NORTH Melbourne came into the 2019 AFL Draft with the potential to snap up a trio of sliders in the second round via picks in quick succession, or perhaps even trade up and get in the thick of the first round action. The latter somewhat ended up being the case, with the ‘Roos’ recruiting team opting for a couple of long-term fixes to go with creativity and guile going forward. There was also a good news story out of their Rookie Draft selection, with a much-improved overager taken out of their Next Generation Academy to make up a solid spine of choices.
31. Charlie Comben (Gippsland Power/Vic Country) | 199cm | 84kg | Ruck
34. Jack Mahony (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro) | 178cm | 72kg | Midfielder/Forward
35. Flynn Perez (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country) | 188cm | 81kg | Outside Midfielder
Cat-B. Matt McGuinness (Tasmania/Allies) | 195cm | 77kg | Tall Utility
The likes of North Melbourne and Richmond were two clubs whose hauls coming into night two looked like shaping respective five-pick sections of the draft, and North’s three-pick cluster in the 30s allowed them to add depth across multiple bases. After placing a bid on Hawthorn father-son Finn Maginness – which was inevitably matched – the ‘Roos shuffled down the order but were able to secure one of the more sought-after talls of the draft. In a pool short on key position options, Charlie Comben is a developing type with good overhead marking and ruck craft who can provide long-term fold in the key forward and ruck departments, which are currently accounted for.
Jump over a few picks and Jack Mahony was next off the board, with North’s recruiting team putting him more in the small forward category. A capable midfielder at junior level, Mahony’s size means the engine room will be a bit of a reach for him early on, but his ball finding capacity and work rate really suits that high half forward role. His craftiness going forward will also be a handy point of difference for the Kangaroos’ side, with the Sandringham product able to hit those 45-degree targets with rare vision and skill.
Flynn Perez is the kind of player many thought North would target coming into the draft, with his outside speed and class evident during a promising bottom-age season for Bendigo Pioneers. Of course, the ‘Roos had to promise Perez he would not be forgotten as he injured his knee early in 2019, meaning he did not take the field at all this year. But the willingness for clubs to pick players coming off long-term injuries – even as early as the first round – means Perez could well be a bargain given his high ceiling and readymade body shape.
Rounding out North’s draft haul was the Category B selection of Tasmanian utility Matt McGuinness, who came on well during his 19-year-old season in the NAB League. An Allies representative to boot, McGuinness is effectively a free hit with high upside who is capable in the air and possesses a penetrating kick on the outside. While he still needs to fill out, he could be a long-term key position option or that in-vogue intercept defender who can rebound just as well.
Overall, North Melbourne was able to gather a diverse haul of draftees and gains long-term coverage in a range of positions. There is plenty of upside in the likes of Comben, Perez, and McGuinness, while Mahony has long been a highly touted prospect and should provide great value at pick 34. Expect to see most of these players feature over time.