In 2006 North was coming off its worst season in more than two decades. Finishing 14th meant only two clubs were worse; something which hadn't happened since an 11th place finish (out of 12) in 1984.
It signalled a change of focus for how the club would build its list. Trading draft picks away was no longer an option. Previous years had often seen the Kangaroos bring in experienced players at the cost of a chance to select the best youth. In 2005 it was picks 13 and 29 which departed, following 10 and 26 in 2004.
With a new strategy, North didn't take part in the 2006 trade period. It was the first time since 1998 that it had happened. The club went to the National Draft with six selections; starting with pick 3.
An abundance of key position players were rated as top prospects. Considering the age profile of North’s talls, it only made sense for one to make his way to Arden Street.
Jonathan Hay, Sav Rocca and Jade Rawlings all played their final games in 2006, while Joel Perry was delisted and Nathan Thompson would be 29 before the 2007 season begun.
A star junior from Gippsland, Lachlan Hansen, was the man North picked. There was immediately talk of the potential for a great individual rivalry against Scott Gumbleton, who was picked by Essendon with the second selection. Hansen had spent most of his junior career at centre half back, even spending some time on the new Bomber in the Under 18 National Championships.
"A few people mentioned it could be Carey-Jakovich like between them," then-Kangaroos recruiting manager Neville Stibbard said.
"I played on Scott (Gumbleton) in the championships and it was good to play on someone like him. We have a good friendship but once you get on the field it is battle," Hansen said shortly after the draft.
North’s second pick was used on a Queenslander – one of 10 who found their way to an AFL club. With pick 21, the Kangaroos welcomed Gavin Urquhart. Part of the Under 18 Queensland side the last two seasons, his exceptional kicking had the right-footer as a favourite of many recruiters.
He showed glimpses of his talent in his six years at Arden Street, but was delisted after just 41 games.
Initially the club’s next pick was a speculative one. Todd Goldstein was selected at the start of the third round; a former basketballer who had only recently turned to football.
Part of an Oakleigh Chargers side which ended up winning the 2006 TAC Cup, Goldstein’s cameo intrigued clubs. At 201cm and athletic, his basketball background showed in his tap work at ruck contests.
Starting behind the likes of Hamish McIntosh and David Hale, Goldstein’s development started in the VFL. While it took 18 months for the left-footer to make his senior debut, his talent was evident and he later became the club’s undisputed number one ruckman.
One of the best value selections in the draft came at 53. Into the fourth round of a draft, most clubs don’t expect to pick someone who will kick 300+ goals and potentially play 200+ games in his career.
Lindsay Thomas filled a need as a small forward, dangerous at ground level. His form in the draft year had attracted attention; selection in the South Australian Under 18 side while also playing senior SANFL football showed he could deal with a heavy workload.
Debuting at the first possible opportunity, Thomas kicked five behinds in Round 1, 2007 against Collingwood.
It set the tone for his career so far, with Thomas’ journey through AFL football consistently one of the most interesting subplots during the season.
Two medium forwards capped off the 2006 draft for the Kangaroos. Ben Warren was first at pick 69.
While the 186cm Queenslander was a standout at Under 16 level, an injury meant he was unable to appear in his first year for the Under 18’s. However in just 10 games for Zillmere in the State League, Warren kicked 20 goals. All it took was seven appearances at reserves level to win their best and fairest.
Aaron Edwards came to the club as a mature age recruit. Three years at West Coast (2003-2005) had yielded only four games, and after his delisting he came back to Victoria and signed for Frankston in the VFL.
A century of goals for the Dolphins earned him the JJ Liston Trophy as the league’s best and fairest. The side made the preliminary final in large part due to Edwards’ exploits in the forward 50. North would select him with its final pick of the draft.
Games for North
Oakleigh U18, VIC
Port Adelaide, SA