With North Melbourne's night of nights just to be held on Saturday night, let's take a look at those who could take home the Syd Barker Medal and etch their name into the club's storied history.

Co-captain Jy Simpkin is the reigning best and fairest winner, having collected his second consecutive Syd Barker Medal this time last year.

Is 2023 the year of the key forward with Nick Larkey coming off a career-best season, or will first-year phenomenon Harry Sheezel become the only Kangaroo ever to win the award as a rookie?

Can Luke Davies-Uniacke join the coveted list of winners despite injuries having limited his season, or will the freshly retired Jack Ziebell finally add a best and fairest medal to his rich resume?

All will be revealed on Saturday, September 16, but for now, we'll take a glance at who’s in the frame to take out North Melbourne's most prestigious prize.


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Syd Barker Medal Contenders

In number order

Harry Sheezel

Previous highest finish: N/A

Rookie seasons don't come much better than Harry Sheezel's 2023.

The No.3 selection of the 2022 draft was a key cog of the Kangaroos' line-up right from the first bounce of the season, as he made the half-back flank his own despite having played as a forward and midfielder as a junior.

Sheezel went on to break the record for most disposals in a debut V/AFL home and away season, and won the coveted AFL Rising Star and the AFL Players Association's Best First Year Player awards in a strong field.

With very few quiet performances, the Sandringham Dragons and AJAX graduate is expected to be at the pointy end of the leaderboard.

Season stats: 23 games, 3 goals; 27 disposals, 441.8 metres gained, 5.4 marks, 5.2 rebound 50s, 4 intercept possessions per game.


Jack Ziebell

Previous highest finish 2nd (2016)

As has been the case for his entire career, Ziebell was an important presence for the Kangaroos in 2023.

Back behind the ball after having spent most of the season prior forward, the veteran clocked 25+ disposals on eight occasions and tallied a personal best for marks in a single game with 18 against the Saints in Round 8.

Although he missed out on the Round 24 win against the Suns, he was pivotal in the team's tight wins over Fremantle and West Coast, and could begin the count with a bang.

Season stats: 22 games, 1 goal; 22.2 disposals, 6.8 marks, 6 rebounds, 5.9 intercept possessions, 415.9 metres gained per game.


Bailey Scott

Previous highest finish: 3rd (2022)

It was a career-best season for the 2018 father-son selection, as he backed up a breakout campaign with an even better one.

Thriving as he rotated through the wings and half-back flanks, Scott averaged 22.1 touches and 5.2 marks per game to grow on the benchmark he set last season.

The 23-year-old was slower to start, but the Round 10 match against Grand Finalists Sydney ignited his season with his 33 disposals, 12 inside 50s, seven clearances, six marks and one goal almost enough to get the Roos over the line.

He went on to notch 25+ disposals another six times following that outing against the Swans, which could see him surge home in Saturday's count.

Season stats: 23 games, 5 goals; 22.1 disposals, 5.2 marks, 3.6 score involvements, 3.5 inside 50s gained per game.


Luke Davies-Uniacke 

Previous highest finish: 2nd (2022)

It's going to be tough for Davies-Uniacke to claim a maiden Syd Barker Medal given he was often absent with injuries, but the No.9 was exceptional when he was able to take the field.

The star midfielder managed 14 games and was one of North Melbourne's best in just about every one, as he averaged 27.4 disposals per game and flashed his quick feet and burst from stoppage.

'LDU' got off to a flying start with maximum AFLCA Champion Player of the Year Award votes from each of the club's first two matches, and put in a massive shift against the Saints later in the year that included 33 possessions (23 contested), 11 clearances, and nine inside 50s.

Season stats: 14 games, 8 goals; 27.4 disposals, 6.7 clearances, 5.5 score involvements, 4.9 inside 50s, 4.5 tackles per game.


Jy Simpkin

Previous highest finish: 1st (2021, 2022)

The co-captain will be gunning for a third consecutive best and fairest award this weekend, but having missed a handful of games to concussion and a broken hand, he'll be on the back foot.

Nevertheless, Simpkin was a standout in several matches for the Kangaroos in 2023, most notably against the Blues on Good Friday when he notched 29 disposals, 11 score involvements, six clearances, and a goal.

Season stats: 18 games, 9 goals; 20.7 disposals, 5 score involvements, 4.2 clearances, 3.9 tackles, 3.8 inside 50s per game.


Nick Larkey

Previous highest finish: 6th (2022)

Nick Larkey's seventh season in the AFL was unequivocally his best.

The key forward smashed through an incredibly accurate 71.24 goals in 2023 to top his previous best of 42.15 (2021), with the high point a haul of nine against Gold Coast in Round 24 to record a single-game personal best.

His efforts as the main man inside forward 50 for the Kangaroos didn't go unnoticed in the AFL world either, as the 25-year-old earned a maiden and well-deserved All-Australian blazer on AFL Awards night.

Given the struggles the club endured on field through the season, Larkey's achievements are all the more significant.

Season stats: 23 games, 71 goals; 9.4 disposals, 4.2 marks per game.


Tarryn Thomas

Previous highest finish: 8th (2021)

Like Davies-Uniacke, it will be difficult for Thomas to top the pack, but an electric second half of the season from the 23-year-old may see him land a spot on the podium.

Following time away from the game, Thomas returned in Round 12 and had a strong influence in both the midfield and the forward line from then on.

He kicked three goals on two occasions and was exceptional against the Tigers in Round 23 when he collected a season-high 25 touches to go with his two majors, five clearances and nine inside 50s.

Season stats: 12 games, 11 goals; 19.6 disposals, 5.7 score involvements, 4.8 tackles, 4.3 clearances, 4.2 inside 50s per game.


Cam Zurhaar

Previous highest finish: 7th (2021, 2022)

Zurhaar showed out across the opening month of the season, as he booted seven goals and averaged 19.3 touches.

He relished an increase in midfield time as well, and left the Round 2 win over Fremantle with a career-high in disposals (26) and clearances (six).

An ankle injury in Round 18 derailed his campaign, but solid outings against the Bombers in Round 12 and the Cats in Round 17 could see him in a strong leaderboard position before his extended absence.

Season stats: 16 games, 20 goals; 16.1 disposals, 5,5 score involvements, 4.7 inside 50s, 2.1 clearances per game.


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.

Last year's winner – Luke Davies-Uniacke

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. 

Last year's winner – Jason Horne-Francis  

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.

Last year's winner – Luke McDonald

Mazda Excellence Award
North Melbourne will again team up with Mazda to recognise the player that best illustrated the traits of class and elite performance. Voted on by the club’s members and fans.

Last year's winner – Luke Davies-Uniacke

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.

Last year's winner – Charlie Lazzaro

2022 award winners
John Law Medal (VFL Best & Fairest) – Dom Tyson
VFL Best Clubman – Jack Watkins
Life Memberships – James Brayshaw, Frank Goode, Jona Segal
Syd Barker Medal Third Place – Bailey Scott
Syd Barker Medal Second Place – Luke Davies-Uniacke
Syd Barker Medal First Place – Jy Simpkin


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