NORTHERN KNIGHTS have some elite players in their All-Star team of the AFL Draft era led by captain and VFL/AFL games record holder Brent Harvey.
The Knights have a well balanced side with some quality talls, an elite midfield and plenty of hardened players who could roost the football and impact on the big stage.
The balance of offensive and negating defenders is healthy within the Knights defence, led by key talls, Simon Prestigiacomo and Michael Hurley. The pair could not be more different with ‘Presti’ being one of the best negating defenders of the modern era, though he also rarely reached double-figure disposals. Hurley on the other hand could be an offensive weapon racking up plenty of disposals and rebounds for the Bombers, having made the All-Australian team twice.
A third tall included in the back six is Richmond premiership defender Dylan Grimes, an All-Australian in his own right. Surrounding the talls are some quality smalls with Brisbane legend and two-time All-Australian Chris Johnson, and Collingwood premiership player, Ben Johnson, as well as Sydney premiership player and now North Melbourne coach, Rhyce Shaw. With the exception of Grimes, the other five players are 200-plus game players. On the bench, Nick Vlastuin could easily slot in as a rebounding defender.
The midfield has a relative mix of current and past players. Its onball brigade of Marcus Bontempelli and Trent Cotchin shows a couple of the elite players in the AFL, as the pair have a Brownlow, three All-Australians, six best and fairests and three flags between them. Leading the ruck division is the incredibly talented Matthew Kreuzer who has had his fair share of injuries over the years, but still played almost 200 games.
Through the centre line, North Melbourne 300-gamer Adam Simpson stands out, having won an All-Australian and best and fairest to go with his two flags in the 90s. He is flanked on either wing by another couple of talented midfielders in 287-gamer Leigh Montagna (two All-Australians) and two-time best and fairest Magpie, Paul Licuria. The core five would be a difficult midfield to stop, with a hardened attack on the ball and one that could use tagging to effect.
On the bench, the midfield runs deep with Nick Stevens, Brent Stanton, John Barker and Daniel Harford all capable of running through the middle.
Up forward, there is a nice balance between the talls and smalls, with strong marking key forwards, Anthony Rocca and Lance Whitnall providing some big marking targets. Rocca booted 415 goals in 242 games, renowned as one of the ‘super boots’ of the competition, often launching goals from 70 metres out. Whitnall managed 348 goals in 216 games, but also earned an All-Australian place and a best and fairest in his time with the Navy Blues.
Jarrod Molloy was best known for his work with the Lions before critically being traded in a huge deal for Mal Michael. As history would have it, Molloy missed out on a flag as Michael established himself in the three-peat Lions outfit. Still, Molloy booted 200 goals in 169 games as a really strong forward. The biggest name inside 50 is VFL/AFL games record holder, Harvey with the small forward booting 581 majors in 432 games, winning five best and fairests and four All-Australians in his time. Blake Caracella (187 games, 218 goals) and David Zaharakis (207 games, 125 goals) round out the front six.
Josh Caddy and Harford are among those on the pine who could come on and have an impact in the team if given the opportunity.
Whilst the 24-player team itself is pretty strong, Northern Knights have a number of players just outside that core group who could understandably make it. Of the 100-game club not in the side, Angelo Lekkas (180), Jack Newnes (155) and Daniel Wheatley (135) are the next three highest in terms of games played, whilst Shane Clayton (117), Ricky Dyson (114), Anthony Franchina (105) and Jack Grimes (100) all reached the triple-figure milestone.
High-flyer Gary Moorcroft (98 games) went close to squeezing in despite falling just short of the ton, whilst Kane Lambert (95) – though drafted out of the VFL as a mature-ager – Aidan Corr, Jayden Short, Jason Castagna, Brayden Fiorini, Jade Gresham and Darcy MacPherson are among other modern day players who could squeeze into the All-Star side in the coming years.