North Melbourne chairman Ben Buckley has penned the below update to the club's members and supporters. 

Thank you for your ongoing support and patience since the conclusion of the season. I know it’s been a terribly testing and difficult year for everyone, and I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are keeping well in the circumstances and are taking care of each other.

On the field, we have had a difficult year too and are looking forward to putting a full stop to 2020. I am pleased to say, we are already well down the path in planning for next season and have identified many areas where we can improve.

While the season didn’t pan out the way we would have liked or intended, we are buoyed by a promising future and the undeniable support of our members. To have retained 97 per cent of our membership base in what’s been a challenging year for us all, particularly for those in Victoria, it is remarkable and says so much about the type of people we have supporting our great club. Your commitment and resilience is extraordinary and we thank you for everything you’ve done for us and hope to welcome you back to our games next season.

In no way can we afford to brush over what was a year below our standards and while we know our team was restricted by injury which compromised our ability to field our best side, our performances were not at the level we expect. As a result, and like we do at the end of every year, we are looking at our football department structure, list-management, coaching panel, high-performance, and medical areas and programs in an effort to improve across the board. There has been change, and there will be more, but we are not going to apologise for trying to make this club better.

To those we’ve recently bid farewell to, I’d like to personally thank you for your hard work, and wish you well for the future.

I’m delighted John Blakey will be returning to his spiritual home for next season and beyond as senior assistant coach. He is a person of great character, has wonderful experience having coached at the Brisbane Lions during their successful era, and more recently was part of the foundation of the culture that led to the success of the Sydney Swans. We will continue to add more resources and expertise to our coaching panel.

Late last year we brought in high-quality individuals to lead the football department in Brady Rawlings, Scott Clayton and this year promoted Glenn Luff to list manager. We have every confidence in the upcoming Trade, Free Agency and Draft periods and will add more talent that will lead us back up the ladder in coming years. As I’ve said many times before, the group leading our football department will build something special, but they need time to do it; we can’t be too quick to judge such a major transformation.

On the field, Luke McDonald enjoyed his best season to date, Todd Goldstein showed no signs of slowing down along with the ever-reliable Robbie Tarrant. Jy Simpkin emerged as a genuine midfielder and Jed Anderson took his game to a new level, both ably supported by the super consistent Trent Dumont. We found a fantastic player in Josh Walker and have an exciting crop of talented players coming through the ranks with five Rising Stars in the past two years and a strong hand in the upcoming national Draft with two first-round picks (currently 2 & 9).  We will also look to add more talent through all the avenues available to us over the next two to three years. At our core, we have some seasoned and experienced players that will guide and develop this new wave of players and help us push for success sooner rather than later. I for one, can’t wait to have a fit Ben Cunnington, Kayne Turner, Taylor Garner and Jack Ziebell back out there mixing it with our next generation including the likes of Luke Davies-Uniacke, Tarryn Thomas, Curtis Taylor, Jy Simpkin, Nick Larkey, Cam Zurhaar, Ben McKay, Bailey Scott, Kyron Hayden and last year’s draftees – Jack Mahony, Flynn Perez and Charlie Comben.

We have been acutely aware of speculation regarding our head coach, but we have not been in a position to say anything as we are respecting the wishes of Rhyce and his family. Rhyce has asked for some time and space away from football and we have provided him support during this period. We thank the media for their ongoing cooperation and trust they understand we can’t make further comment at this time.

In the meantime, we will forge ahead. From a Board perspective, our decision-making centres around one ambition: how we can build a team and a football program that will win our fifth flag.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to set out the facts about our financial position and business:

- We have recorded a profit for each of the last eight years (and 12 out of the last 13 years). Despite the challenges of 2020, we will post another small surplus this year, to make it nine years in a row. This has been achieved through prudent financial management and despite not playing any games in Tasmania in 2020

- We have achieved these outcomes while ensuring we allow the football department to pay the soft cap and TPP limits

- Our debt hit a peak of $9M at the end of 2011.  At the commencement of 2012, we put in place a debt reduction campaign and thanks to our members and sponsors, debt is expected to be completely eliminated by the end of 2021

- Debt could have been paid off in 2019 but a strategic decision was made to invest in a facility redevelopment to accommodate our expansion, including our AFLW team

- That $6.2M redevelopment of our facilities in 2019 was mostly funded by the Club and we thank all the wonderful North Melbourne people who contributed generously to that project

- At the end of 2019, we had a debt position of $650K. We will reduce this by a further $250K bringing the debt down to $400K at the end of October 2020. By 2021 we hope to have wiped debt completely – that’s $9M in just 10 years while investing in football and our facilities

- Like the other unassisted clubs, we have not needed to access AFL funding assistance in 2020 from the AFL’s line of credit during this COVID-19 period (since April 2020)

- While the majority of AFL clubs receive variable funding from the AFL above the base distribution, in 2019 North received the 6th highest variable funding. Variable funding is a key plank of the equalisation policy and why the AFL competition has been so successful in recent decades

- We have the bulk of our sponsorship revenue secured for next year and are proud to welcome global insurance brand, AIA, to our partner family and we are particularly grateful for the ongoing support of our major partner, Mazda, as well as Spirit of Tasmania, Hello Solar, PFD Foods and McDonald’s. We will also have some further big announcements to make in due course

- We are viewed as an anchor tenant, critical to the success of the exciting Arden Precinct urban renewal project; Melbourne's largest urban renewal project earmarked to create more than 34,000 jobs and become home to 15,000 residents. This presents a generational opportunity for us to cement our future in North Melbourne and expand our home base at Arden St. We have invested significant energy into getting the best outcome for the club and our community. We will update you on our plans as they evolve.

I hope the information above gives you a better understanding of where things are at and why we are supremely confident of our future and direction. These are just a few of the facts, and the reason why our club is in a strong position off the field.

In closing, thank you again for your patience, loyalty and support. None of the above would be possible without you - the very lifeblood of our club.

We look forward to seeing what our AFLW team can achieve with new coach, Darren Crocker at the helm. Last year our girls were destined for great things after topping their conference, but the season was ended prematurely, and no premier was determined. This year, we expect them to start where they left off and go all the way. 

Go Roos!

Ben Buckley
Chairman, NMFC