North Melbourne captain Jack Ziebell says the Kangaroos have seen and heard all the predictions of their AFL demise.
Not a single one of Ziebell’s fellow skippers tipped North to make the top eight in 2017.
Pundits across the board have written off the Kangaroos after shedding their most experienced players – led by veteran Brent Harvey – to place faith in young talent.
Most bookmakers have the Kangaroos on the 16th line of betting to win the flag – with only Carlton and Brisbane Lions ranked less likely to lift the premiership cup.
That’s despite North being just one of three sides – alongside Hawthorn and Sydney – to make the finals in the last three seasons, but Ziebell is not surprised.
“It’s not the first time North Melbourne have been written off. Don’t worry about that,” he told AAP, saying the pre-season ladders and predictions had been gathering attention at Arden Street.
“Guys read that. It adds motivation.”
As well as the motivation required, Ziebell believes North has the talent to challenge for the eight in 2017.
It is why he believes the season ahead is one worth being enthusiastic about.
“We’ve got some seriously talented young kids coming through that I don’t think the football public have seen yet. We’re super excited to put them on show,” he said.
“It’s going to be awesome.
“With the four or five senior players that left last year comes four or five vacant spots in the senior side. We’ve just got to get them playing to our structures.
“A lot of guys have sensed opportunity. It’ll be a tough decision for coaches to try and pick a side for next week.”
One of those rookies expected to contend for selection in round one is Jy Simpkin, who caught the eye in pre-season.
The 19-year-old was taken by North Melbourne with their first choice – No.12 – in last year’s draft.
Against Hawthorn, prior to his first kick in senior football, he sidestepped Hawthorn champion Luke Hodge before effectively kicking his side inside 50.
Ziebell said he was keen to line up against the teenager on Sunday against West Coast.
“I’d love to see him out there because I love the way he plays,” he said.
“He’s come on in the last six to eight weeks and is going to be a very exciting footballer for a very long time.
“To sell a bit of candy to one of the greatest players to pull on a Hawthorn football jumper is not bad. Hopefully he can do that a few more times over his career.”