The midfield engine room is often where the games are won or lost. Allowing your team first use of the ball going forward is a necessity for a side that wants to compete and win.

North Melbourne has revamped and reloaded its midfield list heading into 2021, successfully acquiring young and exciting talent over the off-season.

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Jaidyn Stephenson has arrived from Collingwood, and despite the former NAB Rising Star playing most of his career in the forward line, he has made no secret of his ambitions to move into the middle of the ground.

The most was made of a strong draft position, with inside midfielders Will Phillips and Tom Powell drafted with picks three and 13 respectively, while the versatile Charlie Lazzaro was selected with pick 36.

Two-time Syd Barker Medallist Ben Cunnington will hope for a successful return from the back injury that plagued his 2020, while Todd Goldstein enters his 16th season at Arden Street as one of the best rucks in the competition.

With a strong mix of youth and experience in the middle of the ground, new coach David Noble has a crop of strong and versatile players ready to compete for a spot in the centre of the ground.

Players to watch

Jy Simpkin
Elected as a vice-captain despite only being 23 years of age, 2020 saw Jy Simpkin breakout as not only a player, but a leader as well.

Polling career-highs in average disposals, tackles and clearances per game, Simpkin finished off the year with a nomination for the AFL’s 22Under22 side.

With the ability to glide through the contest, Simpkin is the type of player who can get fans off their seats. As one of the leaders in North’s midfield, his innate knack to find time in tight spaces will be key in allowing North’s forwards first use of the ball.

Luke Davies-Uniacke
After only managing nine games in 2020 due to injury, fans will be hoping Luke Davies-Uniacke follows in Jy Simpkin’s footsteps and be the breakout star of the season.

Drafted in 2017, 'LDU' has shown improvement in each of his seasons at North Melbourne, and will be hoping another year of adding strength, size and experience to his game can catapult him into the upper echelon of the Roos' players. 

His ability to break through the contest was on full display in this pre-season’s AAMI Community Series clash against Hawthorn, as he collected 21 disposals and kicked a goal.

With Jack Ziebell moving into defence for the foreseeable future, Davies-Uniacke could very quickly become an important cog in the North midfield.

Ben Cunnington
The quality Ben Cunnington brings to the table isn’t be easily forgotten, despite a difficult 2020 season.

Cunnington only played three games for the season due to a persistent back injury, with his season finishing after the Tound 5 fixture against the Western Bulldogs.

Despite a recent concussion, Cunnington looks to have shaken the injury that plagued him last season and looks primed to remind the competition of his quality.

A leader by example, Cunnington possesses the ability to burst out of the contest and break through tackles, with efficient and consistent ball usage being a major hallmark of his game.

Tom Powell
Selected with pick 13 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, Tom Powell comes to North with the potential to be an elite ball-winner.

The 19-year-old averaged an incredible 33.5 disposals and 8 clearances a game in his draft year with Sturt, and his quick, clean hands will hopefully transition well into AFL level.

Powell secured 16 disposals in just over a half of football in the AAMI Community Series game against Hawthorn, and was one of North’s best performers in the practice match against St Kilda.

With a strong pre-season behind him, Powell is smashing the door down for a debut in 2021.

01:03 Mins
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Training Watch: Tom Powell (January 22, 2021)

North Media hears from the new recruit at Arden Street.

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Jaidyn Stephenson
Arriving on the final day of the trade period, Stephenson will add a touch of class and pedigree to North’s midfield in 2021.

Drafted by Collingwood in 2017, Stephenson played 54 games including the 2018 Grand Final with the Magpies, and kicked 74 goals playing primarily as a forward.

After being drafted as a midfielder, Stephenson is looking to move back into the position that made him such a highly-rated prospect. With the reputation of being a crafty and exciting small forward, his existing experience at AFL level will hold him in good stead for 2021.