North Melbourne Drops A Bombshell By Cutting 4 Beloved Club Veterans

The end of the AFL season always heralds the beginning of player movements, with players either retiring, being traded, moving via free agency, or being delisted altogether from their clubs. It’s the nature of the beast; careers in professional football are short and often uncertain.
But I’m struggling to think of any mass-culling of veteran talent that rivals the absolutely gobsmacking announcement by the North Melbourne Football Club a short while ago.
The ‘Roos announced that not one, but FOUR highly beloved club veterans will not wear blue and white next year, with Brent Harvey, Nick Dal Santo, Drew Petrie, and Michael Firrito to not be offered contracts for next year.
The club revealed the four vets, all arguably among the best to ever pull on a Kangaroos jersey (and in Harvey and Dal Santo, a pair of future Hall of Famers), would be cut loose from the club at the conclusion of the team’s finals campaign.

The future of the ageing stars (Dal Santo and Firrito are 32, Petrie 33, and Harvey 38) was always reasonably uncertain, but to cull all four in such an unceremonious fashion ranks as one of the great shocks of the AFL season.

Harvey in particular, despite pushing 40, still performs as one of North’s absolute best players, and recently broke the all-time AFL games record of 427 previously held by Michael Tuck. In fact, Harvey presents as a serious contender to pick up the club’s Best & Fairest award this year.
In Firrito and Petrie, the club is letting go two of its pillars at either end of the ground, and nearly 600 combined games’ experience at Arden Street between them.
Dal Santo has served as a midfield general since crossing over to the club from St Kilda in 2014, and is another 300+ gamer.
The decision to outright cull the quad, rather than let them announce their retirements, suggests that all four were keen to go around again in 2017.
In a statement to media, the club was at pains to point out how “difficult” to decision to let the four veterans go was.

“North Melbourne has made the difficult decision not to re-contract four of its most decorated players.”

“The club is indebted to these four individuals for their professionalism, leadership, attitude and competitiveness.”

Senior coach Brad Scott fronted media a short time ago, revealing that the decision to bring the announcement forward by one week was done to allow the four to play a farewell game in Melbourne (this weekend’s clash against GWS at Etihad Stadium), with the very real possibility of playing a final on the road looming.

“Firstly, it’s a heartbreaking decision and one that wasn’t taken lightly The decision was taken to move the announcement forward because we were determined to give then the opportunity to play in Melbourne.”

“The decision has been made in the best interests of the football club. I’m not ashamed to say I love these guys and if they were here in 2017, I’d play them. That would not be in our best interests. It’s about where the club is positioned for the medium-to-long term.”

“If we continued to play our senior players, we’d lose them in a year and we’d lose our younger guys because of a lack of opportunity.”

The move eerily mirrors a similar brutal cull of veteran talent made by Scott’s identical twin brother Chris down at Geelong.

No matter which way you spin it, this is bloody huge. And the free agency market just gained a massive crop of ready-made veterans that any club on the cusp would be be licking their lips over.

Photo: Bradley Kanaris, AFL Media/Getty.