AFL Debate Club: After 15 straight losses, time for a North priority pick?

Welcome to ESPN's AFL Debate Club, the column in which our writers and contributors will take one prompt from the week and put their opinion on the record. The kicker? No opinion is immune from criticism!

This week, Rohan Connolly and Jake Michaels butt heads over whether North Melbourne should be in consideration for more assistance, after their 15th straight loss, and 66th since Round 2, 2020.

After 15 straight losses, is it time to consider giving North Melbourne a priority pick?

Rohan Connolly: No, it isn't. And I wouldn't have given them the two tradeable picks they were granted last year, either. Indeed, I wouldn't give any club any priority draft assistance. I'd scrap the whole system.

List management is an art the benefits of which are delivered gradually and over quite a long period. Get it right and your club can stay up for years. Get it wrong (and I think West Coast has got it a lot more wrong than North) and the penalties can be dire. It goes to the heart of running a successful football operation.

Doesn't having arbitrary help dished out to any old Oliver Twist who has got their list sums wrong diminish the importance of getting list management right?

Speaking of West Coast, however bad North has been this season and the last couple, they're still not going to finish below the Eagles on the ladder. Wouldn't it look a bit silly giving the Roos a priority pick if West Coast doesn't also put its hand up for assistance?

I've never been a fan of priority picks, but at least when there was a formal qualification for them there was some transparency. I'm not sure potential tanking was as widespread as others did, and in my view what we have now is worse, a thumbs up or down delivered on the basis of unknown criteria and potentially more errors of judgement.

And what's the point of even having a carefully-devised draft qualification system if a club down on its fortunes at any given time can simply compromise the integrity of all that merely by holding out the begging bowl?

Yes, North have been poor for four years. But the Roos nearly played finals five years ago, and did make the eight four of five seasons between 2012-16. They have some outstanding youngsters who will make it. Alastair Clarkson as coach in the wings. And they're hardly the first team to go through a rough trot. Let's not presume just yet they're not capable of working their way out of it under their own steam.

Jake Michaels: It certainly must be considered by the AFL.

The Kangaroos are 7-52-1 over their last 60 games and if not for the impossibly awful Eagles would be anchored to the bottom of the ladder for the third season in succession.

There is no quick fix for this club but a traditional priority pick -- in addition to the draft package the AFL granted last year -- would go a long way to bridging the monumental gap between them and the rest of the competition. That must be a priority (pardon the pun) for the league.

But should they receive it this year? Nope. There's no hard and fast rule anymore about who and what deserves a priority pick but I'm a firm believer that you need to have suffered close to a decade of irrelevance before talks even get underway. We can't just look at the bottom of the ladder and throw supplementary drafts picks at these teams willy-nilly.

It's easy to forget but North Melbourne made a preliminary final in 2015, reached the finals again in 2016 and finished ninth in 2018. The horror run of on-field performance has really only been over the past five years.

To Rohan's point, it's also difficult to hand a priority pick out to a side which doesn't finish the year on the bottom of the ladder. So why not the Eagles, you ask? West Coast has disqualified itself from priority pick contention after not only winning the premiership in 2018 but then blatantly ignoring the demands of an ageing list in the seasons which have followed. But enough about them.

Under the original formula for draft assistance -- whereby teams were entitled to a priority pick for winning fewer than 25% of games in a three-year period -- the Kangaroos would be a legitimate candidate. This is why, if I'm the AFL, I can't totally ignore their case. Come back to me in 24 months if things haven't improved.