Offence wins games, defence wins titles. This saying can be chopped, changed and applied to almost any sport in the world, and it’s no different in football.

Despite all the personnel changes at North Melbourne after the 2020 season, the back six looks to be as settled as ever.

RELATED: Season Guide - Forwards | Season Guide - Midfielders | Season Guide - Overview 

Robbie Tarrant and Ben McKay will look to continue on from their strong 2020 campaigns, while Luke McDonald is coming off his first Syd Barker Medal win.

While youth has been added across the midfield and forward lines, the back-line has arguably become more experienced.

Aidan Corr adds 98 games at the top level, coming from GWS, while skipper Jack Ziebell is set to take up a role on the half-back flank.

With so much experience set to be playing in defence this season, there will be no better environment for youth to prosper this season.

Kyron Hayden played eight games in 2020 and showed dramatic improvement in every area of his game, while Flynn Perez bounced back from an ACL injury suffered in 2019 to play three impressive games for the season.

New acquisition Atu Bosenavulgai has been training with the defenders for much of pre-season and looks to have found his niche as a pacy, tough tackling intercept player, while former Western Bulldog Lachie Young will split his time between the half-back flank and the wing.

Players to watch

Aidan Corr
The most experienced of North’s new faces this season, Corr has gained a reputation for being one of the most versatile defenders in the AFL. 

Big and strong enough to play on the most powerful key forwards in the competition, but athletic and agile enough to blanket the most crafty goal sneaks, Corr brings an extra dimension of versatility to North’s defence.

A ball-user with elite level efficiency, Corr will be expected to play on players of all sizes over the course of the season, as Ben McKay continues his development as a key defender.

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Aidan Corr interview (January 8, 2021)

Recruit Aidan Corr chats to North Media at training on Friday.

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Jack Ziebell
One of the biggest talking points this pre-season has been the potential move of Ziebell into the back six.

The skipper has played almost every role imaginable in the midfield and up forward, but will come into the defensive unit, having never being consistently utilised in the back six for the entirety of his 218 game career.

A solid kick and exceptional leader, Ziebell’s role will involve him turning defence into attack as he looks to line up in a quarterback like role in the back six.

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Match simulation - Ziebell highlights (February 19, 2021)

Jack Ziebell finds plenty of the ball during Friday's intraclub practice match.

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Ben McKay
Initially drafted as a forward, Ben McKay has slowly but surely transitioned into a more than capable defender at AFL level.

Still only 23, McKay played 11 games in 2020 and impressed with his intercept marking and spoiling.

At 201cm tall he is a monster of a defender who can outmuscle and outmanoeuvre the strongest key forwards the AFL has to offer.

Also dangerous at ground level, McKay’s second efforts in the contest are amongst the best in the competition despite his intimidating frame.

Kyron Hayden
After suffering a ruptured achilles on debut in 2019, Kyron Hayden came back stronger in 2020. A great ball user by hand with a quick footy brain, Hayden is often charged with stopping the opponents most dangerous small forward despite his relative inexperience.

Still only 21, Hayden seemed to improve with every game he played last season, and will be looking to add consistency to his athleticism in 2021.

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Kyron Hayden interview (March 11, 2021)

North Media chats to Kyron Hayden a week out from the 2021 season opener.

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