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Key performers: Defenders

With the season over North Media takes a look back at some of the key performers from the season that was, this time focusing on the defence.

Jamie Macmillan

After missing nine games at the end of 2017 with a hand injury, Macmillan’s return to the team in 2018 was a welcome one, providing much-needed experience and leadership.

Macmillan was a consistent and reliable performer throughout the season, and was arguably the Roos’ best in the disappointing loss to the Suns in Round 1, amassing 26 disposals.

The number 34 has established himself as a crucial part of the North Melbourne back six over the years, and this was again the case in 2018, as he played in all 22 games. 

Macmillan showed his leadership qualities, standing tall in big games and in big moments. 

The rebounding defender was one of North’s best in the narrow loss to the Tigers in Round 8, having 20 disposals, and kicking an important goal at the end of the third term to keep North in the game. 

Macmillan’s 12 kicks per game was the highest of his career, and the accuracy of his disposals was impressive.

Director of Coaching Darren Crocker was impressed with the ever-reliable Macmillan’s season. 

“He had a really solid year,” Crocker told North Media. 

“He’s become a really reliable player, that coaches and teammates can really trust. 

“There were games that we really quite outstanding in, and he improved in all of those areas that we really rate. ”

Season highlight

Macmillan was excellent against the Tigers in Round 8, collecting 20 disposals at 90% efficiency, 6 marks, 7 rebound-50s and 7 one-percenters.

Macmillan brings down Josh Caddy in Round 8.

2018 stats

Games - 22 | Ave disposals - 18.6 | Ave marks - 5.0 | Ave tackles - 2.1

Sam Wright

After being out of AFL football for 701 days, Wright made his return to the North lineup for the Round 7 clash with the Swans. 

The popular defender didn’t disappoint on return, helping the Roos to a memorable two-point victory at the SCG. 

Wright returned to some of his best form towards the end of the season. 

The defender found himself as the furthest man forward in the Round 11 win over the Lions, and an inventive goal off his back earned him a nomination for Goal of the Year.

Wright’s return brought a wealth of experience and leadership to the backline, helping the likes of Tom Murphy and Ryan Clarke develop further.

Like any North person, Crocker was delighted to see Wright back in the side. 

“It was great to see Wrighty get back out on the park after such a long lay-off,” Crocker said. 

“He took a little while to grow into it, and finished really strong, especially in the last game against the Saints. 

“His finish to the season will give him confidence and a good platform to grow on going into his first proper pre-season in a few years.”

Season highlight

Wright’s highlight would no doubt have been his return the AFL field in Round 7, and to top it off he had 19 disposals in a memorable win. 

Wright on his return to the team in Round 7.

2018 stats

Games - 16 | Ave disposals - 17.6 | Ave marks - 5.1 | Ave tackles - 1.3

Marley Williams

Like Macmillan, Williams suffered an injury in the back part of 2017, hampering his season. 

But the number two was able to return to the North lineup in Round 1 of 2018, and played in every game of the season for the first time in his career.

One of Brad Scott’s most trustworthy small defenders, Williams often found himself going head-to-head with the best small forwards in the game in 2018. He was a picture of consistency. 

The former Magpie brings energy on and off the field, and is a popular character among his teammates.

Williams celebrated his 100th career match in the Round 20 match with Brisbane at the Gabba. 

Crocker was full of praise for Williams, and highlighted what he brings to the defence.

“It was great to get Marley back playing and to play the whole season,” Crocker said. 

“We really missed him in the back half of last year, and his ability to shut down the opposition’s best small forward and take them out of the game. 

“He’s able to play a lot taller than his size suggests as well, which is really important to us. 

“He provides a lot of energy to the team, and his ability to close down opponents or get a fist in is really important down there. “

Season highlight

Williams was excellent in the Round 16 win over the Suns, having 18 disposals and 7 tackles.

Williams against the Suns.

2018 stats

Games - 22 | Ave disposals - 14.1 | Ave marks - 3.0 | Ave tackles - 2.2 

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs