Jared Polec is back for North Melbourne and coach Rhyce Shaw says it’s because he played in several scratch matches, including one wearing a Collingwood jumper, which Kane Cornes labelled “demeaning”.
Trade talk has swirled around Polec, who is contracted to the Kangaroos for the next three seasons for an estimated $700,000 a season, after he was dropped in Round 12 and missed four games for the injury-ravaged Roos.
Last week Polec had to wear a Collingwood jumper in a combined side for a scratch match, with the Kangaroos needing to find match practice for the six fit players not in the 22 that lost badly to the Gold Coast.
Cornes called the treatment of Polec “ridiculous”, but Shaw hit back and said he still saw the left-footer as an asset to his team this season, and in 2021.
‘I’m not sure Kane quite understands what is going on up here. Last week we had 28 players available and six players we wanted to get a game into,” Shaw said on Friday.
“Collingwood, Melbourne, St Kilda and Brisbane have all been unbelievable in their support of us and allowing our guys to play and getting them games.
“You can imagine if you were a guy outside of the team, in a hub, and you don’t have the ability to play, that would become very disheartening. Our guys have taken those opportunities and loved it.
“They get to play, that goes back to the essence of why they do it, to play a game. I don’t think it’s demeaning at all. For them to get a game allows them the opportunity to get back in the side.
“That’s why Jared Polec gets a game this week. Jared makes us better, and he’s going to get that opportunity to make us better this week. ”
Shaw played down trade talk, although football manager Brady Rawlings said Polec wasn’t “untouchable”.
But the coach said he and Polec were “really clear” where he stands.
“We have been having some open and honest conversations and we’ve been chatting the whole way through,” Shaw said.
“Jared is really clear on where he sat with me and where he needed to get to, and now he’s in back in the team.
“He played really well last week in the scratch match and deserves his spot in the side, and I am really happy to have him back. He’s a real asset for us.”
North captain Jack Ziebell also returns for Saturday’s clash with Port Adelaide, which Shaw said was another opportunity for his players to show the “fight” his club needed.
“The opportunity for guys is what we have spoken about, but it’s also an opportunity for us as a club to show what we are about, what we have always been about at North Melbourne, and that’s showing great fight,” Shaw said.
“That’s what gets me up in the morning, that’s what hopefully gives the guys motivation to have a red hot crack.”