Shaun Higgins of the Kangaroos.
Shaun Higgins of the Kangaroos. JULIAN SMITH

Roo says 'nothing's really changed' despite veterans' exit

NORTH Melbourne players haven't heard the word "rebuild” and vice-captain Shaun Higgins has fired back at talk the Kangaroos are headed for a slide down the ladder in 2017.

Higgins says "nothing's really changed” at Arden St even after the departure of club legends Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie and Michael Firrito at the end of the 2016 season. Former Saint Nick Dal Santo was also told his time was up then Daniel Wells left to join Collingwood as a free agent - a total loss of 1588 games of AFL experience.

The Roos have played finals the past three seasons and won their first nine games of 2016 then three of their last 14.

Former Adelaide captain Mark Bickley this week tipped North Melbourne to finish 16th next year, but Higgins says there is a sense of excitement at Arden St.

"We've lost five veterans, which is probably one or two more than average, but nothing's really changed,” he said.

"(A rebuild) hasn't been discussed at all internally. Where we think the list is at and what's been the core of our side for the last couple of years, and even before I got here, all those guys are still here and in the prime of their footy careers.

"It's slightly disrespectful to the guys who are on the list and the boys who have been here for six to 10 years to talk about a rebuild, so we're definitely not doing that at all.”

Higgins told the AFL website it was impossible to replace champions like Harvey and Wells, but there were players waiting in the wings to step up and give the Roos a shot at another top-eight finish, including trade acquisitions Nathan Hrovat and Marley Williams.

"There's a sense of excitement for those guys who have been around two, three or four years, and also for the guys who have just been drafted and those who have come in from other clubs,” he said. "There's real opportunity there for them.”

The Kangaroos also have a new captain in Jack Ziebell after Andrew Swallow stepped down following five years in charge.

HERALD SUN



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