenn Archer Shinboner of the Year
This award epitomises the club values – real, bold, belonging and never beaten. Each week the players nominate who they believe stands for the Shinboner values, with the winner having accumulated the most individual votes over the season.

Reigning champion - Luke McDonald

Best Young Player
The Best Young Player award acknowledges those players who have been making their mark within the Club and the AFL in the last two years. This award is voted by the coaching staff. 

Reigning champion - Bailey Scott

Harold Henderson Best Clubman
The Harold Henderson Best Clubman Award is for the player who epitomises everything about unselfishness, has a team-first attitude, goes beyond the call of duty, not just on the field for the 22 players selected each week, but for the whole playing list and club.

Reigning champion - Luke McDonald

Mazda Excellence Award
In 2021, North Melbourne again teamed up with Mazda to recognise the player that best illustrated the traits of class and elite performance, and was voted on by the club’s members and fans.

Reigning champion - Luke McDonald

2020 Peter Scanlon Community Award:
This award exemplifies the spirit of giving, going the ‘extra mile’ on numerous occasions, that have made significant contributions to our community, often without recognition, and never expecting fanfare.

Reigning champion - Ed Vickers-Willis