In: Winston Abraham
Out: Stuart Anderson
After winning the 1996 premiership and making it to the 1997 preliminary finals, North Melbourne had started to cement itself as one of the best teams of the decade.
So, how do you make a team like that better? It’s simple really, you trade for one of the most exciting players the AFL of the era.
After playing 38 games and kicking 55 goals, including the 1996 Goal of the Year, for Fremantle, Winston Abraham made the move east to Arden Street, and redefined the club’s forward line.
An excitement machine of the same ilk of Cyril Rioli or Eddie Betts, Abraham made a habit out of doing the impossible in the forward 50, whether it be through his high-flying antics or penchant for kicking remarkable goals.
His ridiculous grab over Brendon Lade of Port Adelaide saw him win 1998’s Mark of the Year, becoming one of few players to have won both Mark and Goal of the Year in their careers.
While North fell at the final hurdle in 1998, suffering defeat in the grand final at the hands of Adelaide, Abraham helped his side go one better in 1999, kicking 37 goals in 23 games en route to premiership glory.
His career ended in unfortunate circumstances in 2001, as he suffered a knee injury in the first game of the season that he would never recover from, retiring at the age of just 26.
While Winston Abraham’s career is one of the biggest ‘what if’ questions in AFL history, he burned brightly in his time at the top level.
He set a new precedent across the league for the impact that skilled, unpredictable forwards could have on the game, and it’s easy to see his influence on some of the league’s most slippery and exciting players even to this day.
Stuart Anderson, who North traded in the deal to acquire Abraham, played nine games in the 1998 season before being delisted by the Dockers.