North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw can see the 2020 finishing line but knows that after a “tough” first year in charge the hard work for him and his team has only just begun.
Shaw will remain in Queensland for a few days after Thursday’s final round clash with West Coast to debrief a season which started with promise but quickly ran out of puff on the back of a near unrivalled injuries to key players and performances the coach didn’t deem up to AFL standard.
The rookie coach said the entire season had been a “perfect storm” of challenges, which was tough not only on him but also on his wife and kids, who flew north to support Shaw through the back end of the season.
But with critics circling the underperforming squad, which has lost by more than 30 points in six of the past seven games, Shaw said he was “bullish” about his team could produce, when given the chance to actually all play together.
“We’ve had no luck this year with injury, to some of our really good players,” Shaw said on Tuesday.
“We’ve had our skipper (Jack Ziebell) for six games, Ben Cunnington for three games. What (the list) looks like next year, I’ve no idea. I’m really excited about that group getting a chance to play together.
“This year there has been so many obstacles thrown our way, it’s been a perfect storm in one sense and ben really difficult for us to gain any momentum out of that.
“But there have been gains, and I’ve got to make sure we grow with those gains, and create more of them.
“We’ll look at every avenue to get better. I’m really excited with the group of young guys coming through. I am really bullish about what they can do. They haven’t really had the opportunity to play together and shine together this year.
“Hopefully we can complement that with a really good draft and look at some players to get in from elsewhere.”
Shaw said he wouldn’t speculate on which players he might look too, including GWS defender Aidan Corr, who has been linked to the Roos.
“I’m not going to talk about individuals. We’ve got a game to play on Thursday. We’ll talk about that in due course,” he said.
“It’s out last chance this year to play together and try and play the best footy we possibly can.”
Some North Melbourne players will stay in Queensland after the final clash, but others will return to Melbourne, after what Shaw said was a season which presented the sort of challenges he doesn’t want to face again.
“Some have been up here for the whole time without any family or partners or anything, that’s been really difficult for them and they will go home straight away,” he said.
“Some will stay up here. Some guys just need to chill out. It’s been a tough one.”