North Melbourne are out to embarrass their AFL prophets of doom.
Utility Shaun Atley says while the main focus is preparing for the season, they are taking note of the predictions this will be a lean year for the Kangaroos.
North finished 15th last year with only six wins – the first time since 2013 they have not made the finals.
But Atley said young players such as Jy Simpkin were stepping up and Majak Daw has impressed since switching to a key defensive role.
“We use it as motivation,” Atley said of the pundits writing off North.
“You hear people talk about us and you try not to listen to it but you do hear it.
“We have our own opinions of ourselves internally and that’s what we try and focus on.
“We’ve had a lot of improvement from our younger guys and we’re really excited for this year.”
The past two premiers provide obvious encouragement for Atley and his teammates.
The Western Bulldogs broke their 62-year premiership drought two years after they were in disarray.
Last season, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick started the season under massive pressure and led the Tigers to their first flag since 1980.
“The Bulldogs, everyone was saying negative things about them two, three years before they won their premiership,” Atley said.
“It can turn around really quickly.”
Atley has spent the pre-season training as a forward, meaning he has seen up close how well Daw has developed in his new backman role.
“He’s slotted down there for the pre-season and since Christmas. He’s actually improved a helluva lot,” Atley said.
“His development has been amazing.
“He has all the attributes – he can jump and he can mark, read the ball.
“It’s exciting for the team and exciting for the team as well to see him down there.”
Atley has played as a midfielder and in defence but has relished having a pre-season where he has spent the whole time training in attack.
“Understanding your own game and trying to play within that is how to be successful,” he said.