Rude awakening as North prepares to cut veterans loose
AFL: As far as kangaroo culls go this was as brutal as its gets.
Brent Harvey. Gone. Drew Petrie. Gone. Nick Dal Santo. Gone. Michael Firrito. Gone.
That's a combined 1337 games that will be marched out the Arden Sr door at season's end following today's shock announcement by North Melbourne senior coach Brad Scott that none of them would be offered new contracts.
Clearly Scott saw no other option than to be cruel to four club champions in order to be kind to the club's future.
"Firstly, it's a heartbreaking decision and one that wasn't taken lightly ... it's easily the hardest day of my coaching career," he said.
"The decision has been made in the best interests of the football club.
"I spoke to all four boys yesterday. To the boys' credit, they completely understand where the football club is coming from.
"I agree that (all four players) could contribute in 2017. But the future goes longer than that.
"I'm not ashamed to say I love these guys and if they were here in 2017, I'd play them. That would not be in our best interests.
"This is not a bombshell, there have been discussions over a period of time."
But, no matter how humane this culling was, the news still came as a shock.
While dour defender Firrito, 33, had been on one-year deals for the past few seasons, Harvey, 38, Petrie, 33, and Dal Santo, 32, were all keen to play on at North.
And certainly Harvey had every reason to.
He's never kicked more goals in a season (34). In fact, he's one of only three players to have booted more than 30 and collected over 400 disposals this season, along with Saint great Nick Riewoldt and young Giant Tony Greene.
There will surely be a temptation to go on, but his manager told media earlier this month that if his time was up at North, he would retire as a one-club player.
That will surely be it for five-time club leading goalkicker Petrie, who is having his least productive season since 2008, and has been overtaken as the go-to man in attack by Ben Brown, while Mason Wood is also full of promise
Dal Santo, meanwhile, has been solid in this third season since crossing from St Kilda, averaging 24 disposals. He may look to join a third club after stating only this week that "absolutely I want to play on".
"It's not my role to retire players ... if they choose to seek opportunities elsewhere I'll fully support them," Scott said, adding that the announcement was made this week because Saturday night's clash against GWS at Etihad Stadium could be the Kangaroos' final game in Melbourne for the year.
It promises to be an emotion-charged event.