Before COVID-19 stopped contract signings they were close to recommitting to Ben Brown long term. He and they should reconsider this and instead entertain, or encourage, offers for the full-forward, who turns 28 at the end of the year.
He could now be of more value to North in the compensation he could bring in as a free agent or trade than he might be as a player over the next three to five years.
Collingwood and Brisbane are the most logical fits for Brown. The Magpies would have to make room in the salary cap but he plays a position that is a higher priority for them than any other. Likewise at the Lions, Brown would be an advance on the flirty form of Eric Hipwood or Oscar McInerney.
Depending on the contract he draws to move clubs as a free agent it would likely deliver them a first-round compensation pick and thus three picks in the top 10 to 12, with two of them very early.
The reason to nominate Brown as a free agent/trade target is not because of his poor form (though it is at a dreadful career-low) and in that way blame him for the slump North is in. It is to identify him as the best lever to pull to address a list problem.
The potential to inject three elite early picks is transformative for a club and North must seize the opportunity to do so. Yes, you sacrifice an elite player, but Brown’s age is influential in the decision.
Presently he is playing poorly but that is also a product of his team’s form. He leads tentatively because he can’t trust delivery to him but then he kicks uncertainly. Previously his long run-up was a calming process, a routine that settled him. Now it seems to unnerve him by giving him longer to think of all the ways he will miss.
He has been hurt by Nick Larkey’s absence for they have good chemistry as Larkey knows how to draw the second defender away. North has tried Tristan Xerri, Tom Campbell and then Josh Walker in recent weeks. Walker was good on Saturday but he still drew his man to Brown rather than away.
North are not struggling because of Brown’s form. They are struggling because of injuries to Larkey, Ben Cunnington, Jed Anderson, Larkey and now Jack Ziebell as well as Majak Daw.
The club can do nothing on Brown at the end of the year and muddle along as a bottom-six club or they can be bold. They need to be bold.
Malcolm Blight’s torpedo to down the Blues was perhaps the greatest after-the-siren goal. Karmichael Hunt’s to beat the Tigers remains the most improbable.
But Robbie Gray’s to seal Port Adelaide’s nervy win over Carlton is one of the most thrilling because of the degree of difficulty and the comical string of misses that begat his kick. It was high farce that only underlined the perfection of Gray’s kick.
It was a match that deserved to be on free to air not only for the dramatic result but for the way Port and Carlton play.
BLUES WIN MORE FANS
Put aside the result for a minute and this was another persuasive performance from Carlton.
Sam Walsh seemed offended by recent doubts on whether he still is still the top of his draft class and played like a man upbraided.
Sam Petrevski-Seton was more understated but no less important. He has a clarity of thinking that matches his ball use. He just does not yet get enough of the ball yet but when you saw the way he worked with Jack Martin, at times the Blues looked a level above where they have been.
YOUNG TIGERS RISE
Sure it was only a win over a weak, under-strength North Melbourne, but Derek Eggmolesse-Smith proved he belongs at the level.
A rookie in just his fourth game, he was tremendous substituting for Bachar Houli at half-back. He is an elite ball user by foot, or at least North’s pressure made him look that way, so the Tigers didn’t lack for that someone playing that running and distribution role.
Shai Bolton has floated between half-forward and half-back, the Tigers uncertain where he fits. Now he has offered the further complication in suggesting he needs to be on the ball. Bolton’s acceleration from contests broke the game open early.
He was best on ground for me.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.