North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says showing Brent Harvey and three other veterans the door was the hardest day of his AFL coaching career.
The Kangaroos have dropped a bombshell on the eve of finals, announcing Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo will not be offered contracts for 2017.
Scott suggested all four could have played on based on current form but the eighth-placed Kangaroos had to start planning beyond next season.
“I spoke to all four boys yesterday and it’s easily the hardest day in my coaching career,” Scott said, having joined North in 2009.
“I can understand, I can empathise the disappointment and the emotion that is involved in this.
“It’s a heartbreaking decision … a decision that wasn’t taken lightly.
“I understand a lot of fans will be disappointed, particularly with some of the players. But I’m charged with the responsibility of putting this football club in a really strong position over the long term.”
The squad trained at Arden Street on Wednesday shortly after Harvey, Petrie, Firrito and Dal Santo addressed their teammates.
“(They spoke) about how important it is – that we’re really professional and launching an assault on the finals this year,” Scott said.
“They’re all very, very disappointed and understandably so.
“They’re all playing at a really high level. Boomer in particular has .. burst through the 400-game barrier.
“To the boys’ credit, to a man they’ve all talked about while they’re really disappointed they completely understand where they football club is coming from.
“They dealt with things in an unbelievably professional and honourable manner.”
Harvey passed Hawthorn great Michael Tuck in round 19 to become the AFL’s all-time games record holder and had expressed a strong desire to play on.
The 38-year-old’s form has not waned in his 21st season but Petrie, Dal Santo and Firrito have endured inconsistent campaigns.
Scott, who wouldn’t reveal if any of the players wanted to continue their careers elsewhere, declared it wasn’t up to him to retire anybody.
The former Brisbane hardman explained the strange timing of the announcement was because he wanted the quartet’s family, friends and fans to know before Saturday night’s clash with GWS at Etihad Stadium.
“We hope it’s not but there is as possibility this weekend’s game is our last game in Melbourne (in 2016),” Scott said.
Depending on how the final round plays out, North may travel to Perth, Adelaide or Sydney for an elimination final that could spell the end of their 2016 campaign.