North Melbourne is unlikely to promote mid-season draft recruit Jacob Edwards anywhere beyond the VFL this season, as competition for spots finally has coach David Noble in a position to make even senior players earn their spots.
Edwards, taken as the first pick in the mid-season draft, has finally been able to get to the club this week while on school holidays, to undergo a series of tests to determine his fitness and strength levels.
The 18-year-old is completing his year 12 education at Mentone Grammar and will be at the club throughout the holidays.
He has also been “in the front row” at team meetings, but Noble said they would be taking a “fairly quiet” approach with the ruckman, who will play school footy before the Kangaroos determine if he’s ready for the VFL.
It comes as several senior players, including Jared Polec and Jed Anderson, eye off playing returns to add to the depth of the last-placed Roos.
But Noble said his team’s form since the bye, which included a draw with GWS and leading Brisbane in the third quarter last week before tailing off late, meant those returning players wouldn’t just “walk back in”.
North Melbourne heads back to Tasmania for a third-straight week to play the embattled Gold Coast Suns and will start as favourites in a sign the cellar-dwellers are on the up in Noble’s first season in charge.
“We’re at a point where we are not going to throw our senior guys back in because they are there,” Noble said on Thursday.
“They’ll need to deliver some performance at VFL level. There’s some internal pressure now building on selection … something we missed earlier this year.
“I think there is some huge upside on our game … there is probably no ceiling for us at this point in time.
“When the group has come back, they have been really clear on what they want to achieve for the back end of the year and that is driving even harder standards, training levels.
“We know the outcomes in the second half of the year compared to the first half look completely different.”
The Kangaroos have just one win and a draw in 2021, but Noble said there was growth happening “before our very eyes” and his players were fully on board with the process which would continue to deliver the improvement needed to lift the club off the bottom of the ladder.
“We still know there are some bumps in the road ahead; we are not saying it will all be smooth sailing,” he said.
“But if our effort and energy is consistent, we know the outcomes we deliver are better.
“Our players have got a great thirst to improve and they are on point with what that looks like.”