Jack Ziebell says he is hopeful No.4 draft pick Luke Davies-Uniacke can make an early impression in 2018 and help allow the North Melbourne captain to spend more time as a forward.
Ziebell was on Monday announced as Kangaroos skipper for the second straight season, as North presented their leadership group for 2018.
The group has barely changed from last year, with Robbie Tarrant named vice-captain, Shaun Higgins and Jamie Macmillan rounding out the four-man group. There are no fresh additions, and the only omission from 2017 is retired former skipper Andrew Swallow. Forward Ben Brown – who starred with 63 goals last year – was overlooked in a vote of North’s players, although Ziebell flagged a future leadership role for the Tasmanian.
“Ben’s football has obviously done a lot of talking,” Ziebell said at Arden Street.
“He played really well, he’s really developed his leadership as well. We really are encouraging Ben to step up in all those areas. He’s the head of the forward line at the minute. As such, he doesn’t have a leadership title but in the club he’s definitely got leadership capabilities. He’s one we’ll look to keep developing and you never know in the future.”
Ziebell played through significant injuries during what was an at-times trying first season at the helm, with North narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon.
Having been on a modified program before Christmas, he said he had trained over the new year break and had returned close to full fitness.
The courageous midfielder spent time forward during 2017, kicking five goals in a late-season loss to Collingwood. Ziebell said he would likely spend time both through the midfield and forward line this year.
“Without giving too much away, I think I’ll probably play midfield and go forward a little bit as I did last year. Depending on what the team needs,” he said.
“I really enjoy the forward line. Not many players don’t like kicking goals.”
Ziebell added that North would be better placed this year to cover his loss in the midfield when he shifted closer to goal. “Obviously we’ve got Shaun Higgins, Ben Cunnington hopefully we get Ben Jacobs [returning from a debilitating foot injury] back,” he said.
Davies-Uniacke, the strongly built midfielder taken early in last year’s draft, is another who the club hopes will take some of the load. “He’s obviously a pretty mature body for his age, which is great to see,” Ziebell said.
“He’s done a couple of drills pre-Christmas. I wasn’t out there training but watching from the sidelines he just looks comfortable at the level.
“Hopefully we can get him in there pretty early. Guys like Jy Simpkin as well might be able to spend a bit of time going through the midfield.”
Ziebell said he had learned plenty from his first year as captain, but was adamant he hadn’t changed as a person. “Leadership’s a tough gig sometimes,” he said.
“Hopefully I haven’t changed, I’m not a bit of a bad arse or a tight arse or anything like that around the club!”