Run a straw poll of anyone at North Melbourne on who has been the standout performer in this year’s pre-season and it’s a fair chance you’ll hear Tristan Xerri’s name mentioned more than once.
A dominant force in the ruck at VFL level last season, Xerri finished second in the John Law Medal, awarded to North’s best and fairest player in the VFL program. That’s despite the fact he missed a chunk of the VFL season due to playing eight of his 12 AFL matches throughout 2021.
Performances like his 36 disposal, 27 hitout, six-tackle effort in the round-six victory over Essendon made it almost impossible to ignore his credentials for a senior call-up. Once in the senior side though, Xerri spent far more time forward than in his natural ruck role.
Xerri is hoping coach David Noble’s two-ruck policy will hold true into 2022, with his stellar work on the track driven by a desire to perform in both positions as he looks to assert himself at AFL level.
“‘Nobes’ has publicly said before that he likes the idea of playing two rucks who both have the ability to go forward,” Xerri said. “I want to get up and play a bit more ruck … [and] really nail one of those positions down, and work with ‘Goldy’ (Todd Goldstein), CJ (Callum Coleman-Jones), and young Jake Edwards.
“I had a four to six week block [of training] before the Christmas break … I got a good, solid base of work there. I’ve come back in pretty decent nick."
Drafted to the club with the 72nd pick in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft, Xerri saw a potential move to St Kilda fall through after a trade deal could not be reached. Since then, he’s hit the ground running this pre-season, impressing coaches with his application, desire, improvement and physicality.
Xerri says while he did explore St Kilda’s interest in him, he’s happy to still be at Arden Street.
“It was a very interesting time of year. They (St Kilda) showed a bit of interest [in me] and I had a few discussions with my manager. Obviously it didn’t work out at the end of the day, but I’m still in a very privileged position,” Xerri said.
“I love all the boys here, and the coaching staff. It’s a really good place to be. I’m just privileged to be on a list and have that opportunity to play AFL footy.
“There were a few jokes thrown around by the boys … but it was just business as usual. The day after it didn’t go through I was in the gym just chatting away with the boys like nothing had happened.
“The coaches and players have been supportive all the way through.”