The year that was

2018 Team

The Northern Blues had a number of success stories in season 2018. (PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Murdoch)

The 2018 season was one of development and learning for the Northern Blues.

After a slow start to the campaign with a heavy turnover during the off-season, Northern hit its straps to end the year as one of the in-form teams of the competition.

From the last six matches of the season, the Blues finished inside the top four, with four wins from Round 16.

It came in a year where the Blues played the most amount of players (54) in the whole competition, level with Sandringham. Most tellingly, 33 of those were aged 21 or under: comfortably more than any other side.

It was no surprise that Northern took some time to gel, with considerable change at AFL and VFL level in terms of personnel. As a result, it meant 25 players made their Northern Blues debuts in 2018.

There was no shortage of success stories, with a number of Blues rising to the occasion in a number of different ways. Here’s just a few.

The award winners
Now among the Club’s elite, Tom Wilson became a three-time Laurie Hill Trophy winner with his best and fairest win last week. Jesse Palmer’s first season in Blue was also deservedly recognised in the VFL Team of the Year, named at centre-half-forward.

The ever-presents
Mason Blakey and Sam Fisher were the only two Blues to play every game this season, and they made their mark at VFL level. Blakey — who was named as one of three vice-captains — began to forge a reputation as a lockdown, uncompromising defender, while Fisher became a standout midfielder for the Blues in the second half of the year.

The big improvers
Officially acknowledged at the Club’s best and fairest night, it was no surprise that Chris McCabe was considered the Northern Blues’ most-improved player. He added 17 games to his tally after one game in his first three years. In a similar vein, ruckman Angus Milham made the most of his opportunity in his seven games.

The AFL youth
Tom De Koning and Angus Schumacher spent their debut seasons developing their craft at Northern Blues level, with De Koning ultimately rewarded with an AFL debut. Schumacher also showed considerable improvement in his game after his Round 1 debut. Lochie O’Brien’s experience at VFL level was very brief, playing a solitary game in the VFL before being blooded into the AFL side.

The VFL youth
A key part of Northern’s year was the progression of their young influx of talent which was brought in last summer. Ethan Penrith became a valuable contributor particularly come season’s end, while dogged midfielder Jordan Lynch and crafty forward Jean-Luc Velissaris showed similar development.