Jarrad Waite may be the AFL’s modern day enigma but as North Melbourne’s premiership clock reaches its crescendo, he looms as a key component to bringing premiership success back to Arden Street.
On pure statistical value, Waite was a shrewd acquisition for Carlton as a father-son selection at pick 46 in the 2001 national draft, playing 184 games that yielded 282 goals. Even in 2014, Waite played 16 times and kicked 29 goals including five against the Suns in round 20. Despite the stop-start nature of his season and indeed Carlton’s, that seemed like a solid year.
But for the Blues and indeed their fans, the problems with Waite over the years ran deeper than simple statistical output. Their qualms were exacerbated when he was suspended four times in the space of nine weeks throughout the 2010 season. After that point, he never really gained the consistency that both he and the club craved.
Fast forward four years later and Waite’s 2014 season at Carlton would be his last. For some, he was made a scapegoat as Carlton’s season fell apart but for many fans, his refusal to sign a new contract brought their issues with him to the fore.
For Carlton, Waite was the solution to their forward problems but the causation of so many others.
During the off-season free-agency period Waite eventually moved to North Melbourne on a two-year deal, citing the Roos’ genuine premiership chances as a reason for making the switch. His former coach Mick Malthouse later said “I’ve got no desire to facilitate talking to players in my home when their desire is to leave.”
And so Waite’s turbulent relationship with club and in the end coach was ceased. Trading the navy blue for the blue and white, Waite now enters season 2015 chasing silverware, and for North Melbourne, could become a vital part of their overall forward structure.
While scoring the fourth most goals in 2014, North Melbourne took just the eighth most marks inside 50 and this is where the addition of Waite will help them.
In a side that finished 13th in 2014, Waite managed to take 40 marks inside 50 last seasons despite just playing 16 games. That placed him as 14th best in the competition and with North’s increased potency coming out of the midfield, he is poised to only increase that in the blue and white.
But for North Melbourne, Waite’s addition may not be felt just by his direct output but rather the opponents he draws away from other players.
With the emergence of Ben Brown at the back end of 2014, North Melbourne has a genuine second forward option they can rely on. His four goals in the pressure-cooker elimination final against Essendon last season cemented his spot in the Roos’ forward line for the time being.
Add in Drew Petrie as a mainstay in the forward line and the likelihood of Waite lining up as a third tall is a tantalising prospect going into this season.
On pure talent, Waite probably takes the second-choice defender and his ability to draw opponents towards him ensures the likes of ever-present Brent Harvey and ever-green Kayne Turner thrive in the forward 50.
This is even before the fortunes of Aaron Black and Majak Daw are considered. Both on the fringes of the first team, the duo provide Waite with competition he so desperately lacked at Carlton.
Waite’s inclusion also frees up Robbie Tarrant to move into defence, with Brad Scott looking at him as a short-term replacement for injury-plagued Nathan Grima.
While it could be argued that Jarrad Waite’s best is behind him at 32 years old, being a team player at North rather than the great white hope at Carlton should bring the best out of him.
As it has always been during his career, if Waite can stay out of the match review panel’s bad books this season, he’s primed to add plenty at North Melbourne at a relatively low risk for the club.
It’s a fascinating proposition as the premiership window beings to creep open for North Melbourne.
If Waite can harness his obvious natural talent and begin to shed the bad-boy tag that has so often plagued him, he looms as the ultimate wildcard in Brad Scott’s side.