As the NAB AFL Draft swings around every year, the focus tends to be, justifiably, on the top few picks. The ready-made players who can make an impact from their first minutes in AFL football.


Moving through the draft, the talent pool may thin out, but there is always some exceptional talent that gets overlooked, especially, in North Melbourne history, those who slide to pick 47.

North currently holds the 47th selection in 2021, and while the pick movement and compensation due to father/son and academy selections ensures it almost certainly won’t stay there, 47 is, in fact, one of the most important numbers in the history of the club.

In 1995, the club selected a skinny, 17-year-old who, at the time, weighed just 64 kilograms with pick 47. His name? Brent Harvey.

Harvey went on to play 432 games for the club, including the 1999 premiership, and won a record five Syd Barker Medals, cementing his place as one of the greatest players in the history of the club.

He says Arden Street was one of the last places he expected to land on draft night.

“I’d heard absolutely zilch from North Melbourne. Every time North had a pick I just tuned out because I was certain a team who hadn’t spoken to me weren’t going to pick me,” Harvey told North Media.

“The two clubs who showed the most interest in me were Fitzroy and Adelaide. I’d spoken to Adelaide a couple of times, and Fitzroy rang me the night before and said they were going to take me with their pick in the 20’s if I was still there.

“That pick came along, and they didn’t pick me. Adelaide also took a player named Brent Williams. It was like slow motion when they read his name out at about pick 18.

“It got to pick 47 and North had actually asked for a time extension for their pick, I think you could get an extra four minutes to make your decision.

“They read my name out, and I was very, very happy.”

While the preference for taller, bigger-bodied players has grown in recent years, there has always been a trend towards selecting height and size over lack thereof in football.

As the old basketball saying goes, you can’t teach height.

Harvey, though, proved through his career that he was one of the most dangerous mid/forwards in the competition, earning four All-Australian selections across his playing days.

He says that doubting of his ability due to his size, rather than his lower than expected draft selection gave him the drive to improve over his career.

“I was so small in my draft year, and it didn’t help being that year younger. Other than that conversation with Fitzroy I hadn’t been given any indication I was going to get drafted,” Harvey said.

“I went through my whole career with a bit of a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong because I’ve always been so small. The fact I slid to pick 47 didn’t bother me one bit.

“I certainly didn’t know this back then, but once you get to the club it doesn’t matter where you were taken at all. It comes down to who works the hardest and who shows the coaches what they want to see.

“There was a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong, but part of the reason I’ve stayed at North so long is because every other club had the opportunity to pick me up, but they didn’t.

“North showed that faith in me, so I’ve shown that loyalty back to them.”

Since Harvey’s selection in 1995, the draft has evolved into an absolute behemoth of media coverage. Through telecast, phantom drafts, club media content and independent coverage, no fan can be left wanting for information.

After handing his famous number 29 to third overall selection Will Phillips during last year’s draft, Harvey says the difference between his experience and the new man to wear 29 was stark. 

“This might be weird, but I can’t remember if I was watching my draft on TV or listening to it on the radio. All I can remember is sitting at home and concentrating on trying to listen,” he added. 

“I had my parents there, my brother Shane, one of my mates and my girlfriend at the time (Shayne), who’s now my wife.

“The coverage now is ridiculous compared to what it was, but I think it’s a great thing.

“The more we can pump it up and expose these youngsters to people, the better it is. That’s how the American system works, and that’s why all the athletes are so well known from the start, just the massive amount of coverage they get.”