Scott's 'horrific' call to drop Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Michael Firrito for 2017
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott says the decision not to renew the contracts of Brent Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Nick Dal Santo is "horrific" and the most difficult thing he has done in his job.
Announcing the decision on Wednesday at Arden Street, Scott emphasised it was not a reflection of the players' performance, rather a need to give younger players at North Melbourne more opportunities.
The four veterans have a combined games total of 1337 games, with Harvey the AFL games record holder on 430 before this week's match against GWS at Etihad Stadium.
Scott said the players were told of the decision on Tuesday night and the rest of the team on Wednesday morning.
The announcement was timed so that if the club did not advance far into the finals, the four players' family and friends would get to see them in action one last time in Melbourne.
"It's a heartbreaking decision, and a decision I can assure everyone wasn't taken lightly," Scott said.
"We really feel that while we hope it's not, there's a possibility this is our last game [of the season] in Melbourne, we were determined to give the players and their friends, their family, their loved ones but also the fans, the supporters, the members [the opportunity] to see the boys play in Melbourne."
Scott said all four delisted players were very disappointed about being dropped from North, but had understood the coaching staff had to do what was best for the team in the long term.
"They're all playing at a really high level, Boomer in particular has not just limped to 400 games, he's burst through the 400 game barrier and is still playing at a really high level," he said.
"They would all be capable of playing some really good footy in 2017, but the decision's been made with the best interests of the football club at heart."
He said he got the sense the announcement may galvanise the group in the lead up to the finals.
Scott said he knew some fans would be upset by the announcement. But he said if good young players did not get an opportunity to play at North they may go elsewhere.
All four of the sacked players trained with the group as usual on Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier, the club said in a statement that it was "indebted to these four individuals for their professionalism, leadership, attitude and competitiveness".
The statement described the decision as "difficult" and came only a week after coach Scott said no decision on player futures would be made before the finals.
There had been suggestions the Kangaroos board would meet last Wednesday night to decide the futures of some players, but Scott denied the reports were true.
"We do have a board meeting, but senior players' futures are not on the agenda," he said at the time. "We have got a focus on the next two games of the home-and-away season and, hopefully, a finals series. We will address all those issues when we need to, but it's not right now."
Harvey's 430 games have been compiled over 21 years for North Melbourne. He is a premiership player, five-time All-Australian, EJ Whitten medallist, a former captain of the club and is in the North Melbourne team of the century.
Petrie joined North Melbourne in 2000, has played more than 300 games, was named All-Australian in 2011 and led the club's goalscoring in five different years.
The Roos describe defender Firrito as "the ultimate club man". He was elevated off the rookie list in 2003 and won a Rising Star nomination in 2004.
Dal Santo joined North from St Kilda and over a career spanning more than 300 games has played in three grand finals and come runner up for the Brownlow Medal in 2011.
After making a strong start to the season, North crumbled in the second half and only just managed to hang on to their spot in the top-eight.
The move to dump the veterans may be a sign that the 'Roos do not expect to be serious grand final contenders in 2017 and will instead focus on refreshing their list to build longer term success.
After all, we are in desperate need of a soft midfielder, a broken down forward, a broken down defender and a sniping selfish dwarf.
WSPTU. Get it done Jackets. Pick 1, Pick 19 and Hibberd to North should get it done. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?