North Melbourne premiership player David King believes his former club’s on-field fortunes could get even worse before getting better, calling on the AFL world to recalibrate his expectations of senior coach David Noble.
The Kangaroos scored just 24 points in round eight on the way to a 78-point loss to Fremantle, which has them second-last on the ladder and just one win to show for the season.
Speaking on AFL 360, King emphasized once again the struggling club will remain so for at the very least the remainder of the year and likely longer and pointed out Noble’s position was not one that proved particularly sustainable long-term.
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“I think your starting point has got to be that rebuild coaches don’t survive. They don’t. I could name you two in the last 20 years—Alastair Clarkson and Ken Hinkley,” King said.
“The ones that have failed: (Mark) Neeld, (Brendon) Bolton, (Scott) Watters, (Terry) Wallace, (Alan) Richardson, (Guy) McKenna, (Brendon) McCartney, (Justin) Leppitsch – it’s designed for you to fail.
“You’re going to a team that’s come off the cliff and is going down and they are making a change because of that.
“So you’ve got four, five, six, seven years of pain – no one lives seven years of pain … the markers can’t be wins and losses.”
King used the rebuilds of Melbourne and Brisbane Lions as recent examples, with percentage slowly but surely rising before the wins and losses followed.
In both the Dees and the Lions’ scenarios, he noted, the coaches there at the start of the rebuild (Neeld and Leppitsch respectively) weren’t there when the side reaped the rewards of on-field success.
“The Kangaroos aren’t even there (at rock bottom) yet. We can abuse David Noble as much as we’d like – and I’m happy to critique the way they’re playing and who’s playing poorly – but Brisbane are the same thing,” he explained.
“Leppitsch gets the flick halfway through 2016, he’s done three years of heavy lifting and in that three years, (Josh) Schache, (Eric) Hipwood, (Hugh) McCluggage, (Jarrod) Berry and then they go and get (Cam) Rayner, (Zac) Bailey and (Brandon) Starcevich the draft after Fagan takes over.
“Then you’re stacking your talent, then you actually have a chance to win.”
Noble has made headlines this week after it was revealed he apologised to players for the severity of a spray he delivered after the round three loss to the Lions by 108 points.
For King, it was not something that would have a lasting impact.
“In my opinion, going down is a calculated ability to get first round selections into your club – that is the only way you correct, via talent into your club,” he said.
“The strategy in two years has no impact.
“What the coach says after a game in round three of 2022 will have no impact on this group long-term, so the carryon for days is ridiculous.”
While King admitted “you can’t live with losing by 60 points every week”, he said those within the club would be under no illusions as to where they sit.
“Those that know sit back and say ‘fire your bullets, throw your darts, that’s fine, because you’re going to be throwing them for another two years.’,” King said.
“David Noble knows he might not survive this, but I don’t think that’s front of mind for him. Front of mind is being able to say like Justin Leppitsch should and like Mark Neeld should: ‘I was part of the start of that rebuild’.
“It didn’t work for them personally and I think you have to just accept that.”
The key non-negotiable, King said, was the retention of draft talent, with number one pick Jason Horne-Francis’ decision to put contract talks off until the end of the year a concerning one.
Horne-Francis and other top-end talent, King said, should be the priority for the club moving forward.
“They can’t lose the kid – you’d rather lose the coach than the number one pick,” he said.
“That can’t come to a head, he has to make the place work. Right now, there isn’t enough talent coming in the door to keep the wolves away.”