Arden Street is a special place. For many who walk through the doors at North Melbourne’s traditional it quickly becomes home, whether they be a mature aged recruit, a fresh-faced 18-year-old, or a member of staff.
When Hamish McIntosh was selected by North with the ninth pick at the 2002 National Draft, little did he know he would form a near unshakable bond with such a special club who appreciated him, as much as he appreciated it.
Playing 107 games in his time at the club, persistent injuries arguably prevented the 203-centimetre ruck from fulfilling his potential, however he was a key part of the successful North teams of the mid 2000s and early 2010s.
One of the great North people of his era, the passion with which McIntosh speaks about the club is contagious, and is almost as admirable as his incredible and undoubted footballing ability.
This is North Media’s, ‘Where Are They Now?’
Is there a particular player you want to hear from next? Let us know at @NMFCOfficial on socials.
It took you a little while to break into the side and play your first game. As a young player and a pretty high draft pick, did you feel any pressure from supporters to make an immediate impact at the club?
I wouldn’t say I felt pressure, but to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect when I got drafted. I guess as an 18-year-old kid coming from the Bushrangers I thought we used to train hard, but then you get to an AFL side and you realise how far off you are. I realised the expectations on myself were going to be a bit further off than I’d hoped. I was probably a bit similar to ‘Goldy’ (Todd Goldstein) too when he got to the club, that I had work to do, I had to get fitter, I had to get stronger, I had to work on my skills, I had to work on everything to challenge for a spot in the side since we already had established rucks there. I was aware I was a fair way off, so I just had to put my head down. It probably didn’t take me until my fourth or fifth year for me to realise the opportunity I had, and from there the work ethic kicked in to really make the most of my opportunity and my career.
From your draft class, if you include the rookie draft, North ended up with 10 new players going into that next season. What was it like to be part of such a young core group at the start of your career?
It was pretty cool, I’m still close mates with a lot of those guys now. We had a young group, a tight group, it was exciting for us all to come through because we still had a lot of club greats around us, the likes of Shannon Grant, Anthony Stevens, David King, Adam Simpson, Brent Harvey, all these superstars were around us as this young group was coming through at the same time. There was no doubt there were plenty of us that needed a lot of work, and a few of us managed to have a decent career through that group. ‘Spud’ (Michael Firrito) played for 14-15 years, Daniel Wells had a fantastic career, I managed to play a few games and there were others that sort of drip-fed through. It was exciting then and we’re close friends still. You’ve definitely taken me back to a good time mate, but it was a long time ago now.
You made your debut against Adelaide and they had a pretty formidable ruck pairing of Rhett Biglands and Ben Hudson, a couple of big strong bodies. What did you make of your first game at the top level?
I was 21 and craving an opportunity. I felt my form was pretty good that year and finally that opportunity arose. I came in and even at that point, I realised I’d worked pretty hard to deserve a game, but even at that point I found out I still had a lot of work to do in terms of my strength at fitness. I played the game, had about 6 touches in 20 minutes and got dropped the week after. It definitely gave me a taste of what I needed to do and where I needed to get to. It was probably the end of that season when it really clicked that I needed to get fitter and stronger and improve my work ethic. From there I feel like my career definitely took off in a more positive light.
It was only a couple of years after your debut in 2007 that you really cannoned into All-Australian contention and you made the extended squad. North was absolutely flying at the time. How did it feel to be such a key part of such a good side for those few years?
It was awesome. That was my favourite year of playing AFL football. It was a different year, we’d had an average end to 2006 so the coaching staff and fitness staff brought us back early. We had our first fitness test on October 6, the first week after the grand final. We started training officially by mid-October, so it was a really long build-up and we all got incredibly fit. It was probably something I needed, that extra-long pre-season around the group and the fitness staff to really drive me. I had an opportunity in the ruck with David Hale going in as a key forward and I was driven to make that spot my own. It all came together for everyone as a group, we lost our first three games but then we won our next six. It was just an amazing season, we made the prelim final obviously and had some great times on the field. Off the field the group was as tight as any group I’ve ever been around and it was just a fantastic season. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite make the pinnacle but it still gives me a lot of joy thinking about the great times of that year.
Todd Goldstein has been a great player for North for so long, you were obviously at the club and a little bit more established than he was at the time, how much influence do you think you had on the player he’s ended up becoming?
All the ruckmen who were at the club at the time, myself, Goldy and David Hale had a tight-knit group where we all tried to improve and get the best out of each other. We all took bits of each other’s games to help us improve all individually. With ‘Goldy ‘coming through and David and I being the senior rucks at the time, we assisted and helped where we could to make him a better player, and we ended up making him such a good player I had to leave! That’s just a credit to the work he’s put in over his career and it’s fantastic to see. It’s always good to see great North people go well and he deserves everything he gets. He’ll keep hitting those milestones flying and there’s no doubt he’s got plenty more in the tank.
You ended up at Geelong for a couple of years after leaving North. How did that transition to another side come about?
You could see the improvement that was happening in Todd (Goldstein) and you could tell he was going to be a fantastic ruckman. In 2011-12 my body started breaking down quite regularly and then Todd came in and began playing really well as the number one ruck. It was either stay at North and play the majority of my time as a second ruck/forward and try to take ‘Goldy’ out of the side, which was going to be difficult considering how well he was going, or look for other opportunities. In the middle of 2012 I hurt my PCL again and I realised it was probably time to move on and try to become the number one ruck somewhere else and that’s where the opportunity with Geelong arose. I always imagined being a one club player which I would have loved to be, but in the end if I’d have stayed at North for that period of time I imagine my career would have probably finished a lot earlier than it did, so I moved onto Geelong and had a great experience down there for a few years.
Unfortunately playing careers can’t last forever, so how did you help set yourself up for life after footy while you were playing, and what industry are you in at the moment?
The only benefit of getting injured so often in my career is, especially in the last four or five years, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do after football and start setting myself up. My only other passion outside of football was real estate and I was very interested in it throughout my career. Towards the back end of my career I started doing a lot of work and education in that field. I ventured into real estate as soon as I finished and now I’m working at a company called MoneyLab at One Haven, where I head up our property division while also doing a bit of stuff in the finance space. I’ve also got a company called Footy Smarts which I’m the director of, which is a coaching site where we assist local clubs by helping their junior coaches and junior players by giving them any support they want, essentially helping coaches get better in terms of the aspects of their career or helping the junior footballers become better players. I’m sort of splitting my time between both of those and really enjoying it.
It sounds like you have an interest in the coaching side of things. Did you ever see coaching as a viable pathway for you when you finished playing?
Not really, I was always open to doing a bit of coaching part-time, and I went off to Carlton and did some ruck coaching for a little bit, but I never had much of an interest in doing it full-time. I always saw coaching as a job that has a bit of a shorter lifespan. I wanted to go and work away in a secure job that I could be working in until I’m 50, 60, 70 years old, so that’s why I liked heading away and going into the real estate industry. If I was involved in footy in any capacity it would be in a part-time or after-hours capacity, which I’m doing now. I really enjoy real estate, I enjoy what I’m doing now and I have a passion for it. I’ll always love football but I never really had much interest in staying in it full-time.
You mentioned with ‘Goldy’ that you like seeing good North people do well and that you always saw yourself as a one club player. Would you say you’re still a fan of the club?
You don’t need to ask too many people around the footy club to find out I’m still a hardcore North boy. All my friends and family will tell you I’m a bit of a nuffie when it comes to North, I watch every game which can be a bit of a good and a bad time when you’re watching it on TV. I’m definitely a big supporter and I’ll do anything for that footy club until the day I die. I’m very much in debt to that footy club for giving me the opportunity they did and I’m still very much a hardcore supporter. I’m looking forward to getting back to a few games and seeing the boys bounce back up the ladder where they deserve to be, and hopefully they’ll get a flag sooner rather than later.
Again, going back to that young list that you started in, do you think there are some comparisons that can be drawn towards the state of that list back in 2003 and the state of the list at the moment?
It’s definitely a transition period for the club, so it’s probably very similar to 2002-03 when there were a lot of young players at the club coming through. I guess you can see that with North now, I love what they’re doing, I love how they’ve recruited and I love we’re positioning ourselves to challenge in the near future. It’s definitely exciting to watch and I think you can see the guys really gelling well and going well under David’s (Noble) program. We’re adapting well to the coaching style, so I’ve got now doubt it’s a big positive for the future. I hope the club improves and gets up the ladder sooner rather than later, but I understand it’s a process and may take some time … but I’m really confident they’re going to get there.
You might be a bit biased having played with a number of this current playing group, but are there any particular players in the side at the moment that you love watching, or anyone you’re still close mates with and you enjoy seeing do well?
I’m very biased here mate, I still see ‘Ziebs’ (Jack Ziebell) and ‘Taz’ (Robbie Tarrant) pretty regularly and had dinner with both of them very recently. We’re still very close mates and I’d love to see those two get some success before they hang up the boots, which is hopefully a long time away yet with the way they’re both going. I’d love to see them both back in the finals and finish their careers with a medallion sitting around their neck.
One final one, if you could sum up your time at North Melbourne in a few sentences, then how would you?
The time of my life really. The time of my life and I’m forever in debt to the footy club. To be honest with you I was 18 and I didn’t know anything, I was just a footballer from Wodonga. I came down, I was raw and didn’t really do much in my first few years. I had a lot of work to do mentally and physically to get myself right to play AFL football, to prepare for life as an AFL footballer and I got there. The club has also allowed me to have a life after football, that’s where I made my connections to set myself up for the present in real estate and working where I am now. I owe everything to the footy club, it essentially gave me a life and gave me a direction of the road ahead. I love the place and I speak for a lot of the past North Melbourne players in saying I’d love to see the club get back up that ladder and hold up a premiership cup one day soon.
The club is seeking past players, who have represented North Melbourne at any level, to be part of the association.
If you are a past player, or know someone that would like to be part of the Association, please fill in the form below and a representative from the club will be in touch with further information.
Having trouble viewing the form? CLICK HERE TO REGISTER YOUR DETAILS