North Melbourne has admitted they are interested in snapping up a three-time premiership Hawk next week.
Plus why disgraced Swan Elijah Taylor really nominated for the draft and what it would take for the Hawks and Roos to cough up their early picks.
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THREE-TIME PREMIERSHIP HAWK IN NORTH MELBOURNE’S SIGHTS
Liam Shiels’ potential AFL comeback has received a big boost, with North Melbourne confirming interest in the retired 31-year-old.
Shiels, who played 255 games for the Hawks – including the 2013 to 2015 premierships, walked away from the game in August after falling out of favour under new coach Sam Mitchell.
Mitchell made no secret of his desire to prioritise youth in season 2022, leaving Shiels on the outer in the VFL.
But with former Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson now at the helm at North Melbourne, Shiels could be about to reunite with his ex-mentor.
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North Melbourne list boss Brady Rawlings confirmed the club was interested in adding Shiels to their list through the Rookie Draft, where the club holds the first pick next Wednesday night.
“We’ll be looking at more mature players. We’ve got a lot of 18 to 21 year olds and we’re going to bring four more in on Monday and Tuesday night (Draft night),” he told club media.
“We’ve been linked to one or two (experienced) players and we’ll certainly be going down that path.
“Liam’s certainly a player we’ve got some interest in.
“Obviously his career at Hawthorn has been terrific – he’s an absolute professional and we’re after those types of players.
“We probably feel like we could add another one or two players who have been there-done that, professional, going to lift the standards around the place and lead from the front.”
It was revealed last month that Shiels was considering a return to the game, after retiring at just 31 years of age.
But he was in the Hawthorn exodus at the end of 2022, with the club parting ways with more than 1040 games’ experience.
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Shiels and Ben McEvoy retired, while Jack Gunston, Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara headed to new homes for 2023.
The departures ensured just one player over the age of 30 – Luke Breust – remains on their list.
HAWKS OPEN TO EARLY OFFERS
While no pick swaps can be lodged until Monday’s first night of the AFL Draft, Hawthorn say they remain open to offers for their prized pick 6.
Hawks list boss Mark McKenzie confirmed to AFL Draft Radio there had been “enquiries” in recent days.
“We’re always open to have a look – you can never close yourself off to those kind of things. Depending on what it could potentially look like,” he said.
“We’ll remain open.”
North Melbourne list manager Brady Rawlings confirmed he’d also fielded similar offers, given the Roos hold both picks two and three.
“There’s been a couple of offers come. We discussed them as always,” he told club media.
“There’s some solid offers that have come, but nothing quite at the level that we would entertain just yet.”
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According to reports, the Demons offered two future first-rounders to the Bombers, as well as Gold Coast and North Melbourne, in bids to get into the top five of this year’s draft order – moves that were rejected by all three clubs.
Sydney are also reportedly willing to offer up its picks 14 and 17 to leap up the draft order.
North Melbourne stunned the footy world when they became the first team since Fremantle’s disastrous 2001 deal to trade away pick one in the AFL Draft.
It’s only the third time in history a club has parted with the prized selection, after Sydney did it back in 1992.
But by giving up pick one, and last year’s number one draft pick Jason Horne-Francis in a mega four-club trade deal, North Melbourne now hold both picks two and three in this year’s draft.
“On the night, obviously we can’t trade at the moment – we have to trade on draft night once the event starts, but clubs will jockey for positions prior to the night,” Rawlings said.
“There’s nothing we would entertain at this stage, but we always keep open minded.
“If there’s a deal of a lifetime that comes, you need to consider it.
“We are pretty confident and comfortable with the players who we think are going to be there, regardless of who the Giants take at (pick) one.”
One of those players is expected to be George Wardlaw, who this week had a hilarious slip of the tongue while talking to Melbourne media – saying “North Melbourne” when discussing his future.
“(Laughs) I am getting too used to speaking like that,” Wardlaw said on AFL Draft Radio.
“What a shocker!”
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TAYLOR NOMINATES BUT EYES SPOT NEXT SEASON
Disgraced ex-Swan Elijah Taylor nominated for the AFL Draft in the hopes of rejuvenating his stalled footy career, but his manager Tom Seccull has opened up on the reason behind the surprise move.
Taylor managed just three WAFL games for East Perth’s league team, averaging less than six disposals a game in 2022. He spent the rest of the season in the reserve grade.
It was his first year back in a football competition since being banned from the 2021 AFL season after pleading guilty to domestic violence offences, which ultimately cost him his contract at the Swans.
Speaking on the Hard Ball Gets podcast, Hemisphere Management’s Tom Seccull said Taylor wasn’t expecting to be drafted next week – but had a plan.
“Elijah’s in a really good head space,” he said.
“Everyone knows Elijah’s story … this year he’s still finding his feet in terms of his commitment and passion to the game. He loves the game, he’s trying to balance work and life and those little things that come with football.
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“He’s getting to the point where the fire’s still there for him, the fire’s still in the body. He needs to manage his body and get fit again.
“He has an enormous amount of talent. It’s just making sure he gets everything else involved in footy off the field in order.
“He wanted to nominate for the draft this year – not knowing that he wasn’t going to get picked up but if he has a good pre-season, could he get picked up in the mid year (draft).
“Hopefully it means he’s going to turn his life around.”
Taylor was one of a handful of ex-AFL players to nominate for this year’s draft.